What Jehovah’s Day Will Reveal
“Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, . . . and earth and the works in it will be discovered.”—2 PET. 3:10.
1, 2. (a) How will the present wicked system of things end? (b) What questions will we consider?
THE present wicked system of things is founded on the fundamental lie that man can successfully rule the earth independent of Jehovah. (Ps. 2:2, 3) Can anything founded on falsehood stand forever? Absolutely not! Still, we do not have to wait for Satan’s world to end of its own accord. Rather, it will be destroyed by God at his appointed time and in his way. God’s action against this wicked world will perfectly reflect both his justice and his love.—Ps. 92:7; Prov. 2:21, 22.
2 “Jehovah’s day,” wrote the apostle Peter, “will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” (2 Pet. 3:10) What are “the heavens” and the “earth” mentioned here? What are “the elements” that will be dissolved? And what did Peter mean by the “earth and the works in it” being “discovered”? Knowing the answers to these questions will help us to be prepared for the fear-inspiring events that will occur in the near future.
The Heavens and the Earth That Will Pass Away
3. What are the “heavens” mentioned at 2 Peter 3:10, and how will they pass away?
3 When used symbolically in the Bible, the term “heavens” often refers to ruling powers, which are elevated above their subjects. (Isa. 14:13, 14; Rev. 21:1, 2) “The heavens [that] will pass away” represent human rule over ungodly society. Their passing away with a loud “hissing noise”—or “a mighty roar,” according to another rendering—may indicate the swift annihilation of these heavens.
4. What is the “earth,” and how will it be destroyed?
4 The “earth” represents the world of mankind alienated from God. Such a world existed in Noah’s day and, by divine decree, ended with the Flood. “By the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Pet. 3:7) Whereas the Flood destroyed the ungodly all at one time, the coming destruction will occur in stages during “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) In the first phase of that tribulation, God will move the political rulers of this world to destroy “Babylon the Great,” thus showing his contempt for that religious harlot. (Rev. 17:5, 16; 18:8) Then, in the war of Armageddon, the final phase of the great tribulation, Jehovah himself will wipe out the rest of Satan’s world.—Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:19-21.
“The Elements . . . Will Be Dissolved”
5. The figurative elements include what?
5 What are “the elements” that “will be dissolved”? A Bible dictionary defines “elements” as “first principles,” or “rudiments.” The term, it says, “was used of the letters of the alphabet, as elements of speech.” Thus, “the elements” mentioned by Peter refer to the fundamental things that give the world its ungodly characteristics, attitudes, ways, and goals. “The elements” include “the spirit of the world,” which “operates in the sons of disobedience.” (1 Cor. 2:12; read Ephesians 2:1-3.) That spirit, or “air,” pervades Satan’s world. It impels people to think, plan, speak, and act in ways that reflect the mind of Satan, the proud, defiant “ruler of the authority of the air.”
6. How does the spirit of the world manifest itself?
6 Therefore, knowingly or unknowingly, those infected by the world’s spirit allow their minds and hearts to be influenced by Satan, so that they reflect his thinking and attitude. As a result, they do what they want, without regard for the will of God. They react to situations on the basis of pride or selfishness, they manifest a rebellious attitude toward authority, and they give free rein to “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes.”—Read 1 John 2:15-17.*
7. Why must we “safeguard [our] heart”?
7 How important, then, that we “safeguard [our] heart” by exercising godly wisdom in our choice of associates, reading matter, entertainment, and Web sites that we may visit on the Internet! (Prov. 4:23) The apostle Paul wrote: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) That injunction becomes all the more urgent as Jehovah’s day approaches, for its unprecedented ‘heat’ will melt away all “the elements” of Satan’s system, exposing them as totally lacking in fire-resistant qualities. This calls to mind the words of Malachi 4:1: “The day is coming that is burning like the furnace, and all the presumptuous ones and all those doing wickedness must become as stubble. And the day that is coming will certainly devour them.”
“Earth and the Works in It Will Be Discovered”
8. How are the earth and the works in it “discovered”?
8 What did Peter mean when he wrote that “earth and the works in it will be discovered”? The word “discovered” can also be rendered “found out” or “laid bare.” Peter meant that during the great tribulation, Jehovah will lay bare Satan’s world, exposing it as being against Him and His Kingdom and thus deserving of destruction. Speaking prophetically of that time, Isaiah 26:21 reads: “Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him, and the land will certainly expose her bloodshed and will no longer cover over her killed ones.”
9. (a) What should we reject, and why? (b) What should we cultivate, and why?
9 During Jehovah’s day, those who have been molded by the world and its evil spirit will display their true nature, even slaughtering one another. In fact, it could well be that the numerous forms of violent entertainment popular today are conditioning the minds of many for the time when each man’s hand “will actually come up against the hand of his companion.” (Zech. 14:13) How important, then, that we reject anything—movies, books, video games, and so on—that may engender within us traits that are detestable to God, such as pride and the love of violence! (2 Sam. 22:28; Ps. 11:5) Rather, let us cultivate the fruitage of God’s holy spirit, for such qualities will prove to be incombustible when the figurative heat is on.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
A “New Heavens and a New Earth”
10, 11. What are the “new heavens” and “new earth”?
