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2 peter 3:3-13, 17-18 NOTES

2 Peter 3:3-13, 17-18 - T. CONSTABLE EXPOSITION


A. The Purpose of This Epistle 3:1-2

INTRODUCTION:  Peter turned from a negative warning against false teachers to make a positive declaration of the apostles' message to help his readers understand why he wrote this letter. His language had been strong and confrontational, but now he spoke with love and encouragement in gentle and endearing terms.

"While in chapter 2 the writer delivered a fervid denunciation of the false teachers and their immorality, in this section he renews his pastoral concern to fortify his readers in regard to another aspect of the danger facing them, namely, the heretical denial of Christ's return." [Note: Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., p. 135.]

"In the third chapter Peter refutes the mockers' denial of Christ's return (2 Peter 3:1-7), presents the correct view concerning Christ's return (2 Peter 3:8-13), and concludes with timely exhortations to his readers in view of the dark and dangerous days facing them (2 Peter 3:14-18)." [Note: Idem, "Directives for Living in Dangerous Days," Bibliotheca Sacra 141:564 (October-December 1984):330-31.]

I like to think if the Book of 2 Peter as a bologna sandwich. Chapters 1 and 3 are the bread, the positive pastoral exhortations, and the middle chapter, 2, is the bologna of the false teachers.


vv. 1-2: 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. - Again Peter put the teaching of the apostles, which these men received from Jesus Christ, on a level of authority equal with the writings of the Old Testament prophets (cf. 2 Peter 1:12-21; 2 Peter 3:16; Acts 1:16; Romans 9:29; Hebrews 4:7).

  ▪ The 'commandment' is used here in the same way as in 2 Peter 2:21 . . .: it emphasizes the ethical aspect of the Christian message because it is on this, along with the eschatological expectation, that the author wishes to insist, in opposition to the false teachers." [Note: Bauckham, p. 288.]


B. Scoffing in the Last Days 3:3-6


v. 3: Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, - "First of all" means of primary importance (cf. 2 Peter 1:20). The "last days" Peter referred to here are the days before Jesus Christ's return. This is the same way other writers of Scripture used the phrase "last days" (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 John 2:18-19). What the mockers said follows in 2 Peter 3:4. Here the emphasis is on their attitude of intellectual superiority and disdain of scriptural revelation. This attitude led them to immoral conduct.

"The adversaries who denied the Parousia were themselves a proof of its imminence." [Note: T. Fornberg, An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society: A Study of 2 Peter, p. 61.]

  ▪ A scoffer is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:463.]

  ▪ Peter warned his readers about the activity of mockers preceding the Lord's return to enable them to deal with this test of their faith.

  ▪ Peter finally brings together two of the most important issues in the letter: the false teachers' skepticism about the return of Christ in glory (see 2 Peter 1:16-21) and their disdain for holiness (chap. 2)." [Moo, p. 165.]


v. 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." - One could hardly find a better summary anywhere of the philosophy of naturalism that so thoroughly permeates contemporary western civilization than what this verse contains. Peter referred to a denial of supernaturalism and an assertion of uniformitarianism. In particular, the scoffers denied the promise of the Lord Jesus that He would return (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; et al.). They assumed that God does not intervene in the world.

  ▪ Those who give way to their own lusts will always mock at any incentive to noble living.

  ▪ The "fathers" are probably physical forefathers, more likely the Old Testament patriarchs rather than the first generation of Christians. This is the normal use of the word in the New Testament.

  ▪ Peter proceeded to answer the second statement in this verse in 2 Peter 3:5-7 and then responded to the scoffers' rhetorical question in 2 Peter 3:8-10. So this section has a somewhat chiastic structure.


v. 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, - "Escapes their notice" in the Greek means forgets purposely by disregarding information. Peter cited two events in the creation of the cosmos that show things have not always been as they are. God did intervene in the world in the past. When God spoke, the universe came into existence (Genesis 1:6-8; cf. Hebrews 11:3). God spoke again and the dry land separated from ("out of") the waters (Genesis 1:9-10). Thus God used water to form the dry land. God brought the whole universe into existence by His word and by water. Peter proceeded to say that He also used both means to destroy it (in Noah's day, 2 Peter 3:6), and He will use two means to destroy it in the future, His word and fire


v. 6: 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, - The flood in Noah's day was Peter's third example. God spoke again and the earth flooded. "Through which" (a plural relative pronoun in Greek) probably refers to "the Word of God" and "water" (2 Peter 3:5).

  ▪ The author apparently takes the account of the Flood to imply a complete destruction of the created world by water [as opposed to a local flood or to the destruction of human beings only]." [Note: Sidebottom, p. 120.]

  ▪ In 2 Peter 3:6 Peter's emphasis is on the Flood as a universal judgment on sinful men and women. But he evidently conceives this judgment as having been executed by means of a cosmic catastrophe which affected the heavens as well as the earth.

  ▪ This catastrophe involved the opening up of the heavens to deluge the earth with rain (Genesis 7:11-12). Peter spoke of world history in three periods divided by two cataclysms: the world before the Flood (2 Peter 3:6), the present world (2 Peter 3:7), and the future world (2 Peter 3:13).


C. End-time Events 3:7-10: Next Peter outlined what will surely happen so his readers would understand what will take place.


v. 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. - God has given orders that the present heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:5-6) will experience another judgment yet future. Then God will, with His word, destroy them by fire rather than by water (cf. 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12). This will evidently take place after the great white throne judgment and before the creation of the new heavens and new earth (cf. Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:1). [Note: See Gangel, p. 876.] The world is presently "reserved" for fire in the sense that this is its inevitable destiny (cf. Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 34:4 LXX; Isaiah 66:15-16; Zephaniah 1:18; Malachi 4:1).


v. 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. - Peter reminded his readers to remember what they had learned previously (2 Peter 3:1) and not to forget, as the scoffers did (2 Peter 3:5). As far as God's faithfulness to His promises, it does not matter if He gave His promise yesterday or a thousand years ago. He will still remain faithful and will fulfill every promise (cf. Psalms 90:4). The passage of a thousand years should not lead us to conclude that God will not fulfill what He has promised. The passing of time does not cause God to forget His promises. Peter was not saying that the "day of judgment" will last 1,000 years since a day is as 1,000 years with the Lord. This would contribute nothing to Peter's argument against the scoffers.

