2 Peter 3

Scoffers and Materialism
2 Peter 3
2 Peter 3. In the final chapter Peter addresses the second of two evils. Having covered the false teachers in ch.2, he now deals with the materialistic and skeptical world around, characterized by denying the return of the Lord in judgment, an influence which can impact the walk of the believer. We are living in “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4:3), and therefore we are exposed to the very environment Peter writes about. Peter brings before the saints two other “days” in this chapter to lift our eyes beyond man’s day. The first is “the day of the Lord” which spans a thousand years during which Christ will assert His claims of lordship over this world. The second is “the day of God” which is eternity, when all is according to God’s mind. Peter then speaks of the moral conduct that is suitable to the believer, who has the intelligence of these things. One of the key points that Peter covers in this chapter is how the believer is to reconcile the period of time in which we live. He shows that God is not slack concerning His promise, but that He is long-suffering. This chapter shows that what God is doing in the intervening time before the Day of the Lord begins is covered by Paul’s ministry, to which Peter refers the reader; i.e. the doctrine of the assembly.

The Folly of Scoffers in View of the Coming Day of the Lord (3:1-10)

1 This, a second letter, beloved, I already write to you, in both which I stir up, in the way of putting you in remembrance, your pure mind, 2 to be mindful of the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of the Lord and Saviour by your apostles; vv.1-2 Consistency with the Divine Revelation. The fact that Peter was writing a “second letter” to the same believers shows that his indented audience was again the sojourners of the Jewish dispersion among the Gentiles. As in the first chapter, so here again, Peter gives his purpose in writing the epistle. He wanted to stir up the saints as to what they already knew, and the give them the means, after his death, of bringing the same things to remembrance (ch.1, v.15). In writing his second letter, Peter was consistent with two things: the writings of the “holy prophets” (Old Testament), and the “apostles” who conveyed the teachings of “the Lord and Saviour” (New Testament, especially the gospels). This is a good example of how when prophets are mentioned before apostles it refers to Old Testament prophets, in contrast to when we have “apostles and prophets” the New Testament prophets are in view. Read more… It is striking to see the Divine safeguard that Peter would set before the saints as he was about to depart; not apostolic succession, not tradition, but the Word of God, which links the soul with God Himself by faith. Paul did the same for the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30), and the resource is the same for us today! We need to fill our “pure minds” with the Word of God, and if they become defiled we need to have our mind “renewed” (Rom. 12:2) by the “washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26).
3 knowing this first, that there shall come at the close of the days mockers with mocking, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for from the time the fathers fell asleep all things remain thus from the beginning of the creation. vv.3-4 Scoffing at the Promise of Coming Judgment. In the “last days” of Christendom there would be mockers who would live according to their own lusts, and would scoff at the promise of the coming of Christ. These unbelievers judge everything by their senses rather than by faith. They look at the material world and observe that it is stable and unchanging since its creation, therefore they conclude that the coming of Christ is not a reality. This is a religion of materialism. They observe no changes with the natural eye, but they are not looking with they eye of faith (vv.5-6). As in the end of ch.1, so here again Peter uses the expression “knowing this first” to mark a point of great importance. It isn’t so much a hatred of Christ, but a skepticism toward Him. A sinful lifestyle goes hand in hand with a denial of the return of Christ. God is able to preserve the believer from sitting with the world in “the seat of the scornful” (Psa. 1:1).
5 For this is hidden from them through their own wilfulness, that heavens were of old, and an earth, having its subsistence out of water and in water, by the word of God, 6 through which waters the then world, deluged with water, perished. vv.5-6 Water: God Has Judged the World Before. Is common when man comes to his own conclusions from his natural senses apart from divine revelation that he makes a critical error in thinking. Man observes the creation to be unchanging, but through rejecting the revelation of God, in “their own willfulness”, the fact of the flood is “hidden from them”. The geological record is full of evidence of a great flood, as are the traditions of peoples all over the earth. On every continent, in nearly every culture, there is some legend or myth that contains the record of a catastrophic flood. Men blind themselves to the obvious truth that things have not always continued as they are. God has intervened once already to judge the world. Peter shows that if God has intervened once, then why should he not intervene again? He speaks about the heavens and earth before the flood. When God formed the Earth to be inhabited by man He separated the waters above and below, and then caused the waters below to be gathered together and the dry land to appear (Gen. 1:6-10). The land had its subsistence out of the water and in the water, and all of this was done “by the word of God”. Peter shows that the very waters that were separated and gathered together to produce the dry land were later used to flood the earth. From its very creation, God kept a great store of water in reserve that He would later use to destroy the world.1 The pre-diluvian world perished in the flood, and Noah stepped out of the ark onto a new earth.
