The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Peter

1 2 3

2 Peter 3

2Pe 3:1

THIS IS NOW MY SECOND LETTER TO YOU. I HAVE WRITTEN BOTH OF THEM AS REMINDERS TO STIMULATE YOU TO WHOLESOME THINKING: Peter's first letter was most likely 1Pe. He implied that he wrote this letter soon after the earlier one. This second epistle, he said, went to the same audience in northern Asia Minor (cf 1Pe 1:1). His purpose in writing the second letter was to refresh his readers' memories (cf 2Pe 1:13).

2Pe 3:2

HOLY PROPHETS: As opposed to just "prophets", used only 3 times in the NT: Luke 1:70; Act 3:21; Rev 22:6; the "holy" is prob emphatic, but it could also be taken as a point against "unholy" prophets.

THE COMMAND GIVEN BY OUR LORD AND SAVIOR THROUGH YOUR APOSTLES: Cp Christ's words: "Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (Mat 24:11). 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 OT prophets (cf 2Pe 1:12-21; 3:16; Acts 1:16; Rom 9:29; Heb 4:7).

2Pe 3:3

IN THE LAST DAYS: The days before Jesus Christ's return. This is the same way other writers of Scripture used the phrase "last days" (cf 2Ti 3:1-5; 1Jo 2:18,19).

SCOFFERS WILL COME...: See Article, Listen up!

SCOFFING AND FOLLOWING THEIR OWN EVIL DESIRES: Examples of scoffers: Potiphar's wife (Gen 39:14-17), the Israelites in the wilderness (Exo 32:1), and in Isaiah's (Isa 5:19; 66:5) and Ezekiel's day (Eze 12:22,23,27). Cp also Amo 5:18; Mal 2:17; 3:1.

2Pe 3:4

The overthrow of Jerusalem was not the "coming" of Jesus. See Mar 12:9; Luk 20:15,16; 13:6-9.

THIS 'COMING' HE PROMISED: See Lesson, "Parousia".

EVER SINCE OUR FATHERS DIED, EVERYTHING GOES ON AS IT HAS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF CREATION: One could hardly find a better summary anywhere of the philosophy of naturalism that so thoroughly permeates modern western civilization (cf Jer 17:15; Mal 2:17). Peter referred to a denial of supernaturalism and an assertion of uniformitarianism, or gradualism. In particular, the scoffers denied the promise of the Lord Jesus that he would return (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; etc). They assumed that God -- if there IS such a Being -- does not intervene in the world.

2Pe 3:5

BY GOD'S WORD THE HEAVENS EXISTED AND THE EARTH WAS FORMED OUT OF WATER AND BY WATER: 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 (Gen 1:6-8; cp Heb 11:3). God spoke again and the dry land separated from ("out of") the waters (Gen 1:9-10). Thus God used water to form the dry land.

A new "earth" was formed out of water and through water. God saved the earth by "baptizing" it!

2Pe 3:6

BY THESE WATERS ALSO THE WORLD OF THAT TIME WAS DELUGED AND DESTROYED: 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 (Gen 7:11). Peter spoke of world history in three periods divided by two cataclysms: the world before the Flood (v 6), the present world (v 7), and the future world (v 13).

The literal world/earth will NOT be destroyed: cp Zec 3:8 with Zec 3:9,10; Mic 1:4; Num 14:21; Hab 2:14; Ecc 1:4; Isa 45:18.

2Pe 3:7

BY THE SAME WORD THE PRESENT HEAVENS AND EARTH ARE RESERVED FOR FIRE: God has given orders that the present heavens and earth (vv 5,6) will experience another judgment yet future. Then God will with His word destroy them by fire rather than by water (cp vv 10,12). The world is presently "reserved" for fire in the sense that this is its inevitable destiny (cp Deu 32:22; Isa 66:15,16; Zep 1:18; Mal 4:1).

RESERVED FOR FIRE: In Noah's day destruction by water came from heavens and earth. In Last Days, destruction by fire will come from heaven (guided missiles, controlled satellites) and earth (vast stores of atomic weapons). Cp Isa 24:21.

The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience think this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience with it.

"And so," concluded Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators."

2Pe 3:8

A DAY IS LIKE A THOUSAND YEARS, AND A THOUSAND YEARS ARE LIKE A DAY: Cit Psa 90:4. "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" (Hiebert).

