2 Peter 3 - The Lord's Return
Jesus IS coming back! Throughout the centuries, the reality of that wonderful promise has formed the crux of Christian expectation. It is the church's blessed hope (Titus 2:11-14), her utmost longing (cf. Rom 8:23), and the great climax of salvation history (Matt 25:31-46); a time of redemption for believers (Eph 4:30) and a time of judgment for God's enemies (2 Thess 2:1-12).1
1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,
["stir up your pure minds by way of reminder" or to refresh your memory about the words that have been spoken by the prophets and the apostles. Following chapter 2 where Peter spoke of false prophets, he now reminds believers of the genuine source (God the Father through the prophets in the OT, Jesus through the apostles in the NT) of the words concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ. Remember chapter 2 called false teachers "mists on a tempest" or clouds of confusion, who inject concerns that don't even matter to deceive you to stray from the faith. Some of this confusion had clearly been introduced to the churches.]
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
[We are in the last days, (the age of grace) between Christ's ascension and His return. Peter says foremost in importance is to realize that scoffers, or false teachers, will come. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that deceivers will come. Peter also says that they will come with their evil desires. The scoffers mock God saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Verse 5 and 6 reminds us that the earth was created and destroyed by the word of God. Cosmologist have learned that planet formation is just the way Genesis 1 describes, formless and covered in water, what is unusual is that the earth developed an atmosphere and water cycle to keep that water as the land formed, where on other planets it just evaporates. By that same word the current world is maintained, waiting for the day of judgment, when all the natural world will perish with the ungodly.]
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
[Peter reminds us that God's timing is different than ours, he is eternal, what is a thousand years to an eternal God? Science teaches us that time itself was created at the same instant as the temporal universe. God literally made time for us. God will deliver on his promise according to His will, and His timing will be perfect. The "age of grace" is the time of salvation, its duration demonstrates our God is longsuffering and merciful and His desire is that none should perish, that more souls have the opportunity to repent, but his patience will come to an end.]
10 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 melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons 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 dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
[Peter describes the end as being quick and unexpected, as a thief in the night.
Revelation says "Day of the Lord" is a day of wrath, a horrible outpouring of judgment. Verse 7 said "reserved for fire", verse 10 says the elements will melt, do you realize what kind of heat that is describing? That is like all the stars in the universe exploding in super nova all at the same time, and this seems an accurate understanding of the "heavens will pass away with a great noise". There is actually a controversy about verse 10 because there are two very similar Greek words found in different manuscripts, one means "burned up" and the other means "exposed" or "found". So they argue whether or not the earth is destroyed or simply remade, is the "new earth" of scripture all new, or recycled? I don't really see a conflict because 1 Corinthians 3:13 says our works will be "revealed by fire", so it seems that once the natural is burned up then all that remains is spiritual. So since verse 11 says all these things will "be dissolved", that will remove the covering and expose the true nature of all things, especially us and our works. Knowing this Peter asks believers, "How should you be living?" If only "righteousness dwells" in the new earth, why would we waste out time on things that will simply dissolve?
A lot of people like prophecy, but the primary motivation of prophecy is not to satisfy your curiosity about the end times, but to motivate us to live changed lives, looking hopefully for the fulfillment of his promises.]
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that
the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
[Verse 14 begins with "Therefore". Peter is referring back to the previous verses where he has stated that the Lord's WILL return. "Therefore", as believers we should remain steadfast in our faith and be found spotless, without blame, and at peace with God. In essence Peter is saying, "The Lord's return IS coming and His promises are true, THEREFORE, look forward to His promises and be diligent to live as He has commanded."
God is longsuffering and what scoffers or false teachers see as inaction on the part of God is a beautiful display of God's patience toward us, allowing us time to repent and be saved (the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation). Peter acknowledges that Paul has had also written these same things and that some were hard to comprehend. If you ever witness to skeptics you will hear some of their objections to the Bible are based on the "twisted" things that "untaught" and "unstable" people have told them, revealing how important the Holy Spirit has been in aiding our understanding of scripture. Even in the Garden of Eden Satan was twisting the word of God in order to deceive mankind. The Old Serpent tried the same thing when he was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, but Jesus had a better command of the scripture, and overcame Satan with the truth of God's word. Here Peter says that people twist God's word to their own destruction.]
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
[So to the faithful Peter extends this friendly warning. Since those who twist God's word will be destroyed, don't be led away with the error of these wicked false teachers, but instead know God's word, remember his promises, increase in knowledge of the Lord, and grow in grace. The attributes of God include holiness and glory. Any teaching we receive should glorify God, and prompt us toward holy living, growing in the likeness of our Lord. A big motivation for righteous living is the expectation of Christ's return.
It is important to remember Isaiah 55:8-9. His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways. His ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours. This is where our faith must be stable to lean on the promises of God!]
APPENDIX - Paul's Gospel of Freedom.
So what did Paul write that has been so twisted by "untrained and unstable" teachers? I think the best hint comes from the previous lesson on false teachers.
2 Peter 2:19 says "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption". So Paul's writings on Christian liberty become prime suspects.
Romans 8:1-5 – no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus
2 Corinthians 3:1-18 - the spirit is life, the law is death
1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23 – all things are lawful for me
Galatians 5:1-6 – only faith saves
So if a false teacher took these passages out of context he could spin the meaning to suggest that you can do whatever you want to in your own body and God will not be offended. What is wrong with that idea is that it is taken out of context; it presents an incomplete and purposely deceptive view of scripture.
Romans 8 says "no condemnation" but it also says to those who don't walk "according to the flesh". Further clarifying later in Romans 12 Paul says that our bodies should be a "living sacrifice"
2 Corinthians 3 concludes the result of the liberty of the spirit is to be turned into the image of the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23 does say all things are lawful, but all things are not profitable, and Paul asserts he will not be brought "under the power" of any desire.
Finally in Galatians 5 you only have to keep reading down to verse 13 to find "use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh".
So in context we see that liberty will not lead us back into sin but rather liberty takes us beyond the law to serve others, control our passions, and glorify God, and everyone can see Christ likeness in that.