2 Peter 3 – Living Like a “Last Days Christian”
A. The certainty of the last days and God’s promise.
1. (1-2) Another reference to the importance of being reminded
Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,
a. I now write to you this second epistle: Peter already wrote about the importance of being reminded (2 Peter 1:12-13). But here he wanted to emphasize what should be known in light of the coming of Jesus and the prophecies surrounding His coming.
i. “The purest minds need stirring up at times. It would be a great pity to stir up impure minds. That would only be to do mischief; but pure minds may be stirred as much as you please, and the more the better.” (Spurgeon)
b. That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before: Peter knew the importance of reminding his readers of the Scriptural message, both received from the Old Testament (spoken before) and contemporary to his own day (and of the commandment of us).
i. Peter clearly believed that the words of Scripture were important; the words themselves, and not merely the meaning behind the words.
ii. “Peter believed in the inspiration of the very ‘words’ of Scripture; he was not one of those precious ‘advanced thinkers’ who would, if they could, tear the very soul out of the Book, and leave us nothing at all; but he wrote, ‘That ye may be mindful of the words’ — the very words — ‘which were spoken before by the holy prophets.’ ‘Oh!’ says one, ‘but words do not signify; it is the inward sense that is really important.’ Exactly so; that is just what the fool said about egg-shells. He said that they did not signify; it was only the inward life-germ of the chick within that was important; so he broke all the shells, and thereby destroyed the life. . . . If the words could be taken from us, the sense itself would be gone.” (Spurgeon)
c. By the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior: By placing the messengers of the new covenant on the same level as the messengers of the old covenant, Peter understood the authority of the New Testament, even as it was being formed.
i. Peter understood that Jesus gave His apostles the inspired authority to bring forth God’s message to the new covenant community. He understood this from passages such as Matthew 16:19, where Jesus gave the apostles authority to bind and loose, much as the authoritative rabbis of their day.
ii. “Your apostles does not merely mean ‘your missionaries’, the folk who evangelized you. When the New Testament writers mean merely ‘church emissary’ by apostolos, they say so, or the context makes it plain (Philippians 2:25). Peter is referring here to the ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’. It is they and they alone who are put on a level with the Old Testament prophets.” (Green)
iii. Significantly, Peter saw this authority invested in the apostles, not in him alone. He would think it strange for supposed papal authority to be credited to him.
2. (3-4) The message of scoffers.
Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
a. Knowing this first: Christians should not be surprised to find that there are those who scoff at the idea of Jesus coming again. Peter told us that the scoffers will come. This is the first thing to know.
i. “Every time a blasphemer opens his mouth to deny the truth of revelation, he will help to confirm us in our conviction of the very truth which he denies. The Holy Ghost told us, by the pen of Peter, that it would be so; and now we see how truly he wrote.” (Spurgeon)
b. Will come in the last days: In a sense, the last days began when Jesus ascended into heaven. Since that time, we haven’t rushed towards the precipice of the consummation of all things; but we have run along side that edge – ready to go anytime at God’s good pleasure.
i. “With the advent of Jesus the last chapter of human history had opened, though it was not yet completed.” (Green)
c. Walking according to their own lusts: These words remind us that scoffers do not only have an intellectual problem with God and His word. They also have a clear moral problem, wanting to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives.
d. Where is the promise of His coming? This is the message of scoffers. In the thinking of these scoffers, Christians have talked about Jesus coming for two thousand years and He still hasn’t come back yet.
e. All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation: The scoffers base their message on the idea that things have always been the way they are right now, and that God has not and will not do anything new in His plan for creation.
i. “The argument of the false teachers is essentially a naturalistic one – a kind of uniformitarianism that rules out divine intervention in history.” (Blum)
3. (5-7) The error of scoffers.
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
a. For this they willfully forget: The scoffers presume upon the mercy and longsuffering of God, insisting that because they have never seen a widespread judgment of God, that there will never be one. But they willfully forget God’s creation and the judgment God poured out on the earth in the days of Noah.
i. A literal belief in Creation, in Adam and Eve, and in Noah’s Flood are essential for a true understanding of God’s working both then and now. To deny these things undermines the very foundations of our faith. Sadly, today it is many Christians who willfully forget these things, thereby putting themselves in the place of scoffers.
b. That by the word of God the heavens were of old: The Bible clearly teaches that the active agent in creation was God’s word. He spoke and creation came into being.
c. The world that then existed perished, being flooded with water: Peter’s point is that things on this earth have not always continued the way they are now. The earth was different when God first created it and then it was different again after the flood. Therefore no one should scoff at God’s promise that He will make it different once again, judging it not with water but with fire. The same word of God that created all matter and judged the world in the flood will one day bring a judgment of fire upon the earth.
i. “The lesson taught by the flood was this is a moral universe, that sin will not for ever go unpunished; and Jesus himself used the flood to point to this moral (Matthew 24:37-39). But these men chose to neglect it.” (Green)
4. (8-10) Truths that scoffers deny but God’s people cling to.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 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.
a. That with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day: What seems like forever for us is but a short time for God, just as an hour may seem to be an eternity for a child but a moment for an adult.
