Overview of 2 Peter
The book of 2 Peter was written in about A.D. 65, from either Rome, which would mean taking Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 figuratively, or he wrote it from the Jewish community still living in and around the ruins of that ancient city.
Peters second letter, if written from the same location as his first letter, would seem to indicate not much time elapsed between the two letters. In 2 Peter 3:1 in making reference to his first letter indicates his second letter was addressed to the same believers scattered throughout Asia Minor.
The historical records available to us seem to suggest Peters second letter was not widely distributed between the churches outside of Asia Minor as the other New Testament letters had been and consequently was not widely known until around A.D. 100 or so. Its authorship was disputed by some scholars at first but by A.D. 280 it was generally accepted as part of the canon.
In 3:15,16 Peter speaks of Paul in a manner that would suggest he was still alive which would place the time of this epistle to be in the mid sixties. In 1:14 Peter makes reference to the fact that his death is rapidly approaching. It is probable he was already in prison.
This was Peters farewell message to the assemblies in Asia Minor. Peter was martyred on a cross, as predicted by the Lord, in A.D. 67 or 68. This brings up an interesting thought. While still living, all the other Apostles could anticipate the Lords return. Peter was the only Apostle that knew he was going to die before that event would take place. Living in the shadow of this prophecy probably prompted Peter to address his view of suffering the way he did. He warns believers against false teachers who will deny Christs redeeming work. Due to his close contact with the Lord, Peters theology most likely echoes Christs teachings. At the same time there is a strong undercurrent of Pauline theology. Peters last words in this letter admonishes believers to grow in grace and a full and experiential knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Lets take a quick look at what the Scriptures reveal to us of this man Peter. Possibly we can get a glimpse of his personality and what kind of man he was.
All through the book of Acts Peter is a prominent and most active figure in the early church. Although Peter was responsible for bringing the Gospel to the first Gentiles, Paul had to rebuke him before the Jerusalem counsel for demanding believers observe some of the traditional Jewish practices. Galatians 2:14
Simon Peter, an Apostle and willing servant of Jesus Christ to those who have been allotted the same valuable faith as I, thanks to the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. May His unmerited favor and tranquility of mind be found and grow in you through a complete understanding of God and Jesus our Lord.
Since Christs Godly powers have given to us absolutely everything which pertains to success in this life and in the next, He has therefore invited us by means of His own glory and perfection to also attain similar attributes and behavior brought about by a true and thorough knowledge of Him by means of His revealed Word. By His own glory and perfection He has given us extremely valuable and magnificent promises and by implementing these same promises in our lives, we have the opportunity of becoming sharers of the divine nature, having once fled from the moral decay which adorns fallen mankind as they constantly strive to satisfy the cravings and desires of their rebellious flesh.
Now listen!, if you wish to become sharers of the divine nature, each believer should eagerly and quickly make a serious effort, to obtain a useful and practical knowledge of Scripture, and by faith in these Scriptures acquire Godlike attitudes, and by this way of thinking, self control and by this self discipline, a confident endurance and patience, and with these qualities, maintain a Godlike life style, and with this manner of life, a devotion and kinship with other believers, and by this relationship, the ability to put the needs of others first, because when these qualities are functioning and growing within you, they are signs that you have been neither idle or unproductive in your efforts to attain a truthful and detailed knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, for those who do not by faith seek and cultivate these same qualities, they are spiritually blind, not remembering their perfect position in Christ which freed them from the dominance of their fleshly cravings and the disobedience it produces.
In light of this, do your best to stand confidently in the fact that you have responded to Gods invitation and are now chosen in Christ, for as you, by faith, pursue and practice these virtues you cannot possibly ever fail as a believer in your efforts to please and honor God and the Lord Jesus Christ, for by this process your arrival, in heaven where Christ is King, will be richly welcomed.
Because of their importance, I am always prepared to bring to your attention these marvelous truths that you have in your possession, even though you have already been taught and firmly grounded in them. In fact, I consider it my duty as an Apostle, while I am still living in this body, to continually remind you of these things. However, it has now become obvious that my leaving this body is finally at hand, just as the Lord Jesus Christ had described to me. However I am going to do my best so you will have these things to remember at any time after I have gone.
We absolutely did not present to you a cunningly fabricated yarn stemming from our own reasoning and imaginations when we told you of the arrival and the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we saw with our own eyes His power, magnificence and majesty. For when receiving great esteem and approval from God the Father, a voice came from the great shining cloud and it said, this is my Son whom I cherish and I am delighted with Him, and being with Him, we clearly heard this voice which came from heaven on this special mountain and now the words of the Old Testament prophets have been confirmed and you would do well to carefully consider these words as a lamp shining in a murky light less place untouched by the Word of God, until which time the brilliance of Christ will shine through and become the light of your life.
