by Warren Camp
2 Peter 3:1–7 . . .
“Scoffers and Their Coming Judgment”
In the previous chapters, Peter fully condemned false teachers who’d plagued Christians in the early church. In chapter 3, he focuses on dismantling their arguments. His purpose is to urge Christians to never waver in their beliefs. Instead they’re to continue to live out what they know to be true. He refutes the false teachers in his day who were denying many of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, one being the return or second advent of Christ. The implication in this seven-verse passage is this: As we find ourselves closer to the end times, there will be an increasing denial of Christ’s return to earth, especially in our Christian churches (as highlighted in Warren’s commentary on 2:17–22). In the two opening verses, we’ll find a challenge to remember and rely on Scripture by recognizing and esteeming prophetic predictions. Then in vv. 3–7, scoffers will forget the past and mock biblical prophecies of the future.
The Bible teaches that Christ Jesus will return. Evangelical, Bible-believing Christians have maintained this second coming of Christ since the church began. Today, every true Christian waits patiently — longingly — for this event, however, no one knows which day or hour Christ will reappear. Having read both of Apostle Peter’s epistles, it’s evident that he was sure of the second coming. It’s in this third chapter of second epistle that Peter tears into the false teachers who were denying the truth about Lord Jesus’ return.
Peter’s Friendly Reminder to Ponder the Scriptures (3:1–2)
Apostle Peter now redirects his second letter’s aim from false teachers to fellow saints, hoping to encourage believers. Having been gifted with a pastor’s heart, he addresses his Christian audience as “dear friends.” In this chapter, he uses the same caring address four times: vv. 1, 8, 14, and 17. Because it’s extremely difficult to persevere in an anti-Christian domain, especially one that denies the supernatural, he appreciated every saints’ ongoing struggles and realized the fact that they needed to be encouraged.
The Day of the Lord
3 1Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles (2 Pet. 3:1–2 NIV).
Peter writes this second letter to again remind his readers of the essential truths they already stood by, which originated from Old Testament Scriptures, from Christ’s recent teachings, and from his previous letter. Invariably, Christians must be reminded, again and again, of truths they’d already read, seen, and heard, because of the human mind’s tendency to forget.
The intent in v. 1b was to stimulate his readers “to wholesome thinking.” The Greek term here is eilikrinē. This literally means something found to be pure when examined by sunlight. The story goes that crafty pottery salesmen would sometimes use wax to disguise cracks in their pottery. However, when held up to the sun, light would show through the wax, revealing the deception. A pot held up to the sun and found to be flawless was “without wax,” thereby without faults. Peter wanted his readers to be clear and self-controlled in their thinking.
There’s very little new material in this letter. We don’t need “new” truths as much as we need to be reminded of and remember the “old” truths we already possess but tend to forget. As the other apostles had done, Peter continually reminded his readers of the truths of the Scriptures. He wanted his readers, including us, to view the Scriptures as sufficient, reliable, accurate, and true, as well as authoritative. The written word of God isn’t merely a collection of writings about God and Jesus, which claim to be true; they’re the absolute — one and only — truth that God has revealed to everyone. God spoke, not just to inform us but to instruct us about what we are to believe, as well as how we’re to behave. To disregard God’s holy word is to disobey him.
Peter tells his readers (and us) two things in v. 2: (1) to “recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets” and (2) always remember “the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” Initially, he’s referring to the Old Testament prophets. It was they who always warned of impending judgment, both on Israel and its surrounding nations if they didn’t repent and obey God. Peter told his “dear friends” that they needed to be stirred up so they’d remember the prophet’s repeated warnings about judgment. His opening comments in chapter 3 reveal that, although apostates attack the faith, God’s word is a believer’s sure foundation.
In addition to wanting believers to remember the words or predictions of the holy prophets, Peter wanted them to recall Jesus’ command or teachings made through the apostles. The point of remembering both essential elements is to prevent deception by false teachers. Those who know and understand the truth, as revealed by God in the Old Testament and, now, through Jesus’ apostles in the New Testament, won’t be easily led astray by the lies of apostate wolves mingling among the flock of Father God.
Be Not Surprised: Mockers Will Come! (vv. 3–4)
Peter will now lay charges against these scoffers who will mock, deride, reproach, and ridicule the whole idea of a cataclysmic, supernatural event like the second coming of Christ. They’ll laugh at the concepts of judgment and the end of the world as we now know it. This mocking will take place during a period called “the last days.”
3Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3–4).
Christians shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are people who scoff at the idea of Jesus coming again. Peter forewarned his readers that, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” That said, “Above all,” we must accept this reality. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892, English fundamentalist Baptist minister) said this about the coming of scoffers: “Forewarned is forearmed. Every time a blasphemer opens his mouth to deny the truth of revelation, he will help to confirm us in our conviction of the very truth which he denies. The Holy Ghost told us, by the pen of Peter, that it would be so; and now we see how truly he wrote.”
When did “the last days” begin? Here’s David Guzik’s answer: “In a sense, ‘the last days’ began when Jesus ascended into heaven. Since that time, we haven’t rushed towards the precipice of the consummation of all things; but we have run along side that edge, ready to go anytime, at God’s good pleasure.” Theologian Michael Green concurred: “With the advent of Jesus the last chapter of human history had opened, though it was not yet completed.” And, regarding Peter’s “following their own evil desires,” Guzik adds, “These words remind us that scoffers only have not only an intellectual problem with God and His word. they also have a clear moral problem, wanting to reject Jesus Christ’s Lordship over their lives.” This was a period encompassing the whole church age between Jesus’ first and second coming.
When scoffers ask, “Where is this ’coming’ he promised?” we must remember that, as the centuries pass away, this specific scoffer objection recurs repeatedly with greater and greater intensity. The central thesis of Christianity is Christ’s second coming — as a result of the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. Peter’s wording about the scoffers’ question of the fulfillment of Christ’ return likely meant to imply that: (1) that promise had utterly failed to be kept; (2) there wasn’t the slightest evidence that it would be accomplished; and (3) they who’d actually believed this were entirely deluded. Nevertheless, it was easy then to allege that the predictions respecting the second coming of the Savior seemed to imply that the end of the world was near and there were no indications that these predictions would be fulfilled since the laws of nature were uniform, as they had always been, and the alleged promises had indeed failed.
Peter says in v. 4b of what the scoffers argued then as well as today: Since creation, nature hasn’t changed; things move along as they always have; the world is forever stable. We live in a closed naturalistic universe governed by chance where law is uniform, miracles are impossible, and the supernatural is inconceivable. They reasoned further, Jesus’ second advent was a foolish dream of religious fanatics, not worthy of the serious thought of men of enlightenment and culture!
The Deliberate Forgetfulness of Scoffers (vv. 5–7)
Finally, Peter will reveal the flaw in the false teachers’ deceptive argument: They were deliberately forgetting or ignoring critical details and facts. First, they failed to remember or disregarded the world’s origin; they said they’ be happy to see it simply keep going the way it always has. Second, Peter will refer to the flood in Noah’s day, which is a clear example of God intervening in our physical world to judge humanity’s sins. Note: The earth was formed of water and by water, Peter writes; then God used water to destroy nearly all the life on earth that he’d created.
5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Pet. 3:5–7).
When mockers scoff at the prospect of Christ’s return, it’s because they willfully ignore the irrefutable facts that God (1) created the universe and (2) judged the wicked in the flood. And as we see in v. 7, they intentionally and totally disregarded God’s word about future judgment. Incidentally, nowhere else in the New Testament do we find explicit revelation that the future judgment will be accompanied by fire; but there are several Old and New Testament passages that allude to it (Isaiah 66:15–16; Malachi 4:1; Matthew 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Peter’s point is that the God who created the universe by his word, and destroyed the wicked in the flood by his word, has also warned by his word that he’ll judge the ungodly by fire in the future. Therefore, those who mock the second coming of Christ — so that they can continue following their own lusts — are fools!
Every Christian — every follower of Christ Jesus — must correctly answer this essential question: “What does God’s word say?” Answer: It clearly says that God created the world by his word; that he judged the world through the flood by his word; and that he’ll judge the ungodly when Christ returns by his word. Thus we must stand firm on these truths. Out of love we’re obligated to warn everyone to follow his word and flee the wrath to come.
- Q. 1 What “must” Peter’s readers first understand?
- Q. 2 Is it easy for you to “recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets”?
- Q. 3 What does “the last days” refer to? Are we in them today?
- Q. 4 What do vv. 5–6 have to do with what’s coming? What’s your response?
Intro Video: “Second Peter”
Warren’s New “Peter Masterpieces” Photo Album
† View several classic paintings of Saint Peter by art world masters: Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rubens, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Masaccio, Giotto, Correggio, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veneziano, Tissot, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Galle, Dürer, Palomino, Huret, Cranach, Crivelli, and many more.
2 Peter 3:1–7