Jesus said he didn’t come to send peace upon the earth, but, rather, a sword (Matthew 10:34). In Luke Jesus says he came to send a fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49), something to which Peter refers in 2Peter 3:7, 12. He says the heavens will pass away with a great noise (2Peter 3:10), but what does that mean? Paul, speaking of the same time, says this would be the time of the dead rising (1Thessalonians 4:16; cf. Matthew 27:52-53). Both Peter and Paul speak of a time of great spiritual conflict, a time of judgment upon the wicked and a time of raising the dead.
Concerning the fire Jesus mentioned, Peter claimed it would melt the elements (G4747) of the earth with fervent heat (2Peter 3:10, 12). In Hebrews 5:12 the writer mentions the first principles (G4747) of the oracles of God. In other words, they are the foundational doctrines found in Scripture that point to Christ (cf. Hebrews 6:1). Again, the same word is used by Paul in Colossians 2:8 and 20 for the English word rudiments. Paul warns his readers not to be corrupted by philosophy, the traditions of men, which are after the rudiments of the world. This same principle is used again by Paul in Galatians 4:3-4 where he uses the same Greek word. There, however, it is translated elements of the world. These elements were the principles or rudiments of the world that hold men in bondage. For the gentiles it was the traditions of the world, but for the Jews it was the Law of Moses. Both were annulled by God in the Day of the Lord.
Peter says the elements will be burned up with fervent heat (2Peter 3:10, 12). God’s word is a fire in the mouths of his people (Jeremiah 5:14). Even if we are weary of speaking of God, his word within us is still a fire that burns, until we can no longer hold back (Jeremiah 20:9). If any oppose us, they cannot cause their words to stand for long, because their words are chaff, while the word of God within his people is a fire. The chaff will be burnt up by the word of God in due time (cf. Jeremiah 23:28-29).
Paul speaks of this great spiritual conflict in Ephesians 6:11-17. There in verses 11 & 13 Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God and stand against the enemy, because they are the powers of the heavens that are passing away. They are the spiritual wickedness in high places, exalting themselves against God (Ephesians 6:12). Defending ourselves with the truth, and taking the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14), and guarding our feet with the Gospel of peace, and taking the shield of faith, we are able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:15-16). Finally, by taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God) we are ready to face the enemy (Ephesians 6:17).
However, our warfare is not carnal (2Corinthians 10:3). That is, it isn’t like the wars nations wage against one another. Neither are our weapons carnal, but they are mighty for pulling down strongholds (Peter’s elements) of this world (2Corinthians 10:4). With the word of God we are able to cast down the imaginations of men and every high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to obey Christ (2Corinthians 10:5).
Looking for and desiring the Day of the Lord, we need to keep ourselves from being contaminated by the traditions or elements of the world, which God intends for us to destroy with the word of his Gospel (2Peter 3:14). Jesus was unspotted (1Peter 1:19), so, if we are his disciples, we need to be like him. Any delay of judgment to which the scoffers might point (cf. 2Peter 3:4), is actually God’s patience toward us, waiting for our full commitment to him, so he doesn’t have to judge us with the wicked, so that we lose our reward (2Peter 3:15).
Peter regards his readers as believers who await the coming of Christ (2Peter 3:17). However, he does warn us that we can fall from our steadfastness and lose our reward at the coming of Christ, if we are led away by the error of the wicked. We cannot help but be affected by what we listen to every day. Therefore, Jesus told us to be careful what we listen to (Mark 4:24), and how we listen to them (Luke 8:18). Peter’s advice is to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2Peter 3:18). We grow in favor with God by enduring the troubles that men put in our way (1Peter 2:20).
We grow in the deeper knowledge or the perfect knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ by learning about him in the Gospels. The Gospels are this perfect and deep knowledge (2Peter 3:20). As we look into it and familiarize ourselves with Jesus’ life and words, it acts as a mirror and we become more like what we behold (2Corinthians 3:18). We find ourselves being changed more and more into that image of Christ by the Spirit of God.