i. Peter quoted this idea from Psalm 90:4: For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. “All time is as nothing before him, because in the presence as in the nature of God all is eternity; therefore nothing is long, nothing short, before him; no lapse of ages impairs his purposes.” (Clarke)
ii. “All things are equally near and present to his view; the distance of a thousand years before the occurrence of an event, is no more to him than would be the interval of a day. With God, indeed, there is neither past, present, nor future. He takes for his name the ‘I AM.’ . . . He is the I AM; I AM in the present; I AM in the past and I AM in the future. Just as we say of God that he is everywhere, so we may say of him that he is always; he is everywhere in space; he is everywhere in time.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Peter did not give some prophetic formula, saying that a prophetic day somehow equals a thousand years. He instead communicated a general principle regarding how we see time and how God sees time. When people use this verse as a rigid prophetic key it opens the door for great error.
iv. “God sees time with a perspective we lack; even the delay of a thousand years may well seem like a day against the back-cloth of eternity. Furthermore, God sees time with an intensity we lack; one day with the Lord is like a thousand years.” (Green)
b. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise: The truth is that God will keep His promise, and without delay according to His timing. Any perceived delay from our perspective is due to the longsuffering of God, who allows man as much time as possible to repent.
i. Many of those who are Christians today are happy that Jesus didn’t return ten years, or five years, or two years, or one year, or even two months ago. There is a compassionate purpose in God’s timing.
c. Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance: Peter here revealed some of God’s glorious heart. The reason why Jesus’ return isn’t sooner is so that all should come to repentance, because God is not willing that any should perish.
i. We understand that God is not willing that any should perish not in the sense of a divine decree, as if God has declared that no sinners will perish. Rather, Peter’s statement reflects God’s heart of love for the world (John 3:16), and His compassionate sorrow even in the righteous judgment of the wicked.
ii. It is the same thought as expressed in Ezekiel 33:11: As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.
iii. “So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost.” (Calvin)
iv. “As God is not willing that any should perish, and as he is willing that all should come to repentance, consequently he has never devised nor decreed the damnation of any man, nor has he rendered it impossible for any soul to be saved.” (Clarke)
d. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: Though the Lord’s longsuffering love to the lost makes it seem that perhaps He delays His coming, the truth is that He will indeed come. And when Jesus does return, He will come at a time that will surprise many (as a thief in the night). The ultimate result of His coming will be a total transformation of this present world (in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat).
i. God could destroy the earth again as He did in the days of the flood. “There is still water enough to drown the earth, and there is iniquity enough to induce God to destroy it and its inhabitants.” (Clarke) Yet God has promised to deal with this world with fire, not flooding.
B. Living in light of the last days and God’s promise.
1. (11-13) Holy and godly living in anticipation of a new created order.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
a. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be: In light of the fact that this world order and the things associated with it will be dissolved, we should live our lives seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness – that is, having holy conduct and godliness.
i. We tend to think that the world is more enduring and will last longer than people. This is not true, and Peter reminds us of it. People will live into eternity, longer than even the earth.
ii. Will be dissolved: “They will all be separated, all decomposed; but none of them destroyed.” (Clarke) “The solar system and the great galaxies, even space-time relationships, will be abolished . . . All elements which make up the physical world will be dissolved by heat and utterly melt away. It is a picture which in an astonishing degree corresponds to what might actually happen according to modern theories of the physical universe.” (Bo Reicke, cited in Green)
iii. “This world, so far as we know, will not cease to be; it will pass through the purifying flame, and then it may be the soft and gentle breath of Almighty love will blow upon it and cool it rapidly, and the divine hand will shape it as it cools into a paradise more fair.” (Spurgeon)
iv. What manner of persons ought you to be: “The king is coming; he is coming to his throne, and to his judgment. Now a man does not go up to a king’s door, and there talk treason; and men do not sit in a king’s audience-chamber when they expect him every moment to enter, and there speak ill of him. The King is on his way, and almost here; you are at his door; he is at yours. What manner of people ought ye to be? How can ye sin against One who is so close at hand?” (Spurgeon)
b. Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God: Peter says there is a sense in which we can hasten the Lord’s coming. It’s remarkable to think that we can actually do things that will affect the return of Jesus. In the immediate context, Peter says that we hasten the Lord’s coming by our holy conduct and godliness.
i. We can also hasten the Lord’s coming through evangelism. Paul said that God’s prophetic focus on Israel will resume when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25).
ii. We can also hasten the Lord’s coming through prayer. Even as Daniel asked for a speedy fulfillment of prophecy regarding captive Israel (Daniel 9), we can also pray “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
c. Because of which the heavens will be dissolved: Peter tells us that the very elements of this world order will be dissolved. God will genuinely make a new heavens and a new earth, even as Isaiah promised: For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind (Isaiah 65:17).
d. A new earth in which righteousness dwells: The most glorious characteristic of this new heaven and new earth is that it is a place in which righteousness dwells. In God’s plan of the ages, this happens after the millennial earth ruled by Jesus Christ.
