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… But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:10, 13
This is a big topic that many people have of a lot of different views on. It is the topic of Jesus’ return and the events surrounding it. I could call this “The Day of the Lord for Dummies” as I don’t get technical, but offer a simple explanation of end times events using a face value interpretation of prophetic passages. This is just dipping our toes into the water on all there is to say about Jesus’ return. Peter spent most of chapter 3 telling us about this day of the Lord. Let’s check out some of the things that he describes.
Four things about the Day of the Lord from 2 Peter 3:
The Day of the Lord (DOTL) will come like a thief . Peter describes the coming of this day being like a thief. Paul used the same description in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5, For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light.
The day of Jesus’ return will surprise those who do not know Jesus, the children of the night. Like a thief, it will sneak up of them and catch them ill prepared. But not us, for we are children of the light. This means that there are signs that we can look to for a heads up. Those signs are detailed in Matthew 24. Matthew 24:15 says, When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. That is one definitive sign with a sequence of events to follow, listed in Matthew 24:21-31.
The heavens and the earth will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:7 tells us, By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. That means that the earth, as we know it, isn’t going to be around for another million years or so. While we still need to be good stewards of its resources, the day of the Lord includes the earth being burned by fire. A non Christian friend asked me to read the book, The Road. It is a post nuclear world with a few scavengers left fighting to survive. I told him I knew that wouldn’t happen because that’s not the way the Bible says it will happen.
As you read the book of Revelation, you will find what God says really will happen. This DOTL is one continuous chain of events that includes plagues and destruction of all sorts. Revelation 6:12-17 describes the beginning of the DOTL, with the sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon turning blood red and the stars falling to the earth. It culminates with a battle between Jesus and Satan, and (spoiler alert) Jesus wins.
When Jesus appears on this DOTL, believers will be taken to Heaven. This isn’t explicitly talked about in 2 Peter 3, but 2 Peter 3:7 describes the DOTL as “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” That’s not us. Matthew 24:29-31 describes the cosmic disturbances of Rev. 6 and 2 Peter 3, but includes the fact that “the angels will gather His elect from the four winds.” The word ‘rapture’ has been used to describe this event. I prefer to call it ‘the gathering.’ Others refer to this event as ‘parousia’ which is a Greek word used for Jesus’ appearing.
There will be a new earth after the DOTL. The heavens (sun, moon and stars) have passed away with a roar, burned up and dissolved. The earth will have been trashed with locusts on steroids that eat everything up, the waters having been turned to blood, 100 pound hailstones pounding the earth and the battle of Armageddon piling up dead bodies everywhere. Before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom centered out of Jerusalem, there will be this new habitable planet, along with the heavenly bodies (see also Isaiah 66:22).
Again, many different Christians have a variety of views of how things will transpire surrounding Jesus’ return. My attempt is to take prophetic Scriptures at face value, matching up both Old and New Testaments passages up against each other and laying out a sequential scenario. When we get to the book of Revelation, there will be more to chew on!
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 2 Peter 3:14
*Image by Crossriver