7 But the present heavens and the earth by his word are laid up in store, kept for fire unto a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. v.7 Fire: God Will Judge the World Again. Just as the pre-diluvian world was reserved for judgment by water according to the Word of God, so the present heavens and the earth by his word are laid up in store, kept for fire”. After the flood, God promised never to judge the earth with a flood of water again, and give the rainbow as a sign of His covenant. Not long after the flood, God gave an example of His intention to judge by fire in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and that which grew upon the ground” (Gen. 19:24-25).2 He used fire again in Leviticus 10, Numbers 11, and Numbers 16. The “day of judgment” that is described here is the “day of the Lord” (v.10), and it will begin with judgment on ungodly men at the appearing of Christ with flaming fire (Isaiah 66:15-16; 2 Thess. 1:8), and it will end with the destruction of the heavens and earth by fire.
Three Worlds. Peter speaks about three "worlds" in ch.3 of his second epistle. It is important to understand that each of these worlds is vastly different from the others. Dispensations have to do only with “the heavens and earth that are now”. There were no dispensations before the flood, and there will be none in the eternal state. Therefore, an understanding of “worlds” is important in the study of dispensational truth.
  1. The World that Then Was. This “world” continued from the creation until the flood. It is that which is "of old". The waters from which the dry land appeared were reserved for the judgment of that world, which grew in increasing evil until God decided to destroy it (2 Peter 3:5,6). Eight souls were saved from that judgment and transported via Noah's ark to the next.
  2. The Heavens and the Earth, which are Now. This “world” continues from the flood until the Day of the Lord. In this world the dispensations of God unfold. In this world the first man is tested under various dispensations, and proven to be an utter failure. In this world, Christ the Second Man came once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and will come again to reign over all. When its purpose has been fulfilled, and when Christ delivers up the kingdom to God, and then this world will come to an end, the heavens and earth shall pass away with a great noise tremendous heat (2 Peter 3:7,10).
  3. A New Heavens and a New Earth. The new "world" is what God will create for the satisfaction of His own heart. It is a world that is free from sin and death. It is a world without pain. There will be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and there will be no dispensations. It will be ushered in as the "day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12), an unchanging eternal state (Rev. 20:1-8). In this state, righteousness will dwell (2 Peter 3:13).
8 But let not this one thing be hidden from you, beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some account of delay, but is longsuffering towards you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. vv.8-9 The Lord’s Timing. There is “one thing” that we need to understand as believers. The difficulty with us is not that we doubt it will all come to pass, like the materialistic scoffers. The difficulty is that the Lord has waited so long in our reckoning. The one thing we should remember is that the Lord’s perspective of time is not like ours; “one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Notice that Peter is using Psalm 90:4. This is the “one thing” that will quiet our minds. But there is another thing, and it is calculated to comfort our hearts. The perceived “delay” is because God loves us. He doesn’t want any to perish, and he knows we love many in this world (family, etc.) that are lost. The “delay” is not a delay of His promise, “as some account of delay”. In other words, the Lord is not late. His timing is perfect. It is our understanding of His ways that is imperfect. The Lord wants “all to come to repentance”, and He will wait until the last of the elect are saved, and then He will come. In a certain sense, the two thousand years that have transpired since the return of Christ to His Father’s throne is but “two days” in God’s reckoning. It is quite interesting to trace the references to “two days” in scripture (Hos. 6:2; John 4:40; Luke 10:35). 
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements, burning with heat, shall be dissolved, and the earth and the works in it shall be burnt up. v.10 The Day of the Lord. The “day of the Lord” begins with the appearing of Christ and continues for a thousand years (one day, v.8) unto the dissolution of the elements. Peter passes over the entire period of the kingdom, to the “everlasting kingdom”, which stretches into eternity. This “day” is something that the saints are looking for and longing for. But the day of the Lord will come “as a thief” for the world. The fact of the Lord’s coming “as a thief” is mentioned five times in scripture, and it always refers to the appearing (Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2-4; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; Rev. 16:15). The idea of coming as a thief involves unwanted surprise. The Lord will not come for His saints as a thief as 1 Thess. 5:4 plainly states, but rather as a bridegroom. Nor does a thief blow a trumpet before he surprises his victims. Peter focuses not so much on the judgments that will accompany the appearing, but the dissolution of the elements at the end of the thousand years. What Peter describes in these verses is a sudden disassembly of molecules and atoms, releasing tremendous heat or stored energy. The very building blocks that God has used to construct the physical creation will be dissolved . The earth will be “burned up” and also “the works in it” . The “works” refer to man’s efforts down here: the planning, building, etc. All of man’s works will be destroyed, and all that will remain is what is according to God!

