2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3:1

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,

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:11.

(b) The second letter. Since this is Peter’s second letter “to you,” we can conclude that it went to the same place as his first one, namely to the believers scattered throughout the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Pet. 1:1).

(c) Stirring up. I’m trying to awaken your good and pure minds.

(d) Your sincere mind. Your heart is in the right place and you are established in the truth, but I want to remind you of a few things. See entry for 2 Peter 1:12.

(e) By way of reminder. I want to remind you how to walk in this new life that God has given us (chapter 1), and I want to remind you of what the prophets and apostles said about being ready for the Lord’s return (chapter 3).

2 Peter 3:2

that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

(a) Remember. To remember the words of the Old Testament prophets, the Lord, and the New Testament apostles is to remember or be mindful of what God has said in scripture. In context, we are to be mindful of what the Bible says about the Lord’s final coming (see 2 Pet. 3:4, 10).

(b) The commandment of the Lord. Be ready for the Lord’s return (Luke 12:36, 40).

There are several great commands of the Lord in the New Testament. There is the command of God to believe in his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23), and the command of Jesus to “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). But the context indicates that this command has to do with the final coming of the Lord (see 2 Pet. 3:4, 10). It is the Lord’s oft-repeated instruction to be ready and waiting for his return (Matt. 24:42–44, 25:13, Mark 13:33–35, 37, Luke 12:40, 21:36¬–37, 40).

(c) Apostles. In their epistles the apostles remind us to be ready and eagerly await the return of the Lord (Rom. 8:23, 8:25, 1 Cor. 1:7, 1 Thess. 1:10, Php. 3:20, Jas. 5:7–8, Jude 1:21, Rev. 3:11).

Further reading: “90 scriptures about the final coming of Jesus

2 Peter 3:3

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,

(a) This first of all. The first thing you need to know about the return of the Lord is that there will be some who don’t believe Jesus is coming back at all.

(b) The last days began when Jesus commenced his earthly ministry. Peter believed he was living in the last days (Acts 2:17, 1 Pet. 1:20), as did Paul (2 Tim. 3:1), James (Jas. 5:3) and John (1 John 2:18). We are still living in the last days. See entry for Heb. 1:2

(c) Mockers will come. Last days’ mockers are nothing new.

In New Testament times there were some who doubted whether the Lord would ever would (see next verse) and others who said he already had (2 Tim. 2:18).

The wrong way to read this scripture is to apply it exclusively to our generation. “We have skeptics and mockers, therefore Jesus is on his way.” But Peter’s warning covers the entire period of the last days. His warning was for his generation and our generation and every generation until the return of the Lord.

Further reading: “The market for bad predictions

(d) Following after their own lusts. Living without any regard for the things of the Spirit.

2 Peter 3:4

and saying, “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.”

(a) The promise of his coming. The Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself all spoke of his future return to earth (e.g., Matt. 16:27, 24:27, 37–39, Luke 17:28–30, John 14:3).

(b) Coming. The original word (parousia) is derived from an oriental word used to describe the royal visit of a king or emperor. It is an apt description of the final and glorious return of the Lord. See entry for Matt. 24:37.

(c) The fathers fell asleep. Our ancestors died. The prophets and apostles who foretold of the Lord’s coming died without seeing the fulfillment of the promise.

(d) All continues. Generations come and go and there is still no sign of the Lord’s return. This leads mockers to ask, “Where is this so-called coming of the Lord?”

2 Peter 3:5

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,

(a) They maintain this. They mock on purpose. They consciously reject God’s word.

(a) It escapes their notice. The mockers seem to forget that the same God who spoke the universe into existence also spoke about judgment and destruction (see 2 Pet. 3:7). We would do well to heed what God has said.

(b) The word of God is powerful, creative, and sustains all things (Gen. 1:3, John 1:1, Heb. 1:3). What God says always comes to pass. So when God speaks, we should pay attention. Listen to God and don’t heed the mockers.

2 Peter 3:6

through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

Flooded. What God made with a word he destroyed with a word (Gen. 6:17).

Many years earlier, Peter had asked Jesus about his future return to earth (Matt. 24:3). The Lord replied that his coming would be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot (Matt. 24:37–39, Luke 17:26–30). From this Peter understood that the Lord’s return would be sudden and disruptive like the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom.

2 Peter 3:7

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

(a) By his word. The same word that created the earth (verse 5) and destroyed it in a flood (verse 6) will one day burn it with fire (see verse 10).

