(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
2 Peter 3:1-10
Unlike other epistles (letters), 2 Peter does not make it exactly clear who the recipient of this letter was. 2 Peter 1:1 says that the recipient is “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” This shows that this letter is probably meant to be a cyclical letter that circulated within a bunch of churches throughout a certain region, and not one specific church. However, 3:1 states that this is now the second letter that Peter has written to this audience. Assuming that 1 Peter was the first letter that he wrote to them, the same audience would apply here as well as in 1 Peter. The audience of 1 Peter 1:1 is “God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These places are what is referred to in other parts of the Bible as “Asia Minor,” or as we refer to it today, the country of Turkey.
Peter says that he wrote this letter, as well as his previous one, to stimulate the readers into “wholesome thinking.” More to the point, Peter wrote again to these churches in order to combat a rising tide of false teachers that were influencing the church with things that were contrary to who Christ is. “Wholesome thinking” would then mean that he was trying to get the churches to be aligned with the truth of Christ, and not the perversions of the false teachers. He wanted the church to become strong and mature in their faith so that they could identify confidently with what was Christ, and what was a lie.
In 2 Peter 3:3 Peter begins to speak of what will happen in the last times. He says that “scoffers will come…following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” In this chapter the “day of the Lord” (verse 10) refers to a day of judgment. It is coupled with Jesus’ return because that is when it will happen, when He wraps everything up at the end. These people were mocking Jesus’ return because they adhered to the idea that things in the world have always been the same, and that they always will be. Interestingly, it almost seems to be a first century version of what we today call naturalism. Their reasoning would be rooted in nature, and as such they see no proof that Jesus is coming back. It sounds absurd until you realize that it’s not that different than some people’s reasoning today. It’s just as Paul said in Romans 1:18-25.
But Peter says in 3:5-6, in response to their reasoning based on the natural order, that they forgot God’s past involvement in the natural world, namely creation and the flood: “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” Interestingly, the water that God formed the earth out of (Genesis 1:1, 6, 9-10) is the same water that God flooded the earth with during Noah’s day. He brought creation back to what it was in the beginning: nothing but water covering the earth, except for one Godly man and His family.
Also, since God did not hold back in His judgment of the unrighteous in the past, so will He not hold back in the future. The reason God does not judge the world now is because He is patient, and wants everyone to be saved (3:9). But Peter emphasizes the fact that the destiny of those who mock the possibility of Christ’s triumphant return to judge the quick and the dead is that they will indeed be judged for what they do.
The “wholesome thinking that Peter wants his readers to remember is that they “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” In other words remembering what has been taught and handed down to them. This is said in opposition to what these scoffers were asserting: “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” “Fathers” here refers to the Old Testament fathers. These mockers were attempting to subvert the traditions and the morals and the truth that had been handed down to the church. They were saying that God was not involved in the world, that one could not see the evidence of His involvement, and that because of that one should not worry about his return, when He will judge the whole world. Whereas the former judgment of the world involved water, the future judgment of the world will involve fire. 3:10 says that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” This is talking about weighing one’s deeds, and determining what its worth.
Do the ways of these scoffers sound familiar? It should; in fact it’s basically the same as today’s atheists. Their being rooted in a solely natural understanding of everything predicates their mockery of God and of Christians. To them, since God is not real, and that the natural world tells us all that we need to know, they assert that one has no need to worry about things such as sin and judgment, the very things that Christ came to die for, and will come again to judge. And so they mock. We should not allow the attacks of these current day “scoffers” to influence the church. I find it incredible that there are those in the church who deny creation, the flood, and a plethora of other things in Genesis. Certainly there are many questions that I have about these same things, but I do not try and reconcile God with the rantings of what Peter refers to in 2 Peter 2 as the doctrine of false teachers. Asking hard questions about God and the Bible is okay; I encourage it as long as your heart is in the right place. But when people deny the validity of certain stories that Jesus Himself has referenced as true (especially creation, Adam and Eve, and the flood) I can’t help but think that these people have allowed false doctrine to invade their hearts, the very thing that Peter was writing here to try and prevent.
So if we can take a cue from Peter’s wisdom its that we should strengthen ourselves against anything that asserts itself against the truth of Christ and who He is. That includes knowing the Lord in a deeper way, and knowing His Word. It also understands what has been handed down to us. The truth of God is a history of redemption that runs from creation to the future judgment. Slight perversions of the truth here and there create a very big mess over time. And this is how we got into the situation that we are in now. If those who know the truth would stand up for it, fight for it, and teach it to their families and churches then we would create a platform on which the foundation of Christ will be solid, and unmovable.
So what is your part in this? What are you called to do? I will tell you for certain that you are not called to be a bystander who just sits by and lets others in the church stand against false doctrine and those who mock who Christ is. If Christ is in you then this letter from Peter is just as much for you as it is for any other Christian.