2 Peter 3:10
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.
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(10) The certainty and possible nearness of Christ’s coming is the basis of the preceding warning and of the exhortations which follow.

As a thief in the night.—Suddenly and without warning. The words are an echo of Matthew 24:43, a saying which St. Peter certainly heard (Mark 13:3), or possibly of 1Thessalonians 5:2, which may easily be included in the Epistles referred to below in 2Peter 3:16. The words “in the night” are here wanting in authority.

The heavens shall pass away.—Again an apparent reminiscence of the discourse in Matthew 24 (where comp. Matthew 24:35)—the third such reminiscence in this chapter (see preceding Note, and on 2Peter 3:7). This repeated reproduction of words and ideas from one of the most impressive of Christ’s discourses, which only St. Peter and three others seem to have heard, may fairly be added to the evidence in favour of the authenticity of the Epistle.

With a great noise.—Better, with a rushing noise. The expression occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but some such idea as that in Isaiah 34:4, Revelation 6:14, is probably indicated—not the roar of flames or the crash of ruins, but the parting and rolling up of the heavens. (Comp. Revelation 20:11.)

The elements shall melt with fervent heat.—The meaning of “elements” here is much disputed. (See Notes on the word in Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9.) The difficulty of supposing fire to be destroyed by fire seems to exclude the four elements being intended; moreover, the earth is mentioned separately. Hence, some take “the elements” to mean water and air, the two remaining elements; but this is not very satisfactory. More probably, the various forms of matter in the universe are intended, without any thought of indicating what they are precisely. But seeing that Justin Martyr calls the sun, moon, and stars “heavenly elements” (Apol. II. v., Trypho, xxiii.), and that in predictions of the last day frequent mention is made of “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 24:23; Joel 2:31, &c), it is possible that the heavenly bodies are meant here, all the more so, as the mention of these “elements” immediately follows that of the heavens. Bengel (perhaps with more poetry than correctness) ingeniously connects this explanation with the radical signification of the word, viz., “letters of the alphabet,” “for stars in the heaven are as letters on a scroll.” (Comp. Revelation 6:14.) “Shall melt” should rather be, as in the next two verses, shall be dissolved. Wiclif has “dissolved,” Rheims “resolved.” This dissolution is the opposite of the consistency spoken of in 2Peter 3:5. In 2Peter 3:12 “melt” is correct, and suits the heavenly bodies better than the four elements. (Comp. The Second Epistle of Clement, xvi. 3.)

The earth also and the works that are therein.—Equivalent to “the earth and the fulness thereof,” “works” being used in a comprehensive sense for products both of nature and art. The moral work of each individual is not meant; consequently, a reference to 1Corinthians 3:13 is misleading. The two passages have little in common, and nothing is gained by bringing in the difficulties of the other passage here. In this passage the Apostle is stating plainly and in detail what some of the Prophets of the Old Testament had set forth in general and sometimes obscure language—that a judgment by fire is in store for the world (Isaiah 66:15-16; Isaiah 66:24; Malachi 3:1-3; Malachi 4:1).

Shall be burned up.—The question of readings here is one of known difficulty. One important MS. has “shall vanish away” (James 4:14); two first-rate MSS. and other authorities have “shall be found.” The later Syriac has “shall not be found,” which is pretty nearly equivalent to “shall vanish away,” and is sometimes given as exactly equivalent to it. “Shall be found,” the reading most strongly attested, is summarily rejected by some editors as yielding no sense. The theory that it has grown out of the Latin for “shall be burned up”—eurethesetai out of exurentur—does not seem very probable. Nor is it true that it yields no sense By placing a colon at “also,” and making what follows a question, we obtain—The elements shall be dissolved, the earth also: and shall the works that are therein be found? Happily, nothing of importance turns on the reading; all the variations amount practically to the same thing—that the elements, the earth, and all that is in it, shall be destroyed.

