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.
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.