The Study of Last Things
Bringing Truths from Different Books of the Bible into Focus, Perspective, and Understanding.
"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." 2 Peter 3:10
The Destruction of the Universe
Jesus Christ will have completed his One Thousand Year Reign over Israel and over the entire Earth from Jerusalem, the world’s capital city (Psalm 2:4-8; Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6-7; Zech. 14:9; Luke 1:30-33; Rev. 20:4). Jesus’ Utopian, yet rigorous rule over the nations of the earth (Psalm 2:9) will be unmarred by the deadly deceit of the devil and his demons (Rev. 20:1-3). Satan’s release from the Abyss will, for awhile, succeed beyond his wildest dreams. He will delude people from all over the earth to revolt against the King. Just when it appears the rebels will overthrow the King and His loyalists, fire from heaven will destroy all the rebels. Satan himself will be captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Rev. 20:7-10).
This sad and shocking end to the most peaceful, prosperous, just, healthy, wholesome, long-lived, and environmentally benign era of human history will demonstrate at least five timeless truths.
1) Man is depraved. Though man was created in the image of God, that likeness has been sadly marred, and man has been defiled (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18).
2) Unless God enters into his heart and life, actively transforming him (Jer. 31:31-34), man will revolt against God.
3) Man’s rebellion against God has brought a curse to the earth and the universe in which it resides (Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 5:12; 8:20, 22). The earth and the entire universe are filled with death and decay, and they have become an intolerable place for man to live for eternity.
4) A holy God cannot maintain enduring fellowship with depraved people with defiled bodies on a despoiled earth in a desecrated universe. Man himself must be redeemed and transformed, body and soul. Furthermore, the earth, which is man’s home, its contents, and the universe in which it resides, must be destroyed in a roaring, explosive inferno.
5) In order for holy, immortal, eternal God to maintain eternal fellowship with unholy, mortal, aging man, God must do several things: a) He must redeem man’s soul (Rom. 3:23-24; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14); b) He must redeem man’s body (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:50, 53); and c) He must create new heavens and a new earth untainted by sin, death, the devil, and corrosion in which He and man can exist forever (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4).
For those among mankind who trust in Him, and His eternal Son, God will provide exactly that. 1) He has already purchased reconciliation with Himself. That reconciliation is available to all; but it is appropriated only by those who trust in God’s mediator, Jesus (John 1:29; 3:16-18; 14:6; Rom. 5:8-11; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2). 2) He has promised resurrection bodies, fit for eternal fellowship with eternal God (Job 19:25-27; Dan. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 50-53; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). 3) He will also create new heavens, a new earth, and a new capital city in which He Himself and Jesus will live in eternal fellowship with redeemed man (Rev. 21:1-4). But we get ahead of our story . . . .
A. Old Testament Evidence for the Destruction of the Universe. A few of the Hebrew Scriptures directly predict the future end of the heavens and earth, and several which may imply it, though they actually refer to a coming time of great catastrophe on the earth short of complete destruction.
1. The universe will be cast aside like a “worn out garment” motif (Psalm 102:25-26). Psalm 102:25 states that God created both the earth and the heavens. Psalm 102:26 declares that both “will perish,” and that they “will wear out like a garment,” and that God will “change them” “like clothing.” This passage refers to the coming destruction of the universe.
a. This same theme is picked up by Isaiah, who applies the “worn out garment” motif to the earth (Isa. 51:6).
b. The writer of Hebrews (Heb. 1:10-12) quotes directly from Psa 102:25-26. His purpose is to show that, though both heaven and earth will be terminated, the Son is eternal.
2. There are other passages which describe celestial disturbances. It would appear that these passages describe phenomenal events during the Tribulation period, however, rather than the end of the universe as we know it. For the sake of space, these passages are not included in this document. To view them, click here.
B. New Testament Evidence for the Destruction of the Universe.
1. Matthew 24:35. In Matthew 24, Jesus made some incredible predictions about the future, especially about events during the Tribulation and about his own powerful return. To emphasize the certainty of his predictions, he flatly asserted that, though heaven and earth will pass away, his own words would not. Clearly Jesus taught that there is coming a time when heaven and earth will be destroyed.
2. The writer of Hebrews (Heb. 1:10-12) quoted directly from Psa 102:25-26. He reaffirmed the fact that the earth and the heavens “will perish.” His purpose was to show that, though both heaven and earth will be terminated, the Son is eternal.
