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2 Peter 3: 1 - 13 Exhortation by Peter to Believers

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

Notes for a sermon, that began with prayer.

We reach the third chapter of 2 Peter, with Peter providing a reminder to us why he wrote this letter. The preceding chapter that we have looked at is one that provides a series of descriptive evils that had entered the church, and Peter's rebuff, and warnings about them. Here he returns to the exhortation of the Christian. He begins this chapter, noting the change in subject: Beloved, I now write to you... This is a new set of thoughts; it enables the reader to recognise that he is moving from the false teachings, beliefs and sins of the preceding chapter, to the needs of the Christian reader, which is us, in this case, but also more than this, a warning.

Peter then writes: in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder. I repeat, your pure minds! Peter is expecting his readers to have pure minds, and at times the purity of the mind may not be muddied, but obviously need to be stirred up, or to be made active. Purity is an active process; one cannot be pure by just sitting around. This is where the monks had it wrong, when they went to desert places, or tops of hills and mountains, building retreats that cut themselves from all people, in the hope that purity will reign, as they spent time with God, without others hindering the process, or so they thought. It sounds good on the surface, but, though there is Biblical teaching that tells the Christian to have some alone time with God, and Jesus did this throughout His ministry; he spent most of his time with other people, because that is how one ministers. So what is it that Peter wants stirred up in our minds, what is it that he wanted us to remember and know?

Peter reminds the reader that there are words of holy prophets - not just any prophet, as well as themselves the apostles they need to keep in the forefront of their minds in these last days. Peter writes: that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days. It is interesting that Peter uses the words last days, as he writes in the first few years of Christendom, where we read them 2000 years later. We will come to this, but it is something to store just for a moment as we contemplate who the holy prophets and the apostles were and the commandments of us that they provided. It is eminently evident, that the Old Testament is the place for the holy prophets. Nothing else is reliable; we cannot take any old book and expect to know the mind of God. This is the book the readers of then had, and we still have. It is unfortunate that many young Christians barely open the Old Testament, and all they know of it are the common Sunday school stories of David and Goliath, or Samson and Delilah. The Old Testament is as relevant today as it was yesterday, or 2000 years ago.

Our Lord himself showed us the importance of this through the amount of Scripture he quoted when presenting His ministry. He did not need to present Scripture, after all He was the Word, and whatever he said was Scripture as it were, but no, He used the Old Testament to highlight and emphasise His preaching. He often prefaced his teaching, as in this example: 'Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'" Matthew 5:33, or note the words 'Again you have heard' or Jesus said: "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Matthew 21:13.

Peter also mentions the apostles, and for us it is easier, as we have the New Testament, however, the apostles would have been talking to, visiting, writing and preaching the word at the time of Peter's writing. We have only a couple of apostles who wrote, however, it is obvious by this statement, that more was being said than is recorded by God in his book. We know that what God did have recorded is more than enough for us to be mindful of, and apply to our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 tells us: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.' Therefore: be mindful of the words that were spoken by prophets and apostles!

Peter moves forward to a specific subject; that of the Lord's coming. This was obviously a real problem, and part of the litany of lies that were being preached by the false teachers. It had to be quashed in the bud as it were, otherwise, at this point in history, two thousand years later, we would have completely abandoned the notion of Christ's return. It is certainly still a problem, and many churches do not preach or teach on this topic, and there are many Christians who sadly look forward to heaven only through death, rather than expecting His return at any moment. "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." Peter calls the people who were saying these things scoffers. They not only were scoffers, but all things about them were bad, see chapter two, as he says here in chapter three, they walk after their own lusts. He accuses them of ignorance, as are the false teachers of today. Beware the ignorance of the modern church. Get your minds, which should be pure, and stir them up, ensure that you are not ignorant, that each of us maintains our currency in the Bible, and lives it. Apply the text I just read, that of the Word of God being for reproof, correction and learning, and this will not be a question in our lives. A missionary called James Dearmore[i] writes: 'And people today just love to ask questions like that when you go visit them, these scoffers, these agnostics and atheists. They said, "All that talk about judgment day and that talk about the coming again of the Lord is just preaching, just so many words." That's what many people say today, isn't it? But it's not just so many words, it's God's promise! It is God's promise! Therefore it is not just so many words, and it is not just preaching. It is truth and it will come to pass!'

Peter then goes further with an explanation; that surely the story of Noah proves God's motives. Water was the first cleansing of the world of its evil, but that did not destroy the world. Next time round it will be completely destroyed, as seen in the verse that says: 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' What does pass away mean? Well other verses describe a complete rebuild of heaven and earth, and I'll get to one of those passages in a second. However, let us read the rest of the Matthew verses in this section I have just read chapter 23 verse 35, now going to verse 42:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matthew 23:35-42)

As with Peter, Noah is mentioned, and the flood, and points out that the world continued as it was until the flood came. We know that Noah spent 120 years building the ark, so imagine the number of scoffers that were around then, saying the same things as was being said in Peter's day, and now in our day!!

But Scripture is clear, it categorically states that the Son of Man will return, and some shall leave with Him, others will remain. It is a sobering thought, and one of utmost importance, as it is emphasised here in Peter's letter or epistle, as well as other books and letters.

In Malachi chapter 4, verses 1 and 2 we read:

'For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. (Malachi 4:1,2)

 Again we see two groups, one who will be burned up, the other cared for, fattened, like well fed calves, this being related to fattening on the Word of God, living in His presence, and being with Him forever in heaven.

