The Latter Epistles – 2 Peter 3

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever!  Amen.

  • 2 Peter 3:1-18

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

2 Peter 3 ‘general theme for 2 Peter 3’: “In chapter 3, Peter encourages his readers to not be discouraged by this prevailing atmosphere of error.  Remember Jesus is returning, and He will set matters right.  Even though the scoffers and false teachers may say that the universe is stable and unchanging, we know that the universe is passing away.  God has intervened in the past and will intervene in the future.  The flood of Genesis occurred in the past, but it points to a day in the future when the world will be destroyed again – not by water, but by fire.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

2 Peter 3:2 ‘holy prophets’: “The OT prophets are in view.  They were holy in contrast to the unholy false teachers.  God’s Word was written by those prophets in the Scriptures. …  In particular, those prophets warned about coming judgment (e.g. Ps. 50:1-4; Is. 13:10-13; 24:19-23; Mic. 1:4; Mal. 4:1, 2), and even about the coming of the Lord (Zech. 14:1-9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

2 Peter 3:3  ‘last days’: “The expression last days (v. 3) could mean the days immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ, but it is used elsewhere (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2; 2 Tim. 3:1) to refer to the ties that began with the first advent of Christ.  Since Peter appears to be dealing with a form of skepticism that disturbed his readers, it probably pertains to the time inaugurated by Jesus’ incarnation.  The scoffers’ skepticism is based upon their evil desires, which lead them to prefer a view of the future in which there is no divine judgment.  The ‘coming’ (Gk. Parousia; used of the arrival of kings) which they ridicule is the return of Jesus Christ as King and Judge.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

2 Peter 3:5 ‘willfully forget’: “The false teachers, in their quest to avoid the doctrine of judgment, deliberately ignore the previous two major divine cataclysmic events – creation and the Flood.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

2 Peter 3:8 ‘dear friends – beloved’: “We may clearly discern the tenderness and affection wherewith he speaks to them, calling them beloved; he had a compassionate concern and love of good will for the ungodly wretches who refused to believe divine revelation, but he has a peculiar respect for the true believers.
I. The truth which the apostle asserts –
that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as a day.  All things past, present, and future, are ever before him.
II. The importance of this truth: This is the
one thing the apostle would not have us ignorant of.  This is a truth that belongs to our peace, and therefore he endeavours that it may not be hidden from our eyes; as it is in the original, Let not this one thing be hidden from you.  Yet how hard is it to conceive of eternity!”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

2 Peter 3:9  ‘not wanting anyone to perish’: “The words not wanting anyone to perish (v. 9) have created a theological problem for some who see a possible contradiction with the idea of divine election.  If God wants all to be saved, why did he not elect all?  From the human perspective, there may never be a satisfying answer, assuming both of these ideas are true.  Some have suggested that the solution lies in distinguishing God’s ‘decretive’ will (election) from his ‘desirative’ will (as here).  God decrees things in view of human sin (which allows men to reject salvation), while he desires things in view of his attributes of justice and goodness (which wishes all would repent).  God’s ‘desirative’ will thus is not always fulfilled.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

2 Peter 3:10 ‘born of fire’: “The Church was born out of fire, just as the creatures in Ezekiel 1 came out of fire.  We have gray ashes today, but we are to be men and women of fire, for that is our origin.
“Here are the words that tell us how God shall some day untomb the sky.
“’But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment … the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. … the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved …’ (2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12).
“What is that fire?  Is it to be the atomic fire of a hydrogen bomb?  Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by scientists.  Don’t let your spiritual concepts and perceptions be dragged down to a research laboratory.  That awesome fire out of which the seraphim moved, that fire that dwelt between the cherubim and the blazing light that knocked Paul flat – that’s the same fire that shall dissolve the heaven and the earth: the awful presence of that Holy Thing, that Awful Thing.  (Don’t be offended because I say Thing – I know He is a Person, God the Holy One of Israel.  But there is something about Him that is awesome and awful.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God I

