About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Previous Section  - Chapter 3

The Day Of The Lord  (ch. 3:1 - 18) 

In verse 1 Peter acknowledges the fact that this is his second letter that he has written to these people.  So, even though he does not tell us clearly in his opening remarks to whom he is specifically writing, we know now.  He is writing to those who are in what we would call North West Turkey today which I believe were primarily Gentile believers, even though I'm sure there were some Jewish believers in the mix.  


He says the reason for his letters is “to stimulate” his readers to "wholesome thinking".  Peter knew that the thought process of people is important.  The old phrase, "what you think, you become" is so true.  Or, 'what goes into your minds will come out in your actions” is also true.  Peter probably used the words "wholesome thinking" because the Antinomian Gnostics were spreading not so wholesome thinking in all kinds of sexual promiscuity.


Peter says that he wrote both of his letters as a "reminder" for his readers.  The Bible is full of the word "remember" in terms of "remembering the Word of the Lord".  Of course, you must firs hear and then know the Word of the Lord before you can remember it.  In this day when there is so much Biblical illiteracy most Christians can't remember, because they don't know what is needed to know to remember. If the Word of the Lord is not in our hearts and minds, then the Holy Spirit has nothing to draw on in times of need or in times of temptation.            


In verse 2 Peter says that he wants to "recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles".  There are a couple of points to note here.  One point is that Peter links the first century apostles with the Old Testament prophets in the sense that they speak the Word of God.  You might say the New Testament apostles were the Old Testament prophets for our age.  This elevation of New Testament apostles to the same level as Old Testament prophets has made some think the place of apostles ended with these New Testament apostles.  It is fairly clear that there were other apostles mentioned in the New Testament, other than the twelve plus Paul.  It is my thinking that the ministry of apostles have continued on until today.


With this in mind, I believe we need to make a distinction between the twelve plus Paul and other apostles, including today's apostles.  The twelve plus Paul should be elevated to a higher level than what I would call secondary apostles.  Secondary apostles would be those other than the twelve plus Paul and apostles we have today.    Secondary apostles, including today’s apostles, merely repeat what the twelve plus Paul have already said.  They do not teach new teaching that is not in Scripture. 


When linking the apostles with the Old Testament prophets Peter in a round about way would be saying that what the New Testament apostles write would be on the same par as what the Old Testament prophets wrote, thus hints of canonization of the New Testament can be seen in the first generation church. 


Note also the phrase, “your apostles”.  With the addition of the word "your", we see a possessive understanding of apostles.  By this I mean, apostles are given to people.  This can be clearly seen in Ephesians 4:11.  As a matter of fact, any of the leadership gifts in a church should be seen as being servants, those who have been given to the people to help them mature as Christians.  I wouldn't make too much of the word "your".  Some say that "your" suggests an apostolic authority here.  I don't think so.  They say this because, although apostolic authority has some Scriptural precedent, they think of authority in a heavy handed way.  If you do a proper study on New Testament thinking concerning apostolic authority, which comes mostly from Paul's writings, you will note that these apostles considered themselves as servants, both to Jesus and to those they cared for.  They were not dictators demanding submission in all things.     


Notice the word "commandment" in verse 2.  This is an Old Testament word used in a New Testament sense.  The command spoken of here is the command to obey the gospel of Jesus.  You might not see the gospel as being a command from God but it is.


Before we get to verse 3 which speaks of the "last days", we should realize that there are two aspects to the last days as seen in the New Testament.  One is seen in Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost when he alludes to the fact that the last days began on that very day when the Holy Spirit came to reside in the believer.  The other aspect to the last days as seen throughout the whole Bible is the last few years just prior to Jesus' return.  This last aspect is what Peter is talking about here. 


In verse 3 Peter says, “first of all”.  He is now going to tell his readers what the prophets of old and the apostles of their day teach, especially concerning the return of Jesus.  Concerning His return, Peter says that “scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires”.  The Greek word “empatzo” is translated as “scoffer”.  This word is made up of two other Greek words, one meaning “to play as a child”, and the other, “to make fun of”.  This shows us that the scoffers make fun of those who believe that Jesus will return to earth.


There were scoffers in Peter’s day and there are scoffers today when it comes to Jesus’ return.  These scoffers make fun of the idea that Jesus could possibly return.  Beyond these scoffers, there is an element in the church that almost comes close to scoffing.  These are people who say that we should not pay much attention to the return of Jesus because it takes away from our daily witness and the work of the Lord we need to do right now.  These people would say that those who look forward to the return of Christ don’t live for today, and fail to be a good witness.  They say such people are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  This is not necessarily scoffing, but it is heading in the same general direction, especially if they make light of those who preach the return of Jesus a lot. I would suggest the opposite to be true.  From my vantage point, those who believe Jesus will return soon are those who are serious about having their family and friends come to Jesus.  So, their witness is extremely important to them. 


