The False Teachers’ Denial of the Lord’s Return

3:1 Dear friends, this is already the second letter I have written you, in which I am trying to stir up your pure mind by way of reminder: 3:2 I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.

This is…my second letter to you – In 2 Pet 3:1 following the noun phrase “my second letter” (“letter” here is feminine singular) are the words “in which.” “Which” obviously refers to “letter”-but “which” is plural! So the following statement in the verse refers to both “my second letter” and the first one. The plural form of “which” is the only clue to that fact in the passage.

‘It is doubtful that the mention in 2 Pet 3:1 of itself as a “second” Epistle implies a reference back to 1 Peter. The author clearly indicates that both Epistles in view are reminders not apostolic tradition (perhaps with emphasis on warning about heresy, cf. Jude 17). But this description does not fit 1 Peter, which never refers back to the apostles.’ (ISBE) It is likely, then, that the reference is not to 1 Pet but ‘to a previous letter of his to the same readers. This must have suffered the fate of the majority of the apostolic correspondence and been lost to posterity.’ (Green) Cf. 1 Cor 5:9.

Reminders – See 2 Pet 1:12.

‘It is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.’

(Dr Johnson)

Part of what Peter will do in this present passage is to recall his readers to the nature of God himself – his creative word, his eternity, his sovereign rule even over evil, his patience, his faithfulness in keeping his promises, his desire that all should come to repentance. (Gardner)

What God has done in the past is the guarantee of what he will yet do in the future. Despite what ‘scoffers’ may say, God is faithful to his promise. Any delay is due, not to divine impotence, but to divine patience. So, let’s not doubt his power or try his patience. Let’s live, and bring God’s message of life to others.

The holy prophets – See 2 Pet 1:19-21. The description is widely taken as a mark of inauthenticity, but it occurs in Lk 1:70 – universally recognised to be very early. See also Eph 2:20.

Your apostles – They are the men who are to be trusted, who pass on the truth of God.

The command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles – Most commentators think that this is a reference to instruction about the parousia.

3:3 Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges 3:4 and saying, “Where is his promised return? For ever since our ancestors died, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.”

First of all – There is no ‘second of all’ in the series. The expression means, ‘above all’.

In the last days – Standard NT expression for the period between Christ’s first and second comings. See 2 Tim 3:1 Heb 1:2 Jas 5:3; also Acts 2:16f. In the latter reference, Peter quotes from Joel 2:28-32 to show that the last days had now come.

Scoffers – ‘A scoffer is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.’ (Wiersbe) The prophets warned of scoffers, Ps 73:7-11; Isa 5:18-19; Jer 17:15; Hab 1:5 (quoted in Acts 13:41). Christ and the apostles warned against false teachers, Mt 5:11; Mk 13:21-23; 1 Pet 4:13-15. See also Mt 24:10ff.

They are spoken of in the the future tense (‘will come’) because the apostles had warned beforehand that it would be so. Peter makes it clear by the use of the present tense in v5 that the problem was already affecting the church. Indeed, it is very likely that the ‘scoffers’ were the same people as the false teachers in ch2.

It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning; they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe it is a joke.

Soren Kierkegaard

These scoffers ‘argued that this was a stable world in which things remained unalterably the same, and that God was so dilatory that it was possible to assume that the Second Coming was never going to happen at all. The answer of Second Peter is that this is not a stable world; that it has, in fact, been destroyed by water in the Flood and that it will be destroyed by fire in the final conflagration. (2 Pet 3:5-7) What they regard as dilatoriness is in fact God withholding his hand in patience to give men still another chance to repent. (2 Pet 3:8-9) But the day of destruction is coming. (2 Pet 3:10) A new heaven and a new earth are on the way; therefore. goodness is an absolute necessity if a man is to be saved in the day of judgment. (2 Pet 3:11-14) With this Paul agrees, however difficult his letters may be to understand, and however false teachers deliberately misinterpret them. (2 Pet 3:15-16) The duty of the Christian is to stand fast, firmly founded in the faith, and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Pet 3:17-18) (DSB)

Following their own evil desires – ‘Cynicism and self-indulgence regularly go together.’ (Michael Green) Belief and behaviour (or, in this case, unbelief and misbehaviour) are inextricably linked.

The reference to these men’s immoral lifestyle makes it likely that they are the same people that are referred to in ch 2.

