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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Peter 3

Verse 1

2 Peter 3:1. Your pure minds Your sincere minds. This seems to be an intimation that their minds were not yet corrupted, either by the false teachers, or by the scoffers. They were through Divine grace pure, or untainted with the evils which he describes; and St. Peter was desirous that they should continue so, 2 Peter 3:17. It was his grand view in both his epistles, to stir up their untainted and sincere minds to remember and attend to what they had learned from the apostles and prophets. See ch. 2 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:1

Verse 2

2 Peter 3:2. That ye may be mindful, &c.— This is an allusion to what he had said ch. 2Pe 1:12-21 where he had alleged the authority both of the prophets and apostles. By the prophets are meant the Old Testament prophets, who are properly placed before the apostles of Christ, as having lived long before them. The prophets had foretold Christ's second coming. See ch. 2 Peter 1:19. The apostles had commanded the Christians steadfastly to look and diligently to prepare for that day; and as there were now rising up scoffers, who ridiculed all expectation of any such thing, it was highly proper to put them in mind of what they had formerly learned. It was with equal propriety that St. Peter intimated whose apostles they were, when he took notice of the commandment which they had given. When our Lord gave the apostles their commission, he ordered them to teach men to observe whatsoever he had commanded them. St. Peter here intimates, that they had kept to that order; and that the commandment which they his apostles had delivered, was not their own, nor any other than the commandment of Jesus Christ himself: and what Christian would dare to call in question such a commandment? When men would move us from the truth or simplicity of the gospel, a careful attention to the words of the apostles and prophets will be of eminent service to keep us steady to truth and purity.

Verse 3

2 Peter 3:3. Knowing this first That is, either what was to happen first in order of time, or as a premise, from whence they might conclude, that they ought to remember the predictions of the prophets, and the commandments of the apostles. The last days particularlyand more immediately refer to the lastdays of Jerusalem, or of the Jewish state. See Jude 1:18-19. Archbishop Tillotson thinks, that by these scoffers are meant the Carpocratians; a large sect of the Gnostics, who denied the resurrection of the dead and future judgment, and who appeared quickly after the writing of this epistle. The root of infidelity, and the grand reason of men's scoffing at religion, is given in the last words of this verse; they walk after their own lusts. They may pretend to reason, but they are governed by sense and appetite; and they take refuge in infidelity, and scoff at religion, to make themselves easy in their vices: they are against religion, because religion is against them: they account it their interest that the gospel should not be true; for if it be true, their case is desperate: but it is the interest of every good man that it should be true; and the more any one searches with a well disposed mind, the more will its truth and evidence appear.

Verse 4

2 Peter 3:4. Where is the promise of his coming? The promise is here put for the thing promised. The meaning of the question was, "Where is the promised advent of Christ? What proof or sign is there of his appearing again?" By this question these scoffers intended to insinuate, that there was no hope or prospect of his coming again; and that, as it was so long delayed, the promise was vain and delusive, and would never be accomplished.

Verse 5

2 Peter 3:5. For this they willingly are ignorant of It is probable, that these scoffers had once been Jews, and afterwards professed Christians; and consequently their ignorance in this point must needs have been wilful and affected. They prevaricated in their inquiry, or did not duly attend to and regard the Scriptural account of the flood, with the causes of it, whichthey knew; nor the intimations given by Christ, and his apostles, of the dissolution of the present world by fire.

Verse 6

2 Peter 3:6. Whereby Δι ων, by which things; that is, by the heavens and earth being of such a constitution.

Verse 7

2 Peter 3:7. But the heavens, &c.— Not only the ancient Jews, but the Stoics, and other philosophers among the Heathens, held that the world was to be destroyed by fire. It was also intimated by some, both of the Greek and Latin poets. By the same word, means, "The same wise will and appointment of God, revealed in his word, which originally constituted the heavens and the earth, 2 Peter 3:5." Some would read the next clause, Are treasured up for fire, reserved against the day of judgment. There seems to be a particular reference in these words to the promise which God made to Noah; namely, that he would destroy the earth no more by a flood, Genesis 9:11-15.

