1 - 9 Scoffers Get an Answer
1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior [spoken] by your apostles. 3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with [their] mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For[ever] since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God [the] heavens existed long ago and [the] earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one [fact] escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
V1. After the false and corrupted doctrine of wicked people in chapter 2, Peter counters to the unbelief in this chapter which denies the return of the Lord. That denial is formed on the basis of their meaning that in the visible creation everything remains as it was as from the beginning. In saying this he addresses the genuine believers and clarifies to them what the meaning of true prophecy is. It is necessary to emphasize that, because unbelief manifests itself all the more strongly and scoffs the faith. Therefore he points out again the importance of the written Word (see chapter 1 (2Pet 1:20).
He wrote both of his letters in order to remind you that a “sincere mind” is the crucial condition to understand God’s Word and to apply that in your life. A sincere mind appears from the attitude which you adopt towards the Scripture. Do you unconditionally agree to it when the Scripture speaks, or do you have objections to it? Without a complete subjection of yourself to the Scripture you will not learn to know the truth and you will drown in speculations of people who think to know better than God.
V2. You are to test everything that comes to you by the Scripture. That’s what Peter is referring you to. That alone will give your heart steadfastness. He does not refer to new apostles or elders. Still less he refers to the church as if that would be able to teach anything and exert authority. He refers to the Word of God that approaches you in both the writings of the Old Testament and of the New Testament. For the content of the Old Testament he reminds us of “the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets”. For the content of the New Testament he reminds us of “the commandment of the Lord and Savior [spoken] by your apostles”.
The holy prophets of former times have spoken on behalf of God, in order to get them back to the obedience of the law and to warn them for God’s punishment when they persevere in their disobedience. Their message completely opposes that of the false teachers of the previous chapter. The commandment, which comes from the Lord and Savior, expresses the will of the Lord that comes to you by the apostles (cf. Mt 28:19c). All of that you find in the written Word of God. The big question is: how do you stand towards the authority of the inspired Word. The answer to that question determines whether you are able to resist the opponents of the truth or whether you are overcome by them.
V3. It seems that Peter, when he comes back to the theme of the true prophecy, is directly aware of the great resistance of the enemies of God and His Christ. The proclamation of the truth and holding on to God’s Word always stir up resistance. Opponents do not reveal themselves as long as the lie is being preached. But as soon as the light of the truth comes shining through, they will appear and let themselves be heard. And mind you that these are no incidents. With the words “knowing this first” Peter emphasizes that you need to seriously consider that such people will manifest themselves more and more “in the last days”.
It must be an extra proof to you that the end of all things is near (1Pet 4:7). As soon as you speak about the coming of Christ for the judgment, they point their finger at their forehead and declare you to be out of your mind. They will not listen to you and will ridicule you with their mockery. They express themselves like that, because they walk after their own lusts. They want to live on like that. The thought of a coming Christ as a ‘joy killer’ does not fit in there.
V4. In order to prove their allegations, they refer to what in their eyes has always been an unchangeable standard practice “since the fathers fell asleep”. By speaking about ‘the fathers’ you see that you have to do with people who consider themselves as God’s people. Applied to our times, it is therefore about people who find themselves within Christianity. It is precisely the Christian theologians who mock with what faith embraces. They know the statements concerning the coming of the Lord, but they ridicule it. They ask what has happened with His coming that already has been announced for such a long time ago.
However, it is not a fair question, but a mocking question. They do not believe it, because they are modernists. It does not fit to their perception of the laws of nature. Scientifically, it is absolutely not possible that a dead person becomes alive, goes to heaven and then comes back. They indeed speak about “the beginning of creation”, but it is still the question if they also mean to say that God has created the earth in six days. By that they can just as much mean that God has let the universe exist through evolution. The foolishness of men who refuse to bow their knees to God’s Word, knows no limits.
