2 Peter 3:3-10 – Waiting for Jesus and the Destruction of This Cosmos


2 Peter 3:3-10


In a brief description of the day of the Lord that is unique among biblical literature, the author informs readers that judgment will involve fire. In fact, the elements of the universe themselves will be “dissolved with fire.”


One of the things false teachers will deny is the reality of the Lord’s return and the subsequent judgment. They will note that things continue to occur as they always have, without God intervening. Against that, the author contends that creation has never been an ever-perpetuating system. The evidence for this is the story of the flood, during Noah’s time.

The next instance of God’s judgment upon the world and its people will not come with water but with fire, the author insists. Before a new heaven and a new earth can appear, the present ones need to be incinerated.

The argument of this passage anticipates an objection, that the flood was long ago and there are no signs of an imminent conflagration. Is Jesus really going to return? To head off the objection, an allusion to Psalm 90:4 promises that a single day and a thousand years are about the same from God’s perspective. Our timing is not God’s timing, and so no one should accuse God of being slow to intervene. The author also asserts that the perceived delay in the day of judgment is a consequence of God’s patient mercy. God would rather provide time for more people to repent, because God wants none to “perish.” Life, as we know it, is therefore a time of mercy granted by God. Even with all of the book’s us-versus-them dualism, 2 Peter never fully lets go of a belief in God’s graciousness.