2 Peter 3:10. But — Notwithstanding the long-suffering of God; the day of the Lord — The day of the consummation of all things, and of final judgment; will come, and that as a thief in the night — Because thieves commonly break into houses in the nighttime, and occasion great fear to those who are within, any sudden, unexpected event, especially such as occasioned terror, was compared, by the Hebrews, to the coming of a thief in the night. The suddenness, therefore, and unexpectedness of the coming of the day of the Lord, and the terror which it will occasion to the wicked, are the circumstances in which it will resemble the coming of a thief, and not that it will happen in the night-time. In the which the heavens — That is, the aerial heavens, the atmosphere which surrounds this earth, and which the apostle calls the heavens, because Moses had called it so; shall pass away — The passing away of the heavens and the earth does not mean, it seems, that they will be removed to another part of space, or that they will be annihilated; but that, being burned, their form and constitution will be changed much more, probably, than the constitution or form of the old world was by the flood; destruction by fire being more complete and dreadful than destruction by water; with a great noise — Surprisingly expressed by the very sound of the original word, ροιζηδον. “That the thundering noise occasioned by the burning of the whole heavens, or atmosphere, will be terrible beyond description, may be conjectured by considering what a noise is made by those small portions of the air which are burned when it thunders, or which are set in commotion in a storm.” But how much greater will be the noise arising from the general conflagration of the whole earth, with all that it contains. And the elements shall melt with fervent heat Καυσουμενα λυθησονται, burning shall be dissolved. The word στοιχεια, rendered elements, signifies the first principles, or constituent parts of any thing. Hence it denotes the principles of science, (Hebrews 5:12,) as well as the principles of bodies. Estius understands by the word the elements of which this terraqueous globe is composed; but as the melting of these is mentioned 2 Peter 3:12, Macknight is of opinion “that, in this verse, the apostle is speaking of the electrical matter, the sulphureous vapours, the clouds, and whatever else floats in the air, all which, burning furiously, will be disunited and separated.” The earth also, and the works that are therein — Whether of nature or of art; shall be burned up — And has not God already abundantly provided for this?

1st, By the stores of subterranean fire, which are so frequently bursting out at Ætna, Vesuvius, Hecla, and many other burning mountains; 2d, by the ethereal (vulgarly called electrical) fire, diffused through the whole globe; which, if the secret chain that now binds it up were loosed, would immediately dissolve the whole frame of nature; 3d, By comets, one of which, if it touch the earth in its course toward the sun, must needs strike it into that abyss of fire. If in its return from the sun, when it is heated (as a great man computes) two thousand times hotter than a red-hot cannon ball, it must destroy all vegetables and animals long before their contact, and soon after burn it up.

3:5-10 Had these scoffers considered the dreadful vengeance with which God swept away a whole world of ungodly men at once, surely they would not have scoffed at his threatening an equally terrible judgment. The heavens and the earth which now are, by the same word, it is declared, will be destroyed by fire. This is as sure to come, as the truth and the power of God can make it. Christians are here taught and established in the truth of the coming of the Lord. Though, in the account of men, there is a vast difference between one day and a thousand years, yet, in the account of God, there is no difference. All things past, present, and future, are ever before him: the delay of a thousand years cannot be so much to him, as putting off any thing for a day or for an hour is to us. If men have no knowledge or belief of the eternal God, they will be very apt to think him such as themselves. How hard is it to form any thoughts of eternity! What men count slackness, is long-suffering, and that to us-ward; it is giving more time to hisown people, to advance in knowledge and holiness, and in the exercise of faith and patience, to abound in good works, doing and suffering what they are called to, that they may bring glory to God. Settle therefore in your hearts that you shall certainly be called to give an account of all things done in the body, whether good or evil. And let a humble and diligent walking before God, and a frequent judging of yourselves, show a firm belief of the future judgment, though many live as if they were never to give any account at all. This day will come, when men are secure, and have no expectation of the day of the Lord. The stately palaces, and all the desirable things wherein wordly-minded men seek and place their happiness, shall be burned up; all sorts of creatures God has made, and all the works of men, must pass through the fire, which shall be a consuming fire to all that sin has brought into the world, though a refining fire to the works of God's hand. What will become of us, if we set our affections on this earth, and make it our portion, seeing all these things shall be burned up? Therefore make sure of happiness beyond this visible world.But the day of the Lord - The day of the Lord Jesus. That is, the day in which he will be manifested. It is called his day, because he will then be the grand and prominent object as the Judge of all. Compare Luke 17:27.

Will come as a thief in the night - Unexpectedly; suddenly. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 5:2.

In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise - That is, what seems to us to be the heavens. It cannot mean that the holy home where God dwells will pass away; nor do we need to suppose that this declaration extends to the starry worlds and systems as disclosed by modern astronomy. The word is doubtless used in a popular sense - that is, as things appear to us; and the fair interpretation of the passage would demand only such a change as would occur by the destruction of this world by fire. If a conflagration should take place, embracing the earth and its surrounding atmosphere, all the phenomena would occur which are here described; and, if this would be so, then this is all that can be proved to be meant by the passage. Such a destruction of the elements could not occur without "a great noise."

