It is best if we read
it through at once:
2 Peter 3:1-18 NASB This is now, beloved, the second
letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way
of reminder, (2) that you should remember the
words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord
and Savior spoken by your
apostles. (3) Know this first of all, that in
the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, (4) and saying, "Where is the promise of His
coming? For ever since the
fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of
creation." (5) For when they maintain
this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water
and by water, (6) through which the world at
that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (7)
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire,
kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (8) But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord
one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (9) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some
count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but
for all to come to repentance. (10) But the
day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away
with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the
earth and its works will be burned up. (11)
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people
ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12)
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the
heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense
heat! (13) But according to His promise we are
looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (14) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these
things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (15) and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our
beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, (16) as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are
some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the
Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) You
therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are
not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own
steadfastness, (18) but grow in the grace and
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.
The reader will note
that this lesson cannot possibly contain all that might be said about the Day
of Wrath; indeed, end times in general. Moreover, there is substantial
disagreement, some of it sinfully vehement, about the order of events and the
meaning of various passages. We will therefore constrain ourselves to that
which is almost universally agreed on, and which is also needful to understand
Peter’s teaching here.
Peter begins his tale
by telling us that the Day of Wrath is prophesied. Indeed it is. Beginning in
the Old Testament,
then frequently amplified and repeated in the New Testament,
we have the solemn assurance that Christ returns and in the process delivers
the wrath of God in the form of judgment on sinful man. The order of events is
disputed, but the coming of the judgment is sure.
So why don’t we hear
about this from the pulpit? Pulpit topics have their fashions, and it is still
an anathema among many preachers to “preach hellfire and brimstone.” The
theory is that people don’t like that – and that their dislike is a good
reason not to preach it. (We may draw a parallel concerning the sin of
adultery; it too is unpopular – and not preached.) The matter resolves itself
when the preacher sticks to the number one topic: Jesus Christ, and Him
Heaven, New Earth
It is one of the
Seven Last Things: the new heaven and the new earth. The phrase itself is
found only in Revelation,
but the concept is throughout the Scriptures.
The idea is simple: at the end, God will destroy the existing physical reality
and replace it. Those who are his children will be invited to inhabit it
forever. All things will be purified, which is to say that all things will be
judged and cleansed.
How is God going to
do this? I have no idea. I just know that his Word says that it will happen.
It is something without precedent in physical reality.
in the night
You can well imagine
that Christian fanatics and scholars alike would be fascinated by the
question, “when?” I can give you only a little information on the subject:
- First, it will
happen when things are going along just like they always have. There’s
always someone screaming the end is near, so we must include that in the
definition of “normal” as well. From the world’s point of view, it will be
a total surprise.
- At this event, or
near it, there will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked.
(There is much debate on more than one separation, in what order, and so
on. My point is that there will be a separation.)
- So, considering all
prophecy, we must remember that no one will know when.
This is serious
stuff. Please remember that it is said here in the context of talking about
false teachers. It’s Peter’s warning to those who have taken their own way: a
horrible judgment awaits you.
Let us be specific
about this: those who lead the people of the church will come with a sneering,
- They will use social pressure –
from the pew or the pulpit, we are talking about those in authority – to
belittle those who hold to the Scriptures.
- They will do so according to
their own evil desires – “lusts” in some translations. “It’s all about
me.” So throughout the centuries we have had what today might be called a
“rock star church.” (Watch those folks who are so proud of being so
- Most important, they will deny
(or perhaps just refuse to speak about) the return of the Lord.
How, one might
reasonably ask, do they justify this? In our own age this is greatly helped by
the anti-intellectual tenor of evangelical Christianity. “Check your brain at
the door because God wants your heart.”
But the method is simple:
ignore the Word of God – the Scriptures. A good example is the modern
church’s treatment of homosexuality.
They forget the
simple fact that God created the universe – and that therefore it is no
great logical leap to think he might recreate it.
Of course, they can
point to the “failure” of those who believe the Scriptures; things are
going on just like normal, right?
is coming for such
It is a fairly
obvious question: if God tells us that such people are in the church, why
doesn’t he simply strike them dead? Their destruction is coming anyway, why
not now? We may see two answers:
First, there is the
“wheat and tares” problem. Sometimes you have to wait to
discover just which is which, and ripping them out now might disorder the
More than that,
there is the patience of God. It is not his will that any should be lost,
and that includes the apostates too. Time for repentance must be given.
we should do
Having described the
problem (and ultimate solution) thoroughly there remains the question: what
should we do about it in the meanwhile?
Peter points out to
us that he is stirring our memories. Here are three things to remember:
prophecies in the Scriptures. Many have been fulfilled at the first advent
of Christ – giving us all the more reason to expect the rest to be
Next, we should
remember the patience of God. Indeed, we are to regard it as salvation –
for if God doesn’t instantly toast the apostate, how much more patient
will he be with ordinary sinners?
Finally, we have
the Scriptures themselves (see his remark about Paul) which we are not to
conduct and godliness
It is not just our
memory but our conduct which is required. Again, three things:
We are to pass our
time waiting and hastening Christ’s return. The waiting is to be done
expectantly (“even so, Lord Jesus, come”); but what about hastening?
Perhaps he expects us to take the Gospel to every tongue, tribe and
nation! Then the end will come.
In the meanwhile,
note that we are to be diligent to be found by Him in peace. In short,
there is no prescription for church rebellion; rather, we are to
strengthen the bond of peace all the more. There are the weapons of the
Lord, and the weapons of the world.
conduct should be, of course, spotless and blameless.
on your guard
As this is the end of
the series, I may point out that nothing in Peter’s letter tells us to raise
revolt. We are not to divide the church – and ruin her witness to the world.
But there is a final pair of “do and don’t”:
Don’t be carried away by every
little fad or “bold new thinking.” Test all things by the Scripture. Hold
firm to Christ and the Word he has given you; let the false teacher’s
doctrine splash against that rock and drain away.
continue to grow –
first in grace, so that you might be both forgiven and forgiving. Also
grow in the knowledge of Christ – it is the Christian’s great defense
against the apostate, the heretic and the false teacher.
 See, per Nave’s
Topical Bible, Isa_2:12; Isa_13:6; Isa_13:9; Isa_34:8; Jer_46:10; Lam_2:22;
Eze_30:3; Amo_5:18; Joe_2:1; Oba_1:15; Zep_1:8; Zep_1:18; Zep_2:2-3; Zec_14:1
 See, per Nave’s
Topical Bible, Mal_4:5; 1Co_5:5; 2Co_1:14; 1Th_5:2; 2Pe_3:10
 1st Corinthians 1:23
 Revelation 21:1-2
 See, for example,
 Matthew 24:36
 Our own preacher’s
recent sermon on heaven, which militantly failed to mention the resurrection
of the dead, the Lord’s return or the judgment was rather disturbing on this
 See Mark 12:28-30 for
the obvious rebuttal.
 Matthew 13:24-20