V5. Peter exposes the hidden cause of this ignorance. There is malevolence involved in this. These people are not willing to be familiar with God’s actions. It is a guilty, deliberate ignorance. They are, as it were, seeking a visible proof with their eyes closed. Foolish as they are, they deliberately distort the truth of how creation began. In their foolishness they try to explain the origin of life by the development of things. Ultimately, a little bit of common sense must absolutely lead to the conclusion that creation has been created by Someone outside and not by itself. Nevertheless, man seeks an explanation for the existence of the universe with the exclusion of God.
To the faith it is simple. Creation has come into being by an action of God and indeed by His Word (Heb 11:3). He has spoken and it was done, “for He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:9). His Word is His power. By reading Genesis 1 you see that the earth was called by God to appear and then it exists in the midst of the waters.
V6. The same Word of power that created the worlds, called the water to appear, in order to destroy the earth. Those same waters that surrounded the earth, came again over it through the flood. Also then there were mockers. Noah could say what he wanted and warn of the coming flood as an expression of God’s wrath, but also then the people waved his words aside. They simply did not believe in the possibility of an intervention of God in judgment and they mocked Noah because of his words. They did that “until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Lk 17:27). That was the end of their laughter. This is also what will happen to those who mockingly respond to the warning that another judgment is on the way. Christ will come to judge the world.
V7. Peter even goes further and refers to the definite judgment. He points at the destruction of heaven and earth and the perdition of ungodly men. The former world was flooded with water, the present world will be destroyed with fire. For this definite judgment “the present heavens and the earth which are being reserved for fire”.
The doom of the world is not worked by man, although men and their behavior form the cause. The world is preserved by the same mighty Word of God as with which He has created the worlds. He is reserving everything until the day of the judgment. When unrighteousness has reached its peak He will execute the judgment. Nothing and nobody can prevent that.
V8. The day of the judgment comes after the day of the Lord, meaning: the whole period that includes His appearance for the judgment and His government during the millennial kingdom of peace. The time for that has not come yet and sometimes it seems that the mockers are the right. But mind you that the aspect ‘time’ for God is not the same as it is for you and me. God surely takes our perception of time into account. He knows the duration of a day. Therefore He for instance shortens the days of the great tribulation that His own will have to suffer (Mt 24:22). But to God time doesn’t exist. With Him one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. ‘Do not forget this one thing’, Peter says. If you consider that, it will give you courage to persevere. Look at how God has worked through the ages. He sees the end from the start and that’s where He is up to.
V9. The first argument, that it has always been like this and that therefore the promise of His coming cannot be true, has been refuted by referring to the flood. The second argument, that it already had been going on for so long, also has been refuted by referring to the ‘timeless’ God. But that is still one part of the response. The judgment is not only being delayed because time does not count for God, but also because He is longsuffering. It is absolutely no “slowness”, as some mockingly claim. Mockers have no idea that God for their sake has not sent the Lord Jesus yet.
People mock the love of God, while precisely that love restrains Him from judging them. Look at yourself. I do not know how old you are and for how long you have known the Lord Jesus. But assuming that you’ve known the Lord Jesus for three years already, just consider carefully where you would have been if the Lord Jesus had come four years ago. Aren’t you overwhelmed by the longsuffering of God? He did not want you to be perished, but that you’d come to conversion. That same longsuffering is what He is showing again and again towards people who would perish if the Lord would come now.
Now read 2 Peter 3:1-9 again.
Reflection: What is it that appeals to you in these verses?
10 - 18 Grow in Grace and Knowledge
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord [as] salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all [his] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him [be] the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
V10. When you read here about “the day of the Lord”, it is not meant a period of twenty four hours, but a longer period of time. A little further you read about “the day of God” (verse 12) and in the last verse of this chapter about “the day of eternity”. Needless to say that by that not days are meant as we know them. ‘The day of God’ is the period wherein God is in control and ‘the day of eternity’ is the day without an end. ‘The day of the Lord’ is a period wherein the Lord is in control.
At present man is still in control. That’s because satan is still the chief of the world and has power over man. There will come an end to that period and that end is very near. The day of the Lord begins when He appears on the clouds and radically beats down the resistance of man against Him and the henchmen of satan will be thrown in hell (Rev 19:11-21). Then satan will be caught and thrown in the bottomless pit where he will be locked up for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). In that time the Lord Jesus will be reigning in righteousness and peace (Rev 20:4-6).