Verse 8

2 Peter 3:8. One day is with the Lord, &c.— "I have taken notice, that the scoffers are voluntarily ignorant of, or inattentive to these things. But as to the distance of time, with which they insult you, be not you ignorant of, or inattentive to this one thing; namely, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.It makes no differencewith God, whether the thing which he has engaged to do is to be performed now, or a thousand years hence: he will as certainly and punctuallyaccomplish it; and time makes no alteration, as to his wisdom, goodness, power, or veracity." This was a proverbial expression among the Jews, (see Psalms 90:4. Sir 18:9, &c.) and was plainly intended to signify, that no finite duration bears any proportion to the eternity of God. Plutarch has a passage exactly parallel to it, in his discourse "On the Slowness of the divine vengeance." It may be proper just to observe further, that if St. Peter had been speaking here, as some suppose, of the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened within three years, it is not likely that he would have talked of a thousand years. The most natural answer to the scoffers, if they had inquired about that event, would have been, "It is just at hand; the Jewish war is broke out; and by many of the signs and forerunners of it, you may be sure that the desolation thereof draweth near."

Verse 9

2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise He may be called slow or slack, who has it in his power, and yet does not perform a thing at the proper time; but that cannot be said of God, who is perfectly wise, true, powerful, and good. The apostle, by some men, refers to the scoffers mentioned 2 Peter 3:3-4. To us-ward, means, "To us mortal men in general." It is expressed here both negatively and positively, and in the most general terms concerning mankind, that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; and we may depend upon it that God is sincere and in earnest: he does not tantalize poor, helpless, miserable man; he has no secret will contrary to, and incontinent with his revealed will; but is a God of truth, and detesteth all falsehood and insincerity. See Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:32; Eze 33:11. 1 Timothy 2:4, St. Peter shews us in this verse, that the delay of the final judgment is designed for the general good; and implies no backwardness in God to accomplish what he has promised, nor any uncertainty as to that grand event. See Romans 2:4. And hence it appears evidently, that God hath not absolutely decreed the damnation of any man; but men, by their own folly and wickedness, bring upon themselves misery and destruction.

Verse 10

2 Peter 3:10. But the day of the Lord will come The last great day of general judgment will come, when it is least of all expected. See Matthew 24:43-44. The passing away of the heavens, here means the same as by their being dissolved by fire, 2 Peter 3:12. The word 'Ροιζηδον signifies, with a very loud and terrible noise; with a sound resembling that of a great storm. In this place it more particularly denotes the horrid crackling noise of a wide-spreading fire. The plain interpretation of the next clause is, "As the old heavens and earth were destroyed by water, so the present heavens and earth, and even the elements, the first principles or constituent parts of them, shall be destroyed by fire: that dreadfully spreading fire will carry all before it:all the works of God upon earth; all the works of man also, shall be involved in one common heap of ruin."

——The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself. Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve; And, like the baseless fabrick of a vision, Leave not a rack behind.

Verse 11

2 Peter 3:11. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved Some would read this and the following verse thus; As then all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be?—Even such, as by a holy conversation and pious life shew that you expect, and eagerly desire, or aspire after the coming, &c. These words are St. Peter's practical improvement of the foregoing doctrine concerningthecertain,sudden,andterriblecoming of Christ to judgment. If the whole frame of heaven and earth shall be so wonderfully changed, and a new world made, how great a degree of purity should they labour to attain, who expect to live in this new world? The word rendered melt, is a metaphor taken from metals dissolving in the fire, or wax before the flame: so will the fierce and spreading fire of the last day melt down this globe, and its surrounding atmosphere. Dr. Burnet in his Theory, vol. 2: p. 30 having considered the antiquity and universality of this opinion, "That the world is at last to be destroyed by fire," says, "We have heard, as it were, a cry of fire, throughout all antiquity, and throughout all the people of the earth: let us then examine what testimony the prophets and apostles give to this ancient doctrine of the conflagration of the world. The prophets see the world on fire at a distance, and more imperfectly; as a brightness in the heavens, rather than a burning flame: but St. Peter describes it as if he had been by, and seen the heavens and earth in a red fire, heard the cracking flames, and the tumbling mountains: the heavens shall pass away, &c. This is as lively as a man could express it, if he had the dreadful spectacle before his eyes."

