Yesterday I was asked a question about my view of 2 Peter 3 as it relates to the end of the world, rapture, etc. I put together a response and have decided to share that response here. It’s a little lengthy. Hope you will read it and let me know what you think.
My journey in the study of eschatology began in the early 1980s and my views were completely turned upside down when I saw the Parable of the Wheat and Tares and Jesus’s statement, “First, gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them…” That went against everything I had ever heard and believed, and I was shocked…there it was in Red Letters! How had I missed it?
I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I felt I had a pretty good handle on the different views and, as I understood it, boiled it down to four different views: Classic Premillenialism, Amillenialism, Postmillenialism, and Dispensationalism. I had grown up in the Dispensationalist camp and had really never even heard or considered the other views. In the early 1980s I became convinced that Dispensationalism was totally false. The other three views had things within them that I agreed with, but I leaned more toward postmillennialism, but really took the position that it really didn’t matter, “it will all pan out in the end”.
I continued to read and study, but didn’t really have any new or major breakthroughs in the subject until the last three or four years. I had been convinced of the early date for the writing of the Book of Revelation from a book entitled: Before Jerusalem Fell, and the view that Revelation was a prophecy of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, not a prophecy of the end of the world. But I still had a lot of “unconnected dots” that I just couldn’t explain. I started teaching through the Book of Revelation in a Wednesday night Bible Study class, and advertised it as “Bible study as a full-contact sport” – in-depth study in the word, discussion, questions and answers. I had taught through Revelation two times before in different settings, but this time I approached it with an attitude of really seeking to learn and really researching and questioning my own views.
One of the major revelations that hit me was when I saw the phrase in Revelation 11:8, “…the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” For the first time, the “lights came on” and I saw that God was calling Jerusalem, the great city where our Lord was crucified, Sodom and Egypt. I then began to realize that the Babylon of Revelation was Jerusalem as well. His own people had become his adversaries and He was calling them by the names of the Old Testament historical enemies of God and God’s people.
I then began to see Deuteronomy 32 and the Song of Moses as the prophetic foundation stone for the rest of biblical prophecy – a prophecy, not of the end of the world, but a prophecy of the end of the Old Covenant, the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Judaistic system – and the launching of the Messianic Kingdom.
I believe ALL of the New Testament was written prior to 70 AD. Think about this…if any of the Scriptures were written AFTER 70 AD, how do they NOT mention one word about the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, just as Jesus had said was going to happen. Josephus tells us that 1.3 million Jews were killed in the Roman siege – maybe a little exaggerated, but still…a major cataclysmic event for Jews and the first-century church, that was predominantly comprised of believing Jews at that time.
We need to pay attention to the pronouns in the writings of the apostles. “We” was not speaking of me and you two thousand years later, Peter was speaking of himself and the contemporary readers of his letter. In 1 Peter 4:7 he said, “The end of all things is near…” and in 1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” This is speaking of the upcoming judgment of Jerusalem and first-century Judaism, as prophesied by Jesus. So, in 2 Peter and the elements melting in fervent heat is the same thing, the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem. But what of the “new heavens and new earth”? I believe this is a phrase that refers to the Messianic Kingdom, inaugurated by Jesus, that comes into full realization at the destruction of the Old Covenant system, the destruction of “the holy city” and the temple, the destruction of everything associated with apostate Judaism, including the genealogical records that were stored in the temple complex when it was destroyed.
I was always puzzled by a couple of Jesus’s statements. 1) “the meek will inherit the earth.” Why would the meek inherit something that was going to be destroyed? 2) “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” Why would heaven have to pass away? It wasn’t until this past year that I saw that Josephus wrote in the first century that the Jews referred to the Temple and the Temple complex as “heaven and earth” – they believed that the Temple was the place where heaven and earth became one. Jesus made the statement that “heaven and earth will pass away” as He was walking out of the Temple complex. His words, the prophecy that the temple would be destroyed and not one stone would be left upon another, would NOT pass away, but would be fulfilled.
The early church, for at least the first two decades, was predominantly comprised of Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah. And it was very complicated. They weren’t really rejecting Judaism, they were accepting Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. But as more and more Gentiles were coming into faith, recognizing Jesus not only as the Promised Messiah of Israel, but as the Savior of the whole world and God of all, there was a huge struggle over how much of Judaism must Gentile believers embrace: should they embrace the dietary laws? should they embrace circumcision? should they embrace the Temple and the Jewish priesthood (who was responsible for the murder of Jesus and the intense persecution of the apostles and these first century Jewish believers)?
So for 40 years, from the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, there was a contentious co-existence between the righteous remnant of Israel who accepted Jesus as the Promised Messiah and the Jewish hierarchy that rejected Him and rejected them. I believe that most of the New Testament is about this struggle between apostate Judaism and the long-promised Messianic Kingdom. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the prophesied “end” of the Old Covenant, the Judaistic system, the Judaistic priesthood, the sacrificial system, the physical temple, and all of the “elements” associated with it. Now, the tabernacle of God is among men. Jesus, the King, the Messiah, the Savior of the whole world, is dwelling among His people – wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them. And this Kingdom is open to all people everywhere, every nation, every tribe, every race, every tongue, male and female, rich and poor, and through repentance and faith, whosoever will may come and drink from the water of life and be raised out of darkness into light, out of death into life.
I know this was a little long, but don’t know how to give a short answer.