  ▪ This verse does not mean that God operates in a timeless state. Time is simply the way He and we measure the relationship of events to one another. The idea of a timeless existence is Platonic, not biblical. God's relationship to time is different from ours since He is eternal, but this does not mean that eternity will be timeless. Eternity is endless time.

  ▪ Peter did not say that to God 'one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years are one day.' The point is not that time has no meaning for God but rather that His use of time is such that we cannot confine Him to our time schedules. His use of time is extensive, so that He may use a thousand years to do what we might feel should be done in a day, as well as intensive, doing in a day what we might feel could only be done in a thousand years."

  ▪ This statement does not negate the hope of the imminent return of the Lord either. Peter, as the other New Testament writers, spoke as though his readers would be alive at His return (2 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14). This was an indisputable hope of the early Christians. [Note: Fornberg, p. 68; Bauckham, p. 310.]


v. 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. -.The fact that the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus' promise to return for His own (John 14:2-3) lingers does not mean that God has forgotten His promise, was lying, or cannot fulfill it. "The Lord" seems to be a reference to Jesus Christ ( 2 Peter 3:15). It means that He is waiting to fulfill it so people will have time to repent. Unbelievers left on the earth will be able to repent after the Rapture, but it is better for them if they do so before that event. Multitudes will be saved during the seven-year Tribulation (Rev 7; Rev 14), though it will be harder for them to be saved then than it is now (2 Ths 2:11).

  ▪ In Greek the notion of repentance is of a change of outlook, in Hebrew thought a turning round and adopting a new way of life. The two are not incompatible." [Note: Sidebottom, p. 122.]

  ▪ If God wants everyone to be saved, will not all be saved? [Note: See Ramesh P. Richard, "Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):85-108.] The answer is no because this desire of God's is not as strong as some other of His desires. For example, we know God desires that everyone have enough freedom to believe or disbelieve the gospel more strongly than He desires that everyone be saved. Otherwise everyone would end up believing. However that will not happen (2 Peter 3:7; Matthew 25:46). Somehow it will result in God's greater glory for some to perish than for all to experience salvation. Nevertheless, God sincerely "desires" (Gr. boulomenos in contrast to the stronger thelontes, "determines") that every person come to salvation. [Note: See my discussion of God's priorities in "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 107-11.]

  ▪ Three aspects of the will of God may be observed in Scripture: (1) the sovereign will of God (Isa 46:9-11; Dan 4:17; Dan 4:35; Heb 2:4; Rev 17:17); (2) the moral will of God, i.e. His moral law (Mark 3:35; Ephesians 6:6; Hebrews 13:21); and (3) the desires of God coming from His heart of love (Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9). The sovereign will of God is certain of complete fulfillment, but the moral law is disobeyed by men, and the desires of God are fulfilled only to the extent that they are included in His sovereign will. God does not desire that any should perish, but it is clear that many will not be saved (Rev 21:8).

  ▪ No dispensationalist minimizes the importance of God's saving purpose in the world. But whether it is God's total purpose or even His principal purpose is open to question. The dispensationalist sees a broader purpose in God's program for the world than salvation, and that purpose is His own glory [Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14]. For the dispensationalist the glory of God is the governing principle and overall purpose, and the soteriological program is one of the principal means employed in bringing to pass the greatest demonstration of His own glory. Salvation is part and parcel of God's program, but it cannot be equated with the entire purpose itself.

  ▪ What Peter said about God not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance applies to the

unsaved and the saved alike


v. 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. - The phrase "day of the Lord" refers to a specific time yet future, as elsewhere in Scripture. This "day" will begin when Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel, and it will conclude with the burning up of the present heavens and earth (Daniel 9:27; 2 Peter 3:12; et al.). Some ancient manuscripts read "the earth and its works will be laid bare [Gr. eurethesetai]." This could mean that the earth and its works will be exposed for what they really are.

  ▪ "Its works" probably refers to all that has been done on earth that has only temporal value (e.g., buildings, etc.). This day will come as a thief in that its beginning will take those unbelievers living on the earth then (after the Rapture) by surprise (Mt 24:37-39; Mt 24:43-44; Lk 12:39-40; 1 Thess 5:2; Rev 3:3; Rev 16:15).

  ▪ The term "heavens" probably refers to the earth's atmosphere and the "second heaven" in which the stars and the planets exist, not God's abode (the "third heaven"). The "elements" (Gr. stoicheia) apparently refer to the material building blocks of physical things (i.e., the atoms, molecules, and larger masses that are foundational to still larger things). Other views are that they are the heavenly bodies or the angelic powers.

After the Flood, God told Noah, "I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen 8:21-22). He meant that He would not do so with another flood. He went on to say, "All flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen 9:11; cf. 2 Peter 3:15). Peter's announcement of a worldwide judgment by fire does not, therefore, contradict God's promise in the Noahic Covenant.

  ▪ When in the "day of the Lord" will this conflagration take place? Some believe it will happen at the beginning of the millennial kingdom.  Of these some believe this destruction will be only a limited renovation of the earth.  It seems more likely however that this holocaust will take place at the end of the Millennium and will result in the destruction of the universe as we know it (Rev 21:1; Mt 5:18; Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 16:17;. 

  ▪ Peter clearly opposes those Christians who insisted that Christ had to return within a certain short period of time after his resurrection; but by no means does he oppose the idea of imminence itself. 


