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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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20-2 The Judgment Of AD70

Such false teaching was something which Peter was prophesying: " There shall come...scoffers...saying..." (v.3). But now the tenses change to the present: " for (because) this they willingly are ignorant of..." . Even then these brethren had shut their mind to Bible based reasoning, refusing to consider the power of God's word as exhibited in the Old Testament. It was therefore only a matter of time before they started speaking forth false ideas. They had willingly forgotten (R.V.) that it was through God's word of command that the earth arose out of the water at the creation, and by this same word of God the water was commanded to overflow the earth again at Noah's time, taking the world back to how it was before creation- a sphere covered in water. " Whereby the world.. was overflowed with water" (v.6) thus refers to the word of God by which (" whereby" ) the present world was created, by commanding the waters to recede to let the dry land appear (Gen.1:9). Peter had previously made the point that the promised judgment of God in Noah's time was delayed in order to allow the maximum scope for repentance by that wicked world (1 Pet.3:20). The false teachers were ignorant of this fact through having forgotten what they once knew- i.e. that a similar delay was being experienced by their generation in the coming of the Lord's day. Because of this, they were now squarely matching those who mocked Noah.

We have shown earlier that the times of Noah are a definite type of the 'last days' of the Jewish system leading up to AD70. " The world that then was...perished...the Heaven and the earth which are now, by the same word (of God) are...reserved unto fire" (cp. water; v.6,7). Thus Peter equates the " world" with the present " Heavens and earth" , implying that a " Heavens and earth" were destroyed in Noah's time. It was " all flesh" that perished (Gen.6:11-13). This indicates a clearly figurative interpretation of " Heavens and earth" as meaning an order of things. This line of argument has yet to be answered by Pentecostals, Catholics and others, over-enthusiastic to see in these verses a destruction of God's own perfect dwelling place as well as this beautiful planet. The quotation of Is.65:17 in v.13 should also be brought into play with such people- the new " heavens and earth" is a new system of things to come upon this (already) beautiful earth. The literal heavens and earth were hardly destroyed in Noah's time.

Elements of this prophecy refer to the ending of the Jewish system in AD70; the world of Noah " perished" (v.6) as the Jewish world would. The same Greek word occurs in Heb.1:11 concerning the 'perishing' of the Jewish heavens and earth due to the unchanging ministry of Christ. This would indicate that the Law itself was in some way ended in AD70, although of course it was 'taken out of the way' on the cross (Col.2:14-17). The same word for " perish" occurs in 2 Pet.3:9 in the context of God's punishment of the wicked within the ecclesia- He is unwilling that " any (of them) should perish" . Jude 11 matches this by warning the same class of how their prototypes " perished in the gainsaying of Core" . It appears that the judgments which were to bring the Jewish system to a close would therefore be the same as those which would punish the false teachers. We can conclude from this that many of the first century false teachers were Jews or Judaist-influenced. It is to be expected, therefore, that the punishment of the Gentile world at the second coming will also be the means of judgment inflicted on the false teachers of the last days. Several times in 'Eureka', Bro. John Thomas gives reason for believing that the rejected saints will be punished by literal fire (of limited duration, of course) along with the nations which comprise the latter day beast. If the location of this punishment is shifted away from Europe (as Bro. Thomas suggests) to Israel, then this fits in with the general thesis we have been developing in this study.

" By the same word"

" By the same word" of God that had caused the earth to rise from the waters and later called the waters over the earth, " the heavens and the earth which are now...are reserved unto fire against the day of judgment" (v.7). That there must be some reference here to the passing away of the Law and the Jewish system associated with it is shown by the allusion here to Mt.5:18: " Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled" . Our Lord's fulfilment of the Law was primarily on the cross, but the fact that 2 Pet.3 speaks of the Jewish heavens and earth passing away in AD70 indicates that the finishing of the Law did not come into full effect until the destruction of the temple. This explains the many hints throughout the New Testament that the believers kept some parts of the Law prior to AD70.

