We have been told that 2Peter 3:10-13 foretells the complete destruction of God’s creation, and the creating of new heavens and a new earth. However, we would have to ask ourselves why God would literally do such a thing. Moreover, we must ask ourselves why God would break his promise never to destroy the earth again (Genesis 8:20-22; Jeremiah 33:20-26)? Yet, this is what we are told by folks who have devoted their lives to the study of God’s word. Are they correct, or have they erred?
I have been for quite some time been involved in an in-depth study of Matthew 16:27-28. Most scholars agree that both Matthew 16:27 and 2Peter 3:10-13 speak of Jesus Second Coming. So, in other words, Jesus coming in the glory of his Father (Matthew 16:27), refers to his coming to bring in the new heavens and new earth by destroying the old creation, and (presumably) the Father would be glorified in this, namely, destroying what his Father created in order to make room for Jesus’ own new creation. Somehow that doesn’t make sense, but consider what the prophet, Micah, predicted about the 10 northern tribes of Israel:
For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:3-4)
The LORD will come out of his place and come down and will walk upon the mountains of the earth and they will become molten under him and melt like wax in the fire! This sounds like God is coming and the earth would be destroyed in the process. However, notice what Isaiah claimed:
Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence! When you did terrible things which we looked not for, you came down, the mountains flowed down at your presence. (Isaiah 64:1-3; emphasis mine)
Consider once again that it appears the prophet is predicting the end of God’s creation—the heavens are torn, and the mountains melt at God’s presence in the same manner as Micah predicted above. However, take special note of Isaiah 64:3, where the prophet says: “When you did terrible things which we looked not for…” and “You came down and the mountains flowed at your presence.” Isaiah mentions that the Lord had come in the past and at that time the mountains melted and implying that the heavens were torn.
In other words, Micah prophesied that the Lord would come and the earth would be destroyed. The fulfillment of that prophecy occurred when the Assyrians came and destroyed the nation of Israel, i.e. the 10 northern tribes. This is what Micah meant when he said the mountains would melt at God’s presence. Yet, the mountains didn’t literally melt, nor did anyone actually see God come physically or literally. He came in the person of the Assyrian armies and judge the 10 northern tribes.
Should we expect to literally see God’s creation being destroyed, and should we expect to see Jesus literally create a new heavens and a new earth as prophesied in 2Peter 3:10-13? If so, where is the foundation for such an understanding, if the prophets spoke similarly in the past but in language that was apocalyptic and metaphorical? If we have no Biblical foundation for what we interpret in 2Peter 3:10-13, wouldn’t our interpretation be better described as eisegesis rather than exegesis? In other words, aren’t we reading into the scriptures something that simply is not there? If not, why not, since we have no Biblical foundation for such a literal rendering of the text?
Therefore, if Matthew 16:27 tells of Jesus coming in the glory of the Father, in order to bring in the new heavens and new earth (cf. 2Peter 3:10-13) is really similar to how God came in the past—out of heaven, rending the heavens and melting the mountains at his presence (cf. Isaiah 65:1-3; Micah 1:3-4). Therefore, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to make Matthew 16:27 mean Jesus would come 2000 years after he foretold he would come, especially since he predicted he would do so in the generation of the people listening to him (Matthew 16:28). He never intended to come physically, bodily or literally. Rather he came in the person of Titus and the Roman armies with him to conquer and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. This was and is Jesus Second Coming—when the heavens were torn at his presence.