Verse 13

2 Peter 3:13. Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look, &c.— That is, "Though the present frame of things shall be dissolved by fire, yet we look for another, a more durable and perfect state; new heavens, and a new earth—new and everlasting abodes, which the divine mercy will then open to our enraptured view, into which it will conduct us, and in which, perfect righteousness, holiness, and felicity shall dwell for ever." Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:14-15. As St. Peter had a revelation from Christ, that he would create new heavens and a new earth, he might justly call that his promise; but the patriarchs and believing elders were not without the expectation of such felicity. See Genesis 17:7. Daniel 12:2; Daniel 12:13.Matthew 22:31-32; Matthew 22:31-32.Acts 3:21; Acts 3:21.Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:10 -

Verse 14

2 Peter 3:14. In peace, without spot, and blameless By the words in peace, some understand that they should be at peace with their own consciences; others, that the Christians should be at peace with one another, or with mankind in general. But it seems more likely, that St. Peter means they should endeavour to be found at last in peace with their great Judge; and that, by endeavouring in this life, under divine grace, to be without spot and blemish. The corrupt Christians are called spots and blemishes among the Christians at their love-feasts: in opposition to such a character, the true Christians were to keep themselves without spot or blemish. See 1 Peter 1:19.

Verse 15

2 Peter 3:15. And account, that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; They were not to account the long extended patience of God as any sign of an unreasonable delay, or as implying any the least danger of his never coming to judge the world, and make the righteous perfectly happy; but as a proof of his goodness, and as giving men an opportunity to work out through his grace their own salvation. It is a matter of some difficulty to determine to which of the epistles of St. Paul St. Peter refers in the last clause of this verse. Several take him to mean the epistle to the Hebrews; others, the epistle to the Romans. In favour of which last opinion it should be observed, that the epistleto the Romans was written to Gentile Christians, and that it was St. Paul's way to send copies of his letters to other churches besides those to which they were originally directed: (see Colossians 4:16.) And others think, that as St. Peter directed his epistles to the Christians dispersed in Asia Minor, St. Paul's epistles to those in the same country, namely, the Galatians and Ephesians, are referred to.—Doddridge paraphrases the words thus: "The passage to which I refer, is in a letter immediately directed to the Romans; but it may be considered as designed for you, and for the general use of all Christians." I look upon this passage, says he, as a very instructive admonition to all Christians, to consider St. Paul and the other apostles as writing to them, in their epistles, so far as a similarity of circumstances will admit. In which view it is of infinite importance, that we should esteem them as written to us, in like manner as St. Peter tells us even the ancient prophets considered the great subjects of which these epistles treat, as relating to them. 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Verse 16

2 Peter 3:16. In which are some things hard, &c.— "In which epistles of his are some things, &c." And it is most true, that in St. Paul's epistles there are some difficult points, which were greatly abused and perverted even in that age, and which have been perverted by unstable men in almost every age since; such as those of free-grace,—election,—reprobation, &c. This is no reflection at all upon St. Paul or his epistles, or upon his manner of writing: some objects are more difficult than others, and it requires more study and attention to understand them. They maybe expressed with the utmost justness and propriety, and as perspicuously as the nature of the things treated of will bear; and yet, to hasty and inconsiderate readers, they may have things in them hard to be understood. The most judicious writers are often the most profound; but then they will bear a second or third reading; and the more they are studied, the more they are esteemed. This is the glory of St. Paul's epistles, in the estimation of all who have examined them with care and attention in humble dependance on the Divine blessing. The expression, στρεβλουσιν, wrest, or put to the torture, plainly implies, that violence is done by these bad men to some passages of scripture, to make them speak an unnatural sense, which may answer their own purposes: and truly he must know little of the history of theological controversies, who has not observed many deplorable instances of this.

