Excursus 05 - The "Last Days" with Peter.



The text.

The analysis.

The waiting for the coming of the Lord.


The text.

The text in 2Pet 3,1-18 is one of the key passages in connection with the interpretation of the Last Days. In spite of that - or just because of that – it is very difficult to classify it.

The problem arises from the fact that on the one hand it refers to the second coming of the Lord, which - according to quite a uniform view - shall take place before the Millennium, on the Day of the Lord, and that on the other hand it hints at the decline of heaven and earth, which actually would have to be dated only at the end of the world, after the Millennium and after the Universal Resurrection.

In order to understand the context of the text correctly, it is therefore necessary to analyze this passage from the Scriptures thoroughly and minutely - word for word and sentence for sentence.

But before doing so, we should take a look at the entire passage.

The heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire.

In the Last Days scoffers will come with scoffing.

2Ptr 3,1 This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; 3,2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.

3,3 First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions 3,4 and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation." 2Pet 3, 1- 4;

The heavens and earth have been stored up for the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

2Ptr 3,5 They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, 3,6 through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

3,7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 3,8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2Pet 3, 5- 8;

(See also Chapter 11: “The end of the World - The Last Fight.“)

The heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire!

2Ptr 3,9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

3,10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.3,11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 3,12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! 2Pet 3, 9-12;

But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth.

2Ptr 3,13 But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 3,14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 3,15 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 3,16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own perdition, as they do the other scriptures. 3,17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.

3,18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2Pet 3,13-18;

The analysis.

The Last Days and the coming of the Lord.

Apart from mentioning that this is the Second Epistle of the apostle, Peter admonishes here the faithful in the verses 1 and 2, to remember the words of the prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior which has been proclaimed by the apostles.

Remember the predictions of the holy prophets.

2Ptr 3,1 This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; 3,2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. 2Pet 3, 1- 2;


So, Peter is speaking here of our Lord Jesus Christ. And he is speaking to the Christians.

Scoffers will come in the Last Days with scoffing: Where is the promise of his coming.

2Ptr 3,3 First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions 3,4 and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation." 2Pet 3, 1- 4;


Here we have now the first apparent contradiction in this text. Peter is speaking of "the Last Days". So, one could hold the view that the end of the world after the Millennium is meant here.

On the other hand it says here that at that time scoffers will come and scoff that the Lord has failed to come and that everything has continued to be as it has been from the beginning of Creation. With that it is unequivocally expressed that the second coming of the Lord cannot have taken place at that point of time. And this brings us again to the time before the Millennium and to the Day of the Lord.

For the coming of the Lord is an event which we certainly do not expect only at the end of the world. For we proceed from the assumption that at his second coming our Lord Jesus Christ will - among other things - take over the reign in his Kingdom of Peace and will rule over this world for still a thousand years.

So, if we would like to date this text to the end of the world, these scoffers would have to know the Day of the Lord with its reorganization of heaven and earth as well as the Millennium, either from their own experience or from reports on these unparalleled events which have been handed down to them. And then they could not argue at all that all things have continued as they were from the beginning of Creation. In the Millennium even the Gentiles had to realize that a God exists.

The Day of the Lord and the end of the world.

The heavens and earth have been stored up for the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

2Ptr 3,5 They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, 3,6 through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

3,7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 2Pet 3, 5- 7;


In the above sentences the apostle prophesies the Day of Judgment, the present heaven and earth are stored up for. Also here one could assume again that this text deals with the end of the world. But at the same time Peter compares this event to the Flood. And as we know, it is true that at that time mankind was wiped out except for eight persons, but heaven and earth were by no means "destroyed" as it says.

Therefore, the formulation "…the world that then existed was deluged…" does not refer to the planet or even to the entire Creation, but only to the mankind that has fallen away from God at that time. And as we know from the Scriptures, heaven and earth only underwent a change then, and the remaining people found a new beginning in a reorganized environment.

And in the same way also this statement here has to be understood. On the Day of the Lord heaven and earth will be reorganized and renewed by a similar catastrophe as the Flood. With the only difference that this time, according to the promise of the Lord in Gen 9,11, there will not be water, but fire and earthquakes, which will change the surface of the planet and which will create a new basis of existence for the survivors in the Millennium.

(See also Chapter 08: “The reorganization of heaven and earth.”)

With the Lord one day is as a thousand years.

2Ptr 3,8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 3,9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2Pet 3, 8- 9;

(See also Table 20: “World history: A week with millennial days.”)