D. Living in View of the Future 3:11-16


v. 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, - Peter believed that an understanding of the future should motivate the believer to live a holy life now. His question is rhetorical.  Holy conduct refers to behavior that is separate from sin and set apart to please God. Godly means like God (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:6-7).  Peter drew application for his readers and focused their attention on how they should live presently in view of the future.


v. 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! - The Greek participle translated "hastening" or "speeding" (speudontes) sometimes means, "desiring earnestly" (RSV margin). If Peter meant that here, the sense would be that believers not only look for the day of God but also desire earnestly to see it.  Most of the translators and commentators, however, took speudontes in its usual sense of hastening. They assumed that Peter was thinking that believers can hasten the day of God by their prayers (cf. Matthew 6:10) and their preaching (Mt 24:14; Acts 3:19-20).

  ▪ Believers can affect God's timetable by our witnessing and our praying as we bring people to Christ.  So.

clearly this idea of "hastening" the End is the corollary of the explanation (2 Peter 3:9) that God defers the Parousia because he desires Christians to repent. Their repentance and holy living may therefore, from the human standpoint, hasten its coming. This does not detract from God's sovereignty in determining the time of the End, but means only that his sovereign determination graciously takes human affairs into account."

  ▪ The "day of God" in Revelation 16:14 refers to the time of the battle of Armageddon, which will be at the end of the Tribulation. Consequently I lean toward taking the day of God as another way of referring to the day of the Lord. The antecedent of "on account of which" (NASB) is the day of God. God will burn up the present heavens and earth because of that day (i.e., because the day of the Lord has reached its end).


v. 13: We look forward to the new heavens and earth, not the destruction of the present heavens and earth. The reason is that the new heavens and earth will be where righteousness dwells. Unrighteousness characterizes the present world (cf. Jer 23:5-7; Jer 33:16; Dan 9:24; Rev 21:1; Rev 21:8; Rev 21:27).

  ▪ Christians need to remember the ultimate, 'bottom-line,' purpose of biblical eschatology: to make us better Christians in the here and now."

  ▪ The purpose of prophetic truth is not speculation but motivation." [Wiersbe]


E. Conclusion 3:17-18


v. 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, - Much of what Peter had written was a warning that he summarizes here. His appeal was loving throughout this epistle (cf. 2 Peter 3:1; 2 Peter 3:8; 2 Peter 3:14). The false teachers constituted real threat to his readers (ch. 2).  Peter's mental picture was of a torrent of false teaching knocking believers off their feet and sweeping them away. The possibility of loss of salvation is not in view, but loss of steadfastness is.

  ▪ This is the fourth and last time Peter addressed his readers as "beloved" in this chapter, and in each instance he gave them a challenge. He told them to remember (2 Peter 3:1-2), to be informed (2 Peter 3:8), to be diligent (2 Peter 3:14), and to beware.

  ▪ Peter concluded his epistle with a summary of what he had said and a doxology. He did so to condense his teaching for his readers and to redirect their living to glorify God again.


v. 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. - Next he added a positive exhortation (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-10). Rather than being swept away by error, his audience should keep on growing (present imperative in Greek) in God's grace. They could do so by consciously depending on His resources (His power and promises, 2 Peter 1:3-4) and by growing in the knowledge (Gr. gnosei) of "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They could do the latter by getting more intimately acquainted with Him day by day (2 Peter 1:5-8).

"Christian knowledge fosters fellowship with God and deepens a consciousness of the believer's obligation to live a life worthy of His grace." [Note: Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., p. 178.]

  ▪ The command to "grow" is an appeal to the will. But growth, in the spiritual as in the physical realm, is not produced by an assertion of the will. Yet the human will plays a decisive part in the experience of spiritual growth. Believers must will to remove the hindrances to growth while actively fostering the conditions which promote growth.

  ▪ Growing knowledge promotes fellowship with God and deepens the consciousness of one's obligations to lead a life worthy of His grace.  Continuing growth is the unfailing cure for all spiritual ills.

  ▪ We grow best in a loving family, and this is where the local church comes in. A baby needs a family for protection, provision, and affection. Tests prove that babies who are raised alone, without special love, tend to develop physical and emotional problems very early. The church is God's 'nursery' for the care and feeding of Christians, the God-ordained environment that encourages them to grow. [Wiersbe].  And the greatest goal for the Christian should be to glorify Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31).



2 Peter 3:8-15a - EXEGESIS (Donovan)

CONTEXT:  Peter is writing to encourage Christians to live Godly lives (1:3) that they "may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust" (1:4). He encourages them to live according to a list of virtues that begins with faith, proceeds to moral excellence, and ends in brotherly affection and love (1:5-7). He assures them that if they will "do these things, (they) will never stumble" and will be "richly supplied with the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (10-1).

Peter has addressed the problem of false teachers who are denying Christ's Second Coming (3:4-7) and are accusing the apostles of fomenting "cunningly devised fables" (1:16). They have been saying, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (3:4).

Undermining belief in the Second Coming would remove an important incentive for Christians to live moral and ethical lives. If Christ isn't coming again, people would be less motivated to live holy lives as preparation for his coming. This is one of Peter's primary concerns.

The problem, of course, was that it had been thirty years since Jesus' resurrection and ascension. Christians had been expecting his return soon-but "soon" had come and gone. Some Christians had died in the intervening years, and their loved ones were concerned about their fate (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Some were even teaching that Jesus' return had already taken place (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

So these false teachers have been sowing their malignant seed in fertile soil, and have succeeded in undermining the belief of some Christians in Christ's Second Coming. Now Peter is writing to counter the influence of those false teachers-and to restore their faith in Jesus' Second Coming.

Peter calls these Christians to look forward to "the day of the Lord, (which) will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (3:10). He calls them to prepare for that day by "holy living and godliness" (3:11).

