The coming destruction of the earth by fire

In the September 1939 issue of Popular Science, the magazine published a very unsettling article about how the world would end. The article proposed four different scenarios for the coming destruction of the earth that included a collision with a meteor, burning, freezing, and an explosion, complete with color artwork representing the various views. Fortunately, we do not need to speculate about how the world will end since the Scriptures have clearly laid out the destruction of the world when Christ comes to judge the world.

In 2 Peter 3:3-7, Peter addresses the issue of those who mock the coming judgment of God upon the world. He states that such mockers will indeed come (v.3), and that they will ridicule the promised coming judgment of God by arguing that it was nothing but empty words since the judgment never came (v. 4). Peter exposes their ignorance of the past judgment of God regarding the flood (vv. 5-6). At that time, though the heavens and the earth were part of God’s creation, he only destroyed the earth. The next judgment will be far more extensive. Peter next introduces the coming judgment of the creation by fire when he writes, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (3:7). Peter adds that God will judge both the heavens and the earth (along with its sinners once again), and this time it will be a judgment of fire. As a result, his patience in judging should not be misconstrued as anything but grace (3:8-9). Peter then unfolds the frightening end of the world in verses 10-13:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

In these four verses, Peter describes the coming judgment by fire four more times. In verse 10 he writes that the “heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat.” And he adds that “the earth and its works will be burned up.” Here Peter is explicit about the earth’s demise, as he was in verse 7 when he stated that the earth was being reserved for that day of destruction by fire. To describe this as a coming environmental catastrophe is an understatement. God will bring about a smoldering firestorm unlike any nuclear war can produce. The amount of energy needed to reduce the earth’s elements like this is unimaginable.

Then in verse 12 he again notes that “the heavens will be destroyed by burning” and and then seems to include the earth when he adds, “and the elements will melt with intense heat.” In other words, the earth is part of the heavens so when they are burned up, so too the earth. Peter then concludes his description of the coming judgment in verse 13 when he writes, “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” The God who creates, also destroys, and then creates again. God will judge the fallen creation and its sinners with horrific destruction. But he will bring about new heavens and a new earth so that his righteousness and his righteous people may dwell without the terrible consequences of sin any more. As Peter notes in verse 11, “Since all things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”





Categories: 2 Peter 3, Destruction of the earth, Judgment

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