Verse 17

2 Peter 3:17. Ye therefore, beloved, Beza observes, that St. Peter does not say here, "Abstain from these obscure scriptures; choose out only certain chapters; leave the rest either to the more learned, or the more curious; expect new revelations, and suffer the tares in the mean time to grow;—for who art thou that judgest?" Nor, finally, does he say, "Be content with implicit faith in mother church." These are the sayings of Antichrist: and his followers; whereas the apostle of Christ says, Seeing ye now know these things, &c. Dr. Heylin renders this verse, Since therefore, my beloved, you are forewarned of these things, be upon your guard, that you may not be seduced by those profane men; but persist, and grow in grace, &c.

Verse 18

2 Peter 3:18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge, &c.— "But to help you against all declensions and revolts, let it be your earnest prayer and endeavour, in the use of all proper means, to be progressive in daily exercises and increases of every Christian grace, as also in an abiding sense of the free love and favour of God, according to the gospel; and in a clear, judicial, practical, and experimental acquaintance with the person and offices, doctrines, promises, and commandments of our divine Lord and all-sufficient Saviour Jesus Christ, and with your own personal interest in him: to whom be ascribed, as is most justly due, all adoration, worship, and honour, henceforth and for ever. May we sincerely add, in testimony of our approbation and assurance of its being so, Amen!"

Inferences.—Who is there that can be so sluggish and lethargic as not to be, in some measure, awakened and alarmed by the awful views here given, of the dissolution, as well as the creation of the world, by the word of God! Who must not even tremble, when he turns his eye back to the dreadful ruin brought on it by the universal deluge; when that element, which had been, and is, the means and instrument of life to the whole animal creation, became, at the divine signal, the means and instrument of death! Who can be unaffected, when he seriously reflects on the heavens passing away with a great noise? on the elements melting with fervent heat? on the burning up of the earth, and all things therein? Let scoffers, who walk after their own lusts, madly deride the promise of his coming; let them deliver over their taunts and insults to each other through the succession of a thousand years; were his coming at a distance still more remote, they who have any just impression on their minds of the eternity of God, or of the immortality of the human soul, would discern the important day of final retribution as immediate and present to their view. While they scoff and deride the tremendous reality, let us hear the declaration of its approach with the profoundest attention; and let our souls enter deeply into the alarming and important reflection. If indeed we look for such great things as these, what manner of persons might we to be in all holy conversation and godliness, that we may be found of him in peace, without spot or blemish? And if we desire this blessedness, (as who can fail earnestly to desire it, who has a firm and steady persuasion of its reality?) can we possibly live in tolerable composure, if we have little or no reason to conclude we shall obtain an interest and share in it? Let us be all concerned that we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour; by the increasing knowledge of whom every grace will be greatly revived and strengthened. On these lively and important subjects of meditation let our thoughts frequently dwell; and let us endeavour, that the sentiments which result from them, may be wrought in our hearts, and controul our lives. And as for those hard sayings, which occur, either in St. Peter or St. Paul, or any other sacred and inspired writer, let us neither wrest and torture them to our own mischief and destruction, nor be so curiously and sedulously diving into their meaning, as to neglect these and the like plain and serious admonitions, this sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby. May all the powers of our souls be exerted in securing their deliverance from the wrath to come, that so the patience of God, and his long-suffering towards us, may indeed prove salvation. And if that be indeed the case, the light of heaven will mightily illustrate those mysteries both of the divine Word and Providence, which our weak and defective organs of vision have not enabled us clearly to discern and unfold; while, by the comparatively fainter, though in itself glorious light of revelation, we are guided through this dark and gloomy valley.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle sets forth his design of writing both these epistles. This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, that you may be guarded against the arts of deceivers, and 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 Saviour, who, in perfect conformity with the inspired penmen of the old scriptures, as in other things, so particularly with regard to the coming of the Lord to judgment, have forewarned, and admonished you. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers at revelation, and all its glorious and distinguishing doctrines; walking after their own lusts, given up to sensuality and brutish appetites; and, with daring infidelity, and defiance of the divine declarations, saying, Where is the promise of his coming, so much talked of? when is this Jesus of Nazareth to come and take vengeance on his enemies? for since the fathers fell asleep (say they), during so many hundred years, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. Thus they vainly argue; and, because judgment is not speedily executed upon the workers of iniquity, they would conclude there is nothing to be feared. For, though the scripture assures them that God hath already manifested his righteous wrath by the general destruction of an ungodly world, this they willingly and wilfully are ignorant of, that the heavens were of old created by the almighty Word, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, rising from the abyss of waters which covered it at the first, moistened still by this element, and compacted together, and surrounded with waters above, and full of water in its bowels; whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water at the general deluge, perished, and the scoffers of that day met their righteous doom. But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same almighty word are kept in store as treasures, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. And however scoffers of this day may despise God's warnings, yet evident marks which still remain of what he hath done by the deluge, are speaking evidences of his power to fulfil a more terrible denunciation, when his fire shall descend, and a general conflagration ensue,—a day, which will spread terror and dismay through the ungodly world, and too late convince those infidel mockers, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2nd, The apostle, having warned them against the scoffers, encourages the saints of God to expect their Lord's second coming.
1. He will surely come. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Though we measure time by succession, the past, the present, and the future appear, to the eternal God, in one comprehensive view, and as nothing compared with his eternity. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise (as some men count slackness,) too impatient for his appearing, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any of the human race should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and be saved by grace through faith,—the only possible way of salvation. Note; (1.) The great design that God hath in view, is the salvation of all those who will yield to be saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8.) (2.) The way in which we can meet the Lord with comfort is, by being converted and turned to him now by faith: the impenitent and unbelieving must assuredly perish.

