2 Peter 3:10 Study Archive
the ELEMENTS shall melt with fervent heat
New Testament Greek:
Second Peter 3:10
- BMT: Ἥξει δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί, ἐν ᾗ οἱ οὐρανοὶ ῥοιζηδὸν παρελεύσονται, στοιχεῖα δὲ καυσούμενα λυθήσονται, καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα κατακαήσεται.
- ScTR: ἥξει δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα Κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ, ἐν ᾗ οἱ οὐρανοὶ ῥοιζηδὸν παρελεύσονται, στοιχεῖα δὲ καυσούμενα λυθήσονται, καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα κατακαήσεται.
Atomic Elements, Old Covenant Principles or What?
Second Peter 3 & AD70
“He sets forth the destruction of that cursed Nation and their City in those terms that Christ had done, Matt. 24. and that the Scripture doth elsewhere, Deut. 32.22,23.24. Jer. 4.23. namely as the destruction of the whole world, The heavens passing away, the elements melting, and the earth burnt up, &c. And accordingly speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, from Isa. 65.17. a new state of the Church under the Gospel among the Gentiles, when this old world of the Jews state should be dissolved.” (John Lightfoot, Westminster Assembly Divine)
‘Heaven and earth passing,’ understood literally, is the dissolution of the present system of the universe, and the period when that is to take place, is called the ‘end of the world.’ But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens” (vol. 1, p. 170)
“The period of the close of the one dispensation and the commencement of the other, is spoken of as “the last days,” and “the end of the world,” and is described as such a shaking of the earth and heavens, as should lead to the removal of the things which were shaken (Hag. ii.6, Heb xiv. 26,27).
“It appears, then, that is Scripture be the best interpreter of Scripture, we have in the Old Testament a key to the interpretation of the prophecies in the New. The same symbolism is found in both, and the imagery of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets helps us to understand the imagery of St. Matthew, St. Peter, and St. John. As the dissolution of the material world is not necessary to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, neither is it necessary to the accomplishment of the predictions of the New Testament. But though symbols are metaphorical expressions, they are not unmeaning. It is not necessary to allegorise them, and find a corresponding equivalent for every trope; it is sufficient to regard the imagery as employed to heighten the sublimity of the prediction and to clothe it with impressiveness and grandeur. There are, at the same time, a true propriety and an underlying reality in the symbols of prophecy. The moral and spiritual facts which they represent, the social and ecumenical changes which they typify, could not be adequately set forth by language less majestic and sublime. There is reason for believing that an inadequate apprehension of the real grandeur and significance of such events as the destruction of Jerusalem and the abrogation of the Jewish economy lies at the root of that system of interpretation which maintains that nothing answering to the symbols of the New Testament prophecy has ever taken place. Hence the uncritical and unscriptural figments of double senses, and double, triple, and multiple fulfillments of prophecy. That physical disturbances in nature and extraordinary phenomena in the heavens and in the earth may have accompanied the expiring throes of the Jewish dispensation we are not prepared to deny. It seems to us highly probable that such things were. But the literal fulfillment of the symbols is not essential to the verification of prophecy, which is abundantly proved to be true by the recorded facts of history.” (vol. i. p.200).
“The end of all things” here is the entire end of the Jewish economy in the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, and the dispersal of the holy people. That was at hand; for this epistle seems to have been written a very short while before these events took place….It is quite plain that in our Lord’s predictions, the expressions “the end” and probably “the end of the world” are used in reference to the entire dissolution of the Jewish economy (cf. Matt.24:3, 6, 14, 34; Rom. 13:11-12; James 5:8-9). ” (Quoted in Roderick Campbell, Israel and the NewCovenant (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954), 107.)
“Fourth, the reference to the unraveling and conflagration of the heavens and the earth is expressly tied to the material creation. Hence, it seems clearly to refer to the consummation, and not A.D. 70, despite certain similarities. Peter expressly refers to the material creation order: “from the beginning of creation” (3:4; cf. Gen.1:1); “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (3:5; cf. Gen.1:2, 9); “the heavens and the earth which now exist” (2Pet.3:7). He seems clearly to be defining the “heavens and earth” to which he is referring. He is not contemplating the destruction of the old Jewish order, but the material heavens and the earth.” (Dominion, p.304). — AND YET…
“The heavenly Jerusalem is the bride of Christ that came down from God to replace the earthly Jerusalem (Rev.21:2-5) in the first century (Rev.1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). With the shaking and destruction of the old Jerusalem in A.D.70, the heavenly (re-created) Jerusalem replaced her: His “voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made [i.e., the Levitical ritual system73], that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Heb.12:26-28).
