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Solving “Dissolve”, "World", and "Elements", 2 Peter 3:12

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    May 29, 2007
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    Three key words in 2 Peter 3:12 have caused a lot of misunderstanding:Dissolve, World, and Elements

    “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”

    Consider this word “dissolve“. The futurist view is that the actual physical world, the universe, will be loosened, destroyed. But the one who is familiar with the Old Testament – not just saying that Peter’s prophecy is based on the OT, but someone who has a working understanding of this big chunk of inspired Scripture – will recognize that this phrase is very familiar. Isaiah 34:4:

    All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
    And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;
    All their host shall fall down
    As the leaf falls from the vine,
    And as fruit falling from a fig tree.

    I well remember all the years when passages like this and others in the Old Testament were one big cipher, like one big inscrutable slab of Linear B. But first Reformed theology and then, especially, Preterism provided wonderful keys to unlock what used to be so mysterious.

    Isaiah 34 is describing the “Day of the LORD”, one of several in the Old Testament.

    There are five images here that are repeated several places in the New Testament, but the one that is noteworthy right now for my purpose is that first one, underlined.

    The “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved” of Isaiah 34
    matches up to the ” all these things will be dissolved” of 2 Peter.

    But – and here is the clincher – Isaiah was prophesying about God’s judgment against Idumea and Bozrah. These are nation-states that no longer exist. The judgment already happened. All that “dissolving” in the Old Testament is done with. It was, in fact, apocalyptical language, biblical hyperbole.

    The same is the case with 2 Peter 3. There will be no physical dissolving, only the dissolving that has to do with the 1st-century Jew’s Day of the Lord.

    Studying the Old Testament with purpose and diligence will clear these obscurities up. Merely calling them "obscure" and "vague" will just keep you in the dark about these prophecies.

    It is always important to keep the Old Testament in mind when reading the New.


    What is the World Destruction, Past & Present, of 2nd Peter 3?

    Having previously looked at the connection of Peter’s “dissolve” with that of Isaiah I thought it might be helpful to look now into Peter’s use of “world” here in 2 Peter 3. Once again we will compare the verse here in 2 Peter with the Old Testament passage alluded to, this time the Genesis Flood account.

    As in the previous issue, in order to get a clear view of the Scriptural interpretation we must first deal with a very common misinterpretation, that being that this passage deals with a fiery world-ending cataclysmic judgment. Well, it certainly deals with God’s judgment, but not of the sort that is commonly depicted.

    Scoffers Beware
    One of the hurdles to get over is the psychological one of being considered a “scoffer”. Those who argue for a totally literal fulfillment here also argue that all who oppose their view are the very scoffers warned against in this passage. The effect is to cut off investigation. After all, who wants to be a scoffer? Yet the scoffers here are those who say, in effect, there will be no judgment - ever. “All things continue as they have been from the beginning”. Implied: They will continue on this track. Yet, the judgment spoken of here is a very real one. The controversy here - and the purpose of this article - is the nature of this judgment, not the existence of it.

    Now what about this world-flooding water? Please note Peter's actual words in verse 6:

    "the world (KOSMOS) that then existed perished (APWLETO), being flooded with water."

    If I would give my students that sentence to diagram it would boil down to "World | perished". This is the subject and predicate. Peter actually said that the world before the flood "perished". Keep this in mind. This becomes important later on when we compare this judgment with the later one.

    Of course, the world itself did not perish. Peter was speaking metaphorically of the world of humanity. The world was inundated, yes - even that mountaintop that became the landing site for the ark. For a time, all of the highest mountains were inundated.

    But “world” does not always mean the same thing. Sometimes it is the physical world, sometimes the world system (“Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world”.) Sometimes it is “the world of humanity”, or even a subgroup within it, Christians. The world of creation and the world of John 3:16 are not the same. Christ created the world of hills and valleys, trees and rivers, bears and beetles - but he did not die for them.

    The verse in 2nd Peter, as I pointed out, can be shortened down to "the world ... perished". That is the subject and predicate. Everything else is dependent on this.

    I believe this proves several things:
    1. The "world" here cannot be a physical world, since we know that the physical world did not perish in Genesis 6 - 9.
    2. Peter was speaking metaphorically here.
    He was referring to the "world of humanity" (that is, all except the eight in the ark), since these unrepentant people are the ones who perished. This sets up an important comparison with the next judgment of which Peter writes.

    Now you might argue that, since the destruction in Genesis was physical, overwhelmingly so, the destruction in Peter will be likewise. Do we, or do we not read of the world being destroyed in Genesis 6? I have often been warned against my spiritualization, so it is no wonder some think I would also spiritualize the Genesis account. For the record:

    We have very real water.
    We have inundation.
    However we have the physical world not being destroyed. "Inundated" is not "destroyed". Inundation is the watery part of the world (in this case, the fountains of the deep) covering up the dry parts of the world (mountains, dry land, etc.).

    When the waters receded, the mountains were still there. They were always there, though thoroughly soaked. They were not destroyed. Also, the fish were not destroyed. They swam freely in the waters of God’s judgment. Noah did not have aquariums on the Ark.

    Well, then, what was destroyed? Humanity. All of humanity - minus eight, the eight who were on the Ark.

    Consider also Gen. 8:21,

    "after the great flood God looked down the flow of time and into man's heart and said "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth, and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.""

    Next we will look at the third word, Stoicheia
    #1 asterisktom, Aug 8, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  2. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2018
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    For the benefit of The Day, The Light Dawns and folks decern that the wording of a 'mil' is not applicable in The Bible, anywhere and AS A CASE IN POINT, these verses and your comments on them.

    When Jesus Comes, it is OVER and The Consummation The Age will Develop EXACTLY AS IS DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE, HERE.


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  3. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

    Sep 23, 2018
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    2 Peter 3:10-13 is an over view of a series of events. The elements do not melt away until just before the Judgement (Revelation 20:11). Over view versus details of the events as they will follow each other.
  4. Covenanter

    Covenanter Well-Known Member
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    Feb 8, 2017
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    We need to start reading the chapter earlier -
    3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”​

    Jesus had repeatedly warned "this generation" concerning their destruction. "This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place."

    For many of these scoffers would be children of "this generation" at the time Peter was writing - around AD 60 - many of those guilty of Jesus' crucifixion would have died. They were denying Jesus' warning of his coming to destroy the city & temple. His coming on schedule would cause them & all the tribes of Israel to mourn the complete destruction of their temple, the Old Covenant sign of God's presence with his people.

    See also 2 Thes. 2 where the rebellion & destruction are the next item on God's agenda, which will take place before Jesus final coming for resurrection & general judgment.