Comments On Epistle Of 2 Peter
This epistle maintains still the principles of God's government, though being a second epistle it contemplates conditions of failure and breakdown for which special grace is needed. The provision of Ch.1 is of vital value in view of pressures of corruption and falsehood prophesied of in Ch.2 (which are prevalent today), and of the awesome judgment of God and His great power in His creation of a new heaven and new earth, as declared In Ch.3.
Peter writes not only as an apostle (as in his first epistle), but as a bondman and apostle. So authority is not only stressed, but lowliness of subjection, a precious reminder in days of deter-mined in subjection. Nor does he directly address only the dispersed of Israel, but those who have obtained the same precious faith as the apostles, a faith all the more precious when it is challenged by innumerable forms of unbelief. And this is through the righteousness of Him who is named "our God and savior Jesus Christ." (New Trans.) The deity of Christ is clearly declared here; and His Divine righteousness seen as the basis of our being blessed with such precious faith. This could only come to Israel through the Messiah, who must be God manifest in flesh.
Grace, the favor and power that elevates above present circumstances; and peace, the tranquillity of confidence by which to pass through all circumstances, are wished as being multiplied to the saints. As evil multiplies around us, so grace and peace maybe multiplied in full sufficiency to meet the need. But this is found only in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord: nothing can substitute for this.
And it is in perfect consistency with the fact of His Divine power having freely given us every provision that has to do with life and godliness. Life is of course the vital spring of spiritual existence, which can only be sustained by Him who gives it. Godliness is the practical manifestation of that life, a reflection therefore of God's own character. The first has to do with God's side of things, the second with our own side.
And again, this is through the knowledge of Him: we must know Him in order to be in any measure like Him. And He has called us "by glory and virtue". Glory is objective, the great prospect outside of ourselves, but unspeakably attractive. Virtue is subjective, and attractive also to the renewed heart, for what believer can fail to desire that his life should be one of true virtue?
In this same life and godliness given us by the knowledge of God are involved exceeding great and precious promises, V.3 has told us that all this is by His Divine power, which can make these things of vital value to the soul. As promises, these must be laid hold of to be enjoyed now, for they are not merely promises as to the future, but the Word given us now, by which we become in practical reality "partakers of the divine nature." This is in precious contrast to the corruption that is in the world through lust, which by His grace we have escaped.
Having such abounding, provision for every need that may arise, now we are exhorted to use all diligence in developing this Divine nature rightly. Personal exercise and responsibility is imperative In this. And first, "supply in your faith virtue." It is not exactly adding, but having faith characterized by the firm courage of conviction. But this too must be tempered with knowledge, or it may be misguided zeal. All of these qualities mentioned in verses 5 to 7 are essential, and necessary to be kept in delicate balance.
Knowledge must be mixed with temperance, for without this even an enlightened man can be intolerant. And further, one may be temperate, and- yet lacking in patience, especially with those who are intemperate. So that patience is a needed adjunct of temperance. Yet also, one may be patient in a negative sort of way; so that godliness is the positive accompaniment of this, for this springs from an objective regard for the glory of God.
Yet the matter is not left here, for even in godliness, one may forget brotherly love, and this is therefore insisted upon, that is, love toward those who are also children of God. But neither does the matter stop here, lest there should be any favoritism, but simply "love" is the last, an embracing characteristic to permeate all that has gone before. Notice here how near Peter comes to John's doctrine, for he has before spoken of our being partakers of the Divine nature, and certainly love is its very essence and energy.
Not only should these things be in us, but they should "abound," that is, be in fresh, vibrant exercise consistently. If so, we shall be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus -Christ. Proper occupation will produce excellent results. Indeed, idleness itself is a deadening, miserable thing, to a Christian con-science and one cannot be happy if not bearing, fruit.
In lacking these things, a Christian even can have a practical blindness settle upon him, he fails to see things from along-range- viewpoint, and occupied merely with his own selfish interests, he may even forget that he was purged from his old sins. If one is not developing the new life, he will be virtually starving it, so that his own state will be miserable. How serious too is the dishonor to the Lord, in this condition!
How needful then is the diligence of firm purpose to make the, things of Christ a practical reality. The fact of our vitally enjoying these things will prove the reality of our calling and election. How do we know for sure that we are called and elect? Only by the Word of God which lives and abides forever. Is this word of vital value and truth to us? One who has a light regard for it will of course have reason to doubt his own salvation: one who fully believes it has every assurance of his own calling and election, and, in putting the word into practice, will never fall.