And the elements shall melt with fervent heat - Greek: "the elements being burned, or burning, (καυσούμενα kausoumena,) shall be dissolved." The idea is, that the cause of their being "dissolved" shall be fire; or that there will be a conflagration extending to what are here called the "elements," that shall produce the effects here described by the word "dissolved." There has been much difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of the word here rendered "elements," (στοιχεῖα stoicheia.) The word occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12, in which it is rendered "elements;" Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20, in which it is rendered "rudiments;" and in Hebrews 5:12, where it is rendered "principles." For the general meaning of the word, see the notes at Galatians 4:3. The word denotes the "rudiments" of anything; the minute parts or portions of which anything is composed, or which constitutes the simple portions out of which anything grows, or of which it is compounded.

Here it would properly denote the component parts of the material world; or those which enter into its composition, and of which it is made up. It is not to be supposed that the apostle used the term with the same exact signification with which a chemist would use it now, but in accordance with the popular use of the term in his day. In all ages, and in all languages, some such word, with more or less scientific accuracy, has been employed to denote the primary materials out of which others were formed, just as, in most languages, there have been characters or letters to denote the elementary sounds of which language is composed. In general, the ancients supposed that the elements out of which all things were formed were four in number - air, earth, fire, and water. Modern science has overturned this theory completely, and has shown that these, so far from being simple elements, are themselves compounds; but the tendency of modern science is still to show that the elements of all things are in fact few in number.

The word, as used here by Peter, would refer to the elements of things as then understood in a popular sense; it would now not be an improper word to be applied to the few elements of which all things are composed, as disclosed by modern chemistry. In either case, the use of the word would be correct. Whether applied to the one or the other, science has shown that all are capable of combustion. Water, in its component parts, is inflammable in a high degree; and even the diamond has been shown to be combustible. The idea contained in the word "dissolved," is, properly, only the change which heat produces. Heat changes the forms of things; dissolves them into their elements; dissipates those which were solid by driving them off into gases, and produces new compounds, but it annihilates nothing. It could not be demonstrated from this phrase that the world would be annihilated by fire; it could be proved only that it will undergo important changes. So far as the action of fire is concerned, the form of the earth may pass away, and its aspect be changed; but unless the direct power which created it interposes to annihilate it, the matter which now composes it will still be in existence.

The earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up - That is, whether they are the works of God or man - the whole vegetable and animal creation, and all the towers, the towns, the palaces, the productions of genius, the paintings, the statuary, the books, which man has made:

"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

And all that it inherits, shall dissolve,

And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,

Leave not one wreck behind."

The word rendered "burned up," like the word just before used and rendered "fervent heat" - a word of the same origin, but here intensive - means that they will undergo such a change as fire will produce; not, necessarily, that the matter composing them will be annihilated. If the matter composing the earth is ever to be destroyed entirely, it must be by the immediate power of God, because only He who created can destroy. There is not the least evidence that a particle of matter originally made has been annihilated since the world began; and there are no fires so intense, no chemical powers so mighty, as to cause a particle of matter to cease wholly to exist. So far as the power of man is concerned, and so far as one portion of matter can prey on another, matter is as imperishable as mind, and neither can be destroyed unless God destroys it. Whether it is His purpose to annihilate any portion of the matter which He has made, does not appear from His Word; but it is clear that He intends that the universe shall undergo important changes. As to the possibility or probability of such a destruction by fire as is predicted here, no one can have any doubt who is acquainted with the disclosures of modern science in regard to the internal structure of the earth.

Even the ancient philosophers, from some cause, supposed that the earth would still be destroyed by fire (see my notes at 2 Peter 3:7), and modern science has made it probable that the interior of the earth is a melted and intensely-heated mass of burning materials; that the habitable world is only a comparatively thin crust (shell) over those internal fires; that earthquakes are caused by the vapors engendered by that heated mass when water comes in contact with it; and that volcanoes are only openings and vent-holes through which those internal flames make their way to the surface. Whether these fires will everywhere make their way to the surface, and produce an universal conflagration, perhaps could not be determined by science, but no one can doubt that the simple command of God would be all that is necessary to pour those burning floods over the earth, just as He once caused the waters to roll over every mountain and through every valley.