3. Perhaps the most graphic description of the destruction of the heavens and the earth is to be found in 2 Peter 3:7-12.
a. What prompted Peter to discuss the destruction of the universe was the mocking attitude of unbelievers who deny that Jesus Christ will ever return to this earth (2 Pet. 3:3-4). It is instructive to observe that the fundamental premise of these mockers is also the foundational doctrine of modern day earth science – uniformitarianism! Uniformitarianism is the presumption, unproven by empirical evidence, that the geophysical and historical processes we observe today have been occurring at the same rate of speed throughout the history of the planet.
b. Peter asserts unequivocally that these mockers of the return of Jesus Christ are ignorant. They are ignorant of three certain events undergirded by an implied eternal verity. Two of the certain events are history – they have already occurred. One event is future. It has not yet occurred, but its arrival is just as certain as the events that have already taken place.
c. First, let us analyze the psychology of the mockers. Their active premise is that Jesus Christ will not return to this earth. They assert as proof, without offering credible evidence, their incredibly limited assessment of what they observe now in their own brief life spans. What they conclude from their own limited observation is a denial of an eternal verity. Their stance is identical to the bias of most modern day scientists – there is no such thing as the supernatural! Their arrogance is best illustrated by the boast of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after having orbited a few times around minuscule planet Earth implanted in what appears to be an almost infinite cosmos – “There is no God – I didn’t see him out here!” Well, now, that proves it! Think of the absurdity: If I cannot observe a supernatural, invisible being, it proves he is not there!
d. In more explicit terms, what the mockers believed, and what most educated people believe today is this: God has not and does not and will not enter into the arena of man on earth and act to achieve His will. Consequently, therefore, Jesus will not return to this earth to impose His will on the inhabitants of the earth. The unstated but implied conclusion is therefore, “So consequently I can live my life any way I please. I am not accountable to any higher power, so I can be as selfish or immoral as I please. No one can tell me how to live my life!”
e. Peter incisively evaluates their intellectual shortcoming and its cause (2 Pet. 3:5). He states that three things escape the notice of these mockers. They are ignorant of two historical events in which God did enter the cosmos and the human arena, and one event which is yet future, but inevitable. Before we identify these three events, we must note that the mockers’ ignorance is not an innocent naivety, but a willful suppression of the truth. Peter uses the Greek word thelontas, which indicates an act of the will, not an accidental happenstance. (KJV and NIV translations of 2 Pet. 3:5 are here preferred over NASB.) The mockers of Peter’s day, just as do most scientists today, deliberately suppressed the truth about these historical events, not on the basis of evidence, but solely on the basis of personal preference. They did not wish to believe that God enters into human history, and so they recreated their narratives to eliminate His footprints!
f. What are these three events which the mocking world deliberately chose and deliberately chooses to ignore?
1) The Creation of the Cosmos (2 Pet. 3:5). Long ago God spoke into existence the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). The earth itself was initially a watery mass (Gen. 1:2), and God formed the dry land out of water (Gen. 1:6-10). Scripture is clear in stating that God created the world, every biological entity thereon, and the entire cosmos in a mere six days (Gen. 1:31; Ex. 20:11). He made the universe out of that which is invisible (Heb. 11:3). Had God not acted, there would be nothing now. The heavens declare God’s glory (Psa. 19:1), but man deliberately and inexcusably suppresses the unmistakable evidence that God has left behind (Rom. 1:19-20). Man suppresses the truth God has given, and the result is that man is consumed with perpetrating evil (John 3:19-20; Rom. 1:18, 21-32; 2 Pet. 3:3).
2) The Global Flood (2 Pet. 3:6). The mockers of Peter’s day ignored the fact that God initiated human history by solidifying the earth out of a watery mass (Gen. 1:2, 6-10; 2 Pet. 3:5). But they also ignored the fact that God entered into human history to destroy the earth and its inhabitants with the water of The Global Flood (2 Pet. 3:6). Though not stated explicitly here in 2 Peter, God’s purpose was to judge a world whose wickedness on the earth was great, who continually thought up evil to commit (Gen. 6:5), and who filled the earth with corruption and violence (Gen. 6:11-13). There is astounding evidence that the tallest mountains, capped with fossilized marine creatures, were once covered with water, but most educated men today studiously search for any explanation other than Noah’s Flood! As mockers deliberately avoided the truth in Peter’s day, so also do they today. Fortunately there still exist some scientists who give credence to the Biblical account of the Flood with scientific credibility.
