JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AND 2 PETER 3:10

by Kevin V. Rutherford

 

The New World Translation is the Bible put together by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This translation has Peter saying, “earth and the work in it will be discovered,” in 2 Peter 3:10.  Most translations are similar to the New King James which says, “earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”  Some manuscripts have a word in 2 Peter 3:10 that means to discover, reveal, lay bare, or literally ‘find.”  The New World Translation has “discover.”  The Jehovah’s Witnesses say the earth will be “discovered” because it will be renewed for the faithful.

If “discover” is the correct word, then one must look at the context to determine how it used.  Note first of all that the context repeatedly and clearly speaks of destruction and not a renewal of any sort. “The heavens will pass away with a great noise.”  The elements will melt with fervent heat.”  All these things will be dissolved.”  The heavens will be dissolved being on fire.”  Because destruction is clearly what God had in mind in the text we should not translate any other part of the text in such a way as to contradict that clear teaching.

If “discover” or “reveal” is the correct word for verse ten, then the meaning which would be consistent with the context is as follows:  The earth (people of the earth) and the works (works of men) that are in the earth will be revealed. They will be made known.  What men have done is going to be exposed on the day the Lord returns.  The word means “find.”  What men have done will be found out.  That interpretation would be consistent with this context of destruction.  So, even if their translation is correct it doesn’t say what they want it to say.

One can clearly see from the context why most translators go with the word which means to “burn up.”  That would be consistent with “dissolving,” ‘being on fire,” and “melting with fervent heat.” The current heavens (the air and the universe - Matthew 8:20; Hebrews 11:12) along with this earth upon which we stand will be completely destroyed by fire.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will also turn to verse thirteen in hopes of proving their view concerning the future of the earth.  They will tell us that because this verse says there will be a new earth we are to believe the earth will be renewed for habitation by the faithful.  The expression “new heavens and a new earth” refers to a new place to live.  All that we know will be burned up. Therefore, we are going to need a new place to live.  Where will that new place be?  Will it be on a renewed earth or will it be in heaven?  In Revelation 21:lff. John uses this expression to refer to heaven.  The eternal abode of God will become the eternal abode of the faithful (John 14:2).

Another attempt to prove that the earth will be renewed for the righteous to enjoy involves Matthew 5:5.  First of all Matthew 5:5 does not say anything about a renewed earth.  Secondly, we ought not interpret Matthew 5:5 in such a way as would contradict the complete destruction of the earth described for us in 2 Peter 3.  The correct meaning of Matthew 5:5 was well expressed by H. Leo Boles in his commentary on Matthew. Bole’s says, “The real enjoyment of earthly blessings belongs not to those who grasp for them and assert and maintain with vehemence and care their right to them, but to those who hold them lightly, and who, ranking them inferior to spiritual blessings, are not burdened by them while they possess them; they are not harassed by the fear of losing earthly possessions. Selfish people may possess the earth, but it is the meek alone who inherit the real blessings of this earth and of the spiritual kingdom. The meek will enjoy the temporal blessings more than others and finally will triumph over the earth in the kingdom of God.”

Perhaps the Jehovah’s Witnesses defend this doctrine so vigorously because it has become known as a fundamental part of their faith.  It is a major component of what defines them as Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Most of their literature dwells upon this doctrine.  They see the world as corrupt (which it is) and hope for a time when the world will be perfect (as it was before the fall of man).  It is that hope of a better world that they use to entice others to become members.

One of the problems with this thinking is that it shows a misunderstanding of the nature of the material universe and God’s plan for man on the earth.  While man is on the earth he is subject to temptation.  That is what destroyed the paradise of Eden.  Man cannot find an eternal (or a one thousand year) paradise on earth because temptation and the danger of sin would always be present.  Any time there is sin there is the destruction of any kind of paradise.

What we will have instead is a paradise in heaven with God.  A paradise in heaven with God is one that can last forever, because nothing that causes defilement can enter into heaven (Revelation 21:27).