10. The certainty, suddenness, and concomitant effects, of the coming of the day of the Lord. Faber argues from this that the millennium, &c., must precede Christ's literal coming, not follow it. But "the day of the Lord" comprehends the whole series of events, beginning with the pre-millennial advent, and ending with the destruction of the wicked, and final conflagration, and general judgment (which last intervenes between the conflagration and the renovation of the earth).

will—emphatical. But (in spite of the mockers, and notwithstanding the delay) come and be present the day of the Lord SHALL.

as a thief—Peter remembers and repeats his Lord's image (Lu 12:39, 41) used in the conversation in which he took a part; so also Paul (1Th 5:2) and John (Re 3:3; 16:15).

the heavens—which the scoffers say' shall "continue" as they are (2Pe 3:4; Mt 24:35; Re 21:1).

with a great noise—with a rushing noise, like that of a whizzing arrow, or the crash of a devouring flame.

elements—the component materials of the world [Wahl]. However, as "the works" in the earth are mentioned separately from "the earth," so it is likely by "elements," mentioned after "the heavens," are meant "the works therein," namely, the sun, moon, and stars (as Theophilus of Antioch [p. 22, 148, 228]; and Justin Martyr [Apology, 2.44], use the word "elements"): these, as at creation, so in the destruction of the world, are mentioned [Bengel]. But as "elements" is not so used in Scripture Greek, perhaps it refers to the component materials of "the heavens," including the heavenly bodies; it clearly belongs to the former clause, "the heavens," not to the following, "the earth," &c.

melt—be dissolved, as in 2Pe 3:11.

the works … therein—of nature and of art.

But the day of the Lord; the day of judgment is here called the day of the Lord by way of eminence, as the great day, Judges 1:6, and the great day of God Almighty, Revelation 16:14, and the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:8 5:5 2 Corinthians 1:14 Philippians 1:6,10.

Will come as a thief in the night; as a thief comes suddenly and unexpectedly, when he thinks all in the house are most secure.

In the which the heavens; viz. those that are visible, in distinction from the empyreal heaven, or place of glorified spirits.

Shall pass away; either wholly, so as to cease to be; or rather, as to their present being and condition, so as to cease to be what they now are, and to give place to the new heaven, Revelation 21:1. The same word is used, Matthew 24:35 Luke 16:17.

With a great noise; either swiftly and violently, or with such a noise as is usually caused by such violent and speedy motions.

The elements, in a natural sense, as integral parts of the universe, air, water, earth.

Shall melt with fervent heat; so 2 Peter 3:12, where another word is used in the Greek, which properly signifies melting, or being on fire, or burning, shall be dissolved or destroyed. So the word signifies, John 2:19 1Jo 3:8.

The earth also; the habitable part of the world. Though the earth, as a part of the world, be included in the elements before mentioned, yet here it may be taken with respect to its inhabitants, and the things contained in it.

And the works that are therein shall be burned up; not only artificial, men’s works, but natural, all that variety of creatures, animate and inanimate, wherewith God hath stored this lower world for the present use of man; and so all those delectable things in which carnal men seek their happiness.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,.... That is, the Lord will come in that day, which he has fixed, according to his promise, than which nothing is more certain; and he will come as a thief in the night: he will come "in the night", which may be literally understood; for as his first coming was in the night; see Luke 2:8; so perhaps his second coming may be in the night season; or figuratively, when it will be a time of great darkness; when there will be little faith in the earth, and both the wise and foolish virgins will be slumbering and sleeping; when it will be a season of great security, as it was in the days of Noah, and at the time of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, leave out the phrase, "in the night": and the Alexandrian copy uses the emphatic article, "in the night": and he will come, "as a thief", in the dark, indiscernibly; it will not be known what hour he will come; he will come suddenly, at an unawares, when he is not expected, to the great surprise of men, and especially of the scoffers; when the following awful things will be done:

in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise; not the third heaven, the seat of angels and glorified saints, and even of God himself; but the starry and airy heavens, which shall pass away, not as to their matter and substance, but as to some of their accidents and qualities, and the present use of them; and that with a great noise, like that of a violent storm, or tempest; though the Ethiopic version renders it, "without a noise"; and which is more agreeable to his coming as a thief, which is not with noise, but in as still a manner as possible; and some learned men observe, that the word signifies swiftly, as well as with a noise; and, accordingly, the Syriac version renders it "suddenly"; and the Arabic version "presently", immediately; that is, as soon as Christ shall come, immediately, at once, from his face shall the earth and heavens flee away, as John in a vision saw, Revelation 20:11;

