f) 2 Pet 3:11–12: After discussing the return of Jesus in 2 Pet 3:3–10,[1] the author of this letter shifted his attention to how we should respond to that knowledge.[2]

He wrote, “Since all these [things] are being destroyed (luō) in this way, it is necessary for you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”

Luō has a wide range of meanings.[3] These include “to loosen” (Matt 16:19), “ to untie” (Mark 1:7), “to set free” (1 Cor 7:27), “to destroy” (John 2:19), “to break into its parts” (Acts 27:41), “to abolish” (Acts 2:24), “to put an end to” (Matt 5:19) and “to ransom” (Rev 1:5).[4]

While the author wrote of a physical change, luō does not usually indicate annihilation. Notably, he employed the stronger verb (apollumi) in 2 Pet 3:6–7 when he described what Noah’s flood did to the world and its inhabitants.[5]

Given that the author used the present tense for “being destroyed,” he proclaimed that God is already undoing our current system.[6] The process of dissolution began in Eden (Gen 3:17–19; 2 Cor 4:16–18; Rom 8:20–21).

As the people of God, we must ready ourselves to inhabit the new age (1 Pet 1:13–17).[7] Everything we do should reflect the holiness of Christ (2 Pet 1:2–11).[8]

Within the New Testament (NT) the word translated as “looking for” (prosdokaō) usually occurs in the context of anticipating end-time salvation (Cf. Matt 11:2–5; Luke 3:15; Luke 12:42–48).[9]

The author employed the term three times in 2 Pet 3:11–13 to emphasize the earnest expectancy believers should foster when considering the return of Christ.[10].

“Hastening” (speudō) implies that we can cause something to occur by exerting extra effort.[11] This appears to allude to Isa 60:18–22.[12]

In most Jewish apocryphal literature, the Lord himself speeds the coming of the day of God.[13]

According to the Apocalypse of Baruch (first–second century AD):

I besought the Mighty One and said, “Thou alone O Lord knowest of aforetime the deep things of the world, and the things which befall in their times Thou bringest about by the word.

And against the works of the inhabitants of the earth Thou dost hasten the beginnings of the times. And the ends of the seasons Thou alone knowest…

But thou doest everything easily by a nod. [You] revealest to those who fear Thee what is prepared for them that henceforth they may     be comforted.”[14]

On the other hand, in the Babylonian Talmud (first century BC to fifth century AD), a group of rabbis discussed the necessary conditions for the messiah to arrive. They argued:

Rabbi Johanan also said, “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. In a generation that is altogether righteous—as it is written, “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever’ [Ps 37:29].

“Or altogether wicked—as it is written, ‘And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor’ [Isa 59:16]; and it is [elsewhere] written, ‘For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it’” [Isa 48:11].

Rabbi Alexandri said, “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi pointed out a contradiction. ‘It is written, in its time [will the Messiah come]’ [Song 2:7], whilst it is also written, ‘I [the Lord] will hasten it [Isa 60:22]!—If they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time.’”

Rabbi Alexandri said, “R. Joshua opposed two verses, ‘It is written, “And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven” [Dan 7:13] whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee…] lowly, and riding upon an ass [Zech 9:9]!”—If they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass.”[15]

These rabbis believed that God’s people speed the messiah’s coming by their repentance. Furthermore, their behavior would determine the manner of his arrival.[16]

In their view, if every Israelite would repent or keep the law perfectly for a day, the messiah would return to deliver them from foreign domination and usher in the new age of peace.[17]

Consequently, an Aramaic expansion of Song 8:14 pleads, “Watch over us and observe our trouble and affliction from the highest heavens, till such time as you are pleased with us and redeem us and bring us up to the mountains of Jerusalem, where the priests will offer up before you incense of spices.”[18]

This Jewish concept of hastening the age to come by our repentance extends into Christian teaching.[19]

The Lord takes the actions of his people into account when determining the time for Christ to return (Acts 3:19–21).[20]

Godliness advances the day of the Lord,[21] as does prayer and preaching the gospel to all people-groups (Matt 6:10; Matt 24:14).[22]

Nevertheless, God remains sovereign.[23] While he calls us to live holy lives, he also determines our steps (Deut 30:6–10; Ps 80:14–19; Ezek 36:24–27; Phil 2:12–13; Eph 2:4–10).[24]

Our behavior matters, yet God’s control persists.[25] We must hold both of these truths in tension, as we seek to expedite the return of Christ.[26]

His second coming will result in cataclysmic judgment and glorious renewal,[27] “because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and destroyed (luō) and the elements, consumed by heat, are melted.”

Stoics believed time is cyclical. They taught that a great conflagration periodically consumed the earth and then the planet was renewed.[28]

Cicero (106–43 BC) wrote:

The stars are of a fiery substance, and for this reason they are nourished by the vapors of the earth, the sea and the waters, which are raised up by the sun out of the fields which it warms and out of the waters; and when nourished and renewed by these vapors the stars and the whole ether shed them back again, and then once more draw them up from the same source, with the loss of none of their matter, or only of an extremely small part which is consumed by the fire of the stars and the flame of the ether.

