2 Peter 3:1-10
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Introduction and Context
Since the time of the first and second generation Church, there have been heretics, false teachers, and divisive spiritual leaders who were more like spiritual predators than caring shepherds. Whether it be a lack of their knowledge, integrity, character, or their personal need to feed a certain drive or appetite, there has been and continues to be no shortage of these kinds of characters and their questionable behavior. Over the centuries the main method of mis-messaging has been from the pulpits of cathedrals, and then to the stages of our auditoriums, and now being projected through the main video-stream media platforms of the present-day Church. The greatest threat to the community of Christ in all of this is the turning and shifting of focus away from Christ fulfilling His promise to all believers to one day return for His people, attention to His Word as the moral and spiritual authority, and the priorities of the Church as His Body and Bride.
The Biblical doctrine and messaging of the Second Coming or Advent of Jesus is a prime example of the threat and damage of mis-messaging to the global Christian Church. II Peter 3:1-18, is a significant reminder of the need and the necessity for not only a spiritually healthy belief in the 2nd Advent of Christ, but for an increased awareness and interpretation of the Biblical truth about it as well. There is also a great need for a Biblical approach to how we can spiritually prepare for the 2nd Advent of Christ while helping facilitate a favorable and truthful knowledge the Biblical event known as the Second-Coming (Advent) of Jesus. The mis-messaging of false teaching, heresy, and unbiblical secularized teaching will always be a pressing problem for Christians, but the promised presence of our returning Savior, Jesus Christ, still looms bright on the horizon, superseding any human presence and mechanism’s that now assault us. To Him we must continue to look, and for him we must continue to live.
In the midst of global uncertainty and cultural struggle, believers in Jesus Christ must never lose sight of the certainty and hope of the future that bring meaning to the present. We are living in that day.
Text and Interpreted Meaning
[3:1] This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
The final chapter 2 Peter is primarily devoted to the Advent or Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The writers emphasis is not that Christians sit (living passively) waiting for that event, but that we are to live purposefully, intentionally, and differently as we wait. Peter say her in verse 1, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you” would seem obvious that he means 1 Peter. However, there is considerable evidence that the letters known as 1 and 2 Peter were most likely written to different audiences, and 1 Peter was certainly not written in the form of a reminder of the Advent promise of Jesus.
Peter’s purpose here is not to create fear or anxiousness but rather to encourage a hopeful and spiritually healthy thinking about the promised return of Jesus. “Spiritually healthy” means “sincere, decisive, uncontaminated or unmixed.” Peter’s words of encouragement and warning should produce hopeful and helpful thinking and keep us from following false teachers into spiritually unhealthy thinking with their unsound and mis-interpreted Biblical and non-Biblical beliefs. Among true Biblically literate followers of Christ, false teachers and their trendy doctrines should never go unchallenged or undetected. Peter calls out heresy, false teaching, and divisive doctrines concerning the promises and plans of Christ – they are not afforded an audience or opportunity, and certainly not tolerated and left unchallenged. Their teaching only contaminates our thinking, and distracts from Christ, His Word, and His Church. We are living in that day.
3:2] that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
This verse introduces us to two potential areas of deluded thinking (heresy). The first is embraced by the words spoken by the prophets of old. This refers primarily to the sections of the Old Testament that spoke of the promise of the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Within the first and second generation Church this subject was targeted and attacked by false teachers and their teaching. Peter’s response to the Church is this. Don’t overlook that Advent promise and emphasis in the Old Testament writings. Above all do not allow the influence of false teachers to delude you into believing that the Second Coming of the Messiah will not occur.
The second area that needed protection from deluded and heretical teaching is addressed by Peter in these words: “and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” The “commandment” means the moral demands and expectations of the Christian faith, primarily Jesus’ command of love reaffirmed by the apostles (John 13:34; 15:12; Romans 12:10; 13:8–9; Hebrews 10:24; James 2:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11). Christ’s followers are to love one another as we await the Advent or Second-Coming of Jesus.
[3:3–4] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Most people in Peter’s day (and clearly ours as well) follow and even chase false teachers and their deluded Biblical beliefs, especially belief’s that require faith and waiting on God such as the Advent or Second Coming. They marginalize faith and dismissively intellectualize it away, while holding God’s promises to a timetable they know little about, all the while diminishing the very foundations of belief, faith, trust, and right relationship with God and His Word. This is man’s response to belief and faith in invisible but visible God and it not only heresy, but foolish. When Peter wrote, “scoffers will come in the last days” he is meaning all those days between the first advent of the Messiah (Incarnation) and the second advent (Resurrection). We are living in those days. Characteristic of that time frame, however long it will be (Only God knows), is the fact that people will mock and meme the Biblical doctrine of the Advent or Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah. Scoffing means “to mock or show contempt toward someone for who they are, what they say, or what they believe.” It describes the anti-Christ spirit and the God-less attitude of the day toward the Second Coming of Jesus. We are living in that day.
