Commentary on II Peter

A Message of Radiant Hope

II Peter 1:1 - 4

"This epistle may be called the later Will of a dying Apostle and martyr of Jesus Christ: for when Peter wrote it, he knew that he was shortly to seal the truth in it with his blood as will be clear by comparing verse 14 of this chapter with Christ's prediction concerning his death (John 21:18) (Nisbet, p. 219). It is a Testament; that is, a statement made by a person who expects to die soon. Parallels can be found in Deuteronomy 33 Moses' farewell; Acts 20:17-38 Paul's farewell to the Ephesians; and John 14 - 17 Jesus' farewell to His disciples.

This second letter from the pen of the Apostle Peter is a letter of exhortation to hope in the knowledge of God; it is a warning against false teachers. It is also an admonition to holy living in the light of the second coming of Christ. Although the writer seems to have reached an advanced age, and the time of his death is rapidly approaching, there is not a note of despondency, fear or gloom. His message is a message of radiant hope. He, furthermore, sounds a warning against the pernicious influence of false teachers, those who may be professed Christians, but who deny the Lord not only by their doctrines but by their impure and unholy lives.

The truth which these false teachers particularly attack is that of the return of Christ, and their conduct corresponds with their unbelief. Because of Christ's delayed coming they mock at "the promise of his coming," and continue to walk after their own lusts. These false teachers, no doubt, said, "Years have passed and nothing has happened; the world is still the same as it was - what then, of this preaching, what of this Gospel?" The danger was that the faith of this infant church should thus be shaken. The besetting sin at such a time as this is probably the sin of discouragement.

The writer indicates that the true believer has a knowledge of which the world knows nothing. This "knowledge" has as its source - God the Father; its chief object - the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is directly associated with grace. This knowledge is more than mental; it is also a spiritual attainment.

Two things are necessary for the saints during trials and tribulations: (1) you must know what you have - a solid foundation of faith in God and Christ. (2) Then you must add to what you have and increase it. Paul said, "If the trumpet give an UNCERTAIN sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" (I Corinthians 14:8).

1. Salutation and Greetings - 1, 2

"Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained or received like precious faith (isotimon) or faith of equal value with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ." Peter's recognition of himself as a servant of Christ was an acknowledgment that Christ had the right to direct him in all of his ministerial life. It was precisely that right in which the apostle gloried. The readers to whom he directs his letter were all Christians then living, and indeed, according to the intention of the Holy Spirit, to all saints of all ages that were to follow. He does identify them very clearly, "them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ."

The writer wishes to place himself upon an equality with his readers, but at the same time he characterizes them as the true believers who have partaken of God's righteousness through faith in Christ. When God saved us, He equipped us with power by imparting His own nature to us, and by imparting and imputing to us His righteousness. The Old Testament speaks of this righteousness which is imputed or reckoned to the individual who places his faith and trust in God. It is said of Abraham, "he believed in the Lord; and (the Lord) counted it to him for righteousness," (Genesis 15:6).

This is the same righteousness about which Paul writes in Romans 4. The righteousness of God is a state called forth by God's act of justification; God's righteousness or holiness is imparted to the sinner who will accept the promises of God by faith. It is given by the grace and mercy of God, without any desert (no one deserves to be saved) or merit of man; it brings with it equal privileges because of the ABSOLUTE justice or "righteousness of God and the Savior Jesus Christ."

The salutation, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you," is quite familiar in form, but it is connected with a unique phrase which sounds the keynote of the epistle: "in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." This "knowledge" referred to here is more than a knowledge THAT THERE IS A GOD; but it is the "acknowledging of GOD AS THE HEAVENLY FATHER and the superior knowledge that Jesus Christ is God's Son and OUR SAVIOR."

Yeager translates this phrase, "in the sphere of the superior knowledge that has God and Jesus our Lord as its source." He says further that this knowledge is to be "distinguished from scientific knowledge in the natural sphere which depends for verification upon empirical evidence available to man in his natural state, unaided by revelation. Grace and peace do not come from such a source. Never has man had so much knowledge and so little (superior, perfected) knowledge. And never has man been so graceless and so lacking in the ability to get along, either with himself or with his neighbor" (Vol. XVII, pp. 192, 193).

The words "knowledge" or "knowing" are found at least eight times in this one chapter. True knowledge promotes a close relationship with God; we experience His power in our lives. Upon the basis of true knowledge, the writer warns his readers of apostate teachers who oppose God and Christ.

2. God Has Given Us All We Need - 3, 4

In these verses the writer answers two questions: "What has been done for the true Christian?" and "What they themselves ought to do?" Just as God has done great things for the believer for a given end, so they are to earnestly strive for certain goals that characterize the Christian. The "all things" mentioned here which are necessary to foster the spiritual life and to guide into the way of holiness have been provided graciously by God's divine power. Those who are weak are made strong; the faint-hearted are encouraged; the erring are forgiven; and the poor in spirit are made rich by the untarnished wealth of God.

All that is needed for the nurture of the spiritual life and for the development of godliness has been given to the believer by the One Who has saved us from our sins. The "exceeding great and precious promises," referred to in verse 4, have been granted to the Christian to increase his knowledge of God and to give progress toward Christ-likeness. God's promises are the very essence of spiritual life. What are His precious promises: (1) forgiveness. We are born again. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are saved. (2) We have a blessed hope of the resurrection. This corruption will put on incorruption. (3) We have grace and peace. These are ever-present blessings.

"What is the object of this life; what is the essential life of the Christian; what is it we should be striving after? According to Peter it can be put in two statements. The first thing is TO KNOW GOD, and the second thing is to BECOME LIKE HIM" (Lloyd-Jones, p.13, 14).

Many of the saints of old desired a greater knowledge of God and a greater wisdom into the deep things of God. Job, out of deep longing to know God better and to understand His activities, exclaimed, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than necessary food" (Job 23:12). The Apostle Peter echoed the words of the patriarch Job when he suddenly awakened to the absolute necessity of spiritual sustenance, saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

It is God's purpose that, through a knowledge of His promises and by cherishing them in faith, we may not only escape (apophugontes), be freed or be delivered from the moral corruption of this world. He also wants us to be delivered from evil desires and perverted passions. He, furthermore, desires that we may attain to His likeness, developing more and more of His holiness and purity and love, being "transformed" into His image by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

The world has fallen from God; therefore, it is corrupt and in the state of corruption. Sin has come between God and man; man lost that peculiar quality of life which God had given him in the beginning when He placed His image and stamp upon him. He is alienated from God and the godly way of life, and the world in which he lives is likewise in a state of corruption (Lloyd-Jones, p. 16ff).

Seven Christian Graces

II Peter 1:5 - 7

In view of the faith which God has so graciously given to the Christian and in view of the knowledge of Christ which he possesses, and in view of the fact that he is made a partaker of the divine nature, the writer exhorts his readers to strive for growth in Christian virtues that will make them mature in the service of God. In the beautiful list of graces which the Apostle Peter here exhibits, each grace apparently grows out of the preceding grace, and in turn it becomes the soil or atmosphere in which the next grace is nourished, while all these graces are rooted and grounded in faith. He entreats each Christian to strive diligently for the cultivation of these spiritual graces or virtues.

1. Upon the Foundation of Faith, Build - 5

This verse begins, "And beside this..." or "For this very reason (cause). " The reference here is back to the preceding verses (3 and 4). Because you have experienced divine power, spiritual life, knowledge of God, exceeding great and precious promises and because you have escaped the corruption that pervades the world - there are some Christian virtues or graces that should be manifest in your life.

"And beside this, giving all diligence" (spouden) or earnest care; that is, the Christian is to exhibit earnestness on his part, bringing in by the side of faith some seven graces or virtues. To give diligence means to make every effort, or you must do your utmost from your side. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12, 13).

God has granted us the grace and faith to trust His Son as our Savior, but the new Christian is still a "babe in Christ." Though God's grace is sufficient for salvation, by the side of grace we must bring into play all earnestness of life. "Add to (epichoregesate) or supplement your faith" (with) virtue (areten) or excellence." In this child-like faith the individual is to minister, furnish or supply virtue. To the foundation of faith add seven building stones or building blocks.

What is faith? It is a weighty word. In the 19th century, missionary John Paton journeyed to the New Hebrides islands in the southwestern Pacific, where he began to translate Scripture into the inhabitants' native tongue. Discovering that there was no equivalent for the word BELIEVE (or faith), he tried to find a term or phrase to convey the meaning of the word. One day a worker came into his office, worn out from a hard day's physical labor. The man collapsed into a chair. Then he stretched out and rested his legs on another chair. He told Paton it felt good to lean his whole weight on those chairs, immediately Paton noted the expression the man used for "lean my whole weight on." He knew he had found the right term for the English word BELIEVE (put faith in, rest upon).

The first of these building stones or blocks is "virtue" or goodness, moral excellence, courage, moral strength. This grace has to do with moral power or vigor of the soul. The principle - "faith without works is dead" - is a biblical principle, but true faith will show itself to be living and real when it produces "moral excellence." Virtue will manifest itself in Christian manliness and active courage in the good fight of faith.

2. Some More Building Blocks - 6

The second grace is that of "knowledge." "And (add) to virtue - knowledge." Practical skill, insight and understanding in the details of Christian duty is meant here, rather than the knowledge of God and of Christ mentioned in a previous verse. Unless a vigorous faith is tempered with knowledge it results in presumption. The wise man is the individual who has a comprehensive knowledge of God's purposes for men. Knowledge here means knowing the difference between good and evil; discernment of God's will and purpose.

Knowledge could also mean "insight," "understanding," "enlightenment." Activity and zeal are commendable traits, but they should be governed by intelligence, understanding and enlightenment. Knowledge helps the individual to control his energy. Was Peter speaking from experience? When one reads the Gospels he is reminded that Peter was an impulsive disciple of our Lord, so in later years he had learned to temper activity and zeal with knowledge.

