In Matthew 24:36, Jesus refers to “heaven and earth passing away” and not knowing the “day or the hour.” (It’s interesting that John refers to the “last hour” that was near in his day: 1 John 2:18). Is this statement by Jesus a reference to the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21? John Lightfoot applies the phrase “passing away of heaven and earth” to the “destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved.”
Of what day and hour? That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by the disciples’ questions, and by the whole thread of Christ’s discourse, that it is a wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment.
Adam Clark argues in a similar way:
Verse 36. But of that day and hour—horas (ὥρας: a time or period, an hour), here, is translated season by many eminent critics, and is used in this sense by both sacred and profane authors. As the day was not known, in which Jerusalem should be invested by the Romans, therefore our Lord advised his disciples to pray that it might not be on a Sabbath; and as the season was not known, therefore they were to pray that it might not be in the winter; Matthew 24:20. See on Mark 13:32.
The same is true of John Gill:
Ver. 36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, &c.] Which is to be understood, not of the second coming of Christ, the end of the world…
This was standard thinking by these older commentators. For some of today’s heresy hunters, they might be declared to be heretics.
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If it is supposed that the new heavens and new earth follow the thousand years of Revelation 20, then the exact day would be known since it would have to take place the day after the end of the thousand years. According to the dispensational view, the “new heaven and a new earth” come into existence after the first physical heaven and the first physical earth pass away (Rev. 21:1). Given premillennial assumptions (which I believe are wrong), this means that the events described in 2 Peter 3 could never be near since more than 1000 years are not near. If Jesus comes today to set up His earthly millennial kingdom, then the new heavens and new earth will be inaugurated exactly a thousand years later.
How can a person be a “scoffer” or a “mocker” of prophetic events that are about to happen when the supposed dissolution of the cosmos is more than a thousand years away? It doesn’t make any sense. The charge only makes sense if the described events are near, near to those living in Peter’s generation and were familiar with Jesus’ prophecy. Those in Peter’s audience were looking “for these things” (2 Peter 3:12). How could they be looking for “these things” if they were at least 1000 years in their future?
Why didn’t Peter say that their math was out of whack, that the “new heaven and the new earth” are more than 1000 years in the future? According to the premillennial way of interpreting prophecy, we have at least 1000 years before there will be a physically renovated cosmos. This can’t take place until after Jesus reigns on the earth for 1000 years. This is the premillennial view.
In fact, once Jesus sets foot on planet earth again, according to premillennialism, it will be quite easy to calculate when the events of 2 Peter 3 and Matthew 24:36 will take place—exactly a thousand years later. To silence a “scoffer,” all a person has to say is, “Look, God promised that these events won’t happen for a thousand years.” This means that for the premillennialist, the events revealed and described by Peter can’t have anything to do with our time. They are still far in the future. This means that this section of Scripture can’t be used to club those who reject the notion that we are living in the last days.
Peter specifically says, once again following the premillennial paradigm, the last days are at this moment in time at least 1000 years in the future. So, if the “last days” refer to the period just before the dissolution of the cosmos that is at least 1000 years in our future, then we can’t be living in the “last days” and there are no signs that can be called into evidence to support the claim that a new physical heaven and earth are on our prophetic horizon.
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