and the elements shall melt with fervent heat: not what are commonly called the four elements, earth, air, tire, and water, the first principles of all things: the ancient philosophers distinguished between principles and elements; principles, they say (h), are neither generated, nor corrupted; "but the elements will be corrupted, or destroyed by the conflagration"; which exactly agrees with what the apostle here says: by the elements seem to be meant the host of heaven, being distinguished from the heavens, as the works of the earth are distinguished from the earth in the next clause; and design the firmament, or expanse, with the sun, moon, and stars in it, which will be purged and purified by this liquefaction by fire;

the earth also will be purged and purified from everything that is noxious, hurtful, unnecessary, and disagreeable; though the matter and substance of it will continue:

and the works that are therein shall be burnt up; all the works of nature, wicked men, cattle, trees, &c. and all the works of men, cities, towns, houses, furniture, utensils, instruments of arts of all sorts, will be burnt by a material fire, breaking out of the earth and descending from heaven, for which the present heavens and earth are reserved: this general conflagration was not only known to the Jews, but to the Heathens, to the poets, and Platonist and Stoic philosophers, who frequently (i) speak of it in plain terms. Some are of opinion that these words refer to the destruction of Jerusalem; and so the passing away of the heavens may design the removal of their church state and ordinances, Hebrews 12:26, and the melting of the elements the ceasing of the ceremonial law, called the elements of the world, Galatians 4:3, and the burning of the earth the destruction of the land of Judea, expressed in such a manner in Deuteronomy 29:23, and particularly of the temple, and the curious works in that, which were all burnt up and destroyed by fire, though Titus endeavoured to prevent it, but could not (k): which sense may be included, inasmuch as there was a promise of Christ's coming to destroy the Jewish nation, and was expected; and which destruction was a prelude of the destruction of the world, and is sometimes expressed in such like language as that is; but then this must not take place, to the exclusion of the other sense: and whereas this sense makes the words to he taken partly in a figurative, and partly in a literal way; and seeing the heavens and the earth are in the context only literally taken, the former sense is to be preferred; and to which best agrees the following use to be made of these things.

(h) Diog. Laert. l. 7. in Vita Zenonis. (i) Vid. Diog. Laert ib. & l. 9. in Vita Heraclit. & Hesych. de Philos. p. 36. Arrian. Epict. l. 3. c. 13. Phurut. de Natura Deorum, p. 39. Ovid. Metamorph, fab. 7. Min. Felix, p. 37. & Justin. Martyr. Apol. 2. p. 66. (k) Vid. Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 3. c. 9, 10. & l. 7. c. 14, 16.

{10} 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 {d} noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

(10) A very short description of the last destruction of the world, but in such sort as nothing could be spoken more gravely.

(d) With the violence of a storm.

2 Peter 3:10. ἥξει δὲ [] ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης] ἥξει δέ stands first by way of emphasis, in contrast to what precedes: “but come will the day of the Lord.” These words express the certainty of the coming of the day of judgment, and ὡς κλέπτης its unexpected suddenness; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (Matthew 24:43): τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμέρας, 2 Peter 3:12, shows that κυρίου is here also equivalent to Θεοῦ (not to Χριστοῦ; Schott).

ἐν ᾗ [οἱ] οὐρανοὶ ῥοιζηδὸν παρελεύσονται] This relative clause states “the event of that day, which makes it essentially what it is” (Schott). ῥοιζηδὸν, ἅπ. λεγ., equivalent to μετὰ ῥοίζου, is best taken in the sense peculiar to the word: “with rushing swiftness” (Wiesinger, Schott, Hofmann; Pape, s.v.); Oecumenius understands it of the crackling of the destroying fire; de Wette, on the other hand, of the crash of the falling together. With παρελεύσονται, cf. Matthew 24:35; Matthew 5:18; Luke 16:17; Revelation 21:1. As to how the heavens shall pass away, see 2 Peter 3:12.

