Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises
permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Franklin, a friend, companion, and supporter of George Whitefield, the great revivalist preacher of the eighteenth
century, enjoyed Whitefield’s ministry. Sadly, however, Franklin never made a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ (Romans 10:9-10). He wrote, “Mr. Whitefield used, indeed, to pray for my conversion, but he never had the
satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to
his death.” In any case, he was right about the certainty of death (I’ll leave the subject of taxes to those more
qualified). With that said, however, there is another certainty Franklin failed to mention: the day of judgment!
All Things Will Be Dissolved by Fire!
Wanting to stir up the elect pilgrims (2 Peter 3:1), Peter reminds them of the promise of Christ’s coming (3:9-10), the
reason for His delay (3:9), and the dangers of scoffers (3:3-4). He then describes the events that will soon take place:
“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” (3:10).
It’s hard to grasp this almost unbelievable scene. Nevertheless, when Christ returns, suddenly and without warning, the
heavens (sky), the elements (possibly the sun, moon, and stars), the earth, and man’s works will be dissolved by fire
(3:10-12), making way for “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (3:13). The world as we know it
will be no more.
The Day of Judgment
As amazing as the dissolution of the heavens, earth, and elements will be, the day of judgment will be absolutely
breathtaking. Peter already mentioned this day earlier in his epistle (2:9; 3:7), but let’s allow the apostle John to shed
more light on the final judgment.
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. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,
and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were
judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead
who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each
one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
On that great and awesome day, Jesus will come on the “clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30),
consume the lawless one (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and raise the dead (John 5:28-29). Then, the “small and great” will stand
before the “great white throne,” where Christ sits as judge. John echoes what Peter said of the earth and heaven passing
away, adding, “And there was found no place for them.” That is, the old will be replaced by the new. Praise God!
As believers and unbelievers are standing before God, books will be opened. These are no ordinary books. No, these
heavenly books have recorded every thought, word, and deed of every human being. And Christ will judge every person
“according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Frightening, right? In other
words, believers whose, names are written in the Book of Life, will be judged according to their works (not for sins) and
either be rewarded or suffer loss; they will be saved “yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15). The ungodly,
however, will be judged according to their works and cast into the lake of fire. But that’s not all.
The Second Death
The writer of Hebrews declares, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Benjamin Franklin was right in regard to the certainty of death: “It is appointed for men to die once.” But the judgment
is a certainty as well. Notice that the writer of Hebrews said that we die “once,” and then comes the judgment. There is
a second death! Did you catch that? “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death”
(Revelation 20:14, emphasis added). Also, John writes this: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers,
sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone,
which is the second death” (21:8, emphasis added). Unless we are alive when Christ returns, we will all die once, but
there is a second death for those whose names are not found in the Book of Life. Yikes!
A Final Thought
People often think that God will spare them (I know I did) because they think of God only as a God of love and disregard
His other attributes (for example, holiness, justice, and wrath). Moreover, like the scoffers, they either undermine or
flat-out deny the day of judgment, hell, and the second death. The problem, however, is this:
- God did not spare the angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4).
- God did not spare the ungodly of Noah’s day (2:5; 3:5-6).
- God did not spare the ungodly of Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6).
- God will not spare the ungodly of our day either (Revelation 20:11-15).
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming” (Zechariah 14:1)!