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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Peter 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

CHAPTER 3

There is here a continuation of the discussion of the great apostasy to occur in the "last days" (2 Peter 3:1-7), revelations concerning the "day of the Lord," with refutation of the mockers (2 Peter 3:8-13), and exhortations to stedfastness, and the doxology (2 Peter 3:14-18).

This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write unto you; and in both of them, I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance; (2 Peter 3:1)

Beloved ... This word is somewhat of a keynote in this chapter, occurring here, and in 2 Peter 3:2,14,15,17. It contrasts with the vehement pronouncements against the false teachers and mockers.

The second epistle that I write unto you ... There is no good reason for supposing the reference to be anything other than a citation of 1Peter. The arguments that seek to use this as evidence of pseudonymity and a late date are without any value, and are founded upon a total misunderstanding of what Peter meant by "remembrance," viewing it as an assertion that the content of the two letters is the same! Such a view, in its own right, is preposterous; for Peter indicated immediately, as again in 2 Peter 1:12, that he had in mind their remembrance of the whole corpus of Christian truth as revealed not only by the holy apostles but by the prophets of the old dispensation as well. Such views are the fruit of a myopic unawareness of the breadth of revelation characteristic of both of these epistles. As Kelcy said, "It has been generally held that this refers to 1Peter, and it is not necessary to think otherwise."[1]

ENDNOTE:

[1] Raymond C. Kelcy, The Letters of Peter and Jude (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1972), p. 152.


Verse 2

that ye should remember the words that were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles:

This outlines the things Peter wished to refresh the memory of in the minds of his readers. Wheaton observed that this verse "taken in general terms could describe the contents of 1Peter."[2] However, Wheaton voiced the usual reservation that,

"If this verse is taken as having to do with the second coming, it hardly describes Peter's first letter."[3] It is an unqualified mystery to this writer why some scholars are so up tight about Peter's intimation here that both epistles are concerned with the Christian's remembrance of vital truth. What truth? All truth revealed by the prophets and the apostles! True, Peter mentioned the second coming in this chapter; but that is by no means all of it. The doctrine of the end of the world, the salient features of the great apostasy, the forthcoming judgment of all mankind, the new heavens and the new earth, the inspiration of both the Old and the New Testaments, to name only a few things, and many, many other cardinal tenets of the Christian religion are copiously mentioned in both epistles. In this comprehensive view, the truth of which cannot be denied, Peter's bracketing both epistles as "reminding" the saints of these things is exactly what should have been expected. Peter did not mean that his epistles were carbon copies of each other. "His words do not exclude the supposition that their contents differ in many respects."[4]

By the holy prophets ... Even an innocent expression like this is pressed into service by the critics who assert that it indicates a later date, a time, they say, "when the reference to the prophets had become stylized!"[5] Only the advocates of a bankrupt cause would resort to an argument like that, especially in view of the facts that Luke mentioned "the holy prophets" (Luke 1:70), as did Peter also (Acts 3:21).

The commandment of the Lord and Saviour ... This is very significant as showing that Peter had no reference whatever to some single promise of the Lord, such as the Second Advent, but to the "commandment," a comprehensive term here standing for the totality of our Lord's teaching.

Through your apostles ... These were not "your missionaries," as alleged by some, but, "The apostles of Jesus Christ ... they alone were put on a level with the Old Testament prophets."[6] Note also that Peter included all the apostles as equal in authority with himself. As Caffin said, "We must therefore understand this passage, along with verse 15, as a distinct recognition of the apostleship of Paul."[7] Paine was also correct when he wrote, "This unaffected claim to apostleship, as though the writer realized it was known to all his readers, is a strong corroboration of Petrine authorship."[8] This expression, "your apostles" has also been seized upon as the basis of an allegation that post-apostolic time is indicated; however, as Robinson said, "This need not imply the end of the apostolic age, any more than when Paul said to the Corinthians, `If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you' (1 Corinthians 9:2)."[9] Far from indicating a late date and some forger as the author, this passage actually denies such a thing. "A later writer would have insisted upon asserting Peter's personal authority here."[10]

[2] David H. Wheaton, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1256.

[3] Ibid.

[4] R. H. Strachan, Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 114.

[5] Michael Green, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries 2Peter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 125.

[6] Ibid.

[7] B. C. Caffin, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22,2Peter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 65.

[8] Stephen W. Paine, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 998.

[9] John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 179.