There really is nothing about this phrase remotely of the precision required as a foundation for the "7-day / 7,000-year" equivalence theory. Firstly, the passage here is plainly figurative throughout. Furthermore, if the first part of the v "proves" that one day (of 24 hours) = 1,000 literal years, then the addition of the last phrase ("and" -- or 'or' -- "as a watch in the night") would equally "prove" that either: (a) 28 hours (ie a day plus a "watch") = 1,000 literal years, or (b) 4 hours (ie a "watch" only) = 1,000 literal years. Either such "proof" would totally disarm any "day for a thousand years" "principle"! By the first, one day (of 24 hours) = 24/28 times 1,000 years, or 857.143 years. And by the second, one day (of 24 hours) = 6,000 years. As to whether the "thousand years" of Rev need be taken as a precise literal measurement of time, or merely as a round figurative number, see NRev 321-323.

2Pe 3:9

THE LORD IS NOT SLOW IN KEEPING HIS PROMISE: Citing Isa 46:10-13. Prophecy is necessary because God has chosen to settle His accounts with men slowly. God is eternal, and so is His plan for all creation. God is in no hurry to fulfill His promises, whether His promise of the eternal kingdom for all the saints or the promise of eternal destruction and judgment for sinners. Prophecy is necessary then so that men are reassured of divine deliverance and blessing, as well as divine judgment (see 2Pe 2:4-9). Through the ages, the saints have learned that they must wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled and that this may not happen in their lifetime (Heb 11:13-16,39,40). God may choose to delay judgment on the wicked until their sin reaches full bloom; the possession of the land of Canaan would not happen in Abraham's lifetime, but more than 400 years later after the suffering of the people of God (Gen 15:12-17). God also allows the wicked to persist and even to prosper, so that those whom He has chosen might be saved (Rom 9:22-24). God's plan and program are carried out on His schedule, not ours (see 2Pe 3:8-10). Prophecy becomes necessary from time to time to remind men of those things God has planned for the future which He will surely fulfill.

NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH: Cp Eze 18:28,32; Eze 33:11; Jer 29:11. Do these verses suggest some sort of "universal salvation"? Not necessarily.

"This verse [Eze 33:11] is frequently used to support the view that God wants to save all men and it is only their refusal to turn to Him which prevents this, for does not Peter say, 'The Lord is... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' (2Pe 3:9)?

"A moment's reflection is enough to cast doubts on this conclusion. That God is merciful, gracious and a God of love, goes without saying; but to argue that He is so to all men, meaning every individual, contradicts the fundamental teaching of Scripture that God's purpose is being worked out 'according to ELECTION' (Rom 9:11).

"The words of Jesus indicate a selection process: 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me DRAW him' (John 6:44). It is because of this that Paul writes to the Thessalonians: 'We give thanks to God... knowing, brethren beloved, your ELECTION of God' (1Th 1:2,4)....

"God is all-powerful and able to do as He wills in His universe. If He will indeed have all mankind to be saved, why is it that so many never get to hear the gospel message? The words of the apostle in 1Ti 2:4 -- in which he says that '[God] will have all men to be saved' -- cannot mean that it is His desire to save every member of the human race. To interpret it thus would contradict the fundamental principle that God's purpose is being worked out on the basis of election. In these words the apostle, who had been divinely appointed as a preacher to the Gentiles, is simply saying that it was no longer the case that 'salvation is of the Jews'. God is now working with the Gentiles (all mankind) and it was His will that salvation be offered to 'all men' (ie, all nationalities) and not just to Jews.

"In 2Pe the apostle is writing to the brethren in the Ecclesias of Asia Minor. It is to these, troubled by the Judaizers and in danger of grave apostasy from the Truth, that he writes: 'The Lord... is longsuffering to us-ward (RV, youward), not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' (2Pe 3:9). These to whom Peter writes had been called by the Father but were in danger of failing to 'make [their] calling and election sure' (2Pe 1:10). The same applies to these verses from Ezekiel. They are not addressed to the individuals of the pagan world but to the Covenant People.

"The vast majority of the Gentile world, then and now, comprise that great crowd of mankind that 'is in honour, and understandeth not' and who are, by God's appointment, 'like the beasts that perish' (Psa 49:20). Being left by God to wander 'out of the way of understanding', they will by His divine decree 'remain in the congregation of the dead' (Pro 21:16). That this sad fact does not give God pleasure, we would agree. Let us not, however, go to the extreme of emphasizing this to the point where we deny that God's purpose is 'according to election' " (AEz 186,187).

TO COME TO REPENTANCE: Any apparent delay is due to God's loving kindness, allowing greater opportunity for salvation.

