If the Day of the Lord arrived today, what would it look like? 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 the old heavens and earth pass away to make room for that which Peter knew, but Peter tells us to look for new heavens and a new earth different from what he knew. In other words, the Scriptures speak three times of God making new heavens and a new earth, the final one coming with the Day of the Lord. 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 can be prepared for the Day of the Lord, they cannot know exactly when to expect it to come, and if they aren’t watching for the Lord, they, too, will be caught unawares like unbelievers. Contextually, it would be impossible for anyone to set a date for the Day of the Lord, just as, without insider information, one couldn’t set a date and time for 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 exact time of day or night might be impossible to know clearly, but it would be reasonably possible to know the approximate time of the day or night the act took place. 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 is possible for believers to know, if the Day of the Lord has already begun, simply by looking for and identifying those telltale signs.
In 2Peter 3:10 we are told the heavens and the earth will pass away, making room for another heaven and earth. 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 that all things will be destroyed, it behooves the believer to act accordingly, that is, to reverence God and conduct himself in the world in such a manner that he would be in God’s favor (Luke 2:52).
If we look for and longingly await the coming of the Day of God (2Peter 3:12), a day in which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with intense heat, what would that look like? We have been promised new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness (2Peter 3:13), but what does that mean? How can we look for and long for something so catastrophic (literally speaking)? Why would God destroy his original creation? It is things like this that cause me to believe these things must be understood as taking place spiritually, not literally. More about these things as I conclude Peter’s second epistle in the coming days.