‘Anthropocentric hedonism always mocks at the idea of ultimate standards and a final division between saved and lost. For men who live in the world of the relative, the claim that the relative will be ended by the absolute is nothing short of ludicrous. For men who nourish a belief in human self-determination and perfectibility, the very idea that we are accountable and dependent is a bitter pill to swallow. No wonder they mocked!’ (Michael Green)

‘Although these people may present themselves as sophisticated and knowledgeable, having delicate qualms and posing courageous questions about the more difficult elements of Christian teaching, they are in reality driven by their greed and disobedience. It is sin, not sophistication, which is in the driving seat.’ (Christopher Green)

Thomas Watson, writing of the enjoyment of God in this life, adds, ‘How wicked are they who prefer the enjoyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of God! 2 Pet 3:3. ‘The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life,’ is the Trinity they worship. Lust is an inordinate desire or impulse, provoking the soul to that which is evil. There is the revengeful lust, and the wanton lust. Lust, like a feverish heat, puts the soul into a flame. Aristotle calls sensual lusts brutish, because, when any lust is violent, reason or conscience cannot be heard. These lusts besot and brutalise the man. Ho 4:11. ‘Whoredom and wine take away the heart;’ the heart for anything that is good. How many make it their chief end, not to enjoy God, but to enjoy their lusts!; as that cardinal who said, ‘Let him but keep his cardinalship of Paris, and he was content to lose his part in Paradise.’ Lust first bewitches with pleasure, and then comes the fatal dart. Pr 7:23. ‘Till a dart strike through his liver.’ This should be as a flaming sword to stop men in the way of their carnal delights. Who for a drop of pleasure would drink a sea of wrath?’ (A Body of Divinity)

Late date?
Certain things in this letter are said to indicate a late date – later than would be possible if Peter had been the author. These include:

(1) the abandoning by some of hope in the Second Coming, 2 Pet 3:4.  But we know from 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15 and 1 Cor 15:23 that the question of the delay of the parousia was acute as early as the AD 50s. Indeed, the problem here is parallel to that addressed in 1 Thess the first generation of believers had been dying off, but Christ had not yet returned.

(2) the apostles being spoken of as figures from the past, 2 Pet 3:2;

(3) the founders of the Christian faith (“the fathers” being spoken of as belonging to a previous generation, 2 Pet 3:4).  But, given the mention of the flood in vv5ff  it is more likely that this expression refers to the OT patriarchs.

“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”

The scoffers doubt the truth of God’s promise, and maintain that the universe is a stable, unchanging system.

‘The scoffers supported their scepticism that God would break decisively into history at the return of Christ, by emphasising the immutability of the world. Had they been alive today, they would have talked about the chain of cause and effect in a closed universe governed by natural laws, where miracles, almost by definition, cannot happen…Their mistake was to forget that the laws of nature are God’s laws; their predicability springs from his faithfulness.’ (Michael Green)

The fathers – Either early Christian leaders such as Stephen, James the son of Zebedee, James the Just and others. (cf. Heb 13:7) Or, perhaps better, the OT saints (esp. the patriarchs), ‘for it is not said that things continue as they have done since the coming of Christ, but since the beginning of the creation.’ (Michael Green) If the latter is the case, then the scoffers are saying, in effect, that the coming of Christ has made no difference.

“Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation”– ‘These people are saying that Jesus Christ has changed nothing; things are just the same as in Old Testament days when our fathers died. Going further back, even the Old Testament has not changed anything, because one state of affairs has been in place since the beginning of creation. Our world, they would say, is a closed system which has no room for the intervention of God, and any such idea is ‘no more than a vulgar myth’. Peter’s three biblical examples will show that God stepped in once to create the world, and a second time to flood it; nothing stops him stepping in a third time to judge.’ (BST)

Ultraconservatives such as John McArthur are apt to quote this text as ‘expressly condemning uniformitarianism’.  It is, however, stretching the meaning of the text to breaking point to assert that it teaches radical catastrophism, or that the two global cataclysmic events mentioned here (creation itself and a catastrophic worldwide flood in Noah’s time) ‘would sufficiently explain virtually all the geological and hydrological features of the earth as we know it.’

3:5 For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water. 3:6 Through these things the world existing at that time was destroyed when it was deluged with water. 3:7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

They deliberately forget – This deliberate forgetfulness contrasts with the way believers should ‘remember’ God’s word, v2. Not all objections to Christian faith are either sincere or honest.

This passages reminds us of the very real danger for Christians of ignoring those Scriptures which we do not like. ‘How often we find Christians today who overlook the bits of Scripture that do not suit what they want to believe or do not fit with their actions.’ (Gardner)

Peter will now go on to say that God’s word both creates, v5, and destroys, v6.

By God’s word – ‘And God said’ occurs 9 times in Gen 1.

The world of that time was deluged and destroyed – ‘2 Peter 2:5 indicates that God did not spare the ancient world but preserved Noah, referring to people rather than land. Finally, 2 Peter 3:5–6 declares that the “earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and destroyed.” These passages speak respectively about being prepared, about God’s willingness and ability to rescue the righteous and about God’s ability to bring destructive judgment. One can find support here for the anthropological universality of the flood, but little that can be conclusively inferred about the geographical extent of the flood.’ (DOTP)

Gardner notes that it is often those who view the Noahic flood as mythical tend to do the same with the Second Coming.

‘As the deluge caught the old world sleeping in deepest security, so at the second coming of Christ, the sinners of the last times will be drenched in slumbering stupidity.’ (Thomas Boston)

The present heavens and earth – It was the human world (‘kosmos’) that was destroyed in the flood. What lies in the future is the destruction (and reformation) of the entire universe (heavens and earth ‘ge’).

Reserved for fire – This is apocalyptic imagery, indicative of both destruction and purification. Jesus himself taught that the flood fore-warned of judgement ending in fire, Mt 24:37-37; Heb 10:26-27 speaks of ‘a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.’ See also Isa 66:15-24.

‘The heavens and the earth will pass through the fire, but only that they may be purified, and come forth anew, more excellent than before.’ (Robert Haldane)

The day of judgement – ‘The standards that Jesus left us with will be picked up again and men and women will be measured against them. Those who have lived lives which fail to meet those standards will be declared ungodly…Those who are declared ungodly face destruction.’ (Lucas & Green)

‘It is hard to tackle this theme without a shudder…Clearly, these are terrifying ideas; but we must not find them so threatening and distasteful that we refuse to believe them, for that is the error of the false teachers.’ (Lucas & Green)

‘The importance of the Second Coming as a matter of faith remains as vital today as ever. The Second Coming holds out to believers the promise of eternity with Christ, a day we look forward to, v12. But it also reminds us that the old earth and old heaven will be destroyed and that fire will be used in judgment of those who have deliberately rejected the word of God. Belief in the Second Coming is not popular even among many Christian’s today. Perhaps we have subconsciously swallowed some of the false teaching that abounds, a teaching that suggests the whole language involved is mythological and simply points to God’s general working for good in his world. But the language of Scripture as a whole, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles, stresses again and again the reality of the “day of the Lord” as an extraordinary event that will occur at a time in history.’ (Gardner)

3:8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day.

Peter was surely referring to Ps 90:4 – ‘For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.’

‘God sees time with a perspective we lack; even the delay of a thousand years may well seem like a day against the backcloth of eternity. Furthermore, God sees time with an intensity we lack; one day with the Lord is like a thousand years.’ (Green)

‘Faith orients man to eternity, whereas scoffers remain children of time.’ (Barnett)

According to Hillyer, ‘Peter’s words gave rise to Millenarianism (or Chiliasm), the belief that at the end of the present age Christ will reign on earth for one thousand years (Rev. 20:1–10).’  O dear, Peter!  If only you had known that would happen!!

‘This verse was taken by Barnabas and Irenaeus to support the belief that the world would last for as many thousand years as there were days in creation, since a day equalled a thousand years!…Once again one is struck by the reserve of our author. He is guided by the Old Testament and its corollaries, and has no truck with speculative time-charts.’ (Green)

God brought the Israelites out of Egypt – and then kept them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Paul was converted in an instant – and then spent three years in Arabia, Gal 1:17. Jesus ascended to heaven in a moment – and Christians have been waiting two thousand years for his return, 2 Pet 3:3-13. What does this teach us?

‘There is both extraordinary slowness and intermittent suddenness in God’s way of working. Think about God’s creative activity. From scientific studies we know that the evolutionary process through which God brings everything into being is a slow affair which is still unfolding. Changes in the inorganic, animal and human world over a period of six thousand million years were mostly infinitessimal. Yet every so often explosions of biological novelty took place. These surprising bursts of evolutionary activity followed protracted development within species, and occurred, biologically speaking, with unexpected rapidity. Is it improper to read from this something about the way God approaches his work?’ (Robert Banks, The Tyranny of Time, 179f)

3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise Cf. Hab 2:3.

‘The delay in the Parousia worried Paul’s friends at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4:13–15; 2 Thess. 2:1–2), but it did not disturb Peter. He had been warned that he himself would not live to see the Parousia (2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18–19).’ (Hillyer)

‘It should not be inferred because his promise seems to be long delayed that therefore it will fail. When men, after a considerable lapse of time, fail to fulfil their engagements, we infer that it is because they have changed their plans, or because they have forgotten their promises, or because they have no ability to perform them, or because there is a want of principle which makes them regardless of their obligations. But no such inference can be drawn from the apparent delay of the fulfilment of the Divine purposes. Whatever may be the reasons why they seem to be deferred, we may be sure that it is from no such causes as these.’ (Barnes)

There should be no ‘crisis of delay’ in the Church, because the second coming of Christ is guaranteed by his first, and particularly by his death and resurrection, 1 Thess 4:14. Christ at his return will fully demonstrate the vctory that he has already achieved. This present age is ‘far spent’, Rom 13:12.

The Church is called upon, not to idly wait, Acts 1:11, but to be alert and watchful, Mt 25:13; Mk 13:33-37, and to be in a state of constant readiness, Rom 13:11-14.

The delay is not due to impotence, but to patience, 2 Pet 3:3-9; cf. Rom 2:4. We are to fill up this time by exercising our global mission, Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 9:16. God works while he waits, and so must we, that the final harvest might be full and glorious, Jas 5:7.

Again, we are not, during this delay, to fix our eyes so much on the future that we fail to see meaning and beauty in God’s world now. The world is still preserved and blessed by its Creator, and Christians, of all people, should live thankfully in it. Moreover, the fact that this world is God’s world motivates Christians to speak and act with a prophetic voice against all evil and ungodliness. Awareness of Christ’s return only adds to the sense of urgency. Lord Shaftesbury said that for thirty years not a single day passed when he did not call to mind the return of Christ.

We must not forget that this world is passing away, that it is doomed because of its alienation from God. And yet we can still act as salt in the world, retarding its decay and encouraging progress.

It is vitally important to appreciate the purpose of the delay in Christ’s return. It is to enable the gospel to be preached to all nations. Jesus was sent into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, Jn 3:17; cf 1 Jn 2:2; 4:14; Jn 17:18. Paul states that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, 2 Cor 5:19. This period of time is the ‘acceptable time’; the ‘day of salvation’. It is not a time when a paltry number might be saved, but when a great harvest shall be gathered in. The gospel era is described as ‘the last days’, Heb 1:2; 1 Pet 1:2;0 Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; Jas 5:3; 2 Pet 3:3; Jude 18; 1 Jn 2:18, because there is no earthly dispensation to come: what follows will be eternity.

Accordingly, our Lord left his disciples with a solemn commission to disciple all nations, Mt 28:19-20, and to trust in his abiding empowering for this task ‘until the end of the age’.

He is patient with you – Why ‘with you‘?  Perhaps he is referring to the church as a mixed community (wheat and weeds).  ‘Peter speaks here primarily to Christians who are in danger of falling, with the awful warning of the judgment on the false teachers ringing in our ears. It is not enough that we can look back to a past knowledge of Christ. Peter warns us to be on continuous watch lest our lives stretch God’s patience to the limit.’ (Lucas & Green)

Or, it may be that ‘Peter was using the word us in a general way, meaning “mankind.” But it is more likely that he was referring to his readers as the elect of God (1 Pet 1:2; 2 Pet 1:10). God is long-suffering toward lost sinners because some of them will believe and become a part of God’s elect people.’ (Wiersbe)

Baukham: ‘There is no thought here of the Christian mission…The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Here it is for the sake of the repentance of 2 Peter’s Christian readers. No doubt repentance from those sins into which some of them have been enticed by the false teachers (2 Pet 2:14, 18; 3:17) is especially in mind.’

‘The bee, naturally gives honey, but stings only when it is angered. The Lord would have men make their peace with him. (Isa 27:5) God is not like an hasty creditor that requires the debt, and will give no time for the payment. He is not only gracious, but ‘waits to be gracious’, (Isa 30:18) but God by his patience would bring sinners to repentance.’ (Thomas Watson)

On God’s longsuffering, see also Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; Jon 4:3.

As Davids remarks, ‘This divine characteristic also underlies the virtue of patience or long-suffering that is required in followers of Jesus, for they are to be like their Father: 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12; 1 Tim 3:10; 4:2; Heb 6:12. One cannot properly claim to follow a Father who is patient and slow to anger if one is herself impatient and quick to anger, which is one reason why the control of anger is such an important topic in the NT, as is the command not to judge.’

Not wanting anyone to perish – Although v7 affirms that some will perish.