i. It is the re-creation of this world order as described in Revelation 21:1: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
2. (14-15a) Keep diligent and do not despise the longsuffering of God.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation;
a. Looking forward to these things, be diligent: If our hearts are really set on the glory of the new heaven and new earth, we will endeavor to walk godly in regard to our brothers and sisters (in peace) and in regard to God (without spot and blameless).
b. The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation: It is easy for Christians to sometimes resent the longsuffering of God; after all, it in some sense delays His coming. Yet, the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation for others, and it is salvation for us.
i. “We are puzzled at the longsuffering which causes so weary a delay. One of the reasons is that we have not much longsuffering ourselves. We think that we do well to be angry with the rebellious, and so we prove ourselves to be more like Jonah than Jesus. A few have learned to be patient and pitiful to the ungodly, but many more are of the mind of James and John, who would have called fire from heaven upon those who rejected the Savior. We are in such a hurry.” (Spurgeon)
3. (15b-16) A note regarding the letters of the Apostle Paul.
As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
a. As also our beloved brother Paul: It is fashionable for some critics to say that the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul aren’t in agreement. These same critics also often say that Peter and Paul aren’t in agreement with Jesus. Yet here Peter affirmed Paul’s teaching in the warmest terms. He called Paul beloved and said that Paul wrote with wisdom.
i. This praise from Peter is even more wonderful when we remember that at one time Paul publicly rebuked Peter for public compromise (Galatians 2:11-21).
b. In which are some things hard to understand: Though Peter praised Paul’s ministry, he admitted that some things in Paul’s writings were hard to understand, and those who were untaught and unstable could use some of the difficulties to their own ends, twisting Scripture.
c. Twist . . . the Scriptures: Peter reminds us that the Scriptures can be twisted. Just because someone quotes the Bible doesn’t mean that they teach Biblical truth. It’s possible that they twist . . . the Scriptures. That is why we should be like the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
i. “It is worthy of remark that Paul’s epistles are ranked among the Scriptures; a term applied to those writings which are divinely inspired, and to those only.” (Clarke)
ii. “I may just add that the verb [twist], which the apostle uses here, signifies to distort, to put to the rack, to torture, to overstretch, and dislocate the limbs; and hence the persons here intended are those who proceed according to no fair plan of interpretation, but force unnatural and sophistical meanings on the word of God.” (Clarke)
iii. Destruction: “Peter is very firm. The action of the false teachers in twisting Paul to justify their own libertinism and rejection of the parousia is so serious as to disqualify them from salvation.” (Green)
4. (17-18) Conclusion.
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
a. Since you know this beforehand: We, who know of the Day of the Lord and await it with patient expectation, must persevere lest we fall from your own steadfastness. We must take care to keep abiding in Jesus.
i. “In order that they might know how to stand, and to be preserved from falling, he gave them this direction: ‘grow in grace;’ for the way to stand is to grow; the way to be steadfast is to go forward. There is no standing except by progression.” (Spurgeon)
b. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: We prevent a fall from your own steadfastness by a continual growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus.
i. Grace is not merely the way God draws us to Him in the beginning. It is also the way we grow and stay in our steadfastness. We can never grow apart from the grace and knowledge of our Lord, and we never grow out of God’s grace.
ii. “But you will remark that our text does not say anything about grace growing; it does not say that grace grows. It tells us to ‘grow in grace.’ There is a vast difference between grace growing and our growing in grace. God’s grace never increases; it is always infinite, so it cannot be more; it is always everlasting; it is always bottomless; it is always shoreless. It cannot be more; and, in the nature of God, it could not be less. The text tells us to ‘grow in grace.’ We are in the sea of God’s grace; we cannot be in a deeper sea, but let us grow now we are in it.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We must also grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. This means knowing more about Jesus, but more importantly, knowing Jesus in a personal relationship.
c. To Him be the glory: When we are this ready and this steadfast in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, it gives God glory.
i. Spurgeon noted that this second letter of Peter ends on “two trumpet blasts.” One is from heaven to earth: grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The other is from earth to heaven: To Him be the glory both now and forever.
ii. Amen: This final word in not included in all ancient manuscripts of 2 Peter, yet it is appropriate for a letter affirming the truth in the face of the danger of false prophets and scoffers. We can say there are four meanings to “Amen”:
· It expresses the desire of the heart.
· It expresses the affirmation of our faith.
· It expresses the joy of the heart.
· It expresses the declaration of resolution.
iii. Under the law, Amen was only said at the declaration of the curses (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). Under the New Covenant, we say “Amen” at the announcement of a great blessing and praise to God.
Adam Clarke added this insightful postscript to Second Peter:
“We have now passed over all the canonical writings of Peter that are extant; and it is worthy of remark that, in no place of the two epistles already examined, nor in any of this apostle’s sayings in any other parts of the sacred writings, do we find any of the peculiar tenets of the Romish Church: not one word of his or the pope’s supremacy; not one word of those of affect to be his successors; nothing of the infallibility claimed by those pretended successors; nothing of purgatory, penances, pilgrimages, auricular confession, power of the keys, indulgences, extreme unction, masses, and prayers for the dead; and not one word on the most essential doctrine of the Romish Church, transubstantiation.” (Clarke)
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission