Most folks, today, who believe the Bible look for the Day of the Lord to arrive soon, but given the geocentric information offered in the New Testament, what would such an event look like today? What do the Scriptures say about this day, and should we understand them literally or is there another way to see them that fulfills what we are told, but doesn’t destroy everything God created? Peter writes about the “world that then was” as he speaks of the judgment of the Flood, implying that ‘the heavens and earth’ existing in Peter’s day were different from what we would have found before the Flood. Yet, not only did Noah’s ‘heavens and earth’ pass away to make room for that which Peter knew, but Peter tells us to look for yet ‘newer heavens and a newer earth,’ different from what existed in his day. In other words, the scriptures speak at least twice of God making new heavens and a new earth, the final one coming with the Day of the Lord in which Christ would come. What does all this mean, and can we know?
We are told that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief, that is, without warning (2Peter 3:10). Although believers in Peter’s day could be prepared for that day, they couldn’t know exactly when it would come. Moreover, if they weren’t watching for the Lord, they, too, would have been caught unawares like unbelievers. Contextually, Peter is saying that the Day of the Lord would come suddenly, just as, without insider information, one couldn’t know when a thief would come to one’s home or place of business (cf. Matthew 24:42-44).
After the fact, things would be different. If one used his home or place of business every day, and, if a thief broke in and stole his goods, the date of the theft would be already known. The same would be true, if we considered the Day of the Lord after it had begun. There are certain signs to look for and consider that point to the approach of the Day of the Lord, and specific things were to occur after the event began to take place. Therefore, it was possible for believers to know, if they looked for and considered the signs of the approach of the Day of the Lord, but unbelievers would be taken completely by surprise, because they would have considered the signs the Lord offered in Matthew 24.
In 2Peter 3:10 we are told the heavens and the earth will pass away, making room for another heaven and earth (cf. Revelation 21:1). It seems to me that a literal fulfillment of such a thing would be impossible. Therefore, I believe a spiritual fulfillment should be considered rather than looking for a literal darkening of the sky and a literal new earth. Peter claims that all things will be dissolved (destroyed, melt etc.) when the Day of the Lord actually comes (2Peter 3:11). Understanding that all things would be destroyed, it seems illogical for us to take this literally, if the saints are to be preserved for the new heavens and new earth to be brought in (cf. Revelation 21:1-3).
Peter told his readers to look for, hope for, the coming of the Day of God (2Peter 3:12), a day in which the heavens would be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with intense heat! If Peter were serious and literal, what would that look like, and why would his readers hope for something like that? Would they be afraid? I know I certainly would be afraid, if I expected God to do something similar in my generation. Nevertheless, however we might understand Peter, his readers were promised ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ wherein dwells righteousness (2Peter 3:13). Surely, Peter isn’t speaking of the end of our space/time continuum, as is supposed by many today. So, it is things like this that cause me to believe these things must be understood as taking place spiritually, not literally. More about this as I conclude Peter’s second epistle in the coming days.