(b) Reserved for fire. The heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire and replaced with new versions of each (2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 21:1).

The Lord often spoke of fire in connection with Judgment Day (Matt. 5:22, 13:42, 50, 18:9, 25:41, Mark 9:43, Luke 12:49, 17:29–30, John 15:6), and Peter develops that fiery theme here. But what does it mean to say the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire?

Those who opt for a preterist interpretation say these prophecies were fulfilled in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. They note that “heaven and earth” was a shorthand phrase for the temple, God’s heavenly seat on earth (see entry for Matt. 5:18). But the context here is Judgment Day and the destruction of the ungodly. In contrast with the fall of Jerusalem, which was preceded by wars and lawlessness (Matt. 24:6, 12), the return of the Lord will occur during a time of peace (Matt. 24:37). The former event was well-signposted, but the Lord will return unexpectedly like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10).

Peter is speaking of a destructive end-of-days event. Just as the earth was destroyed by water (see previous verse), it will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:10). But that does not mean the earth will cease to exist (Ecc. 1:4). Just as the earth survived the flood, we can look forward to a new earth after the fire (see entry for 2 Pet. 3:13).

(c) The day of judgment; see entry for 2 Peter 2:9.

(d) Destruction. The original word (apoleia), which appears five times in this epistle (twice in 2 Pet. 2:1, 2:3, 3:7, and 3:16), is related to another word (apollumi) which means to destroy fully. There is no coming back from this kind of destruction.

(e) Destruction of ungodly men. Those who reject Life reap death. Those who reject the gift of life shall perish in the ultimate or second death (John 5:40, 10:28, Rev 2:11).

There are two outcomes for humanity: eternal life, for those who believe in Jesus, and death for those who don’t (John 3:16). These stark outcomes were preached by all the apostles including Paul (Rom. 6:23, 2 Th. 1:8–9), James (Jas. 4:12), John (1 John 3:15, Rev. 11:18, 21:8), and Peter (2 Pet. 2:6, 12). People don’t go to hell for their sins, because all our sins were dealt with at the cross. But those who reject the Author of Life reject life itself and will be lost forever.

Further reading: “Alternatives to hell

2 Peter 3:8

But 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.

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:11.

(b) A thousand years. God does not measure time the same way we do (Ps. 90:4).

God’s schedule is not our schedule and his patience is long. In his eschatological parables, Jesus told stories of masters, noblemen, and bridegrooms being gone a long time (Matt. 24:48, 25:5, 25:19). We need to wait patiently for the Lord’s return.

2 Peter 3:9

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.

(a) His promise to return; see 2 Pet. 3:4.

(b) Patient; see entry for 2 Pet. 3:15.

(c) Not wishing. God doesn’t want anyone to perish yet people perish every day. This shows us that not everything that happens is God’s will. Much of the world remains under the influence of the evil one and the powers of darkness (1 John 5:19).

God gave humanity authority over the earth and we opened the door to sin and death. We can’t blame God for all the pain and suffering in the world. That’s on us. But even though we made a mess of his beautiful creation, our Redeemer is making all things new (see 2 Pet. 3:13).

Further reading: “Is God sovereign?

(d) Perish. God doesn’t want anyone to die but desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). This is why he delays the final Judgment – to give us time to preach the gospel and to give others time to heed it.

(e) Repentance is the ability to receive the truth that sets us free. It’s a change of mind that causes us to see as God sees and think as God thinks. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Like faith, repentance is a response to God’s love and grace (Rom. 2:4).

See entry for Repentance.

2 Peter 3:10

But 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.

(a) The day of the Lord is the day when Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (2 Th. 1:7). This day is also known as the day of judgment (see entry for 2 Pet. 2:9).

(b) A thief. Jesus is no thief, but he will break into our world in a sudden and thief-like way (Matt. 24:43, 1 Th. 5:2, Rev. 3:3). “Behold, I am coming like a thief” (Rev. 16:15).

(c) The heavens will pass away. From the Lord’s own lips, Peter heard that heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 24:35). The sinful earth passing away we can understand, but why heaven or the heavens? Peter is referring to the temple, say some. Yet this is unlikely since the context is the day of the Lord or Judgment Day (2 Pet. 3:7, 12). The word for heavens (ouranos) is sometimes translated as sky. It’s the same word John uses when he says the sky will vanish like a rolled-up scroll (Rev. 6:14; see also Is. 34:4). Perhaps Peter is saying our polluted atmosphere will be replaced with something new. Just as the land will be made new, so too the sky and the air that we breathe will be replaced, reset, or refreshed in some way (2 Pet. 3:13).