This itself makes for an entrance ministered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is evidently not speaking of a future entrance, but of that which is present. The kingdom is the public sphere of Christianity, and one who truly enjoys Christ enters it in an abundant fulness of reality and blessing: he enters now that which is everlasting. This is Peter's special line of truth.
He makes no claims of originality, or of teaching new things. But it was needful that saints should be put in remembrance of these things, and if he did not do it, this would be negligence, a serious consideration for every servant of the Lord to take to heart. Though such things are known, and even though saints are established in the present truth, it is constantly necessary to be reminded of such things of eternal value. The expression "present truth" no doubt refers to what has been revealed in this dispensation of the grace of God, in contrast to what was formerly revealed.
Nor did Peter grow weary of this ministry of putting the saints in remembrance of the truth: he considered it fully becoming as long as he lived on earth, which indeed at the longest is very brief for any of us. His natural body was but a tabernacle, a temporary tent, which shortly he would put off, according to the Lord's word in John 21:18,19.
Verse 15 adds the precious value of Peter's writing as he does as inspired by the Spirit of God, so that this abides as Scripture, by which he continues to speak to us after his decease.
For the value of it is eternal and precious, not the mere emptiness of cunningly devised fables, such as are multiplied in the world today. The apostles were together eyewitnesses of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. And specifically was this so of Peter, James, and John, when they saw the Lord transfigured and the voice of God the Father from the excellent glory, declaring Him to be His beloved Son, in whom He had found pure delight. To this great revelation then there were three reliable witnesses, whose testimony fully agrees, and reported by three of the Gospel writers.
From verse 12 to 18 "present truth" is emphasized now verse 19 speaks also of a more sure word of prophecy, truth as to the future being absolutely certain, and therefore a solid basis of encouragement for the saints, just as is present truth. We do well therefore to take heed to prophecy, not only intellectually, but in our hearts. For the phrase beginning "as unto a light," and ending "day star arise" is a parenthesis. Prophecy is a light that shines in a dark place until the light of the day dawns with the arising of the morning star. Of course the morning star speaks of the coming of Christ for His saints. It is not that the morning star arises in our hearts, but to prophecy we do well to take heed in our hearts.
But the word of prophecy is of a consistent, interdependent character. No prophecy has any independent interpretation. If my interpretation does not fit perfectly with the rest of Scripture, then I am wrong. How vital it is therefore that we take Scripture itself deeply to heart, not taking a meaning to it, but bringing a meaning from it, which corresponds to the rest of Scripture.
For man's will has had nothing to do with the prophecy of the word of God: and if man had no part in originating it, then certainly mere man is not the interpreter of it. But God laid hold of men, holy men set apart as those who loved good and hated evil. By the Holy Spirit He moved them to speak far above the measure of their understanding. They assumed no place of authority, but in lowliness of faith searched their own writings with desire to find God's interpretation as to them (1 Pet.1:10-12). God used the many various God-given abilities and capacities of men, yet guarding and guiding all they wrote in perfect accordance with His will.
But the true government of God has been hated and rejected -even by men claiming to be Christian. Peter, a true prophet, has forewarned of this in this chapter; and the day has come of which he has prophesied. As there were false prophets among the children of Israel in the Old Testament, so there are false teachers today, their number multiplied astonishingly. In subtle, insidious ways they introduce destructive heresies. Heresy may not at first be actually wicked teaching, but teaching of a sectarian character, using truth out of proportion, pressing a certain line to the exclusion of another line. When this is accomplished, then the repulsive, wicked doctrine follows, for souls have then been snared. And the denial of the Lord (or Master) who brought them is most flagrant, even at the time they pretend to honor Him. It is said that the Master bought them, not redeemed them. By His death He has "bought the whole world ("that field," as Matt.13:44 expresses it); but redemption applies only to those who are truly born again. If evil teachers seem to prosper for a time, yet their end is swift destruction."
Sadly, the number of followers of false teachers is many, and because of their corrupt religious pretensions, the ungodly world itself speaks evil of Christianity: for the world does not discern between what is true and what is corruption of the truth. This is a painful trial for the godly.
But more than that, these teachers will seek to use believers as cunningly as possible, manipulating the truth by smooth words, that they may gain an advantage at the expense of believers. But God takes account, and will not delay their judgment. Their destruction may seem far off, but it "slumbereth not:" it is nearer than we may feel it to be.