This sentence in 2Pet 2,8 does explain us that the coming of the Lord can last for thousands of years and that therefore it should not be expected immediately neither at the time when this Epistle was written, nor at our time. But even this does not help us to solve our problem of differentiation, if this text refers to the end of the world or to the Day of the Lord. Both events were then and are possibly even now still thousands of years ahead of us.

However, there is in particular one thought which suggests itself here. We know from the Scriptures that between the Day of the Lord and the Day of Judgment, that is to say the end of the world there will be the Millennium, the Kingdom of Peace of the Lord Jesus, which will last for a thousand years. Hence these two events are a thousand years apart in time.

We also know that the course of events within these two periods of history is quite similar as far as time and contents are concerned.

On the Day of the Lord we have the Battle of Armageddon, the raising of the dead in Christ and their Rapture together with the living elect, a judgment and the First Resurrection, the "coming to life again" of the souls of the martyrs. Finally the extermination of the godless on the day of the wrath of God and the reorganization of the old heaven and the old earth leading to a renewed heaven and a renewed earth.

(See also Chapter 01: “The 70th week of seven years.”)

At the end of the world we have the Last Fight, with the same antagonists as in the Battle of Armageddon, namely Jesus Christ and Satan. This fight will end with a defeat of Satan - just as the battle on the Day of the Lord in Armageddon.

Thereupon follows then the Universal Resurrection, the Last Judgment, and the entry of the righteous into eternal life, and the entry of the accursed into eternal fire. And at the very end of world history we have the "passing away" of heaven and earth and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.

(See also Chapter 11: “The end of the world.”)

The similarities are extraordinarily striking. Therefore, let us have a look at them in parallel:



The Day of the Lord.


The battle of Armageddon.

Jesus Christ and his army defeat Satan

(and the Antichrist) and his armies.

Satan is bound in the bottomless pit.

The First Resurrection.

The judgment of the First Resurrection.

The day of the wrath of God.

The reorganization of heaven and earth.

The reorganized and renewed heaven

and the reorganized and renewed earth.

The Millennium: God lives with men.


The end of the world.


The Last Fight.

The army of heaven defeats Satan

and his armies.

Satan is thrown into the lake of fire.

The Universal Resurrection.

The Last Judgment.

The Day of Judgment.

The passing away of heaven and earth.

The recreated new heaven

and the recreated new earth.

Eternity: Men live with God.


(See also Chapter 13: “The Last Judgment.”)

(See also Table 09: “God's plan of salvation and its effects on Creation.”)

Viewed from this background the hint of Peter in 2Pet 3,8 "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" could gain a lot in meaning.

For one could take that quite literally and come to the conclusion that the Day of the Lord and the Day of Judgment are two events in history, which actually belong together, that is to say which are "one day", but which were separated a thousand years from each other by God's will and patience, who "does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance".

This view of the things would not be so erroneous considering the fact that we do know a similar situation, too, from the two comings of the Lord. During his first appearance on this world the Lord Jesus again and again gave people to understand that it would be only the "first part" so to speak.

He even went that far to relate the prophecies of the Old Testament, which predicted the appearance of the prophet Elijah before the coming of the Messiah to his time when he said,

Elijah has already come, and they did not know him.

Mt 17,10 And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?"

17,11 He replied, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; 17,12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands." 17,13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. Mt 17,10-13;


Also here it can be seen that the first and the second coming of the Lord, that is to say his appearance on this world more than two thousand years ago and his return in the future, belong together.

What is even more, one gets the impression as if the Jewish-orthodox view of this prophecy - namely the appearance of the Messiah as Savior and Redeemer of Israel and ruler over the whole world - originally was an absolutely correct view. It was only because of the people of Israel's turning away from their God that a "time-out" was inserted here - again by God's will and mercy, who did not want to let Israel be lost - which meanwhile has lasted already more than two thousand years since then.

At his second coming the Lord will fulfill exactly those prophecies which were interrupted in those days due to the fault of Israel. He will gather the scattered and lead them back to Israel, will be ruler over the whole world himself and will make Israel the head among the nations.

(See also Chapter 10: “The Millennium.”)

So, if we can agree to such an interpretation, two important consequences can be drawn from it.

1. With respect to the acts of God toward men:

Man is free in his decisions concerning God. He is even that free that he can influence God's plan of salvation. However, it is God's mercy permitting this and the final fulfillment cannot be prevented, but only delayed - for the sake of those who are willing to change their ways.


2. With respect to God's revelations to the prophets.

The prophets can very well describe and report the visions having been revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, but they do not always have the complete understanding for the meaning of the things they have seen. And thus it is the succeeding generations, who have the responsible task, to see the connections more and more and more and also more correctly by a thorough study of the Scriptures and to pass them on to the next generations.