What the Lord does not want

‘Our Lord is clearly not pleased with: – fishing without catching (Lk 5:4-11) – an empty banquet table (Lk 14:15-23) – sowing without reaping (Mt 13:3-9) – a fig tree that bears no figs (Lk 13:6-9) – lost sheep that are not brought into the fold (Mt 18:11-14) – a lost coin that is sought but not found (Lk 15:8-10) – a ripe harvest that is not reaped (Mt 9:36-38) – proclamation without response (Mt 10:14).’ (Source unknown)

‘The logical corollary of this verse is that Christians should use the time before the advent for preaching the gospel.’ (Green)

‘If I believe that unforgiven sinners will suffer judgment of this sort, surely I will be the more motivated to take the Good News of the forgiveness and love of Christ to them. For the unbeliever or heretical syncrestic teacher that day is certainly coming and the prospect should cause them to turn in repentance to the living Lord whose return is guaranteed by God’s unfailing promises in Scripture.’ (Gardner)

‘It could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish? My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God, by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his loving-kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel. There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but he only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.’ (Calvin)

But [wanting] all to come to repentance – cf. Rom 2:4.

Universalism? General atonement? Two wills?

2 Peter 3:9 ‘The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Does this verse support universalism?

According to Barclay (DSB) – ‘Ever and again there shines in Scripture the glint of the larger hope. We are not forbidden to believe that somehow and some time the God who loves the world will bring the whole world to himself.’).  But, ‘quoted by some as an argument from universalism, this verse in fact teaches the opposite. It shows that after the second coming, ushering in God’s judgment, there will be no further opportunity for repentance.’ (NBC)

Does it imply general atonement?

According to a popular interpretation, this verse teaches that God has provided a general atonement, and now patiently waits for man’s response, even delaying the Second Coming in order to give more an opportunity to repent. ‘You’, ‘anyone’ and ‘everyone’ refer to all mankind without exception.

Does it teach limited atonement?

According to the New Geneva Bible: ‘The repentance in view, for the sake of which God delays judgment, is that of God’s people rather than the world at large. God is not willing that any of his elect should perish.’ (Jn 6:39).  The word translated ‘anyone’ is in the plural form, and might best be rendered ‘certain people’. If this is the case, then this determines and limits what is meant by ‘everyone’ in the following phrase.  Then, the meaning of the verse would be: Some scoffers raised the question of the delay of the Second Coming; was it because God was being unfaithful in his promise? Peter answers that there is a group that is the object of God’s forbearance, and God is not willing that these should perish, but that they should all come to repentance. Christ will return when all God’s people have been gathered in this way.

Does it teach God’s two wills?

Schreiner poses the question: ‘How does this fit with the teaching that God has ordained and decreed that only some will be saved? Many scholars, of course, doubt that the Scripture teaches that God ordains that only some will be saved, but in my estimation the Scriptures do clearly teach such an idea (cf. John 6:37, 44–45, 65; 10:16, 26; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29–30; 9:1–23; Eph 1:4–5, 11, etc.).’  Schreiner insists: ‘We must distinguish between two different senses in God’s will. There is a decretive will of God and a desired will of God. God desires the salvation of all in one sense, but he does not ultimately ordain that all will be saved.’

As Schreiner remarks, this approach was suggested by Calvin himself:- ‘But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.’

Davids points to similar teaching in Revelation, where ‘the final judgment is held back in the hope that people will repent. There is a repeated lament that instead of repenting people either kept on sinning or cursed God (Rev 9:20, 21; 16:9, 11). (Of course the same reluctance to judge is applied to the church, which is given an opportunity to repent: Rev 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19.)’

‘The delay of Christ’s second coming to salvation is not, after all, the failure of God’s plan, but rather the condition of its success.’ (Lewis, The Glory of Christ, 405)

3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare.

The day of the Lord will come like a thief – See Mt 24:43-44; Lk 12:39-40; 1 Thess 5:2; Rev 3:3; 16:15.

‘The parousia will be as sudden, as unexpected, as disastrous for the unprepared, as a nocturnal burglary.’ (Green)

The heavens will disappear… – Again, it is described in apocalyptic language. See Isa 13:10-13; 24:19; 34:4; 64:1-4; 66:16; Mic 1:4; Mt 24:29,35; Lk 21:25.