στοιχεῖα δὲ καυσούμενα λυθήσονται] στοιχεῖα cannot refer to the so-called four elements, “inasmuch as the dissolving of fire by means of fire is unthinkable” (Brückner), and it is arbitrary to limit the idea to three (Hornejus), or to two (Estius) elements; as now the position of the words shows that the expression has reference neither to the earth afterwards named, nor to the world as made up of heaven and earth (Pott: elementa totius mundi tam coeli quam terrae; thus, too, Brückner: “the primary substances of which the world, as an organism, is composed;” similarly Wiesinger, Schott), it must be understood of the constituent elements of the heavens, corresponding to the expression: αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν, Isaiah 34:4; Matthew 24:29 (cf. Meyer in loc.). This view is justified by the circumstance that in the preceding οἱ οὐρανοὶπαρελεύσονται no mention has as yet been made of the destruction of heaven and earth by fire. At variance with this view, Hofmann understands the expression στοιχεῖα here as a designation of the stars, arbitrarily asserting that στοιχεῖα “cannot be only original component parts, but must also be prominent points which dominate that by which they are surrounded,”—appealing to Justin (Apolog. ii. c. 5, and Dial. c. Tr. c. 23), who speaks of the stars as στοιχεῖα οὐράνια. To this view it may be objected, that the author could not picture to himself a burning of the stars, which appeared to him as fiery bodies; neither do any of the corresponding passages of Scripture allude to this.

The verb καυσοῦσθαι only here and in 2 Peter 3:12 : “to burn;” in the classics: “to suffer from heat;” the participle expresses the reason of the λυθήσονται: “will be dissolved by the burning.” λύειν, in the sense of: to destroy, to bring to nothing, Ephesians 2:14; 1 John 3:8,—very appropriate here if στοιχεῖα be the original elements.

καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα κατακαήσεται] τὰ ἔργα are neither the wicked works of man (after 1 Corinthians 3:15), nor his works in general (Rosenmüller, Steinfass, Hofmann); the reference may be either to the opera naturae et artis (Bengel, Dietlein: “the manifold forms which appear on the earth’s surface, in contrast to the earth as a whole;” thus also Brückner, Wiesinger, Schott, Fronmüller); or the expression may be synonymous with that which frequently occurs in the O. T.: ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς, that is to say, the creations of God which belong to the earth, as they are related in the history of creation, cf. Revelation 10:6. Hofmann wrongly urges against this view, that on it τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ would be sufficient; for even though this be true, it does not follow that the addition of the word ἔργα would prove that it is “the works of men” that are here meant. With reference to the reading εὑρεθήσεται, instead of the Rec. κατακαήσεται (see critical remarks), Hofmann regards it as original, and considers the words καὶ τὰεὑρεθήσεται as an interrogative clause subjoined to the preceding affirmative clause. Of course an interrogative clause may be subjoined to an affirmative; but when Hofmann, in support of his interpretation, appeals to 1 Corinthians 5:2, he fails to observe that the relation between the statement and the question there is entirely different from that which is supposed to exist here.

2 Peter 3:10. ἡμέρα Κυρίου. No distinction is made between the Day of the Lord, and the Coming of Christ. This is remarkable, as excluding any idea of millenarian teaching, which speedily made its appearance in the Early Church, is ὡς κλέπτης, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39, Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15. That day will surprise those who are clinging to the idea that no change is possible. ῥοιζηδὸν, onomatopoetic, expressing the sound produced by rapid motion through the air, e.g., flight of a bird, or an arrow. It is also used of the sound of a shepherd’s pipe. No doubt the sound of a fierce flame is meant. “It is used of thunder in Luc. Jup. Trag. 1; of the music of the spheres in Iamblich, Vit. Pyth. c. 15; Oecumenius says the word is especially used of the noise caused by a devouring flame” (Mayor, ed. p. 157). στοιχεῖα. Spitta interprets στ. as being the spirits that preside over the various parts of nature. But the situation of στ. between γῆ and οὐρανοὶ makes it practically certain that the heavenly bodies are meant. The universe consists of οὐρανοὶ, στοιχεῖα and γῆ. οὐρανοὶ is the vault of heaven,“the skies”. στ. would therefore mean sun, moon and stars. Cf. Justin. Apol. 2 Peter 2:5, Trypho. 23. Cf. Isaiah 34:4, Joel 2:30-31, Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-14 in illustration of the Jewish belief that the stars will share in the final destruction of the Last Day. καυσούμενα. A medical term, used of the heat of fever (καῦσος). This is the only known use of the word applied to inanimate objects. Whether the writer of 2 Peter has here indulged a fondness for unusual words, or whether καυσόομαι was ever used in other than a medical sense in the Κοινὴ, it is impossible as yet to say. In any case it denotes a violent consuming heat. εὑρεθήσεται. The only alternative reading that is worthy of notice in connexion with this difficult passage is κατα καήσεται, but one would expect a word expressing dissolution, like παρελεύσονται, or λυθήσεται. εὑρεθήσεται is found in an absolute sense in Clement, Cor. 9:3 (of Enoch) οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῦ θάνατος, “his death was not brought to light”. In 2 Clem. xvi. (see textual note) φανήσεται is the paraphrase of εὑρεθήσεται (cf. Introd. pp. 90 f.).