This latter fact is also confirmed to us by Peter himself in his First Epistle.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you.

1Pet 1,10 The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; 1,11 they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. 1,12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1Pet 1,10-12;


Therefore we have to ask ourselves, to what extent it might be that both of the events, the day of the wrath of God before the Millennium as well as the Day of Judgment at the end of the world are alluded to in this chapter of the Second Epistle of Peter.

Heaven and earth will pass away.

The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire.

2Ptr 3,10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.3,11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 3,12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! 2Pet 3,10-12;


On superficial examination the above three sentences seem to be once again unequivocally attributable to the end of the world, the passing away of heaven and earth. The heavens will pass away with fire, the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will find their judgment.

But Peter says here at the same time that it will be the "Day of the Lord", when all these things will happen. And the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament is unambiguously the punishing court with earthquakes and catastrophes upon the godless and the reorganization of heaven and earth before the Millennium. Also the hint that this day will come "like a thief" is to be found in several other prophecies concerning this section of the Last Days (1The 5,1-4; Rev 3,3; 16,15; and in the Gospels).

(See also Chapter 05: “The Day of the Lord.”)

Also the statement that "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire" absolutely conforms with the circumstances prevailing at the time of the reorganization of heaven and earth on the Day of the Lord.

A new heaven and a new earth.

We have statements like these also in the Old Testament, especially with Isaiah. We even find there, in Isa 13,13, the prophecy that the earth "will be shaken out of its place".

The earth will be shaken out of its place.

Isa 13,13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Isa 13,13;


Just as it was the case with the passages from Peter, it would be wrong here, too, to relate this prophecy to the end of the world. There, at the end of the world, heaven and earth will "flee", that is to say they will "pass away" together with the entire First Creation. There, according to Rev 20,11 and 21,1 "no place will be found for them any more".

From his presence earth and sky fled away.

Rev 20,11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. Rev 20,11;

For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.

Rev 21,1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Rev 21, 1;


So, there is no reason at all to point out there that "the earth will be shaken out of its place". The earth has passed away, it does not exist any more, if it does so with or without being shaken out of its place is not relevant any more.

This statement only makes sense here, on the Day of the Lord, when heaven and earth are reorganized and renewed. Just as heaven, also the earth will continue to exist, but in a reorganized, modified form. And also the fact that the earth will be "shaken" out of its place contributes to this reorganization. The earth will possibly change its ecliptic, its solar orbit. And this means that completely different climatic conditions could set in on our planet.

The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire.

2Ptr 3,10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. 2Pet 3,10;

We wait for new heavens and a new earth.

2Ptr 3,13 But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2Pet 3,13;


If we now take a look at the texts above, in 2Pet 3,10 and 13, we realize that Peter is speaking of a "passing away" and "dissolving" of the heavens and the earth on the one hand and of our waiting for the promise of a "new heaven and a new earth" on the other hand.

And just as a relation to the end of the world could be excluded with the mention of the Day of the Lord in the above text (2Pet 3,10), it can be excluded also here that the "new heaven and the new earth" bears a relation to the New Creation after the end of the world.

It is the apposition "in which righteousness dwells", which unambiguously relates to the Millennium. There, the Lord Jesus, the just judge, will establish his kingdom of righteousness and - as we can read in innumerable passages from the Scriptures (Jer 23,5; 33,15; Isa 11,4; 32,1; 33,5; 53,11; etc.). - will judge justly.

It is the replacement promised by God of the unjust, corrupt, and unscrupulous rule of men by this kingdom of righteousness and peace, which makes this circumstance so particularly worth mentioning.

However, the transition from the Millennium to the second, the New Creation, that is to say to eternity, will not bring any changes with respect to righteousness, which would be worth mentioning. Righteousness has already been fulfilled in the Millennium. Here, in the New Creation, there are other objectives, such as eternal life, the glory of God, the heavenly Jerusalem etc., but righteousness will be the same.

(See also Chapter 14: “The New Creation.”)

Finally we can observe such a prophetic connection with Isaiah as well. In Isa 51,6 it says that "the heavens will vanish like a smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment", whereas toward the end of this passage the Lord says in Isa 51,16, "…stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth…".

The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment.

Isa 51,6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be for ever, and my deliverance will never be ended. Isa 51, 6;

Stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth.

