A prominent part of futurist end time prophecy is the incineration of the planet. Doomsday pseudo-prophets tell us that at some point in the future, Jesus will utterly destroy this earth and then he will make a new earth. They expect to spend eternity on this renovated planet playing golf and tanning on sandy beaches. In this paper,I will show you that futurist end time prophecy is based on a translation error and is seriously flawed because futurists take metaphors literally and come to silly conclusions.
Futurist end time prophecy is rooted in a 600 year-old translation error. John Wycliffe incorrectly translated the Greek word “aion” as “world”… He should have used the word “age.” Jesus never predicted the end of the world. He predicted the end of the age… the age of temple worship and animal sacrifice. That age ended when the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70.
Wycliffe’s error was copied by Luther and Tyndale and then the scholars who produced the KJV, and the Douay-Rheims. For hundreds of years we’ve developed end-time scenarios that are based on that bad translation. Starting about fifty years ago, the NKJV, the NIV, the ESV, and the NASB all corrected the error; but it is not so easy to retract the futurist end-times dogma that we preached for hundreds of years.
When I tell people that a correctly translated Bible does not predict the end of the world, most Christians say: “What about 2 Peter 3:10?” Here is the verse:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
(2 Peter 3:10)
That certainly sounds like the incineration of the planet… even the very elements that the earth is made of will “melt with a fervent heat.” Isn’t that what you think as you read this verse? But you will soon see that the “elements” of this verse are not the constituents of the periodic table.
Before discussing the “elements” we should note one other features of this verse… The “day of the Lord” that Peter refers to is probably the same “day of the Lord” that he predicts in Acts 2. Peter said that he was living in the “last days” before the day of the Lord that had been predicted by the prophet Joel. Joel said: “the sun will go dark and the moon turn to blood” before that terrible day… If you read Joel’s prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 you will see that Joel is not predicting the end of the planet, because he says that there will be people in Jerusalem who survive this terrible day of the Lord.
In order to understand the meaning of the phrase “day of the Lord,” you need to know that Scripture describes a “day of the Lord” for Babylon in Isaiah 13, saying that the sun, moon and stars would go dark and that the earth would be moved out of its place. The prophecy was fulfilled when the Medes destroyed the city in 539 BC. From this we can see that a “day of the Lord” is a day of military disaster when God destroys a society, and we can also see that prophets use metaphors in their prophecies… the stars didn’t fall and earth did not change its orbit in 539 BC. A similar fulfilled prophecy in Isaiah 34 predicts the end of the kingdom of Edom and uses the same kind of poetic language.
From all of this, we can see that Peter was living in the last days before the military disaster that destroyed the Jewish nation and Old Covenant religion in AD 70. Also, note that Jewish historian Josephus reports that when the Romans destroyed the city and the temple, 1,100,000 Jews died and there were 97,000 survivors in Jerusalem. It therefore seems very likely that Peter and Joel’s day of the Lord prophecy refers to the events of AD 70.
Now we return 2 Peter 3:10. I believe that this verse is predicting the day of the Lord that happened in AD 70 and I will give you very good reasons to agree with me. First, we need to understand the word “elements,” so below is an analysis that is taken from the book Bamboozled Believers:
Today we think of the “elements” as the constituents of the periodic table, but the Greek word that is translated “elements” appears five other places in the New Testament. In examining the contexts, we can see that the word never means the constituents of the periodic table. Consider the following uses of the Greek word “stoicheion”:
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements (stoicheion) of the world. (Gal. 4:3 KJV)
9 But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (stoicheion) whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? (Gal. 4:9 KJV)
In these two verses from Galatians 4, “stoicheion” refers to the elementary principles of the Old Covenant Law to which the people had been in bondage.
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (stoicheion) of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:8 KJV)
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (stoicheion) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21(Touch not; taste not; handle not;) (Col. 2:20,21 KJV)
In these two passages from Col. 2, “stoicheion” refers to the rudimentary (or “elementary”) principles of the Old Covenant ordinances to which they had been subject.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles (stoicheion) of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat. (Heb. 5:12 KJV)
Here the reference is to the basic principles of the gospel. So in all five uses of the word “stoicheion” the word refers to the basic or elementary principles of a religion. Four of the five times that the word is used, it refers to the basic principles of the Old Covenant religion. We know that when the temple was burned in AD 70, the elementary principles of the Old Covenant religion “melted with a fervent heat”.
There is one other line of reasoning by which we can see that the “elements” melted in AD 70. In verses 1 and 2, Peter states that he is reminding the reader of the predictions of Jesus and the prophets. It is a simple fact that none of the prophets ever said that the planet would be incinerated. However, Jesus and the prophets did predict the end of the Old Covenant religion. In the context of discussing the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Jesus said that the old heaven and earth would “pass away” (Matt. 5:17,18 and Matt. 24:34-35)
That last sentence introduces the idea that, in Scriptures, the phrase “heaven and earth” is used as a metaphor representing the Old Covenant religion. That idea is theological dynamite because it leads to the realization that the new heaven and earth is a metaphor for the New Covenant, not a new planet. A whole chapter of Bamboozled Believers deals with that subject, so I will not deal with it here. I urge you to read Bamboozled Believers and then join our Facebook Bible study. It is called Meat Not Milk.
Let’s review what we have just covered in this discussion of “end time prophecy.”
I urge you to read Bamboozled Believers so that you fully understand the “heaven and earth metaphor. Here I will give you two quick reasons to believe that it is a metaphor for the Old Covenant religion:
God said these words thousands of years after he created the universe, so He is not speaking of the creation of the physical “heaven and earth”. When he gave the descendants of Abraham the law (“put His words in their mouth”) and protected them (“covered thee in the shadow of mine hand”) he created a people for Himself (“You art my people.”) In this verse God is speaking of how He created the Old Covenant religious system. He is speaking of how He “established the (old) heavens and laid the foundation of the (old) earth.”
It is time to stop, this “Quick Comment” is twice as long as most… but the topic is so important and there is so much more to say… I hope that you make time to read more about “end time prophecy” in Bamboozled Believers…