Will the world burn?

Sadly some days of holiday are spent doing more mundane realities than travelling.  And today’s been one of those – cleaning and clearing up the house.  But I do love some of the trove of things I find when cleaning that I’d forgotten about.  This one a page of notes from some book I read, that contained a chapter on why they didn’t think “2 Peter 3:10-12” meant the world would burn.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (NIV)
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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.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  12 Looking for and hasting 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? (KJV)

Why does it matter?

Well, it you believed the world was just going to burn anyway, it would be easy to fall into a carelessness about looking after creation (it’ll burn anyway) or it might be easy to pay little attention to anything in this world (why care for the finer details, hobbies and beauties of the world, if it’s going to burn?  Let’s just do evangelism).

I mean, if you believed the world was going to burn, you wouldn’t necessarily fall into that line of thinking (you’d hope you still would believe that commands around Genesis 1 and 2 to do with creation would still apply, or that Christ’s Lordship would still free you to enjoy this world), but sadly it’s often a first brick that people start to base a lot of thinking round.  And then they start to doubt even some of the rest (care for creation, the extent of Christ’s Lordship etc).

Because those verses are soo obvious, right?

Or are they?  Let’s take a look at 5 reasons 2 Peter 3:10-12 may not be so obvious.  And if someone can tell me what book I was reading, you get an Easter Egg if you’re within distance.

  1. In v.6 the word “perished” is used to describe the world after the flood (Genesis).  But we all know the world didn’t perish at all.  The perishing somehow was a figurative sense.  And so it suggests to me that v7 and v10 are also not meant to be literally burning and dissolving.
  2. In v.7 we’re told that ungodly people will be destroyed.  But elsewhere in scripture it’s made quite clear that there will be a never-ending conscious punishment for those that chose to cuddle up to God’s judgement and not His love.  And so if this is true (and I’m not starting a debate on it now), then any “destruction” cannot be an extinction of their being.
  3. v13 seems to speak of renewal, not extinction
  4. such a passage read in those terms seems to directly contradict Romans 8:20-21 and Revelation 22:3 which speak of a removal of a curse, not an extinction and recreation.
  5. Romans 8:22-23 would suggests a redemption to come of human bodies.  And if this human microcosm of redemption is true, wouldn’t that cause us to imagine a macrocosmic redemption, where the whole world is reconciled to its Maker?

And so what difference does this make to travel?

Well lots.  I’ve rarely (if ever) met passionate travellers who have a heart for exploring the world, who think the world is going to burn.  Because such a belief automatically makes you want to live in a different way.  Whereas those who think there’ll be greater continuity with this current world, will be given greater motive to preserve, to redeem, and to restore what we have been given by the Great Redeemer, the Great Restorer.

Does continuing that line of thinking mean that atheists are in an even better position to look after this world and explore it?  I’ll come back to that thought in due course.

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Budapest, 2016

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