Holy Living and Godliness in View of the Day of God (3:11-16)

11 All these things then being to be dissolved, what ought ye to be in holy conversation and godliness, v.11 Holy Living and Godliness. In view of all material things being dissolved at the day of the Lord, how our live should revolved around that which is spiritual and eternal! This leads Peter to speak of holy living and godliness. Holiness is the love of what is good and the hatred of evil, and it is the very nature of God.

Godliness, sometimes translated piety, comes from the Greek word meaning "well devout", and it refers to a manner of living that is totally pleasing to God. It relates to holiness, and certainly includes it, but is broader. Godliness or "devoutness" involves our motives, our attitude, and our conduct in the sight of God. Christ is the perfect example for us in this (1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 5:7).

An appreciation of the transient character of the material world, as well as the fact that its future destruction is because of sin, causes the believer to live a life of separation and devotion to God.
12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements, burning with heat, shall melt? 13 But, according to his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. vv.12-13 Hastening the Day of God. Rather than immerse himself in the benefits of man’s day, what the believer is waiting for as his satisfaction is “the day of God”, the very thing that will satisfy the heart of God. This is “according to his promise” in the sense that Peter borrows from Isaiah 65:17, where it speaks of “new heavens and a new earth”. In Isaiah the expression refers to the world under the kingdom of Christ; i.e. the Millennium. In Isaiah, the change that the world will experience when the curse is removed in the Millennium will be so transformative that it will be “new” in many ways. At that time the wolf and the lamb will feed together, etc. Peter borrows the expression and applies it to a much greater transformation at the end of the Millennium when God will dissolve the elements and “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Peter passes over the thousand years in such a way as to bridge the gap between Isaiah and John, who used the expression in Revelation 21:1-8 referring to the eternal state. Notice that in Isaiah’s new earth there is an earthly city of Jerusalem, but in John’s there is only a heavenly Jerusalem (the Church). The “new heaven” here refers to the physical heaven, the first heavens (atmosphere, space, etc.), not the third heaven where God dwells, as that never needs to change! In the Millennium, evil will be judged every day, and “a king will reign in righteousness” (Isa. 32:1), but in the eternal state there will be no evil at all, and righteousness will “dwell”. The eternal state is the “day of God”; i.e. a day according to God. This is what we are “waiting for and hastening”. How can we hasten that day? We do this by ordering our own lives now in accordance with God’s own nature.

The Eternal State. There are only three passages that describe the eternal state: Rev. 21:1-8, 2 Pet. 3:10-13, and 1 Cor. 15:24-28, although there are other minor references to it, such as "the eighth day" (Lev. 23:36, 39), possibly "the everlasting kingdom" (2 Pet. 1:11) would include it, and the "reconciliation of all things" (Col. 1:20). The eternal state is the end of all God’s purposes for the glory of Christ and the blessing of man. This is when God will have reconciled "all things" unto Himself (Col. 1:20), and God will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). If the Millennium is necessary for the vindication of God's character, then the eternal state is necessary for the satisfaction of His heart!

