Book of 2 Peter Chapter 3 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
In Verse 1, Peter makes reference to a letter prior to this one: "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." The earlier letter was very likely what we call "First Peter," written about three years previously in roughly AD 64. His purpose in this letter is seen in Verse 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." His statement, "the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets," is a reference to what we call the "Old Testament." He continues to include "the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles," which brings us to the "New Testament." If you are to stay on what might be called "the right track" in life, prayerfully study the whole of God's Holy Word. I say "prayerfully" study it because many try it in their own strength and our human intellect is insufficient—we need God's Holy Spirit to understand.
In Verse 3, Peter jumps far into the future from that moment: "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts." The word for "mockers" in this verse is translated "scoffers" in the King James and it is the act of ridiculing someone. Jesus prophesied in Matthew 20:19 that He would be mocked...it did happen and the world continues to be full of mockers today. We are a people who love to tear down others to fulfill our own purposes, our own "lusts" as seen in this verse.
Important advice from God is that we are to "Wait on the Lord," as seen in places like Psalm 27:14, but we are very impatient. Jesus will return to humanity when the time is right. His first visit was to save sinners and the second will be to rescue us from the presence of sin, but most want Him—now!—or they won't believe. Verse 4 quotes impatient people: "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." Many are tired of waiting. An interesting belief within natural science has been called "uniformitarianism," an idea that "all continues just as it was from the beginning." That belief fails to take into account the presence of God, who is greater than the physical laws He created and intervenes mightily when He wants. He can change everything in an instant and has done it the past (Genesis 7:11 & context).
Peter reminds us in Verses 5-6 that when God created the earth it was originally covered by water (Genesis 1:1-2) and as stated about Genesis 7:11, He used water to destroy the original world system completely; "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, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water." So we won't be frightened every time it rains, God promised in Genesis 9:11 & its context that, "...never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." Local floods—yes, but a worldwide deluge—no.
However, as Peter continues in this letter, we note that God not only has unlimited love, He also has infinite weaponry to destroy unrepentant sinners. Verse 7 tells us that, "By His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." It has been confidently taught by educators for millennia that fire was the invention of early man, but it wasn't. Like everything else, fire, which can warm us on a cold night or burn our cities, was created by God. It will bless us, but also is a warning.
Returning to humanity's obvious impatience we find Verse 8, a restatement of Psalm 90:4—and note that when God repeats something in Scripture, it's so we won't miss it: "...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." God is not limited by time as we are. Yesterday is gone for humanity, but not for God. We can't see the future, but He is already there. He lives in eternity, and the past, present and future are all NOW to Him. We are merely people, locked within our circumstances, but He can and does deal appropriately and in a timely manner with every need of each person who has or ever will live on earth, all at the same time. He is God.
Returning to our impatience, there are many who want Jesus Christ to come back this minute, which is good, except that we should examine our reasons for wanting His return. Is it because You long for Him and hunger for justice? Or is it because you want to escape life's problems? A favorite verse is Titus 2:13, in which we can cry out with the writer Paul that we are "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." We want Him, but there is a key reason why He has been slow to return as seen in Verse 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." He did not end time yesterday because there are some today and possibly tomorrow who will trust in Him but have not yet done so. Be patient...He knows what He is doing. Keep waiting and pray—He surely will return for you and me.
There is judgment in the future of mankind. As it says in Verse 10, "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." All of humanity's money, stock certificates, memorials, statues, buildings, bridges and everything else will not last. Even if we could travel out of the solar system to some planet around a distant star, it would not be far enough. We only have one hope and He is the Lord, the One who can change us for the good. Verses 11-12 ask, "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 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!" Look away from the temptations of this world. Turn to Him and perhaps your "holy conduct" will point others to Christ and hasten His return.
Verse 13 assures us that, "according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." Everything will be made new. The basic elements of the universe will be changed and so will the hearts of people. And we can be renewed right now in the power of our Lord. Do you hunger for a better, more perfect world? Let's start with us. As Peter continues in Verse 14, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless," an improvement program not done in our own strength, but in the power and love of God.
The Apostle Simon Peter was also known by the Aramaic name "Cephas." Using that name, the Apostle Paul confronted him, accusing Peter of being a hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-14). But it was just a spat between holy brothers, as seen here in Verses 15-16, where Peter commends Paul and recommends that we read his letters: "regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." The relationship of Peter and Paul is a reminder of two Scriptrures: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27:10) and "speaking the truth in love," as seen in Ephesians 4:15. We are to speak the truth and be willing to hear the truth, in the gentle love of our Lord.
Peter continues his letter by reminding us that not all among us are true: Verse 17 warns: "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." As Paul said, "Test all things, hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Peter encourages us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Keep studying His Word, pray fervently in the Spirit at all times, remembering as Peter concludes in Verse 18, "to Him bethe glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
Lord, we choose to not be impatient about the future because we trust in You. Thank You, Lord. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and help us understand Your Word, as we patiently await Your return. Protect us from that which is false and fill us with Your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.