The text on which we are requested to write reads thus:
"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Not any the less do we look for the fulfillment of the promise of God, because that change and decay are so strongly marked upon all things pertaining to this world. In the context the apostle stirs up the pure minds of the saints by way of remembrance of the words of the holy prophets, and of the commandments of the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, in which they had been faithfully admonished of the transitory nature of all earthly things, of the great apostasy from the faith that should precede the final dissolution of nature and indicate the near approach of the great day of the Lord, which should surely come suddenly, like a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. How appropriate is the appeal: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth," etc. Some writers have supposed that the day of the Lord, in this chapter, was the day when the judgments of the Lord should be executed upon Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, when the old Jewish heavens should be dissolved and all the elements of Judaism should melt away, and that the new heavens and earth which were to succeed was the establishment of the gospel kingdom among the Gentiles. It is very possible that the apostle had some allusion to those events, which were then upon the eve of being fulfilled when this epistle was written. Certain it is that the Jewish heavens and earth, with all their elements, did then pass away, and not one stone was suffered to remain on another. It is also true that that new organization, or gospel kingdom, is one in which dwelleth righteousness, as it is the dwelling-place of Christ, who is our righteousness. But the declarations of the apostle in this case were prospective and prophetic, not only as to the dissolution of the old heavens and earth, but also in regard to the new heavens and earth, which were to succeed. Although the destruction of Jerusalem, by Titus, was subsequent to the date of this epistle, it must be conceded that the kingdom of Christ was duly organized on the day of Pentecost, some thirty years before Peter wrote this letter. Again, others have supposed that the apostle was here speaking of what is called the millennium, when it is supposed the present condition of the world will be essentially changed, the earth purified by fire, sin banished, Satan bound for a thousand years, and Christ shall reign personally with his saints on earth. But as we know nothing of this theory we must be excused from offering any opinion. To our mind the obvious meaning of the apostle is to stir up the pure minds of the saints in reference to the final destruction of this world, with all its elements and all its works. This day of the Lord is particularly characterized in verse seven as the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. When, according to our understanding of the subject, the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and when the dead shall be raised, and all who are, or then shall be, in the graves, shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth, when the kingdom of God in its fullness shall be delivered up to God, even the Father, and all the ungodly shall receive their final and everlasting doom and sink down into irretrievable perdition. Whatever grand events may be predicted to transpire before that great day when God shall come to raise the dead and judge the world, should not divert our attention from what God has spoken to us by his inspired servants in relation to the certain coming of that period in which the wheels of nature shall cease their revolutions, when the natural heavens shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shall be folded and be laid away. The solemn grandeur of that day we have no ability to describe. The most sublime language is employed by inspired men; Paul says, "And to you who are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." While wicked men and devils may dread the approach of that great day of our God, the saints who love the appearing of their Lord will hail its approach with joy and gladness, looking for and hasting to the coming of it, because "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation." (Heb. 9:28) "But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (I John 3:2) While we contemplate the final dissolution of all earthly things, we are not only hasting to, but looking for the event with peculiar joy, for resting upon the promise of our God, who cannot lie, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. The heavens and earth are figuratively used, to signify that happy state to which all the saints shall be brought. The new heavens will not require the glittering scenery of the natural heavens; sun, moon and stars will not be required, for God himself, and the Lamb, are the light and glory of that happy place.
"Its skies are not like earthly skies,
With varied hues of shade and light;
It hath no need of suns to rise,
To dissipate the gloom of night."
The irresistible attractions of the new heavens and earth for which we look are such as earth cannot present. Here we have to use the lamentation of the psalmist: "Woe to me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war." (Psalms 120:5-7) But these, peace and joy, shall forever reign without intermission or interruption while immortality endures.
"Long nights and darkness dwell below,
With scarce a twinkling ray;
But the bright world to which I go,
Hath everlasting day."
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death attend us here, but there the inhabitants shall no more say, I am sick. There shall be no death there, mortality shall be swallowed up of life. In this Bochim, or place of weeping, floods of grief gush unbidden from our streaming eyes, but there, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Rev. 7:16,17) Our present trouble is that this earth is polluted with sin, our own lips are unclean, and we dwell among a people of unclean lips; but in the new heavens and earth to which we go there dwelleth righteousness. Nothing unholy, nothing unrighteous, can enter there. The psalmist said, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Psalms 17:15) Upon this glorious prospect the apostle grounds an exhortation: "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." And, "Seeing that all these things [of earth] shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness." None but the children of God have the promise of such things; none but they are looking for such things. God has taught them by his word and Spirit to look within the veil--to look on the things which are not seen, which are eternal, and soon, according to the rich provisions of his grace, shall they all come up out of great tribulation, with garments washed and made white and clean in the blood of the adorable Lamb. Can such a prospect fail to stimulate them to vigilance, to diligence, in the cause of God and truth? To be found of him in peace, not murmuring, fretting or impatient, without spot, unblemished by the spots of the pollutions of the flesh, but crucifying the old man with his affections and lusts, and putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. He has warned his children to come out of Babylon, to touch not her unclean things, and if we would be found blameless of him at his coming, blameless in our walk and deportment, we should, as we desire his approval, bow to his authority and walk in all his institutions, that we may walk worthy of the high and holy vocation wherewith we are called.
One important consideration in connection with this subject, to which Peter calls attention of the saints, is that before the coming of this day of the Lord, "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts." And in closing his exhortation in verses seventeen and eighteen, he says, "Ye therefore beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
All the admonitions of the apostles to the saints in regard to the peculiar developments of the last days, treat of the great apostasy which shall in these last days be seen among those who have at least been professors of the faith, and of the great temptations the children of God should encounter, as calculated to shake them in regard to their steadfastness. Who have formerly seemed valiant for the truth begin to show alarming symptoms of instability, and others seem to have tasted the wine of the cup of her who reigns over the kings of the earth, the intoxicating poison of which has maddened the nations of the earth. The apostle bids us beware. "Touch not; taste not; handle not;" and let him that thinketh that he stands, take heed. And let us, one and all, watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation.
June 1, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 369 - 374