10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night …] The confidence of the Apostle that this will be the end of the history of the human race is not shaken by the seeming “slackness” in its approach. Either reproducing the thought which he had heard from his Master’s lips (Matthew 24:43), or echoing the very words of St Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2), he declares that it will come, and will come suddenly, when men are not looking for it.

the heavens shall pass away with a great noise] The last four words answer to one Greek adverb, not found elsewhere, which implies the “whizzing” or “rushing” sound of an arrow hurtling through the air (Hom. Il. xvi. 361). The “heavens” (in the plural, after the common mode of speech both in the Old and New Testament) shall, in that great day, be the scene of a great convulsion. We have here obviously the same thought as in Matthew 24:29, but the mind of the Apostle, now rising to the character of an apocalyptic seer, beholds in that convulsion not a work of destruction only, but one of renovation. Comp. a like picture of the end of the world’s history in Revelation 20:11; Revelation 21:1.

the elements shall melt with fervent heat] The word “elements” may possibly stand for what were so called in some of the physical theories of the time, the fire, air, earth, water, out of which all existing phenomena were believed to be evolved (comp. Wis 19:18). The word was, however, used a little later on for what we call the “heavenly bodies,” sun, moon, and stars (Justin Mart. Apol. ii. 4. 4), and that meaning, seeing that the “elements” are distinguished from the “earth,” and that one of the four elements is to be the instrument of destruction, is probably the meaning here.

the earth also and the works that are therein] The use of the word “works” suggests the thought that the Apostle had chiefly in view all that man had wrought out on the surface of the globe; his cities, palaces, monuments, or the like. The comprehensive term may, however, include “works” as the “deeds” of men, of which St Paul says that they shall all be tried by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13).

2 Peter 3:10. Ἥξει) will be present.—οἱ οὐρανοὶ, the heavens) which the mockers say shall continue as they are, 2 Peter 3:4.—ῥοιζηδὸν, with a great noise) The word ῥοῖζος has letters resembling the sound of an arrow in its flight, the trickling of water, etc.—στοιχεῖά, the elements) that is, the works which are in the heavens, as the following words show. The sun, the moon, and the stars, are often called στοιχεῖα, by Theophilus of Antioch, p. 22, 148, 228, and by others, whom Wolf has brought together in his edition, and whom Suicer has noticed, and Menage on Diogenes Laertius, vi. 102, they are called elementa by Jerome. As at the creation, so at the destruction of the world, the sun, the moon, and the stars, are accustomed especially to be mentioned, Matthew 24:29; and they are certainly contained in some part of Peter’s representation, and especially in the word elements, rather than fire, air, water, and earth. For Peter makes mention of the earth separately, and under this he includes water, or even air (of which, however, the Scripture rarely makes mention, when speaking of the nature of things); fire will be that, by which the elements shall melt away. The same word is used, Wis 7:17. It is a most elegant metaphor. For as a letter on a parchment,[21] so is a star in the heaven.—ἔργα, the works of nature and art.

[21] Elementum was used of a letter of the Alphabet.—E.