A third grace is "temperance" (egkrateian). Here the writer admonishes his readers to "self-control" or "self-discipline" in all respects. Without this grace many men of great promise have ship-wrecked a life of effective service. Self-control, the direction of one's energies and talents toward the right tasks and the right goals, is one of the great qualities of the Christian character. This grace is the direct opposite of pride and self-glory arising from worldly knowledge. This "self-control" extends over the whole of life, and consists in the government of all the appetites with which the body and mind have to do.

The fourth grace is "patience" (hupomonen); that is, the power to steadfastly endure evils which press upon the individual from without, even the cares of persecution. The genuine Christian is one who steadfastly keeps on living daily by the power of Christ as he grows in excellency, knowledge, and self-control. The writer of the book of Hebrews looks upon life as a race that must be run with patience (Hebrews 12:1). It was Peter who had said, "Though all men forsake thee, I will follow thee." But he later denied the Lord three times. Promises and profession should be backed up with patient endurance.

The patience of the saints is made a test of one's power to reject retaliation in Revelation 13:10, "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." Patience can also mean to endure or persist.

Another grace is that of "godliness" (eusebeian) or holiness. This grace refers to a reverence or respect for spiritual things, thus making the Christian more godlike, and it helps him to have a right disposition toward God. The life of the Christian must be lived in the light of the Eternal God and His Son Jesus Christ. To the Christian all of life is the true worship of God. Initially, godliness comes to the Christian through the new birth, but to become more and more like God in our speech and conduct is a matter of growth. "Godliness" leads us to devotion, to God and a sense of duty toward our fellowman.

Before the Christian can be in the right relationship to his fellowman, he must be in the right relationship to God. He must be convinced that his actions, motives, and ambitions are to honor God, to glorify God and to tell forth His praise.

3. Other Building Blocks To a Good Stable Life - 7

A sixth grace mentioned here is "brotherly kindness" (philadelphian) or "brotherly love." Whenever the individual is in the right disposition with God, he will be in the right relationship to his fellowman. One of the reasons that a so-called Christian has a "falling-out" with his fellowman is the fact that he fails to have a right disposition and relationship with God; that is, he doesn't love God as he ought. Nothing so demonstrates to the world the reality of the Christian profession as "brotherly kindness" or "affection." The heathen commended the early Christians, saying, "Behold how they love one another." We cannot have hate and ill-will toward others in our hearts and still be called truly Christian men and women. Furthermore, "brotherly kindness" has been defined as a sympathetic concern for others.

The "capstone" of all these graces is "charity" (agapen) or "divine love." Without this "capstone" or "crown" of all graces, the others would pale into insignificance. This Christian love originates with God and with Christ - never with us. "We love Him because he first loved us," according to I John 4:19. This "love" spoken of here is that highest type of love like God's love - a self-sacrificing love. Love is the climax of all graces for the Apostle Paul wrote, "And now abideth faith, hope and charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity (this God-kind of love)."

* * * ** * * * * *

So each one of these graces add and contribute to the others; every one has its own importance and yet each one influences the others. With these graces come a perfect balance in the Christian's life. David Lloyd-Jones implies that in this passage there is a perfection and balance of a great chorus, "as we know it - the soprano, the alto, the tenor and the bass. They are all necessary to the chorus, and you must not have too much of one or too little of the other or you will upset the balance" (p. 31).

He further states, "In the Christian life you start with faith and you always end with love. Without faith you can do nothing, but given faith, and the practicing of the faith, you must inevitably end with love, for God Himself is Love. May God in His infinite grace thus enable and stimulate us to manifest this perfect poise and balance in our Christian lives, and in our Christian witness, in this our day and generation!" (Ibid). These graces are aptly illustrated by Yeager when he wrote, "This regimen is like the blueprint of a seven-story building, which rests upon the secure foundation of faith. Upon faith are built seven stories--intellectual humility, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. Each floor rests upon the one beneath it and is prerequisite to the one above it. The top story with its beautiful roof garden and pent house, free from the noxious odors of the garbage in the street below, is charity (Vol. XVII, p. 198).

Growing in Grace

II Peter 1: 8 - 11

In the preceding passage the writer exhorted his readers to strive diligently for the cultivation of certain spiritual graces. Because the Christian has experienced divine power, spiritual life and knowledge of God; then the seven Christian graces should be furnished or supplied in his spiritual life. These graces are listed in verses 5 - 7 as, "virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity."

1. God Wants Us to Be Fruitful - 8, 9

"These things" hark back to the seven Christian graces of verses 5 - 7. God's working is not limited to a given order, that is, "know God and His Son Jesus Christ, and Christian graces will thrive!" The admonition is to cultivate these graces and the knowledge of God and Christ will increase. Fruitfulness in God's service is a goal to which every Christian should strive. If Christian graces are developed then "spiritual barrenness" will be prevented. To His disciples, Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and BRING FORTH FRUIT, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16).

"Ethical living produces spiritual harvest. Christians often desire fruit in their lives but fail to understand that it comes from a prior commitment to godly living. We are more apt to ask God to work THROUGH us than to work IN us. We would like to change the world out there but resist any change where it really counts. Effective change follows the decision to use all our power to become people of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love" (Mounce, p. 110).

Jesus said, furthermore, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). A true believer whose faith is anchored in Christ and who is nurtured by these "seven graces" in overflowing measure will produce fruit characterized by and displaying the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Note that the Christian is not admonished to be efficient and fruitful. He is commanded to grow according to the curriculum prescribed in verses 5 - 7, and assured that if he does, his newly acquired personal characteristics will do the rest. He will be made into a working and fruitful Christian (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 206).

A failure to grow in "these graces" results in a lack of vision. The word translated "blind" (tuphlos) means "dull of apprehension," or "extreme nearsightedness" and not total blindness. If such an one were granted a place with Moses on Mount Nebo as he gazed over the promised land, nothing in the distance would be discernable to him. A clear vision, both near and far, is needed by God's children if they are going to do a progressive work for God. The reason why things unseen and eternal seem to us so unreal is that we are making so little effort toward moral and spiritual progress.

Forgetfulness sometimes arises as one drifts away from dutiful worship and service. This verse does not intimate that a person cleansed from his old sins by the blood of Christ actually forgets (luthen) what took place in his life. It does mean, however, that by neglect to do the things that produce growth in grace, he becomes forgetful of the blessings he received in the cleansing. To be forgetful is to fail to give proper evaluation to his experience of grace. These people are saved "yet so as by fire."

2. Make Sure You Are Saved - 10, 11

Here the writer gives further assurance to those who have been saved from their sins. If one's calling and election in grace are made sure, he will never fall so as to be eternally lost in hell. The readers are to make their calling (klesin) or summons and election (eklogen) or God's choice sure by abounding in Christian grace. Although a saved person will never be lost again, he may stumble in life through the sins of infirmity. To stumble does not mean eternal destruction. "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down" (Psalm 37:24). If there are doubts in the mind of any individual these should be cleared away, else he will stumble through life and fail to live a victorious life. These doubts can be eliminated through prayer and the study of God's Word.

If an individual is not sure that he is saved, he should waste no time in settling this most important of all matters. "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16). If this witness is lacking, the individual should "make things right with God" by fully trusting God's Son as his personal Savior.

The child of God can have assurance and satisfaction in his growth toward Christian maturity. Verse 11 reads, "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Growth in grace does not secure salvation, for salvation must be acquired before growth can be effected. Growth is essential to an ABUNDANT entrance into heaven. The word "abundantly" (plousios) is the key word here, meaning "richly, wealthy, abounding in resources." The person who is saved, "yet so as by fire" is the person who reaches heaven, but the few works which he has done will be utterly destroyed.

"The idea of an entrance being richly provided stresses that people have the right to enter not because they deserve it but because the privilege is given to them as a free gift" (Arichea, p. 85). An abundant entrance means that the individual enters heaven with rich rewards resulting from the fruits of his faithfulness and growth on earth. Jesus said, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27). Salvation is acquired by grace through faith, while rewards are to be granted according to one's works.

Peter is speaking of a triumphant entrance, reserved only for the triumphant Christian. Many soldiers were in the American Expeditionary Forces of World War I. Only a few were in the Rainbow Division. Many college students graduate; only a few are elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Many football players play the game. Only a few are All American and there is only one Heisman Trophy winner each year. All who trust Christ as Savior will enter the kingdom. Not all will enter it abundantly" (Yeager, Vol. XVII. p. 211).

The everlasting kingdom of which Peter writes is viewed as Christ's kingdom. Christ reigns as God's Vicegerent. In this mediatorial capacity, Christ must reign until all enemies are put under His feet, and the last enemy is death. When this event takes place then the glorious end will come, He will relinquish His mediatorial character, delivering up the kingdom to God, even the Father; and that kingdom will continue forever.

Keeping Alive the Gospel Story

II Peter 1:12 - 18

The writer proceeds to set forth his reason for writing this epistle. He has given exhortation to his readers concerning growth in the Christian graces. This growth will establish them and ground them that they may withstand evil teaching with which they will be confronted. Then again, this will encourage their hearts as they anticipate the second coming of Christ.

1. Remember Some Things - 12

The Apostle Peter was well aware that the greater part of his ministry here on the earth was behind him, and his responsibilities to those who remain weighed heavily upon his heart. He desired that his ministry to the saints continue, even after his death, through the written account of his past experiences. Doubtless, he felt that his readers could be blessed by a full transcript of his defense of the faith. Peter realized that during his early Christian life he had been forgetful of some important facts which would have been of great strength to him. The great apostle felt that it was his high and blessed privilege to remind believers wherever they were of their privileges as witnesses for Christ, and the great facts of the gospel teaching.

Sometimes individuals accuse the minister of preaching on the same old subjects over and over again, but there is no other way of keeping the Christian faith alive. This is because the memory is very fickle and capricious. We often remember a hurt, but many times forget a favor. The same apostle speaks of stirring "up your pure minds by way of remembrance" (II Peter 3:1). In this verse the apostle desires to establish or strengthen his readers by reminding them concerning the great doctrines of the Christian faith.