Peter also notes the following as we read: But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Here we have a key indicator related to time. We have our own idea about time, which is in itself very subjective. An older person thinks that, for example, living 70 years was not that long a time to live, and being at school seems like only yesterday, whereas ask a 4 year old what 70 years is like and they will respond with a complete lack in grasping such a long time, and may say something like "it is forever".

God's time is also somewhat different to ours. He has time, as He invented time, He created it, but I believe that time dimension for God is not something we can understand, even as we cannot understand the concept of eternity, forever with the Lord, that must mean billions of years, then some, but how does it work? So that fact that it is now 2012, does not mean a lot as to how God has planned His return. He tells us though in >Matthew 24:42 'Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.' There are signs God has sent, and those signs are clearly evident in the world today, Israel is a State, we have the means of reaching all the world with the gospel, there are wars, rumours of wars, famine, the family unit is disintegrating at a rapid rate, and scoffers abound. As to why God is waiting is tied up in the prophecies of the holy prophets, and as Peter tells us, in the words of the apostles, given to us by God, through Scripture. I read an interesting quote from John Piper[ii] who writes: 'It will be an unanswerable indictment on the judgment day, when God asks the false teachers of Peter's day and ours, "Why did you take my gift of time for repenting and use it as an argument for unbelief?"' Is that not taking something and putting it in its place? God gives us time to repent, and to collect believers to His Kingdom, and we throw it in His face and say that he has forgotten us, that He is not returning! Let us acknowledge the gift of time and thank Him for being so patient and gracious towards us, by allowing us time to get ourselves to His place of righteousness and presence.

Next Peter tells us that: the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Scripture does not tell us exactly when this prophecy will be fulfilled and even great men of Scripture such as Spurgeon say that it is hard to match into what we know through books such as Revelations. However, we read in Revelation chapter 20 the following, starting at verse 11:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 20:11f)

The prophecy is sure, written a number of times throughout Scripture; the earth will be burned up in totality. We know this is possible, as stars have been seen to burn up and disappear, so why would we not believe that God can do the same with this sin filled, and damaged earth. However, God then recreates it, and repopulates it with His people. But this is not so much the message of Peter, except to tell us that man thinks he knows so much, but no way does he know when God will invoke the final act in this earth's history. What is more important to the Christian is the next paragraph:

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Two points are being made here. The first is a reiteration of the prophecy, that of the elements, including heaven and earth being melted. The other is the greater point, if we know this, surely our conduct should match this knowledge, that of holy conduct and godliness, looking forward to the new heaven and new earth. Spurgeon[iii] writes:

Am I ready to be caught away to be with my Lord in the air? Or shall I he left to perish amidst the conflagration? How ought I to live! How ought I to stand, as it were, on tiptoe, ready when He shall call me, to be away up into the Glory, far off from this perishing world! It makes us look upon all these things in a different light and upon eternal things with a more fixed eye-and a more stern resolve to live unto God. Observe, if sin, even on the inanimate world, needs such a purging by fire as this-if the fact that sin committed here makes it necessary that God should burn it all up-what a horrid thing sin must be! O to be purged from it! Refining fire, go through my heart! Spirit of the living God, sweep with all Your mighty burnings through and through my body, soul and spirit till You have purged me of every tendency to sin.

This ought to be the prayer of the Christian. If all these things will have to be purged, what manner of persons ought we to be in daily purging ourselves by a holy jealousy and a sacred revenge from every unclean wish, every false word and everything that would be inconsistent with that life of God which is in our nature? And if, again, God is so angry with sin that when He comes to judge it He will come with flaming fire and if the terrors of God against the wicked will be utterly overwhelming, what gratitude ought you and I feel for pardoned sin? What joy for safety in the Lord Jesus Christ?

The Bible tells us through John in Revelation: And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Is this not what we need to be doing? With diligence! As Peter finishes this chapter, he like John exhorts the believer to do the following:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 3:14-18

Again, we read, as we have seen many times before, that action is required from the Christian. We cannot be passive in our lives. Peter began this chapter telling us to stir up our pure minds; here we need to grow in grace, and knowledge of our Lord. Growth takes much work, meditating on the scripture, in prayer, in communion with your fellow Christian, in learning, and also teaching the Scripture to others. Nothing is better for spiritual growth, but to lead another person through the Word. The final line though also contains information that is critical to a Christian's life - it is all about humbleness. Often knowledge brings a sense of self fulfilment and pride. Here it is stated that glory goes to God. It is not about us, we need to be humble, and the more we learn, the greater the need to recognise how that learning has occurred - for the Bible tells us that that knowledge only comes through the Holy Spirit teaching us. None of this can come on its own.

Let us pray.

[i] James H. Dearmore 13 June 1982, Sermon: Judgement Day is Coming <http://www.gospelweb.net/SermonsFromAfrica/JHDJudgmentDayIsComing.htm >

[ii] John Piper 6 June 1982 Where Is the Promise of His Appearing?  Desiring God Foundation: < http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/where-is-the-promise-of-his-appearing >

[iii] C. H. Spurgeon, A Sermon Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, 3 August 1873 < http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols19-21/chs1125.pdf >

All web sites were all accessed 11 August 2014

Stephen B Simon
December 2012 (CCC)
\Peter\2 Peter 3 vs 1 to 13 (SBS)