The first half of this chapter is a warning of judgement on those who persistently ignore the true God and worship false gods. But then (verses 13-16) a contrast is brought in between the idolaters and those who genuinely serve God – who have a radically different destiny.
Destruction and renewal (II Peter 3:10-14)
We live in a world that often seems to be without hope or direction. Scientists argue over whether the universe will expand indefinitely, or collapse back where it came from. The modern Western worldview conceives of nothing outside of our universe – and certainly nothing beyond death. Peter has just argued (verses 3-9) against the ‘scoffers’ who deny any possibility of God’s intervention and judgement. But Jesus is coming again, and God has a plan…
When God creates the new universe He won’t be ‘starting again from scratch’. The Greek word translated ‘new’ (verse 13) means ‘new in quality’, not ‘brand new’. So there will be some form of continuity between the old world and the new one, just as there will be between our physical body and our resurrection body (I Corinthians 15:42-44, 50-54). Peter has compared the final judgement with the Flood (verses 5-7); in both cases, the world is purged of evil, but transformed rather than annihilated.
The age to come (Revelation 21:1,2)
The new universe really will be ‘new’. The Bible can only describe it in terms of the world that we know: peace, harmony, agricultural prosperity, houses, trees, animals, feasting… But it will be very different from the world that we know: no suffering, no frustration, no pain, no death. Jesus had to rebuke the Sadducees for their over-materialistic misunderstanding of eternal life (Luke 20:27-36); there will be no marriage because, without death, the human race will not need to reproduce itself.
Of one thing we are assured: there will be no bitter memories, no ‘baggage’ from the past. “The former things will not be remembered…” (Isaiah 65:17) We shall enjoy the presence of God forever (Revelation 21:3,4) – and in His presence there can be no evil or sorrow (Psalm 16:11). The life we know is life in ‘shadowlands’; but the life to come is life in full, glorious technicolour. The last two chapters of Revelation give us a glimpse into the future: a vibrant community of resurrected saints (a city), untarnished by any form of sin, living in the presence and glory of God and worshipping Him forever. What a wonderful future to look forward to!
The sneak preview (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13,14)
This glorious inheritance is not just ‘pie in the sky when we die’. Even now, despite the struggles and inherent mortality of this life, Christians have “the firstfruits of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:23) The Holy Spirit is the ‘deposit’ or ‘down payment’ – the first instalment of eternal life, operating in our lives here and now, giving us a foretaste of what it will be like then. Already He is transforming us into the kind of people who will inhabit the new world (I Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-5).