Contrary to amillennialism, there is no reason, neither is there “substantial evidence…for identifying [Isaiah 65:17ff] with the perfect eternal state.”74 Isaiah speaks of glorious elevated conditions, but conditions still continuous with the present. This is evident in the experiencing of birth, aging, death, time, sin, and curse: “No more shall an infant [“suckling”] from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accused” (Isa.65:20). Sinners will not be in the post-resurrection perfect state.
Adams defends the amillennial interpretation of these elements with a rhetorical question: “How else can perfection be described in words which have imperfect objects and concepts as reerents.”75 The answer is: Easily! Surely it is not impossible to think of post-resurrection perfection without mentioning six elements of temporal imperfection in the same sentence!
Fellow amillennialist Hoekema also deals with the passage rhetorically by reference to Isaiaah 65:19: “Can one imagine death without weeping?”76 This is surely less difficult than imagining death without death (cf.65:20). But in the context, the reference is to be understood culturally: when God’s blessings come upon His city and people, the “old things” (65:17) of cultural judgment, devastation, and sorrow due to sinful rebellion (65:2-8, 11-12) will pass away. The rejoicing of God in His people collectively considered will lead to the relief of their sorrow caused by His past displeasure and cultural wrath (cf.Deut. 28:15ff; Psa. 137). No longer will the “cry of distress” be heard from His people (cf. 2Sam.22:7; Psa.18:6; Isa.19:20), because the world will be dominated by them and not by the oppressor (65:25).
The covenantal language here shows that culture-wide disinheritance caused by rebellion will be a thing of the past. Instead, covenantally inheritance will prevail: “They shall build houses and inhabit them, they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit, they shall not plant and another eat, for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isa.65:21-22). This reverses covenantal curse language (which Isaiah spoke so much about): “You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes” (Deut.28:30; cf.Zeph.1:13; Mic.6:15).
The New Heavens and New Earth here (and many places elsewhere) has reference to the New Covenant era. It characterizes the system-wide transformation that will occur with spread of the gospel.” (He Shall Have Dominion, pp.363-365, ICE pub.1992)
John Lightfoot (1889)
“The destruction of Jerusalem is phrased in Scripture as the destruction of the whole world; and Christ’s coming to her in judgment, as his coming to the last judgment. Therefore, those dreadful things, spoken of in Matt. 24:29,30 and 31, are but borrowed expressions, to set forth the terms of that judgment the more.. v.30 – “then shall they see” – not any visible appearance of Christ, or of the cross, in the clouds (as some have imagined); but, whereas Jews would not own Christ before for the Son of Man, or for the Messias, then by the vengeance that he should execute upon them, they and all the world should see an evident sign, and it was so. This, therefore, is called “his coming,” and his coming in his kingdom.” [A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, ed. Rev. John Rogers Pitman (London: J.F. Dove, 1825), p.141]
“That the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of the world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city, places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow; his own people, whom he accounted of as much or more than the whole world beside, by so dreadful and amazing plagues. Matt. 24:29,30, ‘The sun shall be darkened &c. Then shall appear the ‘sign of the Son of man,’ &c; which yet are said to fall out within that generation, ver. 34. 2 Pet. 3:10, ‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ &c. Compare with this Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses” (vol. 3, p. 452).
“(Peter, in the second epistle,) sets forth the destruction of that cursed Nation and their City in those terms that Christ had done, Matt. 24. and that the Scripture doth elsewhere, Deut. 32.22,23.24. Jer. 4.23. namely as the destruction of the whole world, The heavens passing away, the elements melting, and the earth burnt up, &c. And accordingly speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, from Isa. 65.17. a new state of the Church under the Gospel among the Gentiles, when this old world of the Jews state should be dissolved.” (Works, Vol. I., p. 338.)
“On this foundation I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state; for which I shall offer these two reasons, of many that might be insisted on from the text:-
‘(1.) Because whatever is here mentioned was to have its peculiar influence on the men of that generation. He speaks of that wherein both the profane scoffers and those scoffed at were concerned, and that as Jews, some of them believing, others opposing, the faith. Now there was no particular concernment of that generation, nor in that sin, nor in that scoffing, as to the day of judgment in general ; but there was a peculiar relief for the one and a peculiar dread for the other at hand, in the destruction of the Jewish nation ; and, besides, an ample testimony both to the one and the other of the power and dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was the thing in question between them.
‘(2.) Peter tells them, that after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of (vers. 7-13), ” We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. They had this expectation. But what is that promise? Where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. lxv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God shall create these new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness? Saith Peter, ” It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.” But now it is evident from this place of Isaiah, with chap. lxvi. 21, 22, that this is a prophecy of Gospel times only; and that the planting of these new heavens is nothing but the creation of Gospel ordinances to endure for ever. The same thing is so expressed Heb. xii. 26-28.