Peter accuses his opponents of "having eyes full of adultery"-not being able to "cease from sin"-"enticing unsettled souls"-"having (hearts) trained in greed"-and being "children of cursing" (2:14-15). Peter characterizes them as "mockers"-"walking after their own lusts" (3:3).


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.

 "But don't forget this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (v. 8). This is the first of two arguments that Peter raises to counter the claim of the false teachers regarding Christ's Second Coming. He alludes to a psalm that says, "For a thousand years in your sight are just like yesterday when it is past, like a watch in the night " (Psalm 90:4). His point is that, because God sees things from a different perspective, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand his timing.

  • Consider how Abraham and Sarah must have felt about God's timing. God had promised Abraham, "Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.... So shall your seed be." (Genesis 15:5). God had said, "You will be the father of a multitude of nations" (Genesis 17:4). However, at age ninety-nine, Abraham had as an heir only Ishmael, his son by his concubine Hagar. Sarah was also old, so it was apparent that they were no longer candidates for having a child. Abraham laughed when God told him that Sarah would bear a child (Genesis 17:17)-and Sarah laughed when she heard the news (Genesis 18:12). The idea was laughable, because God had missed his chance. Abraham and Sarah were too old to have another child. But God blessed them, and they did have a child-Isaac-the child of their old age. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-7).
  • People not only have difficulty understanding God's sense of timing, but also it difficult to appreciate the time-frame of other people. Parents are familiar with the wail from the back seat asking, "Are we there yet?" The parent might try to encourage the child by saying, "We're almost there!" However, the remaining hour that the parent sees as a short time is likely to seem like a very long time to the child. When our children were young, I decided that the most humane answer was, "No, it's going to be quite a while before we get there." While that answer disappointed, at least it didn't raise false hopes.


"The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient (Greek: makrothymeo) with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (v. 9). This is Peter's second argument in favor of Christ's Second Coming. The delay that these Christians have experienced is due to God's makrothymeo-his patience-his forbearance. God has delayed the Second Coming to give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel-to repent-to be baptized-to be saved. The delay, then, has been due, not to God's failure to fulfill his promise, but rather to God's love.

  • The idea of God's forbearance is rooted in the Old Testament. God is "ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness" (Nehemiah 9:17; see also Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13).
  • The New Testament continues that theme. God "desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus said, "Unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved; but for the sake of the chosen ones, whom he picked out, he shortened the days" (Mark 13:20). He said that it "is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life" (John 6:39).
  • But that doesn't mean that God will stay his hand forever. The Day of Judgment will come. On that day, "God will judge the secrets of men" (Romans 2:16). The righteous will be saved, but the unrighteous will suffer eternal punishment.



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.

 "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (v. 10). The idea of Christ's Second Coming has its roots in the Old Testament understanding of "the Day of the Lord" (Isaiah 13:6, 9; 58:13; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7-8, 14, 18; 2:2-3; Malachi 4:5). It was to be a day when God would save the faithful and judge the wicked. In the New Testament, "the day of the Lord" came to mean the day when God would bring an end to the current age and institute the age to come (Ladd, 138-139).

The New Testament continues that emphasis:

  • Jesus preached, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News" (Mark 1:15). He said, "But in those days, after that oppression, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky" (Mark 13:24-27 ; see also Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:25-28).
  • Paul appealed to the Thessalonians to live in readiness for that day, saying, "For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don't belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let's not sleep, as the rest do, but let's watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6; see also Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; Philippians 1:6).
  • The purpose of these cataclysmic events will not be destruction, but purification. The fire will be that of a refiner-separating gold from dross (Malachi 3:3)-separating trees that bear good fruit from those that don't (Matthew 7:17-19)-separating the fruit of good seed from that of bad seed (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)-separating the righteous from the unrighteous (Matthew 25:31-46)-so that, in the end, "the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).
  • Therefore, God's people need not fear the coming of the Day of the Lord, but can look forward to it with joyful anticipation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul used the Aramaic word marana'tha-"Our Lord, come!" (1 Corinthians 16:22; see also Philippians 4:5). When Jesus says, "Yes, I come quickly," we should respond, "Yes, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).


"Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness" (v. 11). Anticipation of the coming cataclysm should inform the believer's manner of life. Knowing that the purpose of the cataclysm will be to separate the righteous from the unrighteous-the holy from the unholy-should motivate the believer to respond with "holy living and godliness."

"looking for and earnestly desiring (Greek: speudo) the coming (Greek: parousia) of the day of God" (v. 12a). The phrase, "the day of God," is found only here and in Revelation 16:14. The more common phrase is "the Day of the Lord," as found in verse 10 (see the comments above on that verse). "Day of God" and "day of the Lord" are essentially synonymous.

Peter says that these Christians should be "looking for and earnestly desiring" (speudo) the day of God:

  • The Greek word speudo can mean "earnestly desiring" when followed by a word in the accusative case (in this verse, "coming" is accusative, so "earnestly desiring" is a good translation).
  • However, the more usual meaning of speudo is "urge on" or "hasten," so the idea here could be that Peter is encouraging these Christians to engage in "holy living and godliness" (v. 11) as a way of persuading God to hasten "the coming of the day of God" (v. 12). After all, Jesus taught us to pray, "Let your Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). Presumably, he wouldn't have done that if our prayers would have no effect on God's actions. Also, in the book of Acts, Peter urged Christians to repent "that (God) may send Christ Jesus" (Acts 3:19-20).
  • It seems counter-intuitive that anyone would earnestly desire the coming of burning heavens and fervent heat that would cause the elements to melt. However, this is reminiscent of Isaiah's prayer: "Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence, as when fire kindles the brushwood, and the fire causes the waters to boil; to make your name known to your adversaries,that the nations may tremble at your presence! (Isaiah 64:1-2). That was a prayer that Yahweh would, by means of a refiner's fire, set things right-that Yahweh would restore this ungodly world to the Godly state that he created it to be.
  • That is why Christians would earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The purpose of that day won't be destruction but purification. It will be a day when "the prince of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31)-when "The great dragon (will be) thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He (will be) thrown down to the earth, and his angels (will be) thrown down with him" (Revelation 12:9).
  • Just imagine what life will be like in a world free from Satanic power. It will be a world in which there will be no need for locks or passwords or police or armies. Barriers between wealth and poverty will fade into insignificance, because the rich will be glad to help the poor, and the poor will respond by making good use of that assistance. It will be a world in which there is no hunger or thirst or oppressive heat-a world in which "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17). It will be a world where:

"The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow and the bear will graze.  Their young ones will lie down together.  The lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play near a cobra's hole, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.  They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:6-9).