Now three distinct records of God's judgment are referred to, to enforce the fact that sin in any sphere will not escape the judgment of God, whether it be, first, among the highest dignitaries -- -even angels;-- or secondly, though the whole world embraces it; or thirdly, though in a limited, local area.
Angels were not spared: there was no salvation for any of them. These were cast down to the deepest pit of gloom. They are those of course who followed Satan's lead. These spoken of are bound in chains of darkness in view of judgment. We may wonder as to why other evil spirits are evidently allowed some freedom of movement, even coming before God (1 Kings 22:20-23); and allowed to take possession of men, as seen during the history of the Lord Jesus on earth. So far as we are aware, Scripture gives no direct answer to this question, and it is wise to leave it there. Luke 8:11 how-ever shows that evil spirits had a fear of being commanded to go into "the deep" or "the bottomless pit;" and Rev.9:23 indicates that out of that pit, during the tribulation period, will come a horde of evil spirits to torment men. But our verse presses the fact of God's unsparing judgment against the highest created beings.
Verse 5 now speaks of the whole world not spared. No matter how iniquity strengthens itself by large acquisition of numbers, yet God's judgment does not spare; and this awesome judgment is accented by the fact that Noah and his household alone in all the world were spared. In the face of overwhelming odds, he was a preacher of righteousness, and consistently so, evidently for a period of 100 or 120 years.
Sodom and Gomorrah did not involve the whole world, but its local and confined sphere does not escape God's notice: awful in-deed was the overthrowing of those cities, a standing warning to all who choose to live ungodly. Here too God was able to single out one man for preservation, a believer, called here "just Lot," though, being in no proper associations for a believer, he was distressed by the filthy manner of life adopted by the wicked residents there.
For he was a righteous man, but in circumstances far from righteous and continually, every day, by seeing and hearing the lawless conduct of the Sodomites, he was tormented in his soul. He evidently tried, ineffectively, to stem the tide of evil, but he did not separate himself from it, as he ought to have. Therefore God Himself intervened, and delivered Lot out of the city be-fore its dreadful destruction He knows how to do this In the case of every true child of God, while at the same time reserving the unjust for judgment.
V.9 shows that there is special judgment for those who, though they show high religious pretension, are walking after the flesh, in lust and uncleanness, and despising government. This is notorious in many religions today, and deserves greatest punishment.
The false prophets of whom v.1 speaks are presumptuous and self-willed, assuming a status altogether unbecoming to them, and blatantly forcing their way into what they want. Moreover, they dare to speak in bold defiance of dignities far, higher than they. Christians should never be deceived by such men, for even angels, greater in power and might than men are, do not resort to such evil speaking as that of railing accusation, which after all, is used only as a means of putting another down, with no honest concern for his proper welfare.
The language here then is stern and solemn, comparing these to natural brute beasts. For they have lowered themselves to such a level by their totally materialistic attitude. They act as though they were made to be taken and destroyed. This is true of the beast, but man has eternity set in his heart, and if he acts otherwise than in view of eternity, then he is virtually debasing, himself to the level of the beast. Instead of seeking to understand things of eternal importance, they speak evil of them. Of course, this is unreasonable, brazen corruption, in which they shall utterly perish.
The due reward of their unrighteousness they may expect to receive, as those who count it pleasure to riot in the daytime. At a time when they ought to be working, they take pleasure in damaging the work of others. They are unsightly spots and blemishes in the Christian profession, making sport by the deceptions they dare to practice, while at the same time wanting to be linked with the benefits of Christianity, -- feasting with believers.
Their eyes are not single, but full of adultery, fully set on impure indulgence, with no desire of ceasing from sin; and using every artifice to entice unstable souls into the same evil. What exercise of heart they have is only along lines of covetousness. Little wonder that God designates them as "cursed children," yet how awful a title!
For they have willingly forsaken what has been shown to them as the right way, and have deliberately gone astray. And the motive is exposed as greed, which was that of Balaam, the false prophet, who to sought to pass as a prophet of the Lord, but all the while really desiring the wealth that Balak offered him. Yet God used a miraculous, arresting way of rebuking his iniquity, giving a voice to a dumb beast, that ought to have penetrated his hardened conscience, but sadly had no fruitful effect: his senses had been too numbed by the delusions he preferred. Today too how shocking is the number of such hardened cases!
They are wells that promise refreshing water, but are empty; mists carried with a tempest, obscuring the light, yet bringing no rain to a thirsty earth; and carried wherever the tempests of circumstances blow; no stability, no dependability.