The dawning of the day of the Lord will be completely unexpected and also undesired to the mockers and all godless people, just as it applies to the visit of a thief (Mt 24:43; 1Thes 5:2,4; Rev 3:3; 16:15). That day will end with “intense heat” by which “the elements will be destroyed”. At the end of the millennial kingdom the great white throne, on which the Lord Jesus will be seated, will be established. When that happens, the earth and heaven will flee from Him (Rev 20:11). That will not happen noiseless, but with “a roar”.
All the elements of which heaven and earth were consisted and secured its existence, including all works that were ever done by people, will melt with fervent heat. Everything that man has built for his own glory and comfort, will appear to be fuel for the fire of God’s judgment. Nothing will remain hidden, nothing will remain unfindable for that fire. All wicked works and all wicked things “will be burned up” (cf. Jn 3:19-20). Everything that the flesh has ever put its trust in, will disappear forever.
V11. If you read it like this and make yourself aware of the content, it will activate you to a “holy conduct and godliness”, which is a Godly life. What Peter has just pictured is no more than a stirring up of a desire to live like that already, that sin in no way has any grip on any part your life. Besides, it is not a request, but you, who confess to be a child of God, ought to.
If everything dissolves (and that’s what indeed happens) what are you then living for? A holy conduct is a conduct separate from the world. Godliness means that you are focused on God’s honor in your life. Of course, there are a lot of things in life that are fun to do or to have. The world knows nothing better and cannot do any better than seeking for those things. Your position in this is being determined by your view on the future. Is it like Peter presents it here? Is it a reality for you that the day of the Lord is at hand (Jam 5:8-9)? The answer to that is not to come out of your mouth, but by your way of living.
V12. Your life on earth and the things on earth are temporary. The things on earth will dissolve, but your life is standing in the perspective of “the coming of the day of God”. On the day of God there will be nothing else to be seen than God and everything that’s His (1Cor 15:28). You can expect that day. Your holy conduct and your godly life will stir up resistance and hostility of the world. That can only increase your desire for the day of God. You can reach out for that day, you can expect it.
Peter even speaks about the ‘hastening’ of that day. The exact meaning of that is not quite clear to me, but I have some thoughts about it. It may be that by looking forward intensely to that day, it will come sooner. The more you live in connection with God and doing His will, the sooner time will pass and in that way that day will also come sooner. Another thought is, that it may be that by your testimony people will come to conversion, whereby the last one will soon be added to the church. When the church is complete, the Lord Jesus will come and then the fulfilment begins of everything which Peter has talked about.
By itself, the moment of the dawning of the day of God has been established in God’s counsel (Mt 24:36). In His sovereignty, God also has determined in His counsels a place of the life of His own. It is the same as with praying. You may say that praying is useless, for everything happens anyway like God has determined it. Nevertheless you read several times that God answers prayers and grants pleas (Ezra 8:23). God has a place for the prayer of His own in His counsels. Therefore, in the same way you can, I believe, help in hastening the day of God by your way of life.
God Himself will let that day come by putting the heavens on fire and making the elements be melted. Still, you do not look forward to the final judgment, but to the day of God. It is necessary for the judgment to have taken place, so that the day of God may come.
V13. What you of course are looking forward to and what you are expecting is the fulfilment of the promise that there will be “new heavens and a new earth”. That is the moment that sin will be taken away from the world (Jn 1:29). Everything that reminds us of sin will then be removed. There will be absolutely no remembrance of that anymore. Everything will then completely be made new (Rev 21:1-5). Then “righteousness” will “dwell” there. That means that righteousness has come to rest, for there is nothing more left for which justice needs to maintain.