  • Once we catch a glimpse of that vision, we will be "looking for and earnestly desiring" the coming of that day. We will pray fervently, "Our Lord, come!" (1 Corinthians 16:22) and, "Yes, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).


"which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?" (v. 12b). Fire and smoke are often used as metaphors for God's anger and judgment (Psalm 18:8ff; Isaiah 30:27; Jeremiah 4:4; Lamentations 2:3; Matthew 3:12; 13:30ff; 1 Corinthians 3:15; Revelation 8:7; 17:16; 18:8; 19:20; 21:8). These verses might frighten us, but not if we remember the redemptive purpose behind them.


"But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (Greek: katoikeo) (v. 13). "This alludes to two verses from Isaiah: "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17) and "'For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,' says Yahweh, 'so your seed and your name shall remain'" (Isaiah 66:22).

  • When scripture talks about "the heavens and the earth", it is talking about the totality of the created order rather than two separate realms. "The heavens and the earth" constitute all of creation.
  • The book of Genesis began with the story of the creation of the first heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1). That was an idyllic place where God could say of each stage of creation that "it was good" (Genesis 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 20, 25, 31). In that paradise, there was no rainfall, but "a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground" (Genesis 2:6). God gave the man and woman dominion over all living things, so there was no shortage of food (Genesis 1:28). The man and woman "were both naked, (but they) were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25).
  • But the serpent planted a seed of doubt in the woman's mind, with the result that she and the man ate of the one fruit that God had forbidden them (Genesis 3:1ff). Then their eyes were opened and they understood that they were naked (Genesis 3:7ff). Because of their disobedience, God cursed the serpent (crawl on belly-eat dust), the woman (pain in childbirth), and the man (ground yielding thorns and thistles) (Genesis 3:14ff).  The creation was no longer idyllic:  "So (God) drove out the man; and he placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life" so that the man and woman could not re-enter the garden (Genesis 3:24).
  • In other words, the sin of the first man and woman corrupted the first heaven and earth. We now need for God to create "new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (v. 13) so that we might once again enjoy the paradise of the original creation.


"in which righteousness dwells" (Greek: katoikeo) (v. 13). The new heavens and earth will be a place where righteousness dwells, not just occasionally, but always.

  • What is righteousness? In the Old Testament (especially in Isaiah), righteousness has more to do with right relationships than with adherence to Torah law. Obedience to the law is important, but only as it reflects true devotion to Yahweh-as it grows out of affection for Yahweh. If a person is in a right relationship to Yahweh, that person will establish caring relationships to other people as well, in particular to vulnerable people such as widows, orphans, and the poor. The law makes special provisions for the care of such people (Leviticus 22:13; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 16:10-11, 14; 24:17-22; Isaiah 1:17), but those who follow the law by rote rather than as an outgrowth of devotion to Yahweh are apt to sidestep their obligations to those who are less fortunate (Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:7; Job 22:9; 24:21; Psalm 94:6).
  • The Greek word katoikeo ("dwells") combines kata (in this context meaning "a place where") and oikeo(related to oikos, which means "house" or "home"). The sense we get, then, is that the new heavens and new earth that God has promised are a place where righteousness will feel at home-where righteousness will permeate every corner-where we can feel safe-where we can trust other people.
  • I remember a house like that. It was a farmhouse that had once been home to a half-dozen children-but they were grown and had established their own homes. That house was the home of Matie, an older woman with a heart of gold. On Sundays after church, I would join Matie's children and grandchildren around her dinner table-usually twenty or more people. They were, as Jesus put it, "the salt of the earth"-people who embodied faith and decency and neighborliness and kindness. I was a young and unmarried pastor, and Matie and her family adopted me into their family circle. From that experience, I can assure you that being in a place "where righteousness dwells" is truly a blessing. I am looking forward to the time when Jesus comes to make our world a place "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, 15a and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;


"Therefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things" (v. 14a). The word "therefore" connects verses 14-15 with Peter's description of the coming "day of the Lord" (v. 10).

Peter has counseled these Christians to look forward to that day-and to prepare for it by "holy living and godliness" (v. 11). Now, in this verse, he assumes that they are doing that-that they are looking for Christ's coming-that they are eagerly desiring the new world that his coming will usher in.


"be diligent (Greek: spoudazo) to be found in peace" (Greek: eirene) (v. 14b). The Greek word spoudazo means "to be diligent"-"to be eager"-"to make every effort to do their best."

  • Peter calls these Christians "to be found in peace" (eirene). Peace (eirene) is a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Septuagint-the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times.
  • Both eirene (Greek) and shalom (Hebrew) can refer to an inner kind of peace-the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God-the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
  • But both eirene and shalom can also refer to an external kind of peace-the absence of rancor or violence among individuals or nations. It is important for Christians to live in harmony and tranquility with each other.


"without blemish and blameless (Greek: aspilos) in his sight" (v. 14c). The Greek word spilos means "spot," and the "a" at the beginning of aspilos means "not"-so aspilos means "without spot" or "without blemish."

The words "in his sight" are not found in the original Greek.