3) The Coming Destruction of the Cosmos by Fire. Peter has referenced two events in history past in which God stepped into the human arena with an impact of highest magnitude. Now he looks ahead to an unimaginable catastrophe that will end the earth and the universe as we know it. Presently, the heavens and the earth are being reserved for a day of judgment. One day God will issue a command, and the universe will burn in a fiery conflagration (2 Pet. 3:7). The reason God will terminate the earth and the universe in which it resides is to judge and destroy ungodly men. The word destruction (ap˘leias) in 2 Pet. 3:7 is the noun of the verb perish (apoletai) in John 3:16. There is no recourse left for these ungodly thus destroyed. God is presently delaying that inevitable judgment in order to provide for all men the opportunity to repent of their evil and turn humbly to Him (2 Pet. 3:8-9). The “Day of the Lord” of which Peter speaks (2 Pet. 3:10) is that time when God will step deliberately and dramatically into the human arena in judgment, just as He did in the Great Flood during the days of Noah. Only this time God’s judgment will be by fire, not by water. Water wreaked havoc upon the earth but cleansed it; but when the earth is cleansed by fire, it will be utterly destroyed. This dramatic judgment will come suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thief (2 Pet. 3:10). The heavens will pass away (pareleusontai) with a roar (a series of terrifying explosions). The elements – the building blocks of the universe – will be destroyed (luthesetai) with intense heat. Just as the burning jet fuel from the planes that struck the Twin Towers eventually caused the skyscrapers to collapse, the intense heat will unravel the molecules and atoms of the elements of the universe, causing it to collapse. The word for destroyed (luthesetai) is the future passive of the verb lu˘, which, in its simplest meaning, indicates “unloosed.” This aptly describes, I believe, nuclear fission on a horrifying scale. The bonds that tie atoms and molecules together in the elements of the universe will be unloosed with apocalyptic results. The earth and everything in it will be completely consumed with fire (2 Pet. 3:10). All these things will be similarly destroyed (luomen˘n, from lu˘) (2 Pet. 3:11). Every star, planet, moon, comet, asteroid, meteor, and meteorite in the entire universe will disintegrate with nuclear fission. As if that were not enough description, Peter again references the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12), in which the heavens, being burned (present passive – puroumenoi) will be destroyed (future passive – luthesetai of lu˘), or unloosed; and the elements, being intensely heated (present passive), are being melted (present passive).
4) The Scriptures clearly reveal the activity of pre-incarnate Jesus Christ in the creation of the heavens and the earth (John 1:1-3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). The Scriptures also reveal that Jesus Christ presently sustains the universe (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). He provides the power and energy that maintain galaxies, stars, planets, and moons in their journeys through the heavens. He is the one who orders and maintains gravity, the water cycle, and the replication of DNA and RNA. He provides the bonding agent that attracts and holds atoms and molecules together to form stable elements, the building blocks of life and matter. Jesus Christ is the ultimate arbiter over time, space, and matter. When Jesus releases His firm grip on the earth and all the bodies in the heavens, the results will be catastrophic, just as Peter has described.
5) What will the earth and the heavens look like when the last nucleus of the last atom has been split? It is unimaginable. Will there be any spent matter left, or will it finally all vanish? Based on this passage alone, I do not know. Stars burn today by way of the process of nuclear fusion, which combines elements and turns them into heavy elements. When the elements grow too heavy for the burning star to support, they collapse inward to the core. The resulting fiery and gargantuan explosion is called a supernova. Elements still exist, but they are randomly scattered over huge areas. But a supernova still follows orderly laws of the universe. What will happen when the Creator completely unlooses the bonds that bind everything in the universe together? Again, the results are unimaginable. We have nothing in our experience with which to compare this savage event. Secular scientists posit the big bang as the beginning of our universe, but they are dead wrong. What is true is that the Big Bang will end our universe as we know it. Nothing will be recognizable. Nothing will be habitable. Only God knows what the universe will look like to the naked eye outside it at the end. The destruction will be so complete that the only remaining recourse is for God to create new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13), which He will do. Will He use the disorganized matter, if any remains, from the old universe to create the new one? My own personal belief, based on the following discussion from Rev. 20:11, is that He will not use pre-existing matter, but I do not know for certain. All I know is He will not need to. He created the original universe from nothing. He can certainly do it again if no matter survives from the first universe. The reason God had to destroy the first universe is that it had become corrupted (Rom. 8:19-22) by human sin. In the new heavens and earth only righteousness will exist (2 Pet. 3:13)! The new universe will never need to be destroyed!