[10] Alfred Plummer, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 458.


Verse 3

knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts,

Wheaton declared that it is "likely"[11] that the mockers here are the same as the false teachers of the preceding chapter; and Dummelow considered it "probable";[12] but the view here is that they were almost certainly the same. This is indicated by two considerations: (1) They are sensual characters, walking after their own lusts, as were the false teachers; and (2) they are evidently people who were familiar with the "promise" of the Lord's coming, who had indeed once believed it, but then became mockers. From this, the deduction is that the great apostasy is still under consideration.

In the last days ... There is a difference in this expression from "latter times" (1 Timothy 4:1) "the last days" (2 Timothy 3:1);[12] from which Macknight concluded that, "Perhaps it means the last part of the days of the world's duration."[13] There is also a marked difference in the attitude of those mentioned in 2 Peter 2 and here. There, the approach is one of stealth and deception; here the opposition is bold and challenging. "Anthropocentric hedonism always mocks at the idea of ultimate standards and a final division between the saved and the lost."[14]

[11] David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1257.

[12] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1052.

[13] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, reprint, 1969), p. 560.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 129.


Verse 4

and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Where is the promise of his coming ... ? As the centuries pass away, this objection recurs repeatedly, with greater and greater intensity. The central thesis of Christianity is the Second Coming of Christ in the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, the Lord's Supper itself being oriented absolutely to that future event. Peter here foretold the ultimate mockery with which unbelievers and apostates would receive such doctrine, there being in all probability at the time he wrote outcroppings of the same thing.

From the day the fathers fell asleep ... One is amazed that so many commentators jump to the conclusion that was stated by Caffin, thus: "By `fathers' there must be meant here the fathers of the Christian church."[15] That this is not the meaning of the reference is apparent in the fact that "nowhere else in the New Testament does this expression mean anything other than the Old Testament fathers."[16] It should have been translated "patriarchs" as in Romans 9:5, where the same expression is used.[17]

All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation ... If the fall of Jerusalem had already occurred at the time 2Peter was written, scoffers would not have been saying such a thing as this; for that event was enough of a cataclysm to silence the gainsayers for a generation. The Lord had clearly predicted the fall of the Holy City, the destruction of its sacred temple, and the removal of the Jewish state, making all of these things to be a type of the ultimate destruction at the time of the final coming and judgment. These prophecies of Jesus were well known, the Pharisees even citing garbled references to them in the trials. The cataclysmic fulfillment of those great prophecies so soon after 2Peter was written would not have contributed to the hostile attitude in evidence here. The proper time for the flowering of such mockeries was in the decade preceding 70 A.D., to which period the writing of this epistle must be assigned. The prophecy Peter gave here (and it is a prophecy) has regard to the end of time, when by reason of passing centuries, the old mockery would flower again with greater intensity than ever. And even today, it could not exist except in those who are ignorant of the full import of the destruction of Jerusalem, a fact which, through neglect of the New Testament, many fail to connect with that final and terrible event of which it is the standing prophecy.

From the beginning of the creation ... The implications of this make it impossible to view "fathers" here as any other than the patriarchal progenitors of the human race. It is not the time between the resurrection of Christ and this letter which is in view but the whole sweep of human history. As Green pointed out, "It is not said that things continue as they were from the coming of Christ, but from the beginning of the creation."[18]

[15] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 66.

[16] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 139.

[17] Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 154.

[18] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 129.


Verse 5

For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God;

They wilfully forget ... Far from being any intelligent and well-reasoned objection, the mockery of the scoffers was merely a loud and arrogant denial, "based upon their unbelief in the supernatural, and because they resented any interference in their "walking after their own lusts.'"[19] This is a perfect example of the enmity of the carnal mind against God.

For men who nourish a belief in human self-determination and perfectability, the very idea that we are accountable and dependent is a bitter pill to swallow. No wonder they mocked.[20]

Heavens ... earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God ... As Payne said, Peter's source here is Genesis 1:6-10.[21] Caffin also stressed this saying, "Peter's words are evidently derived from the Book of Genesis, not from any other sources, whether Greek, Egyptian, or Indian?[22] Therefore, the best commentary on what Peter meant here is in Genesis, to which he obviously referred. Disputes about what is meant by the earth being compacted out of water and amidst the water are best resolved by understanding this as Peter's reference to what took place in Creation. The big point is in the final phrase of this clause:

By the word of God ... The universe itself was created by the great First Cause, who is God. The heavens and the earth were created by God, "not by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, or by spontaneous generation."[23] Peter is presenting arguments against the mockers, his first being against their naturalism, as in this verse. God is behind everything, and that immeasurably important truth the mockers were willfully ignoring.

