In the passage before us, Peter is not outlining everything that will happen when the Lord returns. He is simply proving us with the reality of His return, His retribution and His rule. In this passage we will learn that the Lord is going to return and that the believer has a present responsibility while they wait. This will be discussed under the headings: The Day of the Lord (3:10) and The Duty of the Believer (3:11-13).
1. THE DAY OF THE LORD (3:10)
The “day of the Lord” is a term used in eight different books in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Mal. 4:5). In each reference it is used to refer to the Lord’s act of judgment. Some of these judgments are now fulfilled historical judgments, whereas other times it is used to refer to the judgment at the Lord’s return. In the New Testament this term is used to refer to the Lord’s act of judgement surrounding the event of Christ’s return (Acts 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:2; Rev. 16:14). In verse 10 we learn two facts about the future Day of the Lord. It is certain and it is catastrophic.
It is Certain (3:10a)
Peter made his case in the last section why we can be certain that Christ will return. Here Peter simply says, “But the day of the Lord will come”. In the Greek text, the words “will come” appear first, and this emphasises the certainty of this event. The certainty of Christ’s Second Coming is repeated throughout Scripture. Revelation 1:7, simply states, “Behold, He is coming…”. Scripture warns us that there will be those who will question and mock the teaching that the Lord Jesus will return again (see 2 Pet. 3:3-4). Despite the rise and increase of scoffers and their rebellious rejection of Biblical truth, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is certain. It is certain simply because God said it is going to happen. The reality and certainty of our Lord’s Second Coming is called the church’s “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), because it is a reality that provides spiritual blessedness to the believer. Our Lord told His disciples that He is coming back. Two angels declared to the disciples as they were watching the Lord Jesus ascend into the glory of Heaven,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The certainty of His Second Coming is also fueled by the fulfilled prophecies concerning His first coming. In the Old Testament there were about 100 prophecies that predicted details concerning Christ’s first coming. These were will fulfilled with literal precision. For this reason, we can be certain the remaining prophecies concerning His Second Coming will also be fulfilled with literal precision.
It is Catastrophic (3:10b)
When this day comes, it will be sudden and it will be catastrophic. It is not an event that people will miss. Peter describes like this,
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed”
With the power of His Word, God spoke and all things came into existence (cf. Genesis 1). The original creation was a paradise, declared by God to be “very good”. But as a result of Adam’s sin, all “creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20). This means that after the entrance of sin in the world (Gen. 3:1-6), devastating effects came as a result (Gen. 3:7-19). Specifically, the ground was cursed (Gen. 3:17) and a consequence was a restriction on productivity (Gen. 3:18-19). But notice that this judgment of God in subjecting creation to futility was “in hope” (Rom. 8:20b). Paul adds “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). This will occur at the revelation of Christ in which He will radically transform creation (Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:1; Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:1-5); but more on this in my next point.
The day is coming when God will make all things new. But just prior to this, He will first burn everything up. Firstly, the “heavens will pass away with a roar” (cf. Matt. 24:29-31). The word “roar” is rhoizēdon (ῥοιζηδόν). The sound of the word almost imitates what it is conveying. Then “the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved”. This refers to the burning up of the sun, moon and stars. Finally, Peter writes, “and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed”. This means that no one will be able to hide from God. The greatest earthly achievements done apart from God’s glory will be brought to utter ruin. Now this should greatly impact and shape the way we view and prize worldly things.
So when it comes to the Day of the Lord, Peter wants his readers to that it will be certain and that it will be catastrophic.
2. THE DUTY OF THE BELIEVER (3:11-13)
After establishing the fact of the Day of the Lord and the return of King, Peter now provides his readers with their present responsibility. Knowing that the Lord will bring about judgment, how should we live as God’s people, and how does this help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ? In verses 11-13 we learn about the duty of the believer. Our duty is summarised by two things: honourable living and hopeful looking. Here Peter takes two actions that must never be separated.
Honourable Living (3:11)
Peter writes, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”. To be holy means to be set apart and to be pure and to be godly means to have reverent devotion. This is simply called honourable living. What does it mean to live honourable lives? It means to live in such a way that our thoughts and actions bring God glory. Honourable living will survive the fiery judgment of God’s wrath. Though the world may call honourable living all sorts of things, at the end of the day it will endure. Throughout his letters Peter made reference to honourable conduct:
“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15)
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12)
“having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16)
Hopeful Looking (3:12-13)
In addition to honourable living, Peter calls for his readers to have hopeful looking. He writes,
“waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (3:12-13)
The looking in these verses refers to longing look or an eager expectation. It was used of those on a boat for two weeks looking to see land (cf. Acts 27:33). We know the feeling of longingly looking for something to occur that we truly desire. As God’s people, we must not lose sight of this great hope. What are we looking for? Peter writes, “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. Isaiah 65:17-25 describes the condition of the new heavens and new earth (cf. Rev. 21:1-8).
For the people of God, the return of our King is our longing. I will conclude with the final verse of our closing hymn,
“And Lord haste the day
When my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well, with my soul”