By Bill Reeves
In this article we take up 2 Pet. 3:1-13, and elements. So obviously is this passage against Kings Preterist View that he labors hard to “explain it away,” as he utilizes his favorite devices: ignoring of contexts, and running different ones together as if they applied to the same thing, play-on-words, and misuse of authoritative works.
When asked at Mansfield what he did with his Preterits View in the light of 2 Pet. 3: 10, he replied: “I apply it to this passage all the way, word for word, absolutely! … Everything to be on fire, yes! When he came in his personal ministry he lit the fire.” (referring to Lk. 12:49-BHR). Lk. 12:49 represents an entirely different context. But, on 2 Pet. 3 he surrenders his “spiritualized” and “allegorized” exegesis by saying, “Yes, it has a secondary application. I have every reason to believe that some day this physical heaven and earth will melt away … because it is a type of the heaven and earth (the kingdom as of A.D. 70-BHR) that he said he would create.” King has “every reason” but he does not name any and he gives no Scripture reference, because he has none. His so-called “secondary application” is an assertion without proof. In my second article I quoted him as saying, “I dont know what the destiny of this physical world is that were living in.” Some quotes from him now will show that he “spiritualizes” 2 Peter 3: 1-13, but leaves the door open for escape by means of an invented “secondary application.”
He makes the “world” of 2 Pet. 3:6 mean “people or age,” and the “heavens … and the earth” of v. 7 mean the “Jewish world.” He says. “How did the Jewish world burn with fire? Dont get back in the flesh; stay in the spirit! Lets see the spiritual significance of these fleshly symbols. King “spiritualizes” a literal passage and calls you fleshly if you do not accept his “allegorizing.” This he does throughout his book. That is why he insists on his opposites: spiritual versus literal. It is for effect. See my first article.
“Thus, the world reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men (1 Pet. 3: 7) was the Jewish world . . . Fiery judgment was going to fall on Judaism. Jesus said. “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled (Luke 12:49). The fire of 2 Pet. 3:10 is no more literal than the fire of Luke 12:49. (Why, the fire of Lk. 12:49 is not literal at all! Theres no comparison! -BHR) Other passages involving symbolic fire in the destruction of Judaism are: Matt. 3:12; 13:40, 42; and 2 Thess. 1:8.” A-131
In the previous quote we see King at his old trick of running distinct contexts together. He wants “fire” symbolic in 2 Pet. 3, as it is in an entirely different context, Lk. 12:49. But the fire of 2 Pet. 3 is just as literal as the water of vv. 5, 6! We see King playing with words, as he slips in his “Jewish world,” which is nowhere to be found in 2 Pet. 3:1-13. Peter is speaking of the literal, physical heavens and earth in vv. 7, 10, just as he is back in v. 5. King sees the word “world” (kosmos) in v. 6, and then tries to make the heavens and the earth (ge) a “world, and finally the “new heavens and a new earth” (ge), v. 13, another “world,” too. On page 130 he affirms: “. . . we find three worlds in 2 Pet. 3,” and goes on to identify them as the world that perished in the days of the flood, the “Jewish world,” and the third one which was that perfect, complete something that followed “after Judaism fell.” But King can find “world” (kosmos) only once in 2 Pet. 3!
Let us see what Peter actually did say: (1) Ungodly men, who walked in their lusts (identified by this passage, by 2 Pet. 2: Iff; Jude, and 1 John, in particular, as the Gnostics), mocked the fact of Christs coming in a “day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men,” v. 1-7. (2) Their claim of uniformitarianism (v. 4) was given the lie by the fact of the Noachian flood. Gods word brought a literal, physical heaven and earth into existence. Out of chaos He brought an ordered arrangement. That ordered world (kosmos), v. 6, perished in the flood. A cataclysm destroyed that existing order of life on the earth, including the death of living creatures and the change of the earths topography, leaving a new surface and a remnant of righteous people. It was a worldwide judgment! (3) The heavens that now are and the earth represent the order of things since the flood, and are just as real and literal as the antediluvian order. These are reserved by the same Word of God for a cataclysm of fire, and this fire is just as literal as that water! (4) Three things are mentioned in connection with the “day of the Lord,” v. 10: (a) the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, (b) the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and (c) the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Now, look at Kings “thought for the literalists elements ascribed to the heavens rather than the earth? Peter said, . . . wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. (2 Peter 3: 12). It would seem more natural to speak of the elements of the earth rather than of the heavens, if the material world were the subject.” A-186, 187 Again King engages in word-trickery! Peter did not ascribe the elements to the heavens, as distinct from the earth. Peter said nothing about the “elements of heaven.” Thats Kings insinuation. See again, v. 10, the three things mentioned there. The expressions “dissolved with fervent heat,” “burned up,” “being on fire,” and “melt with fervent heat,” are used interchangeably in reference to the heavens, elements and earth.