[19] Eldon R. Fuhrman, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 334.

[20] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 129.

[21] David F. Payne, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 604.

[22] B. C. Carlin, op. cit., p. 66.

[23] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 459.


Verse 6

by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Wheaton stated the argument here as follows: "The argument used by the scoffers is phony. They have conveniently forgotten that God did intervene in judgment at the time of the Flood."[24] God's intervention and interruption of the orderly process of nature in the cataclysmic event of the great flood proved several things, willfully put out of their minds by the scoffers: (1) It cannot be argued that God will not again interrupt the steady rhythm of the earth. He did it once and certainly can do it again. (2) The excessive wickedness of men caused the first interruption, and it is logical to believe that excessive wickedness will be counteracted by another interruption. (3) It is quite easy for God to do such a thing. It was the mere word of God that created all things. Only a word brought the flood. Only another word will bring another judgment. (4) The flood came upon the promise of God to Noah that it would be done. God kept that promise. (5) God has now promised that the world is stored up for fire; and God will keep that promise also.

ENDNOTE:

[24] David B. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1257.


Verse 7

but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

This sequence of destruction, first by water, then by fire, was indicated by Jesus himself in Luke 17:25ff, and reiterated by Peter in 2 Peter 2:5,6. No blue-print of what will occur is given, merely the bare fact of ultimate destruction by fire. People may choose to disbelieve this if they will! Noah's generation did not believe God either; but those who are the elect will receive these words by faith that not a jot or a tittle shall pass away until all be fulfilled.

"This verse is the clearest prophecy in the Scripture of the final conflagration of the universe,"[25] but it is by no means the only one.

PROPHECIES OF THE END

There are a number of prophecies of the end of the world which do not suggest that it is to be accomplished by fire. Hebrews 12:27 mentions the shaking of the earth and the heavens in a context that implies their removal. Matthew's commission mentions "the end of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20). Psalms 102:25 is quoted by the author of Hebrews 1:11: "The earth ... and the heavens ... they shall perish." Jesus declared flatly, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). The entire 24th chapter of Matthew was in response to three questions, one of which was, "What shall be the sign of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3).

However, there are other prophesies of the final destruction by fire, and it must be admitted that none of the prophecies cited above is in any way incompatible with the thought of the great conflagration at the end of the world. Paul mentioned that Jesus would come from heaven "with flaming fire" to render judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7f). Jesus mentioned in the general judgment scene of Matthew 25 that the wicked should be turned aside into "everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41). Isaiah gave the word of the Lord saying, "Lo, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17); and "Behold the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger and fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire" (Isaiah 66:25); also, "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, etc." (Isaiah 34:4). Daniel connected fire with the final judgment thus: "A fiery stream issued and came forth from him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened" (Daniel 7:10). These passages are enough to show that 1Peter fully harmonizes with other words of inspiration both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, which mention the world being stored up for fire. Neither the scoffers of Peter's own times, nor those of our own are willing to believe this; but it is nevertheless true, for the Lord has spoken it.

The prevailing impression created from reading the New Testament is that the general resurrection of all the dead, the Second Coming of Christ, and the general judgment of all mankind will occur simultaneously with the destruction of the earth.

The very event of the flood itself is viewed as a myth by some; but the reason for their rejection of Biblical history on this point lies in their unwillingness to believe in the ultimate destruction of the earth by fire, the first event being the proof of the other. It is easier to scoff at the truth than to conform one's life to the pattern required by accepting the truth.

The day of judgment ... is always mentioned in the singular in the New Testament, indicating that it is the time when all of the happenings associated with it shall occur. The rational thought sustaining the Biblical concept of a judgment day is extensive: (1) Without judgment day, there can never be any such thing as justice for every man. (2) Without a judgment day, the wicked would have the better of things in countless instances. (3) Without a judgment day and the accompanying assignment of the correct destiny for every man, the very justice of God himself could be questioned. (4) The question of whether or not the universe itself is absolutely controlled by the God of eternal and infinite righteousness is definitely related to the Biblical revelation of "the day of judgment." (5) The conviction that man is accountable to his Creator and that God will reward the fidelity of his servants and overthrow the ungodly is the soul's last shield of protection from frustration, despair and madness. (6) The revelation that there is to be a judgment day with the consequences outlined in the Bible is the divine regulator, or governor, of human conduct, the only ultimate restraint of the unbridled lust and savagery of the human race. For further study of the judgment day, see in my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 121-123, and in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 180,181. Regarding the basis upon which God has promised to judge his creatures, see in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 58-79, where are outlined the ten basic principles upon which God will judge mankind.