2 Peter 3:11 ‘returning as King’: “Christ is returning.  The King is on his way and almost here.  He is at the door.  What manner of people ought we to be?  How can we sin against One who is so close at hand?  The dissolving of all things around us suggests our looking away to eternal things.  The motive for holiness becomes stronger if the thought is not merely that I will die but that all things around me will be dissolved.  It makes us look on eternal things with a more fixed eye and have a more stern resolve to live for God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 3:15 ‘patience > salvation’: “God calls us, until the world is destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might.  Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation.  Let us make it so by more and more earnest efforts to bring sinners to the cross of Christ.  I cannot think that the world is spared to increase its damnation.  Christ came not to destroy the world but that the world might be saved through him.  So, as every year rolls by, let us regard it as salvation.  Let us spend and be spent in the hope that by any means we may save some.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 3:16 ‘own destruction’: “Any rope will do for a man to hang himself with, and any doctrine will suffice for a man to ruin himself with if he wishes to do so.  There is no form of opinion that cannot be rendered mischievous.  Our business is to study the Word of God and preach it as we find it – and if men will twist it, we cannot help that.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 3:17 ‘Be on guard’: “There is no book under heaven that cannot be made to say the exact opposite of what its author intended – if a man is sufficiently delivered from the power of principle to twist it.  But the Scripture as God gave it to us is plain enough.  If we come honestly to Scripture and seek to be taught by the Spirit, we will learn the things of God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 3:18 ‘Grow in grace’: “There cannot be any grace except as we know Christ.  And there can be no growth in grace except as we grow in our knowledge of Christ.  We may always test whether we are growing by asking this: Do I know more of Christ today than I did yesterday?  Do I live nearer to Christ today than I did a little while ago?  For increase in the knowledge of Christ is the evidence as well as the cause of true growth in grace.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 3:18 ‘growth’: “Growth is the goal of the Christian.  Maturity is mandatory.  If a child ceased to develop, the parent would be concerned, right? …
“When a Christian stops growing, help is needed.  If you are the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful.  You might be wise to get a checkup.  Not on your body, but on your heart.  Not a physical, but a spiritual.
“May I suggest one? …
“Why don’t you check your habits? … Make these four habits regular activities and see what happens.
“First, the habit of prayer … Second, the habit of study … Third, the habit of giving … And last of all the habit of fellowship.”

  • Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name

My Thoughts

I agree with Matthew Henry.  Peter understood pastoral care.  Peter uses the phrase translated as “dear friends” (NIV), but I like the KJV and so many other translations that use “beloved.”  Peter made no bones about the dangers.  He called people to task who strayed from the message Jesus had taught, but that was all because he loved them.  In a way, we are not showing our love for others in that we are so fearful of offending that we fail to admonish and correct.  We (in a corporate sense, meaning the greater church at large) would rather accept anything and everything in order to be Woke and ignore God, God’s law, and God’s message to this world.  We are afraid we might offend someone by loving them.  Strange.  Bizarre.  We encourage people to remain lost, unable to meet the true Jesus, because talking about their sin might hurt their feelings, while not confessing and repenting means that they will die in their sin.  Is that showing love?

Maybe I am a bit harsh, but it is the direction that many churches and denominations are going so that they can be seen as understanding the secular world and being “inclusive.”  But we can understand these false prophets without joining the false prophecy.  That is what Peter is talking about here.  The Apostle Peter lifts up the holy prophets and he encourages us to study the Scriptures and even the writings of the Apostle Paul, not part of Scriptures in that day yet pointing toward their inclusion.

The secular society of the present day has not just abandoned common decency and morality; they have abandoned common sense.  While it may seem obvious that atheists would gravitate toward evolution and scoff at Creation as mentioned in the Bible, it is harder to deal with church members that ignore the first eleven chapters of Genesis as if they were a fairy tale and impossible to believe.

