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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

2 Peter 3

Verses 1-18



1. Mocking at the Lord’s coming (2 Peter 3:1-7 )

2. The future of the earth (2 Peter 3:8-18 )

3. Exhortation and conclusion (2 Peter 3:11-18 )

2 Peter 3:1-7

The opening statement shows conclusively that Peter is the author and that this second Epistle was sent to the same believers to whom the first Epistle was addressed. The critics claim that this chapter marks a separate Epistle in itself and that it was combined by mistake with the preceding two chapters. Like so much else the critics put forth this is a foolish speculation wholly unwarranted. Peter states the reason for this second Epistle “to stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance.” He had already used a similar statement in the first chapter (2 Peter 1:12 ), but now exhorts them to be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles. The evil had been prophetically pictured by Peter and now he charges them to use the Word of God in the coming days of peril and apostasy, and remember especially its prophetic forecast. The apostle Paul did the same after he had given the warning of the coming of grievous wolves and false teachers (Acts 20:30 ).

Such is the resource of the true Church today, and in the degree, as we remember the words spoken by the prophets and by the apostles, give heed to them, we shall be kept in the perilous times. Both the prophets and the apostles warned of the evil to come as each age closes with apostasy and judgment; so did the Lord Himself when He predicted the future of the age and the conditions which precede His physical and glorious return. All have given the warning. Enoch was a prophet, as we learn from Jude; he prophesied about the coming of the Lord to execute judgment. There were apostates in his day who ridiculed his testimony and who spoke against him (Jude 1:15 ).

Noah was a preacher of righteousness; he built the ark and sounded the warning, but no one paid any attention to him, and “as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be when the Son of Man cometh,” said our Lord. The prophets warned of the judgment in store for Jerusalem ; the warning was not heeded, and such a great one as Jeremiah was not believed, and cast into the dungeon. The prophet Amos speaks of those who “put far off the evil day.” There were mockers and unbelievers each time an age ended. As already shown, the combined testimony of the apostles is on the same lines. Peter then writes: “Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for, from the day the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

While before Peter had shown the quality of the false teachers, he now points out by the revelation given unto him, that there would be unbelief and outright mockery touching the visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In both Epistles this great coming event, the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, has a prominent place. The false teachers, whose doom will be sealed when Christ comes again, also ridicule and scoff at the idea that He will ever show Himself again. And why do they mock and sneer? It has its source in unbelief These men are infidels. Every destructive critic is an infidel. The records of the past embodied in the Holy Scriptures are denied to be authentic and reliable. The prophets of God were Jewish patriots who dreamt of a great Jewish future. The magnificent prophecies as to the coming kingdom and the rule of the King of Kings are classed with the apocalyptic ramblings of the “Sibyline writings.” The Lord Jesus Christ is even impeached as to His knowledge and is regarded as being under the ignorant prejudice of the times in which He lived. It all emanates from the rejection of the Bible as the inerrant revelation of God.

Never before has this prophecy been so literally fulfilled as now. The Holy Spirit has revived the study of prophecy. The midnight cry has gone forth. The blessed hope has been restored to the Church, and the forgotten prayer, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus,” is being prayed by the members of the body of Christ as never before. There is more preaching and teaching going on today on prophecy than ever before in the history of the church. It is one of the signs that the end of the age is very near. But the revival of prophecy has resulted in the activity of Satan. He both perverts and ridicules the coming of the Lord, and as that blessed event draws near, there will be increasing ridicule and mockery from the side of the apostates. (Of late certain presses of “evangelical denominations” have turned out tons of literature warning against the premillennial teachings. The Methodist church of Canada circulated a series of 5 pamphlets which attacked the blessed hope. They were the production of an infidel. The Chicago University and similar institutions also fight prophecy. Sneers and ridicule about His coming, the end of the age, the increase of evil and the coming are constantly multiplying. It is all a fulfillment of what Peter has written.)

The apostates dream of human progress, for they are “evolutionists.” Their pet law, “the survival of the fittest,” must work on till the last vestige of the beastly in man has worked itself out by a natural process, for they deny the need as well as the power of redemption. They call a belief in the coming of the Lord “pessimism,” and have even attempted to brand those who believe in a catastrophic ending of this present evil age “enemies of civilization and human progress.” What God hath spoken, what the mouth of all His holy prophets have declared, that the hope of the world is the coming and the enthronement of the Lord Jesus Christ, is extremely distasteful to them, for it conflicts with the program they have invented, a program which has no scriptural support whatever. They take the ground of an assumed unchangeableness of the world, that a sort of cycle governs nature, and thus they deny the positive statements of the Word of God and exclude God from His own creation. Science, meant to be a helpmeet to faith, is used by them to uphold their infidelity. They constantly speak of science contradicting revelation, which is not true.

The deluge which Peter mentions as an evidence of a past catastrophe, when the world was overflowed with water, they wilfully forget or, as it is now generally done, class it with myths of other nations, though science has abundantly proven that there happened such a judgment. But they do not want to believe that there can be a supernatural interference with the world. They believe in things continuing as they are and steadily improving. Up to the very time when the predicted sudden destruction shall come upon them, they say “Peace and safety” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-28 ). It was so, no doubt, when the deluge swept the unbelieving and secure generation of that time to eternal doom.