They are able to speak great, swelling words, but "of vanity," that is, emptiness, like a puffed up balloon. And by this they entrap souls for whom they are watching, those who are just escaping from others who live in error. For there are some who are concerned that their associations are bad, and look for something else; and these men are ready with both fleshly inducements and high sounding religious sentiments, to allure them into this morass of corruption. Notice these people are not said to be escaping from corruption, but from those living in error. How different it is for those who seek to escape from the guilt and folly of their own sins. These men would have no message for such. Thank God His message of pure grace is, ready for every soul who is brought, to a state of repentance as regards his own ruin and need.
One of Satan's wretched deceits is to suggest that subjection to the Lord is bondage. So his agents promise liberty, while they themselves are slaves of corruption for having been overcome by corruption themselves, they are under its bondage; so that their load cries of liberation are only intended to bring others into their own slavery.
By a professed knowledge of the Lord and Jesus Christ, they have outwardly escaped the pollutions of the ungodly world. But having no genuine faith in Him Personally, they dare to intro-duce the same pollutions into their religious profession. They are caught in their own net, entangled and overcome. The end of this is necessarily worse than their first condition, for they have added to it the corruption of the pure truth of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Of all such false teachers, it is true that it had been better for them never to have known anything of the way of righteousness, never to have had any knowledge whatever of Christianity, than after knowing it, to turn deceitfully away from its pure truth, "the holy commandment."
Now Prov.26:ll is quoted, likening such men first to a dog returning to its own vomit. The dog being an unclean animal, this is its very nature. What has been once rejected as obnoxious and harmful, a man will again embrace, just adding a little religious spice to it, because there is no fundamental change in the man: he Has not been born again: he remains unclean. Similarly, a sow may be washed, but its very nature will lead it back to roll in the first mud-hole it finds. If as a dog he feeds on corruption, as a sow he chooses a filthy environment. This is apostasy; for though a person may still pretend to be a Christian, he has in practice really turned against Christ. None of this could be true of any who had been born again, for believers are sheep, not dogs or sows; and the of the nature of the sheep is not to return to it vomit, or to wallow in the mud.
This chapter now shows that the government of God will bring everything to a proper conclusion: every evil principle will be judged unsparingly, and those also who embrace such evil; and out of this judgment will emerge precious resurrection state of eternal blessing.
But both of Peter's epistles have the chief present object of stirring up the pure minds of believers by way of remembrance. He claims to give no new truth, but we greatly to be reminded of that which we have before heard. And this goes back even to prophets of Old Testament times, their ministry being still of vital value for us now. Added to this is "the commandment of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by your apostles." Note that this is not "commandments," but singular; that is, that the whole truth of Christianity Is a precious unity: it is "one faith." The apostles have communicated this, and we have it in written form. It is deeply essential that we should be reminded of it over and over again, for it is vital to our daily welfare.
And Scripture gives us knowledge beforehand of the last days, so that we may be prepared. It is therefore no surprise that mockers have come, those walking in the lusts of self-pleasing, and brazenly deriding the promise of the coming of Christ. Their character, their conduct, and their sayings are all irresponsible and reprehensible. Such characters prove to us that the last days have come; so that they really prove what they strongly deny. But this is always the case with unbelief: it proves itself to be folly.
On the basis of their own opinions these scoffers insist that everything has continued the same from time, immemorial, therefore that there has never been any supernatural intervention in man's affairs through all history. This is gross ignoring of competent witness, therefore willing ignorance.
For by the word of God there was, before the flood, a similar creatorial order to that of today. The heavens were in their place, the earth was partially covered by water, with much of it also standing out of the water for the benefit of man's existence. But these waters overflowed the world that then was. Not only were the windows of heaven opened, but "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" (Gen. 7:11), which may infer a tremendous tidal wave that engulfed even the highest mountains; and possibly also great volcanic action. But the whole world perished In the flood, only Noah and his family being preserved in the ark. This is history, well authenticated, not only in the accurate record of Scripture, but in the records of many nations.
In the future, however, not only the earth, but also the heavens, will be affected by a far more awesome destruction. For both heaven and earth are "stored with fire." held in reserve at the present, but in view of the dread judgment of God. Science confirms that not only earth is stored with fire, its volcanic magma ready to burst forth at any time, its gas, oil, coal, and sulphur deposits readily ignitable but also the heavens; for it world take but little change in the component gases of the atmosphere to trigger a conflagration that could engulf the entire world.