Elements cf. Col 2:8 n

The earth and everything in it will be laid bare – ‘Peter seems to be saying that on that day there will be nowhere to hide. The scoffers who thought that God could not see what they were doing, because he had dropped off, will find that just as they sinned “in broad daylight,” 2 Pet 2:13, now they are judged in God’s sight.’ (Lucas & Green)

‘The main point of it all is not the apocalyptic imagery which may or may not be literally fulfilled, but the moral implications of the parousia, to which Peter now turns his attention.’ (Green)

3:11 Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, 3:12 while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze!

Since everything will be destroyed in this way – Predictions of a catastrophic end to life as we know it are not hard to come by. Disastrous effect of climate change, asteroid impact, explosion of the sun, even collapse of the entire cosmos, as spoken of a near-certainties by many within the scientific community. The only real question is when.

What kind of people ought you to be? – ‘Barclay concludes, rightly, that without the truth, embodied in the second coming doctrine, that life is going somewhere, there is nothing left to live for.’ (Green)

‘If…the universe ends, not with an impersonal cosmic implosion but with an encounter with the personal and living God, then our human response does indeed matter.’ (Lucas & Green)

You ought to live holy and godly (devout) lives – our lives will be ‘godly’ if. like God, we have patience and compassion on those who are heading for destruction, v9.

Hastening its coming – ‘This later phrase indicates that the “day of God” is not a fixed date but something that believers can change by their “holy and godly lives.”…our author is following a solid Jewish tradition, including one found in the early Jesus movement, in declaring that the coming (Greek parousia) of the Day of God is not a fixed date, but that under the sovereignty of God and due to his mercy (mentioned earlier in our chapter) it can be sped up (or, conversely, slowed down) by the behavior of the followers of Jesus. Thus an exhortation to hasten that day was appropriate then (and continues to be appropriate now).’ (Davids)

Thus we pray, ‘Your kingdom come’, Mt 6:10; cf Rev 8:4. ‘In other words, the timing of the advent is to some extent dependent upon the state of the Church and of society. What a wonderfully positive conception of the significance of our time on earth. It is no barrent waiting for Finis to be written. It is intended to be a time of active co-operation with God in the redemption of society. Our era between the advents is the age of grace, the age of the Spirit, the age of evangelism.’ (Green)

This ‘hastening’ would normally be thought of as something that God himself does (Isa 60:22).  ‘But how can Christians hasten what God will do? Peter would probably answer by saying that prayer (Mt 6:10) and preaching (Mt 24:14) are the two principal means to bring people to repentance and thus to hasten the day (cf. Mt 24:14). To the crowd that gathered after the healing of the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem Peter proclaimed, “Repent … so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ” (Ac 3:19–20).’ (EBC)

‘Surely the idea is that our prayer has some impact on when the kingdom arrives…But does not such an idea threaten divine sovereignty, his control over history? Was Peter suggesting that God himself does not know when the end will be, since he does not know if his people will live in a godly way? We can dismiss the idea that the future is obscured from God, for if that were true, how could we know that history would ever end? After two thousand years of history, how could we be sure that Christians would ever live righteously enough to bring about God’s day? Divine sovereignty is not threatened, for God himself foreknows what his people will do. Indeed, he even foreordains what we will do (e.g., Prov 16:33; Isa 46:9–11; Lam 3:37–38; Eph 1:11). Nevertheless, such teaching must never cancel out the call to live godly lives and the teaching that our prayers and godliness can speed his coming. We must not fall prey to rationalism that either squeezes out divine sovereignty or ignores human responsibility. Both of these must be held in tension, and here the accent falls on what human beings can do to hasten the day of God.’ (Schreiner)

‘Only those who are striving after holiness would dare to wish for the coming of the Day of the Lord.’ (Wand)

Elements – cf. Col 2:8

3:13 But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides.

In keeping with his promise – Many people there are who will only believe what Scripture teaches in so far as it can been ratified by their own experience, or by reason. But, in this matter of the future life, we are thrown back on ‘his promise’. Do we believe that promise? And do we refuse to speculate beyond what has been promised?

Peter has already written about the Christian hope, 2 Pet 1:4, 11.

‘If it had not been to make comfortable our present life, and fill us with the delights of our foreknown blessedness, he might have kept his purpose to himself, and never have let us know till we come to enjoy it, nor have revealed it to us till death had discovered it, what he meant to do with us in the world to come…But it hath pleased our Father to open his counsel, and to let us know the very intent of his heart, and to acquaint us with the eternal extent of his love; and all this that our joy may be full, and we might live as the heirs of such a kingdom. And shall we now overlook all, as if he had revealed no such matter? Shall we live in earthly cares and sorrows, as if we knew of no such things? And rejoice no more in these discoveries, than if the Lord had never written it?’ (Richard Baxter)

A new heaven and a new earth – See Isa 65:17; 66:22. ‘New’ = Gk. kainos. ‘The word neos means new in time or origin, whereas the word kainos means new in nature or quality.’ What Peter is teaching here is ‘not the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of a universe which, though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one.’ (Anthony Hoekema).

