The Scoffer’s Starting Error

by Terry Wane Benton

"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" (II Peter 3:5).

Peter is countering the scoffer’s argument that “all things continue the same from creation.” Peter shows that the creation saw a separation of the land from the waters (Genesis 1:6-10). The earth was standing out of the water and in the water. Let me get this point out of the way. The “earth” is not a metaphor for “Judaism” in this text. Some try to make this text about the fall of Judaism and they argue that “heaven and earth” is a metaphor for Judah or Judah’s world. They think the passage here is about the world of Judaism (their heavens and earth) was about to be destroyed. Peter is not talking metaphorically about Judaism. He is referring to the literal earth that we see in Genesis 1. It was standing out of the water and in the water. These are not metaphors for Israel. If so, what are the birds, animals, and creeping things? Are they metaphors too? Peter is talking about the actual planet earth. It was first in one condition and changed, in that condition for a while and later changed by the flood. This is not about Israel. It is about planet earth in general.

They willfully forget that all things have not remained the same and so their argument is falsified by the evidence of the Bible and by the differences between pre-flood and post-flood conditions. Peter is not arguing that the earth was annihilated at the flood, but it was changed, thus countering the argument that “all things continue as they were from the creation” (II Peter 3:4). The creation was changed. The water above the firmament was emptied (apparently storing far more water than the post-flood atmosphere). Human lifespans began to decline in years from 900 years to 120 years.

Some argue that the change in the heavens or atmosphere can account for this change in the longevity of human lifespans. The landscape of the earth itself was remarkably changed. So, the scoffer’s argument is not so. The earth at creation, day one was “without form” and all land was under the water. By day two there was land above water and in the water, a change of the earth. By the flood another significant change. Thus, Peter is talking about the physical earth and falsifying the argument of the scoffers.

What was “standing in the water?” Judaism? Or the literal earth? The land masses we plant trees in and walk around on is called “earth.” The land mass that creeping things creep around on is not Judaism. It is the land mass we call earth. Get this straight right now! There are verses that use “heaven and earth” in a metaphorical way. Don’t allow brethren to use those verses to trick you about this passage. Peter is not speaking of the metaphorical “heavens and earth” of mere Judaism. He is talking about the actual heavens and earth they walked on in Asia far away from Israel.

Scoffers would come to their areas too and talk about their literal earth not having changed. “All things continue the same,” they say. Peter responds about the actual changes of the earth from the beginning of creation. Israel was not at the beginning of creation. They developed even a long time after the flood. Peter is talking about the created world of Genesis 1. Stick with the scriptures and don’t allow the scoffers and false teachers to manipulate texts and reality.

The coming of the Lord would end the heavens and the earth (Matthew 5:17f; 24:35; I John 2:17f; II Corinthians 4:17-18). The representative coming of the Lord would end Judaism in AD 70, but the actual and literal/personal coming of the Lord will bring mortal and corruptible things to a complete end. Don't be deceived about the coming of the Lord. Know which is which and know that scoffers belittle truth because they understand so little of it. Don't be like them nor be easily tricked by them.

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