2Pe 3:10

THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME LIKE A THIEF: Ref return of Christ in LD: Mat 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1Th 5:2; Rev 3:3; 16:15. Christ is portrayed often -- he even portrays himself -- as a "thief" in the NT, in connection with his Second Coming (Mat 24:42-44; Luke 12:39,40; 1Th 5:2,4,6; 2Pe 3:10; Rev 3:3; 16:15). This may seem extraordinary, since stealing is a sin, and a "thief" therefore must be a sinner -- and how could Christ be a sinner? (A similar question might be asked: how could Christ compare himself to a serpent: John 3:14; Num 21:7-9? But that's another story!) However, there is one instance when a "thief" is not committing a crime, and that is when he is simply reclaiming (by stealth or surprise) what is rightfully his (cp David and his men, who followed the Amalekites and retrieved their kidnapped families and stolen goods: 1Sa 30!). And that seems to be exactly the point in these NT instances also: Christ when he returns will be merely taking back what is rightfully his! The true "thieves" will be seen to be those servants who ate his bread and drank his wine and enjoyed themselves in leisurely consuming that which belonged to their Master (see the parable in Mat 24:48-51 and Luke 12:45-47). Their mistake -- and it was a crucial one -- was in forgetting they were mere stewards or caretakers, and instead supposing that all their Master's properties belonged to them, and acting accordingly! So, if we are to be sure that Christ does not come as a "thief" to us, we must not act as "thieves" ourselves now, stealing from him what is rightfully his. We must remember that all we possess really belongs to the One who is our true Lord and Master; that we merely hold it all in trust, to be used to serve him.

THE HEAVENS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH A ROAR: "Heavens" are used figuratively of the established Mosaic order in Psa 50:4,5; 102:26 (cp Heb 1:11,12); Mat 24:29,35; Joel 2:30,31; Rev 6:12-14.

THE ELEMENTS: Gr "stoicheia" -- one of Paul's words for the entire Judaistic framework (Gal 4:3,9; Col 2:8,20).

DESTROYED: Gr "luo", to be unloosed, not to be destroyed. Like the unloosing of a tent (Joh 2:19). Cp v 12.

EARTH: Gr "ge", the equivalent of the Heb "eretz" -- which may (and often does) sig the "Land", esp the "Land of Israel". See Lesson, "Land" or "earth"? Also see Lesson, Earth burned up?

2Pe 3:11

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE OUGHT YOU TO BE?: "So it is with all the doctrines of Scripture; they are all intended to have a transforming power, and it is in this way that we should view them. This reflection provokes another: if the Scriptures are designed to have such a vital influence upon us, how regularly and how prayerfully we should be reading them; and what a wise arrangement it has been that in our daily readings we set out to read all of them, and not just a selection according to our taste" (FP, Xd 114:169).

2Pe 3:12

AND SPEED ITS COMING: If Christ's coming is deferred to allow greater repentance (vv 9,15), then his coming may be hastened by greater repentance and godliness.

The Greek participle translated "hastening" or "speeding" ("speudontes") sometimes means "desiring earnestly" (RSV mg). If Peter meant that here, the sense would be that believers not only look for the day of God but desire earnestly to see it (cp vv 8-10; Mat 24:42; 25:13). The KJV has "hastening unto" -- a rather poor translation, implying that Peter meant believers are rapidly approaching the day of God. Yet "unto" would have to be added; it is not in the text. Most of the translators and commentators, however, take "speudontes" in its usual sense of hastening. They assume that Peter was thinking that believers can hasten the day of God by their prayers (cp Mat 6:10) and perhaps by their preaching (cp Mat 24:14; Acts 3:19,20) (EBC). Believers affect God's timetable by our living and our praying (cp Jos 10:12-14; 1Ki 20:1-6; etc).

"Clearly this idea of hastening the End is the corollary of the explanation (v 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" (Bauckham).

COMING: See Lesson, "Parousia".

DESTRUCTION: Gr "luo", to be unloosed, not to be destroyed. Like the unloosing of a tent (Joh 2:19). Cp v 10.

2Pe 3:13

A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH: Citing Isa 65:17,18: "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth" -- which consists of "Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy", in other words, with a distinctively Jewish orientation. Not just a new world order, but a new world order revolving around Israel!

THE HOME OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: Isa 65:17,18 is quoted in Rev 21:1-3 (to which Peter may be alluding), for this passage adds the thought that "the dwelling of God" -- and thus the "home of righteousness" -- "is with men" (Rev 21:3).