‘The destiny of the cosmos is not an ethereal “heaven,” but a re-created universe.’ (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian) ‘New, bodily human beings will need a new world in which to live. In this transformed world order, the veil will be lifted for all time. The realities of the heavenly world will be visibly united with the realities of earth.’ (N.T. Wright)

‘Sin, which has marred God’s world, will not be permitted to have the final word. In a renewed universe the ravages of the fall will be repaired by the glory of the restoration. Paradise Lost will become Paradise Regained, and God’s will shall eventually be done alike in earth and heaven.’ (Green)

‘We have no means whatsoever of conceiving what a resurrection body or what a restored universe will be like….The language of this passage is figurative. It is an attempt to convey in the language of this world something of the wonder of the next.’ (Green)

‘The state of believers in the other life will be wholly new, their bodies will be new like Christ’s glorious body, Php 3:21; their spirits also new, 1 Jn 3:2; their duration new, a constant presentness of enjoying the Lord, 1 Thess 4:1. Their exercises shall be new, to sing new songs to the Lamb, Rev 5:9, and to follow him wherever he goes, Rev 14:4. Their clothing shall be new, glory and immortality, 1 Cor 15:53. New food and refreshment, to eat of the Tree of life and drink of the Water of life, Rev 22:1f; and a new light and sun to shine upon them, the glory of God and of the Lamb being the light of that new world, Rev 21:23. All which are but borrowed expressions to set forth the glory of that estate which cannot be fully set forth: for even the Apostle, not having time nor ability to reckon out all the particulars of that new and blessed estate, sets it out by a new world which comprehends many new things it it.’ (Nisbet)

The home of righteousness – Recall how biblical descriptions of the abode of God are habitually described as ‘holy’ – the holy tabernacle, the holy place, the holy of holies, the holy temple. These, writes Wilbur Smith, ‘all find their fundamental character, holiness, eternally perfected in what will be called at the end of the Scriptures the Holy City, in which only those will dwell who have been made holy by the grace of God.’ (The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven, 62)

The Future

  1. How can we know what the future holds? – ‘In keeping with his promise.’
  2. What will happen? – ‘There will be a new heaven and a new earth.’
  3. What will it be like? – It will be ‘the home of righteousness’.
  4. What should be our attitude? – we should look forward to it, and get ready for it.
The hopelessness of unbelief

“All the labours of the ages, all the inspiration, all the noon-day brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction.… The whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.”

(Bertrand Russell)

Exhortation to the Faithful

3:14 Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence.

Make every effort to be found spotless… – A test to apply is this: What would you like to be found doing when Jesus returns?

In the case of those who were troubling the church, wrong belief was linked to wrong behaviour. So, with believers, right thinking should lead to right behaviour.

See 1 Jn 3:3.

3:15 And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, 3:16 speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.

‘To any one who will attentively compare the epistles of Peter with those of Paul, it will be apparent that he was acquainted with the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and had become so familiar with the modes of expression which he employed, that he naturally fell into it. There is that kind of coincidence which would be expected when one was accustomed to read what another had written, and when he had great respect for him, but not that when there was a purpose to borrow or copy from him.’ (Barnes, who cites various parallels)

Richard Bauckham has argued that it would have been an accepted practice to ascribe a letter such as the present one to Peter, partly because it includes Petrine material, and then for the real author to show his hand by (in this case) referring to a collection of Paul’s letters that did not exist at the time of Peter’s death,, and other references to matters this his readers would know referred to their own day, rather than the time of Peter.  See here.

His letters contain some things that are hard to understand – It would not be difficult for us to compile our own list of Paul’s sayings that we find ‘hard to understand’.

Ignorant and unstable people – Those who are ignorant of the first principles of the Christian faith, are likely to be unstable in behaviour.

