Preparing for Eternity
July 8th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
PREPARING FOR ETERNITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:10-14
7-8-87 7:30 p.m.
This study tonight has a very pertinent ending to it, very much so, and one that I pray we can take to heart and remember as we are a part of God’s pilgrim journey. It is an exposition of the first two-thirds of 2 Peter chapter 3, and it concerns what happens to our earth when our Lord returns. Or you could call it Preparing for Eternity as it pertains to us. It is a study concerning the intervention of God in the destiny of our planet Earth. Now I am going to read and you follow after this third chapter of 2 Peter, 2 Peter chapter 3:
This second epistle, I write; in both of them I tried to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
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 the creation.
[2 Peter 3:1-4]
Now you do not have to look far to see the fulfillment of that prophecy. That is not only said by unbelieving atheists and agnostics, but that is said world without end by ministers in the pulpit. They do not believe in any second coming of our Lord and they scoff at us who do; that prophecy has come to pass. Then Peter writes of them; now verse 5:
For this those scoffers are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word of Almighty God are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
[2 Peter 3:5-8]
You know, sometimes I, thinking of that verse, “a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is a day” [2 Peter 3:8], the Lord’s been gone two days, will He come back the third day? A thousand years is one of God’s days.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
[2 Peter 3:9]
That’s the reason He hasn’t already come: waiting for men to get right.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
[2 Peter 3:10]
Then his appeal:
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness,
Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.
[2 Peter 3:11-15]
Now we begin.
Dr. Ralph Lapp, atomic scientist and nuclear physicist, says that if America is attacked with atomic bombs, one hundred million Americans will die, will die instantly. But in retaliation, stockpiles of like bombs in America make possible within one hour one hundred tons of destructive explosive for each pound of an attacking country. If we are attacked, he says one hundred million Americans will immediately die; but within a matter of minutes, the retaliation of America will literally blot out, annihilate the attacking country.
William L. Lawrence writes in the New York Times, saying that the temperature of the central point of the Hiroshima explosion was sixty million degrees centigrade—three times greater than the temperature at the core of the sun, and ten thousand times greater than the surface of the sun. And these same scientists say that the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima is a firecracker compared to the bombs that we have in stockpile today. A hydrogen bomb, for example, is two thousand four hundred times greater than the bomb that was dropped destroying that Japanese city. And today the nations are building bombs capable of destroying life and civilization in this whole planet Earth as we know it and see it today.
The unbelievable power of the atomic bomb is revealed in 2 Peter 3:10. Now he wrote this two thousand years ago, quoting: “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the works on the earth shall be burned up.”
Peter writes this because in the last days the Holy Spirit reveals to us that men will arrogantly claim that there is no such thing as the judgment of God or the return of the Lord. This is his word that you just read, “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own individual persuasions, saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” [2 Peter 3:3-4]. That is, the reason men reject the promise of Christ’s coming, the second advent [Matthew 24:30], is because it involves divine intervention of things on the earth, changing our earth and that they reject.
Natural processes will be greatly altered when Christ comes, such as:
- in Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 the whole animal kingdom is changed [Isaiah 11:6-8, 65:25].
- In Isaiah 30 and in Isaiah 60 there’s a whole change in the lighting of this universe [Isaiah 30:20, 60:19-20].
- In Isaiah 65 and Zechariah 8 life is greatly prolonged [Isaiah 65:20; Zechariah 8:4].
- In Zechariah 14 the Mount of Olives is divided beneath the returning feet of our Lord [Zechariah 14:4].
- In Romans 8, the curse is lifted from the earth [Romans 8:18-39].
It is a new world and it is not by any natural process, it is by the intervention of God; and that the scoffers deny [2 Peter 3:3-4]. Men who oppose the second advent will do so, Peter says, on the ground of the uniformity of the operation of all of earth’s processes. They reject all intervention of God in the operation of nature’s laws. They avow that all the features of this earth can be explained by the processes of law which we see working today. Peter says in verse 4: “All things continue,” quoting them, “as they were from the beginning of creation” [2 Peter 3:4].
Catastrophism—the judgment of God, such as, and he uses the Flood [Genesis 6:1-7:24]—is ruled out and rejected because such a catastrophe implies God’s intervention. He mentions that in verses [5-6], “This they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens of old and the earth standing in and out of the water was destroyed, it perished” [2 Peter 3:5-6]. God did that as a judgment; He destroyed the world by water, by an awesome catastrophe [Genesis 7:17-24]. And they rule such a catastrophe, such an intervention of God, they rule it out [2 Peter 3:3-4].