"To be well established in truth means not only to understand what it says but also to grasp its implications for daily conduct. For instance, many people understand that the death of Christ was a sacrifice for sin. Fewer grasp the fact that this death is also the believer's death; that from this point forward he is freed from the dominion of sin and enabled to live unto righteousness. Fortunately, Peter can say that his Christian colleagues scattered abroad (I Peter 1:1) are securely established in such truth. Yet he reminds them of it. Why? Because there are some things you can't know too well" (Mounce, p. 114).

2. Remember the Gospel Minister - 13 - 16

In these verses Peter speaks of his departure from this world. He senses the nearness of death, possibly not a peaceful "falling asleep" at a very ripe old age, but a violent death, the death of a martyr. Jesus had foretold Peter's death this way (John 21:18, 19), "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God."

The writer likens his body to a soldier's or a traveler's tent (skenomatos). After all, the body is only for temporary use; it is frail and easily taken down. The body is very simply the earthly dwelling place of the mortal spirit. The Apostle Paul says this concerning the human body, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Corinthians 5:1).

Peter was well along in years and knew that the end of his life was near. For that reason he seized every opportunity to lay before his congregations the essential truth of Christian discipleship. These great Christians of the past expected to die by martyrdom. They realized that they must give their lives for the cause of Christ, but even though this fate awaited them, they had the assurance of a home in heaven.

In verse 15 the writer promises to make provision that even after his death (exodon) or decease his readers will be able "to call these things to remembrance" (mnemen) by the reading of his epistle, and he probably refers also to the assistance given to John Mark in the writing of the Gospel of Mark. He, furthermore, refers to his death in much the same language used by the Lord as He conversed with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Death is spoken of as an "exodus" - a departure or a journey out of this world. It means the road or way (hodis) out (ek). It recalls the Old Testament exodus - the "way out" of physical Egyptian bondage into freedom. In a real sense the death of every believer is the WAY OUT from the restrictions of sin and mortality into the glorious freedom of Christ's immediate presence. For the Christian, death is an exodus from this life and an entrance into the heaven which has been prepared for the saints by God the Father.

The witness of the Transfiguration begins in verse 16. Peter defends his position by indicating that he is qualified to speak concerning the gospel because he was an "eyewitness" (epoptai) or spectator to the events taking place in the life of Jesus, especially the transfiguration. Doubtless, false teachers had accused Peter and others of cleverly inventing or fabricating the stories of miracles and other supernatural elements of the gospel story. Peter uses the words (sesophismenois muthois) "cleverly devised myths." A myth is a story with little or no historical basis.

The events which took place in the life of Christ; His virgin birth, His sinless life, the great miracles which He worked, His atoning death and resurrection - that is the GOSPEL STORY. All these events which may be questioned by the skeptic have been authenticated; they have been proven by competent eye-witnesses. The Apostle Peter refutes the FABLE idea by saying that he and others "were eye-witnesses to (Jesus') majesty." For three years the twelve apostles had followed Jesus. They had heard Him teach, they had observed His sinless life, and they had seen His miracles. These acts were not hearsay; they were not myths or fables, but they were events looked upon with the natural eyes of the disciples. A generation later the Apostle Peter still retained in memory that great event of the Transfiguration.

God's Prophetic Word

II Peter 1:16 - 21

Much encouragement is given to the readers of this epistle. The writer feels that he is qualified to give encouragement to the first century Christians and also to those who shall succeed them, since he was an eye-witness to the life of Christ, the great miracles which He worked, His transfiguration on the mount, and His atoning death and resurrection.

It is definitely an encouragement to us that we have a written account of the activities of Jesus from the testimony of an eye-witness. For three years the twelve apostles had followed Jesus. They had heard Him teach, they had observed His sinless life, and they had seen His miracles. These facts were not hearsay; they were events looked upon by the natural eyes of each disciple. Furthermore, the disciples had nothing to gain by their testimony; that is nothing to gain in this life. In fact, because of their testimony, they would pay the supreme penalty - death of the physical body.

1. Peter Saw Christ Glorified - 16 - 18

The transfiguration scene, of which Peter is writing here, was but a foreglean, a manifestation of the majesty and splendor in which Christ will appear when He returns to receive His own. This "excellent glory" referred to here is the Shekinah glory - the same visible manifestation of the presence of God on Mount Sinai and also above the mercy seat in the tabernacle and the temple. Jehovah was there at the transfiguration; His presence was made known by His glory and His voice from heaven.

Peter, along with James and John, had this high and noble privilege. The mountain was consecrated and made holy because Jehovah God was there. No one knows for sure the name of the mountain, but it was made sacred to the disciples because of the presence of Jehovah God and the glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly this great special event was forever ingrained in the sacred scroll of his memory.

The apostle was not relating some "cunningly devised fable;" that is, a myth, an imaginary tale or a legend. By the power of Jehovah God, the Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured; He underwent a metamorphosis, a change from flesh to a glorified body. Jesus appeared to the disciples like He will look when He comes at the Second Coming. Not only did the apostles see Jesus in all His Coming Glory, but there was a voice from heaven. Jehovah God spoke audibly, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Herein is the Apostle Peter's apology.

The basis of Peter's faith (and our faith) rests solidly upon certain facts to which witness is borne by the apostles. Read the Book of the Acts and observe there the nature of the preaching of the apostles, the first preachers of the Christian Gospel. They stated certain facts of which they themselves were witnesses. The whole basis of our position rests upon the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and on the facts concerning Him. What facts? His claim to be the only begotten Son of God. He worked miracles, He could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead. He could calm the sea, and bid the winds cease. Furthermore, the disciples saw Him after the resurrection. They spoke with Him and were with Him forty days. They saw Him ascend into heaven.

I believe the account of the apostles - it is my only ground and basis and assurance of hope. They were credible witnesses. Their witness to the Person of Jesus Christ is believable; it has been the testimony of the Christian Church down through the ages. David Lloyd-Jones says, "It is unlikely that Peter, who denied the Lord before His crucifixion, because he was afraid of death should afterwards make claims and statements that constantly exposed him to death and to martyrdom and, indeed, subsequently led to his martyrdom? We base our whole case upon this apostolic witness and testimony. That is how the Christian Church came into being, that is how she conquered the ancient world" (p. 90, 91).

2. Prophecy Fulfilled - 19, 20

The transfiguration had confirmed the word of the prophets; previously the assurance had come by faith, but now the disciples have been granted a specimen of Christ's coming glory. The word of prophecy is made more sure. The events connected with the transfiguration deepened Peter's faith into the most intense conviction; it made the word of prophecy which spoke of Christ surer and more certain in the apostles' hearts and minds.

In this dusky and dimly lighted world, amidst the mystery of confusing events, the prophecy of the Word of God shines forth as a lamp to guide us. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Although God's Word needs no authenticating signs to the trusting soul; yet the glorification of Jesus and the voice from heaven strengthened the faith of the disciples just as we are strengthened today as we read of the account.

God's Word is precious; It sheds light upon the darkness of ignorance in our world. It lights the way until Jesus appears someday in person. All the Word of God points to and focuses upon Jesus. The day dawns upon the individual when the day-star (phosphoros) or morning star arises in the heart. Whenever the heart is quickened by the Holy Spirit, then Jesus comes into the heart to save that benighted soul. Christ will turn a night of ignorance into a day of joy and happiness.

Prophecy does not arise from a prophet's own interpretation of facts presented; but rather these men wrote and spoke as they are borne along by God's Holy Spirit. D. M. Lloyd-Jones says, "verses 20 and 21 must surely be taken together. The very word "for" at the beginning of verse 21 makes that imperative. This verse surely throws a great light upon verse 20. Not only should we bear that in mind, but we must bear something else in mind. Take that word "is" in verse 20. It is generally agreed that the translation "is" is rather unfortunate at that point. lt really means "arises" or "originates" or, if you prefer it, "comes into existence."

Then let us look at the word "interpretation" (epiluseos) or explanation. If you trace this word you will find that it is sometimes translated by the word "expounding" or "expound" or by the word "determination," so that the idea we have is something like this: 'Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture, originates or arises, as the result of any private determination'" (page 95).

No one can interpret a written letter better than the writer himself. If you fail to understand the Bible, you are urged to consult the Writer, Jehovah God Himself. The inspired Word neither originated with man; nor is it solely interpreted by man.

The Scripture is its own commentary. No word of prophecy or any part of Scripture should be lifted out of its setting and interpreted by itself. It is to be interpreted in the light of all of the Word of God and in the light of its context.

3. Prophecy Is Not By Human Will - 21

Peter says here that the source of prophecy was not by human will and ingenuity but by the will and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It was under the personal direction and guidance of the Spirit that they spoke or wrote; every word being inspired or God-breathed.

Inspiration is explained in various ways, but the Bible speaks of verbal inspiration and not simply inspired thoughts. Even in our thinking we formulate words. Man cannot think without the use of words. Inspiration was verbal in form. "Which things also we speak, not in the WORDS which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13). Ideas are not transferable by any other means than by WORDS. There is no such thing as words inspired without content, nor content inspired without words.

In Acts 27:14ff the Apostle Paul was on board a ship on his way to Rome. When a great storm arose from a mighty wind (the Euroclydon), it is said that they "could not bear up into the wind, we let (the ship) DRIVE, ..and so (we) were DRIVEN" (Acts 27:14,17). The same word used for the wind-driven ship is used of these Holy Spirit-led men as they wrote the Holy Scriptures. "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved (driven along) by the Spirit." The prophets were "taken hold of by the Spirit. He came upon them and took hold of them and gave them a message, carried them along, drove them along as they wrote and put it down on record" (Lloyd-Jones, p. 97).

Furthermore, Peter indicates that the men who penned God's Word were "borne along" in the same way a ship is borne along by the wind. The Holy Spirit had the same effect upon the writers of God's Word as the wind has on the sails of a boat. This does not mean that the writers were passive, for each prophet showed in the style of language in which he uttered his prophecies, his own mental peculiarities. The prophets had complete freedom to state their ideas, truth, facts and insights as best they could according to their own backgrounds and literary powers. One Breath had breathed upon them, one Hand had touched them all! Thus, we have the INSPIRED WORD OF GOD! !