King desperately needs some word to play on in order to get peoples minds off of a literal, fiery destruction of the material universe, and onto the destruction of Jerusalem, and for this he uses “elements.” Listen to him: “The word element in the scriptures means the rudimentary principles of religion . . . the elementary principles of the O.T., as a revelation from God, Heb. 5:12, R.V. This same word is found in Gal. 4:3,9 where it is used in reference to the rudimentary principles of the Jewish system. Since law or government is involved in the meaning of heaven, it follows that the rudiments or elements of Judaism properly belong to the region of heaven. These were the elements that would melt with fervent heat, fire being a symbol of destruction.” A- 187 “Does elements of the world in Gal. 4:3 refer to the literal heavens and earth? None would dare so affirm. Could it not have the same application in 2 Pet. 3:10? It is also found in Gal. 4:9; Col. 2:8, 10. Yes, this was the world Christ was coming to destroy.” A-42
King says that the “the word element in the scriptures means. . . ” King, does it mean that in every Scripture? Is that the only meaning of the word? You know better! Because you quote part of what Vine says and purposely omit the part against you. I shall quote all of what Vine says on the meaning of the word in the N. T.: “In the N.T. it is used. of (a) the substance of the material world, 2 Pet. 3:10,12 (King conveniently omitted this! -BHR); (b) the delusive speculations of Gentile cults (King mentions only Judaism!-BHR) and of Jewish theories, treated as elementary principles, the rudiments of the world, Col. 2:8, spoken of as, philosophy and vain deceit; these were presented as superior to faith in Christ; at Colossae the worship of angels, mentioned in ver. 18, is explicable by the supposition, held by both Jews and Gentiles (emphasis mine-BHR) in that district, that the constellations were either themselves animated heavenly beings, or were governed by them; (c) the rudimentary principles of religion, Jewish or Gentiles (King mentions nothing about Gentiles in defining “elements,”-BHR), also described as the ,rudiments of the world, Col. 2:20, and as weak and beggarly rudiments, Gal. 4:3, 9, R.V., constituting a yoke of bondage; (d) the elementary principles (the A.B.C.) of the O.T., as a revelation from God, Heb. 5:12, R.V., rudiment, lit., the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God, such as are taught to spiritual babes.” So, the reader can see how King deceitfully uses authoritative works on Greek words! The words which suit his theory he employs and conveniently leaves out all others!
Vincent, in his Word Studies in the N.T., p. 336, 337, tells us that the Greek word for “elements” is applied “to the four elements fire, air, earth, water; and in later times to the planets and signs of the zodiac. It is used in an ethical sense in other passages; as in Gal. 4:3, elements or rudiments of the world. Also of elementary teaching, such as the law, which was fitted for an earlier stage in the worlds history; and of the first principles of religious knowledge among men. In Col. 2:8, of formal ordinances. Compare Heb. 5:12. Also, commenting on 2 Pet. 3:11, he says, “The world and all herein is essentially transitory.” Commenting on v. 12, “melt,” he says, “Literal. Stronger than the word in vv. 10, 11. Not only the resolving, but the wasting away of nature.”
Thayer, in his lexicon, P. 589, says on this Greek word, as used in 2 Pet. 3: 10, “the elements from which all things have come, the material causes of the universe.” He includes Heb. 5:12; Gal. 4:3,9, and Col. 2:8, 20 under his fourth definition: “the elements, rudiments, primary and fundamental principles (cf. our alphabet or abc) of any art, science, or discipline.” On Gal. 4:3,9 he adds that these “elements” refer to “ceremonial precepts common alike to the worship of Jews and of Gentiles (emphasis mine-BHR). So, Vine, Vincent, and Thayer all say the same thing about “elements,” as used in 2 Pet. 3, and not a one agrees with King. King takes one specific definition and applies it at will. This is his “long suit,” throughout the book. Truth is not served by such tactics!
Lastly we notice one more play-on-words as respects Kings teaching on 2 Pet. 3. Commenting on v. 10, “the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up,” he says, “The works that were to perish or be destroyed in the fiery judgment of that world were the works of the law. ” A- 187 He had just quoted Gal. 2: 16, because there Paul refers to the “works of the law.” Of course there is no contextual connection, but so what? (to King, that is!) Peter said nothing about works of the law of Moses; he said the earth and the works in it!
Theres the Preterist-View for you: when the Romans burned Jerusalem, 2 Pet. 3 was fulfilled! If you think that is bad, wait until you see his treatment of 1 Cor. 15, which we take up in the next article. -Rt. 3
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 13, pp. 7-9
February 1, 1973