Preserved For Fire
“But the heavens and the earth that are now, are reserved by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
The world that existed before Noah perished by water. Peter now compares that world with the one that now is, which is stored up for destruction by fire. For this reason, we cannot help but think that the Holy Spirit wants us and his readers to look beyond the historical context of the coming consummation of national Israel. At least we must assume that there are end-of-time references in the New Testament that are metaphorical illustrations of that which is to come. However, we must keep in mind that the intensity of Jewish nationalism was so strong before the destruction of A.D. 70 that the end of Israel was as the end of the world for the Jews. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple were metaphorical of the end of time.
When Rome terminated the hopes of the Jewish nationalists, it was as if the Jews’ world came crashing down. Since most of us are not Jews, and especially Jews who lived in that era, it is quite difficult for us to understand what was going through the minds of the disheartened Jews after A.D. 70. Decades of Jewish nationalism were crushed when Jerusalem and the temple were eventually levelled. Hope of an independent state of Israel was totally smashed as hundreds of thousands of nationalistic Jews were slaughtered in Rome’s termination of Jewish nationalism.
In like manner, Noah’s world physically perished with all its inhabitants. If we look into the future, we must conclude that this present world will also physically perish. However, we caution ourselves not to make too close a comparison between any in-time termination with that which will come. Nevertheless, we must understand that the earth’s surface as Noah knew it before the flood, perished. It was overthrown by water. Also, the population of the world that existed before the flood perished from off the face of the earth. In other words, the earth was refaced and repopulated. The wicked were annihilated from the earth. All this reminds us of what happened when hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in A.D. 70. It may be that Peter here still has in mind the imminent destruction and genocide that would happen in only a few years after he wrote these words.
We must keep in mind that God looks at history as we would view a photograph. He can see history in an instant. Thus in His revelation to us, He views all history on earth from beginning to end. This is especially true in Old Testament prophecy, as well as, New Testament prophecy of the things that are to come. God sees the time the prophecy is made simultaneously with the time when the prophecy is fulfilled.
God sees the making of the prophecy and the fulfillment at the same time. In this way, therefore, He sees in-time judgments as illustrations of the final judgment. He seeks to inform us of end-of-time finalities by often mixing in-time judgments with end-of-time judgments. Such was the case in Matthew 24 and 25. This is probably the case in this context.
A different “heavens and earth” existed after the flood than before the flood of Noah’s day. However, this present heavens and earth as we now experience them are reserved for “destruction” by fire in the last day of God’s final judgment of perdition, or destruction (See 2 Pt 3:10-12). Disobedient angels have been reserved for the destruction of the last day (2 Pt 2:4; Jd 6). Peter reassured his readers that God knows how “to preserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pt 2:9). Therefore, everything is now in reservation or preservation for the judgment of the last day.
The ungodly of Peter’s readers were being “reserved” for destruction in the fall of Jerusalem. However, Peter would certainly have in mind all the ungodly, whether living or dead, who are presently reserved for judgment for the destruction of the last day (See 2 Th 1:7-9). The significance is that God judges in time, as well as at the end of time.
[Next in series: Aug. 28]