First, There is the foundation of the apostle’s inference and exhortation, seeing that all these things, however precious they seem, or what value soever any put upon them, shall be dissolved, that is, destroyed; and that in that dreadful and fearful manner before mentioned, in a day of judgment, wrath, and vengeance, by fire and sword; let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming: He will come- He will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, -the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.” (John Owen on Second Peter)
The language is a poetical citation from Psalm 90:4, and is adduced to show that the lapse of time does not invalidate the promises of God….But this is very different from saying that when the everlasting God promises something shortly, and declares that it is close at hand,He may mean that it is a thousand years in the future. Whatever He has promised indefinitely He may take a thousand years or more to fulfill; but what He affirms to be at the door let no man declare to be far away. (Biblical Hermeneutices: A Treatise on the Interpretation ofthe Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1974), 406.)
“The language of 2 Pet. 3:10-12 is taken mainly from Isa. 34:4, and is limited to the parousia, like the language of Matt. 24:29. Then the Lord made “not only the land but also the heaven” to tremble (Heb. 12:26), and removed the things that were shaken in order to establish a kingdom which cannot be moved.” (Biblical Hermeneutices: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1974), 489.)
New Geneva Study Bible
“elements. Greek stoicheia, a term used for (a) the elements making up the world (according to the philosophers these were earth, air, fire, and water)… ” (p.1983)
MacArthur Study Bible
“the heavens will pass away with a great noise. The “heavens” refer to the physical universe. The “great noise” connotes whistling or a crackling sound as of objects being consumed by flames. God will incinerate the universe, probably in an atomic reaction that disintegrates all matter as we know it (vv.7, 11, 12, 13). the elements will melt with fervent heat. The “elements” are the atomic components into which matter is ultimately divisible, which make up the composition of all the created matter. Peter means that the atoms, neutrons, protons, and electrons are all going to disintegrate (v.11). ” (p.1959)
“The subject of this Chapter 10 of Isaiah continues with God trying to get His People to listen to and follow Him, instead of our own ways, sytems, and creeds. This Message God is giving through Isaiah is not just for his era, but for us today also. In the last Chapter 9, God gave many references to the ‘evil day’, that is to say, the time when the ‘spurious Messiah‘, i.e., Satan, will cause the ‘abomination of desolation‘ in God’s Temple. These events recorded here in Isaiah are but types, or as Paul would say in I Cor.10:11, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” The word ‘world‘ Paul used in the Greek is ‘aion‘, and it means an ‘age‘, or earth age, similar to ‘eon’, not a literal destruction of all things which God created; only those ‘elements‘, or properly ‘rudiments‘ spoke of in II Peter 3. It specifically applies to the events written in God’s Word which happen upon Christ’s second coming. Now we know that the return of Jesus Christ at the second Advent had not happened during Paul’s time, so even what Paul was writing there in I Cor.10 was for our ‘admonition‘, or learning, even today. ‘No worries mate’, if you’re in Christ Jesus and are trying to do what our Father has written for us to follow.” (“Isaiah 10:1 – 10:11”)
“Peter is preparing his hearers for the “fiery trial” which he sees looming in the days ahead—a trial which is certain to test their faith. His hearers have not yet fully grasped the significance of the great change introduced by the advent of Christ. The external fabric of the Old Covenant still stands, in outward appearance seemingly as secure and glorious as it was before (except for the rending of the temple veil). Some of the Christians are still clinging tenaciously to the ancient symbolic rites and ceremonies. From our vantage point it is easy to accuse them of lack of vision. But we should bear in mind that Peter and his audience were living in the midst of a persecuting world. Moreover, the destruction of their sacred city and temple was then imminent. Peter had heard the doom of their magnificent temple pronounced by the lips of Jesus—a doom which, Jesus said, some of the generation then living would witness with their natural eyes. In the midst of that crumbling world, Peter calls to mind Isaiah’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth.” By the eye of faith, he sees this new creation emerging from the dust and debris of that once glorious order of things which was so dear to every loyal Hebrew heart (cf. 2 Cor. 3:7). He and his hearers are standing within the threshold of the new age, an age which, although potentially and actually present, has not yet been made fully manifest to his hearers, who are no doubt still, for the most part, babes in Christ.” (Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia, PA: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1954), 115.)
“The stoicheia to which the Galatians had been in bondage were the counterfeit gods of v. 8; the bondage to which they were now disposed to turn back was that of the law.” (The Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 202-203)
OTHER NEW TESTAMENT USAGES
Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and theelements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
2 Peter 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?