Stored up for fire ... is a very interesting expression; and Macknight thought it related to the rainbow promise God gave to Noah (Genesis 9:11), and the declaration in Genesis 8:22, "That while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, etc., shall not cease." Note the words while the earth remaineth with the inherent suggestion that the earth shall not always remain. Macknight said:

The apostle has his eye on God's oath to Noah, etc. Wherefore, the earth is not always to remain; but it is not to be destroyed by a deluge. It is kept from floods to be destroyed by fire.[26]

Strachan summarized the teaching of this verse thus:

The writer means that both the rainbow promise and the delay are not to be regarded as implying that there will be no more great cosmic changes. The heaven and the earth are reserved for destruction by fire.[27]

Jesus himself, a number of times, appealed to the flood as a warning to the wicked; and Peter also stressed it in his other epistle, as well as here (1 Peter 3:9).

[25] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 67.

[26] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 565.

[27] R. H. Strachan, op. cit., p. 144.


Verse 8

But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

This verse is based upon Psalms 90:4, the thought being a refutation of the mockers who took the Lord's delay as proof that he would not act. "Faith orients man to eternity, whereas scoffers remain children of time."[28] Wheaton pointed out that Peter here opposed the mockers with two arguments: (1) "Time is of no consequence to God," and (2) "Through his love for men, God is keeping open the door of repentance for men as long as possible."[29] The first of these arguments is in this verse, and the second is in the next.

Both Robinson and Green considered it very significant that Peter's reference here to Psalms 90:4 omitted all reference to millennialism, or chiliastic claims, the omission being a strong indication that this epistle was not written at a late date. At the very time the advocates of a late date for 2Peter propose to date this epistle, millennialism was running absolutely wild; and Green asks:

If this epistle had been written in the second century when this doctrine was so widespread that it almost became a touchstone of orthodox Christianity, is it likely that the author (pseudonymous) could have refrained from making any allusion to it whatever when quoting the very verse (Psalms 90:4) which gave it birth?[30]

The implications of the truth in view here are a profound denial of a late date for 2Peter; and Green's perception of this prompted Robinson to quote this passage in full,[31] including it in the mass of evidence that led him to change his mind and date it in the 60's.

[28] Barnett, as quoted by Michael Green, op. cit., p. 134.

[29] David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1257.

[30] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 135.

[31] John A. T. Robinson, op. cit., p. 181.


Verse 9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

"Here the writer of this epistle enables us to view the summit of the Christian faith, and to rise to a magnificent conception of God."[32] Barclay even went so far as to see a hint of universalism in it: "Ever and again there shines in Scripture the glint of the larger hope ... that somehow and some time, God ... will bring the whole world to himself."[33] Green expressed amazement that Barclay could have held such a view, asking, "How can he in view of 2 Peter 3:7?"[34] Of course, God wants all people to be saved; and Jesus gave himself as a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. Nevertheless, some people will exercise their free will to exclude God from their lives; and this God cannot prevent without taking away from people the very freedom of choice that makes them people.

But is longsuffering ... Long ago, Augustine said, "God is patient because he is eternal." "He who is from everlasting to everlasting can afford to wait."[35] There would appear to be another reason for God's delay, evident in the next clause.

Not willing that any should perish ... A viewpoint in this verse (including 2 Peter 3:12) which is ancient, reaching all the way back to Ecumenius, was quoted by Macknight thus: "The time of the end is deferred, that the number of them that are to be saved may be filled up."[36] See more on this under 2 Peter 3:12.

Peter also included the principle of God's longsuffering towards people in 1 Peter 4:20, which recounts the longsuffering of God in the days of Noah.

[32] R. H. Strachan, op. cit., p. 144.

[33] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 343.

[34] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 136.

[35] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 459.

[36] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 568.


