2 Peter 3:11-18
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,…
We think it quite unnecessary to travel into the question whether these words mark an annihilation of matter, or only its purification preparatory to its re-appearance in some better form; it is sufficient for our purpose that the effect shall be the same as if the whole were taken down, and star after star and system after system departed from the vast fields of space.
I. There are two ways in which the assertion as to the dissolution of all material things may be considered and applied; we may speak of them as to be dissolved, either as they are in themselves, or as they are possessed by us.
1. And first as to the fact, literally taken, that "all these things shall be dissolved." We must pause to note the sublimity and augustness of the fact that the Almighty is to remain unchanged and unchangeable, whilst the very heavens and suns and stars are dim with age. We find His eternity before the series commenced, and we find it when the series shall have passed. Who amongst us does not feel rebuked by the truth now presented to his attention, if indeed he be living in the preference of the objects of sight? Man of pleasure! go on delighting thyself with things which gratify the senses; man of learning! continue to neglect "the wisdom which is from above"; man of avarice! persist in digging for gold, and consume thy days and nights in heaping up riches; man of ambition! still toil for distinction, and spare no sacrifice which may gain the honour of this world. But now, all ye worshippers of visible things, that immortal yourselves ye choose for your portion what is infinite and perishable. Appointed yourselves to an endless duration, ye place your happiness in objects that are to last for a time and then wholly disappear. "All," yea "all these things shall be dissolved."
2. But we observed to you-that there was another sense in which this declaration might be taken — regard being had to the shortness of our own lives, rather than finite duration of all visible things. Even if there were never to come an appointed change over the visible universe, if the sun were never to be extinguished nor the earth consumed, ye cannot deny that so far as ye yourselves are concerned "all these things" would have to "be dissolved." We will not argue with the sensualist in the midst of the fascinating objects wherein he delights; we will not argue with the miser whilst the gold glitters and sparkles before him; we will not argue with the philosopher as the broad arch of the heavens fixes his study; but we will argue with them amidst the graves of a churchyard, and our reasoning shall be its inhabitants of all ages and all ranks. We need not continue our progress through the melancholy spot; but will any of you go away from the churchyard unimpressed with the feeling that all created good can be enjoyed but for a short time, and therefore that it is not the good which should engage the affections of creatures appointed for immortality?
II. But let us endeavour to place before you this inference in a somewhat clearer point of view. The apostle argues that forasmuch as all visible things are to "be dissolved" they ought not to engage our affections; in other words, he argues from the transitoriness of all that earth can give to the folly of making it our chief good; and we wish to prove to you that the argument is in every way sound and logical. You must admit in the general that the worth or the value and possession depends in great measure on the length of time for which it is to be enjoyed. The objects of human pursuit are for the most part precious in men's eyes in proportion to their probable duration, and you take the most effectual way of depreciating them by proving them transitory in respect to themselves, or transitory in respect to their possessor. And if this be true, there ought to be needed nothing but an actual consciousness of the shortness and uncertainty of life, in order to our estimating at their true worth the riches and honours and pleasures of the world. It would cause the gold that ye covet to look dim, and the honours that ye envy to fade in your estimation, and the knowledge for which ye toil to seem of little worth, and the pleasures which ye crave to appear to you insipid, were ye indeed in the habit of expecting your decease, and were ye really to count yourselves "strangers and pilgrims upon earth." It is only because there is no such feeling, and practically no such computation that ye are yet so fascinated and engrossed with what the world can bestow on its votaries.
III. If there be one effect which more than another this consideration of the dissolution of all visible things is adapted to produce, it is a willingness "to do good and to communicate." Shall we, if indeed it be only for a brief time that we can have possession of earthly things — shall we either selfishly hoard them or squander them on our own gratification, when we may "make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," and secure, by our acting as stewards rather than proprietors, unfading riches in that day when the earth and heavens shall flee from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,