There are really only three scriptural names for the eternal state:
  1. The "Age of Ages" (Rev. 20:10, Eph. 3:21)
  2. The "Day of God" (2 Cor. 15:28; 2 Pet. 3:12)
  3. The "Day of Eternity" (2 Pet. 3:18)
The truth about the Eternal State is only revealed in the New Testament. The Old Testament does not mention the eternal state. The expression "a new heavens and a new earth" in Isa. 65:17 speaks of the great changes that will happen when the earth has her Sabbath in the Millennial day!
14 Wherefore, beloved, as ye wait for these things, be diligent to be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless; v.14 The Believer’s Conduct in the Meantime. Peter now addresses the conduct of believers while they wait for the day of the Lord and the day of God. The first thing is actually that we are waiting. It is a humbling position to be waiting on God’s time, and it puts the soul in a state of dependence. But God wants us to be “found of him in peace”, rather than anxious as we hear the scoffers and see the false teachers infiltrating Christianity. We can leave all our cares with Him, and go on with peace in our minds and at peace with our brethren. But peace for the believer is never at the expense of holiness, and therefore he adds “without spot and blameless”. Our conduct before God and man ought to be impeccable, as those who hunger and thirst for the day of God!
15 and account the longsuffering of our Lord to be salvation; according as our beloved brother Paul also has written to you according to the wisdom given to him, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; among which some things are hard to be understood, which the untaught and ill-established wrest, as also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. vv.15-16 Accounting the Longsuffering & Paul’s Epistles. Another thing that is important for us while we wait for God’s timing is to properly deal with the perceived delay in the Lord’s coming. How we must account for “the longsuffering of our Lord” is to see that the apparent delay is the Lord’s longsuffering and grace to the sinner, extending the time in which souls are saved.3 He speaks of the writings of “our beloved brother Paul” as that which really deals with what God is doing in the intervening period. The last time we read of Peter and Paul interacting was when Peter was rebuked by Paul at Antioch (Gal. 2). It is touching to see that Peter can speak of Paul in the most affectionate terms, showing that the relationship was fully restored in grace. Peter says that “Paul also has written to you”, which can be nothing less than a reference to the epistle to the Hebrews. In Hebrews, Paul does not unfold the doctrine of the church, but rather the doctrine of Christ glorified at God’s right hand. Peter also speak of “the wisdom given to him” and “all his epistles” containing “these things”, corroborating what Peter said about the longsuffering and day of the Lord, and “some things hard to be understood”; i.e. a higher line of doctrine that was hard for the Jewish mind to accept but was vital to understand. No doubt this involves the truth of the mystery; of Christ and the church, and God’s purpose to glorify Christ through the assembly which is His body and His bride. Those who are “untaught and ill-established” wrestle not only with what Paul teaches, and but also with “the other scriptures”. Understanding Paul’s doctrine and the truth of the mystery “in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge” (Col. 2:2) is a vital key to understanding all of scripture. Notice that Peter considered Paul’s writings inspired scripture, and encourages the Jewish believers to accept them as such.

Final Exhortations (3:17-18)

17 “Ye” therefore, beloved, knowing these things before, take care lest, being led away along with the error of the wicked, ye should fall from your own stedfastness: 18 but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. vv.17-18 Warning, Encouragement, and Doxology. In his final exhortation peter warns the The Saints to be careful that they are not influenced by the error of the wicked. Whether it be the false teachers that invade the Christian profession, or the skeptical materialistic world round, there is a danger that Christians might be swept up in “the error of the wicked”. God wants us to remain steadfast in the truth, and so we need to be on our guard. Having dealt with a negative, Peter then gives the positive encouragement. God wants us to “grow”. This goes back to the first chapter where we had the Divine nature and its qualities which are to be in us and abound. There are two things we are to grow in, and the order is important. First, we are to “grow in grace”, a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us and the place before God that Christ has won for us. Second, we are to grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Grace comes before knowledge, because grace is the source all our blessings. If we grow in knowledge without a commensurate growth in grace, we can become intellectual, hypocritical, or legal. We might compare spiritual growth to a tree which grows down by its roots and up by its branches. A large tree with small roots is easily felled by a strong wind. That being said, it is God’s desire for their to be a growth in knowledge as well, and this is in the knowledge of a Person, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All true knowledge has Christ at the center, as He is at the center of all of God’s purposes and counsels. The mention of the full name and title of our Lord leads into a doxology of praise, calling for the glory of Christ both now and for all eternity!
  1. But the passage before us is by some applied only to the earth’s primeval constitution, by others to the deluge. It is plain enough that the apostle looks successively at each. The All-wise God had so constituted it in case of need; and as the apostasy of the race required the drastic remedy, He applied it to destroy the old world. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle of Peter.
  2. The very book of Genesis records, not very long after the deluge, the destruction of the cities of the plain because of their enormous impurity, contrary to fallen nature itself. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle of Peter.
  3. So solemn a dissolution of all that the flesh rests upon should lead us so to walk as to be found of the Lord, when He comes to introduce that day, in peace and blameless; accounting that the apparent delay is only the Lord’s grace, exercised for the salvation of souls. We may well wait, if God makes use of this time to rescue souls from judgment, by bringing them to the knowledge of Himself, and saving them with an everlasting salvation. This, the apostle says, had been taught by Paul, who wrote to them (the Hebrew believers) of these things, as he did also in his other epistles. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.