Last time we ended with the statement that it is not a matter “if” Jesus is coming again, it’s a matter of “when.” False teachers may scoff and the whole world may doubt that Jesus is coming again to judge the world but it matters not … Jesus is coming again:
Matt 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
In our conclusion to this brief exploration of Peter’s second letter we are going to take a look at what God expects of us in the face of false teaching and why. Let’s begin with Peter’s affirmation of Matt 24:44 and what that is going to mean for the world.
2 Pet 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
First he makes it plain that Christ is coming again and then asks us the question: “In light of that what sort of people should we be? The answer is first and foremost found in Matt 24:43, we should be those who “watch” (gregoreuo; awake, vigilant); those who are “looking for” the second coming of Christ. We are to be watching as Peter says in verse 12: looking for and hastening unto the coming day of God. This is the “day of judgment” and not the “day of the Lord.” First comes “the day of Christ” when the church is raptured (1 Cor 1:8; 3:13; 2 Cor 1:14; Phil 1:6; 2:16 and 1 Thess 4:13-18). This coincides with the day of Jacob’s trouble when God enters into judgment of Israel. After that comes the “day of the Lord” or “the day of God,” which terminates the millennial reign of Christ and ushers in eternity. This is the day that Peter says will come as a thief in the night, which he describes with one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible.
Peter mentions the “heavens” (ouranos; the sky) five times in his letter, in verse 12 he tells us that they will be dissolved by fire when Christ returns. In addition the “elements” (stoicheia; the fundamental elements, the components into which matter is divided) will “melt” (teko; liquefy). The Greeks thought that there were four fundamental elements; earth, air, fire and water. Today we interpret stoicheia simply as atoms, the “component parts” of the elements. In verse 11 Peter says that all these things shall be dissolved; (luo; to break up or unloose). At the end of the age all that has been bound is going to be set free; atoms will be unloosed with a great noise. Jesus, who holds everything together will simply let go!
The expression a great noise comes from a single Greek word that is found nowhere else in the New Testament; rhoizedon. It refers to the “whizzing” of an arrow rushing toward its target. Vines says that it signifies “with rushing sound as of roaring flames.” What Peter described in plain terms is the untying of the atom and the resulting rushing, fiery destruction that follows, which he placed at the end of the millennial age; the day of God. It does not take much imagination in the 21st century to realize that Peter is describing the nuclear age some 2000 years before it came about at 3:36 PM on December 2, 1942 when scientists’ produced the first atomic chain reaction. But that age will end one day a thousand years after Christ returns and while man may have begun it, God will end it. In light of that he asks us what sort of people should we be?
2 Pet 3:11-12 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?.
The word “conversation” (anastrophe) is behavior or lifestyle and in light of what is coming our lives ought to be characterized by holiness and godliness. Peter goes on to reinforce that statement in verse 12 and drives it all home once again by telling us that we need to be looking for and hasting unto the day of God. Looking for (prosdokao) means to expect, watch, tarry or wait for. We are not to look for that terrible day but to look beyond it to eternity when, as John Philips says, “God is all and in all.” Peter says that we should be people who are “hasting unto” (pseudo), which means desiring earnestly. After all, we are God’s instruments here on earth and as such we can earnestly desire that His kingdom be advanced to its ultimate state; eternity. That is what Jesus taught us to pray for: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).
2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness: 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
What sort of people are we to be? Because we look forward to eternity then we should be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. We are to be without spot (aspilos) by keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (Jas 1:27). We need to allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and make us “pure and clean” (1 John 1:7). “Blameless” (amometos) means being not open to censure or adverse criticism, and that means we are to be at peace with God and man; clean and blameless in His sight. And that can only come through God’s longsuffering, which is “salvation” in Christ; the only way to become blameless in God’s sight is to be forgiven. Being diligent means that we are to be persistent in our prayers for salvation; salvation for those whom the Lord has placed on our heart, and to that Peter comes once again to the theme of his letter:
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction..
The “unlearned and unstable” are those that are not fully established or are unbalanced. Peter says that they “wrest” with the scriptures; (strebloo; strain, or twist – to torture by twisting or straining). They either ignore sin or justify themselves by rationalizing that they are as good as or even better than others. They are the false teachers that pervert the scriptures to their own destruction. The answer to them comes in verses 17 and 18:
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen
We are to interpret the Scriptures properly. Listen to John Phillips:
The antidote to handling of the Scriptures is to learn to interpret them properly. The Bible should be interpreted literally, keeping in mind grammatical, cultural and historical factors that bear on the process. Its poetic and symbolic features should be handled in the same way we handle such colorful writing in the secular sphere. No passage should be divorced from its content. The larger view of a passage should be grasped before attempting to come to grips with its detail. Attention should be paid to the structure of a given passage and to the scope and purpose of the book in which it is found … there is a danger of wresting the Scriptures to one’s own destruction. All of the cults do this.
We are not to fall prey to such teachers and their false doctrines. But they are so subtle and such a part of the enemy’s plan. They are wicked and Peter warns us not to fall from our own steadfastness; not to lose our foothold on the truth. We are not to be “led away” or “carried away” as was Lot by the false teachings and doctrines, which he had surrounded himself and his family with. We are not to go there, on the contrary we are to go to Christ and grow in His grace and the knowledge of Him. It is His saving grace that planned for our redemption before creation and to deny that grace by turning to false teaching puts us in great peril at the hands of the enemy. Think of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and all of the false paths the enemy laid out before him on his journey. Here is where we need the grace of God to keep us on the straight path and out from under the false doctrines and teachings that are growing around us.
How do we do that?
We need to live lives of holy conduct (11) – God has called us to be holy because He is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16).
We need to live lives of godliness (11 ) – If we are to live godly lives we need to live like Him and not after the flesh (2 Pet 2:20; 3:3).
We need to be faithful (12) – We are to follow after God with faithfulness, looking for and desiring His second coming expectantly (Matt 25:13; 24:42).
We need to be hasting His coming (12) – If we are to hasten His coming then we need to be actively about the business of His kingdom; we need to be involved in His harvest (Matt 28:19).
We need to remember what we know (17) – We are to live our life reflecting what we know of the Scriptures in our lifestyle (1 John 2:3).
We need to beware lest we fall from our steadfastness (17) – We are to ever beware of the plans and attacks of the enemy that would pull us off the narrow path; beware of the false teaching and doctrines he proposes (1 Pet 5:8).
We need to grow in His grace and the knowledge of Jesus (18) – When we are following Christ — growing in His grace — we are going in the opposite direction of all false teachings and as we grow in His grace we will share that grace with others. To know Jesus is to know the truth and to know the truth is to turn from false teaching (Phil 3:8).
The bottom line … we need to spend our time getting to know Jesus and in so doing the Holy Spirit will keep us from false teachers and false doctrines. He is the Spirit of Truth and He resides in every believer. One only needs to focus on Him and listen for His voice. When we do then Peter’s last words will ring true in our life … To him be glory both now and forever.