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This book - the BIBLE, is inspired of God. Its center is JESUS CHRIST; everything in the Old Testament looks forward to Him, everything in the New Testament looks back to Him; He is the center of history.

Christ is of the tribe of Judah; He is of the house of David. The time of His coming was spoken of by Daniel. His mother is referred to in Isaiah. His birthplace is spoken of in Malachi; His visit to Jerusalem in mentioned in Zechariah. His word, His servanthood, His suffering are also referred to in Isaiah.

Though Jesus' first coming may have sounded a bit strange to the Old Testament people - God FULFILLED His prophecies. And though His Second coming may sound a bit strange to the world today - God will FULFILL His prophecies and His promises. He has carefully carried out His own plans and promises and purposes on earth--this is Peter's "word of prophecy made more sure." God's WORD is something that His people can always trust. God's WORD never fails.

Remember God's Warning

II Peter 2:1 - 3

In Chapter One of this epistle, the writer has just given an encouragement to his readers concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures and information about the true prophets of God. He had just assured his readers that the inspired prophets and their teachings had been given them as a light to cherish and use in the midst of prevailing darkness.

Now the writer proceeds to remind his readers that from ancient times there were FALSE prophets as well as TRUE prophets; there existed, not only TRUE teachers but also FALSE teachers. And such false prophets and false teachers will appear in all ages until Jesus comes.

Peter's denunciations against these counterfeiters, crash along through the chapter like successive peals of thunder. A moment's pause at the mention of righteous Noah, just Lot, and the forebearing angels, and the thunder peals forth again more terrifically than ever.

Chapter Two deals with those who have been misinterpreting and misusing the prophetic message in order to lead believers into immoral behavior. Many examples herein are taken from the book of Jude. Peter modified Jude's writing, however, in order to suit his own thinking and purpose.

1. False Prophets and False Teachers - 1

"But there were false prophets (pseudoprophetai) also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers (pseudidaskaloi) among you, who secretly shall bring in destructive heresies (aireseis apoleias) or destructive sects, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." The early Christians who were addressed by the apostle, and, in fact, those of us who claim Christianity today need not labor under a misapprehension regarding the presence of evil workers in the midst.

From the beginning false prophets and teachers (emissaries of Satan) have always tried to work deceit among the chosen of God. The prophet Jeremiah writes these facts in 14:14, "Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them; they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart."

The Devil is the greatest counterfeiter in the world, but keep this fact in mind, before there can be a counterfeit - the real or genuine must have existed. So before Satan can make his counterfeit, God has already made the true, the genuine - whether it was a true prophet, a true teacher, or a true church. Satan is in the counterfeiting business. The Apostle Paul speaks of "false brethren" in II Corinthians 11:26; he speaks of "false apostles" in II Corinthians 11:13; and Jesus speaks of "false christs" and "false prophets" in Matthew 24:24.

The methods of these false prophets and false teachers are given in this verse. Peter says that they will come in "privily" (pareisaxousin) or by stealth and deception; they will bring in heresies of destruction by the side of truth and in so doing, they will lead many to destruction. These "heresies" have the simple and clear meaning of "sects," party divisions or factious individuals or groups. The Apostle Paul introduces us to the word "heretic" in Titus 3:10. The "heretic" is one who creates or fosters factions; he organizes hostile societies and groups which are antagonistic to God and His people. These individuals live and act only for themselves, with no thought for God's holiness and their personal accountability.

Moreover, these false prophets and false teachers even "deny the Lord (Master) that bought them;" that is, they have actually disclaimed and renounced the Lord and Master who had died for lost sinners. Certainly, the Lord Jesus Christ has tasted death for every man according to Hebrews 2:9, but He can only atone for those who will place their faith and trust in Him. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us," so says I John 2:19. These are doomed to certain punishment.

When we use the analogy of the master and the slave, which I think was intended in this scripture, then the picture becomes clearer. The purchaser of a slave is the complete owner because of the price which has been paid, but the slave may rebel and disavow the transaction, even to desertion; he may follow pernicious or lustful, excessive ways. He may be insensitive to everything except his carnal appetites which he will determine to satisfy at any cost. Because of the rebellion of these false prophets and teachers of the truth of God, His written word, and His own Son will be blasphemed. Because of licentious practices in the lives of some who profess to be Christians, many non-Christians pass judgment on the Christian way of life. This brings reproach upon the cause of Christ.

Nisbet says of these false teachers and prophets, "only the elect are redeemed unto life; and none of them who are given to Christ of the Father can perish or finally deny Christ unto destruction, because Christ is engaged to keep them from perdition (John 6:39), yet reprobates who do profess themselves to be redeemed by Christ and are esteemed for such by the church, may be said to deny the Lord that bought them ...they were never redeemed nor written in the Book of Life" (pp. 246, 247).

2. False Prophets and False Teachers Follow Pernicious Ways - 2

"And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." This word "pernicious" is difficult to explain. In six other locations it is translated lasciviousness. It could mean "to raise a disturbance," or "to create mayhem." Others think it means to seduce or entice with pleasant words. Whatever it means, the dedicated Christian should know it is a means by which the sins of the flesh are induced (II Peter 2:18).

These false teachers and their heretical teachings bring about a twofold result; many will follow their shameful ways. Their deviant teaching seemed to enjoy a large following. Another result was they bring the way of truth into disrepute. "The way" was a favorite saying in the early stages of Christianity (Acts 9:2; 19:9). Instead of following "the Way, the Truth and the Life," these false teachers were teaching their own way of salvation.

But judgment is sure to come, and just because payday doesn't come at the end of the day or at the end of the week - this does not mean that there will be no payday. Judgment of the deceiver may be long in coming, but the consummation is certain because God has already judged their actions.

It was James Russell Lowell who wrote the following words in his poem entitled, "The Present Crisis,"

"Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne­
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own."

3. Covetousness Will Be Judged - 3

Verse three of our scripture reads like this, "And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandise of you; whose judgment now for a long time lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not." Through covetousness (greed) that insatiable desire to have more, these false teachers will cheat and endeavor to "gain you over" to their party, their sect. These will work hard, as the Pharisees did, to make proselytes, but their real motive is, not the salvation of the soul, but rather their own selfish gain. Here is what Jesus said in His condemnation of such individuals, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matthew 23:15).

And just as Jesus condemned these hypocrites; so God will one day condemn the false teachers to destruction. In God's own good time His judgment will be made manifest. Pride and disobedience cannot be tolerated and will be judged as they were in Noah's day. Judgment will come upon false prophets and false teachers just as God's judgment fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The actual infliction of punishment is often delayed, but the condemnation, and even the destruction, in so far as it is purposed, is not delayed.

The false teachers deceive by "stories they have made up." By "molded words" or by the use of fabricated words they use the powers of persuasion to lead astray the unsuspecting. Language is intended for human communication; it is a gift from God to civilization. Yet wicked men so often use language to conceal and mislead rather than to communicate.

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Woe unto false prophets and false teachers!! They are enjoying ascendence now; but sudden destruction will come!! They stand under God's wrath. A sovereign God will not let wickedness go unpunished. God knows how to "hold the unrighteous for the day of judgement" (verse 9). Between verses 3 and 9, the writer gives his infamous examples of God's judgment.

The Wicked Reserved for Judgment

II Peter 2:4 - 10a

In verses 1 - 3 of this chapter, the writer warns his readers concerning false teachers and false prophets; then he explains how they will be judged and the assurance of their judgment in verse 4 and the following verses. Peter proceeds to show how that judgment upon the disobedient has taken place in the past.

Peter gives three illustrations of certain doom, but in two of these instances the writer stresses the fact that "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (verse 9).

1. Fallen Angels Judged - 4

Verse 4 reads, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment..." The judgment upon sinning angels is alluded to in Jude 6, "And the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

These angels are the creatures which stood in God's presence, but were cast down to hell because of their sin. Just when this event took place is not given here, or just what their sin was we may not be sure; however, Jude suggests that the angels failed to place the right value on their own principality and their own proper habitation. In hell or in tartaros the angels await the judgment of God because of their own sins. They are reserved in darkness meaning utter separation from the light and the presence of God.

2. The Wicked of Noah's Generation - 5

"And spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." The world of Noah's time was characterized by an utter disregard for the preaching of righteousness, but it chose to go the way of the flesh. The account of this judgment is given in Genesis 6:5 - 8. So great was their wickedness that their every thought was wicked. God was so grieved that He willed to destroy mankind, beast, all creepers and fowls. He was sorrowful that He made man; however, Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of God. So God decided to preserve them.

Willful disobedience seems to have been the great sin which God must punish. Noah, and his family consisting of seven other individuals, were preserved from the flood because Noah "prepared an ark to the saving (for the purpose of saving) his house." The ungodly were not destroyed till after they had been permitted to listen to faithful preaching, but when they were disobedient to the gospel message, God had no other alternative but to destroy them because of their disobedience. The flood was one of the most disastrous events which has taken place in human history; it was so extensive and overwhelming in its sweep. Man had multiplied on the earth, and then the flood swept them all away. These antediluvians were ungodly, and they had cast off all Divine restraints; they lived without regard to God and His divine requirements.

Peter uses the word flood which is literally a kataklusmon from which we get our word cataclysm. It means "to wash," "to dash over," or "to wash away." It is an inundation with water; a flood. Incidentally, this word is used only in reference to the great flood of Noah's time in Matthew 24:38, 39; Luke 17:27; and II Peter 2:5.

3. Judgment on the Cities of the Plain - 6 - 8

A third example of God's judgment is given here. "And, turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes (tephrosas), condemned or judged them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly..." The destruction of these cities of the plain stand as "an object-lesson for godless men in future days" (NEB). These cities were advanced in civilization; they were located in a fertile, well-watered plain. They were prosperous to every measure of man; yet they did not escape God's judgment. Their sin seems to have been the sin of sensuality; the sin of moral impurity.

As an act of God and as an example to us today, God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes, because of their heinous sins. This event is a SPECIMEN of ungodly men and the punishment which is forthcoming to them by the hand of God. God exercised judgment upon these cities because of their ungodliness, and He can deal thus with those who come afterward. Jehovah God is a God of righteousness and a God of judgment. This account is found in Genesis 19.

