Second Peter is an exciting passage. Peter had come a long way from the days of a short-tempered fisherman who denied the knowledge of Christ. Peter was now an Apostle, a church leader. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, called for a purpose, delivering the Gospel amid newly blurred racial lines, and working in miracles, Peter writes this general epistle. In this letter, Peter writes of false teachers, deceptive lies, and how “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (2 Peter 1:1) should defend themselves against such attacks.
Chapter three begins with a call to remembrance. Humankind has such a short memory. When things happen that cause us grief, and then everything returns to “normal,” or maybe just a little bit better than before, we tend to forget the history, or the root problem, that led us to trouble in the first place. Peter reminds us of the prophets and tells of scoffers who will say, “Show me proof!” (v. 3-4)
Next, Peter states, “that by the word of God, the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:” (v. 5-6) When God spoke, when the word of God formed the earth, creation birthed dry ground from the waters. Regarding Noah and his legacy, the flood shows creation purging itself from evil. The waters overflowed the world, and the flood cleansed the world.
Verse seven declares, “But the heavens and the earth, now, by the same word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” When I was a boy, in the Cold War era, we were taught of the massive nuclear war that this verse referred to and how many times over the nations of the world could destroy themselves. God gave his “bow” as a promise to never again destroy the world by water (Genesis 9:13), but fire is reserved for the day of judgment. In the light of utter destruction, Peter encourages all in verse nine, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Verses 10 through 12 describe this fervent heat in more detail, “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 the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 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?”
Fire is mentioned several times in the New Testament. John states, “he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” (Matthew 3:11). The outpouring on the day of Pentecost was accompanied by “cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Act 2:3) James 5:16 reads, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Old Testament examples include Abraham taking Isaac and fire to a mountaintop to worship and heat being the catalyst to purify silver.
2 Peter 3:13 says, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” I am not reading too much into this, but the thought occurred to me: what if the destruction of the world by fire is actually in a spiritual sense? Fire was not mentioned among those things God spoke into existence during creation week. Could it be that through this covenant fire, God would purge His creation of worldliness? The supernatural love and compassion that Christ has for us beckons all to repentance. (v. 9) The elements, earth, and works therein shall be burned up. (v. 10) Continuing in 2 Peter, in the above verse 13 has us looking for the promise of a righteous heaven and earth. The church of the only living God should be optimistic that our prayers and baptism of fire can cleanse this world of wickedness. We can see the condition of this world while those around us brush it off as “not affecting me.”
We see in Hebrews 1226-29, “But now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” Once again, the word of God (a consuming fire) removes those things that can be shaken, and we receive a kingdom that cannot be moved.
The scripture that debunks this newly-formed thought: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;” (Jude 1:23). According to Jude, the fires of destruction are a place that people should fear. I warned you not to read too much into it. Nevertheless, we should look up and share the hope in us with everyone we come in contact with. This attitude-adjustment will brighten our world, and those who may have been scoffers will gravitate to the Jesus shining through you. The Bible states that there will be a judgment. Thanks be to God that I am not the Judge. We are fishers of men, which means we will reel them in and let God decide from there with mercy and peace that surpasses our understanding.