on 2-peter 3 :10
The day of the Lord will come - See Matthew 24:43, to which the apostle seems to allude.
The heavens shall pass away with a great noise - As the heavens mean here, and in the passages above, the whole atmosphere, in which all the terrestrial vapours are lodged; and as water itself is composed of two gases, eighty-five parts in weight of oxygen, and fifteen of hydrogen, or two parts in volume of the latter, and one of the former; (for if these quantities be put together, and several electric sparks passed through them, a chemical union takes place, and water is the product; and, vice versa, if the galvanic spark be made to pass through water, a portion of the fluid is immediately decomposed into its two constituent gases, oxygen and hydrogen); and as the electric or ethereal fire is that which, in all likelihood, God will use in the general conflagration; the noise occasioned by the application of this fire to such an immense congeries of aqueous particles as float in the atmosphere, must be terrible in the extreme. Put a drop of water on an anvil, place over it a piece of iron red hot, strike the iron with a hammer on the part above the drop of water, and the report will be as loud as a musket; when, then, the whole strength of those opposite agents is brought together into a state of conflict, the noise, the thunderings, the innumerable explosions, (till every particle of water on the earth and in the atmosphere is, by the action of the fire, reduced into its component gaseous parts), will be frequent, loud, confounding, and terrific, beyond every comprehension but that of God himself.
The elements shalt melt with fervent heat - When the fire has conquered and decomposed the water, the elements, στοιχεια, the hydrogen and oxygen airs or gases, (the former of which is most highly inflammable, and the latter an eminent supporter of all combustion), will occupy distinct regions of the atmosphere, the hydrogen by its very great levity ascending to the top, while the oxygen from its superior specific gravity will keep upon or near the surface of the earth; and thus, if different substances be once ignited, the fire, which is supported in this case, not only by the oxygen which is one of the constituents of atmospheric air, but also by a great additional quantity of oxygen obtained from the decomposition of all aqueous vapours, will rapidly seize on all other substances, on all terrestrial particles, and the whole frame of nature will be necessarily torn in pieces, and thus the earth and its works be burned up.
on 2-peter 3 :10
But the day of the Lord - The day of the Lord Jesus. That is, the day in which he will be manifested. It is called his day, because he will then be the grand and prominent object as the Judge of all. Compare Luke 17:27.
Will come as a thief in the night - Unexpectedly; suddenly. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise - That is, what seems to us to be the heavens. It cannot mean that the holy home where God dwells will pass away; nor do we need to suppose that this declaration extends to the starry worlds and systems as disclosed by modern astronomy. The word is doubtless used in a popular sense - that is, as things appear to us; and the fair interpretation of the passage would demand only such a change as would occur by the destruction of this world by fire. If a conflagration should take place, embracing the earth and its surrounding atmosphere, all the phenomena would occur which are here described; and, if this would be so, then this is all that can be proved to be meant by the passage. Such a destruction of the elements could not occur without "a great noise."
And the elements shall melt with fervent heat - Greek: "the elements being burned, or burning, (καυσούμενα kausoumena,) shall be dissolved." The idea is, that the cause of their being "dissolved" shall be fire; or that there will be a conflagration extending to what are here called the "elements," that shall produce the effects here described by the word "dissolved." There has been much difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of the word here rendered "elements," (στοιχεῖα stoicheia.) The word occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12, in which it is rendered "elements;" Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20, in which it is rendered "rudiments;" and in Hebrews 5:12, where it is rendered "principles." For the general meaning of the word, see the notes at Galatians 4:3. The word denotes the "rudiments" of anything; the minute parts or portions of which anything is composed, or which constitutes the simple portions out of which anything grows, or of which it is compounded.
Here it would properly denote the component parts of the material world; or those which enter into its composition, and of which it is made up. It is not to be supposed that the apostle used the term with the same exact signification with which a chemist would use it now, but in accordance with the popular use of the term in his day. In all ages, and in all languages, some such word, with more or less scientific accuracy, has been employed to denote the primary materials out of which others were formed, just as, in most languages, there have been characters or letters to denote the elementary sounds of which language is composed. In general, the ancients supposed that the elements out of which all things were formed were four in number - air, earth, fire, and water. Modern science has overturned this theory completely, and has shown that these, so far from being simple elements, are themselves compounds; but the tendency of modern science is still to show that the elements of all things are in fact few in number.