It is amazing how much evidence that evolution is wrong is available, but not widely reported as the powers of today want to silence all opposition to evolution.  They think within a generation or two, it will be impossible to convince anyone that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and that those first eleven chapters are true.  And why is there such a push to eliminate those first eleven chapters?  Because the bulk of those chapters talks about what Peter warns us about here.  God created the heavens and the earth, and God brought the flood as a global judgment.  Secular society today wants to rid themselves of the specter of a judgment by fire by playing the ostrich and burying their heads in the sand.  This does not eliminate that judgment; it only leads to roast ostrich.  There are scoffers.  There are false teachers.  And there are fools, who say there is no God.  We have them all, and they are shouting while we are silenced or just afraid to speak.

And science knows that the galaxy is dying.  It may take a long time, but the sun will collapse at some point.  Entropy continues to change and always in the same direction.  The clock is winding down, even if God does not put an end to the world before then.

Then, we have a little interlude.  Peter explains the patience of God.  We all see signs that could be signs of the End Times, but so did Peter.  I saw a television show about the Northern Lights and how one year within the past century people as far south as Cuba saw the lights.  Jesus said “look to the skies,” and everyone was preparing for the end of the world the next day after seeing the strange lights that far south.  If we dug into ancient writings and old newspapers, we might find “the signs” in nearly every generation, but God is patient, and He is looking for that next soul, maybe the last one, to be saved.  The Baker Commentary does a great job although I cannot find a definition for “desirative.”  God desires that no one should ever not be saved, but God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  The elect are washed clean of their sin, and God wishes us to freely accept His offer of salvation.  Those are the rules, which God established, and God must live by His rules.  I know how I feel about my children and grandchildren.  It would be hard for me to wish God would hurry the End Times along if it meant someone that I love dearly might not be saved.  Yet, if the trumpet sounded tomorrow, I would run toward Jesus without looking back.  I remember what happened to Lot’s wife.  That may not explain it to a skeptic, but that might show what God is going through, not desiring anyone to perish, but knowing that judgment will indeed soon come.

I agree with A. W. Tozer in that the description of elements melting and the heavens on fire does sound like a whole lot of hydrogen bombs going off.  I have a copy of Samuel Glasstone’s book, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons.  Glasstone was a nuclear engineering pioneer.  Glasstone went to the bombed cities in Japan, taking a lot of photographs and recording his observations.  In the book, there are photographs of shadows on the sidewalk.  The people that made the shadows were vaporized, but for a few seconds, they cast their shadow before they were gone, causing their shadow on the sidewalk to be shielded from the largest heat of the blast, and imprinting their shadow long after they were gone.  Yet, as Tozer mentions, God’s destruction may look like that, but it will be His judgment, and not us trying to kill each other.

Then Peter shifts to his closing remarks, the purpose of everything up to this point.  We need to be searching Jesus in everything that we do.  We must make every effort to live spotless lives.  We must be blameless (from an old John MacArthur comment, meaning above reproach based on man’s law, unable to find fault).  If God does destroy this earth in something like a global nuclear detonation, our only safe haven is in the arms of Jesus.

As Rev. Spurgeon asked, are we a little bit closer to Jesus and do we know more about Jesus right now than we did yesterday?  Jesus is our shield.  We need not fear when we are resting in His arms.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. If you were in charge of the world’s clock, would you slow it down or speed it up?  Why?
“2. If you were in charge of creating, destroying, and redeeming the world, which of these would you take more ‘time’ doing?  Why?
“3. In football strategy ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ meaning if the other team never gets the ball they can’t score against you.  How is Peter’s strategy like that in his defense against those who would lead us away from the truth?  What can you do to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord’?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Although the third question prefaces the concept of a good offense with “football”, meaning American football, the idea of staying on offense and not letting the other team have the “scoring device” (as some sports do not use a ball) is not universal but prevalent.  In hockey, keeping the puck in your possession in the offensive zone is usually an important statistic in that the other team has little chance of scoring, but your goalie could be caught flatfooted in that rare moment when the other team gets control.  Soccer is the same way.  In basketball, it depends on the skill of the players: some teams play better in a fast tempo, while others play better in a slow tempo.  A slow tempo game favors the team that keeps the ball on the offensive side of the court.  Yet, here Peter is on the offense spreading the Gospel and exhorting us to live godly lives.  He tells us to keep doing a lot of things in order to live a godly life.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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