4. Rev. 20:11. The book of Revelation consists of a series of visions which the Apostle John was shown. In Revelation 20:1-6 John describes the One Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ upon earth, during which time Satan will not be permitted to deceive the earth. At the conclusion of the Millennium he describes the role of Satan, now temporarily released in leading huge portions of the earth in a Final Revolt against Jesus Christ and His followers (Rev. 20:7-10). Following the demise of the human rebels and Satan (Rev. 20:9-10), John records that he saw “a great white throne and Him who sat upon it ....” Then John adds a cryptic statement, (my literal translation) – “from whose face was fleeing away the earth and the heaven, and place was not found for them (Rev. 20:11)!” This, I believe, is John’s brief reference to the total destruction of the universe that the Apostle Peter had described in more detail (2 Pet. 3:7-12). (John will say, in Rev. 21:1, that “the first heaven and the first earth passed away.”) John, in Rev. 20:11, however, adds an additional detail. From John’s perspective, the cause of the complete disappearance of the earth and the heaven – the entire cosmos – was the appearance of the Judge upon the throne.
a. Who is the Judge? John does not name Him here, but he has elsewhere. It is none other than Jesus Christ. In John 5:22-30, Jesus reveals that the Father has authorized Him to judge all humanity (John 5:22) “because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). Jesus, the eternal Word of God (John 1:1-3) at a point in time was incarnated into human flesh (John 1:14), and so He is the descendant of man. But the term “Son of Man” also means that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Ultimate Man. As 100% God, Jesus has the authority to judge man, whom He created (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). As 100% Man, Jesus is qualified to judge mankind with a human perspective. Jesus, in order to judge all people, will even resurrect all who have died (John 5:25, 28-29)! The Apostle Paul, in Athens, confirmed to those listening God’s guarantee that Jesus will judge all men – God Himself raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31)! Jesus’ judgment will be fair, because He will adjudicate only as the Father instructs Him (John 5:30).
b. The appearance of Christ in Judgment will cause the disappearance of the corrupted universe. The Universe, the first heaven and earth, will pass away (apelthan) (Rev. 21:1). But John does not stop there in his description. John adds that he saw that the earth and the heaven had fled away (ephugen) from the face of the One sitting on the throne (Rev. 20:11). He does not stop with that description. He adds a final footnote – “and no place was found for them” (Rev. 20:11)! These descriptions lead me to believe that matter as we know it – in the present universe – will not only be altered, but will completely disappear. The dead will be called to stand before the One sitting on the throne (Rev. 20:12). Outside of their own bodies standing there, there will be no visible point of reference from the now-vanished universe. All those who placed their faith in that which is visible and tangible here on earth will be absent any crutch whatever. But that is another matter for another time.
5. Revelation 21:1. John reports that he saw New Heaven and New Earth. He asserts a causal relationship between the appearance of New Heaven and New Earth and the disappearance of First Heaven and the First Earth. It was because First Heaven and Earth passed away that New Heaven and Earth appeared. Though I suspect we redeemed inhabitants of the present earth will sense at least a twinge of loss at the destruction of familiar stars and our home planet, that sense of loss will quickly be overwhelmed by the joy of living in New Earth surrounded by New Heaven (New Universe). Our joy will be unmitigated, for we will have unbroken fellowship with God (Rev. 21:3), and He will eradicate sorrow, pain, death, and weeping from our lives (Rev. 21:4)!
C. Application. I would be utterly remiss in failing to make an application. All prophecy, it seems to me, is not idle and pointless speculation about the future. The future is revealed to us humans so that we might change our ways and prepare for what lies ahead! Several injunctions leap from these passages revealing the demise of the universe.
1. Don’t mock God, and don’t mock Jesus (2 Pet. 3:3-4). There will be plenty of mockers in the last days who deny that Jesus will ever come again. These mockers willfully choose to ignore past history and future reality. They deny God’s creation of the present universe and they deny His having flooded the entire earth with water as a catastrophic judgment against man’s great evil. They choose to ignore that God will utterly destroy the existing heaven and earth by fire. They deny that Jesus Christ will return in judgment. These mockers are dead wrong and will be proven to be so. They will stand speechless in dread and shame before the One sitting on the throne. They will have no crutch of matter on which to rely. There will be no excuses. DON’T BE ONE OF THEM!
