Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: 2 Peter 3: 10 reads:
“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.”
Are we to understand from the Apostle Peter’s words that the earth is to be burned up
at our Lord’s Second Advent?
Answer: The Bible contains both literal and symbolic language, and unless we are able to
distinguish between the two, the Bible may seem confusing and contradictory. Our text is an
example of a highly symbolic Scripture, for we have the plain statement in Ecclesiastes 1: 4 that
“The earth abideth for ever.”
Peter’s prophecy refers to the symbolical earth – the social order of things, organized society,
represented in the various forms of government now existing. The Prophet Daniel prophesied of
“a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12: 1); and our Lord, in
referring to the last times, or last days, foretold of “great tribulation, such as was not since the
beginning of the world” (Matthew 24: 21). The Scriptures in general show how this “trouble”
will develop, and be so destructive as to result in the dissolution of the present evil, selfish,
social structure, which will in turn pave the way for the establishment of the “new earth” (verse
13), founded upon the principles of equity, justice and love.
The “elements” that make up our present “earth,” or social order, include the socialistic,
capitalistic and labor elements, etc. The friction between these various elements is constantly
increasing, and it is merely a question of time before the friction becomes so intense that the
elements, bursting forth into open flame, “shall melt (be dissolved) with fervent heat,” and
therefore the entire social fabric will be destroyed. As a proof that the “fire” is not literal, the
Prophet Zephaniah in describing this same destructive time of trouble, states that after the “fire”
has done its work, the Lord will “then” “turn to the people a pure language” (Zephaniah 3: 8, 9).