The specific scoffers that Peter would have been talking about here were the Gnostics.  They believed that Jesus was an angel and He would not return to this earth and unite Himself with an unholy humanity. 


In this small letter, Peter is spending a fair amount of time speaking of the return of Christ.  Jesus’ return was a very important factor in the apostolic teaching in the first century.  We should not leave this teaching out of our pulpits either.


The scoffers of Peter’s day did more than scoff.  They continued on in their indulgence of their "evil desires". These people were far from being godly.  These scoffers were the false teachers, the Antinomian Gnostics who believed that our flesh is so evil and beyond repair that we might as well give into it and sin all we want. 


In verse 4 Peter gives an example of what these scoffers say.  They say, "Where is this coming He promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation".  Now if people were saying this back in the first century, what would they be saying if they lived in today’s world?  People still think the same today, and even more so.  Even so-called Christian groups have changed their thinking on just what the return of Christ really means.  They have no patience to wait, so they change their doctrine on this subject.


In verse 5 Peter says that these scoffers have deliberately forgotten some things in their thinking.  Note the word "deliberately".  This forgetting was willful and calculated.  It wasn't a mere slip of the memory.  The scoffers say that everything has remained the same since creation, but Peter says that is not true.  He says that long ago, "the heavens existed and the earth was formed from water".  This suggests to me that the heavens existed before the earth was created.  What Peter says here confirms the Genesis account in many respects.  In Genesis 1:1 we see that God created the heavens and the earth. It may not mean anything, but the word heavens comes before the word earth in this sentence. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was formless and empty, but there was water covering the earth.  It wasn't until later that God separated the waters on the earth from the waters in the heavens with the creation of the sky.  It also wasn't until later that God created dry land to separate the water on the earth from the newly formed dry land.  I believe what Peter is saying here is correct and helps us understand the Genesis account better.  Scripture does interpret Scripture, and this is one example.  The earth might well have been formed from the water that already existed in the universe, or heavens, or so it appears to me at this present time.  

Peter then says that the earth was formed “of and by water”.  Some suggest that before the flood there was a heavy mist on the surface of the whole earth.  This mist protected man from the sun and might be one reason why men lived longer back then.


The "word of God" as Peter puts it here reminds me of John 1:1 and 2.  "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  All things were created by Him and without Him was nothing created".  The very words that spoke things into existence was Jesus Himself.     


In verse 6 we see the point to Peter’s answer to the scoffers.  He says that the same water that the earth was made of destroyed the earth.  Although Peter doesn't speak of this flood as being the flood in Noah's day, it's pretty well accepted that it is.  God in fact brought judgement to the earth, so the scoffers are wrong.  Things have not been as they were since creation.  God sent major judgement to the earth. 


In verse 7 Peter says that if God destroyed the earth once, He can, and will, do it again.  "The heavens and the earth are reserved for fire".  God will judge both the heavens and the earth once again, but this time it will not be by flood, but by fire.


Concerning this fire, some believe Peter is speaking metaphorically or symbolically.  Others, like me, believe this fire is literal.  I think the context would show this to be true.  The flood of water was literal so the fire that burns the heavens and the earth in the future must be literal. This fire brings judgment to all the ungodly.  This fire might have some relevance to the Lake of Fire that we see in the book of Revelation.   


Verse 8 is a well known and much quoted verse.  It says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day".  This verse is quoted many times, and it is also misunderstood.  Many people say that in the eyes of the Lord a thousand earth years is one day in His time.  Therefore, since two thousand earth years have pasted since Jesus’ first coming, that is seen as only two days in the eyes of Jesus.  This is not what Peter is saying.   


The verse does not say that a thousand earth years equals one day in God’s sight.  What it says is that a thousand years is as one day, and one day as a thousand years.  The two statements cancel each other out.  This means that when it comes to God, there is no such thing as time.  He lives outside of time.  So a thousand years is like a day, or a day is like a thousand years.  The two are the same because God does not live within our time domain.  That's really what the name of God, that is, "Yahweh" means.  "Yahweh" means "I AM".  God exists in the eternal present and all that that are and all things that ever will be exist because "HE IS".  


Peter might have had Psalm 9:4 in mind when he wrote these words.  The Psalm says that a thousand years is as a day in the sight of the Lord.  The Psalm doesn't say the reverse is so as Peter says here.  Peter might have added the second phrase to clarify what the writer of the Psalm meant. 


