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2 Peter 3:10 - Exposition

But the day of the Lord will come. The word ἥξει , will come, stands emphatically at the beginning of the clause; whatever the mockers may say, whatever may happen, come certainly will the day of the Lord. "The day of the Lord" meets us often in the prophets; it is usually associated with the thought of judgment (see Isaiah 2:12 ; Ezekiel 13:5 ; Joel 1:15 ; Malachi 3:2 ). In the New Testament it signifies the second advent of Christ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ; 1 Corinthians 1:8 ; Philippians 1:6 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ). As a thief in the night. The best manuscripts omit here "in the night." St. Peter is evidently echoing the Lord's words in that great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, which must have made such a deep impression upon the apostles. This illustration of the sudden coming of the thief is repeated not only by St. Peter here, but also by St. Paul ( 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ), and twice by St. John ( Revelation 3:3 and Revelation 16:15 ). In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. The Greek for "with a great noise ( ῥοιζηδόν )" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is one of those remarkable poetic forms which are not unfrequent in this Epistle: the noun ῥοῖζος is used of the whizzing of arrows, of the rush of wings, of the sound of mighty winds or roaring waters. It may be understood here of the crash of a falling world or of the roar of the destroying flames. The word rendered "pass away" is that used by our Lord in the prophecy just referred to ( Matthew 24:35 ; also in Matthew 5:18 and in Luke 16:17 ). And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. It is uncertain whether by "the elements" ( στοιχεῖα ) St. Peter means the four elements (in the old and popular use of the word), or the great constituent parts of the universe, the heavenly bodies. Against the first view is the assertion that one of those elements is to be the agent of destruction. But the word rendered "melt" means "shall be dissolved" or "loosed;" and it may be, as Bishop Wordsworth says, that "St. Peter's meaning seems to be that the στοιχεῖα , elements or rudiments, of which the universe is composed and compacted, will be loosed; that is, the framework of the world will be disorganized; and this is the sense of στοιχεῖα in the LXX . (Wis. 7:17; 19:17) and in Hippolytus, 'Philos.,' pages 219, 318. The dissolution is contrasted with the consistency described by the word συνεστῶσα in verse 5. The heavens are reserved for fire, and will pass away with a rushing noise, and, being set on fire, will be dissolved; the elements will be on fire and melt, and he reduced to a state of confusion; the earth and the works therein will be burnt up. There does not seem, therefore, to be any cause for abandoning the common meaning of στοιχεῖα , the elemental principles of which the universe is made." On the other hand, the word στοιχεῖα is certainly used of the heavenly bodies by Justin Martyr ('Apolog.,' 2. c. 5, and 'Dial. cum Tryphon,' c. 23); and the heavenly bodies are constantly mentioned in the descriptions of the awful convulsions of the great day. The objection that the word does not bear this meaning elsewhere in Holy Scripture is of little weight, as this is the only place in which it has a physical sense. The literal translation of the clause is, "The elements, being scorched, shall be dissolved." The word for "being scorched" ( καυσούμενα ) occurs in the New Testament only here and in verse 12; it is used by the Greek physicians of the burning heat of fever. The verb λυθήσεται means "shall be dissolved or loosened." The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. By "the works that are therein" St. Peter seems to mean all the works both of God and of man, "opera naturae et artis" (Bengel). There is a very remarkable reading here (supported by the Sinaitic and Vatican and another uncial manuscript), εὑρεθήσεται , "shall be discovered," instead of κατακαήσεται , "shall be burned up." If we understand "the works that are therein" of man's works and actions, this reading will give a good sense. Or the clause may be regarded as interrogative, "Shall the earth and the works that are therein be found?" But the reading, "shall be burned up" is well supported, and suits the context best.

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