Verse 10. - But the day of the Lord will come. The word ἥξει, will come, stands emphatically at the beginning of the clause; whatever the mockers may say, whatever may happen, come certainly will the day of the Lord. "The day of the Lord" meets us often in the prophets; it is usually associated with the thought of judgment (see Isaiah 2:12; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; Malachi 3:2). In the New Testament it signifies the second advent of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:2). As a thief in the night. The best manuscripts omit here "in the night." St. Peter is evidently echoing the Lord's words in that great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, which must have made such a deep impression upon the apostles. This illustration of the sudden coming of the thief is repeated not only by St. Peter here, but also by St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and twice by St. John (Revelation 3:3 and Revelation 16:15). In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. The Greek for "with a great noise (ῤοιζηδόν)" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is one of those remarkable poetic forms which are not unfrequent in this Epistle: the noun ῤοῖζος is used of the whizzing of arrows, of the rush of wings, of the sound of mighty winds or roaring waters. It may be understood here of the crash of a falling world or of the roar of the destroying flames. The word rendered "pass away" is that used by our Lord in the prophecy just referred to (Matthew 24:35; also in Matthew 5:18 and in Luke 16:17). And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. It is uncertain whether by "the elements" (στοιχεῖα) St. Peter means the four elements (in the old and popular use of the word), or the great constituent parts of the universe, the heavenly bodies. Against the first view is the assertion that one of those elements is to be the agent of destruction. But the word rendered "melt" means "shall be dissolved" or "loosed;" and it may be, as Bishop Wordsworth says, that "St. Peter's meaning seems to be that the στοιχεῖα, elements or rudiments, of which the universe is composed and compacted, will be loosed; that is, the framework of the world will be disorganized; and this is the sense of στοιχεῖα in the LXX. (Wisd. 7:17 Wisd. 19:17) and in Hippolytus, 'Philos.,' pages 219, 318. The dissolution is contrasted with the consistency described by the word συνεστῶσα in verse 5. The heavens are reserved for fire, and will pass away with a rushing noise, and, being set on fire, will be dissolved; the elements will be on fire and melt, and he reduced to a state of confusion; the earth and the works therein will be burnt up. There does not seem, therefore, to be any cause for abandoning the common meaning of στοιχεῖα, the elemental principles of which the universe is made." On the other hand, the word στοιχεῖα is certainly used of the heavenly bodies by Justin Martyr ('Apolog.,' 2. c. 5, and 'Dial. cum Tryphon,' c. 23); and the heavenly bodies are constantly mentioned in the descriptions of the awful convulsions of the great day (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; Acts 2:20; Revelation 6:12, etc.). The objection that the word does not bear this meaning elsewhere in Holy Scripture is of little weight, as this is the only place in which it has a physical sense. The literal translation of the clause is, "The elements, being scorched, shall be dissolved." The word for "being scorched" (καυσούμενα) occurs in the New Testament only here and in verse 12; it is used by the Greek physicians of the burning heat of fever. The verb λυθήσεται means "shall be dissolved or loosened." The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. By "the works that are therein" St. Peter seems to mean all the works both of God and of man, "opera naturae et artis" (Bengel). There is a very remarkable reading here (supported by the Sinaitic and Vatican and another uncial manuscript), εὑρεθήσεται, "shall be discovered," instead of κατακαήσεται, "shall be burned up." If we understand "the works that are therein" of man's works and actions, this reading will give a good sense (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:13, "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is"). Or the clause may be regarded as interrogative, "Shall the earth and the works that are therein be found?" But the reading, "shall be burned up" is well supported, and suits the context best. 2 Peter 3:10The day of the Lord

Compare the same phrase in Peter's sermon, Acts 2:20. It occurs only in these two passages and 1 Thessalonians 5:2. See 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14.

As a thief

Omit in the night. Compare Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15.

With a great noise (ῥοιζηδὸν)

An adverb peculiar to Peter, and occurring only here. It is a word in which the sound suggests the sense (rhoizedon); and the kindred noun, ῥοῖζος, is used in classical Greek of the whistling of an arrow; the sound of a shepherd's pipe; the rush of wings; the plash of water; the hissing of a serpent; and the sound of filing.

The elements (στοιχεῖα)

Derived from στοῖχος, a row, and meaning originally one of a row or series; hence a component or element. The name for the letters of the alphabet, as being set in rows. Applied to the four elements - fire, air, earth, water; and in later times to the planets and signs of the zodiac. It is used in all ethical sense in other passages; as in Galatians 4:3, "elements or rudiments of the world." Also of elementary teaching, such as the law, which was fitted for an earlier stage in the world's history; and of the first principles of religious knowledge among men. In Colossians 2:8, of formal ordinances. Compare Hebrews 5:12. The kindred verb στοιχέω, to walk, carries the idea of keeping in line, according to the radical sense. Thus, walk according to rule (Galatians 6:16); walkest orderly (Acts 21:24). So, too, the compound συστοιχέω, only in Galatians 4:25, answereth to, lit., belongs to the same row or column with. The Greek grammarians called the categories of letters arranged according to the organs of speech συστοιχίαι. Here the word is of course used in a physical sense, meaning the parts of which this system of things is composed. Some take it as meaning the heavenly bodies, but the term is too late and technical in that sense. Compare Matthew 24:29, the powers of the heaven.

Shall melt (λυθήσονται)

More literally, as Rev., shall be dissolved.

With fervent heat (καυσούμενα)

Lit., being scorched up.

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