“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 be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”1
A friend of mine on Facebook (hey Rob!) recently posted some comments on the verses above, which stirred up some things in me. He noted that this passage is speaking primarily, if not exclusively, of the destruction of everything that has its origin or foundation in the blind nature and mind which mankind inherited from Adam. THAT is what the arrival of the day of the Lord/day of God will destroy, and if you keep reading, I think you’ll see that to believe such isn’t as farfetched as it may sound.
First, let’s look at this statement: “the elements will be dissolved/melt with fervent heat…” If read in a physical sense, this is saying that the materials and minerals of the earth will reach such a high temperature that they will melt and dissolve, likely killing anyone unfortunate enough to be around while the earth melts beneath them. No doubt thousands of sermons have been preached with that very understanding. But that’s a surface-level, physical understanding. Let’s look deeper, where the good stuff is.
The Greek word translated “elements” here is stoicheion. Would it surprise you to learn that in the other 5 places stoicheion is found in the Bible, it’s clearly NOT referring to anything physical? Stoicheion actually means the fundamental components or most basic parts of a system or way of operation. It is the basic “elements” of Adam’s fallen way of perception and operation that will be destroyed by “fervent heat” and thereby help usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. I believe the fervent heat is actually God’s presence, like Hebrews states: “Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”2 Our God isn’t just a fire, but specifically a consuming fire, which melts and dissolves whatever isn’t refined and pure (that is, whatever remains of Adam’s corrupt, fallen nature and way).
Here are the other 5 uses of stoicheion in the New Testament:
- “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements (stoicheion) of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:3-5 KJV)
- “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles (stoicheion) of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10 ESV) -One of the fundamental “elements” of Adam’s fallen world is to relate to God through fear and law. This is one of the “elements” that is being melted and dissolved by the arrival of the day of the Lord.
- “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles (stoicheion) of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food…” (Hebrews 5:12 ESV)
- “Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements (stoicheion) of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 WEB (R)) -It’s really plain here what stoicheion refers to: the “vain” mind and way of natural man, who inherited Adam’s spiritual death and continue to live there.
- “If you died with Christ from the elements (stoicheion) of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, ‘Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch…’” (Colossians 2:20-21 WEB (R))
Much more could be said, and much more remains hidden, at least to me. But I think and hope this short look will challenge your way of thinking and help bring you into line with things as God knows them to be. Once the spirit of God reveals the spiritual nature of the scriptures and of God’s present and future plan for mankind, the real journey begins. Don’t be afraid to change your way of understanding when new light is revealed – that’s what repentance is, and it’s essential. I love you all in Christ; God bless you.
1. 2 Peter 3:10-12 WEB (R)
2. Hebrews 12:28-29 WEB (R)