2. Don’t be deceived into believing in uniformitarianism (2 Pet. 3:4). Uniformitarianism is the cardinal rule of faith of mockers. Uniformitarianism is the cardinal rule of faith of all evolutionists. “All things continue at the same rate of speed. Nothing or no one supernatural has ever entered the universe to form it or to alter it – and nothing or no one ever will! Everything that has ever been or that ever will be is merely the result of natural processes at work in a random fashion over enormous eons of time.” That is the Bible of evolutionists and all other practical atheists. (A practical atheist is one who, regardless of what he says or claims to believe, lives as though there is no God, or even if there might be, he is irrelevant.) Uniformitarians are dead wrong on three counts, because God has already twice entered earth’s arena and imposed his will upon it , and He will do so yet again. His power is so great that He merely speaks His will into fruition!
a. Long ago God spoke into existence the heavens, and by His command He formed the earth out of a matrix of water (2 Pet. 3:5; Gen. 1:1-2, 6-9).
b. By the word of God, the world (and every thing upon it) was cataclysmically destroyed by water (2 Pet. 3:6; Gen. 6-8).
c. The heavens and the earth that now exist are, by the word of God, being reserved for fire, being kept for a day of judgment and destruction of irreverent men (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12).
3. Understand that the real reason for violent global warming is man’s sin, not man’s carbon dioxide emissions (2 Pet. 3:7).
4. Don’t place a wrong interpretation on the long passage of time (2 Pet. 3:8-9).
a. Uniformitarians misinterpret the long passage of time to buttress their dogma that every thing always occurs at the same rate of speed, and that God, therefore, will not enter the human arena in the person of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:3-7). But even Christians misinterpret the long passage of time, concluding that God is negligent in keeping His promise (2 Pet. 3:9).
b. The truth is that, first of all, God exists above and beyond time. Now God does work in time very precisely (Gal. 4:4), but we must understand that time is a construct God invented for the benefit of His creatures. Evidently the past, the present, and the future are all one to God (2 Pet. 3:8). God is not tardy; rather, He is patient! He is delaying His judgment because He wants every person to repent and turn back to Him and escape the coming judgment (2 Pet. 3:9)!
c. So please don’t misinterpret the long passage of time to mean either that God is absent or that He doesn’t care. View long time as God’s loving opportunity for you to repent of your evil and turn to Him (Rom. 2:4)! If you are already a believer in Jesus, view long time as opportunity to reach your relatives, friends, and neighbors with the good news of God’s redemption of people from sin through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 1:14-16)!
5. Live your life with the knowledge that the day of the Lord will come – the universe will be unexpectedly and violently destroyed (2 Pet. 3:11-15)!
a. Live a life of holiness and godliness (2 Pet. 3:11)!
b. By your holy life, look for and actually speed up the arrival of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12)!
c. Always anticipate God’s fulfillment of His promise of New Heavens and New Earth in which only righteousness exists (2 Pet. 3:13).
d. Since we who are beloved people are anticipating these stunning events, we are to speed towards the goal of being without spot and without blame in our lives, so that we may be found by Jesus in peace (2 Pet. 3:14)!
e. We are continually to be regarding the Lord’s long fuse as opportunity for salvation (2 Pet. 3:15)!
6. Avoid at all costs appearing before Jesus when He sits on His Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11). His appearance will be the catalyst for the destruction of the universe (Rev. 20:11), and all who appear before Him there will be deposited in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:12-15), for they have missed the first resurrection, the resurrection of the righteous (Rev. 20:4-6). Those who appear at the Great White Throne evidently partake of the second resurrection – the resurrection to judgment of which Jesus spoke (John 5:29).
7. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that, though our present heaven and earth will inevitably be destroyed, God will replace both with New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1). Revel in the fact that in the New Order we will have unbroken fellowship with God, that only righteousness and righteous people will exist, and that all the pain and tears and death associated with the present earth will be forever banished (Rev. 21:3-4)!by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain
Prepared October, 2007
Published Online by WordExplain
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This study is based on, and the links reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE «, Copyright ę 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.
WordExplain by James T. Bartsch
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Used by Permission.)
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