As a consequence of this…there will ultimately occur a conflagration of the whole world, because when the moisture has been used up neither can the earth be nourished nor the air continue to flow, being unable to rise upward after it has drunk up all the water; thus nothing will remain but fire, by which, as a living being and a god, once again a new world may be created and the ordered universe be restored as before.[29]

Contrary to Stoic beliefs, the destruction which the author of 2 Peter proclaimed will be a one-time event which does not result from a natural progression.[30]

He then elaborated upon the theme of the destruction of the heavens and the earth from 2 Pet 3:10 [The Day of the Lord Will Come (2 Pet 3:10)].

The verb “to melt” (tēkō) appears nowhere else in the NT. However, it occurs frequently in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (53 x) and in Greco-Roman literature (970 x).[31]

In this case, it depicts a future event despite being written in the present tense.[32] Koine Greek authors employed this literary device to convey certainty or the impending nature of an event.[33]

The Greek translation of Isa 64:1–2 says, “If you open the sky, trembling will take hold of the mountains at you, and they will melt like wax melts before a fire. And fire will consume the enemies, and your name will be evident among the enemies” (Cf. Mic 1:2–4).[34]

Second Clement (ca. 130–160 AD) connects this destruction with the revealing of human evil:

Seeing, therefore, brethren, that we have received no small opportunity for repentance, let us turn to the God who calls us, while we still have one who awaits us.

For if we bid farewell to these enjoyments and conquer our soul by giving up its wicked lusts, we shall share in the mercy of Jesus.

But you know that “the day” of judgment is “already approaching as a burning oven, and some of the heavens shall melt,” and the whole earth shall be as melting lead in the fire, and then shall be manifest the secret and open deeds of men.[35]

In a parallel NT passage, John described his vision of God sitting on a throne in judgment. He noted, “And from his face fled the earth and the heaven, and a place was not found (heuriskō) for them” (Rev 20:11). In keeping with 2 Pet 3:10, this likely refers to judgment upon sin in this world.[36]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read 2 Pet 3:11–12. How can you help to hasten Christ’s return? What will occur when he arrives?

 

 

 

 

Go to Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption

[Related posts include The World Destroyed by Water (2 Pet 3:5–6); Reserved for Fire (2 Pet 3:7); God’s Perception of Time (2 Pet 3:8); The Lord has Patience (2 Pet 3:9); The Day of the Lord Will Come (2 Pet 3:10); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); The Waters Prevail (Gen 7:17–20); The Breath of Life Extinguished (Gen 7:21–24); Renewal of the Earth (Gen 8:6–14); Not Knowing the Day or the Hour (Matt 24:36); As in the Days of Noah (Matt 24:37–39); One Will Be Left (Matt 24:40–41); Continually Watch! (Matt 24:42–44); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]

 

 

[1]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 196.

[2]Carson, “2 Peter,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1059. Whether Peter or someone writing in his name penned 2 Peter remains highly controversial even among evangelical scholars.

[3]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “λυω” (luō), BDAG, 606–7.

[4]Friedrich Büchsel, “λυω” (luō), TDNT, 4:335–7.

[5]Heide, “What is New About the New Heaven and the New Earth? A Theology of Creation from Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3,” 53, www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/40/40-1/40-1-pp037-056_JETS.pdf.

[6]Moo, “Nature and the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” 468, www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-3/JETS_49-3_449-488_Moo.pdf.

[7]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 324.

[8]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 197.

[9]Christian Maurer, “προσδοκαω” (prosdokaō), TDNT 6:725–7, 726.

[10]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 390.

[11]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “σπευδω” (speudō), BDAG, 938.

[12]Carson, “2 Peter,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1060.

[13]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 325.

[14]R. H. Charles, trans., The Apocalypse of Baruch (London; New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; MacMillan, 1918), 54:1–4, 71, https://archive.org/stream/apocalypseofbaru00char#page/70.

[15]b. Sanhedrin 98a, http://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html.

[16]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 325.

[17]N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 187.

[18]Penelope Robin Junkermann, “The Relationship Between Targum Song of Songs and Midrash Rabbah Song of Songs” (Manchester, UK: University of Manchester, 2010), 182, Https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:105720&datastreamId=FULL-TEXT.PDF.

[19]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 198.

[20]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 325.

[21]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 390.

[22]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 198–9.

[23]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 325.

[24]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 390.

[25]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 198.

[26]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 391.

[27]Carson, “2 Peter,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1060.

[28]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 300.

[29]M. Tullius Cicero, De Natura Deorum Academia (vol. 19 of Cicero in Twenty-Eight Vols.; trans. H. Rackham; LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; Heinemann, 1933), 2.118–9, 235–7, https://archive.org/stream/denaturadeorumac00ciceuoft#page/234.

[30]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 325.

[31]Result of word study of “τηκω” (tēkō) in Logos 7.

[32]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 391.

[33]Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 535–6.

[34]Brannan et al., The Lexham English Septuagint, Isa 64:1–2.

[35]Lake, Kirsopp, trans. “2 Clement,” in The Apostolic Fathers with an English Translation, Vol. 1. (Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann, 1912), 16:1–4, 154–5, https://archive.org/stream/TheApostolicFathersV1#page/n167. Italics mine.

[36]Moo, “Nature and the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” 466, www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-3/JETS_49-3_449-488_Moo.pdf.