While there will be considerable debate about the meaning of the first couple verses of this passage—is it a literal description of God destroying the earth (nuclear apocalypse?) or apocalyptic language with its characteristic extremity referring to a radical transformation from one state to another (which would be my preferred view)—there will be little debate about what comes after it: the moral repercussions of living life in light of Christ’s expected return.
Eugene Peterson captures this dynamic nicely in the way The Message translates verse 11: Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Before Stephen Covey ever made the principle popular in his Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Person, Peter is telling us we are to begin with the End in mind.
Commenting on these verses, William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible Series helps us understand why this is so important. If there is nothing to come at the end of our lives, then we may as well live only for the pleasure of the moment and all become hedonists. If there is nothing to live for, then how we live doesn’t matter. We become indifferent, apathetic, bored. And if the world is going nowhere, then we have nowhere to go, which is just another way of saying we are lost. The result of viewing life that way is despair.
Fortunately, this passage teaches us that life is not like that; that we are those who have something to look forward to; and that something is worth pursuing with everything we can give it.
Or perhaps I should say that we have Someone who is worth pursuing with everything we can give Him, and that those who chose to view life this way are called...Christians.