(Investigator 43, 1995 July)

2 Peter chapter 3:1-15

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance;

2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.

5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

7 But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8 But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as thief in the night 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 he burned up.

11 Seeing that all things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

12 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?

13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.


This article is accompanied by a copy of 2 Peter 3 from the King James Bible. I’ve indicated verses which predict the burning up of the heavens and the earth.

The previous chapter (2 Peter 2) similarly says:

"…by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly…" (RSV Bible)

Skeptics usually see these predictions of heavens and earth being burned up as mythical without scientific foundation, and therefore as additional reason for not taking the Bible seriously.

I will show that there is at least one means, in agreement with the sciences of physics and astronomy, which could fulfil the predictions of 2 Peter chapters 2 & 3.

There are Christians who say the Bible teaches that salvation and eternal life will be had in "heaven". Such Christians often take 2 Peter 3 so literally as to claim that fire will destroy the entire Universe at Christ’s return – Earth, stars and galaxies. Due to the size of the Universe and the speed of light (including fire) such a burning would take 15 billion years! A believer in such universal fire would have to imagine God vastly speeding up the speed of light. Nor is there any known source for such a fire.

Other Christians believe the Bible teaches that eternal life will be lived on Earth. Such Christians often interpret 2 Peter 3 symbolically. The word "heavens" may symbolize the governments and the word "fire" may symbolize destruction.

Peter compared the future destruction by fire of "the heavens…and...the earth" (3:10) i.e. the "heavens and the earth which are now" (3:7) with the deluge of Noah’s time and the destruction of "the heavens of old, and the earth". (3:5)

In all these verses as well as in verses 12 &13 the Greek words used for "heavens" and "earth" are the same. Nor is there any indication of a change of meaning so that one use of these words is literal and another symbolic.

Therefore the words "heavens" and "earth" should be understood literally. Furthermore, because of the contrast with the literal water of Noah’s time (verse 6) the word "fire" is also literal. Although, literal we must still understand what "heavens" and "earth" refer to in the Bible.

In the Bible "earth" does not mean planet Earth. Rather "earth" refers to the "dry Land" (Genesis 1:10) however far it extends and does not include the oceans. "Heavens" (Greek = "ouranoi") often means "sky". It refers to the sky as observed by people including the Bible writers. It refers to what is seen by looking up.

Therefore, the destruction of the "heavens" or sky would be literally fulfilled if the atmosphere were filled with dust and fire so obscuring any view of the sun, moon and stars. Is there any possible source, scientifically validated, for such a worldwide fire as described in 2 Peter 3?

The fire would need to start with "a great noise" according to 2 Peter 3:10.

Many Christians speculate that a full-scale nuclear war might fulfil 2 Peter 3. However, this would result in thousands of more or less equal noises as the bombs explode. Nor would there be one source of fire but thousands of more or less equal fires.

An asteroid, 5 to 10k in diameter, entering the atmosphere at 30k per second and impacting on dry land would cause conditions matching the description in 2 Peter 3.

The gases in the atmosphere beneath the asteroid would be compressed causing superheated winds moving at thousands of kilometres per hour. The "great noise" of the impact would be heard on the other side of the planet! (A mere 100-metre object exploding over Siberia in 1908 was heard 1000km away!)

On impact the asteroid would burrow 50km into the Earth’s crust throwing out trillions of tons of molten rock, lava, and dust. The sky would be full of the stuff and much of it above 2,000 degrees centigrade!

According to Jon Murrie:

"The stuff re-entering would look like lots and lots of shooting stars like a glowing layer of material above you of several thousand degrees celsius like being under a griller." (The Advertiser 1993 June 12 "Collision Course")

Much of the force of the impact would probably be transmitted through the planet and burst open part of the opposite side leading to gigantic flows of lava on that side too.

Populations a thousand kilometres away from the impact and the lava flows would survive for a while. Subject to distance they might be disintegrated by the force of the sound blast, smashed by crashing rocks, blown away or fried by superheated gases and winds, or burned to a crisp by a sky layered with molten material!

A report in The Advertiser (1994 September 10) about the comet "Macholz 2" says it orbits the Sun every 6.5 years and a piece of it:

"…could hit (Earth) within 100 years or 10000 years or never."

"A fragment of the comet, if it hit, probably would plough about 60km into the Earth’s crust causing a dense cloud of superheated dust to blanket Earth from the Sun. The cloud would act like an airborne griller, frying everything underneath…"

Sun, Moon and stars would all be obscured by debris, smoke, dust and fire. Anyone looking up and around would see:
  "The heavens pass away with a loud noise and the elements dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works upon it burned up." (2 Peter 3:10)

From such a situation planet Earth would in time recover. Peter says there will be:

"…a new heavens and a new earth …" (2 Peter 3:13)

I've shown in previous articles that Peter allows for a Christian era in history lasting thousands of years. I’m not directly predicting that an asteroid will then hit Earth but I’m not denying it either.

My intention in this article was to demonstrate that Peter’s view of the end of the world is scientifically possible. And in demonstrating Peter's description to be scientifically possible and plausible another stumbling block to treating the Scriptures as reliable is removed.


Hundreds of articles on science and the Bible: