As we turn to 2 Peter 3 we should notice that it’s a kind of amalgam of chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 1 was about living a good and godly life, because Peter explained to us in that chapter that since the Lord Jesus has given us everything we need to live a godly life, we ought to make every effort to grow in faith and in goodness and in knowledge and in self-control and in perseverance and in godliness and in brotherly kindness and in love so that we won’t be useless and unproductive Christians, but we’ll be useful and fruitful as we seek to do his will by keeping his commandments. That’s what chapter 1 was about. And I wonder how you’ve got on since we studied that chapter on making every effort to adding all those qualities to your faith in Christ?
Chapter 2 was about warning us about false teachers, false teachers who claim that the Bible is only myths and legends and fairy-tales; false teachers who claim that Jesus Christ is never coming again; false teachers who claim that the Day of Judgment will never come; false teachers who claim that you can live as you please and you can do as you like. Chapter 2 was all about warning us about false teachers and about their false ideas. And it was about reminding us that the judgment is coming, when God will judge and condemn the wicked for their wickedness.
So, chapter 1 was about living a godly life; chapter 2 was about warning us about false teachers who said the day of judgment is not coming. And chapter 3 is an amalgam of those two chapters, because in this chapter Peter reminds us that the Lord will come again, like a thief in the night; and since he is coming again one day, we ought to be careful to live holy and godly lives while we wait for that day to arrive.
So, let’s look at this chapter together which can be divided into three parts. Firstly, in verses 1 to 7, he reminds us that the day of the Lord will come. Secondly, in verses 8 to 10, he reminds us that God’s view of time and our view of time are very different. And thirdly, in verses 11 to 18 he reminds us how we’re meant to live while we wait for Christ to come again. So, though he’s talking about the coming of the Lord, what he says about the coming of the Lord should affect how we live our daily lives.
Verses 1 to 7
Look with me at verses 1 to 7, first of all, where Peter writes to remind his readers — and that includes you and me — that the day of the Lord will come. In verse 1 he mentions that this is his second letter; his first one was probably 1 Peter which we finished studying a few weeks ago. And he tells us that he wrote both letters — 1 Peter and 2 Peter — as reminders to stimulate us to wholesome thinking.
We all know what ‘wholesome’ means, don’t we? Wholesome food is food which is good for us; it does us good. And Peter wants our thinking to be wholesome, which means he wants us to know certain things and to think about certain things which will be good for us. The false ideas which the false teachers were teaching are unwholesome; they’re bad for us; they won’t do us any good. But the message of the Apostles, and the message of the Old Testament prophets, the message of the Scriptures, in other words, will do us good. So, we need to know the Scriptures and we need to fill our thoughts with the Scriptures, because they are good for us.
Now, think of food again. The makers of Kit-Kats, I think it was, have agreed to reduce the amount of sugar which their chocolate bars contain, because everyone understands that too much sugar is bad for us. Too much sugar is bad for us; the problem is, those Kit-Kats are so tasty and we like to eat them and we like to eat other chocolate bars as well. We like to eat them, but they’re no good for us. And the false teaching of false teachers often seems very appealing to us. When they say to us that we can do as we like, it’s very appealing, isn’t it? When they say we can live as we please and we don’t need to worry about the consequences, it’s so appealing, isn’t it? When they say to us that we don’t need to worry about God’s law, it’s very appealing, isn’t it? But that kind of thing is not wholesome; it’s not good for us. It wasn’t good for Peter’s first readers and it’s not good for us. And so, the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Peter to write these two letters as reminders to stimulate us to wholesome thinking so that we will know things which will do us good; and think about things which will do us good.
So, what does he want to remind us about? What are these wholesome things we need to know and to think about? Well, according to verse 2, it’s the teaching of those holy prophets in the Old Testament who were carried along and inspired by the Holy Spirit; and it’s the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ which has come to us through the Apostles in the New Testament. What they taught is wholesome and good for us.
And what did they teach us? They told us to watch out, because scoffers will come in these, the last days. We were talking about ‘the last days’ on Wednesday evening, when I explained that we’re living in the last days, because the last days began with the Lord’s resurrection and ascension to heaven; and they will end when he comes back from heaven. The last days are not some far off period of time; they’re now. And in these, the last days, scoffers will come. And we all know that, don’t we? We come across scoffers all the time: when you turn on the radio and when you switch on the TV, you’ll hear all kinds of people, scoffing about what the Bible teaches. When you go into school and college, you’ll hear all kinds of people, scoffing about what we believe. When you go into work, or when you talk to your neighbours, you’ll come across all kinds of people, scoffing about what the Bible teaches. And if you don’t come across any scoffers yourself, you’ll come across people who have heard the scoffers and who have been taken in by what they’re saying.