Verse 10

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

We shall not attempt to follow the lead of the commentators who spiritualize this passage, making it teach some figurative or symbolical lesson regarding God's dealing with human wickedness, the obvious intention of the apostle Peter being that of giving a literal account of what will take place on the day of the Lord. It is not clear whether the planet earth in totality is to be destroyed, or if the total re-doing of it, as in the instance of the flood, is indicated. The actual meaning is the same either way. It was the literal earth which was, in a specific sense, destroyed by water; it is the literal earth which Peter here prophesied would be destroyed by fire. Macknight said, "There are things in the apostle's prophecy which show that it was intended to be taken literally."[37]

What will it all be like? We do not know. Faith in God and in his holy word is the only true enlightenment that is available on such a passage as this.

As a thief ... Paul used this figure of the thief's sudden coming (1 Thessalonians 5:2); the apostle John used it twice (Revelation 3:3,16:15); but it was Christ who first used it (Matthew 24:43). As Dummelow said, "All through this passage, Peter had in mind the prophecy of our Lord recorded in Matthew 24."[38]

Plummer was correct in seeing that:

This repeated reproduction of words and ideas from one of the most impressive of Christ's discourses (Matthew 24), which only Peter and three others were privileged to hear, may fairly be added to the evidence of the authenticity of this epistle.[39]

The day of the Lord ... As used throughout the New Testament, this word indicates the second coming and the judgment. In Isaiah 2:12; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; and Malachi 3:2 it is also associated with judgment.

In which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise ... The word for "heavens" here is from [@ouranos], a word with different meanings in the New Testament.[40] Among these are "the atmosphere" (Matthew 6:26), "the sidereal heavens" (the sun, moon and stars) (Matthew 24:29,35), and "the eternal dwelling place of God" (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 12:50). Peter's obvious remembrance throughout in this passage of Matthew 24, where Jesus used the word for the sidereal heavens, makes it probable that Peter meant that here.

With a great noise ... The word for noise is [@rhoizedon], a powerful word used for, "the swish of an arrow through the air, the rumbling of thunder, the crackle of flames, the scream of the lash as it descends, the rushing of mighty waters, or the hissing of a serpent."[41] Peter has chosen it as if he would unite many horrors in one."[42]

The elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat ... By this is meant the basic building blocks of all material things, the very atoms themselves. "These words were written by Peter long before the atomic age, but they fit strikingly into the atomic vocabulary."[43] Well into the period spanned by countless people now living, the scientific world was certain that such a thing as that mentioned by Peter here was impossible. During this writer's years in school, a science professor ridiculed him for being baptized, observing that, "One cannot believe the New Testament, because it teaches that the earth will burn up." He even "proved" that it cannot burn (with a Bunsen burner, no less!), by applying it to a handful of soil! Well, science has at last caught up with revelation. And if such a fact as this does not convince one of the apostles' inspiration, such a person cannot be convinced. Today, all nations tremble in fear of atomic fires that may devastate and make uninhabitable the whole earth. Besides that, the strides in the field of astronomy postulate a fate of our earth that almost invariably is described as fiery dissolution, whether from the explosion of our sun, or by the sun's becoming a "black hole" and drawing our earth into itself! No one knows, of course, how the end will be; but only a fool can believe that the end will not occur; and there is no reason at all to reject Peter's prophetic revelation that the end will be by fire, a fate which he prophesied nearly two millenniums ago, and which today is recognized as true by every scientist on earth. What Peter evidently meant here was summarized by Bo Reicke, thus:

The solar system and the great galaxies, even space-time relationships, will be abolished. All elements which make up the physical world will be dissolved by heat and utterly melt away. It is a picture which in an astonishing degree corresponds to what might actually happen according to modern theories of the physical universe.[44]

Another important meaning in this verse was pointed out by Strachan. "No distinction is made between the Day of the Lord and the Coming of Christ. This is remarkable as excluding any idea of millennarian teaching."[45]

Those familiar with some of the so-called translations and certain writers will be aware that some attempt to translate "will be burned up" in this passage, as "shall be manifested"; but as Caffin said, "The reading `shall be burned up' is well supported, and suits the context best."[46]

[37] Ibid., p. 566.

[38] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1052.

[39] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 460.

[40] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. 2(Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), p. 208.

[41] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 138.

[42] Lumby, as quoted by Green, Ibid.

[43] Eldon R. Fuhrman, op. cit., p. 336.

[44] Bo Reicke, as quoted by Green, op. cit., p. 139.

[45] R. H. Strachan, op. cit., p. 145.

[46] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 68.