"Give us a government animated by pure benevolence, armed by universal authority and irresistible power; and distinguished by the wisdom essential to successful enterprise of all kinds, with the world's exchequer at their disposal, and therefore untrammeled by considerations of economy in the arrangements made for the comfort and convenience of the people -- give us such a government, and all the people in every land would be as well looked after as the passengers on board the magnificent liners that plough the ocean in all directions. Man cannot give it us: God can and will: for He has promised. Therefore, we patiently wait" (RR, Diary 27).

2Pe 3:14

MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE FOUND SPOTLESS, BLAMELESS AND AT PEACE WITH HIM: Peter again urged his readers to "diligent" action (cp 2Pe 1:5,10). "Spotless" means without defect or defilement (as in a spotless sacrifice, cp 2Pe 2:13; 1Pe 1:19), and "blameless" means without justifiable cause for reproach.

2Pe 3:15

OUR LORD'S PATIENCE MEANS SALVATION: We should view the Lord's tarrying as a manifestation of His longsuffering that leads people to repentance and salvation rather than as a sign that he is never coming (v 9; cp 1Pe 3:20). While God is waiting, He is both giving time for the unbeliever to be saved, and for the believer to be working out his salvation (cp Phi 2:12,13) in terms of progress in sanctification.


2Pe 3:16

IN ALL HIS LETTERS: In one of these letters, Gal 2:11, etc, Paul publicly blames Peter for inconsistency and hypocrisy!

"Readers may safely make the tacit assumption that already Paul's letters were in general circulation. Peter himself had his own personal copies. Bigg, professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford early this [20th] century, has this illuminating • Comment on the efficiency with which the early church would probably organize the circulation of these treasured letters: 'Under the Empire, epistolary communication was as easy as it is now, though the speed of conveyance was not quite so great. It is not only possible but probable that Peter received every one of Paul's epistles within a month or two of its publication.' (Cp the implications of 1Th 1:8,9.) Col 4:16 provides a clear example of those early ecclesias exchanging copies of Paul's epistles" (WPet).

HIS LETTERS CONTAIN SOME THINGS THAT ARE HARD TO UNDERSTAND, WHICH IGNORANT AND UNSTABLE PEOPLE DISTORT, AS THEY DO THE OTHER SCRIPTURES, TO THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION: It is somewhat comforting to learn that even the Apostle Peter found some of what Paul wrote hard to understand! Peter also wrote some things in his two epistles that tax our understanding. The "untaught" (Gr "amatheis") are those who had not received teaching concerning all that God had revealed. The "unstable" (Gr "asteriktoi") are those who were not always consistent in their allegiance to God or the world, namely double-minded, fence-straddling compromisers. These types of people misunderstood and in some cases deliberately misrepresented the meaning of Paul's writings. However, this only added to their own guilt before God.

"The verb 'distort' ('streblousin'), occurring only here in the NT, means 'to twist or wrench,' specifically, 'to stretch on the rack, to torture' (Moulton). They take Paul's statements and twist and torture them, like victims on the rack, to force them to say what they want them to say" (Hiebert).

OTHER SCRIPTURES: Certainly means "other parts of the Bible", because here Paul's letters are described by a word normally used only for the OT. This in itself is an amazing statement -- as Peter is putting Paul's writings on the same level as those of Moses.

A comparable example is found in 1Ti 5:18, where Paul quotes Luk 10:7 as an inspired scripture. In 1Pe 5:12 the apostle makes a direct assertion of inspiration. Also see Gal 2:9; Col 1:29.

2Pe 3:17

BE ON YOUR GUARD SO THAT YOU MAY NOT BE CARRIED AWAY BY THE ERROR OF LAWLESS MEN AND FALL FROM YOUR SECURE POSITION: Much of what Peter had written was warning that he summarized here. His appeal was tender throughout this epistle (cp vv 1,8,14). The threat to his readers was the false teachers (2Pe 2). Peter's mental picture was of a torrent of false teaching knocking believers off their feet and sweeping them away.

2Pe 3:18

BUT GROW IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST: Finally, Peter adds a positive exhortation (cp 1:5-10). Rather than being swept away by error his audience should keep on growing (present imperative) in God's grace. They could do so by consciously depending on His resources (His power and promises, 2Pe 1:3,4) and by growing in the knowledge (Gr "gnosei") of "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (cp 2Pe 1:11; 2:20; 3:2). They could do the latter by getting more intimately acquainted with Him day by day (2Pe 1:5-8).
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