Since the Gospels recorded that Jesus said to his disciples,
"there be some standing here who shall not taste death until
they see the kingdom of God come in glory", the Church has
been waiting for the promise to be fulfilled.
The problem was acute by the time 2 Peter was written around the middle of the second century. Those skeptics who did not accept the notion pointed out to the Church that "he has not returned, so where is the promise of his coming?" Indeed? If Jesus promised to return during the lifetime of at least some of the disciples, then where was he? Many, if not all, of the earliest Christians were dead and buried. This is the central issue which 2 Peter addresses. He attacks as heretics those who belittle the promise and he derides them mercilessly.
Thus, the key to interpreting this book is to understand that it is an answer to the question, "why hasn't Jesus returned?" The entire book aims at discussing the meaning of his coming and the apparent failure of this coming.
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
The introductory verses of this epistle remind the reader that it is faith that holds one close to God and it is faith which empowers one to remain faithful to God. Peter is called to distribute the grace of God among all people. His calling, and ours, is to share this gift with as many as we can. But what is it that is involved in faith? In faith we are called to adopt and adhere to the good will of God and abandon evil. Along with this gift of God's grace we are simultaneously given joy! What else do we need? But faith also means that our eyes are open to the work of God and our ears are attuned to the voice of God, or the claim of God, on our lives. Faith, in short, allows us to love God more than anything else and to give God our highest allegiance.
3 seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue; 4 whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in that world by lust.
Life and piety. These are the themes of this brief section.
We can and may be pious! And we can and may pray to God and serve him! We have his permission and therefore we do not need the permission of the mob, which rather frowns at displays of religious piety (though it praises fanatical devotion to sports). Why may we be pious? Because God has bound us to himself and daily transforms us into his own image.
5 Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; 7 and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love.
Because he binds us to himself we are called to work and serve, just as He works and serves. Why then should we sleep a long time or act lazy or leave undone those things he has summoned us to do? With the knowledge God gives us of ourselves, we are free to be victorious as His disciples.
8 For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In fulfilling the task to which Christ calls us, we make clear who Jesus is and what it is that He gives to us!
9 For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins.
The community of Jesus is open to all, not just the pure and good. Our baptism leveled the ground and placed us all together at the foot of the cross.
10 Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure:
His word makes us alive and pious; but we do not find this word, it finds us and makes us faithful!
for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: 11 for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We have been purified of our sin and made fruitful for the service of God.
12 Wherefore I shall be ready always to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and are established in the truth which is with you. 13 And I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me. 15 Yea, I will give dili!gence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance.
The call of the teacher is to share the knowledge which God has given. And the overriding principle which God wishes us to learn is that we are free to be obedient. Through Him we can be true to His calling; and we can be ready when the end does come to us.
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The task is to bear witness to what Jesus has done; not our own ideas or schemes. Note that witness is to both what Jesus has done and is doing; as well as to what He will do. A one dimensional testimony is no testimony at all.
17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to him by the Majestic Glory, This is my beloved !Son, in whom I am well pleased: 18 and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount.
These verses illustrate the previous segment of text. It is, however, not the event which Peter takes as most significant (significant though it was); but the voice of God! It is God's address to us that motivates and changes us. Not what we hear he has done to or for others.
19 And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts:
When daylight comes the lamp becomes unnecessary. When God shines in our hearts we will strive to serve Him out of love. Light will come from within and we will not have to rely on light from without; or, to put it another way, we will serve God from wi!thin and not because we fear external punishment if we do not serve Him.
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. 21 For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.
Revelation is God's business. God reveals Himself, we do not find or discover Him. The Scriptures are God's gift to us so that we can know Him; we are called therefore to be grateful for this gift.
1 But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of.
The Church can have no fellowship with darkness. Though this is a truth that the Church early on in its history adopted, it has been, in the present, virtually ignored. In our day, the day of accommodation, the Church is more like the world than ever before. Years ago Adolf von Harnack said that the greatest mistake the Church made was to Hellenize itself. What he meant was the the church adopted the philosophical methods and presuppositions of the Greek world -- and it became a part of culture instead of God's witness in culture. The same is true today. When, however, the Church returns to its roots it will have to make a choice between the world and the Gospel. It cannot serve God and cultural ideas.
3 And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose sentence now from of old lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not.
Many can speak the Christian talk -- but this does not make them Christian. Cults often adopt the vocabulary of the Church in order to lure more folks into their web.
