Matthew 24:29-31 - Supplemental II Peter 3:11-13

Matthew 24:29-31 Part 1


II Peter 3:11-13


This sermon is for the clarification of Matthew’s verse twenty-nine pertaining to the destruction of the “then present” heaven and earth.


“Beware,” says Peter.  “Beware of the pseudoteachers – the ones who bring in damnable heresies; the ones having no use for the holy prophets of old; the ones with eyes full of the adultress; the ones railing against authority; the ones who speak of the plain teachings of Scripture in tones and words of mockery.”


They are deceivers.  They walk after the lusts of the flesh.  They follow after their own lusts.  They’re mockers.  And they’re being reserved in darkness for final judgment.

“I am stirring you in remembrance, beloved,” Peter says, “reminding you of matters previously foretold by the holy prophets, and of the Commandment of the apostles of your Lord and Savior.  Mockers will appear in the last days, doing according to their own lusts.”  They’re full of flowery words and convincing arguments, and transcendental mysticism and magic.  It’s apostasy.  They’re antichrists, as the apostle John calls them in his letter.  Covenant apostates returning to their own vomit.

Mockery is a special manifestation of evil against God and His people.  And one area of intensive concern for mockers is that of eschatology.  False teachers deceive the churches while mocking the plain words of Scripture.  And they do that by misinterpreting what they see, and using that against the promises of God!

And they also do that by senseless interpretation of most of the prophetic Scriptures as having primary emphasis on the distant future!  So, the result of that is, that instead of letters applying the Doctrines of God to Churches just being established in the nation – in the first century – the apostles have written instructions for people thousands of years in the future!  That becomes nonsensical!

That’s what the present day Church has done with passages such as we have before us today.  But, strangely enough, this passage, as is the case with a very large percentage of the others, has little, or nothing to do with eschatology!  It is not about the last things before the advent of Christ and our resurrection.  It is about the last days of the old covenant Church.  The last days of a thoroughly apostate and satanic state.  The last days of the “filling up” of the sin of the whore of Babylon.  And the last days before the fullness of the Glory of the Presence (Parousia) of Jesus Christ.

The holy prophets of old had prophesied of these times; and the preaching and letters of the apostles bore testimony of prophetic fulfillment.  This was the last days of the old, and the beginning of the new!  This was the inundation of the present heavens and the earth by fire (verse seven), just as the old apostate world was inundated with water.

And the deceiving, mocking false teachers, following after their own lusts, refused to see!  They refused to believe the holy prophets; they refused to believe the Commandment of the apostles, and they refused to believe the Word of Christ Himself, when He said that all these things would happen to this generation!  Why should they believe that God would destroy the second heavens and the earth?

But Peter assures the Churches that the present (in terms of this text) heavens and the earth will be removed by the judgmental fire of the Spirit of God as the resurrected King assumes the role prophesied by the holy prophets of old!

And God isn’t slow to execute His promises.  One thousand years since David built the temple as one day in the eyes of God!  He is long-suffering to the elect remnant of Israel, not wanting any of them to be destroyed, but all to move to repentance.  And when they were all out, every last one, the risen “Son of God with Power” completed the declaration of His Presence, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies, by a glorious inundation of the then present heavens and the earth – removing them in fire and setting them aside for the new!

So, then, Peter asks the question, as we begin the text (verse eleven):  “So all these being set aside, of what kind are you to belong in holy walk and piety – expecting and anticipating the coming of the Day of God in which the heavens, being set on fire, shall be set aside, and the elements, burning intensely, are dissolved?  We are expecting new heavens and a new earth, according to His promise, in which righteousness dwells!”  (This is the same as Matthew chapter twenty-four, verse twenty-nine.)

Mocking false teachers refuse to believe the evidence of His Coming – His Presence; and they refuse to believe the holy prophets of old; and they refuse to believe the written accounts of the destruction of the old world order!

But we expect new heavens and a new earth according to His promise, not by our sight! (verse thirteen)  And therein shall righteousness dwell!  “Of which kind are you to belong in holy life and piety?” Peter asks.

Will you listen to the false teachers and become a disciple of a deceiver – walking after your own lusts and mocking the plain Word of Scripture?  Or will you walk in holy conduct and piety, anticipating the full manifestation of the glory of the King and his Church!?

The (once) heavenly creation of God is about to be burned, Peter says.  The principles of the old world order are about to be dissolved in the melting heat of the wrath of God!  And we are expecting new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, he says!  God has promised it!  Of which kind are you to belong? he asks.


New heavens and a new earth.  What saith the Old Testament prophets about it?  Listen:


“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former (heaven and earth) shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.  And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.  There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days; for the child shall die a hundred years old; but the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them….  Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands… for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.  And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”  Isaiah sixty-five.”


Listen again, in chapter sixty-six:


“It shall come that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory.

“And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them into the nations that have not heard my Fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.  And they shall bring all your brethren an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses and in chariots, and in litters and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My Holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord.  And I shall also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord.  For as the New Heavens and the New Earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.  And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from on Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me saith the Lord….”