  • "Without blemish" refers back to the Old Testament sacrificial system, where people were required to sacrifice animals that were without blemish (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1; etc.). God would not permit people to fulfill their sacrificial obligations by offering an animal of little value. They were to give God their very best as a symbol of their devotion. Even the priest making sacrifices had to be without blemish (Lev 21:17ff).
  • In his first letter to these Christians, Peter talked about Christ as "a faultless and pure lamb"-a perfect sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19).
  • Of course, Peter's concern in this letter is spiritual rather than physical blemishes. Perfection is an impossibly high standard, so these Christians could only do their best. To get rid of every spot and blemish, we must depend on the grace of God.


"Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation" (v. 15a). As noted above, one of Peter's chief concerns in this letter was the problem of false teachers who were denying Christ's Second Coming (3:4-7) and were accusing the apostles of fomenting "cunningly devised fables" (1:16). They have been saying, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (3:4).

  • Peter has offered two arguments in favor of Christ's Second Coming. The first was that God's understanding is dramatically different from our human understanding. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (v. 8). The second was that Christ's delay is due to God's makrothymeo-his patience (v. 9).
  • Now Peter reinforces that second argument by telling these Christians that they should regard the Lord's patience (makrothymia) as an opportunity for salvation. They are on borrowed time, but they can use that time to proclaim the Gospel and win new people to faith in Christ-thus helping them to gain salvation-and providing them with the opportunity to help others do so as well.







2 Peter 3:3-14, 17-18 - W. BARCLAY COMMENTARY




3:3-4 To begin with, you are well aware that in the last days there will come mockers with their mocking, guiding their steps by the law of their own lusts and saying, "What has happened to the promise of his Coming? For, since the day when our fathers fell asleep, everything remains the same as it was from the foundation of the world."


The characteristic of the heretics which worried Peter most of all was their denial of the Second Coming of Jesus. Literally, their question was: "Where is the promise of his Coming?" That was a form of Hebrew expression which implied that the thing asked about did not exist at all. "Where is the God of justice?" asked the evil men of Malachi's day ( Malachi 2:17). "Where is your God?" the heathen demanded of the Psalmist ( Psalms 42:3; Psalms 79:10). "Where is the word of the Lord?" his enemies asked Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 17:15). In every case the implication of the question is that the thing or the person asked about does not exist. The heretics of Peter's day were denying that Jesus Christ would ever come again. It will be best here at the beginning to summarize their argument and Peter's answer to it.

The argument of Peter's opponents was twofold ( 2 Peter 3:4). "What has happened," they demanded, "to the promise of the Second Coming?" Their first argument was that the promise had been so long delayed that it was safe to take it that it would never be fulfilled. Their second assertion was that their fathers had died and the world was going on precisely as it always did. Their argument was that this was characteristically a stable universe and convulsive upheavals like the Second Coming did not happen in such a universe.

Peter's response is also twofold. He deals with the second argument first ( 2 Peter 3:5-7). His argument is that, in fact, this is not a stable universe, that once it was destroyed by water in the time of the Flood and that a second destruction, this time by fire, is on the way.

The second part of his reply is in 2 Peter 3:8-9. His opponents speak of a delay so long that they can safely assume that the Second Coming is not going to happen at all. Peter's is a double answer. (a) We must see time as God sees it. With him a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. "God does not pay every Friday night." (b) In any event God's apparent slowness to act is not dilatoriness. It is, in fact, mercy. He holds his hand in order to give sinning men another chance to repent and find salvation.

Peter goes on to his conclusion ( 2 Peter 3:10). The Second Coming is on the way and it will come with a sudden terror and destruction which will dissolve the universe in melting heat.

Finally comes his practical demand in face of all this. If we are living in a universe on which Jesus Christ is going to descend and which is hastening towards the destruction of the wicked, surely it behaves us to live in holiness so that we may be spared when the terrible day does come. The Second Coming is used as a tremendous motive for moral amendment so that a man may prepare himself to meet his God.

Such, then, is the general scheme of this chapter and now we look at it section by section.

DESTRUCTION BY FLOOD ( 2 Peter 3:5-6 )

3:5-6 What they wilfully fail to see is that long ago the heavens were created and the earth was composed out of water and through water; and through these waters the ancient world perished, when it was overwhelmed in a deluge of water.

Peter's first argument is that the world is not eternally stable. The point he is making is that the ancient world was destroyed by water, just as the present world is going to be destroyed by fire. The detail of this passage is, however, difficult.

He says that the earth was composed out of water and through water. According to the Genesis story in the beginning there was a kind of watery chaos. "The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.... God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters" ( Genesis 1:2; Genesis 1:6). Out of this watery chaos the world was formed. Further, it is through water that the world is sustained, because life is sustained by the rain which comes down from the skies. What Peter means is that the world was created out of water and is sustained by water; and it was through this same element that the ancient world was destroyed.

Further to clarify this passage we have to note that the flood legend developed. As so often in Second Peter and Jude the picture behind this comes not directly from the Old Testament but from the Book of Enoch. In Enoch 83: 3-5 Enoch has a vision: "I saw in a vision how the heaven collapsed and fell to the earth, and, where it fell to the earth, I saw how the earth was swallowed up in a great abyss." In the later stories the flood involved not only the obliteration of sinners but the total destruction of heaven and earth. So the warning which Peter is giving may be put like this: "You say that as things are, so they have ever been and so they ever will be. You build your hopes on the idea that this is an unchanging universe. You are wrong, for the ancient world was formed out of water and was sustained by water, and it perished in the flood."

We may say that this is only an old legend more than half-buried in the antiquities of the past. But we cannot say that a passage like this has no significance for us. When we strip away the old Jewish legend and its later development, we are still left with this permanent truth that the man who will read history with open eyes can see within it the moral law at work and God's dealings with men. Froude, the great historian, said that history is a voice sounding across the centuries that in the end it is always ill with the wicked and well with the good. When Oliver Cromwell was arranging his son Richard's education, he said, "I would have him know a little history." In fact, the lesson of history is that there is a moral order in the universe and that he who defies it does so at his peril.