Also in the millennial kingdom of peace there is a new heaven and a new earth (Isa 65:17-18). The curse will then be removed from creation which was brought on it through the sin of man (Rom 8:19-22). “The face of the ground” has been renewed (Psa 104:30). There will be peace everywhere, for the King of peace will be reigning (Isa 9:5-6). Many prophecies speak about it (Isa 11:6-10; 35:1-10). Still it is not the perfect condition. People can still sin, which will then directly be punished with death (Isa 65:20; Psa 101:8). Where the Lord Jesus reigns, righteousness dwells.
V14. If you look forward in that way to the new, the desire will be there to be diligent to meet the Lord in a condition that is in line with His heart. “Spotless” means that nothing of the old life, that is your life in sin, is to be found with you anymore. It is about you who do not maintain any old, sinful habits anymore. “Blameless” means that other people cannot blame you for anything anymore. Briefly said it means that the Lord Jesus is to be seen in your life. He was and is the perfect One without spot and Who is blameless.
Your efforts to meet the Lord like that will give you inner peace. Then He will not find you in a condition where you are quarreling with others. You will, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people (Rom 12:18).
V15. “The patience of our Lord” is not slackness or forgetfulness. He will really return. You do not need to think that He will forget you when He delays His coming for a longer time. Consider that His patience is “salvation”. You may keep in mind that as long as He doesn’t come He is seeking the salvation of sinners (1Pet 3:20). When He comes to fetch you, then the time of grace will be definitely over.
To underline his teaching, Peter appeals to “our beloved brother Paul”. It is wonderful to see that Peter writes about Paul like that. You may recall that Peter once had been openly admonished by Paul (Gal 2:11-14). That did not cause Peter, as it appears here, to have any sense of a grudge or bitter feelings towards Paul. Paul was a wise admonisher and Peter had an obedient ear (Pro 25:12; 15:31).
Peter reminds his readers that Paul too had written to them about longsuffering. He probably means the letter to the Hebrews. Also in other letters Paul wrote about it. He did that, Peter says, “according to the wisdom given him”. He fully acknowledges the ministry of Paul as a ministry that was given to him by the Lord. It is important that you too acknowledge each ministry that the Lord gives to another person and that you also see the wisdom of the Lord in them carrying out that ministry.
V16. Peter also takes note that “all letters” of Paul “speaking in them of these things” are a part of the Holy Scripture. With the words “as also the rest of the Scriptures” – which are the Scriptures of the Old Testament – he puts those letters on par with them.
Not everything that Paul has written is easy to understand. Even Peter had some difficulties with some things. What is hard to understand is therefore not untrue. That must never cause a person to justify his ignorance about the Word of God. Even more so, it must not cause anybody to “distort” it. Nonetheless it happens and indeed by “the untaught and unstable”. An ‘untaught person’ is somebody who has not learned, because he presumes to know everything better. He who trusts in himself is stupid. He is also ‘unstable’. Such a person has no security at all and wobbles through life. He is in fact very dangerous, for he is very eloquent and pretends to know everything. Such people are trying to get hold of you.
V17. But you are warned. You know everything “beforehand”. ‘Beware’, watch over yourself and over what you have become and have got in Christ. If you are not steadfast you run a great risk to be “carried away”. The “unprincipled men” are erring because they do not take account of God and His Word. Keep them at a distance. Do not consult them with your cares and need. They will only drag you away into their corrupt view on things with the result that you lose your “own steadfastness”. You will then wobble together with them and you will end up in destruction if you do not by mercy go back to God.
V18. In order to be kept from that you ought to grow spiritually. ‘To grow’ means to become mature and strong. You must grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. It is about you becoming more and more aware of the “grace” of the Lord Jesus, understanding it better and living in it more and more. Just consider it often that He is your Lord and Savior and how that did happen. To succeed in that you should read God’s Word. By reading God’s Word you also learn to know Him better, for also by growing in “knowledge” it’s all about Him, “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.
He alone is worthy of all glory, “now”, on earth in your life of suffering, and soon it will be “the day of eternity” that is when the everlasting perfection has come.
Now read 2 Peter 3:10-18 again.
Reflection: What efforts do you take to be found without spot and blameless when the Lord comes?