10 Read 2 Peter 3:13. The “new heavens” is God’s heavenly Kingdom, which was established in the year 1914 when “the appointed times of the nations” ended. (Luke 21:24) This royal government is made up of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 corulers, most of whom have received their heavenly reward. In the book of Revelation, these chosen ones are portrayed as “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:1, 2, 22-24) Just as earthly Jerusalem was the seat of government in ancient Israel, the New Jerusalem and her Bridegroom make up the government of the new system of things. This celestial city will ‘come down out of heaven’ by directing its attention to the earth.
11 The “new earth” refers to the new earthly society of humans who will have demonstrated their willing submission to God’s Kingdom. The spiritual paradise that God’s people enjoy even now will at last be in its rightful setting in that beautiful “inhabited earth to come.” (Heb. 2:5) How can we be a part of that new system of things?
Prepare for Jehovah’s Great Day
12. Why will Jehovah’s day come as a shock to the world?
12 Both Paul and Peter foretold that Jehovah’s day would come “as a thief”—stealthily, unexpectedly. (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2.) Even true Christians, who are keeping in expectation of that day, will be surprised by its suddenness. (Matt. 24:44) The world, however, will experience much more than surprise. Paul wrote: “Whenever it is that they [who are alienated from Jehovah] are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”—1 Thess. 5:3.
13. How can we avoid letting the cry “Peace and security!” deceive us?
13 The cry “Peace and security!” will be just another demon-inspired lie; yet, it will not fool Jehovah’s servants. “You are not in darkness,” wrote Paul, “so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day.” (1 Thess. 5:4, 5) So let us stay in the light, far away from the darkness of Satan’s world. Peter wrote: “Beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them [false teachers within the Christian congregation] by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.”—2 Pet. 3:17.
14, 15. (a) How does Jehovah dignify us? (b) What inspired words should we take to heart?
14 Note that Jehovah does not simply tell us to ‘be on our guard’ and then leave it at that. Rather, he dignifies us by kindly granting us “advance knowledge” in the form of a general outline of what is to occur in the future.
15 Sadly, though, some have become casual or even cynical about reminders concerning the need to stay awake. ‘We have heard that same reminder for decades,’ they may say. However, those individuals should keep in mind that by making such remarks, they are actually questioning Jehovah and his Son, not just the faithful slave class. “Keep in expectation,” Jehovah said. (Hab. 2:3) Likewise, Jesus stated: “Keep on the watch . . . because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42) In addition, Peter wrote: “What sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah!” (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) Never will the faithful slave class and its Governing Body take a casual view of those earnest words!
16. What attitude should we avoid, and why?
16 Indeed, it is the “evil slave” who concludes that the Master is delaying. (Matt. 24:48) That evil slave is part of a group described at 2 Peter 3:3, 4. “In the last days,” wrote Peter, “there will come ridiculers” who, “according to their own desires,” mock those who obediently keep Jehovah’s day close in mind. Yes, rather than focus on Kingdom interests, such ridiculers focus on themselves and on their own selfish desires. Let us never develop such a disobedient and dangerous frame of mind! Rather, may we “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation” by keeping busy in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work and by not being overly anxious about the timing of events that belongs to Jehovah God.—2 Pet. 3:15; read Acts 1:6, 7.
Trust in the God of Salvation
17. How did faithful Christians respond to Jesus’ admonition to flee Jerusalem, and why?
17 After the Roman armies invaded Judea in 66 C.E., faithful Christians acted on Jesus’ admonition to flee the city of Jerusalem at the first opportunity. (Luke 21:20-23) Why did they act promptly and decisively? No doubt, they had kept Jesus’ warning close in mind. To be sure, they expected that their decision would involve hardship, as Christ had forewarned. But at the same time, they knew that Jehovah would never forsake his loyal ones.—Ps. 55:22.
18. How do Jesus’ words found at Luke 21:25-28 influence your view of the coming great tribulation?
18 We too must fully trust in Jehovah, for he alone will be our salvation when the present system undergoes the greatest tribulation of all human history. At some point after the beginning of the great tribulation but before Jehovah executes his judgment upon the rest of the world, people will “become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” However, while God’s enemies tremble with fear, Jehovah’s loyal servants will feel no dread. On the contrary, they will rejoice because they know that their deliverance is near.—Read Luke 21:25-28.
19. What will be considered in the next article?
19 Yes, what a thrilling future awaits those who remain separate from the world and its “elements”! As the next article explains, however, if we want to gain life, we must do more than merely avoid what is bad. We need to develop qualities that please Jehovah and perform works that are acceptable to him.—2 Pet. 3:11.
For a more complete description of the traits fostered by the world’s spirit, see Reasoning From the Scriptures, pages 389-393.
Can You Explain?
• What are represented by . . .
the present ‘heavens and earth’?
the ‘new heavens and new earth’?
• Why do we put our full trust in God?
[Picture on page 5]
How can you “safeguard your heart” and remain separate from the world?
[Picture on page 6]
How do we demonstrate that we “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation”?