In Peter’s day false teachers argued that the promise of the Second Coming had been delayed so long that the logical conclusion was that it would never happen. As far as their faith could see, the world was going on just as it always had—people lived and died, but nothing really changed. In their faithlessness they determined that God’s promises were unreliable and that the universe was a stable, unchanging system where events like the Second Coming won’t and can’t happen.
Their deluded arguments, although convincing to some people, were in reality a distraction allowing for them to go unnoticed as they pursued and practice their own evil and sinful desires (verse 3). Both then and now this expression describes two types of people: (1) those who are cynical about life and hopeful people in general, and (2) those who are obsessed and preoccupied with themselves and their own wants, ways, and feelings. Important to note: The mind-set and attitude of narcissistic and self-serving people are the very ones the Bible encourages us to love as we await the Advent of Jesus Christ. Great… right?
[3:5–7] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Peter quickly points out that although false teachers were knowledgeable of the Old Testament Scriptures, they had simply chose to ignore them or to interpret them in their own way. We too, are living in that day. They chose to deny the fact of God’s interventions in past history. They denied, for example, his positive
intervention in the creation of the world (verse 5) and his negative intervention in judgment at the time of Noah and the Flood (verse 6). Despite their mocking and unbelief, the divine Word that created the heavens and the earth and then called forth the waters to destroy them will again call forth destruction at the Second Coming (verse 7). The Old Testament consistently teaches that the cosmos is a moral universe created by God and that God will not let sin go unpunished forever. God is not only the creator of the universe; he is also the judge. The God who created the beginning of all things has the power to end them. We are living in that day.
[3:8–9] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
In light of this impending judgment, Peter’s reminder regarding Christ’s command to love those who mock our faith and belief in Biblical promises is especially significant. As we extend love even to difficult people who oppose the gospel, we may become the human connection in bringing them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t forget that God has a different perspective and reality regarding time. He stands above or outside of time. When time is seen in light of eternity, a single day could be like a millennium, and a millennium could be viewed as a single day. God’s apparent delay in fulfilling the promise of the Advent is partially understood as an issue related to His perspective and reality with time versus humanity’s perspective and reality with time. Beyond that, the apparent delay of the Second Coming is also related to God’s incredible love for humankind. His desire is that no one perish, but everyone come to repentance. Perhaps God is giving us more of our reality with time – I believe we are living in that day.
Here is a reality that does not require time. Although God wants all people to be saved, and although in His great love He has made provision for all to be accepted and included, most will exercise their God-given free-will to exclude and reject the God who gave it. And this He will not prevent unless He is to take away the very freedom of choice.
God’s apparent delay is not caused by inability to perform or human indifference; it is prompted by his grace. We are living in that day.
[3:10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
This is painfully plain to see in light of the final destination of the universe. The day of the Lord is another description Peter uses to describe the second coming of Jesus Christ which is entirely consistent with the imagery of the Old Testament Scriptures which he regularly refers back to (chapter 3:2). The Old Testament basically sees time in terms of two ages—this present age and the age to come, the age of God. The transition from one to the other does not come by human mechanism’s, efforts, or evolution, because the world has a Due Date: for destruction. The transition of ages, times and seasons would be by the direct intervention of God.
The Bible describes the time of that intervention as the day of the Lord. It would be a time when the universe would be shaken to its foundations. It would be a time when the judgment and punishment of sinners would occur (Judgement Day). Despite all the prophetic and apocalyptic warning of the Old Testament, people still did not (and do not) believe and are not prepared for the world-ending day of the Lord. That is why Jesus taught, and Peter restates here in verse 10, that his coming will be as unexpected as the coming of a thief at night.
Christ’s unexpected though predicted 2nd coming will bring the destruction of the present creation. The heavens refer to those galaxies and solar systems beyond the earth and human knowledge. The elements Peter refers to are the earth, air, fire, and water, or to the atomic particles which are the basic structure of nature. The earth describes the planet we (God’s creation) inhabit. All of these things will disappear, be destroyed by fire, laid bare, and melt in the heat (verse 13).
All of these expressions are meant to emphasize and re-affirm that God’s final judgment will be total and complete—no one or no thing will escape. The exact methodology of God’s intervention is not Peter’s point in his use of terminology regarding final destruction. The point being made is that everything that God has created and everything that humankind has made will be laid bare before Almighty God. Then God will create a new heaven and a new earth (check out Revelation 21:1). We are living in that day.
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