I keep seeing in forums how people believe the differences between the Eschatological positions is a matter of hermeneutics. And I keep being amazed how people do not recognize the inconsistencies in that argument.
Of course, that typically happens between the Premillennialists and Amillennarians. Those poor Postmillennarians are regulated to the outside of the debate hall. Which is unfortunate if anyone specifically ascribes to B.B. Warfield or Greg Bahnsen in terms of eschatology. And as Bahnsen points out, there really isn’t much difference between Amillennarians and Postmillennarians — at least between Amillennialism and Bahnsonian Postmillennialism. Maybe just on the matter of Christian ethics and whether or not one is optimistic in their eschatology or pessimistic.
But I digress. Hermeneutics. This is a red herring. Seriously. It’s a smoke screen that effectively alleviates the debaters in eschatology from having to engage in meaningful disagreements with each other that are founded on careful exegesis of the Scriptures. I’ve demonstrated this before, but I wanted to devote an entire post to 2 Peter 3.
The context of 2 Peter 3 establishes the fact that there will be scoffers who will argue against the Parousia of Christ and use as their best argument the lack of Jesus return, 2Pet. 3:4 “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’”
These scoffers are clearly playing on the fact that Jesus, even in the first century, hadn’t accomplished His final coming or what we understand to be His Parousia.
Apart from the fact that 2 Peter 3 isn’t referring to Christ’s judgment coming at 70 AD is the fact that even the scoffers connect the destruction of the earth with this return of Christ. These scoffers, however, weren’t just simply doubters of the Parousia they were deniers of the Parousia. And apart from their denial was the fact that there has never been and continues to be no destruction of the earth. Don’t miss that, the scoffers denying the coming of Christ were doing so by denying the destruction of the earth. Peter uses a masterful argument in response:
2Pet. 3:4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
2Pet. 3:5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,
2Pet. 3:6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.
2Pet. 3:7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
This is where Peter starts to end our eschatology debate with Premillennialists and effectively leaves only two major eschatological systems: Postmillennialism and Amillennialism; both of which are postmillennial in their eschatology. Both believe Jesus returns finally after the Millennium. The reason being is because in verse 4–7 of 2 Peter 3, Peter argues for the Parousia by arguing for the earth’s destruction.
Peter then sets up an argument that at first glance might not seem significant but is incredibly significant and controversial. The controversy of verse 8 is over the fact that Premillennialists will argue that this phrase, “a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is a day” defines the “day of the Lord”. So that the Parousia of Christ happens before the destruction/creation of a new heaven and a new earth. And that the day of the Lord is not literally a 24 hour period of time — I know, you can’t make this kind of inconsistencies up. The Millennium must be a literal thousand years because we are all required by Premillennialists to interpret all Scripture literally, but the Premillennialist is free to pick and choose which Scriptures to interpret figuratively.
What’s the problem with the Premillennial interpretation other than inconsistency in their own position? The fact that Peter did absolutely nothing to the define the day of the Lord as a thousand years.
The Premillennialist arrives at this conclusion not through careful exegesis of 2 Peter 3 but because the Premillennialist needs 2 Peter 3 to say that. Reason being, they can’t have the Lord show up and destroy the earth. They need the Lord to show up and set up a literal, thousand-year reign on the earth.
Again, Peter never said anything close to that. Instead, Peter definitely defined the day of the Lord as the destruction of the earth. 2 Peter 3:8 isn’t defining the day of the Lord as a thousand years — which oddly could also be defined as a day according to the expression — but as the timeframe prior to the day of the Lord.
Remember, the scoffers were scoffing with respect to the fact that the Lord has not returned. And Peter in response to them says, “a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day to the Lord” in verse 8. Peter is talking about the fact that a thousand years is nothing to the Lord and a day is nothing to the Lord while the Lord waits to return. So He hasn’t returned but He’s perfectly fine with how long it has currently taken for Him to return.
Another way of putting it is that the Lord doesn’t mind waiting a thousand years before He returns and He doesn’t mind waiting a day before He returns. Both are equally insignificant to the patience of the Lord.
Which is fascinating because this established, then, from Peter’s perspective that a thousand years is a waiting period that the Lord is comfortable waiting before He returns. Which establishes a postmillennial return of Christ. Jesus returns after having to wait a thousand years to return.
2 Peter 3:9 confirms this supposition even further,
2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Peter says that the Lord isn’t slow to fulfill His promise but is patient. The promise that He is waiting to fulfill is defined in context, the promise of His Parousia (2 Peter 3:4). So the thousand years as a day or a day as a thousand years, again, isn’t defined contextually as the arrival of the Lord but is defined as the patience of the Lord before His arrival. Furthermore, Peter reveals why the Lord is being patient for a thousand years. It’s for repentance.
Peter is writing to the elect (c.f. 2 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 1:1–5). Again, this establishes the fact that the thousand years is the Lord’s patience before He returns and He’s waiting in His patience because it means the salvation of His elect. He won’t return until all of His elect have been gathered into His kingdom.
Remember as well, Peter’s first argument against the scoffers was to respond to their scoffing against the 2nd coming of Christ because the world hasn’t been destroyed by arguing to them that the Lord is still coming to destroy the earth just like in Noah’s day. Peter has already started to define the Parousia of Christ as coinciding with the destruction of the earth.
Even the deniers of Christ’s return understood that His return coincided with the destruction of the earth, which was the fuel they needed for their argument to deny His coming altogether.
So it’s no surprise in verse 10 that Peter explicitly states that when the Lord arrives, it will be sudden and unexpected like a thief and both the heavens and the earth will end,
2Pet. 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
There’s no escaping this passage of Scripture. The day of the Lord comes and then the heavens pass away, the heavenly bodies are destroyed, the earth is burned up, etc, in coincidence with the Lord’s arrival.
Peter restates the fact of the Parousia coinciding with the earth’s final destruction in his exhortation for us to remain godly,
2Pet. 3:11 ¶ Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
2Pet. 3:12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
Peter instructs us in our lives of holiness and godliness to be a people who look for and hastens, the “Parousia” of the day of God. And again Peter indicates that coming day of God is in which the heavens will be set on fire an dissolved, and the heavenly bodies melt as they burn.
These sections of 2 Peter 3 certainly establish the fact that the Day of Lord includes the destruction of the heavens and the earth and not precludes or precedes the destruction. They are simultaneous occurrences that happen over the span of a single day. But it is also important to note what Peter says next,
2Pet. 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Notice, Peter stated according to his promise. The promise that is in the context is the Parousia of Christ. The promise of His return. But Peter argues that the Promise of the Parousia of Jesus causes us to wait, not for the Millennium, but for the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness will dwell. The simplicity of his eschatology is so refreshing. Obviously, he’s not excluding concepts in eschatology, like the resurrection, etc. but he’s certainly has simplified the Christian hope. And for another time in our context linked the Parousia of Jesus with concepts that happen after the Millennium.
The destruction of creation and the new creation are concepts that John mentions explicitly as having happened after the Millennium. So if Peter puts the Parousia simultaneously with the events that John puts after the Millennium, then abiding by Scripture and the Analogy of Faith requires us all to be postmillennial in our eschatology. Not necessarily in the sense of subscribing to the official position, but we all must recognize that Christ comes after the Millennium.