3:7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth are treasured up for fire, reserved for the day of judgment and the destruction of impious men.

It is Peter's conviction that, as the ancient world was destroyed by water, the present world will be destroyed by fire. He says that that is stated "by the same word." What he means is that the Old Testament tells of the flood in the past and warns of the destruction by fire in the future. There are many passages in the prophets which he would take quite literally and which must have been in his mind. Joel foresaw a time when God would show blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke ( Joel 2:30). The Psalmist has a picture in which, when God comes, a devouring fire shall precede him ( Psalms 50:3). Isaiah speaks of a flame of devouring fire ( Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30). The Lord will come with fire; by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh ( Isaiah 66:15-16). Nahum has it that the hills melt and the earth is burned at his presence; his fury is poured out like fire ( Nahum 1:5-6). In the picture of Malachi the day of the Lord shall burn as an oven ( Malachi 4:1). If the old pictures are taken literally, Peter has plenty of material for his prophecy.

The Stoics also had a doctrine of the destruction of the world by fire; but it was a grim thing. They held that the universe completed a cycle; that it was consumed in flames; and that everything then started all over again, exactly as it was. They had the strange idea that at the end of the cycle the planets were in exactly the same position as when the world began. "This produces the conflagration and destruction of everything which exists," says Chrysippus. He goes on: "Then again the universe is restored anew in a precisely similar arrangement as before...Socrates and Plato and each individual man will live again, with the same friends and fellow-citizens. They will go through the same experiences and the same activities. Every city and village and field will be restored, just as it was. And this restoration of the universe takes place, not once, but over and over again--indeed to all eternity without end.... For there will never be any new thing other than that which has been before, but everything is repeated down to the minutest detail." History as an eternal tread-mill, the unceasing recurrence of the sins, the sorrows and the mistakes of men--that is one of the grimmest views of history that the mind of man has ever conceived.

It must always be remembered that, as the Jewish prophets saw it, and as Peter saw it, this world will be destroyed with the conflagration of God but the result will not be obliteration and the grim repetition of what has been before; the result will be a new heaven and a new earth. For the biblical view of the world there is something beyond destruction; there is the new creation of God. The worst that the prophet can conceive is not the death agony of the old world so much as the birth pangs of the new.

THE MERCY OF GOD'S DELAY ( 2 Peter 3:8-9 )

3:8-9 Beloved, you must not shut your eyes to this one fact that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. It is not that God is dilatory in fulfilling his promise, as some people reckon dilatoriness; but it is that for your sakes he patiently withholds his hand, because he does not wish any to perish, but wishes all to take the way to repentance.

There are in this passage three great truths on which to nourish the mind and rest the heart.

(i) Time is not the same to God as it is to man. As the Psalmist had it: "A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night" ( Psalms 90:4). When we think of the world's hundreds of thousands of years of existence, it is easy to feel dwarfed into insignificance; when we think of the slowness of human progress, it is easy to become discouraged into pessimism. There is comfort in the thought of a God who has all eternity to work in. It is only against the background of eternity that things appear in their true proportions and assume their real value.

(ii) We can also see from this passage that time is always to be regarded as an opportunity. As Peter saw it, the years God gave the world were a further opportunity for men to repent and turn to him. Every day which comes to us is a gift of mercy. It is an opportunity to develop ourselves; to render some service to our fellow-men; to take one step nearer to God.

(iii) Finally, there is another echo of a truth which so often lies in the background of New Testament thought. God, says Peter, does not wish any to perish. God, says Paul, has shut them all up together in unbelief, that he might have mercy on all ( Romans 11:32). Timothy in a tremendous phrase speaks of God who will have all men to be saved ( 1 Timothy 2:4). Ezekiel hears God ask: "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, and not rather that he should return from his way and live?" ( Ezekiel 18:23).

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.

THE DREADFUL DAY ( 2 Peter 3:10 )

3:10 But when it does come, the Day of the Lord will come as a thief and in it the heavens will pass away with a crackling roar; the stars will blaze and melt; and the earth and all its works will disappear.

It inevitably happens that a man has to speak and think in the terms which he knows. That is what Peter is doing here. He is speaking of the New Testament doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but he is describing it in terms of the Old Testament doctrine of the Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord is a conception which runs all through the prophetic books of the Old Testament. The Jews saw time in terms of two ages--this present age, which is wholly bad and past remedy; and the age to come, which is the golden age of God. How was the one to turn into the other? The change could not come about by human effort or by a process of development, for the world was on the way to destruction. As the Jews saw it, there was only one way in which the change could happen; it must be by the direct intervention of God. The time of that intervention they called the Day of the Lord. It was to come without warning. It was to be a time when the universe was shaken to its foundations. It was to be a time when the judgment and obliteration of sinners would come to pass and, therefore, it would be a time of terror. "Behold the Day of the Lord comes, cruel with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it" ( Isaiah 13:9). "The Day of the Lord is coming, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom, a day of clouds and of thick darkness" ( Joel 2:1-2). "A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness" ( Zephaniah 1:14-18). "The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes" ( Joel 2:30-31). "The stars of the heaven and their constellations shall not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light.... Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger" ( Isaiah 13:10-13).

What Peter and many of the New Testament writers did was to identify the Old Testament pictures of the Day of the Lord with the New Testament conception of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Peter's picture here of the Second Coming of Jesus is drawn in terms of the Old Testament picture of the Day of the Lord.

He uses one very vivid phrase. He says that the heavens will pass away with a crackling roar (roizedon, G4500) . That word is used for the whirring of a bird's wings in the air, for the sound a spear makes as it hurtles through the air, for the crackling of the flames of a forest fire.