What are these scoffers saying? Look at verse 4. They’re saying:
Where is this coming he promised?
You know: Peter is saying that Jesus Christ is coming again. Well, he hasn’t come yet, has he? And he’s not going to come! Jesus Christ will never come again!
And then the scoffer go on and they say:
Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.
In other words, the scoffers are saying that every day is the same; ever since the beginning of the world, one day has followed another, has followed another, has followed another, has followed another, and that’s the way it will always be. That’s what the scoffers were saying in Peter’s day. But, of course, there’s nothing new under the sun; and people are saying the same thing today. Since they scoff at the idea of God’s existence — and so many people scoff at the idea of God’s existence; and we’re told that only ignoramuses believe in God these days — since they scoff at the idea of God’s existence, then they scoff at the idea that the Lord Jesus is coming again. Or perhaps you come across people who say they believe in God; but if you talk to them and examine what they believe, you discover they believe in a God whose sole purpose is to help them to be happy in this life and who will never, ever come to judge them. And so, they too scoff at the idea that the Lord Jesus will come again.
So, scoffers will come, says Peter. And what does he say in response? Well, he makes three points in verses 5 to 7. First of all, he says that the scoffers deliberately forget — and notice that this is a wilful, rebellious forgetfulness — they deliberately forget that long ago, at the time of the creation, God intervened in history and he broke into the world which was then covered with water in order to form the dry land. With a word, he said in Genesis 1: ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered in one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And so, with a word, he formed the land out of the water. God did that.
Secondly, Peter reminds his readers how God intervened in history on another occasion and how he broke into the world in the days of Noah in order to cover the earth and to deluge and destroy it with a flood. So, he sent the rain and he destroyed the earth with water. He did that.
And then, thirdly, Peter reminds his readers that God has promised that he will once again intervene in history and he’ll once again break into the world in order to destroy it. The world as we know it is now reserved, not for water, but for fire; and it’s being kept for the day of judgment and for destruction of ungodly men. He will do that one day.
The scoffers were saying that since the beginning of creation, every day has been the same and one day follows another and that’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it always will be. But no, says Peter: In the beginning, God broke into the world to form the dry land; then, in the days of Noah, God broke into the world in order to flood the earth; and one day, God will come again to destroy this world and all who have disobeyed him. Scoffers may scoff, but they’ve got it wrong, because the day of the Lord is coming.
Verses 8 to 10
In the next section — verses 8 to 10 — Peter reminds his readers — and that includes you and me — that God’s view of time and our view of time are very different.
So, he says in verse 8 that we’re not to forget this one thing. What is this one thing we’re not to forget? Well, it’s this: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. Peter is quoting from Psalm 90.
Our perspective on time changes, doesn’t it? There are some in the congregation who are only 8 or 9 years old. And if you’re 8 or 9, a year is a really, really long time. It’s a really, really long time, because if you’re 8 or 9, a year is an 8th or a 9th of your life. ‘I have to wait a whole year! That’s ages away!’ But when you’re 80 or 90, a year is pretty brief. It’s pretty brief, because if you’re 80 or 90, a year is only an 80th or a 90th of your life.
Now, if you’re like me and not good at fractions, think of the difference in size between a slice of cake when the cake is divided into 8 slices compared to when the cake is divided into 80 slices. With 8 slices you’ll get a big slice; with 80 slices you’ll get only a sliver. Well, a year to an 8 year old is a big slice of time; but a year to an 80 year old is only a sliver of time. Our perspective on time differs.
And if that’s true for us, it’s certainly true for God who is eternal and everlasting. For God, a thousand years is nothing at all; it’s nothing at all; it’s like a day. And so, while we might get impatient with God — because we might think 2,000 years is a really, really long time — while we might get impatient with God, to God, the 2,000 years that has passed since the Lord’s ascension to heaven is nothing. It’s like two days. So, the scoffers were getting impatient: he hasn’t come yet; he’s never going to come. But with God, time is different. Yes, he hasn’t come yet; but sure, it’s been only 2,000 years; and that’s no time at all.
