The New Heavens And A New Earth: An Exegesis of 2 Peter 3:3-13
What is going to happen to this earth once time is over? This is a question that absolutely deserves an answer. Many may be wondering this very thing today. What I want to do is give an exegesis of 2 Peter 3:3-13 to explain what will happen to the earth. My purpose is not to debate the nuances of heaven, but to simply explain the text. As we begin, we must understand the context of what Peter is writing. He is writing to those in the first century who are Christians. Peter’s main audience is not our 21st century time. In studying scripture, we must never jump to modern day. We must understand the audience and purpose of the passage.
Peter begins this section by warning them of those who will mock the second coming of Jesus (2 Peter 3:3-4). He notes their reasoning (2 Peter 3:5-6). They assumed that since Christ had not come, and that time was going on, and since He had not come then He would not come. I know that is a lot in one sentence there. This is the mocker’s reasoning, however. Just because Christ has not come again, it doesn’t mean that He will never come again. He promised that He would (John 14:1-3). Peter also mentions that the first world that existed before the flood was destroyed. The world in which we now live is different. It is not the exact same world pre-flood.
Peter then contrasts the first world with our present world. He notes that the first was destroyed by water but the present world is “reserved for fire” (2 Peter 3:7). This fire is not a renovating fire. It is a destructive fire. It is reserved for “the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Jehovah’s witnesses and others teach that this fire is not to destroy but to cleanse. This is not true. How do I know this? Because Peter will confirm this in verses 10ff. We will get to these verses shortly. He gives encouragement (2 Peter 3:8-9) about the longsuffering of God. Why has Christ not come back? The answer is the longsuffering of God. He desires for men to repent. He does not desire for people to perish. He does desire change (2 Peter 3:9). God will punish those who are unwilling to repent.
Peter continues his point of the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10). He mentions that it will be like a thief who comes unannounced at night. Christ’s coming will be likewise. It will be when life is going as normal. People will be working, shopping, eating, etc. All will take part in this day. All will know of His arrival. Peter explains that on this day the heavens (sky) will pass away. He notes that the elements would be destroyed by the intense heat. He also says the earth and its works would be burned up. It is important to understand grammar here. The word “and” is a coordinating conjunction which joins things in a sentence. So, what happens to the heavens must likewise happen to the earth. One who has a materialistic mind will avoid this fact. One who desires this world wants this to be anything less than destructive. This world is NOT our home.
In view of this world passing away, Peter reminds them how one ought to be (2 Peter 3:11-12). We should be holy and blameless. We should live our lives in view of God’s will. We must live our lives in view of this earth not being our permanent dwelling. We must be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). Observe that if this earth was our home, then there would be no reason to admonish others to look for another. Our eternal home is not here. It is with God. It is somewhere else.
Now we get to the verse which contains the title of the article (2 Peter 3:13). Peter’s point is that since this earth will be destroyed, we are looking for a new place to live. This is “new heavens and a new earth”. This phrase in context is speaking of the place where God is—“in which righteousness dwells”. We must note here the word “new” as well. If something is renovated, is it really new or improved? If my wife passes away and I marry another, would my “new” wife be a renovated one? Of course not! That is not logical. In view of this phrase in discussion, I do not know everything about Heaven other than what has been revealed in God’s Word. If your view is that this “new heavens and a new earth” is in Heaven, but your opinion is that it would be like Eden or street(s) of gold, etc., then this author has no reason to argue the matter. What we do know is that this cannot be this earth in which we live now.
In conclusion, Peter warns his audience of the coming destruction of our world and admonition to look for the new one. This should motivate us to do everything in our being to be there in the new dwelling place that Christ has prepared (John 14:1-3). It is my prayer that we will consider these things and our souls as well. As a side note here, we must also be careful to not label those who have opinions on things in Heaven (nuances) as false teachers automatically unless they deny obvious scriptural teaching. I believe that we can walk together believing that this world is not our home and we long to be in that place where God has prepared for us to be.