“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.”
in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise
“Pass away” carries the idea of coming to an end, disappearing. The “heavens,” or the universe as we know it, will disappear. Revelation 20:11 pinpoints the time of this event.
Re 20:11, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.”
The first-century Greek used the word “noise” for the whistling of an arrow. It carried the idea of “rushing sound,” or as of roaring flames, with a hissing or crackling sound, with great suddenness. This would be like a detonation or explosion. The “day of the Lord” will be catastrophic. This event will take place at the conclusion of the Millennium.
and the elements
Two possible interpretations are conceivable about the extent of this conflagration of the universe. This event may be a limited renovation of the earth or the complete annihilation of the universe.
The word “elements” primarily signifies any first things from which others in a series, or a composite whole, take their rise. These are the elemental particles from which God constructed the universe. In modern language, this might be the word “atom.”
The word “element” denotes a first principle in Greek. The building block of matter is the atom. This is the essential element from which everything material in the universe is made, the universe’s chemical elements. Thus, the basic element in the universe is the atom. The “a” is not, and “tom” is divided. An atom is something that is not divided. We can get down to something in the universe that cannot be divided. However, we know the atom can be split. When that happens, we have a nuclear explosion.
will melt with fervent heat
The word “melt” means to melt down the elements of creation, i.e., to dissolve. Literally, “melt” carries the idea of loosening what is bound together.
“Fervent heat” connotes burning intensely. This is the destruction of the physical universe. The building blocks of nature (atoms) will be consumed by heat. They will “burn down.”
Atomic fission of the nuclear bomb is energy liberated by changing the nucleus of an atom as the fission of heavy nucleus — loss of mass. Atoms break up into component parts and unbind. The energies of the atom will be released, causing a fire. If man can cause nuclear fission, what kind of nuclear fission can God do in the universe? Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away” (Mt 24:35). No waste products will be left at all. The destruction will be complete and total, far greater than any nuclear reaction man can cause.
both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up
On the day of God, the earth will melt. The Greek word for “burned up” means to split. The New Testament uses this term for burning with great heat. The elements of the earth will no longer be found. All of humanity’s achievements and the very globe they stand upon will disappear.
This burning up could be either fusion or fission. This event will be greater than any thermonuclear reaction. The end of the world will terminate with a catastrophic conclusion.
Virtue comes from a perspective on catastrophic world events God planned for the future.
This verse reads the same way before we learned to split the atom. We accepted by faith the dissolution of the world by fire before science. We can now see scientifically how the elements can dissolve by fire.
The works of the earth will go up in smoke. The Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, and all the great works of man will burn to ashes. This will end civilization as we know it.
God put up with a great deal before the Noaic flood. There was prevailing immorality, sex perversion, violence, and blasphemy, yet God gave them many years to repent. God is patient with our generation as well. However, His patience will run out one day. He will have exhausted His longsuffering. When this happens, “the day of the Lord” will come. This is the judgment of a world that turned its back on God.
The only reason this judgment has not come yet is that God still wants to save souls. When the last soul is saved, then the end will come. First, Christ will catch His waiting bride away. Following that remarkable event, great devastation will fall upon the world called the tribulation; unparalleled misery will come upon an uncompromising world. At the end of the tribulation, Christ will come in His second coming to change the world as we know it, including the creation of new heavens and earth.