Now first and foremost, understand this, that the revelations in Gods Word did not come into being by some ones own private perception of things for no prediction of future events in Scripture was ever conceived by human desires but these men, with the help of the Spirit of God, declared Gods words.
As we begin chapter 2 it is interesting to note what Peter considered the number one priority in his farewell letter. Through out chapter 1 Peter declares that Christ has provided absolutely everything we need to be triumphant in this life and he points out that by a complete and thorough knowledge of Christ and His word we can become sharers of the divine nature. He goes on to tell us that it is possible to accomplish this by implementing the extremely valuable and marvelous promises God has given us in His word. Peters challenge is to by faith in these promises, grow to the point that we can honestly and truly adjust our priorities and let the needs of others be our prime motivator. He goes on to warn us that if we are not diligent, and by faith pursue this process, we cannot free ourselves from the dominance of our fleshly natures.
He then began to bring to our attention the marvelous truths we already have in our possession. He explains that his death is eminent and apologizes for being so repetitious but insists we understand and retain these truths so that when he is gone we will be able to use them in our lives. He then relates his experience with Christ on the mount of transfiguration and explains that he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears God the Father give honor and esteem to His Son Jesus Christ and with this testimony the words of the Old Testament prophets who prophesied Christ and His sacrifice have been confirmed. Peter tells us we should treat the Word of God as a lamp shining in a place where there is no light and let the brilliance of Christ shine through in our lives. He then related to us the fact that not one single word of Scripture ever came from mans ideas or perception of things but the writers of Scripture spoke Gods words.
In chapter 2 Peter warn us of the false prophets and teachers and their methods and what they will teach in order to try and satisfy their own greed and desires.
However, just as there were lying prophets among the people in Israel there will be lying teachers among you. With subtle cunning they will introduce destructive teachings that depart from the truth, even publicly renouncing the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ paid the price for them, bringing on themselves sure indisputable judgment, and many will hear their words and will follow and conform to their erroneous teachings without shame and because of them the way of truth will be evil spoken of and ridiculed, and prompted by greed they will lie to you with carefully crafted words, taking advantage and using you for their own ends. The verdict for these teachers has long since been made and their impending judgment still awaits them and will not diminish with time.
If God did not hesitate to condemn even the angels that defied Him, but cast them down and confined them to pits of darkness to await their final sentencing, and did not spare the original world when He brought a violent and destructive flood upon its people who were living as if He didn't exist, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, and his family of eight, and if He sentenced the inhabitants of the cities of Sodom and Gomorra to destruction, turning them and their cities to ashes and appointed them to be a tragic example of what happens to the ones who scorn and mock God in unbelief, but rescued Lot, a godly man, who was concerned for himself and the safety of his family because of the totally selfish and indulgent behavior of the people of Sodom who acted with no restraint or regard for others. Being exposed to their shamelessness and lawlessness day after day, living among these Godless people was a nightmare for Lot. Clearly then, the Lord always knows when to deliver His worshipers from the ordeals of life that test their faith and is able, at the same time, to detain, in a place of torment, the unbelieving until their final sentencing. Especially those who are disciples of their fallen natures, rejecting Gods rule and, always craving to do the things that are offensive and displeasing to Him.
They despise the fact that they exist in a world which is under His authority and they show no signs of fear as they dare to vent their unrestrained rebellion at the glorious achievements of God and willfully deny and reject Him and His rule, where even angels who are inherently more able and powerful do not voice derogatory opinions against the glorious works of God.
They defame things they dont understand because of unbelief and are like animals of prey who should only be trapped and killed. They are incapable of reason living solely on the instincts they were born with. Consequently, like the creatures of prey, these who destroy, will also perish, enduring the wages of their rebellious behavior.
They think nothing of satisfying their senses and fleshly desires where all can see, living in the lap of luxury. They are moral stains and lurid imperfections, thoroughly enjoying their deceitful behavior as they mingle and sit at the table with you.
They, as offspring of the curse, have a mentality that has been raised and nurtured in greed. With thoughts constantly craving and seeking ways to be unfaithful to God, they lure away the souls of the weak and the unstable.
They having forsaken the proper and upright path for life and being motivated by selfishness, they strayed off pursuing the principles of Balaam the prophet who loved the wages of unrighteousness and received a reprimand for his illicit conduct from a beast of burden, not capable of speech, who spoke in a human voice and suppressed his irrational behavior.
These teachers are like wells without water or like thin clouds without rain, driven and tossed at the mercy of a squall. A blackness which is totally void of Gods light awaits them. They lure the ones, having just recently fled from the masses, who still live in a state of rebellion and using great swelling words, which are empty and have no substance, they only appeal to the cravings of the flesh.