"And (He) delivered just (righteous) Lot, vexed with the filthy manner of life of the wicked (athesmon) or lawless." With the same power God used to destroy the wicked, He can save the righteous from destruction. God delivered JUST (dikaion) or righteous Lot out of the midst before the judgment fell. "That Lot is called a righteous man comes as a surprise to most. Wasn't he the one who offered his two unmarried daughters to the wicked men of Sodom who lusted after the visiting angels (Genesis 19:6 - 8)? And did he not succumb to the enticement of his own daughters and under the influence of wine commit incest with each of them (Genesis 19:30 - 36)? How can Peter call him a righteous man?" (Mounce, pp. 127, 128) That he was a sinner saved by grace is a fact; he was not perfect, however.

To support Peter's assertion that Noah was a righteous man, he adds parenthetically verse 8. "There is no doubt that Lot was less than perfect. The biblical account makes that perfectly clear. But in a certain way he can be called righteous. That is, he continued to be distressed by the lewd conduct of the lawless society in which he lived" (Mounce, ibid). It is interesting to note how various versions translate the word "vexed." Lot was "sick" (Living Bible); he was "tormented" (NIV); he was "in acute mental distress" (Phillips); he was "outraged" (Jerusalem Bible).

The writer at least intimates here that even though the righteous are few in number, as Noah and his family, or as Lot in lawless Sodom, God is certain to deliver those who place their faith and trust in Him. Here it is clear that God's grace is intermingled with His justice. Although Lot certainly was not a sinless man, God does say that he possessed a "righteous soul." He was righteous in the midst of those who had no regard from law, either human or Divine law.

Verse 8 is a parenthesis, "(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.) The activity of the ungodly had a "wearing-down or a wearing-out" effect upon righteous Lot. The word "vexed" (ebasainizen) means "to exhaust," "to wear down with fatigue," "to oppress."

Here was a righteous man, dwelling among the ungodly, forced to see and hear things that tormented his very soul. And because Lot did not allow his godly sensibilities to be blunted, God effected for him deliverance. This description of Lot has been most comforting to the righteous remnant of all generations in times when evil threatens.

4. In Wrath God Remembers Mercy - 9, 10a

Verses 9 and lOa read, "...the Lord knoweth how to deliver (ruesthai) or rescue the godly out of temptations, and to reserve (terein) or keep the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished; but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanliness, and despise government." Even in wrath poured out upon wickedness, God remembers the saved with mercy. Various means and methods may be used, but regardless of the how, God does deliver or rescue the godly. The wicked are actually already under punishment while awaiting their judgment.

God's presentation of the ungodly and false teachers is very perceptive and terse. The reader is not left in doubt as to the appraisal of the Holy Spirit concerning these self-appointed false teachers and leaders. They are a group of spiritual "have-nots" by their own evil choice. One translation says of these individuals, " (are) wicked, who are even now suffering punishment, in readiness for the Day of Judgment."

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So, if sinning angels were cast down to hell, if the ancient world was destroyed by a flood, and if Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ashes, how much more shall false and dissolute teachers be punished.

Here also is a refreshing thought for the saved, Peter's words are designed to comfort and encourage the believer in the darkest hours of heresy, false teaching, and impending judgments; "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," and surely in wrath God remembers mercy.

False Teachers in the Midst

II Peter 2:10b - 16

After the writer had given three examples of the destruction of wicked groups such as the sinning angels, the ancient world of Noah's time, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; it is a comforting and refreshing thought for the saved to know that the same Lord Who punishes the wicked has the power to deliver His children out of temptations.

God may use various means and methods, but regardless of the how, God does deliver or rescue the godly. The wicked are actually already under punishment while awaiting their judgment.

1. Descriptions of False Teachers - 10b

Peter now returns to describe the false teachers and false prophets of his day. In the first portion of verse 10, Peter proceeds to give a description of sins committed by ungodly and false teachers. His presentations of their case is very perceptive and terse. The reader is not left in doubt as to the appraisal of the Holy Spirit concerning these self-appointed false teachers and leaders. They are a group of spiritual "have-nots" by their own evil choice. They are presumptuous and daring. They lack at least three things in their lives.

They are devoid of any awareness of spiritual dimensions to life; they are devoid of self-control, thus giving free rein to their ungodly lusts; and they are devoid of self-respect because they are slaves of corruption. Jude 8 characterizes these false teachers as filthy dreamers defiling the flesh, despising dominions and speaking evil of dignities. Today there is a wide-spread criticism of God and also of men whom God has put in places of authority and leadership. Furthermore, men and institutions truly honoring and obeying God in this generation are attacked and accused of all manner of evil.

Peter indicates that God will ultimately, "judge these anarchists who look down upon authority. Armed with a false philosophy of the automatic improvement of the race, these teachers considered it logical to be daring, unafraid and presumptuous" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 244).

2. Presumption Leads to Blasphemy - 11

"Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord." Herein the writer seems to indicate that certain evil men transgress and commit sins that even the angels, who are greater in power than man, would not dare commit. Angels would not dare to pronounce a railing judgment (blasphemon krisin) against dignities who are directly accountable to the Lord of all. The angels of heaven, though superior to man, have sufficient humility to abstain from such severity of spirit.

Doubtless, the writer remembered the information given in Jude 8 in which the archangel Michael would not dispute with Satan over the body of Moses but rather said to the devil, "The Lord rebuke thee." The angels of God remember that they are in His presence and perform their duties with godly fear.

3. False Teachers Are Like Brute Beasts - 12 - 16

The false teachers about whom Peter writes are insensitive to anything spiritual. He says of these individuals in verse 12, "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption." They possess an animal-like nature, knowing only the law of self-preservation, and experiencing satisfaction only in carnal indulgences. They have lowered themselves to a level with brute beasts (aloga zoa), while railing about that of which they are ignorant. These false teachers are as irrational as beasts and will find their ultimate destruction along with that of irrational animals.

"These false teachers speak blasphemous nonsense about things that they know nothing about. They too, like the animals will be destroyed, not because of any negative election, but because of the inevitable workings of universal moral law. These are destroying themselves" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 246).

Verse 13 tells of the reward or the justice which is forthcoming to these false teachers. "And (they) shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. Spots they are and blemishes, reveling with their own deceivings while they feast with you." All unrighteousness has its rewards; that is, there is a reward for iniquity.

Acts 1:8 speaks of Judas purchasing a field, a burying place, a cemetery with the "reward of iniquity." After Judas had betrayed the Savior into the hands of sinful man, he took the "blood money" which he received, and spent the money on that which did not profit himself. There is much difference between rewards for the saved and rewards for the unsaved. Satan pays his reward just as there are rewards forthcoming to the child of God; but Satan pays off the unsaved in counterfeit currency. Their "pleasure of riot," spoken of in verse 13, is only temporary; however, the punishment for riotous living is certainly far-reaching; in fact, the consequences are of eternal duration.

The word picture which Peter paints here is anything but flattering. The reprobates have a greedy appetite that feeds on every form of sensual pleasure but is never satisfied. Their only purpose in associating with the saved is for the express purpose of leading unstable Christians astray. Furthermore, they desire to enjoy the material blessings that are shared by the people of God. This fact was true with some who followed Jesus simply for the loaves and fishes with which He fed them. These graceless heretics have a fascinating power of deception. They are cunning in speech and able to smother every spark of suspicion as they move to gain certain advantages toward their lustful and avaricious ends. They are "blemishes" (momoi) or disgraces in the fellowship, which should be pure and holy.

These individuals are further described in verse 14, "Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable (asteriktous) or unsteady souls; an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children." So overcome by sin and so impure are their thoughts. Peter indicates that their eyes cannot cease from sin. Their eyes retain a permanent picture because the mind is possessed with impurity.

The activity and influence of these certain prophets and teachers are to beguile or "ensnare" unstable souls. Just like the fowler and the fisherman bait their snares and hooks, so these evil teachers seek to allure and corrupt unsteady, unstable souls.

Furthermore, these have hearts trained in covetousness. Their sins have been practiced so long that their very hearts are trained in the habitual pursuit of gain by all unrighteous means. They are "children of a curse," like "the son of perdition," and like "the children of wrath," whose ultimate end can only be with Satan and his evil crowd.

The circumstances here are reminiscent of the state of Israel during Isaiah's time. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:5, 6).

Verses 15 and 16 give a striking example of these false teachers by calling to mind an Old Testament character named Balaam. Here was an individual who loved the wages of unrighteousness. Though Balaam was born and living among idolaters, he did possess some knowledge of Jehovah God and His activity with Israel. Balaam was by profession a diviner and magician after a heathen pattern. Thus, we have the comparison of Balaam and the false prophets of Peter's day.

Jude 11 speaks of these false teachers as running "greedily after the error of Balaam for reward." The way of Balaam is very simply spoken of as a crooked way of life that is directly opposite of God's way and certainly displeasing to God. Balaam wished for the gold that Balak offered and desired to curse Israel contrary to God's command. But instead he was rebuked for his sin and his beast of burden was given the voice of a man, thus forbidding Balaam's folly concerning religious matters. God must perform miracles on certain occasions to teach men their lessons. And it is no more difficult for God to utter thought through the mouth of a donkey in the words of a man, than to stop men, as he once did, from talking in a given language and cause them to talk in another.

Like Balaam of old, some men try to serve God and gold, and like the false prophets and teachers which Peter describes, they hide their covetousness and impurity under the cloak of Christian profession, and are doomed to moral blindness, disappointment, disgrace and death. Balaam's action stands as a reminder of God's judgment upon all who would prostitute God-given talents and gifts for the sake of gain (Numbers 22:5; Deuteronomy 23:4).

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The verses that follow describe further the character and conduct of these false teachers.

False Teachers Further Described

II Peter 2:17 - 22

Throughout the remainder of Chapter Two, the writer describes the evil influence of the teachers of error. Peter has written about their activity, their heresies, their deception, their judgment, and their doom. He now brings his description of them to a conclusion; their evil influence seeks to lead the unsuspecting astray from the purpose and plan of God for the believer's life.