Verse 11

Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness,

The great ethical purpose of Christianity is clear in this. Christ came to save people from their sins, not in their sins; and the recognition of the ultimate fate of all created things, to say nothing of the immediate fate of all mortals, should have but one issue, that of godliness and holy living.

Caffin pointed out that the prophetic tense is in use here: "Seeing that all these things are being dissolved. The participle is present, and implies the certainty of the event foretold."[47]

All to be dissolved ... In our version, the same word occurs in Isaiah 34:4; but, as one reads Peter's words here, the conviction deepens that the Saviour himself had given instructions to his apostles which have their outcroppings in passages like this, despite the fact of their not having been recorded elsewhere in the New Testament.

People who will not believe in the second coming of Christ and the accompanying judgment of all the world inevitably have a tendency to live careless and sinful lives. There is a positive and definite connection between what one believes and what one does. It was to this principle that this verse is addressed. When people reject the knowledge of God and the revelation in his word, life for such persons automatically loses all real value. On the other hand, when people view life as a probation lived under the guidance and observance of the Father of all Creation, life becomes, for them, endowed with infinitely greater dimensions. The goal, purpose, or intention of living immediately invests with true meaning and significance every experience of life. This is "the abundant life" in Christ. Barclay has given a wonderful summary of the end results of godless lives, gleaned from the heathen tombs, thus:

I was nothing; I am nothing; so thou who art still alive, eat, drink, and be merry.

Once I had no existence; now I have none. I am not aware of it. It does not concern me.

Charidas, what is below? Deep darkness. But what of the path upward? All a lie ... Then we are lost.

Without the truth embodied in the second coming doctrine, life is going nowhere; there is nothing left to live for.[48]SIZE>

[47] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 68.

[48] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 345.


Verse 12

looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements melt with fervent heat?

Peter seems here to be repeating the words he had heard from Jesus' own lips.

Earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God ... An acceptable translation of this is "hastening the coming of the day of God," as in our margin, and in RSV and New English Bible (1961). "This is a striking suggestion, implying that men, in some way, can speed up God's plans."[49] Such an understanding does not commend itself to all commentators; but there is no good reason for rejecting it. Peter implied the same thing. No! He said the same thing in Acts 3:19-21. For an elaboration of this, see in my Commentary on Acts, pp. 75,76. J. W. McGarvey said:

A certain amount of work in the saving of men was to be accomplished before his coming. This is indicated by the qualifying remark, "whom the heavens must receive until the restoration of all things whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets."[50]

It is suggested by many that this underlies Jesus' commandment to pray, "Thy kingdom come," meaning the kingdom in its eternal phase. From the Book of Common Prayer, the Funeral Service has this line:

Beseeching thee, of thy goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom.[51]

Caffin also observed that the remarkable coincidence of thought between this passage and the one in Acts 3:19-21 "furnishes an argument of considerable weight in favor of the genuineness of this epistle."[52] See also under 2 Peter 3:9.

Day of God ... in this verse is used of the very same day called "the day of the Lord" in 2 Peter 3:10, where Jesus Christ is clearly intended, being an incidental but powerful witness of the apostolic identification of the Lord Jesus Christ with deity.

Elements melt ... fervent heat ... See under 2 Peter 3:10 where these same expressions are studied. Caffin noted that the word for "heat" here is even a stronger term than used in 2 Peter 3:10, meaning "being melted away," or consumed, also, that, "The tense is the prophetic present, implying a certain fulfillment."[53]

[49] David F. Payne, op. cit., p. 605.

[50] J. W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1892), p. 63.

[51] B. C. Carlin, op. cit., p. 68.

[52] Ibid., p. 69.

[53] Ibid.


Verse 13

But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

God had said through Isaiah that a new heavens and a new earth would be created, and that the former heaven and earth would be no more (Isaiah 65:17); and whether Peter meant by "his promise" in this verse, that of God through Isaiah, or the Saviour's own promise through himself may not be differentiated, for they are the same anyway. It goes without saying that Christ and the apostles did not add very much information to that Isaiah gave. It was not intended for people to know more than this. Also, regarding speculations about "just how" all of the marvelous things that are foretold will come about is exceedingly dangerous and precarious. As Green said:

We have no means whatever of conceiving what a resurrection body or a restored universe will be like. Those who think they can map out a detailed program of what will happen at the second coming should remember that despite the prophecies of Scripture, nobody got the details of the first coming right![54]

ENDNOTE:

[54] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 141.


