“We think we got it all,” said the doctor as he left the family in the surgical waiting room. Members of the relieved family say, “Well, you want to get something to eat in the cafeteria?” You have got to be kidding. The family is willing to go eat based on a doctor saying, “We think we got it all?” Yes! Why? Because we are, by nature, creatures of hope. In fact, we persevere in hope because hope does not disappoint us (Romans 5:5).
A favorite agenda of false teachers (who are mentioned at the beginning and ending of this text and dominate the second chapter) is that they love to derail hope. As Peter closed his second letter to these elect exiles, he reminded them of their future. In today’s text Peter used several “hope” words and phrases—last days (v. 3), coming (v. 4), day of judgment (v. 7), day of the Lord (v. 10), day of God (v. 12), speed its coming (v. 12), and looking forward (vv. 12, 13, 14)—this last phrase implied “with eager expectation.”
2 Peter 3:3-7
Peter wanted his readers to understand (know) that in the last days (since Pentecost, Acts 2:16, 17) scoffers (mockers or imposters) will come scoffing. Their scoffing was motivated by evil desires (passions or lusts). The content of their scoffing was naturalistic and deistic. Since the beginning of creation and the death of the ancestors (fathers), the world ran naturally without God’s intervention.
But the false teachers who mocked hope forgot the word, the world, and the water. God’s word was the impetus for the creation of the world (Genesis 1:3—and 8 times following in the first chapter). God used the incredible substance of water in creation. The earth was formed (stood up with) by water. But water was later used in the destruction of the world through the flood (Genesis 6–9). Peter used word, world, and water to counteract hope being mocked. But water will not be used to destroy the world a second time. This time it will be fire that will be reserved (stored or treasured up) for judgment.
2 Peter 3:8-10
Peter reminded his dear friends (beloved) that their hope was clearly realized in the Lord and in particular in four truths about him. First, while God created time, he is not bound by it. One day might as well be one thousand. The past and the future are all present to God (Exodus 3:14; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:8). Second, God’s delay does not mean cancelation. The scoffers must realize that God’s seeming slowness is really his patience (longsuffering) in wanting people to come to repentance.
Third, when God does come it will be sudden and unexpected like a thief (from which we get the word “kleptomaniac”). Finally, God will destroy the elements (rudimentary things of this world) and purify the universe by fire so that everything will be laid bare (found or discovered). Since God controls all of this, hope can only be realized in him.
2 Peter 3:11-18
A biblical understanding of eschatology is how the future impacts the present. Since the physical world as we know it will undergo a purification of fire before the new Heavens and new earth appear, believers are called upon now to live holy and godly lives. As Shawn McMullen put it, “We’ve come home to holiness even as we pursue it” (Coming Home to Holiness, 140). Christians must be prepared to die, but they need to plan to live—because they just might live. One of the best ways to enjoy the present is to look forward to the day of God. Can we really speed (hasten) its coming? Scholars debate this. Can holy living and evangelistic work bring about the return of Christ (Matthew 24:14)? Even if God alone has fixed that day (v. 36; Acts 17:31) and nothing we do can hurry it along, living in a counter-cultural way to the world is still our best witness. Looking forward to a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells is the best way to live now. Looking forward helps us to be spotless, blameless, and at peace in the present.
Then one apostle talked about another. Peter confirmed that the Apostle Paul wrote some thingsthat were hard to understand (difficult, obscure, ambiguous). False teachers distorted what Paul wrote. Peter knew the false teachers would do the same thing to what he wrote so he warned his readers to be on guard (like a soldier at his post) so as not to fall away. The key to not being taken in by false teachers would be to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. This is persevering in hope.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.