Peter can’t be referring to the physical elements being destroyed, can he?


To get to my point here, it is stated in the study you gave me on "The Second Coming of the Lord" that in II Peter 3 is talking about the "end of the world." Let us have a closer examination of it, and we will find it means nothing of the sort. Please meditate over the information I have here and a closer look at the Greek word "stoichia".

The Greek word for elements is "stoicheia," and it appears in the New Testament only seven times. When you see the terms like "elements," ask yourself what this means? In Young's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the literal meaning of the word is "element, rudiment, principle." In other words, these are the elements of religious training or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews and of Gentiles. We will look into it and you may find out.

Futurists believe the elements of the physical heavens and earth were going to melt away or be burned up, especially in 2 Peter 3. Does the word "elements" refer to the scientific idea of the elements of matter, all the "atoms" of the universe? Or the periodic table of elements? I don't think so! We will first look into seven passages with the word "elements" or in Greek "stoicheia." I am using Young's Translation of the Bible.

Galatians 4:3  so also we, when we were babes, under the elements of the world were in servitude,

Galatians 4:9  and now, having known God--and rather being known by God--how turn ye again unto the weak and poor elements to which anew ye desire to be in servitude?

Colossians 2:8  See that no one shall be carrying you away as spoil through the philosophy and vain deceit, according to the deliverance of men, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to Christ,

Colossians 2:20  If, then, ye did die with the Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?

Hebrews 5:12  for even owing to be teachers, because of the time, again ye have need that one teach you what [are] the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God, and ye have become having need of milk, and not of strong food,

2 Peter 3:10  and it will come--the day of the Lord--as a thief in the night, in which the heavens with a rushing noise will pass away, and the elements with burning heat be dissolved, and earth and the works in it shall be burnt up.

2 Peter 3:12  waiting for and hastening to the presence of the day of God, by which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements with burning heat shall melt;

Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that this physical creation will be destroyed. In the beginning, God created the universe and it was good. The sin of men only affected the human race. This is what we call "total depravity." In fact, the Scripture speaks of the earth's permanence (Psalm 104:5; Ecclesiastes 1:4) and the church throughout all generations (Ephesians 3:21). Read in Genesis 8:21, after the great flood God looked down the flow of time and into man's heart and said: "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth (total depravity), and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done." This one is not speaking only about the flood in Genesis 9:15. This is critical! God would never again curse the ground nor destroy every living creature. Could God reverse His promise? He cannot lie. We must keep in mind that the Bible itself is in harmony as the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. God is not a God of confusion.

The Futurist's views do not agree with the Scriptures for several reasons. The first reason is their views are based on their church traditions or creeds. The second reason is the lack of careful analysis of the original Greek words used in the Bible and their proper meaning. The Futurists also did not carefully compare different Scriptures to determine their actual meaning.


"And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease" (Genesis 8:21-22).

A common mistake people make is only hearing what they want to hear. Though the answer is right before them, they skip anything that contradicts their preconceived ideas. In the quote above you have done this. God did not say He would never destroy the world (an unqualified assertion). He qualified it, "nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done." Further, God did not say the world would remain forever. God stated, "While the earth remains" which means there would be an end at some point. The only thing God promised is that the world would not be destroyed by a flood as it was done so long ago. That again is asserted in Genesis 9:14-15, "It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (II Peter 3:10-13).

The word translated as elements is the Greek word stoicheia. In classical Greek, it meant a part of a series. Later it became the basic parts that compose something larger. It appears in the Septuagint's apocryphal books: "It is used to depict the basic elements that make up the physical world (Wisdom of Solomon 7:17; 19:18) and to refer to that which constitutes man himself (4 Maccabees 12:13)." [The Complete Biblical Library]. Stoicheia can mean "elements, rudiments, fundamental principles, letters of the alphabet, or heavenly bodies." In other words, it means small pieces, but what pieces depend on the context in which it is used.

In II Peter 3, Peter is discussing the destruction of the world.

"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water" (II Peter 3:3-6).

Peter points out that people arise disbelieving that the world could possibly be destroyed. They, like you, have a firm belief that the world will last forever. But Peter points out that they forget that God once before destroyed the world, thus it can happen again.

"But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (II Peter 3:7).

The Greek word ge, translated here as "earth" refers to the physical globe. The earth and the heavens are reserved for destruction by fire. We know from Paul that there are three heavens (II Corinthians 12:2). The first heaven is where the birds fly, which we now call the atmosphere (Jeremiah 4:25). The second heaven is where the stars are, which we now call outer space (Isaiah 13:10). The third heaven is where God's throne is at (Hebrews 9:24). Peter is stating that more than one of these heavens will be destroyed by fire. Since we know the dwelling place of God is permanent, we come to the necessary conclusion that along with the physical earth, the atmosphere and outer space will be destroyed. God is able to do this just as He was able to flood the entire world long ago.

While you argue some metaphorical meaning to "elements," you neglect to look at the context of where the word is used, though you quoted it: "both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (II Peter 3:8). The elements (small pieces) of what will be melted? Peter tells us in the context of using this word: the heavens, the earth, and the works therein. Since these things will be destroyed we look forward to new heavens and a new earth. "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away" (Revelation 21:1). "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail" (Hebrews 1:10-12, quoting Psalm 102:25-26 and Isaiah 51:6).

Jesus himself asserted, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Mark 13:31). This is not a maybe but a truth that must be accepted.

What about Psalms 104:5 and Ecclesiastes 1:4? The problem is you are using the wrong definition of "forever" as discussed in "Does the word "forever" in Ecclesiastes 1:4 mean "everlasting?""

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