By Sam E. Stone
When doubters and cynics ridicule the church today, it is nothing new. That was happening a few years after the church began. As the apostle Peter neared the end of his life, even then he addressed the criticisms being leveled against Christians.
2 Peter 3:3-4
It is important to remember that the last days started a long time ago. On the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, Peter applied the last days prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 to that very moment (Acts 2:17; see also Hebrews 1:2; Jude 18). The scoffers Peter describes may be the same ones mentioned earlier in 2 Peter 2:10, 18, 19. They could also be Gnostic doubters who were leading Christians astray. Their scoffing words led to sinful desires.
“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” is a Hebrew expression implying that something did not exist at all (see Malachi 2:17). The church’s critics argued that life now was just the same as it always had been; nothing is different. “After all, it has been 30 years since your Jesus returned to Heaven, and he still hasn’t come back for you! Things are unchanged.”
2 Peter 3:5-7
These skeptics are forgetting how God has stepped into time and history in the past. He did so first at the time of creation (Genesis 1:1–2:3). It is impossible to ignore the universal flood of Noah’s day as well (Genesis 6-8). God is able to give life and to take it (2 Peter 2:5-10). He promised never to destroy the world with a flood again; next time, he will use fire (compare Joel 2:30, 31; Psalm 50:3).
2 Peter 3:8-9
God’s perspective is different from ours. A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. This is taught elsewhere in Scripture as well (see Psalm 90:4). Donald Burdick notes, “God’s seeming delay in bringing about the consummation of all things is a result not of indifference but of patience in waiting for all who will come to repentance.” God is just—but he is also merciful. Paul noted that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
2 Peter 3:10-15a, 18
Jesus taught that his return will be unexpected and sudden, like a thief in the night (see Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39). The expression the day of the Lord was used by the apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4; 1 Corinthians 5:5). He also spoke of it as the “day of Christ” (Philippians 2:16), “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), and “day of judgment” (2:9 and 3:7).
This day of judgment will be like nothing we can imagine. The world will be destroyed by fire. No one can hide or escape. Everything that is important in this present age will be destroyed. No wonder Peter asks his readers, What kind of people ought you to be? He answers the question himself—You ought to live holy and godly lives. The Christian’s hope for the future puts him in a different category than those in the world.
The apostle adds that believers can speed its coming. Exactly how this may be done is not always evident. William Barclay suggests three things that may be involved: prayer (Matthew 6:10), preaching (Matthew 24:14), and by patience and obedience (1 Peter 2:12; compare Acts 3:19, 20.) The day of Christ’s return is to be earnestly desired (Isaiah 16:5; Revelation 22:20).
We live in an imperfect world now; then it will be perfect—a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. God’s will shall be done perfectly on earth as it is now being done in Heaven. God created the entirety of the world—the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). When Christ returns, they will no longer be needed. We will have something even better, something perfect, something eternal (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).
The knowledge that Christ is coming should motivate us to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. When we grow anxious for this better day to come soon, we must remember that God’s mercy is shown by his patience. The closing words of our lesson text tell what we must do: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.