We need not take these pictures with crude literalism. It is enough to note that Peter sees the Second Coming as a time of terror for those who are the enemies of Christ.

One thing has to be held in the memory. The whole conception of the Second Coming is full of difficulty. But this is sure--there comes a day when God breaks into every life, for there comes a day when we must die; and for that day we must be prepared. We may say what we will about the Coming of Christ as a future event; we may feel it is a doctrine we have to lay on one side; but we cannot escape from the certainty of the entry of God into our own experience.

THE MORAL DYNAMIC ( 2 Peter 3:11-14 )

3:11-14 Since these things are going to be dissolved like that, what kind of people ought you to be, living a life of constant holiness and true piety, you who are eagerly awaiting and doing your best to hasten on the Day of the Lord, by whose action the heavens will burn and be dissolved and the stars blaze and melt! For it is new heavens and a new earth, as he promised, for which we wait, in which righteousness has its home. So, then, beloved, since these are the things for which you eagerly wait, be eager to be found by him at peace, without spot and blemish.

The one thing in which Peter is supremely interested is the moral dynamic of the Second Coming. If these things are going to happen and the world is hastening to judgment, obviously a man must live a life of piety and of holiness. If there are to be a new heaven and a new earth and if that heaven and earth are to be the home of righteousness, obviously a man must seek with all his mind and heart and soul and strength to be fit to be a dweller in that new world. To Peter, as Moffatt puts it, "it was impossible to give up the hope of the advent without ethical deterioration." Peter was right. If there is nothing in the nature of a Second Coming, nothing in the nature of a goal to which the whole creation moves, then life is going nowhere. That, in fact, was the heathen position. If there is no goal, either for the world or for the individual life, other than extinction, certain attitudes to life become well-nigh inevitable. These attitudes emerge in heathen epitaphs.

(i) If there is nothing to come, a man may well decide to make what he can of the pleasures of this world. So we come on an epitaph like this: "I was nothing: I am nothing. So thou who art still alive, eat, drink, and be merry."

(ii) If there is nothing to live for, a man may well be utterly indifferent. Nothing matters much if the end of everything is extinction, in which a man will not even be aware that he is extinguished. So we come on such an epitaph as this: "Once I had no existence; now I have none. I am not aware of it. It does not Concern me."

(iii) If there is nothing to live for but extinction and the world is going nowhere, there can enter into life a kind of lostness. Man ceases to be in any sense a pilgrim for there is nowhere to which he can make pilgrimage. He must simply drift in a kind of lostness, coming from nowhere and on the way to nowhere. So we come on an epigram like that of Callimachus. "Charidas, what is below?" "Deep darkness." "But what of the paths upward?" "All a lie." "And Pluto?" (The God of the underworld). "Mere talk." "Then we're lost." Even the heathen found a certain almost intolerable quality in a life without a goal.

When we have stripped the doctrine of the Second Coming of all its temporary and local imagery, the tremendous truth it conserves is that life is going somewhere--and without that conviction there is nothing to live for.

HASTENING THE DAY ( 2 Peter 3:11-14 continued)

There is in this passage still another great conception. Peter speaks of the Christian as not only eagerly awaiting the Coming of Christ but as actually hastening it on. The New Testament tells us certain ways in which this may be done.

(i) It may be done by prayer. Jesus taught us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come" ( Matthew 6:10). The earnest prayer of the Christian heart hastens the coming of the King. If in no other way, it does so in this--that he who prays opens his own heart for the entry of the King.

(ii) It may be done by preaching. Matthew tells us that Jesus said, "And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come" ( Matthew 24:14). All men must be given the chance to know and to love Jesus Christ before the end of creation is reached. The missionary activity of the Church is the hastening of the coming of the King.

(iii) It may be done by penitence and obedience. Of all things this would be nearest to Peter's mind and heart. The Rabbis had two sayings: "It is the sins of the people which prevent the coming of the Messiah. If the Jews would genuinely repent for one day, the Messiah would come." The other form of the saying means the same: "If Israel would perfectly keep the law for one day, the Messiah would come." In true penitence and in real obedience a man opens his own heart to the coming of the King and brings nearer that coming throughout the world. We do well to remember that our coldness of heart and our disobedience delay the coming of the King.


3:17-18 As far as you are concerned. beloved, you have been forewarned. You must, therefore, be on your guard not to be carried away by the error of lawless men and so to fall from your own foundation; rather, you must see to it that you grow in grace and in understanding of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity.

In conclusion Peter tells us certain things about the Christian life.

(i) The Christian is a man who is forewarned. That is to say, he cannot plead ignorance. He knows the right way and its rewards; he knows the wrong way and its disasters. He has no right to expect an easy way, for he has been told that Christianity means a cross, and he has been warned that there will always be those who are ready to attack and to pervert the faith. To be forewarned is to be forearmed; but to be forewarned is also a grave responsibility, for he who knows the right and does the wrong is under a double condemnation.

(ii) The Christian is a man with a basis for life. He ought to be rooted and founded in the faith. There are certain things of which he is absolutely certain. James Agate once declared that his mind was not a bed to be made and remade but that on certain things it was finally made up. There is a certain inflexibility in the Christian life; there is a certain basis of belief which never changes. The Christian will never cease to believe that, "Jesus Christ is Lord" ( Php_2:11 ); and he will never cease to be aware that there is laid on him the duty of making his life fit his belief.

(iii) The Christian is a man with a developing life. The inflexibility of the Christian life is not the rigidity of death. The Christian must daily experience the wonder of grace, and daily grow in the gifts which grace can bring; and he must daily enter more and more deeply into the wonder which is in Jesus Christ. It is only on a firm foundation that a great building can tower into the air; and it is only because it has a deep root that a great tree can reach out to the sky with its branches. The Christian life is at once a life with a firm foundation and with an ever outward and upward growth.

And so the letter finishes by giving glory to Christ, both now and to the end of time.