2. He will come suddenly. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, with such a terrible surprise to an ungodly world; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, when nature in convulsions shall utter her expiring groans, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, dissolved amid the universal conflagration; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up, and not a wreck remain of all its glorious structures.

3. What influence ought such an expectation to have upon us? Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? How dead to the world, how loose to its enjoyments, how patient under the present momentary afflictions, how wholly engrossed with one great concern, to secure a happy part in that eternal world whither the faithful are going, looking for, and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, keeping it abidingly in view, and living in a constant preparation for that solemn hour, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Note; It is the character of a disciple of Jesus, that he is ever looking for his Lord's return, as the glorious hope which animates him for every duty, and supports him under all his trials.

3rdly, We have,
1. The Christian's expectations when this heaven and earth shall be dissolved. Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, even that blessed abode which the infinite love of God hath prepared for the faithful; where nothing shall ever enter which defileth, and where their bliss and glory will be eternal.

2. He exhorts them, in the prospect of such an inheritance,
(1.) To be faithful in their holy profession. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent in the use of every appointed means of grace, and in all holy watchfulness, that ye may be found of him in peace, possessing a sure interest in his love, without spot of sin, and blameless in his presence, through the Blood of the covenant and the efficacious influences of the Spirit of God.

(2.) Patiently to persevere, though the time should be distant. And account, that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation, and that the reason of his delay is, that nothing may be left undone, that is consistent with all his moral perfections and with the moral agency of man, for the salvation of mankind: 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, of God's long-suffering, and the coming of the Lord to judgment; in which doctrines are some things hard to be understood, being of a sublime and spiritual nature, which they that are unlearned and unstable, who are not divinely taught of God, and whose principles are fluctuating and unsettled, wrest and distort from their true meaning, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Note; The more dangerous it is to be ignorant in the scriptures, the more diligently should we search them, and pray God to enlighten our minds that we may be made wise unto salvation.

(3.) To beware of all deceivers. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, that Christ will surely come and take vengeance of the ungodly, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, by their flatteries and seductions, fall from your own steadfastness, and depart from the purity of that gospel, which you have hitherto so nobly maintained. Note; (1.) When deluding teachers are at work, we need be deeply on our guard. (2.) They who fall into erroneous principles, grow soon unsettled in their practice, and shew the baleful influence of this poison.

(4.) To advance in the divine life. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, gaining a deeper and more experimental acquaintance with his love, a more unshaken dependance upon him, and an increase of every divine and spiritual disposition in consequence thereof.

3. He concludes with an ascription of praise to the divine Redeemer. To him be glory both now and for ever. May every creature in heaven and earth unite m ceaseless worship, praise, and adoration to the great Immanuel! Amen!

*.* The Reader is referred to the different Authors mentioned often already.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.