They offer great and lofty words of personal freedom yet they are slaves to their rebellious flesh, the simple reason being, what ever overcomes and controls a person, by this they are enslaved, for if they having renounced the depravity and corruption of mans rebellion by understanding fully the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and do not respond in faith but return again to be overcome by the world, they are worse off after the experience than they were before, because it would have been preferable for them not to have heard the way of righteousness and to have recognized their need for it and then turn away from the Godly invitation that had been given to them. What happened to them brings out the truth of the Proverb, A dog returned to his own vomit, or the old Gentile saying, A hog that has been washed returns to roll in the filthy mud.
In a brief summary of chapter two, Peter has not been too kind to the lying or false teachers. In going through this chapter I couldnt get away from the idea that many of these descriptions seemed to describe the rebellious actions of any unbeliever who is being dominated by their fallen nature. It is something to think about anyway.
The next question that comes to mind is, how wrong do you have to be to become a false teacher? It is obvious that a believer can, by choice, put himself under the control of his old nature, but is that what Peter is pointing his finger at here in chapter two? Once a person becomes a believer they become children of God and have a heavenly Father, who is quite able to train and correct when necessary. We can then assume the ones Peter is referring to in 2:20-21 are not believers.
As you will recall we have been using the New International Version in our studies for Chapter two. I find it a little easier to use the New American Standard text in as the basis for our word studies because they seem to be aiming at a word for word translation and take less liberty with the original text in their choices of words. The NIV is great for casual reading, but is for me a little cumbersome when trying analyze the text and phrases in detail.
If you were to try to describe the purposes of the book of 2 Peter, you would most likely come up with something similar to this:
Chapter 1. Focus completely on the Word of God.
Chapter 2. Be on guard for false teachers.
Chapter 3. Christ is definitely going to return for us.
Chapter three reminds believers that no matter how long it has been or who says the Lord is dragging His feet or not coming at all, He will return. and it is safe to anticipate His coming.
Now this is the second letter I am writing to you, for you are very important to me and on whom I place great value. The purpose of both my letters has been to jar your memories and bring to light the truths proclaimed by the Prophets plus the great commandment of our Lord and Savior that has been faithfully taught to you by your Apostles.
First and always remember this, that in the final times skeptics will come, pursuing their own worldly goals, ridiculing the Scriptures saying, where is the fulfillment of the promise that He is coming, for from the beginning of creation to the time in which our forefathers died and until now, all things continue and remain the same? These critics are deliberately closing their eyes to the fact that the heavens have existed a very long time and the earth was formed by a Word from God and it consisted of water and land shaped by the water. In the same manner, the original inhabited world, having been violently inundated with water, perished and was lost. By the Word of God the present physical earth and its heavens have been reserved for fire and are being kept for the time of judgment when those who have refused Gods righteousness are sentenced and then the earth and its atmosphere will be subjected to the fire.
But, above all else, do not be unaware of this fact, that just one single day to the Lord is like a thousand years to us, and a thousand years to us is just a day to Him. The Lord is not holding off His promised return because He is indifferent toward us as some might assume, but He is very patient with us, for it is His intention that absolutely no one need be forever lost but that everyone should have a change of heart and return to Him.
For the time of the Lords rule will begin as a surprise for some and end with the earth and its heavens being removed with a sudden rushing sound and the basic structure of the earth will be set free producing intense heat and the earth and its works will be vaporized and cease to exist.
Since the destruction of all earthly things is inevitable, what kind of people should we, as believers, strive to be regarding our attitudes toward life and godly behavior, all the while anxiously longing for the arrival of the Day of God. In view of the fact that the earth and its heavens will be dissolved and melted by intense heat, we are waiting expectantly for Gods promise of a new heavens and earth, where Gods righteousness dwells.
Therefore, my dear friends, whom I cherish, focus your expectations on these things and in turn be found by Him, in peace, not tainted by the world and guiltless in His eyes and come to grips with the fact that the Lords patience in this matter is for the rescue of fallen mankind, just as our highly esteemed brother Paul also wrote to you about these things and shared with you the wisdom that was entrusted to him. As in all his letters, he speaks of these matters, some of which are not quickly nor easily understood, which the ignorant and ungrounded twist and distort as they do to the rest of the Scriptures resulting in their own downfall.
Therefore dear ones, knowing this beforehand should make you cautious of the deceptive teachings of men who have no regard for anything or anyone but themselves and in turn be deluded and lose your focus and confidence in the truths from the Word of God. Instead continue to grow, both in the grace and the knowledge of our master and redeemer, the man Jesus, Gods anointed. To Him be all our worship and praise not only today but forever.
So be it.