Although all the Old Testament prophets prophecy the radical change from old to new, Peter draws his language directly from Isaiah and Jeremiah in order to describe the glorious thing that was about to be done!

Now, God had given Moses a thorough picture of the “Edenic” paradise which was to be Israel and “the land.”  He had 1) brought them out of bondage in Egypt, parting the Sea for them; and He had 2) spoken the Law to them, establishing this glorious land in the midst of which He, Himself, would rest and manifest His Glory!  The lengthy description of the land of Israel, under condition of their obedience, is truly one of a heavenly paradise!

And the Word of God through Isaiah (chapter 51;15-16) calls this Edenic land “Heaven and Earth.”  Listen to it:


“…but I am the Lord they God, that divided the Sea, whose waves roared.  ‘The Lord of Hosts is His Name’; And I have put My words in thy mouth (the giving of the Law), and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand (divine protection), that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth and say unto Zion ‘thou art My people!’”


The language used here is the same language as that of the first creation of the universe!  He “planted the heavens” and “Laid the foundations of the earth” and called it “Zion, My people.”

And so Jeremiah, in chapter four, can look at this “heaven and earth universe” that God had made for Himself and for His glory and for His Rest, and he cried out in great lament at what it would become! 


“I beheld the earth and, lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.  I beheld the mountains and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.  I beheld and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.  I beheld and, lo, the fruitful place (the land) was a wilderness and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by His fierce anger.  For thus hath the Lord said, ‘the whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.  For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it….’”


God’s covenant with Israel had been expressed from the very beginning in terms of a new creation; so the Old Covenant land, in which the entire world was organized around the central sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple, could quite appropriately be described, before its final dissolution, as “the present heavens and earth,” as Peter says in verse seven of this text!

But in the imminent “Day of the Lord,” which is to come “like a thief” upon a people who don’t anticipate it, Peter says that “the elements will be dissolved with intense heat!” (verse twelve)  What are the elements?

The word is never used in Scripture in describing the physical universe!  It is never used as the atomic structure of the creation.  But it is always used in connection with the old covenant order!  For example the writer to the Hebrews says, “for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elements of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

John Owen says that “the heavens and earth that God himself planted – the sun, moon, and stars (Israel) – the whole old world of worship and worshippers that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed.”  Thus, “the Land and its works will be burned up,” says Peter in verse ten.

And then, listen to the apostle John:


“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  (This is an Old Testament term for the multitude of pagan Gentiles living in death!)  And I saw the Holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven, saying:  ‘Behold!  The Tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell among them and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them… the first things have passed away.’  And He Who sits on the throne said:  ‘Behold!  I Am making all things new…. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’”


The New Heavens and the New Earth….

Often we need to shore up our faith a little bit by reading the interpretations of great men of God from the past.  And God has blessed none more than the great puritan exegete John Owen.  In commenting on this passage here in second Peter, he says this:


“…I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state.

“…the heaven and earth that God planted (Isaiah fifty-one), the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed.  Thus ‘the land and its works will be burned up.’”


John Owen continues:  “But according to His promise, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  What is that promise?  Where may we find it?  Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isaiah 65:17.  Now, when shall this be that God will create these ‘new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?  Saith Peter, ‘It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the Gospel, that I fortell.’  But now it is evident, from this place of Isaiah, along with chapter 66, that this is a prophecy of Gospel times; and that the planting of these new heavens is but the creation of Gospel ordinances, to endure forever.”

The people of God need to realize, now, that the Church is the New Jerusalem and the New Temple of God.  And we need to see that there is a clearly discernable pattern in Scripture of God entering into the temple!  (The Parousia – presence – of the Lord!)

The first is right after the baptismal destruction of the Egyptian armies.  Israel took the plunder of the Egyptian gold and silver and used it to build God’s tabernacle, which, when it was finished, He entered in flaming glory!  Exodus chapter forty.

The second, is of course the great temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem.  Again, the sign that God had moved in was the flaming descent of fire, and the Glory Cloud filling the temple.

And thirdly, the holy prophets foretold, over and over, of the flaming descent of God and destruction of the present heaven and earth – the dissolution and melting of the elements of the old world order, as Peter says.  These elements, remember, are the principles, and rudiments; not hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, aluminum, and so forth.  That event, according to the pattern in Scripture, is the formal indwelling of God in the New Temple!  Just like the others.  The Glory Cloud comes with great sound and fire and quakes.

The apostles, in their letters, constantly affirm that the age of consummation had already been implemented by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, Who poured out the Holy Spirit.  But the outpouring of the fire of God from His Glory Cloud – His Throne-room – melting the old world order and setting it aside, is the sign that the new heavens and the new earth had been established.  The New Temple was finished and ready to be occupied (filled with His Glory)!