And God has decreed the earth's burning destruction. Only the folly of men causes them to sneer, for it is they themselves who will feel the awful judgment of God.
If they are willingly ignorant, at least let the beloved of God not be ignorant. For with the Lord a thousand years means no more than one day, and vice versa. his viewpoint is not narrow and confined, as is ours. Because of the passage of time, we may accustom ourselves to thinking of anything as in-terminable, depending merely upon our own observation as to this. But let us not be so ignorant.
The Lord is not slack, not lax or undependable, of which, by some men He may be accused; though He is marvelously patient. It is folly to mistake His patience for indifference. If indeed He is long-suffering, yet it is because of His concern for the souls of men, that they might have opportunity to come to repentance, and therefore escape the judgment that must necessarily fall upon a guilty world.
But there is no shadow of doubt as to the reality of the judgment coming. Many have been the signs of this, and the warnings. Yet the world pays little attention, just as has been the case when Mt. St. Helens showed signs of volcanic activity, and warnings were everywhere publicized. Yet the great eruption came suddenly, with no further warning, and many who had ignored the warnings perished.
Similarly, "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night," both unexpected and unwelcome. Of course, before this, those redeemed in this day of grace will have been caught up to Heaven to be with the Lord. But the day of the Lord here is seen to refer, not only to the time of His judgment in the tribulation, but to go on to the end of the millennium and the introduction of the eternal state. V.10 is a description of what will transpire at the very time that the great White Throne is set, following the millennium (Rev.20:ll). But whatever amount of time may intervene, yet heaven and earth, in its present form, will be demolished.
Verse 11 poses a searching question. Will not a sense of the awesome reality of God's judgment impending over creation have even now a sanctifying effect upon the hearts and ways of His people? "looking for, and hastening, the coming of the Day of God." We ought to keep eternity always in view, both in anticipating that great, day, and desiring it with full hearts. It is not that we can make its time arrive more quickly than God has already ordained, but that our attitude is to be one of real, vibrant expectancy, so that in experience, time does not drag for us.
The day of God then refers to the total changing of every-thing, the dissolving of both heaven and earth in its present form, in order that third may give place to a new heaven and new earth. It is new in the sense of being totally altered: its form character will be changed by the awesome power of God. Such is God's promise, and ardently anticipated. In this eternal condition righteousness shall dwell. In the present day righteousness suffers, in the millennium a King shall reign in righteousness but in eternity righteousness will dwell in perfect peace, with no challenge, no opposition forever. Blessed anticipation!
What reason then for believers to be diligent, in looking for such assured things. It is not here diligence in the work of God that is pressed, but that of being true to proper character. In eternity we shall certainly be "in peace, without spot, and blameless." Let us show now how positively we believe In eternity!
V.15 adds that we should take into account the fact that the longsuffering of our Lord is not a matter for growing weary, or of discouragement but it is salvation. Since God has an eternal, vital, perfect salvation in mind, the intervening time should be that of vibrant joy and anticipation. This of course touches the dispensational teachings of Paul's writings, and Peter refers to this, and the wisdom given to Paul from God. V.15 likely refers directly to the book of Hebrews.
V.16 adds that in all of Paul's epistle the same line of truth is followed, that is, that God's counsels are calm, deliberate, all things ordered by Divine wisdom, all to take place as He has purposed, while He Himself shows marvelous longsuffering with men. If some of these things are hard to be understood, Peter does not for that reason dismiss them, nor does he excuse, those who are ignorant and unstable for the way in which they wrest these and other Scriptures, that is, twisting their meaning to suit them-selves. Such men are tragically inviting their own destruction. Observe that Peter fully approves Paul's epistles as Scripture.
For the fifth time in this Chapter believers are addressed as "beloved." Responsible because knowing these things, we are gently encouraged to be on guard, lest the subtle error or wickedness might so affect us as to lead us astray, The pride of thinking we are able to stand renders us all the more susceptible to a fall from the steadfastness of consistent devotion to the lord.
How precious a preservative in v.18: Growing in grace is in contrast to a legal attitudes it involves deeply learning and valuing the grace of God in Christ Jesus, grace which lifts one above the level of all the surrounding evil. And this is of course vitally connected with the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more firmly. our feet shall be kept in the path of devoted obedience. Precious object indeed to fill our hearts both now, and for eternity! -- consistent with the endurance of His own glory. The lest expression is rightly translated, "both now and to the day of eternity." cf.vs.10 & 12.
Leslie M Grant