In verse 17 Peter returns to one of his favorite words "reserved." Here he states the false prophets are RESERVED for the gloom of darkness. In I Peter 1:14 the inheritance of the saints is RESERVED in heaven. In II Peter 2:4 judgment is RESERVED for the sinning angels. In II Peter 2:9 judgment is RESERVED for the evil antediluvians and Sodomites.

1. False Teachers Are Destitute of the Spirit - 17

These false teachers "are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever." The pitiful fact is that such men secure a following; they know enough of the truth and can employ sufficient pious phrases to beguile and entrap weak and unsuspecting souls. They profess to be sources of spiritual help, but in reality they can give no spiritual assistance to thirsty souls. They deceive men with a promise which they cannot fulfill. Furthermore, they are like clouds driven by the wind, promising refreshing rain, but they give no water to the thirsty land. They bring only darkness and obscurity. There is no stability within them, they are restless; they are destitute of the Spirit and the grace of God.

2. False Teachers Speak Beguiling Words - 18

They are further described in verse 18, "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that are just escaping from them who live in error." In contrast with all their boastful pretense, they lead astray by offering sensual indulgences under the guise of liberty. Their words are swelling, high sounding, but they are only words, vain and meaningless; they have nothing but emptiness behind them. By certain acts of lasciviousness they entice the unsuspecting.

"Language, that God-given capacity to communicate and understand, has become for them an instrument to divide and spoil. Sin defiles everything it touches. It takes the very gifts of God and turns them into tools of iniquity" (Mounce, p. 134). These false teachers allure their audience into sin. They use the lusts of the flesh as bait "by means of the intense drive of the flesh to commit evil." Big words and impressive phraseology impresses their victims who are already conditioned by their own intense drive to sin, to believe what they want to believe and what they are hearing" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 255).

3. False Teachers Pervert Liberty - 19 - 22

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage" (verse 19). These individuals made a loud and convincing profession of being champions of fulfillment and heralds of freedom. But there is no correspondence between what they PROFESS and what they ARE in nature and practice. While talking loudly and with much boasting about freedom, these false teachers themselves are the slaves of sin and bondservants of corruption.

It is somewhat ironic that these false teachers speak of liberty and freedom, but they are hopelessly chained by the very practices they encourage in immature Christians. The liberty promised was liberty to yield to unbridled indulgences of passion. Their promised liberty is quite in contrast with the words of Jesus, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:32, 36).

"Any man has already been enslaved to that which has brought him into an inferior position. The alcoholic, the libertine, the dope addict, the megalomaniac, the fanatic - in short any physical condition or any mental concept or mind set that dictates behavior is master over him who yields obedience to it" (Yeager, ibid.)

Verse 20 reads, "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning." This verse of Scripture is misquoted and misused by some who would teach the apostasy of the true believer; that is, after a person has already experienced salvation, he can apostatize and fall out of grace, and thus lose his salvation. When this verse is viewed in the light of its context, however, it does teach that individuals who have possessed the knowledge that Christ can save those who place their faith and trust in Him, and willfully reject His salvation and again become entangled with the pollution of the world, his last state is worse than that of the first. Moral reformation without the creation of the inner man in regeneration, cannot save (see Matthew 12:43 - 45).

In His parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Jesus said, "Here ye therefore the parable of the sower. ..He also that receiveth seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." People may fall AWAY from grace, but, thank God, no one has ever fallen OUT of grace. The Apostle Paul said of some who were in the churches of Galatia, who wanted to go back under the law, even after they had heard that Jesus saved by grace, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4).

"For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (verse 21). "The way of righteousness" is that way which comes by faith in Christ. It would have been better (kreitton) for these false teachers and false prophets never to have known God's plan of redemption, than for them to have known it and willfully rejected it, and, furthermore, even leading others astray from the way of righteousness.

For an individual to know God's plan of redemption and to rebel against the wooing power of the Holy Spirit can result only in the hardening of that person's heart toward God. For to sin against light is far more deadly than sinning through ignorance, and the greater the light the deeper the sin of those who love darkness rather than light. With knowledge certainly comes responsibility for that knowledge. Jesus taught that a servant who knows his master's will and disobeys will be punished more severely than one who does not know (Luke 12:47, 48).

Peter concludes the chapter by writing, "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire" (verse 22). Peter compares the lives of these false teachers and false prophets to the habits of animals. These animals were regarded as unclean by the dietary laws of the Old Testament. Both the hog and the dog were looked upon by the Oriental as scavengers. Throughout the East, the "dog" is a term of reproach for impure and profane persons.

Doubtless, the writer was recalling a proverb found in the Scripture which reads, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). A more telling example of debauchery and insensitivity would have been difficult to find. Here is conclusive proof that these false prophets and false teachers herein described had never experienced the "new birth" or a change of nature. They may have appeared at one time to have been renewed persons but actually they possessed only their old sinful nature. A hog's heart is not changed by washing its body. A man's actions reveal what he is really like.

The Apostle John gives further instruction of the honest seekers of truth in I John 3:8 - 10, "He that commiteth sin (that is, he that makes a practice of sinning) is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (that is, he does not make a practice of sinning); for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." These false prophets and false teachers made a practice of sinning, and even leading others to commit the same sins, therefore they proved that they were not the children of God, but rather the children of the devil.

* * * * * * * * * *

"The picture painted in chapter two is indeed black and foreboding. But we are not to conclude that the sovereign God, who chose for reasons sufficient to His own all wise counsel, to permit the fall of man with its evil consequences, in his moral universe, has lost His control over the course of history. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4). While the false teachers argue for the uniformitarianism of evolution and hence argue against the second coming of our Lord, God nevertheless has provided for the dissolution of all things and the creation of a new order" (Yeager, p. 261).

Listen To The Prophets and Apostles

II Peter 3:1 - 4

The writer turns his attention from the "libertines" about whom he wrote in all of Chapter Two; now he writes to those who might be victimized by the "libertines?" that is, the saints of God. Much good admonition is found here for God's people. Although false teachers and false prophets seek to lead astray by making false promises of liberty and by perverting the truth, the writer seeks to remind the saints of the true word of God.

1. The Reason For The Epistle - 1, 2

"This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, that ye 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 Savior." Verses 1 and 2 are introductory statements about a former letter, possibly I Peter. Both letters serve as reminders.

The endearing word, "beloved," which is repeated four times in this chapter proves the great apostle's affection which he had for the saints. This touch of affection is all the more tender after the resounding blows laid upon the heretics of Chapter Two.

It seems to be the writer's intention to cause his readers to reflect on things which were told them by the apostles and not especially a revelation of something new. How strange it is that we so easily forget a certain truth, and much care must be taken not to be weaned away from the words of truth. Their pure, yet forgetful, minds are to be stirred up, to be aroused, and to be awakened by great words of truth. The Word of God would become their shield and buckler against erroneous teachings and practices.

Peter herein refers to that which was "spoken by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles..." He places the Old Testament and the New Testament on the same level, with equal authority. Someone once said, "The New Testament is in the Old Testament contained? The Old Testament is by the New Testament explained." What has been spoken and written by the prophets and that which has been spoken and written by the apostles is the command from the Lord.

2. The Coming of the Lord - 3, 4

"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after 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." The apostles spoke of the second coming of Christ as God directed them, and let us not forget that the doctrine is reinforced by inspired men of both Old and New Testament times. While the believer accepts and gladly responds to all that God has spoken and to all the prophets and apostles have written, the ungodly react in a different way.

These "last days" of which Peter writes "designate the time period since our Lord was born in Bethlehem, during all of which God is speaking to you through His Son (Hebrews 1:2) and also during all of which false teachers have denied and will continue to deny that Jesus Christ will come again" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 265). The ungodly scoff and are very skeptical of the teachings of God's Word. To scoff also can mean "to mock," "make jokes," and "laugh at."

Just as Satan attempted to discredit God's Word in the Garden of Eden by casting doubt on the veracity of His promises, so does the scoffers and unbelievers. Especially "in the last days" scoffers (empaiktai), scorners and mockers will arise and pour out their ridicule against the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. These characters become a law unto themselves, ordering their life after their worldly lusts and passion. To them this doctrine is a idle tale, holding no sense of seriousness for their consideration.

The doctrine of the second coming of Christ is a foundation stone upon which Christianity rests. The Psalmist wrote (11:3) "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" A foundation, a GOOD foundation, is a necessity in building, whether it be an imposing edifice or a godly life. The Christian, being forewarned by the apostle, is safeguarded against intellectual and moral bondage to a lustful system that erodes the very foundations of the faith.

The scoffers, scorners and mockers are so self-indulgent that they are led into skepticism. This is the picture which Jude paints in Jude 18, "They (the apostles) told you there should be mockers in the last time, who SHOULD WALK AFTER THEIR OWN UNGODLY LUSTS." The TEV shows the contempt that these scoffers have for our Lord's second coming. This version reads, "He promised to come, didn't he? Where is he?" "The argument of the mockers can be reduced to the principle that whatever has not yet happened never will. The way the question is put implies that the promise is farfetched and without substance" (Mounce, p. 139).

Their skepticism leads them into at least three assumptions: first, they assume that their knowledge of historical events is full and complete and that if there had been any divine intervention in the history of mankind they would know of it. Second, they assume that history is complete and accurate. Third, they reckon that there is a absolute uniformity to nature. Many modern scholars, and too many of them are SKEPTICS, recognize natural laws, but they fail to recognize the Lawgiver of these natural laws.

Jehovah God is the Lawgiver and since He is immanent in His creation. He can intervene and make certain changes in the natural laws whenever He desires. Christian philosophy teaches that there is a Creator Who is absolute, transcendent and self-sufficient, but it also teaches that his Creator is able to intervene in the outworking of natural law and even bring about complete destruction as He did at the Flood during Noah's time.