4 For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly;
Yes, if God punished the ancients, why is it that moderns think they can escape? How arrogant can people be?
7 and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked 8 !(for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds):
The true Christian is greatly disturbed by the evils of the world; effected to such an extent that they pray! Nevertheless the bitterness caused by sin in society weighs on them. Their only solace is God himself.
9 the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment; 10 but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion. Daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities: 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord.
Pure spirits know how important words are; and do not use them lightly. Fools, on the other hand, speak without thinking.
12 But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant, shall in their destroying surely be destroyed,
The reward of such a life of disobedience is slaughter. Foolish folk who rebel against God and His word are animal like in that they are born only to die. They speak of things they know nothing about and thereby demonstrate their utter and complete senselessness. They shall be destroyed.
13 suffering wrong as the hire of wrong-doing; men that count it pleasure to revel in the day-time, spots and blemishes, revelling in their deceivings while they feast with you; 14 having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; enticing unstedfast souls; having a heart exercised in covetousness; children of cursing;
The flood of evil is only stopped by love for God; the one who does not love God is flooded with sinfulness until they are overtaken, drowned, in their own foolishness.
15 forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrong-doing; 16 but he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spake with man's voice and stayed the madness of the prophet.
How great human arrogance is! Yet when God wishes he can speak to us out of the donkey's mouth. That is, God speaks to us out of those dumb beasts who act better than the ungodly do!
17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved.
They have fallen under God's judgment since they !have not accepted God's grace. They are useless and will suffer death and judgment.
18 For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error;
The heathen are without ethics. They act without ethics and die without ethics. Why then, does the Church wish to accommodate itself to such behavior and require nothing from such heathen for membership within its walls? Because the Church of today is more interested in numbers than in quality. It has adopted salesmanship instead of truth as its standard; and it has sold the Gospel for the pottage of Esau. But God is no more pleased with disobedience in the Church than outside it.
19 promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage.
"Free to be what I want to be" is always the first indication that the person saying such words has fallen into evil. We are free in Christ, from sin! We are not free to ignore God or do our own thing. We are free to live in love with God; not to live without him.
20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. 21 For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.
When sin rules the he!art of a person, the end of their life is destruction. The one who falls into this trap falls hard and deep. So the task of the Church is not to accommodate itself to such people but to boldly speak the Word of God to them so that they may be delivered from their imminent destruction.
1 This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write unto you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance; 2 that ye should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles:
Those who do not know Jesus cannot know what he means when he says he says what he says. They cannot be obedient and they cannot hear. They cannot see. Without Him, they cannot comprehend anything of a spiritual or eternal nature. Only those who are his sheep hear his voice.
3 knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, 4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
Yet, even in the membership of the Church, there are people who laugh at the promise of God. Moreover the one who knows Jesus and who is obedient to the will of God finds no place in his or her heart to deride the promise which Jesus has made to return. The promise of Jesus is ever new and ever in the process of fulfillment.
5 For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God; 6 by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
The world is not greater than God, and is still subject to his judgment. It cannot escape, even if it ignores him and acts as though he does not exist.
8 But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Be patient and wait -- for God is not forgetful nor ignorant of His promises. What appears to us long or short does not appear so to God. Time is our venue, not God's. Reckoning with time has to do with us and not with God.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
We lament that God has forgotten us and his promise but the fulfillment of the promise is God's own work and will be done in God's own way and time. His judgment is sure and his rewards are certain.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
The day will come; but not according to our time tables; it will come when God wishes it.
11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, 12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
What will remain when the world comes to an end? The people of
God! For us comes salvation and eternal life. For us comes blessedness.
But why are a new heaven and a new earth necessary? Because we have so totally corrupted God's good creation that He is simply going to start over again; and when He does, this time people will not rebel, for we will know better. The unrighteous and unbelieving will not be there to corrupt or to mislead. All will stand before God as they should have all along.
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you;
A living hope is given us. We live for a purpose; and that purpose is to glorify God.
16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
People falsify the words of the apostles because of sin. And when they do not read the words of the apostles they naturally cannot do them! Reading brings about understanding and understanding brings about obedience. One cannot obey if one does not know.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Grace and peace are what the people of God can expect from the future. What else is needed?
ASSIGNMENT: Using all the resources you have available, write a 5 page essay on the meaning and purpose of 2 Peter.
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