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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Writings

2 Peter 3

Verses 1-18

K 4.

Scoffers and Materialism

( 2 Peter 3 )

In the previous division the apostle has warned us against the false teachers that will be found in the Christian circle. With the passing of the apostles, these false teachers arose speaking perverse things and bringing in destructive heresies ( Act_20:29 ; Act_20:30 ; 2Pe_1:14 ; 2Pe_1:15 ; 2Pe_2:1 ). In result, the mass of professing Christians fell into the worldliness, lawlessness and corruption that has marked Christendom throughout the ages.

Having then spoken of the false teachers that would arise amongst those to whom he was writing, the apostle passes on to warn us as to the special evils that will mark the Christian profession “in the last days” (verse 3). He tells us that these last days will be marked by scoffers and materialism.

(Vv. 1, 2). Before speaking in detail of these evils, the apostle prepares us to meet them and fortifies us against them by taking us back to the word of God. He thus opens this last division of the Epistle by saying that he writes to stir up our pure minds “by way of remembrance”. Then he plainly tell us what we are to remember - “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets” and “the commandment ... of the Lord and Saviour” by the apostles. He does not turn us to the church for guidance; still less does he lead us to look for any fresh revelation, the word of God being complete. He tells us to “be mindful” of what has already been given by inspiration. In the word of God we have the revelation of the truth that exposes all that is false and enables us to refuse the errors of false teachers as well as the gross materialism of scoffers. The word is the sword used by the Spirit to enable us “to stand against the wiles of the devil”. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” ( 2Ti_3:15 ; 2Ti_3:17 ).

(Vv. 3, 4). Having thrown us on the word of God to meet the errors of men, the apostle proceeds to warn us against the special evils of the last days of Christendom. He tells us that there will arise within the Christian profession a class of infidel scoffers. As ever, infidelity is associated with a low moral condition. Infidelity has its spring in lust, and these men are described as “walking after their own lusts”. The man that cannot believe what God says is doing what God forbids. Then we learn what they say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” They raise questions about an event which they realise will interfere with the gratification of their lusts.

We are first told what these men are - “scoffers”; then what they do - “walking after their own lusts”; then what they say - “Where is the promise of His coming?” Finally, we are told the arguments they use. They assert that it is manifest the Lord will not come to interfere in the affairs of men, “for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation”. This argument is a gross piece of infidel materialism, known in these days as modernism. These men are not merely careless scoffers of the world; they are deliberate scoffers, who advance carefully thought-out arguments in the endeavour to prove that the warnings of the word of God are mere fables and traditions.

It is well to remember that the apostle, in the course of his Epistle, clearly shows that there is a future for the godly, the ungodly and the material creation. In the first chapter he tells us that the godly are passing on to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: in the second chapter he tells us that the ungodly are passing on to judgment and perdition; while in this third chapter he foretells that the material creation will end in dissolution. All these great events await “the power and coming of our Lord” ( 2Pe_1:16 ). Thus we can understand, on the one hand, why this great event has such a prominent place in Scripture, and, on the other hand, why this great truth is the special object of the enemy's attack. To none is the truth of the Lord's coming so obnoxious as to those in the Christian profession who are walking after their own lusts. Such will seek to deny an event that they dread by arguing that it is contrary to all experience, and therefore unreasonable and impossible.

(V. 5). In the verses that follow, the apostle exposes the folly of the infidel arguments of these materialists. Already he has prepared us to meet these infidel objections by the word of God. Now he falls back upon the word to expose their foolish reasoning. In asking, “Where is the promise of His coming?”, they admit that the promise of Christ's coming exists. So oft repeated is this promise in the word that it would be folly to deny it is there. Hating the truth of the promise, and not being able to deny its existence, they are driven to give up the word to get rid of the promise. They acknowledge it is there, but refuse to believe what God says.

They go even further, for they deny that God has said it by calling in question the inspiration of the word. Turning from the word, they draw conclusions from the material creation. They speak of “the beginning of the creation”, thus admitting there was a beginning, but, their wills being opposed to God, they seek to account for creation by natural causes. The believer, however, knows that “by the word of God the heavens were of old” and that the earth emerged from the waters to become the habitation of man.

(V. 6). Moreover, these scoffers say that all things continue as they were since the fathers fell asleep. Reasoning from what they see, they draw conclusions as to what will be. Turning from things seen, and taking its stand upon the word of God, faith knows that such arguments are utterly false. So far from things continuing as they were from the beginning of creation, there have been striking interventions of God in judgment. The flood is the outstanding witness of the intervention of God upon the ordinary course of nature. When the wickedness of men came to a head, and after they had refused to listen to His word preached through His servant, God intervened in the judgment of the flood by which the world that then was perished.

Accepting God's account of the flood, faith knows with certainty that God can and has already intervened upon the ordinary course of nature, and that what God has done, He can and will do again in regard to the heavens and earth which now are.

(V. 7). If God brought the world into being by His word, He can surely end it by His word. If God has intervened in judgment, He can do so again. Thus the apostle tells us, “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”.

To sum up the apostle's statements, we learn:-

First, that by His word God created the heavens and the earth.

Secondly, by His word God intervened in a judgment that brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly, so that the world that then was perished.

Thirdly, by His word the present heavens and earth are reserved unto fire against the day of judgment of the ungodly men of the present generation.

In the light of the facts revealed by Scripture, we can understand that the unbelieving modernist denies the inspiration of Scripture in order to get rid of the witness of the flood and the promises of the coming of the Lord with its consequent divine intervention in the course of the world and judgment of the ungodly.