What the skeptics are saying here is that law is uniform; miracles are impossible, and the sole process in the universe is evolution, the supernatural is inconceivable. But if God sent a deluge to punish a guilty world, can He not send Christ to the earth in a flaming fire to punish the ungodly and to deliver His saints?

* * * * * * * * * *

For the true believer, scoffing, scorning and mocking will not alter the hope or the reality of the Lord's promised return to the earth! "The fact that Christ has not yet come is no argument that He will not come. Indeed the question is whether or not the second coming of Christ is on the divine agenda. The promise that He shall come again in judgment is supported by the fact that He came once before in judgment, but not before He had made provision for Noah and his family to escape the divine wrath.

"The flood was not an example of scientific uniformity which happened in Spinoza's mindless natural order of things. It was an act of God, Who knew about it before the foundation of the world, for He had predetermined that it should take place, and He took care to see to it that Noah also knew about it one hundred and twenty years in advance. Noah even knew the precise day when it would occur (Genesis 7:4; 11 - 13)" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 268).

God Is Immanent in His Creation

II Peter 3:5 - 9

In the preceding verses Peter tells his readers that false prophets and false teachers have become so self-indulgent in their sins and their desire to lead others astray, that they are willingly unmindful of the promises found in the Word of God concerning the Second Coming of Christ. These individuals are skeptical; they scoff, scorn and mock those who believe the Bible.

These false teachers try to reason that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." But do they? Has the world continued to "evolve," as they say, from the creation? There is abundant evidence in the Bible and in our natural world to prove that God CAN and HAS intervened and brought about events which prove that He is immanent in His creation. The universe is always changing; it is never stable. One can look at the manifestations of nature - earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and volcanos. These are natural phenomenon that change the course of nature.

1. The Ungodly Ignore the Facts - 5 - 7

Peter writes, "For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. By which the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." Do not these scoffers and skeptics "willingly forget" and neglect certain facts? How did the world come into being? Peter says that the world came into being by "the word of God." The best antidote for doubt and flagging faith is to recount experiences of God's faithfulness in behalf of His creation.

In the first book of the Bible, creation is the result of God's spoken word or command. In Genesis 1 we have the statement, "And God said." This statement is made ten times by Jehovah God in the six creative days. I call them the "Ten Commandments of Creation." One by one the facets of creation were manifested, it was "by the word of God" that "the worlds were created (framed)," so says Hebrews 11:3. This fact, however, is understood only by men of faith. And the writer of this epistle says that this fact "escapes them of their own will."

"By the word of Lord were the heavens made, all the host of them by the breath of his mouth...For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:6, 9). Their ignorance, of the creation of the world by the word of God and His sustaining power over it, is a voluntary ignorance implied both as an act of the will and as a depraved state of the affections. The people (skeptics) to whom Peter refers fail to recognize the power of God.

"For a long time the relative positions of heaven and earth to each other and the position of each to the water prevailed. And this cosmological arrangement existed because God willed it. The heavens were separate from the earth and the earth stood out of the water and also between the water. The ocean tides lapped the seashores and the land masses rose far above sea level, even in some areas to mountain heights. Continents lay between oceans. This topographical structure prevailed for a long time. And it was because of the command of God in creation. The point is that this arrangement was of long standing. Thus Peter disputes the argument of the skeptics in verse 4, 'for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.' What had never happened for a long time would never happen, they argued. Thus they extolled the power of precedent" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 269).

Furthermore, the writer writes in verse 6 of a catastrophic event taking place which in other Scriptures is called "the flood" (kataklutheis) or "the great deluge." The world inhabitants which God had created were later destroyed by a flood of waters. Water descended in the form of rain (which incidentally seems to be the first occasion of it ever raining) and the fountains of the deep were broken up and earth's inhabitants were destroyed by water. "It was because of the command of God (verse 5b) that the known world perished...The same word of God that decreed the solid continuance of the heaven and earth, in and out of the water, for centuries, also decreed the destruction of the earth by the surrounding waters" (Ibid. p. 270).

The flood of Noah's day cannot be ignored, either as an historical fact or as a cogent argument for God's intervention in the operation of divinely established laws. It was by "the word of God" that judgment fell. This is the apostle's answer to the mockers: THERE HAS BEEN ONE GREAT CATASTROPHE; THERE WILL BE ANOTHER. If God sent a flood of water to punish a guilty world, is it not possible that Christ will appear in flaming fire to punish the ungodly and to deliver His saints?

2. The Creator Has His Own Timetable - 7 - 9

"But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." By the same word, the word of God, which instituted the creation, this word can also determine the duration of His creation, and also it will be the means of the world's destruction. The world is "kept in store," (tethesaurismenoi) or literally, "treasured up" for destructive fire. With dissipation of energy, propensity to decay, deterioration and disease culmination in death, man's best efforts can do but little to preserve the natural order. Our God by that "same word," active in creation and in judgment, is withholding judgment for the heavens and the earth - judgment that is inevitable because of sin. God has spoken and all His pronouncements shall be fulfilled!

Peter again uses the endearing term, "Beloved, be not ignorant (lanthaneto) or unaware of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." God is eternal. His thoughts are not like our thoughts; He is not subject to the law of time as are we. With respect to the accomplishment of His purposes, a thousand year's delay is no more to Him than one hour's delay. God recognizes no temporal measure for the outworking of His purposes. "God's clock does not run by our timepieces; the scoffers scoff ignorantly" (Robertson, VI, p. 175). With God there is no past, present and future, but one eternal NOW. Beloved, God can afford to be patient!

We must remember that we cannot by our very nature and constitution understand fully the mind of God. We are of the earth, earthy; God is of the heavens and infinite. Our minds have been twisted and perverted as the result of sin. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8, 9). To us God's ways may be odd and strange, so we must always remember that the trouble is probably in our mind. God is so infinitely above men, and His mind is eternal and so different that I must not expect to be able to understand.

Verse 9 reads, "The Lord is not slack (bradunei) or slow concerning his promise, as some men count slackness (slowness), but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." During the lifetime of the early apostles, they looked for the coming of Christ back to the earth. But His longsuffering with man in his sinful condition has spanned more than nineteen hundred years. The door of grace and mercy is still open to you, my sinner friend, but it could be closed at any time.

God is eternal; God is above time. We must never think of God as being involved in the time process or in the flux and movement of time and history - God is altogether above time. Though God is above time, He does act in time. It is God who started the time process. God, by creating the world, began the movement of history. Although the Deists are wrong in their application of facts, we can use some of their thinking.

"God is like a man making a watch or clock - He Himself is outside it; He exists without it; He is not a part of it. The watchmaker makes the watch; he winds it up; he sets it going; he is outside the process but he initiates the process; he sets the hands in motion. That may help us a little to understand the relationship of God to time. But, according to the biblical teaching, God set the process going and He keeps it going. We can go further than that - God is controlling time and God's actions are all worked out on a very definite plan and according to a very definite scheme" (Lloyd-Jones, p. 178).

The reason the Lord has delayed His coming is to give you more time and opportunity to repent. Ezekiel, God's prophet of the captivity wrote, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11). Man can live eternally in heaven with God by very simply repenting of his sins and placing his faith and trust in God's Son as his personal Savior.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Let us then submit unto God and His absolute wisdom, and especially to His love and mercy, His long-suffering and compassion. The ways of God are certain and sure. We cannot understand them now, but in His own time we shall understand all things" (Lloyd-Jones, p. 183)

The Day Of The Lord

II Peter 3:10 - 13

The Scriptures teach, in a number of passages about the Day of the Lord and that Christ will one day return to the earth as He went away - personally, visibly and bodily. The book of Acts (1:11) testifies to that fact in this way, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Jesus came to earth the first time as an humble babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, but the second time He will come "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

In the Old Testament the day of the Lord was pictured as a time of victory for Israel (Joel 3:14 - 18), but it was to be a time of darkness and defeat for her enemies (Isaiah 13:9 - 11). Peter describes the return of Christ in terms of the Day of the Lord. It will bring relief to the troubled but punishment to the disobedient (II Thessalonians 1:7, 8). This day will come like a thief, suddenly, without warning to the unsuspecting (I Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3; 16:15). When men least expect it, suddenly the Christ will return and the day of opportunity will be over.

1. The Day of the Lord - 10

Peter now writes of events connected with the Day of the Lord and Christ's coming in this way, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens shall pass away (pareleusaonti) with a great noise (roizedon), and the elements shall melt (teketai) or liquidated with fervent heat (kausoumena); the earth also, and the works that are in it, shall be burned up." This verse, first of all, affirms the suddenness of His coming, even while men are not expecting such an event. It will "slip up on" many, despite the fact that there are many signs to appear beforehand as warnings of His coming. But the trouble lies in the fact skeptics do not believe the Bible, and even many who say that the Bible is God's Word are ignorant of its teachings. The elements here means those indivisible particles of matter; elements in a chemical sense. Apparently Peter is describing events which will take place after the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7 - 15).

Judgment has been withheld, but the "day of the Lord" will come. This phrase "day of the Lord" was used by a number of Old Testament prophets with reference to the "end time" when God's wrath will be poured out on an unbelieving world, and in the New Testament it signifies the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no need for the children of God to be surprised or ignorant concerning the coming of Christ, for the Apostle Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica in this way, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day (that is; the day of the Lord) should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light" (I Thessalonians 5:4, 5).

Now according to the writer, there will be great convulsions in nature that will accompany the Lord's second coming. At the Lord's return to the earth both the heavenly bodies and the earth will be drastically changed, and man's sinful works will be burned up. This is in keeping with what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:13, "Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the fire shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." The atmosphere is represented as passing away with a great noise, like the whizzing of arrows, or the rush of wings; like the sound of mighty winds or roaring waters.

The cosmic disturbances which Peter describes sound much like what happens in a nuclear disintegration. Thus the conversion of all matter in the universe, the earth and its works, moon, planets, suns and stars, as the E (energy) which concentrated into M (matter) as described in Genesis 1:1, is again transformed from M to E. He speaks of the roar and the heat released as chemical constituent elements disintegrate. Nothing material will remain after the coming judgment except energy (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 280, 282). Indeed, Yeager translates these words, " you anticipate and hasten toward the coming of the day of God because of which the incinerated heavens will be atomized and the ignited elements will melt (Ibid., p. 283).