Verse 14

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.

As Plummer noticed, "The pair of epithets, spotless and blameless, coincide with 1 Peter 1:19, and also form a marked contrast with the false teachers called spots and blemishes."[55]

By this verse, Peter made it absolutely clear that only holiness and righteousness shall survive in the eternal world; and his admonition has the effect of warning the Christians to strive toward the eternal values. All else will eventually fail anyway.

ENDNOTE:

[55] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 461.


Verse 15

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you;

The longsuffering of our Lord ... Indeed Paul did write of longsuffering, not only as an attribute of God, but as a grace to be cultivated by Christians, and even as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; 3:1; 2 Timothy 1:16; and Titus 3:10; 4:11). Which of such references had Peter read? There is actually no good reason to suppose that he had not read most of them!

Our beloved brother Paul also ... Depending on wild, subjective guesses, the Tubingen radicals based their rejection of this epistle upon this verse, having supposed an irreconcilable split between Paul and Peter, making it impossible, in their view, for the genuine Peter really to have written anything like this. That view today, of course, is utterly repudiated, even by the radicals themselves. J. Munck's book dismisses the whole theory. As Green said, "It cannot stand today."[56]

There are a number of tremendously important deductions that flow out of Peter's words here: (1) It contradicts any notion of a late date for 2Peter; because, at a later date, any writer would have been far more extravagant in the title applied to Paul, or have downgraded him as an arch-villain. As Mayor said, "The manner in which St. Paul is spoken of here seems to me just what we should have expected from his brother apostle."[57] (2) This also means Paul was still alive when Peter wrote this. Robinson agreed that, "This implies that Paul is still alive."[58] (3) Paul was still alive when this was written; and if our assumption is correct that 2Peter was written subsequently to the first epistle, a deduction necessary from the conviction that Peter mentioned 1Peter in this one, it is to be explained why there is neither any greeting from the apostle Paul in this letter, nor any greeting to him. Following Robinson's findings that there is no evidence that Paul was martyred first, what evidence there is in the New Testament favoring the view that he was last martyred, we are inclined to accept the thesis that, "Paul may well have been out of Rome at the time (possibly in Spain)."[59]

According to the wisdom ... This means that the wisdom revealed in the Pauline writings was not Paul's, in the strict sense, but God's, thus attesting the inspiration of the Pauline letters. "This is a good reminder of the supernatural origin of Paul's epistles."[60]

[56] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 144.

[57] J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude, and the Second Epistle of St. Peter, 1907), in loco.

[58] John A. T. Robinson, op. cit., p. 183.

[59] John A. T. Robinson, op. cit., p. 199.

[60] David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1258.


Verse 16

as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.

The acceptance by the apostle Peter, in this passage, of Paul's letters as "Scripture" is most important; but it was nothing new. Paul himself quoted from Luke 10:7 a passage clearly meant to be received as "Scripture," despite its being nowhere else in the Bible. The apostles accepted other New Testament writers as inspired.

In all his epistles ... This indicates that Peter was familiar with a number of the New Testament letters ascribed to Paul in the New Testament, all of them being considered "Scripture" and "inspired." Kelcy was doubtless correct in the observation that, "The canon of Scripture, which later was to exist in completeness, was in process of formation."[61]

Speaking in them of these things ... There are many subjects discussed in 1Peter, which were also discussed by Paul in his letters. Among these are: (1) the great apostasy; (2) the eternal judgment; (3) the second coming of Christ; (4) the longsuffering of God; (5) the character of lawless and wicked men; (6) the need for watchfulness; (7) the fact of sinners being slaves of sin, etc., etc.

Some things hard to be understood ... Note that this does not say that it was impossible to understand them. The difficulties with some of Paul's teaching invariably yield themselves to careful study. As Plummer said, "The inference to be drawn from what Peter said here is not `Do not read Scripture,' but, `Be on your guard against being led astray.'"[62]

The ignorant and unstedfast ... Despite the views of some, this is not an accusation that merely the "uneducated" are the ones who wrest Scripture, the truth being that some of the most tortured wresting of the Scriptures ever seen on earth has been by men of the highest academic training. Macknight gave the true meaning thus, "The unteachable are persons whose passions blind their understanding and make them averse to truth."[63]

Wrest ... This word, also translated "twist" carries the meaning of "to twist with a windlass, to strain, to torture, to distort."[64] It means to use Scripture contrary to the way it was intended, extracting meanings that are foreign to it.