Peter says by divine revelation that God, who destroyed the earth in the Flood, by a resource the earth had within itself—it’s here, it’s not something that God’s going to invent or some mysterious element by which He is going to destroy this world, it’s here—Peter says that He destroyed this world by an element in itself, right here; by water [2 Peter 3:5-6]. Then he further reveals that in the structure of the earth is stored up, right now, what God will use to destroy the works of man’s civilization; namely, fire [2 Peter 3:7], the power of the atom. The earth stands on the brink of eternity, Peter says. Here in the tenth verse he says, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” [2 Peter 2:10]. What is the day of the Lord? He’s talking about when God will judge this world in a catastrophe the second time. The first time it was by water [2 Peter 3:5-6; Genesis 7:17-24]; the second time it will be by atomic fire [2 Peter 3:10-11]. He says this will be in the day of the Lord.
The “day of the Lord” is an expression referring to the period of time from the beginning of the tribulation through the purging of the earth and the heavens. It is introduced with the rapture [2 Thessalonians 2:7-8]. No one knows when that will come. Suddenly, without announcement, God will take out of this earth all of His children, His saints [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]; that’s the rapture. The day of the Lord begins with the rapture [2 Thessalonians 2:7-8]. Then is the second advent [Revelation 19:11-16]; then the millennium [Revelation 20:2-3]; then the purging of the final—after the final rebellion [Revelation 20:7-10], the purging of the heavens and the earth [Revelation 21:1-2].
All traces of man’s civilization will be destroyed. Do you notice the three expressions in verses 10 and 11? “The heavens shall pass, and the elements shall melt, and all things will be dissolved” [2 Peter 3:10-11]. It’s an unusual thing when you look at that in the Greek. The three Greek verbs are all based upon the Greek paradigm luō. All of you who have studied this Greek, your primer, luō is your paradigm; luō, on down the conjugation of the verb. That’s the verb that is used in all three of those verbs and it means “to loose.” The elements basic to earth’s structure are to be loosed; they are to be dissolved. The power of the atom will be released.
Now I want to speak of that in just this moment. Remember the avowal: what the Lord used to destroy the world the first time is here, water [2 Peter 3:5-6]. Peter says what God will use to destroy the earth the second time is here [2 Peter 3:10-11]: the fire in the atom. Now in a drop of water, in one drop of water there are six billion, six hundred million atoms, in one drop of water. In a helium atom there is a nucleus, in which are two protons with positive charges, and two neutrons, neutron, with no charges. In that atom there are two electrons that whirl around the nucleus; and these have negative charges. The nucleus is so small, it is about one trillionth of the space of the atom, but contains nearly all the mass of the atom. Why aren’t the electrons, whirling around the nucleus, pulled inside the mass of the nucleus? Because the speed of the electrons compensate for the pull of the nucleus; just as the speed of the earth around the sun compensates for the sun’s pull, so it’s held in an orbit. The gravity of the pull of the sun equals the momentum of the speed of the earth around it; so it stays in orbit. That same thing applies to those electrons around the nucleus of the atom. It is a mystery how the nucleus converts its own mass into just enough pull and gravity and energy to hold itself together; but it does. Paul explains that in Colossians 1:17, “In Christ all things synestēken.” It’s the power of Christ that holds all of this together, synestēken, “holds together,” subsists. Christ does it.
Now that same Lord Christ one of these days is going to speak to that atom. Someday Christ will loose the elements by altering the atom. That’s all He has to do. The laws governing its behavior, the Lord will speak. God, who destroyed the world by water [2 Peter 3:5-6], will destroy the world by the power of the atomic fire [2 Peter 3:10-11]. That’s what he speaks of when he says, “It will pass away with a great noise; and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the works shall be burned up” [2 Peter 3:10]. All that man has produced will be destroyed in that great and ultimate catastrophic judgment. It is then that God will usher in a new day. In Revelation 21:5, the Lord says, “Behold, I make all things new.” There’ll be a new heaven, there’ll be a new earth, there’ll be a new city [Revelation 21:1-2], there’ll be a new home, there’ll be a new body, there’ll be a new fellowship; all things new [Revelation 21:3-5]. And every hour brings us closer to that great, final judgment day of Almighty God.