2 Thess.1:8 speaks of the Lord Jesus coming " from Heaven with his mighty Angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance" on those who had rejected the knowledge of God, and had consciously disobeyed the Gospel of Christ. This connection not only underlines the fact that both AD70 and our last days are spoken of in 2 Pet.3, but also proves that the " heavens and earth" which suffer fire are representative of individuals. Hence Peter's description of the day of " fire" as being " the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" . 2 Pet.2:9 uses the same Greek word for " ungodly" as in 2 Thess.1:8 to describe the false teachers; and it occurs an impressive six times in Jude's letter concerning the same people. The warning that judgment would no longer be delayed shows that " the day of judgment" which came on the Judaizers must refer to AD70. But there can be no doubt that " The day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" must refer ultimately to the second coming.

The idea of punishment being " reserved" is continuing a theme  of the preceding chapter. " The angels that sinned" were " reserved" unto judgment" (2:4), the responsible people to whom Lot preached are " reserved...unto the day of judgment" (2:9), and thus for the false teachers of the first century too, " the mist of darkness is reserved for ever" (2:17). As the first two examples received judgment in this life and also a 'reservation' of future punishment, so the sinners within the first century ecclesias would receive a punishment at the manifestation of the Lord in AD70, and also at his second coming. This explains the dual reference of 2 Pet.3 to both these periods. The theme of judgment being " reserved" adds weight to Peter's plea for his readers to realize that God was not suspending judgment indefinitely, but that despite an apparent delay in meting it out, judgment was without doubt reserved for revelation at a future date. The continued emphasis on God using the agent of His word to do this must be connected with Peter's request for us to give more careful attention to Bible study (3:12,15,16). It will be by the Word and our attitude to it that we will be judged at the last day. As the word of God would be the agent of destruction for the unworthy, so it could bring salvation to the righteous. We have earlier suggested that the language of creation used here may echo the idea of the new creation in Christ. " By the word of God the heavens were of old" suggests the account of the new creation in Col.1:17- and " the word of God" is a title of Christ. Thus as Christ had brought about the new creation, so He was capable of punishing (in AD 70) and destroying (at the second coming) those parts of it which failed to reflect His glory.

Willing ignorance

The attitude of willing ignorance by the unworthy can quite easily be adopted by us. " Beloved, be not ignorant (as those of v.5 were) of this one (Greek 'other') thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (v.8). In addition to being acutely aware of the fact that through the power of His word, God would certainly bring about " the day of judgment" at some time (i.e. the reasoning of v.5-7), Peter bids us be aware of one other thing- that God can collapse and expand periods of time as He wishes. Not only can one of God's " days" be a vast expanse of time to us in human terms, but also one of our brief days can be turned into a thousand years by God if He wishes.

This principle is illuminated by appreciating that Peter is here quoting Ps.90:4. This prayer of Moses was bringing before God the miseries of the condemned generation in the wilderness, and pleading that God would repent of His decision to bar them from entering the land (Ps.90:12-17).

After all, Moses had previously changed God's declared purpose of destroying Israel and making of him a nation; and had not God declared to him that He was willing to show Moses the fact that His purpose could be changed in accordance with human behaviour (Num.14:34 Thus Moses had every reason to try to change God's plan again through prayer. Against this background Peter is reasoning that if Moses could try to pray for the days of punishment for Israel to be shortened and for their sin to be overlooked, then we too can find reason to pray for the shortening of the days until the Kingdom, and for God's mercy upon the sinners of the new Israel. There are a number of significant parallels between Peter's argument and Ps.90:

Psalm 90

2 Peter 3






The language of 1 Pet. 1:24; Is. 40:6-8 re. the first century Jews







And for the enthusiast: Ps.90:16,17= Hab.3:2 (re. the second coming)= 2 Pet.3:12,13.

It is quite possible to translate 2 Pet.3:8 as " One day with the Lord is as a thousand" , which would suggest another Psalm allusion- this time to Ps.84:18: " A day in thy courts is better than a thousand" . In this case Peter would be saying 'By all means be aware that a day of judgment and condemnation will surely come, as outlined in v.5-7; but beloved, do be mindful too of the wonderful reward. Just 24 (12?) hours of perfect fellowship with the Lord, unmarred by our sinful nature, is worth a thousand years of this life!'. Truly an inspiring thought, and a motivation to come to appreciate the righteousness of God.