The Destruction Of This Planet. Not going to happen:
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.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the Day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 2 Peter 3:10-12
In this prophecy, it seems that there is coming a day when God is going to destroy the Earth by fire. But is that what is really meant here? Many think these three verses say that God will totally destroy the world.
If God is going to destroy the Earth, then it really doesn’t matter what we do with the natural resources of the planet. And if we use up a resource that causes a plant or animal species to go extinct, who cares if God is going to remove the whole planet anyway and take us to heaven, right? Well, let’s look into this:
If it can be shown that Peter is not prophesying the literal destruction of the Earth here, then it abrogates any theological argument that God will one day actually eliminate this world, whether by fire or any other means.
N.T. Wright gives this commentary regarding the passage in question from 2 Peter:
‘Here, at the end of this passage, we have a statement which in older translations of the Bible came out one way, but which, with all the biblical manuscripts we now have, certainly should be changed. In the older versions, this passage ends with the warning that ‘the earth and all the works on it will be burned up.’ A cosmic destruction: the end of the physical world! Is that really what Peter wrote?
In some of the best manuscripts of the New Testament, including two of the very best, the word for ‘will be burned up’ isn’t there. Instead, there is a Greek word which means ‘will be found’, or ‘will be discovered’, or ‘will be disclosed’. Perhaps ‘will be found out’ would be a better way of getting at the truth of the meaning.
What I believe has happened is this: Several early scribes, faced with ‘will be found’, thought to themselves, ‘That can’t be right! It makes no sense! Surely he meant “will be burnt up”. And so the translators put in their opinion’.
And look at the difference it makes! In conformity with the rest of the New Testament, Peter is not saying that the present world of space, time and matter is going to be burnt up and destroyed. The REBible says: …..brought to judgment.
What will happen, as many early Christian teachers said, is that actual literal fire will come upon the whole earth, as so comprehensively prophesied throughout the Bible, not to totally destroy, but to test everything out and to purify it by burning up the Lord’s enemies, Malachi 4:3, and to test His people; 1 Peter 4:12, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 The earth will remain forever; Eccl 1:4, Ephesians 3:21, Psalms 78:69, Isaiah 45:18
Peter’s concern throughout the letter is with the judgment of humans for what they have done, not with the rest of Creation, although it seems that much will be dramatically changed on the forthcoming great and terrible Day of the Lord’s fiery vengeance and wrath and the world will never be the same again. Zephaniah 3:8