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27 August 2019

New Creation and the Coming of Jesus

SynopsisThe Parousia of Jesus will usher in the Day of the Lord, the final judgment, and the New Creation. - 2 Peter 3:10-13. 

Antarctic Storm - Courtesy
In his second epistle, the Apostle Peter warned that “in the last days there will come scoffers with scoffing, declaring, where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

His warning indicates a growing weariness and, possibly, discouragement among Christians in his congregations at an apparent “delay” in the promised “coming” of Jesus, an open door for deceivers and critics to exploit. Instead of all the expected terrestrial and cosmic upheaval, daily life continued as it always had.

(2 Peter 3:10-13) – “Howbeit, the day of the Lord will be here as a thief — in which the heavens with a rushing noise, will pass away, while elements becoming intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works therein will be discovered. Seeing that all these things are thus to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye all the while to be, in holy ways of behaviour and acts of godliness — Expecting and hastening the presence of the day of God by reason of which heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and elements, becoming intensely hot, are to be melted; But new heavens and a new earth according to his promise are we expecting, wherein, righteousness is to dwell.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The Greek word used by Peter for “coming” is parousia, a noun that means “advent, arrival, coming, presence.” It is used several times in the New Testament for the return or “coming” of Jesus (e.g., Matthews 24:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Peter reminds his readers of the past acts of God. Not only did He create the earth in the beginning, later, He destroyed much of it in the Flood. Instead, scoffers choose to remain ignorant of the obvious. Not only so, they forget that the “heavens and the earth that now are, by the same word have been stored with fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly men.”

Peter then argues that the apparent “delay” is no delay at all; rather, it is evidence of God’s mercy. “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” God is not bound by man’s expectations and timetables.  He is “not slack concerning his promise but long-suffering, not wanting anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance.” God’s “delay” is for humanity’s sake - To give the Gospel time and opportunity to reach all men and women.
Nonetheless, the “Day of the Lord” must come and its arrival will be like that of a thief; unexpected, sudden, and its timing unforeseeable (Matthew 24:42-43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Revelation 3:3, 16:1). 

When the day does arrive, “The heavens with a rushing noise will pass away, while elements becoming intensely hot will be dissolved.” This description parallels others that link terrestrial and celestial disruptions to the coming of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” Peter describes nothing less than the dissolution of the old created order (Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-17).

This does not mean the complete annihilation of the creation but the replacement of the old order with the “new heavens and new earth wherein righteousness is to dwell.” The disruption of the existing order prepares for the new one, and this is “according to promise.” The last clause echoes a promise from Isaiah 65:17, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” (Compare - Isaiah 66:22).
Dawn Photo by Remi Yuan on Unsplash

Peter refers to the “coming of the Day of God.” Once again, “coming” translates the term parousia. The “day of God” is synonymous with the “Day of the Lord.” The Apostle, thus, locates the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord, and the “day of God” at the same time; the arrival of Jesus (Compare - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

To summarize, Peter places the following events at the time of the “coming” of Jesus in glory: 
  1. The judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
  2. The Day of the Lord.
  3. The dissolution of the old creation.
  4. The inauguration of the New Creation.
According to Peter, the parousia ushers in the “Day of the Lord,” the final judgment, and the New Creation. This leaves no room for a subsequent tribulation or another interim period following the arrival of Jesus; not, that is, if the New Creation is established in it fulness at the time of Christ’s return.

The Apostle concludes with an exhortation for right Christian conduct and holy living, especially in the light of all that is coming. Doing so may even “hasten the arrival of the Day of God.”

Moreover, right Christian conduct would necessitate a church engaged in proclaiming the gospel to the nations.  After all, Jesus himself declared that the “end” cannot come until this gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed to all nations.” If anything, the apparent “delay” in the Parousia demonstrates that the church has yet to complete its assigned task (Matthew 24:14).

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