But Peter says that this last great event, promised of God, was anticipated by the people of God!  Immanuel – God with us – the Spirit of God fully occupying His New Temple – the promise of His Coming – the promise of His Presence – the Parousia of Christ!  The full inception of the New Heavens and the New Earth!  The filling of the New Temple!!

Well, let’s see what information we can gain, here, about the nature of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The first thing that is seen is that it is highly anticipated, as was said earlier.  In fact the apostle sees it as the Parousia – the crowning event in history!  The full presence of the Spirit of Christ in His people!  The glory of God resting with His people.

We also saw, secondly, that this event is promised by God.  As Peter says here in verse thirteen, “according to His Promise.”  And it must be said, here, that it was hoped for – and anticipated – because it was promised, or spoken by God!  There is no faith – there is no hope – there is no anticipation – of anything that hasn’t been promised by God in His Word!  And, further, if men are devoid of understanding of the promises of God in Scripture, then their lives will, in turn, be devoid of the anticipation that comes as a result of those promises.  Such a void in the lives of men today is epitomized by today’s pessimistic fundamentalists, who have no expectation of the completion of Christ’s victory in the world!

Which leads me to the third thing that we see about the New Heavens and the New Earth – as Peter says, “in which dwells righteousness.”

The distinguishing characteristic of this New Age, brought about by the fiery indwelling of the Holy Spirit in His New Temple, is indwelling – right living – righteousness – in stark contrast to what was before.  And let me tell you what was here before righteousness indwelled the New Heavens and the New Earth!

Without Christ there is only darkness – deep darkness.  Without Christ men are animalistic.  And the prophetic Scriptures describe the world, at the time Christ was born, as a sea of dark wilderness with flesh-eating vultures!  Regardless of what anthropologists say about civilization invading and ruining pristine primitive cultures, no Christless culture has ever found human life, or any other form of life, to have any value!  No pagan culture has ever been found that wasn’t barbaric!

Everywhere Christians have gone to penetrate into the nations, they’ve found a pantheon of mystical worship, magic, human ritual sacrifice, cannibalism, sexual perverseness, rule by force and terror, and rampant disease, squalor, starvation and death!  There is no light – but only the full manifestation of the cursed sin nature of man.

And that’s the way the whole world was, at the time of Christ.  The entire sea of humanity was a wilderness with no light – Christ is light!  But the New Heavens and the New Earth would be characterized by righteousness – increasing righteousness!  As the Gospel went into the nations of all the earth, the old had passed away – behold all things are become new – the dawning (dayspring)!

As Rev. Norman Shepherd once put it:  “Just as Noah sets foot with his family, after household baptism, on a new earth in which once again righteousness dwells, so also Christ – by His baptism, death and resurrection – introduces his children (by their baptism) into him, to a new existence in which they can begin to see and participate in a new earth characterized by righteousness and holiness.  In the power of the Spirit they cultivate the earth for the glory of God.”

It is true that righteousness does not dwell in the earth in an absolute sense; nor will this world ever be absolutely righteous, until the final enemy, death, is defeated at the judgment day.  But that must not blind us to the promise of God and the very real progress that the Gospel has made – and continues to make – in the world.  The victory has already been definitively won.  The New World Order of the Lord Jesus Christ arrived – Heaven and Earth.  And, according to God’s promise, the saving knowledge of Him will yet fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea.

Righteousness dwells in the New Heavens and the New Earth!  And those of us who belong to Christ have a share now in the heavenly life with Him.  And upon our resurrection, we will be completely void of the humanity that we had in Adam.  It was cursed by God and it will be done away with.  The humanity of Christ will remain to fill the earth.  Adam filled the earth with cursed humanity, but Christ is filling the earth with a new humanity as was commanded by God.

(In the Communion table we feast on the body and blood of Jesus Christ in a heavenly feast.  John 6:51)  When we gather for worship, the New Jerusalem is met by God and His heavenly angels in order to give Him glory and honor, Hebrews 12:22.  Paul says, in Ephesians 2:6, that the Church is seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  Peter, in chapter one of his first letter, says that our inheritance is reserved in heaven; and Paul says, in Romans 8:23 that we’ve already received the first-fruits of that in the Holy Spirit.

Paul says that our lives are already hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-4.  And the promise of the Gospel is that those who are faithing have eternal life, now, and already experience the peace and joy of the Kingdom – Romans 14:7.  More so later – but certainly now.

So, while the consummate blessings of our resurrected lives are still future, we already, through faith, have become citizens of the true heavenly Jerusalem – the New Heavens and the New Earth, Philippians 3:20.

The writer to the Hebrews insists that “the world to come” has come!  It is the present salvation – given to the nations – brought in by the Lord Jesus Christ in the Last Days.  And the River of Living Water is now flowing into the wildernesses of the earth, baptizing men from every nation and tongue and tribe.  And people are flowing into the New Jerusalem – the holy Mountain of God.  Wherever men are turned to Christ, society and culture are transformed.  Righteousness does dwell in the New Heavens and the New Earth.  The New Heavens and the New Earth is being filled with newborns in Christ.