Isa 51,16 And I have put my words in your mouth, and hid you in the shadow of my hand, stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’" Isa 51,16;


And here, too, it is an apposition that helps us to find out that this does not refer to the end of the world, but to the reorganization on the Day of the Lord, before the Millennium. Subsequent to the statement that has just been quoted, it says "and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'" As Israel will be relieved from its sins and will be blessed with the Spirit of God already in the Millennium, and as God then also lives with them in Zion, in the temple, and as he is their God and as they are his people (Eze 37,27), this cannot be a prophecy concerning the New Creation. Israel has then been the people of God for already a thousand years. And those who will be the "people of God" in the New Creation, in the eternity, do not only come from Zion, but are all faithful of all times.

However, this is, no doubt, a prophecy alluding to the time before the Millennium, that is to say to the Day of the Lord. Here those who have been saved are gathered by their God and led home to Zion. And at the beginning of the Millennium the Spirit of God is poured out upon them and they will be his people and he, God, will be their God.

My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezk 37,26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore (cs. till the end of the time / BUBER). 37,27 My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 37,28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore (cs. till the end of the time / BUBER)." Eze 37,26-28;


And the hint "…then the nations will know…" makes us realize that this text again does not relate to the end of the world. In the New Creation there are no nations any more. There will not be a sanctuary in their midst any more either. In the heavenly Jerusalem there will not be a temple any more, as John sees it in the Revelation.

And I saw no temple, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

Rev 21,22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. Rev 21,22;


So, it over and over again becomes apparent that for a reliable interpretation it is necessary to always analyze carefully the entire context and in this connection even each single subordinate clause paying attention thereby to every little detail and to compare it with parallel passages in order to get a logically correct basis for the interpretation.

A last example of that kind shall be demonstrated here by means of another passage taken from Isaiah. We have there quite a similar situation as above, in the Second Epistle of Peter. Here it says in Isa 65,17:

I create new heavens and a new earth.

Isa 65,17 "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Isa 65,17;


If one keeps to the first impression here and relates these statements to the end of the world and the New Creation, one will be at a loss for arguments three verses later at the latest, where it says,

No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days.

Isa 65,20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. Isa 65,20;


For according to Rev 21,4 in the New Creation there will not be the phenomenon of death any more. Consequently nobody can die at the age of one hundred either. And much less will there be any accursed there. So, both of them are prophecies concerning the time of the Millennium.

The waiting for the coming of the Lord.

The last section of this Epistle now admonishes us to count the forbearance of the Lord as our salvation, to remain without spot or blemish, and warns us against the ignorant and unstable who twist the letters of Paul and other scriptures to their own perdition.

Since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot.

2Ptr 3,14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 3,15 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 3,16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own perdition, as they do the other scriptures. 3,17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. 2Pet 3,14-18;


We realize here once more that Peter is speaking to the faithful. He calls them "beloved". And he recommends them warmly to stay without spot or blemish, while they are waiting for the coming of the Lord so that they are found by him at peace. From today's point of view it can be said that Peter meant here the coming of the Lord for the raising from the dead and for the Rapture. Consequently, this text has to be dated again before the Millennium.

(See also Chapter 06: The Return of the Lord.”)

In conclusion it can be said that this chapter from the Second Epistle of Peter does undoubtedly involve some difficulties as far as its dating is concerned, however, it is quite accessible to an interpretation for which logical reasons can be given with a purposeful analysis and the relevant parallel passages.

But on the other hand we also have to recognize that today the task has become a lot easier for us, the descendants, for whom these prophecies were recorded. Although there are no prophets any more, we do have after all the Scriptures and know all statements of the Bible and in particular also the statements of the Lord in the Gospels and in the Revelation concerning the Last Days.

Thus we can get - if not altogether a perfect, but at least a better and better idea of the things to come.

And from today's point of view it can be said that the text in 2Pet 3,1-18 contains most probably prophecies concerning both events - the Day of the Lord before the Millennium as well as the Day of Judgment at the end of the world.

Here, a special characteristic feature of some prophetic statements becomes evident. There are one or several "prefulfillments" and a final fulfillment. Here are some examples:

The Babel of the prehistoric times - the Babel of the Last Days.

Antiochus Epiphanes - Antichrist.

First Resurrection - Universal Resurrection.

The Jerusalem in the Millennium - The heavenly Jerusalem in the New Creation etc.


(See also Table 12: "The earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem“.)



In relation to the Last Days the Day of the Lord with the reorganization of heaven and earth and the subsequent Millennium is the prefulfillment. The Day of Judgment with the subsequent New Creation is then the final fulfillment

And as it seems, Peter sees here both events together in one vision.