Devotional: 2 Peter 3:1-18
In verse 1-2, Peter states his whole reason for this second letter: to arouse or wake up the pure (free of hypocrisy or falsehoods) minds of his readers by way of reminding them of the words of the prophets and the LORD Jesus Himself.
Verse 3: Peter says that it is first of all important that his readers know (understand fully out of relationship with the Holy Spirit) that in the “last days” there will be “scoffers”. “Last days” is translated from two words that mean “farthest, final, utmost, extreme” and (figuratively) “a period, or age”. So, Peter is speaking about the final days of a specific age. We know it is specific, because he uses the word “the” last days. I am thinking that he is referring to the Age of Grace in which we now live. The word translated “scoffers” comes from a word that means “deriders” or (by implication) “false teachers”. A derider is a person who ridicules and contemptuously makes fun of something or someone. Peter goes on to give an example of this ridicule in verse 4.
Verse 5-6: Verse 5 makes me think of Romans 1:18-32. Verses 5 and 6 also take us back to the Truth of Creation, as pronounced in Genesis 1:1-2. The theory of Evolution is another result of those who have scoffed at the idea that the heavens, earth and everything included in and on them was in fact created by God through the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ in the way and timing that the Bible states.
Verse 7: Peter says that the present heavens and earth are being reserved (“stored up” as in a storehouse) for fire. Fire here is a word that is translated from the word “pur”, which in addition to its natural meaning (fire or specifically lightning), is used “of the holiness of God, which consumes all that is inconsistent therewith”. Holy fire of judgment. Peter goes on in this sentence to say that the heavens and earth are being kept (“guarded”, “preserved”) for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men (humans who are “‘impious, ungodly, without reverence for God,’ not merely irreligious, but acting in contravention of God’s demands”.)
I find comfort in these words as relating to global warming. Yes, we may be experiencing a warming of our earth, but it is not man who is able to warm it or cool it by his own efforts. It is the Sovereign God Who has this in His hands and is orchestrating this to bring about His will. I notice that Peter uses the word that translates as “preserved” when he speaks of the present heavens and earth and the fiery future judgment. This catastrophic result of “heating up” won’t reach its fulfilment until He says so. I also notice that this subject starts out with the mockers in the last days, failing to notice God’s judgment on the world (the earth and its inhabitants) in the past points to the truth of His Word concerning coming judgment. Hmm. Does that mean that it is ungodly mockers of our trust in God’s Word who are promoting this “climate change” fear? Instead of worrying about climate change, we should be working with the Holy Spirit to bring about the heart change of the residents of this earth, for (verse 9) it is not His will that any should perish (be “ruined” or experience “loss of well-being” permanently as will be the case of unforgiven, unredeemed persons in the hereafter). Those who have put their reliance upon the work of Christ on the cross can look forward to a new heavens and a new earth, that will replace the ones that are destroyed as a part of the judgment of the ungodly (those who we saw earlier are not merely irreligious, but acting in contravention of God’s demands). Again, the way we live our lives on this earth, either being set apart for God’s use (the definition of holy) or following the evil desires and pleasures of our sinful natures, makes a big difference in how our personal future plays out!
The topic in verse 7 is repeated in verses 12 and 13. I think that (according to Revelation), this “Day of the Lord” with its destruction of the earth and heavens and new replacements will happen after the 1000 reign of Christ, after the Enemy is allowed to deceive the unbelieving children who have been born during Christ’s reign (Revelation 20-21). Peter says that this day will come like a thief, but I think he is not referring to what Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, which is the snatching away of believers (the “Rapture”). I think that he is referring here to the fact that this day of judgment will come upon the ungodly without “warning”—basically because they have chosen to be blinded to the Truth of the Bible and its warning about the judgment to come. We who put our trust in the Word of God and do what it says will not be caught off guard because God has told us what will happen in the future—and even given us a timeline and hints as to where we are on that timeline (Matthew 24, and Revelation).
Verse 8 is a quote from Psalm 90:4. “The Lord is not slow (is not slack or negligent, weak or soft) about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient (longsuffering) toward you, not wishing for any to perish (be permanently ruined or suffer loss of well-being) but for all to come to repentance.” I notice from verses 8 and 9 that God’s timing is not our timing. His is perfect. We may wish that He would come sooner than later, but His heart is longing for everyone to accept His gift of salvation before He closes the door on world history.
Verse 10: We may not know the exact date, and it may not be according to our preferred timeline, but we can be assured that the Day of the Lord promised in both the Old and New Testaments WILL happen.
Verse 11 drives home the theme that we as trusters in Christ should be living our lives in a way that consistently and constantly brings glory to God. We are not “saved” as “fire insurance” that allows us to live however we want to in this fallen world, but we are purchased by the precious blood of Christ to free us to live out His purposes in our lives (the works He has planned out beforehand for us to do, Ephesians 2:10).
Verse 12 is interesting to consider. How can we “hasten” or urge on the coming of the Day of the Lord? By completing the Great Commission! Since God is delaying judgment until all those who will chose to be His chosen people, accepting His gift of salvation and turning their backs on the deeds of the old sinful nature, our diligence in sharing the Gospel message will affect the ultimate timing of the close of this age of Grace and the beginning of the promised judgment. What a privilege we have been given!
Verses 14-17: How do we prevent our being lured away into heresy? Verse 14 encapsulates the answer, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless (free from defilement or corruption in the sight of God), blameless (without rebuke) and at peace with Him.” Romans 5:1 tells us that peace with God is the result of our being justified through our trust (faith) in Christ’s work on the cross. Remember, though that justification (God’s pronouncement of our righteousness in Christ and declaration of our being formally acquitted of guilt) should involve an outward change that corresponds to the inward change God performed in us. As James says, where there is no change in behavior, how can a change of heart be proved?
I notice that Peter admits that he has some trouble with understanding some of what Paul says in his letters. I think that part of the problem is that Peter, being the apostle to the Jews primarily, (Galatians 2:6-9) had some problems with living out total acceptance of the Gentiles as fellow-heirs and brethren in Christ without their being charged to follow the Torah, the Law (Galatians 2:11-21). In this respect, I think that the idea of saved by grace was hard for him to totally comprehend. However, I also think that this subject of grace and the false teaching that it meant a person could live like the devil and still be a partaker in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is also part of what Peter is referring to. Grace is the one thing that “the unlearned (ignorant) and unsettled (not fixed on a foundation, unstable) pervert to their own destruction.” Unfortunately, because of this heresy of “lawlessness”, some preachers today go to the other extreme and reject God’s grace for legalism. Both extremes are twisting Scripture.
Verse 18: Peter’s final words present the flip side of verse 17: “Then beloved, you knowing beforehand, watch lest being led away by the error of the lawless you fall from your own steadfastness. BUT grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The antidote to falling away from our being firmly established on the rock which is Christ is to grow (increase) in grace (continue to receive God’s unmerited act of favor with a growing sense of gratitude, as opposed to taking His grace for granted) and knowledge (grow by seeking to know Him better, investigating Him). We do this by prayer and reading Scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Putting this all together, we were saved to bring glory to Jesus Christ, and through Him to glorify God. We do this by the manner in which we live our lives. Since there is a judgment coming (the promise of which is made more sure by the times of judgment spoken of in the Old Testament), we trusters in Christ have more incentive to make sure we are not taking God’s grace for granted, but are living out our eternal gratitude for what God has done for us through Christ’s sacrifice for sin. But, as Pastor said Sunday, “don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourself!”