So Peter says that the "Lord is not slow as some count slowness".  But what some suggest as being slow should be viewed as being patient".  Jesus is not slow.  He is patient, "not wanting anyone to perish".  Besides, in one sense of the word, if there is no time when it comes to God, the word slow is irrelevant.


Note the words "as some understand slowness".  In the sense that man understands time, slowness should be viewed as patience.  The point here is that Peter is speaking in human terms of slowness, not God's terms, because God can neither be slow or fast since He is not constrained by time as we are.


Peter says that if you understand slowness in human terms, then you must understand slowness to be God's patience so that all ca come to repentance and faith in Jesus.  Peter believes that repentance is fundamental when it comes to salvation.  Repentance is one of those Biblical words, concepts, and truths, that don't get enough press these days.


No matter what you think, "the Day of the Lord will come…" Peter says, and it will come as "a thief".  For those who are not looking for His return, it will be a great surprise, very much unexpected.  For us who wait for His return, it should not be a real surprise, although I think it will anyway.  We can’t really imagine what that day will be like.  We may think Jesus is coming soon, but when He actually does come, I think it will not only be surprising but shocking. 


Peter says that "the heavens will disappear with a roar".   I imagine that this roar will be unbearable to the human ear.  Beyond this, the elements will be laid bare, or burned, as some manuscripts say. 


The question raised based on verse 10 is this.  What is Peter speaking of here?   Is he speaking of the return of the Lord to earth when He sets up his kingdom for a thousand years or is he speaking of the day when the book of Revelation speaks of a new heaven and new earth?  I really don't know for sure, but I lean to this being the destruction of the heavens and earth that we see at the end of the book of Revelation.  Some might suggest that the destruction Peter speaks of here is realized in the Great Tribulation, and that might be right. That being said, the earth still exists after the Great Tribulation.  What Peter seems to suggest here is that it will no longer exist in its present state.     


In verse 11 Peter asks, "What kind of people should we be"?  We should be holy and godly people "as we look forward to the Day of God".   There are two things to note here.  We should be godly, and we should look forward to the Day of God.  There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the return of Jesus.  I believe part of what Peter is saying here is that being holy and looking forward to the return of Jesus can't be separated from each other.  Watching for Jesus' return is part of being holy.


The number one way in which we should prepare for the Day of the Lord is to be more holy today than we were yesterday.  We may think we need to buy gold, move to the country, or whatever, but Peter simply says to live a holy life. 


Note the usage of the words “Day of God”.  Man and the devil has had many days to do their thing, but there will come a day when God will be doing the doing so to speak, and all of creation will sit and watch.


In verses 12 and 13 Peter repeats himself by saying "that day will bring about destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat".  After this Peter adds a new thought which is the creation of new heavens and a new earth.  The old will totally be replaced by the new. This tells me that Peter has not been talking about the return of Jesus to set up His thousand year rule on earth, although that begins the process.  I believe when Peter speaks of the destruction of the heavens and earth, he is doing so in terms that we see at the end of the book of Revelation when after this destruction; there'll be new heavens and a new earth.


Note in verse 12 that Peter seems to suggest that we can speed the return of the Lord.  I'm not really sure what this means.  Some might say that there are things we can do, like preach the gospel to the whole world because Jesus told us that before the end comes the gospel must be preached throughout the world. Then the more we preach, the sooner Jesus will return.  I tend to believe that Jesus has a set time when He will return.  That being said, "set time" should be understood in human time because Jesus lives outside of our time domain.     


Note in verse 12 the phrase, "the elements (universe) will melt in extreme heart".  On the light side, I think this is the true meaning to the well known concept of "Climate Change". 


In verse 14 Peter says that we “should be looking forward to that day”.  While we look, we should "make every effort" to be "spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him".  Looking forward to Jesus’ return does not give a license to neglect the present.  It should spur us on to holiness because we will soon see Him who is Holy.  We should view Peter's words here as a command from the Lord, just as Jesus commanded us to "watch and pray".  We cannot lay aside the teaching on the return of Jesus as some have.


The phrase "at peace with Him" is interesting.  Remember, Peter is writing to Christians.  He is telling these Christians to be at peace with God.  That suggests that Christians can find themselves in a place where they aren't at peace with God.  They're still saved, but their relationship with God is lacking.


In verse 15 Peter goes on to say that "our Lord’s patience means salvation just as our dear brother Paul wrote…"  Christians were being criticized because they preached the return of Jesus, and probably, the immanent return of Jesus.  Since Jesus hadn't returned yet, non-believers scoffed.  Peter's response is that Jesus hasn't returned yet so more could be saved. Peter speaks to the patience of God.  God is patient but His patience does have limits.     