And that’s why Peter makes the appeal, beginning at verse 12:
Looking for, hastening unto the day of the Lord,
when the earth shall be dissolved, and the heavens melt, we—
according to the promise of God—
are looking for these new heavens and this new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Therefore we ought to be diligent, found of Him without spot, found of Him to be blameless; accounting that the longsuffering of God is our salvation.
[2 Peter 3:12-15]
And may I add to what Simon Peter says here? In view of the great, catastrophic judgment that this earth faces, may I add what our Lord said? If this earth and everything that is in it is to be destroyed—all of it melt, those atomic fissions, just universal [2 Peter 3:10]. Dear me! I can hardly conceive of it, all of these billions and billions and trillions of atoms; a bomb would be just so big. Think of a bomb as big as this whole earth; the whole earth is an atomic bomb—and the Lord has but just to speak, and all of those atoms turn into blazing fire; even that one in Hiroshima, ten thousand times hotter than the very core of the sun. In describing the ultimate and final judgment of this earth, he says how we ought to be, how we ought to live in view of the great judgment day of Almighty God [2 Peter 3:11-18]. And our Lord says if all of these things are to be destroyed by fire, why lay up treasure here in earth? Why live just for this world? He says what we need to remember is if we seek treasure that is lasting; let’s lay it up in heaven [Matthew 6:19-21]. Whatever I build here in this earth will ultimately be dissolved; it’ll be destroyed. If for no other reason, I leave it behind.
The reason I’m dressed as I am now, I had a funeral service today. I live in that kind of a world, always, always. I have lived in that world for sixty years as a pastor. It is of all things unthinkable that a man of wisdom and judgment would build his life in this world. You’re going to leave it behind; and certainly, Peter says, it will one day be dissolved, it will be destroyed [2 Peter 3:10]. Our Lord, using that, speaking of that, says that we ought to lay up our treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:19-21]; we ought to send them to glory in the lives of people who are going there. And we ought to build for ourselves a recompense for God’s sainted people up there.
Our home is never here; our ultimate home is in heaven [Philippians 3:20]. Our inheritance could never be here; it will be dissolved by fire, by atomic fission. Our inheritance is in heaven [1 Peter 1:4]. Our new address is in heaven [Philippians 3:20], and we ought to live as people whose faces are lifted up and raised, looking for the day of redemption [Luke 21:28]. That’s the way God’s people ought to live.
And may I close with the way the Lord illustrated it? [Luke 12:16-21]. He said that there was a gentleman, a classic farmer. And his land produced; and he said, “Where shall I place all of my increase? This,” he said, “I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger, and I’ll take all of my storage and make it greater. Then I’ll have a place for all of the increase of my goods. Then I’ll say to my soul, eat, and drink, and be merry; look at all that I have stored up for myself. No worries, no thought about God or God’s work or God’s assignment or God’s ministries in the earth; just look at what I have: enough for a thousand lifetimes.” Then the Lord said, “That night there was a knock at the door of his soul, and God said to him, This night,” and here’s that judgment day that inevitably comes, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Then God adds, “And then whose shall all these things be that thou hast stored up for thyself? So is he,” the Lord says, “that lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God” [Luke 12:20-21]. Our treasures are never to be counted here—that’s loss [Philippians 3:8]. Atomic fire will burn it up and certainly, we’ll leave it behind [2 Peter 3:10]. But our treasures ought to be in heaven [Matthew 6:19-21].
Lord, show me how I can be rich toward Thee [Luke 12:21]. Then shall I enjoy the affluence and the blessing of the great God and my Savior forever and ever and ever. Lord, give us that wisdom, to be rich toward Thee.
Now we’re going to sing us a hymn, and while we sing the song, I’ll be standing right here. Someone tonight, to give his heart to the Lord Jesus, to dedicate his life to our blessed Savior [Romans 10:9-10]; a family to come into the fellowship of our church, to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, while we sing this hymn of appeal, whatever God shall place in your soul, this is God’s call to you. “This is God’s word to me, and pastor I’m listening to the Lord, and I’m answering with my life. And I’m asking Him to bless me in this dedication, this holy, and sacred, and heavenly moment.” Make that decision now in your heart, and when we stand and sing this hymn of appeal, on that first note come and stand by me. “Pastor, this is God’s day, and God’s hour, and God’s night for me and I’m coming.” Do it. Heaven bless and angels attend, while we stand and while we sing.