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Bible: What Does 2 Peter 3 Teach Us About "Last Days" Scoffers and Jesus' Return?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Peter

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The Doctrine of Scoffers

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Last Days' Scoffers

Addressing his readers once more with the term “beloved,” Peter notes that he wished to “stir up their pure minds by way of reminder” in this second epistle to them (just as he did in his first chapter; cf. 1:12).

He exhorts them to think often about the messages of the OT prophets and the commandments of the apostles of “the Lord and Savior” that predicted the appearance of scoffers in “the last days.”

These unbelievers, conducting their lives according to their own desires, will seek to ridicule those who believe in the Second Coming, claiming the doctrine of uniformitarianism (“all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation”) [vv. 1-4].

[Whom does Peter have in mind when he refers to these “scoffers”?

They seem to be Jewish, since they mention “the fathers.”

Who specifically are these deceased “fathers”?]

In rebuttal to their position, the apostle first points out that these false teachers willfully forget (“it escapes their notice,” NASB) that when God spoke His word in the beginning, the heavens came into existence, and “the earth was formed out of water and by water” (“the earth standing out of water and in the water”) [v. 5].

God employed water to form the structure of the pre-Flood geography; during the Deluge, the LORD used that same water to re-form the old world and to cause most of its inhabitants to perish (v. 6).

Understanding that God now preserves the heavens and the Earth with the same word He used to create and destroy them (cf. Col. 1:17) should have convinced these false teachers that the Lord will also fulfill His promise to send fire to destroy both the world and the ungodly (v. 7).

The Millennium

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Rules of Interpretation

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A "Thousand Years," the "Day of the Lord," and the "Day of God"

Peter does not want his readers (“beloved”) to forget that God has a different timetable than mankind does (“with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”) [v. 8].

[Interpreters should not take this comparison literally; it means that a long time for human beings (one thousand years) is insignificant (a day) to an eternal God.

Nevertheles, what hermeneutical implications might this view hold for one’s eschatology regarding the millennial reign of Christ?]

Believers should not consider as slackness the Lord’s seeming delay to fulfill His promise to return, but they should use it as an example of His patience toward them.

He is giving all people more time to repent, because He desires (though He has not eternally decreed) everyone to come to know Him and not perish eternally (v. 9).

[Since Peter writes that God is patient toward believers, might he not mean that God wants them to take better advantage of the opportunities He provides for them to proclaim the gospel to the unsaved?]

Having alluded to “the day of judgment” when the heavens, the Earth, and the ungodly will perish with fire, Peter now discusses “the day of the Lord,” comparing its beginning to “a thief in the night” (v. 10a).

That is, it will begin unexpectedly when Antichrist breaks his false peace (cf. 1Thess. 5:2, 3).

[As with "year" (above), "day" here refers not to a 24-hour period, but to an unspecified length of time.

This “day” appears to commence with the last half of the seventieth week of Daniel, and extend through the end of the millennial kingdom of Christ.

Interestingly enough, this "day" lasts for a little over one thousand years.]

This passage refers to the explosive death (“pass away”) of the heavens, the fiery dissolution of the elements, and the utter decimation of “both the earth and the works that are in it” (vv. 10, 12b).

This destruction will set the stage for “the day of God”—the eternal state—at which point the Lord will create “a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (vv. 12a, 13).

[Note here that the "day" is eternity, not twenty-four hours and not one thousand years.]

Peter argues that believers ought to live holy lives, especially now that they understand how the present world will end (vv. 11).

The Apostle Paul

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Paul's Epistles Regarded as Scripture

Addressing his readers as “beloved” again, Peter concludes that these future events should motivate them to work hard at their pursuit of peace and holiness in preparation for the Lord’s examination (v. 14) and to apply themselves to evangelistic efforts (v. 15a).

[For “the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation,” see 3:9.]

Here Peter refers to the writings of his fellow apostle (Paul), which introduce and develop many of the topics he has addressed (v. 15b).

He mentions that because some of the content of Paul’s epistles is difficult to comprehend, unbelievers (“untaught and unstable people”) misinterpret it, as they do the rest of Scripture, resulting in their spiritual destruction (v. 16).

[Peter considers Paul’s epistles as Scripture (divine revelation).]

The apostle admonishes his beloved to hold fast to what they have learned about these topics, lest heretics sway them to their perspective (v. 17).

Instead of allowing false teachers to lead them away captive, they should grow in Christ’s grace and in their knowledge of the One who deserves eternal glory (v. 18).

Study Questions for 2 Peter

  1. What has Christ’s “glory and excellence” given to believers?
  2. With what character traits should believers supplement their faith?
  3. What would prove the genuineness of their faith?
  4. What historical fact did Peter and other apostles witness first-hand?
  5. How did the Father’s announcement at this event compare with that which He gave at Jesus’ baptism?
  6. What did this event confirm?
  7. What should Peter’s readers know about the Scriptures and their interpretation?
  8. What effects do false teacher have upon the Church?
  9. What two OT example does Peter use to illustrate that God knows how to judge the evil and to save the righteous?
  10. How do good angels respond to the disrespect of false teachers?
  11. What metaphors does Peter use to characterize these false teachers? Explain each one
  12. Describe the character traits of these apostates.
  13. Who claims the doctrine of uniformitarianism, when will they do, and at what Christian doctrine do they scoff?
  14. How does the apostle rebut their argument?
  15. With what means will God destroy the world in the future?
  16. How do you interpret the following statement: “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”?
  17. What is the purpose of God’s apparent delay in fulfilling His promise to return?
  18. When will the explosive death of the heavens take place?
  19. What is “the day of God”?
  20. How should believers allow these future events to motivate them?
  21. How does Peter regard Paul’s epistles?

© 2014 glynch1

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