The question of “Destruction by Fire”, long mulled over theologically, has now also been assessed from the scientific standpoint. From the earth-science perspective – and perhaps to a large degree from the theological side with regard to an Apocalyptic scenario – destruction by fire for global humanity tends towards such things as intense and widespread volcanic activity, a meteor impact, extreme drought, and perhaps prolonged solar activity.
Yet the real answer, whilst simple and straightforward, is ultimately far more profound for we human beings of Planet Earth than any notion which might suggest catastrophic events as being the primary driver for destruction by fire, and humanity thereby being physically burned. Though, of course, with certain natural phenomena, that is not just possible but very likely for some. Moreover, even for very many when such phenomena finally gives vent to its full power at its time of ordination. Now, whilst that will one day be a problematic reality for humankind, the distilled meaning of ‘destruction by fire’ here means something very, very different. So even though the word fire usually means flames, burning and heat, does it actually mean that here? From The Apocrypha, The Book of Esdras, Chapter 13, Verse 2, the prophet Ezra recounts a dream which is afterwards interpreted for him by the “Messenger of Light”. The key to understanding the meaning of the “fire” that Peter alludes to – and would no doubt have understood – lies in the following relevant excerpts. Initially featuring the sea wherefrom a wind arose and stirred up the waves, Ezra’s dream then showed the wind make something like the figure of a man emerge from the heart of the sea. That man then:
“…flew with the clouds of heaven…”, and wherever he turned his face to look, “…everything under his gaze trembled, and whenever his voice issued from his mouth…”,
all who heard it “…melted as wax melts when it feels the fire…”.
After this Ezra beheld an “…innumerable multitude of men gathered together from the four winds of heaven…” to make war against the man who came up out of the sea. Ezra saw the “man” carve out for himself a great mountain and fly up onto it. But he was unable to see or recognise the region or place where it was. After that he saw that all who had gathered to fight him were “…much afraid, yet dared to fight”. When the multitude rushed at him, “…he neither lifted his hand nor held a spear or weapon of war”. But Ezra observed how he:
“…sent forth from his mouth as it were a stream of fire, and from his lips a flaming breath, and from his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks”.
Ezra saw that all three were mingled together – “the stream of fire”, “the flaming breath” and “the great storm”. These fell on the attacking multitude and burned them all up. Nothing was left but the dust of ashes and the smell of smoke. After this Ezra saw the same “man” come down from the mountain and call to another multitude which was peaceable. In great fear Ezra awoke and besought an interpretation from the Most High. His petition was answered, and the key elements of the vision follow. The Messenger then spoke:
“This is the interpretation of the vision. As for your seeing a man come up from out of the heart of the sea, this is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself deliver his creation, and he will direct those who are left. And as for your seeing wind and fire and a storm coming out of his mouth, and as for his not holding a spear or weapon of war, yet destroying the onrushing multitude which came to destroy him, this is the interpretation.”
The “interpreter” then tells Ezra that the time would come when:
“…bewilderment of mind…” would come over those “…who dwell on the earth”. And they would make war against one another, “…city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom”. “And when these things come to pass and the signs occur which I showed you before, then my Son will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from out of the sea.”