The word, as used here by Peter, would refer to the elements of things as then understood in a popular sense; it would now not be an improper word to be applied to the few elements of which all things are composed, as disclosed by modern chemistry. In either case, the use of the word would be correct. Whether applied to the one or the other, science has shown that all are capable of combustion. Water, in its component parts, is inflammable in a high degree; and even the diamond has been shown to be combustible. The idea contained in the word "dissolved," is, properly, only the change which heat produces. Heat changes the forms of things; dissolves them into their elements; dissipates those which were solid by driving them off into gases, and produces new compounds, but it annihilates nothing. It could not be demonstrated from this phrase that the world would be annihilated by fire; it could be proved only that it will undergo important changes. So far as the action of fire is concerned, the form of the earth may pass away, and its aspect be changed; but unless the direct power which created it interposes to annihilate it, the matter which now composes it will still be in existence.
The earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up - That is, whether they are the works of God or man - the whole vegetable and animal creation, and all the towers, the towns, the palaces, the productions of genius, the paintings, the statuary, the books, which man has made:
"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
And all that it inherits, shall dissolve,
And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not one wreck behind."
The word rendered "burned up," like the word just before used and rendered "fervent heat" - a word of the same origin, but here intensive - means that they will undergo such a change as fire will produce; not, necessarily, that the matter composing them will be annihilated. If the matter composing the earth is ever to be destroyed entirely, it must be by the immediate power of God, because only He who created can destroy. There is not the least evidence that a particle of matter originally made has been annihilated since the world began; and there are no fires so intense, no chemical powers so mighty, as to cause a particle of matter to cease wholly to exist. So far as the power of man is concerned, and so far as one portion of matter can prey on another, matter is as imperishable as mind, and neither can be destroyed unless God destroys it. Whether it is His purpose to annihilate any portion of the matter which He has made, does not appear from His Word; but it is clear that He intends that the universe shall undergo important changes. As to the possibility or probability of such a destruction by fire as is predicted here, no one can have any doubt who is acquainted with the disclosures of modern science in regard to the internal structure of the earth.
Even the ancient philosophers, from some cause, supposed that the earth would still be destroyed by fire (see my notes at 2 Peter 3:7), and modern science has made it probable that the interior of the earth is a melted and intensely-heated mass of burning materials; that the habitable world is only a comparatively thin crust (shell) over those internal fires; that earthquakes are caused by the vapors engendered by that heated mass when water comes in contact with it; and that volcanoes are only openings and vent-holes through which those internal flames make their way to the surface. Whether these fires will everywhere make their way to the surface, and produce an universal conflagration, perhaps could not be determined by science, but no one can doubt that the simple command of God would be all that is necessary to pour those burning floods over the earth, just as He once caused the waters to roll over every mountain and through every valley.
on 2-peter 3 :10
3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief - Suddenly, unexpectedly. In which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise - Surprisingly expressed by the very sound of the original word. The elements shall melt with fervent heat - The elements seem to mean, the sun, moon, and stars; not the four, commonly so called; for air and water cannot melt, and the earth is mentioned immediately after. The earth and all the works - Whether of nature or art. That are therein shall be burned up - And has not God already abundantly provided for this?
1. By the stores of subterranean fire which are so frequently bursting out at Aetna, Vesuvius, Hecla, and many other burning mountains.
2. By the ethereal (vulgarly called electrical) fire, diffused through the whole globe; which, if the secret chain that now binds it up were loosed, would immediately dissolve the whole frame of nature.
3. By comets, one of which, if it touch the earth in its course toward the sun, must needs strike it into that abyss of fire; if in its return from the sun, when it is heated, as a great man computes, two thousand times hotter than a red - hot cannonball, it must destroy all vegetables and animals long before their contact, and soon after burn it up.