Distort…to their own destruction – ‘Barclay reminds us, most appropriately, of G.K. Chesterton’s famous picture of orthodoxy. “Orthodoxy, he said, was like walking along a narrow ridge, almost like a knife-edge. One step to either side was a step to disaster. Jesus is God and man; God is love and holiness. Christianity is grace and morality; the Christian lives in this world and in the world of eternity. Overstress either side of these great truths, and at once destructive heresy emerges.”‘ (Green)

‘Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it reproves,

(1.) The Papists, who take away part of Scripture, and so clip the King of heaven’s coin. They expunge the second commandment out of their catechisms, because it makes against images; and it is usual with them, if they meet with anything in Scripture which they dislike, either to put a false gloss upon it, or, if that will not do, to pretend it is corrupted. They are like Ananias, who kept back part of the money. Acts 5:2. They keep back part of the Scripture from the people. It is a high affront to God to deface and obliterate any part of his Word, and brings us under that premunire, Rev 22:19, ‘If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.’ Is all Scripture of divine inspiration?

(2.) It condemns the Antinomians, who lay aside the Old Testament as useless, and out of date; and call those who adhere to them Old Testament Christians. God has stamped a divine majesty upon both Testaments; and till they can show me where God has repealed the Old, it stands in force. The two Testaments are the two wells of salvation; the Antinomians would stop up one of these wells, they would dry up one of the breasts of Scripture. There is much gospel in the Old Testament. The comforts of the gospel in the New Testament have their rise from the Old. The great promise of the Messiah is in the Old Testament, ‘A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’ Nay, I say more. The moral law, in some parts of it, speaks gospel – ‘I am the Lord thy God;’ here is the pure wine of the gospel. The saints’ great charter, where God promises to ‘sprinkle clean water upon them, and put his Spirit within them,’ is to be found primarily in the Old Testament. Eze 36:25,26. So that they who take away the Old Testament, as Samson pulled down the pillars, would take away the pillars of a Christian’s comfort.

(3.) It condemns the Enthusiasts, who, pretending to have the Spirit, lay aside the whole Bible, and say the Scripture is a dead letter, and they live above it. What impudence is this! Till we are above sin, we shall not be above Scripture. Let not men so talk of a revelation from the Spirit, but suspect it to be an imposture. The Spirit of God acts regularly, it works in and by the Word; and he that pretends to a new light, which is either above the Word, or contrary to it, abuses both himself and the Spirit: his light is borrowed from him who transforms himself into an angel of light.

(4.) It condemns the slighters of Scripture; such as those who can go whole weeks and months and never read the Word. They lay it aside as rusty armour; they prefer a play or romance before Scripture. The magnalia legis are to them minutula The weighty matters of the law are to them insignificant. Oh how many can be looking at their faces in a glass all the morning, but their eyes begin to be sore when they look upon a Bible! Heathens die for want of Scripture, and these in contempt of it. They surely must needs go wrong who slight their guide. Such as lay the reins upon the neck of their lusts, and never use the curbing bit of Scripture to check them, are carried to hell, and never stop.

(5.) It condemns the abusers of Scripture. Those who mud and poison this pure crystal fountain with their corrupt glosses, and who wrest Scripture. 2 Pet 3:16. The Greek word is, they set it upon the rack; they give wrong interpretations of it, not comparing Scripture with Scripture; as the Antinomians pervert that Scripture, Num 23:21, ‘He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob;’ from which they infer that God’s people may take liberty in sin, because God sees no sin in them. It is true, God sees no sin in his people with an eye of revenge, but he sees it with an eye of observation. He sees not sin in them, so as to damn them; but he sees it, so as to be angry, and severely to punish them. Did not David find it so, when he cried out of his broken bones? In like manner the Arminians wrest the Scripture in Jn 5:40, ‘Ye will not come to me;’ where they bring in free will. This text shows how willing God is that we should have life; and that sinners may do more than they do, they may improve the talents God has given them; but it does not prove the power of free will, for it is contrary to that Scripture, Jn 6:44, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.’ These, therefore, wring the text so hard, that they make the blood come out; they do not compare Scripture with Scripture. Some jest with Scripture. When they are sad, they take the Scripture as their lute or minstrel to play upon, and so drive away the sad spirit; as a drunkard I have read of, who, having drunk off his cups, called to some of his fellows, ‘Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.’ In the fear of God, take heed of this. Eusebius tells us of one, who took a piece of Scripture to make a jest of, but was presently struck with a frenzy and ran mad. It is a saying of Luther, Quos Deus vult perdere, &c.‘ ‘Whom God intends to destroy, he gives them leave to play with Scripture.” (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth.
3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.

‘It is in the nature of this grace to grow and increase unto the end. As rivers, the nearer they come unto the ocean where they tend, the more they increase their waters, and speed their streams; so will grace flow more freely and fully in its near approaches to the ocean of glory.’ (John Owen)