(d) The elements will be destroyed. The original word for elements (stoicheion) can mean physical elements, but it can also refer to the basic principles or rules for survival in a world captive to sin (see entry for Gal. 4:3). The old world order, which is subject to principalities and powers, will be destroyed or melted or dissolved with intense heat (2 Pet. 3:12). Things which are temporal and cursed will be replaced by things which are eternal and blessed.

(e) The earth… burned up. The land that was stained by sin will be scoured by fire and made new.

Note that it is the earth that is burned up, not the world. Peter has already mentioned how “the world”, “the ancient world” and “the world of the ungodly” was destroyed by a flood (2 Pet. 2:5, 3:6), but here he uses a different word; not kosmos, which means world, but ge, which is sometimes translated as land or ground (e.g., Matt. 27:45). First Adam cursed the ground with his disobedience (Gen. 3:17), but Last Adam blessed the earth with his obedience.

God’s wonderful creation is going to be liberated from its bondage to decay (Rom. 8:20–21). The world will not be obliterated in a firestorm for “the earth remains forever” (Ecc. 1:4). But those parts of the earth that have been harmed by sin will be made new (Rev. 21:5). How this plays out is yet to be seen, but we can be confident that the world that God gave us will be transformed into a beautiful and eternal home. It will be even better than Eden because the ruler of the new earth will not be fallen Adam but Jesus himself (see entry for Rev. 21:3).

2 Peter 3:11

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

(a) All these things. The heavens, earth, the elements (see previous verse) and the ungodly will be destroyed (2 Pet. 3:7).

(b) Destroyed in this way. By fire; see previous verse.

(c) Holy conduct and godliness. When we who are holy conduct ourselves in holiness, we provide the world with a prophetic picture of the new world to come. See entry for 2 Peter 3:13.

2 Peter 3:12

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!

(a) Hastening. We hasten the Lord’s return by living holy lives that point people to our holy Father.

Those who insist that Peter’s prophecies of fiery destruction were fulfilled when the Romans burned Jerusalem have a difficult time explaining this verse. “New Testament believers hastened the coming of the Lord by crying out to God for justice, and their prayers were answered when the Romans slaughtered the Jews.” Such an interpretation is at odds with the evidence (this letter was sent to Christians who lived nowhere near Judea) and contrary to the heart of a gracious and forgiving God (2 Pet. 3:9).

(b) The day of God or the day of the Lord is also known as the day of judgment (see entry for 2 Pet. 2:9).

(c) Destroyed by burning; see entry for 2 Peter 3:7.

(d) Elements; see entry for 2 Peter 3:10.

2 Peter 3:13

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

(a) His promise of new heavens and a new earth (e.g., Is. 65:17, 66:22, Acts 3:21, Rom. 8:19–21, Rev. 21:1, 5).

(b) We are looking. Every believer is looking forward to the day when this broken and cursed world will be made new. On that day there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things will have passed away (Rev. 21:4).

(c) New heavens and a new earth. The eternal age, where God dwells with humanity on earth.

In the imagery of Revelation, the new heaven and earth correspond to the City of God, a.k.a., the new Jerusalem or the church. There is a wonderful symmetry here. Just as the temple of Jerusalem was known as “heaven and earth” in the old covenant (see entry for Matt. 5:18), in the new covenant, the church represents the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1). But the church is just the trailer, not the movie.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter got a preview of Christ’s kingly glory (2 Pet. 1:16). In the same way, the church presents the world with a glimpse of the new world to come (Eph. 3:10). One day God will bring an end to all those things that oppose his good will and heaven and earth will be made new. It is a day to look forward to (see next verse).

(d) Righteousness dwells. The present world is marred by sin, but the new earth will be the home of righteousness. In that blessed realm there will be no more sorrow or suffering or harm or death (Is. 65:25, Rev. 21:4, 27).

2 Peter 3:14

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:11.

(b) You look for these things. As believers we are looking forward to the day when the Lord will return and wipe away every tear and make all things new (Rev. 21:4).

(c) Be diligent. Make this a priority. See entry for 2 Pet. 1:10.

(d) Peace comes from having a mind submitted to the Spirit and a heart that has found its rest in the Lord (Is. 26:3, Rom. 8:6, Php. 4:7).