(Some apply the words relating to a past judgment to the judgment which passed over the original earth on account of Satan’s fall. That there was such a judgment the second verse of the Bible teaches and geological facts confirm that the earth passed through a prehistoric destruction. But the reference is to the deluge. Almost every nation on earth has traditions of the deluge, though often in a perverted form. While the apostates and sneerers make everything of historical evidence and tradition, they ignore the universality of traditions concerning the flood.)

2 Peter 3:8-10

A great revelation follows. The heavens that are now, and the earth by the same word have been stored up, reserved for fire against a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. Then in 2 Peter 3:10 , “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in 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.” As the earth was once judged by water so shall it be judged by fire in the future, and not the earth only but also the heavens, that is the heavens surrounding the earth. Years ago infidels used to ridicule the statement of Peter that the earth and the surrounding heavens would be consumed by fire. They spoke of it as an impossibility that the earth with its rivers, lakes and oceans could ever pass through such a conflagration, so that all is consumed. Well informed infidels no longer ridicule this statement, for astronomy with the help of the spectroscope has revealed the fact that other bodies in the heavens have passed through great conflagrations, that other globes have been burned up, and not a few astronomers have advanced the theory that this will be the fate of the earth on which we live. Peter had no telescope, nor did he know anything about astronomy. How did he find out that the earth would be destroyed by fire? It was the Spirit of God who revealed it to him.

The question arises what event is it of which Peter speaks here? He speaks of “the day of the Lord.” What phase of that coming day is it? It certainly is not the coming of the Lord for His saints as revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 . Nor is it the day of the Lord in its beginning, when the Lord appears in power and great glory. Now it is still “man’s day,” and when He appears the Day of the Lord begins. One day, Peter tells us, with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. From Revelation we learn that Christ will reign over the earth with His saints for a thousand years and that is “the Day of the Lord.” The beginning of it will be as a thief, and it will bring fiery judgments, for He will be revealed “in flaming fire.” But what Peter speaks of is not so much the beginning of that day of the Lord as it is the end, when the thousand years have expired.

When the thousand-year reign of Christ as King is over there follows a little season during which Satan is loosed from his prison; the revolt of which Revelation 20:8 speaks is followed by fire falling down from God out of heaven, and after that we see the great white throne, the judgment of the wicked dead. “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was found no place for them” (Revelation 20:11 ). It is this of which Peter writes, when the day of the Lord is ended, the earth and the surrounding heaven will pass away; it will be through a mighty conflagration from beneath and from above. [ “It will be observed, that the Spirit does not speak here of the coming of Christ, except to say that it will be scoffed at in the last days. He speaks of the day of God, in contrast with the trust of unbelievers in the stability of the material things of creation, which depends, as the apostle shows, on the word of God. And in that day everything on which unbelievers rested and will rest shall be dissolved and pass away. This will not be at the commencement of the day, but at its close; and here we are free to reckon this day, according to the apostle’s word as a thousand years, or whatever length of period the Lord shall see fit.” (Synopsis of the Bible) .] When Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:13 of new heavens and a new earth, he states what John beheld in his vision of Revelation 21:1 . “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.”

Some of these Jewish believers were evidently thinking that the Lord was slack about the fulfillment of the promise concerning that day. The apostle tells them that the Lord’s slackness is His long-suffering, “He is not willing that any should perish but all should come unto repentance.”

2 Peter 3:11-18

In view of such a future the apostle exhorts once more to holy living and godliness, “waiting for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God.” The thought which is often expressed in the words “hastening the coming of the day of God,” that we might act and serve, sending the gospel to the heathen, and do other things, thus hastening the coming of the Lord, is not warranted by the text, nor is it true. God cannot be hastened by the creature, nor can He be delayed in the execution of His eternal purposes.

As stated in the preceding annotations, the fiery ending of the Day of the Lord, and with it the Day of God, the eternal Age, when God is all in all, is what Peter teaches. “But we, according to His promise, wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The promise is found in Isaiah 65:17 , “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind.” This is not the millennium, which in this chapter of Isaiah is described in Isaiah 65:18-25 , but that which comes into existence after the earth and the surrounding heavens have passed through the great conflagration. Once more Isaiah speaks of the earth and heavens which will remain forever. (See Isaiah 66:22 .) This new earth and the new heavens will be the glorious and eternal dwelling-place of the redeemed, for the new Jerusalem comes finally out of the highest heaven to find its eternal resting place there (Revelation 21:1-27 ). “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye wait for these things, be diligent to be found in Him in peace without spot and blameless.”

in conclusion, Peter refers to Paul as “our beloved brother Paul.” The Epistle to the Galatians was then in circulation and everybody could read there of Peter’s failure in Antioch (Galatians 2:12-16 ). The loving remark by Peter shows that he had readily seen his mistake and that there was no clash between the two servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Epistle which Paul had written to the same Jewish Christians to whom Peter wrote is without question the Epistle to the Hebrews. (See Introduction to Hebrews.)

The Second Epistle of Peter ends with another warning, so well suited for our times, “Beware, lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked (destructive critics and deniers of Christ), ye fall from your own steadfastness.” And the safeguard is “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

“To Him be Glory both now and forever, Amen.”

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.