2 Peter 3:1-18 – The Day of the Lord
Dear friends, this is now the second letter I have written to you; in both letters, I want to develop a genuine understanding with a reminder, 2 so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles. 3 First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, 4 saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.” 5 They willfully ignore this: Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6 Through these waters the world of that time perished when it was flooded. 7 But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. 16 He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. 18 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.
As Peter closes his letter focuses on the return of Christ and encourages the readers not to wait for it passively but to live in a manner that shines the light of Jesus as we await His return. As we go through the first ten verses, keep this idea in mind; in the midst of uncertainty and struggle, believers in Jesus must never lose sight of the certainty and hope of the future that brings meaning to the present.
Peter encourages the readers to “develop a genuine understanding” in contrast to the heresy of the false teachers. Believers must never let false teachers distort the truth of Scripture or allow them to cloud our thoughts.
There are two potential areas where our thinking can become clouded by false teachers.
- Words previously spoken by the holy prophets. This refers to Old Testament prophets who spoke about the second coming of the Messiah. Challenging these prophecies was a prime tactic of false teachers. If there is no second coming, there is no need to live holy lives. Peter encourages the readers to cling to the truth of the prophecies on the Messiah.
- The command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles. The command refers to the moral demands of the Christian life, specifically to love others.
- John 13:34 – I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
- John 15:12 – This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.
- Romans 12:10a – Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.
- Romans 13:8 – Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
- Hebrews 10:24 – And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.
- James 2:8 – Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
We are to love one another as we await Jesus’ return.
First, the phrase “last days” means the time period between Jesus’ life and His second coming. The New Testament church age is the last days. Just as there were false teachers in Peter’s day who didn’t believe in Jesus’ return, there are many today who don’t believe in His return. Today’s false teachers can also add that it’s been two thousand years since the time of Jesus; why should we believe He will ever return? However, there is an underlying reason for their disbelief. It allows them to pursue their “own desires” without having to worry about the consequences. If there is no second coming or judgment, then there is no reason to pursue sinful desires. This highlights two characteristics of these people.
- They are cynical about life and people in general.
- They are preoccupied with themselves and their own needs.
What believers must never forget is that these are the exact people who Jesus came to save and the ones we are to show love, in the hope that some will be won to Christ before His second coming.
Although the false teachers knew the Old Testament Scriptures, they chose to ignore them, denying God’s creation and intervention in the history of mankind.
- They denied His creation.
- They denied that He brought the flood.
In the same vein, they deny that there will be a final judgment. However, the Old Testament consistently teaches us that the universe is a moral place created by God and that God will not let sin go unpunished forever. Not only is God the creator of the universe, but He is also the judge. The same power that brought the universe into existence has the power to destroy the present heaven and earth and replace them with a new heaven and a new earth.
- Isaiah 65:17 – For I will create a new heaven and new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind.
- Isaiah 66:22 – For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will endure before Me – this is the LORD’s declaration – so your offspring and your name will endure.
- Revelation 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea no longer existed.
Even though judgment is coming, Peter’s point here is Jesus’ command to love one another. This includes those who oppose the truth of the Gospel message. As we show them love, we may be the very instrument that God uses to bring them to Jesus. Also, God’s view on time is not the same as ours. Although it’s been two thousand years since Jesus was born, lived, and died, that doesn’t alter the promise that He will return. It also doesn’t change the fact that we won’t know the hour or the day; even Jesus didn’t know. However, there are several aspects we need to focus on as believers.
- God desires all to come to saving faith in Jesus.
- God is long-suffering and patient beyond our understanding.
- At some point, Jesus will return, and all will be judged.
- As believers, we need to spread the Gospel and teach the truth to both disciples and the lost.
The “Day of the Lord” is another way to express Jesus’ second coming and judgment. The Old Testament views the universal timeline in two phases; the present age and the age to come. The transition between the two will be by the hand of God, and it will result in the current heaven and earth passing away. We shouldn’t be caught up in discussions of how this happens (burning, earthquakes, etc.). Instead, what is important is that it will happen.
Verses 11-18 make up the final section of the letter. As we read this section, let’s focus on the following idea; the final destiny of the universe should motivate believers to live lives that honor and reflect the person of Jesus to a lost world around us.
As we wait patiently for Jesus’ return, we are called to live lives that display holiness and godliness. We are not to be concerned with the present earth or whatever possessions we have (or don’t have). Instead, we are to focus on what will come later. There are some theologians who believe that how we live as Christians impacts the timing of the return of Jesus. Peter’s wording seems to support this idea, “the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it,” with the “it” being our holiness and godliness. This lends further weight to Peter’s instructions not to live passively but to be active Christians. Peter then gives us a reminder that the new heaven and earth will be a place where righteousness reigns and sin, sickness, and death are gone.
Once again, Peter calls on believers to live out their faith in an active manner. We are to “make every effort,” which implies effort and activity on the part of the believer. Living the Christian life as it was intended is not a passive endeavor; we need to be active in our “faith training” just as an athlete is active in their “sport training.” When Peter states, “without spot of blemish,” he is not suggesting that we will live perfect lives. What Peter does mean is that our behavior and the choices we make should resemble Jesus.
Peter reminds the reader that it is not just his position to live godly lives; the Apostle Paul wrote of the same requirements for Christians. However, the false teachers have twisted Scripture for their own benefit. These teachers don’t measure their lifestyle against the truth in Scripture. Instead, they twist Scripture to support their sinful lifestyle.
This verse gives another reason we need to be immersed in Scripture. If we know that Scripture warns us against false teachers, we will be better prepared and aware of the “wolves among the sheep.” As attractive or persuasive as the false can be, we must always be on our guard to protect ourselves and those around us. We shouldn’t misunderstand the phrase, “fall from you own stability.” This is not referring to salvation. It does refer to our previous stable grounding on the truth of Scripture, and that is where we need to remain.
Peter concludes this letter in the same manner as he began it by encouraging us to keep on growing. The Christian life is one that is intended to be dynamic, growing, and active. It is not intended to be passive or stagnant. As we continue to grow, we develop an increased awareness and understanding of the person and character of Jesus.
As we reflect back on this letter, let’s focus on its one overarching idea; false teachers will always be a danger to the church and Christians, but the promised return of Jesus is the light that we should be focused on and is bigger than any false human teaching. It is to Jesus which we should continually look to and live for Him.
- Always check what your church leaders/teachers are telling you against what is in Scripture. If it appears not to agree, challenge them. If there is false teaching occurring and they don’t correct it, you should leave that church and tell others of the false teaching.
- Study all of Scripture. Don’t focus exclusively on the New Testament as some do. All of Scripture is profitable for teaching, and by knowing what is contained in the Old Testament, we can be aware of false teaching/teachers.
- Be prepared to be ridiculed for believing in Jesus’ return. The world we live in is very skeptical, and the idea that our Savior will return (or even existed in the first place) is often met with opposition.
- Because we live in the “last days” and God has extended His grace for more to come to the knowledge of Jesus, we must always look for opportunities to share the Gospel.