As they do also the other Scriptures ... Some very profound deductions are inherent in this. Paul's writings here are clearly called "Scripture." "We cannot escape the conclusion that the writings of Paul are classed with the `rest of the scriptures.'"[65] Green's grasp of the meaning here is thorough:

Peter constantly correlates apostles and prophets; both are led by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Peter 1, the apostolic testimony to the divine voice, and the divine voice through the Old Testament Scriptures, are regarded in the same light. In 2 Peter 2:1ff, the false teachers are accused of wresting the Old Testament; in 2 Peter 3 of wresting Paul.[66]

Thus, there appears right here in this epistle a practice that in time was to become universal, referring to the writings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament as "Scripture." Nor can this be urged as proof of a late date. Clement of Rome (before 70 A.D.) "quoted a combination of Old and New Testament texts as Scripture."[67]

Unto their own destruction ... This is the warning that God will not deal easily with those who pervert his word and torture its meaning to support their own theories.

[61] Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 162.

[62] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 462.

[63] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 577.

[64] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 71.

[65] R. H. Strachan, op. cit., p. 147.

[66] Michael Green, 2Peter Reconsidered, p. 31 (As quoted by Robinson).

[67] Michael Green, op. cit., p. 148.


Verse 17

Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness.

Beware ... lest ye fall ... Paul also discoursed on this same subject (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Being carried away ... This is the "same word used by Paul in Galatians 2:13; and it was Peter and Barnabas, in that instance who were "carried away."[68]

With the error of the wicked ... Russell thought this was "a reference to the false teachers of 2 Peter 2."[69] Payne agreed with this:

Peter's characterization of the heretics in this verse shows clearly the antinomian nature of the false teaching. Those who held it viewed themselves as under no obligation whatever to any laws, maintaining indeed that no laws applied to them.[70]

[68] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 71.

[69] James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 594.

[70] David F. Payne, op. cit., p. 605.


Verse 18

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

In the grace, and in the knowledge ... Quite clearly, both grace and knowledge here are used objectively as progress that the Christian is expected to achieve through diligent application, study and worship. Alford and others understood the "grace" to be that which Christ bestows; but as Caffin said, "Peter insists on the knowledge of Christ as essential for growth in grace,"[71] which, of course, it is.

"Beware" in 2 Peter 3:17 and "grow" in this, were seen by Fuhrman as, "the essence and theme of this whole epistle."[72] There are false teachers abroad; beware! A Call to progress' has been sounded; grow!

To him be the glory both now and for ever ... This remarkable doxology is quite unlike those found in Paul's letters. It is found only here in the New Testament.[73] Now could it be possible that a second century forger would have dared end a letter upon such a unique note as this? As Strachan correctly concluded, "This Petrine doxology cannot have been written after liturgical expressions had become in any degree stereotyped."[74]

Now and for ever ... The literal meaning of the words thus rendered is, "until the day of eternity." "This teaches that eternity is a day without any night, a real and perpetual day."[75] Augustine described the eternal day thus:

It is only one day, but an everlasting day, without yesterday to precede it, and without tomorrow to follow it; not brought forth by the natural sun, which shall exist no more, but by Christ, the Sun of Righteousness.[76]

Barnett's wonderful comment on this doxology is:

There is high Christology here. Putting Christ on an equality with God, the aged apostle says that: (a) Christ is central and crucial; (b) Christ shares the glory of eternal God; (c) Christ is to be glorified now; and (d) Christ is the glory of that eternal day which encompasses and fulfills all our days.

Amen seals what he writes with a mighty "Yea." What he has set down he believes to be true. So by an oath he authenticates his faith.[77]SIZE>

This glorious epistle is a triumphant affirmation of a magnificent faith in Jesus Christ. Such a production is utterly beyond the power of any human being to forge. There are only a very few men who ever lived on earth who could have written a letter like this; and they are those apostles who heard Jesus Christ deliver the discourse recorded in Matthew 24. The entire epistle carries the inherent hallmarks of integrity, authenticity, yea more, the true "inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

[71] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 71.

[72] Eldon R. Fuhrman, op. cit., p. 338.

[73] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 71.

[74] R. H. Strachan, op. cit., p. 148.

[75] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 578.

[76] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 71.

[77] Albert E. Barnett, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XII (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 206.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-peter-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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Sunday, October 20th, 2019
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