For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 14, 2008
The major theme of this chapter is the return of Christ and the coming judgment. This passage is an exception to the "rule" of the skeptics that Christ's return is only mentioned briefly by Paul. Peter's focus is almost entirely on the Second Coming as opposed to the Rapture.
"Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, 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.' For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished." (3:3-6)
From Peter's time until now, skeptics have debated and mocked the coming of the Lord. Peter says these people are "deliberately ignorant" of two things: the creation and the Flood. The first thing they deliberately ignore is the fact that God created this world and that He is therefore sovereign over all of it. The second thing they are deliberately ignorant of is God's judgment on sin. Basically these people ignore God.
"But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (3:7-9)
The former world passed away by water, but this world will be destroyed by fire, as Peter explains in great detail in the next section. Peter comforts his readers by reminding them that God is not limited by time like we are. Whether we are aware of it or not, God is at work, and He will perform his purpose. Our job is not to try to understand it all; our job is to remain faithful to Him.
Verse 9 is often misquoted and ripped from its context. The "promise" Peter is talking about is Christ's coming and the ensuing judgment, not salvation. Basically what Peter is saying is that God is delaying His judgment so that more people can be saved. This one verse is often used as a trump card by those who dispute the doctrine of election. They often do not even quote the entire verse, they just say, "God is not willing that any should perish." This does not do justice to the context, nor is it honest with the preponderance of scripture that teaches election.
"But 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. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (3:10-13)
This is an important point that should not be missed. God is going to destroy this earth and everything in it. And yet too many of us, myself included, spend all of our time worrying about our lives here and how we are going to make it and what our future here on earth is going to be like. What a shame. We have the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven, and yet we waste our time with stuff down here on earth.
"Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. knowing this beforehand,You therefore, beloved, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 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." (3:14-18, ESV)
This is an important fact that too many people ignore. When God gave us the Bible, He did not give us a systematic theology book. He gave us a book of stories, poetry, letters and other literary forms that form a cohesive whole. God chose to preserve His word this way. One of the problems sinful man has is that often he brings his own ideas to the scriptures. When he does, he can find something in the Bible that seems to confirm his erroneous beliefs. Not everyone who does this is intentionally trying to twist the scripture. Often they are well-meaning people who sincerely believe something. But they do not seek God's wisdom to help them understand the Bible. Instead they rely on their own intellect or the ideas of others they trust.