This could be, according to scientists, the effect of the union of oxygen with hydrogen and other gases liberated by intense heat. The elements shall be "dissolved" (luomenon) or "loosed." The entire framework of the world, as we know it, will be disorganized. Although the writer knew nothing of science of geology, as we know it today, he describes very vividly, by inspiration, what God will cause to take place in that great and terrible day.

Many have suggested that this verse predicts the end of the physical universe by a series of clear explosions. Dr. Earl Radmacher, President of Western Baptist Theological Seminary, reported that "on March 5, 1979, nine United States satellites simultaneously radioed back to earth that a gamma radiation explosion occurred in a nearby galaxy known as N-49. This explosion lasted for only one-tenth of a second, but released more radiation that our sun does in 3,000 years. Doyle Evans, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories in New Mexico, noted that had this explosion of energy occurred in our galaxy, it would have instantly vaporized the earth!" (Mounce, p. 143). Mounce states further, "Whether or not this will be the specific way God achieves final judgment is not known. What is certain, however, is that as God once brought upon the world a judgment by water, so in the last days he will bring about a judgment by fire" (Ibid).

The same God Who inspired Peter to write these words in verse 10 inspired the Psalmist to write in Psalm 102:25 - 27, these words, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish but thou shall endure; yea, all of them shall become old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." The prophet Isaiah spoke of this event like this, "Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished" (Isaiah 51:6). God CAN and WILL intervene one day, and the old order will pass away and a new order will appear.

2. How Are We to Live? - In Righteousness - 11, 12

Verses 11 and 12 read like this, "Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, in which the heavens being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" Since these things are sure to take place, how should we conduct ourselves?

Exercised by contemplation of God's judgment, the believer is sobered and challenged to a life of true holiness. In this world, that now awaits God's impending judgment, the believer is not in his native element but is a stranger and a pilgrim. In this new order which has been promised of God, righteousness shall reign and the one who possesses God's imputed righteousness "shall be at home." Rather than to give a more detailed description of the earth's destruction. Peter is primarily interested in the moral dynamics of the second coming. What should be the attitude of the child of God?

This verse seems to point out very vividly the great truth that God's people are fellow-citizens with the saints and that the commonwealth of which we are citizens - is in heaven. When these events take place then the righteous will of God will be done without the presence and the curse of sin. Satan will be put down, no sin will be present to mar the beauty of God's new order.

3. A New Heaven and A New Earth Promised - 13

"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness." Then the words of the Model Prayer will be fulfilled, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). When these events take place those who are righteous will no longer be a despised minority but will discover that we alone have the titular rights in the new heavens and the new earth. Although the day of the Lord will produce destruction of the earth as we know it, the child of God can look beyond, and he can anticipate newer and better things.

Isaiah, God's prophet, was inspired to write these words (65:17), "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Just as the water of the Great Deluge was a water of judgment on the ancient world, so the fire of the Great Day will be the means of judgment on the earth, thus purifying and refining the universe, transforming it into new heavens and new earth making it the proper dwelling place for Jehovah God and His people.

John the Revelator was privileged to see this "end time," and he wrote of it in Revelation 21:1 - 3 in this way, "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. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." This certainly is "shouting ground" for the true child of God.

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What should be the Christian's attitude? "The Christian is urged to do what all are now doing - viz. anticipating the fulfillment of God's promise to us, that in His own time and by His own wisdom and power, new heavens and new earth will be established in which His will shall be perfectly accomplished. Compare: Revelation 21:1; John 14:1, 3; I Peter 1:4; Isaiah 11:9. He Who loves us too much to hurt us is too wise to make a mistake and He is powerful enough to enforce His perfect will" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 286).

Be Ye Steadfast

II Peter 3:14 - 18

The writer concludes his letter by admonishing his readers to heed the things which he has written. He has just revealed to them how that this world order will one day pass away. The world and the things that are in it will be burned up. This event will take place at the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In view of these facts, the apostle seeks to instruct his readers as to their conduct.

1. Exhortation to Diligence - 14

"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent (spoudasate) or endeavor that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot (aspiloi) or unstained, and blameless (amomntoi) or above reproach." In the light of all that God has revealed through His Word, the Christian should desire above all else to be acceptable to God and to show forth fruits of salvation. He should earnestly strive to imitate the Lord Who was, "the Lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19). He should be at peace with God, having no fear of the judgment that shall come upon the earth.

What a contrast between the saint and the sinner! The saint has peace, but "the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Nor is there peace for the wicked in the life to come, for Revelation 14:11 says, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night." Outside of Christ and God the Father there is no peace; Christ truly is the Prince of Peace.

The word translated "diligent," is the same word translated "endeavor", in II Peter 1:15. It means to "exert oneself" or to "make intense effort." Peter is saying here, exert yourself, or make every effort to be found of Him in peace and without spot and blameless (above reproach). "If we are expecting to be citizens of a new kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:26 - 28), after God has shaken everything that can be moved (II Peter 3:10, 12), and since this unshakeable kingdom is one where righteousness prevails, it is important that we should exercise total diligence to be found in Him "the Consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29), spotless, without censure and at peace" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 287).

2. Peter's Testimony of the Longsuffering Lord - 15, 16

Furthermore, Peter writes in verses 15 and 16, "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." "Peter does not say that he himself did not understand Paul on the subject of faith and freedom" (Robertson, VI, p. 179). Scoffers may count the delay of judgment as slackness; but not so, for judgment tarries in order for others to be saved, maybe even you.

The writer calls to the witness stand, the beloved Apostle Paul, who wrote concerning this same subject. The words of the apostles are sometimes misunderstood and misconstrued, often times willingly, but at other times ignorantly, but the common theme of these two writers is redemption of sinners in and through the sacrifice of God's Son upon the cross of Calvary. These letters from the pen of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul are inspired of God, as is all the Bible, and these are to be accepted as holy Scriptures, although they may contain passages that are difficult for us to understand.

One individual, when asked about difficult passages in the Word of God, exclaimed, "I accept the Bible as the Word of God, and I try to understand all of It I can; that portion that I do not understand I accept by faith and pray that God will assist me in understanding more and more of It." Such should be the prayer and will of every earnest Christian. Some men are ignorant of spiritual truth, however, and they are eager to find an excuse for sin and have misinterpreted the Bible so as to allow themselves license which is destroying their own souls. God's people have been warned in advance of the evil influences of false teachers and false prophets, and of the peril of turning from the truth? We, therefore, should stand firm and steadfast. Those who attempt to destroy the Bible and pervert Its teachings will actually themselves one day be destroyed.

"Although Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8), and although Paul had to correct Peter publicly at Antioch (Galatians 2:11 - 16), there existed between these two early leaders of the church a deep appreciation and a bond of brotherly love. Peter freely acknowledges that Paul wrote to them with the wisdom that God gave him. No one apostle has a corner on divine revelation or wisdom. God distributes his gifts through chosen men, and Paul, although not one of the favored Twelve, is nevertheless a genuine apostle and spokesman for God" (Mounce, pp. 146, 147).

The word "wrest" (streblolusin) means twisted and is sometimes translated "distort" which originally meant the tightening of a cable with a windlass. The figure came quite naturally to be applied to the straining and twisting of the meaning of words. Not only do the troublemakers distort what Paul has written, but they handle other sacred texts in the same way. (Mounce, p. 147).

3. Final Exhortation and Benediction - 17, 18

The apostle concludes his letter in verses 17 and 18 by writing, "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing that ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness (sterigmou) or stability. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen." These verses condense the exhortation which runs throughout the entire letter.

The informed Christian has no excuse for stopping short in attainment of all that God has provided for his maturity and stability. The entire Bible admonishes and exhorts the earnest Christian to godly living, to a knowledge which comes from God only, and to a hope transcending all difficulties. The passions and pitfalls leading to bondage and blindness cannot enslave the informed Christian who has learned to rely on God's grace and to counter the reasonings of men with the true knowledge of Him Who is both Savior from sin and Lord of life.

Steadfastness is no less the fruit of the Holy Spirit than other virtues listed in Galatians 5:22, 23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Steadfastness is not merely continued adherence to the church, its creeds and rites, but rather adherence to Christ in spiritual life. The writer says, "grow in grace, and in the knowledge." Satisfaction with present attainments may prove the beginning of a fall; growth is the only security. Growth is necessary for steadfastness; we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith.

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (verse 18). "The answer to error is to grow in one's Christian faith. So Peter concludes in this way. Let your experience in Christ continue to mature. May his gracious favor become increasingly apparent in all that you say and do. Learn to know him personally in an ever increasing way. He is Lord and Savior. He redeems and rules. And he is our Lord" (Mounce, p. 148) .

In his expository sermons on II Peter, David M. Lloyd-Jones printed three sermons or lectures on the subject of growing in grace. He points out first of all that a person must have a new birth; he must have received a new life before he can properly grow in the grace of God. He, furthermore, emphasizes that this growth is gradual and progressive.

He poses the question - How do we know that we are growing; how does one measure growth in the Christian life? Lloyd-Jones says, "There is only one answer. The way to measure growth is to come to the standard measure, and that is this Book - the Word of God. The only way to discover where we stand is to read what the New Testament has to say about the Christian man...I suggest to you that it is an easy thing to read the New Testament without examining ourselves at all. One can read the Book so mechanically that one is never tested by it at all, and yet here is the only test. (Lloyd-Jones, pp. 218 - 246).

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Peter concludes his epistle by writing, "To him (the Lord Jesus Christ) be glory both now and forever." Why glorify the Christ? Because He is God, and God alone is worthy to be praised and glorified. Praise and glory should be ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ because of what He has done for every child of God. He left the eternal court of heaven, humbled Himself by becoming a man, and then died for sinful man that he might be redeemed from the curse of sin. Not only for what He has done for us, should we praise and glorify Him, but also for what He is doing for us now. He sits at the right hand of God as our Mediator.

The hymn-writer has so ably penned these words,

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."