“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat. And the earth and the works in it will be burned up.” — 2 Peter 3:10
I have been chewing on this Second Peter passage. I am not adequate to the task of providing any kind of authoritative analysis of the verse. The best I can do is to share my feeble and incomplete thoughts about it. It is not a perspective that you have heard much about.
I came across this passage in James Jordan’s book, “Through New Eyes — Developing a Biblical View of the World” (worth reading!) that pertains:
“…the turning of the moon to ‘blood’ points, I believe, to something particularly Jewish: the sacrificial system. If they (the Jews) will not accept the blood of Jesus Christ, the final Sacrifice, then they themselves will be turned into blood. They will become the sacrifices. That is what the prophesied war is all about. That is what the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was all about.”
The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was both a real event and a type of the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord signifies the judgment of God upon a society or nation. Peter may have been (and probably was) pointing to the impending destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But even if he was himself thinking about that event, it does not preclude the application of his message to another Day of the Lord in the future because of the typology involved. The typology of Peter’s prophecy also points beyond A.D. 70 to a future Day of the Lord that will come upon our current world. In other words, particular instances of the typology of the Day of the Lord will continue to manifest in history and among nations until the final Judgment upon the whole world, at a time when a world culture (as a single, interrelated socioeconomic system) is dominant sometime immediately prior to the Second Coming, as I reckon.
Bear with me, while I inadequately suggest the typological model of the Day of the Lord in Scripture.
R.C. Sproul talks about the Exodus event in the O.T. as being an act of God’s judgment that is both the birth or creation of Israel as a nation-state and at the same time a judgment upon Egypt, the dominant world power at that particular time in history. Birth is always bloody, and the birth of Israel came out of the blood of the first born Egyptian sacrifices, from which Israel was protected by the sign of Christ’s blood of redemption upon the door posts of the faithful. The destruction of Egypt was massive — every Egyptian family lost a family member at the culmination and much from the many plagues that preceded it. If the average family had ten children, that would have been the sudden death of ten percent of the Egyptian population in a single night. To put that in perspective, if there are 260 million Americans alive today, imagine that suddenly 2.6 million of the “first born sons” — the most mature and responsible members of society — die in a single night. The extent of such a catastrophe is unprecedented in the Modern world.
The point is that out of God’s judgment on Egypt (the ten plagues) came the birth of Israel. The judgment of Egypt and the birth of Israel were synonymous. This is part of the typological model of the Day of the Lord. God’s judgment upon the wicked and God’s salvation of the faithful stem from the same historical event(s). God’s judgment on the Tower of Babel, the Great Flood that judged the world and saved Noah, and the destruction(s) of Jerusalem are all manifestations of the typology of the Day of the Lord.
As the Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem in a.d. 70, Christians fled for their lives. These fleeing Christians carried the seed of the church with them as they fled. They carried the message of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and to the four corners of the earth as part of their salvation from the destruction of Jerusalem. As they ran for their lives, they carried the stories of Jesus and what had happened in Jerusalem. The point is that Christendom was born out of the judgment and destruction of Judaism/Jerusalem. The end of the world for the Jews and their O.T. sacrificial system marked the beginning of time (B.C. to A.D.) for Christendom (see Jordan’s Through New Eyes for a discussion of symbolism involved). That is the age in which we still live.
That is, I believe, the typological pattern of the Day of the Lord (the judgment of God), and is (has been and will be) repeated in various societies and historical epochs as the Kingdom of God advances on the earth. Peter is pointing to the final judgment upon the world that will provide the complete end of Godlessness and simultaneously establish or bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, the heavenly Jerusalem or new city that will come down from heaven, as spoken of in Revelation. It is not that some physical structure will float down from the clouds, but that the authority and social structures of society will conform to the authority and social structures of heaven from that Day forward. Things will eventually be “on earth as it is in heaven.”
It will be a great Day of rejoicing for God’s people, who will be in the minority — which means that the extent of the destruction will be extremely significant. I am positing that the saved will constitute a minority of the population of the earth based upon biblical allusions to the “remnant,” the “narrow way,” etc. This means that it will be a day of great destruction and lamentation for the Godless sons of Cain (unbelievers), who will become the blood sacrifice for the birth of God’s Kingdom on earth, as did the Jews who rejected Jesus in a.d. 70. That is the typological pattern that I see.
The extent of the destruction of the wicked will effect everyone on earth because the whole world will be woven together into one socioeconomic system of interdependence. I think we are well on the way, yet it is still a long way off. Those in Christ will be saved, and the rest will become a sacrificial lesson about God’s sovereignty, provision, justice, judgment, mercy and grace — all coming out of the same event(s), the Judgment of God, the Day of the Lord. And just as there have been several instances of God’s judgment in the Bible, there have been many in history, as well — and there will be more. Each one (God’s judgment against various nations) will grow in severity as the final judgment is approached. In my opinion, we are likely approaching Judgment upon the USA currently. However, I do not believe that God’s Judgment on the USA will be the final judgment. Nations rise and nations fall.
The undetermined issue in my mind is the extent of the great conversion to Christianity that will precede the (our) Day of the Lord, as expected according to the Postmillennial understanding of the end times. That great conversion has, of course, already begun. But how far it will extend is beyond my ken. I suspect it will be less than fifty percent of the population. But forty-nine percent could be an unbelievably huge number.
Nonetheless, I suspect that this Judgment will unfold like the others before it (per the typology): 1) Babylon, 2) the earth during Noah’s time, 3) Egypt during Moses’ time, and 4) Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The sons of Cain will continue headlong, blinded and clueless into their own destruction (2 Peter 2:10-ff). I perceive a willing stubbornness of unbelief in many people I interact with. Such people simply will not believe in God. They are impervious to argument or persuasion. Their minds are closed. I pray that the harvest will far exceed my expectations, but fear that it may not.
What can we do to prepare for the Day of the Lord? I believe that we must simply be the ordinary people that Christ has called us to be, so that when He comes He will find us faithfully doing His work — not great work, but ordinary work, servant work.
To a great extent it is the desire for greatness, fueled by pride and by fear — not the fear of the Lord, but ungodly fears — that is at the root of faithlessness. What is needed is contentment in Godliness or the simple satisfaction of caring for whatever corner of Creation that God has given to His people (us, you, me). The heroes of Scripture are not the great people as the world counts greatness, but the ordinary people who are content to be faithful wherever God has placed them.