(e) Spotless and blameless. Since Jesus makes us spotless and blameless, the call to be found spotless and blameless is a call to be who we are in Christ. In Christ you are holy, so be holy and have nothing to do with the destructive desires of the flesh. See also the entry for 1 Pet. 1:15.

2 Peter 3:15

and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,

(a) Patience. We may be impatient for the Lord’s return, but he is in no hurry at all. Time is on his side, and the longer he waits, the bigger his family grows. Like a mustard seed that grows into a great tree, God’s kingdom is growing every day (Matt. 13:32).

(b) Salvation. God’s patience means more people get saved (2 Pet. 3:9).

(c) Our beloved brother Paul. The apostle Paul rebuked Peter for withdrawing from the Gentiles and then wrote about Peter’s shameful behavior in a letter (see entry for Gal. 2:11–12). To his eternal credit, Peter harbored no ill will towards Paul, but called him a beloved brother. Truly, Peter had a teachable spirit and a heart inclined towards grace.

(d) The wisdom given to him. Paul, who was well known to the churches in the regions around Asia and Galatia, had made similar claims regarding the patience of the Lord (e.g., Rom. 2:4, 9:22, Heb. 10:36).

(e) Wrote to you. Which letters from Paul is Peter referring to? Given his audience, he could be referring to Paul’s letters to the Galatians (who lived in Galatia), the Ephesians and the Colossians (who lived in Asia).

2 Peter 3:16

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.

(a) All his letters. Peter wrote his second letter shortly before his execution in AD64 (see entry for 2 Pet. 1:14). At that time, Paul’s letters had been circulating for ten years or more and they were well known in the early church. Since Peter had read all of Paul’s letters, we might conclude that Paul had died and was no longer writing.

(b) These things. These questions about the final return of the Lord.

(c) Hard to understand. Peter is not referring to the gospel of grace, which he understood perfectly (1 Pet. 1:13, 5:12). The context suggests he was referring to those parts of Paul’s eschatological teachings which are hard to understand and open to misinterpretation (e.g., the apostasy and the man of lawlessness; see 2 Th. 2:1-8).

(d) The untaught and unstable distort. False teachers who don’t know what they are talking about hijack Paul’s words to say things Paul never said. This is particularly true when it comes to the man of lawlessness (see entry for 2 Th. 2:3).

This passage is not talking about confused or uneducated Christians. Peter is pointing back to the villains of the previous chapter. He’s talking about wolves in sheep’s clothing who infiltrate the church to attack the flock.

(e) The rest of the Scriptures. Peter considers Paul’s letters as equal in authority to the Old Testament.

We are familiar with Paul’s letters because they are in the Bible. But in the first century, his letters were little more than bits of parchment passed around the churches. Yet even then they were recognized as divinely inspired and scriptural.

(f) To their own destruction. Their downfall is their own fault and not God’s punishment.

2 Peter 3:17

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,

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:11.

(b) Be on your guard. Watch what you hear or read. Listen to unstable teachers and you may become unstable yourself.

(c) Unprincipled or unstable teachers are those who distort the teachings of the New Testament (see previous verse).

(d) Fall from your own steadfastness. Listening to false teachers who mishandle the gospel of grace can leave you feeling anxious and insecure. So don’t listen to them, but grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus instead (see next verse).

Further reading: “Can you fall from your secure position?

2 Peter 3:18

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

(a) Grow. We are exhorted to grow in grace and we do this by growing in our revelation knowledge of Jesus Christ. As we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal good things to us about the Lord, we grow in grace.

Believers who have little understanding of God’s grace remain immature and susceptible to bad teaching (2 Pet. 2:14). The remedy is not to run after the latest teaching, but to crave the pure milk of the word so that you may grow (1 Pet. 2:2). Jesus is the Living Word and the Bread of Life, and the more we feed on him the more we grow.

(b) Grace; see entry for 1 Pet. 5:5.

(c) Savior Jesus. Peter ends his epistle the way he started it, by declaring that Jesus is equal with God (see entry for 2 Pet. 1:1). Jesus is the Savior and God is our Savior (Jude 1:25). Truly the Father and the Son are One (John 10:30).

(d) Glory; see entry for 2 Pet. 1:3.

(e) The day of eternity is the day eternity begins. It is Judgment Day, or the day of the Lord when Jesus is revealed from heaven. See entry for 2 Peter 2:9.

(f) Amen. So be it.

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