Peter quotes from Paul, and calls him a dear brother. 

Peter goes on to say in verse 16 that Paul writes these things in "all of his letters, some of which are hard to understand".  Could it be that even Peter at times had a hard time understanding Paul?


Note here that Peter has full love and respect for Paul, even though Paul had to rebuke him for his hypocrisy, as wee see in Galatians 2.  


Peter attributes all of Paul's writings to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and wisdom of God.  Many commentators see this as a strong suggestion that Peter, and really, all of the early church, understood Paul's writings to be inspirational and equivalent to the Old Testament.  This is especially so when Peter uses the word "Scriptures".  This is a clear indication that Peter viewed Paul's writings in the same way that he would have viewed the Old Testament.  Even though the subject of a canonized New Testament was far from being fully developed this early in church history, we see the roots of canonization right here.


I think Peter's respect for Paul might say something to the Catholic doctrine that states Peter was the first pope and that the church would have been subject to him.  Peter says that he at times had a hard time understanding Paul.  If that was so, how could Peter have been an infallible Pope?  From what we see in the New Testament, this lack of understanding by Peter, and probably by others, would have come from Paul's many revelations that it appears Peter didn't have.   I believe this is one verse Catholics miss when they say Peter was the firs infallible pope.      


Also in verse 16 we see that "ignorant and unstable people distort" what Paul taught. The specific people Peter would have had in mind were the Antinomian Gnostics, which Peter says will fall in destruction.   


In verse 17 Peter closes his letter by acknowledging that his readers know all of what he has talked about, therefore, they should "be on guard".  The words "on guard" are a military phrase in Greek.  They should be keeping watch over their souls, over what they believe, and over their salvation, so they won't "be carried away" with false teaching.   


Peter says that his readers should not follow false teachers in order not "to fall from their secure position".  Is Peter addressing “once saved, always saved”, otherwise known as "eternal security"?   Maybe he is.  "Falling from one's secure position" might well suggest the possibility of losing your salvation.  Remember, Peter is refuting Gnosticism that believes Jesus was a mere angel and not the Son of God that He really is.  This denial of who Jesus really is goes to the core of the gospel, the core of our salvation.  The Gnostics believed in a different Jesus than whom Peter and the church gave themselves.  I suggest that switching to a different Jesus, meaning, trusting you life to another Jesus, would cause you to lose your salvation.


The words "lawless men" in verse 17 refers specifically to the Antinomian Gnostics, the false teachers who were trying to lead Peter's readers astray.  The very word "Antinomian" means "no law", or, "lawless".  So it is clear who Peter had in mind when he said these words.            


Verse 18 ends Peter’s second letter.  It says, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".  To Him be glory, both now and forever, Amen.


Jesus is both Christ and Lord.  As Christ, He offers us salvation.  As Lord we offer Him our lives because He is supreme over all things physical, spiritual, or, any other realm that may exist that we know not of. 


Peter says to grow in grace.  Grace has two meanings in the Bible.  The one is unmerited favour.  God loves us even though we don't deserve His love.  The second is God's ability to do His will.  I think this second meaning might well be what Peter had in mind here.  Growing in God's ability might be easier to understand than growing in unmerited favour.


Peter also told his readers to "grow in knowledge" of Jesus.  Knowledge is important, especially in our present post-modern society and church where knowledge has been downplayed.  The Bible provides us with full knowledge of Jesus, and if we neglect to read and study the Bible we can't grow in the knowledge of Jesus.  It's as simple as that.  Our problem today is that Christians and the church aren't all that interested in growing in Biblical knowledge.  No wonder we are going astray in all sorts of areas, especially in knowing who the real Jesus is. 


We may not have Antinomian Gnostics influencing the church today, but we sure have other false teachers attempting to drive us away from the Biblical Jesus.  Peter's second letter is thus very important for us.


Peter closes by saying, "to Him (meaning Jesus) be glory for now and forever!  Amen".  Peter ends with a very lofty point and the is the eternal nature of Jesus.  Peter speaks to the fact that Jesus isn't a created angel.  He is eternal, without beginning and without end.  He is in fact God.  This is what puts the final nail into the coffin of Antinomian Gnosticism.     


No matter what generation in which we live, human nature is the same.  For this reason the Bible is always relevant, no matter when we read it in human history.  The message of Peter's second letter is just as appropriate today as it was in Peter's day.  We have similar false teachers who are attempting to lead us away from the true Jesus, and we have scoffers that tell us that Jesus will never return.  The two main themes of Peter's second letter were directed towards the people of his day but they're obviously directed towards us today as well.                              



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