Well, in verse 9 Peter says that some might think God is slow in keeping his promise. But he’s not really being slow — is he? — because he has a different perspective on time. And in any case, instead of being slow, he’s in fact being patient with us. He’s being patient with us, giving us time, all the time we need, in order to repent and to give up our sins before he comes again. For some of us, he’s giving us time to repent for the very first time. He’s giving us the time we need to turn from our old life of sin and unbelief and to turn finally with faith to the Saviour, so that we will not perish when he comes again, but will have everlasting life. And for others, he’s giving us the time we need to turn from those old sins we keep going back to, time and time again. He’s giving us the time we need to give them up.
He’s giving us time, the time we need. But, of course, we don’t need any more time, do we? We don’t need any more time. Instead of saying: ‘Not now, but later. Tomorrow. Another day.’ Instead of saying that, you’re able to say: ‘Not tomorrow, but today. Not later, but today. Today I repent of my sins and I turn to God through Christ for forgiveness.’ You can do that today; you should do that today. Instead of saying: ‘Tomorrow. Later. Another day’, you can say, ‘Today. Now.’
Why do you have to act now, instead of putting it off? Well, look at verse 10: The day of the Lord will come like a thief. In other words, he’ll come unexpectedly. And when he comes, the heavens above will disappear with a roar, and the elements — all the stuff around us — will be destroyed by fire; and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare; it will be laid bare before the Lord who has come to judge us for what we have done and said and thought. The scoffer says: He’s never going to come. Relax. Take it easy. Eat, drink and enjoy yourself.
But the word of the Lord says: He’ll come unexpectedly. So, you need to be ready for his return, because when he comes, there will be no hiding from his all-seeing eye. He’ll come unexpectedly. So, now’s the time to turn from our sin and to ask for his forgiveness, so that when he comes, he’ll see that all of your guilt and shame has been covered by Christ’s blood which was shed for our forgiveness.
Verses 11 to 18
Since the day of the Lord is coming, and since everything as we know it will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? While we wait for him to come again, what should we do and how should we live? That’s what verses 11 to 18 are about.
So, how should we live? According to verse 11, we ought to live holy and godly lives. A holy life is a life that is set apart from sin; and a godly life is a life that reflects the character of God who is altogether good. So, as we look forward to the coming of the Lord and speed its coming, we’re to live a holy and godly life, because though we know that this world will be destroyed, we’re looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth which is the home of righteousness, says Peter in verse 13. This earth which we’re now living in is filled with all kinds of sin and wickedness; but the new heaven and the new earth will be a place where sin and wickedness does not belong; it will be a place of righteousness. And since that’s what we’re waiting for, since that’s what we’re longing for, then we ought to make every effort now to ensure that our life here on earth reflects what life will be like in the world to come.
Think of the Ten Commandments which we read earlier, ten commandments which summarise God’s will for us and which summarise what it means to live a holy and godly life. It means to love the Lord by putting him first in our lives and by worshipping him according to his word and by keeping his name holy and by keeping his day holy. And it means loving our neighbour by honouring all those with authority over us and by not hurting anyone with our words and deeds and by not spoiling anyone’s marriage; and by not taking their property; and by not ruining their reputation; and by not resenting their good fortune. Ten commandments which summarise God’s will for us and which summarise how to live a holy and godly life. So, while we look forward to the coming of the Lord, and the new heaven and earth, we ought to live like this.
So, make every effort, says Peter in verse 14, make every effort to be found spotless, so that our lives are not spoiled by sin and shame; blameless, so that no one can accuse us of any wrong-doing; and at peace with him, at peace with him, because we’ve repented and turned from our sin and we’re turned to God through Christ to receive from him forgiveness for all that we’ve done wrong.
So, we’re to live holy and godly lives. And we’re to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. And look down to verse 18: we’re to grow in grace, which means we’re to look to God every day for his gracious help to live a holy and godly life; and we’re to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, because as we get to know him more and more we’ll get to be like him more and more.
The scoffers were saying that the Lord will never come again; so do as you please. And they’re saying the same today: there’s no such thing as God; there’s no such thing as a day of judgment; so do whatever you want. But what does the Bible teach? There is a God in heaven above. And Jesus Christ is coming again. And when he comes, he’ll judge and destroy the wicked along with this wicked world. But all who have turned from their sin, and who have trusted in his Son who died for sinners, and who have endeavoured to live in obedience to him will live with him for ever and ever in the new heaven and in the new earth, the home of righteousness, because one day, the Saviour — whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins — will come again to gather together his faithful people, who have been waiting for his coming, and he will bring them in to enjoy everlasting life in his glorious presence.