(Vv. 8-10). The apostle has exposed the foolish arguments of the scoffing materialist who, willingly ignorant of the word of God, takes occasion by the delay in the fulfilment of God's promise to deny that the Lord is coming. He now entreats the beloved of the Lord not to be ignorant of the reason for this delay. First, let the believer remember that what may seem a long delay in our eyes is but a brief moment with the Lord, for “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. Secondly, let us never forget that the promise of His coming is “His promise”, and that His word cannot fail. Thirdly, there is a reason for the delay. It is not that the Lord is slack in the fulfilment of His promise, but that He is longsuffering, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”. In His grace God gives space for repentance before the judgment falls; in his unbelief man take occasion by the delay to deny that judgment will ever come.

Nevertheless, in spite of the delay in the fulfilment of His promise, and in spite of what scoffers might say, “the day of the Lord will come”, in which the heavens will pass away and the works of the earth will be burned up. The apostle does not speak of the coming of the Lord for His saints, or of the appearing of the Lord with His saints; he speaks of “the day of the Lord” that will be introduced by these great events. It is the day when the Lord will be supreme on the earth and rule with a rod of iron, putting down all opposition to God with a strong hand. This day is introduced by the appearing of the Lord, but will stretch on through the thousand years' reign, finally introducing the eternal state by the last great intervention of God in judgment. Then the whole face of nature will be altered, for “the elements shall melt with fervent heat” and all trace of the great works by which men have sought to glorify themselves through the ages will disappear, for “the works that are therein shall be burned up”. The apostle takes up the language of prophetic Scriptures which, he has already told us, are as a light shining in a dark place (See Psa_102:26 ; Isa_34:4 , Isa_66:22 ; Mic_1:4 ; Zep_3:8 ).

To listen to these scoffers and deny the promise of His coming is to be left in darkness, hopelessly drifting on to eternity, not knowing how all the evil of an ungodly world will be dealt with or how the godly will be brought into eternal blessing; for, be it remembered, whether it be the judgment of the ungodly, or the blessing of the godly, all will be reached by the coming of Christ. Let go the promise of His coming and all is lost to our souls!

(Vv. 11-13). Faith, however, clings to the promise of His coming and, doing so, knows with certainty that all the seen things of the present order of the world will be dissolved. As ever, faith in activity must have an effect upon our lives. It will lead to a life of holy separation from the world around that is going to be dissolved and separation to the life of godliness which the apostle has so blessedly unfolded in the beginning of his Epistle. Thus walking, we shall be looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, when every form of evil will disappear for ever.

Moreover, faith does more; it has a long outlook and carries us beyond judgment into “new heavens and a new earth”. As we take heed to the prophetic word, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, the dawn of a glorious day begins to arise before faith's vision, and “the day star” - the One whose coming will introduce the day - will get His rightful place in our hearts. “We”, says the apostle, “according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth”. It is not according to our imaginations, or according to our feelings, but according to His unfailing word - “His promise”. For the second time the apostle reminds us that it is “His promise” and, being His, will surely be fulfilled (verses 9 and 13).

Further, we learn the character of the new heavens and the new earth. It will be a scene “wherein dwelleth righteousness”. Every form of corruption and violence, lust and lawlessness characterises the present world; abiding righteousness will mark the new creation. It will not be the reign of righteousness as in millennial days, which implies the presence of evil to be held down. In the new scene, evil having been dealt with, righteousness will dwell.

(Vv. 14-16). Again the apostle appeals to believers to let this glorious future have a present effect upon their lives. The knowledge that this present world is devoted to judgment should lead to a separate walk in godly fear. The knowledge of the coming blessedness of the new heavens and the new earth should keep us in peace, without spot, and blameless. The appalling condition of Christendom in the last days, as depicted by the apostle, might in itself distract and disturb the soul. The prospect of this new scene will keep us seeking so to walk that when Christ comes we shall “be found of Him” walking in calm peace, unspotted by the present world, blameless in our lives, and waiting in patience, knowing that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation. We may well challenge our hearts with the question, How will He find us when He comes? (See Luk_12:37 ; Luk_12:38 ; Luk_12:43 ; 2Pe_3:14 ).

In terms of affection the apostle links Paul with himself as a witness of “these things” to the Hebrew believers. He speaks of Paul's writings as forming part of the Scriptures and warns us that there are those “untaught and ill-established” who wrest his writings, as well as other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

(Vv. 17, 18). Having put us in remembrance of these things, and warned us against false teachers, against scoffers of the last days, and those who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction, the apostle finally warns us against being led away by “the terror of the wicked”, thus losing our assurance by falling from the steadfastness that is proper to the believer.

We are to seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For the fifth time in this short Epistle our blessing is connected with the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ( 2Pe_1:2 ; 2Pe_1:3 ; 2Pe_1:8 ; 2Pe_2:20 ). The apostle has pressed upon us the value of the prophetic Scriptures, the commandments of the apostles, and the deep importance of resting upon the Word of God, but he realises that mere know-ledge of the letter will not keep us. Scripture is only rightly used as we gain through the word a deeper knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him is the “glory both now and for ever. Amen”. Let us not forget that little word “now”. We all admit that glory will come to Him for ever, but we may well challenge our hearts by asking, Is He getting glory from our lives even now? ommentare hier eingeben

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". "Smith's Writings". 1832.