2 Peter 3:1-14
Finished our trek through Revelation – letters to the churches, John’s visions of heaven’s throne room, cycles of judgment, scenes of the end and what comes after. Much of imagery has roots in Old Testament passages, not just ones in Daniel. Tabernacle / temple references, Ezekiel’s vision of God’s throne chariot, allusions to Egyptian plagues and Israel’s deliverance, mention of Jezebel and Balaam, Isaiah’s new heaven and earth – it’s clear from the very beginning that familiarity with / understanding of Old Testament essential to proper use of Revelation.
God in infinite wisdom, in second half of first century, blessed church with corrective and explanatory teaching addressing “the future”. Peter (present text), Paul (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thes. 4) and John (Revelation) elaborate on things relating specifically to the end, eschatology: when will Christ return, how will he come back, what will happen when he does return.
Peter and John put his return in context – what will precede and follow that event. John begins with his present as the setting from which he views the future, describing 1st century issues that will be present in the church throughout this age. Then he continues to the end, the Lamb’s final victory over all his enemies and the beginning of the final age, looking at panorama of history from different camera angles or perspectives.
Peter in our text takes a different approach, a greater emphasis on cosmology than John but with no less importance given to theology. John tells us what our experience will be and why – Satan’s war with Christ and his church; Peter places greater stress on God’s purpose for his creation, how that is demonstrated in two cosmic crises – flood and fire. Peter’s teaching has broader scope – from creation to consummation. John’s teaching designed to comfort and encourage saints “in the trenches” – we are on winning side, our Commander (the Lamb) will prevail and conquer.
Peter begins chapter 3 with a warning – watch out for deceivers / scoffers – just as saints were warned in letters to the churches. Then, in light of history and Scripture, he explains God’s purpose as he is presently governing his creation. Finally, Peter asks the challenging question: how should understanding this change your life?
A. watch for deception v.1-5
remember what the Bible says (1-2) Our worldview comes from Scripture, theirs from senses. Peter, good pastor and teacher, points those in his charge to authoritative source. Major point of the Renaissance – ad fontes, “to the fount” or “to the source”. Don’t rely solely on what someone says the Bible says, see what it says for yourself. During 15th & 16th centuries, meant going back beyond the church fathers to the Hebrew and Greek texts; for Peter’s audience and us – means gaining good grasp of what the Bible itself truly says. Don’t discount value of trustworthy tools: study resources, helps, pastors and teachers. But,… verify with Scripture itself, view all of life through framework established by God’s word, not just senses and opinion based on observation.
Most important, church built on foundation of apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). When church forgets, neglects, or denies that foundation, has no warrant for existence. Whenever there is controversy, question, need, whether cultural or ecclesiastical, must go to the source, rely on God’s word as given to us to be our “sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” (LBCF 1.1)
deception starts with dissing God and his word (3-4) Our confidence in future based on God’s promise, theirs on pragmatism. Did God really say that? Did God really mean that? That’s old-fashioned, we’ve moved on. Those who challenge the Bible put their own spin on what it means, then claim that since reality doesn’t match their spin, the Bible must be wrong. Called a straw man, spin doctoring. Make claims that people are supposed to accept as fact without any proof, emphasize FUD to draw people away from the truth.
Must remember that scoffers who attack God’s word aren’t uninformed, they’re intentionally ignorant; they know the truth but refuse to receive it. Are willing agents of the real deceiver, Satan. We know that because it’s their own sinful desires / evil urges / lusts that guide their lifestyle choices and way of thinking. Message for us: BEWARE, BE INFORMED, BE CONFIDENT that your faith is built on a sure foundation.
B. remember God’s purpose v.5-9, 13
Charge lodged against God: He promised a BIG EVENT; it hasn’t happened yet; therefore, it won’t happen.
Response: God has already done one BIG EVENT; time has different significance for eternal God than for finite man; God has purpose in delay; therefore, second BIG EVENT will happen.
the old world – purified with water (6) When God destroyed “old world order” with flood, could have destroyed ALL on the earth; instead provided for salvation of 8 people to begin “now world order”. Purpose not to annihilate every living thing, rather to establish new covenant with one who had “found grace in the eyes of the Lord”.
the now world – purified with fire (7) When Christ returns, “now world order” will be destroyed with fire; earth and things found on it will be purified, a smelting or refining process, where all impurities are purged out. Rather than a “burnup”, will be a meltdown resulting in a “new world” fit for eternal habitation. As Paul made clear in 1 Cor 3:13-14, not all will survive the purifying process; “both the earth and the works that are found” will be those that have stood the test and found to be fit for the next life. (See also Mal. 3:2-4; 4:1-2)
the new world – permanently pure (13) New heaven and earth will have continuity with “old” and “now” but radically different properties. Will be a place of eternal and true righteousness, where sin and corruption no longer possible. Represent not a new creation ex nihilo but a re-creating from what already existed.
all with a view to redemption and renewal – why the delay?? (9) Delay not due to inaction on God’s part. He is presently actively engaged in carrying out his Plan A, and is important to ascertain source of propulsion for God’s plan. What, beyond simple passage of time, is moving force that makes the plan advance? The redemption of sinners. Jesus came not to condemn but to save; primary thrust of God’s ongoing purpose relative to mankind is not to see them perish but to see them repent and be saved. Purpose of delay is to fill heaven up to its quota, providing the full number of saints to make up the throng of worshipers John saw around the throne of God.
C. given: you are…, how? v.10-14
given this is temporary (10-11a) Present world will someday end; will not vanish, will be re-made. Means there is that about this world that has great value: God will have preserved it from Creation through Fall and Flood and Fire to then exist Forever in its perfectly constituted form. Yet is only temporary, what comes next although connected will be far better.
how to live
From what country ought we to be? Word and deed should give away citizenship – citizens of eternal “new world”, resident aliens in temporary “now world”.
holy conduct and godliness (11b) Goal should be holiness first, happiness will follow. Live as set apart for use of and service to God. Since end can come at any moment, holy living must be present tense – living now in dependence on God and conformity to his Word. By life and habit should be as well-prepared as possible for next life – if missionaries spend years in active diligent training before going to field, shouldn’t we do the same for heaven?
anticipation (12) expectant active waiting. Not simply looking forward to future time but viewing it as certain, expecting it will come. In meantime, work to do to hasten return of Lord Jesus; how is that possible? how can we impact timing of the Second Coming? Directly connected with reason for God’s delay: patiently giving opportunity for repentance. To the extent we are instrumental in facilitating sinners coming to repentance and faith we can “hurry along” his return.
confidence (13) Not a leap in the dark, based on confidence in God and his word – specifically the promises he has made about the future. God has been faithful in the past, kept his promises, no reason to doubt the future. Based on past and present faithfulness, unchanging character of God, should have absolute assurance he will keep promises of “new world”.
clear goal (14) “to be found by Him” – same verb as end of v.9 – when purifying process is over, that we will emerge from the crucible as fine gold, without any remaining impurities. Same thought (using same verb) expressed in 1 Pet. 1:7 – that our faith may be proved genuine having been tested by fire. Should be striving with God’s help for thorough sanctification in this life: to become as much like the Lord Jesus as possible.
Knowing what awaits us long-term helps us to deal with what we know is in store short-term: even though life can get really tough now (lots of people don’t like Christians, especially vocal ones), what God has planned for us makes challenges now seem like nothing. Given all God has provided to us for encouragement in his Word, by his Spirit, our natural response should be to serve him diligently and faithfully. All we do should first be for God, then others, then to meet our own needs.