I had fully intended to stop our exposition of 2 Peter at chapter 2, and begin a new series this week, which I anticipate will take us through the summer, on the Sermon on the Mount. However, after some thought, I believed that this last chapter of Peter’s message really would serve in some ways to act as an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. Because at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, when the Sermon on the Mount was initially preached, it was in the context of Jesus’s preaching that the Kingdom of God had come. And so the Sermon on the Mount is really a series of admonitions for kingdom living. How to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, of course, is the Sovereign King of the Kingdom of God. And He came the first time in His incarnation as our Savior, for all who believe in Him and for all that follow Him. But Jesus repeatedly spoke of the fact that He would go away to His Father, and that He would one day come back again, this time not in salvation, but in judgment. He would come as the returning King who comes to claim His throne and rule His people in an eternal reign of righteousness. And an aspect of His reign includes the fact that the King will judge the actions of all people during His absence. Those that were obedient, faithful servants would enter into the reward of their Master. But to those who were disobedient, who disregarded His instructions, who lived for their own pleasures without regard for His teachings, then those He said will be cast into outer darkness, into the place which was made for the devil and his angels, which is the Lake of Fire.
The apostle Paul wrote of the Kingdom of God as likened to a building, what Peter called the temple of God. He is speaking metaphorically of the church, of which we who are saved are members. And Paul said that each man must build upon the right foundation. Listen to what he says in 1Cor. 3:11-15 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is [to be] revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
So I believe Peter is thinking of the consummation of the kingdom as he concludes this epistle, which was written just before his martyrdom. He knew his death was imminent, by the way. And so he wants to leave the church with the encouragement to continue in the faith, to persevere in sufferings, in persecutions, in attacks from false prophets, so that they might receive their reward when Christ returns.
Therefore he says in vs 1 that he is writing to stir them up, to cause them to remember what they have been taught, to remember what the word of God says concerning the last days, and to encourage them to live in readiness for Christ’s appearing, and to live for the glory of God.
To that end, Peter gives us five characteristics of the last days leading to the consummation of the Kingdom of God. There are five points to his message; the kingdom predicted, the kingdom scorned, the kingdom reiterated, the kingdom delayed, and the kingdom realized.
Let’s look first at the kingdom predicted. Now Peter begins as I said with an explanation of why he is writing to them again this second letter, to stir them up, to cause them to remember the word of God which promises the return of Christ to His Kingdom. And he says “that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”
First note that Peter equates the writings of the apostles with the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and the words of Christ as well. He wants to assure his listeners that they are speaking the authoritative word of God which make up the entirety of scripture.
Secondly, he is affirming that the word of God clearly states from the Old Testament through the New Testament that the Lord will return to earth in the last days in a visible, physical way. You will remember in Acts chapter 1 on the day of his ascension, when the apostles were staring up into the sky as He was ascending into heaven, that angels appeared and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Jesus spoke of His return many times, and in Matthew 24, in conjunction with His return He emphasizes that the Word of God will endure, it will come to pass without fail. Matt. 24:35-39 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
So the certainty of Christ’s return is predicted in the scriptures and it cannot fail. The King is coming again soon and He is coming in judgment. John wrote in Rev. 19:11-16 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
The second point Peter makes concerning the Kingdom of God is it will be scorned. For every message of the truth, it seems that Satan proposes at least three opposing views. In chapter 2, Peter spent the entire chapter warning about false prophets who will arise from within the church. And I think that is the source of the mockers, or scorners that he refers to in vs 3. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 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.”
I think the idea of a mocker means someone who doesn’t take the truth seriously. There are a lot of so called Christians today, that claim to believe the Bible, but deny anything that doesn’t mesh with science, or the culture, or that opposes their own view of things. They follow the reason of man. They have a humanistic world view. And so the idea of the wrath of God, or of God’s judgment against sin, is something that they try to dismiss as irrelevant or immaterial.
Notice the primary characteristic of these mockers is that they are living according to the lusts of the flesh. It’s not that the word of God fails to be convincing, it’s that they don’t want to acknowledge it because they don’t want to stop what they are doing. They love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. And so they scoff at the idea of judgment. They scoff at the idea that Christ is going to return. They scoff at God’s word.
And there is one other element of Peter’s argument that bears notice. He says they are mocking in the last days. Perhaps another way of expressing that is that they are living in the last age. The last age began with Christ’s inauguration and it concludes with Christ’s consummation of the kingdom.
On the day of Pentecost Peter was preaching after the Holy Spirit had come upon them and he quoted the prophet Joel saying in Acts 2:17, ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. ‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ And Peter said that this prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost. And the last days, or the last age continues until Christ’s return.
Next Peter presents the kingdom reiterated. Peter rebukes those mockers by reminding them of the infallibility of the word of God. Notice that Peter refers to three times that show the word of God was proven true. Look at vs 5-7 “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, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 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.”
Peter emphasizes three times in which God has spoken and it came about. In creation, God spoke the world into existence. “And God said, “let their be light, and there was light.” Another instance Peter references is the flood. God told Noah that it would rain and that He would destroy the earth. And 120 years later, true to God’s word, the world was destroyed by water. And then he affirms a third instance of God’s word, which is that the present world is being preserved by the word of God until the day He destroys in by fire.
Notice also that Peter reiterates three times that the heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire. The number three in the Bible indicates a certainty that cannot fail. He says it in vs 7, vs 10, and vs 12. Listen how each time Peter adds more description in this event. Vs 7, “The present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire.” Vs 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.” And vs 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!”
It’s ironic that the climate doomsayers are worried about sea levels rising, when in fact that’s not what God says will destroy the earth. The flood happened 5000 years ago and they don’t want to believe that, instead they want to believe another flood is coming. But God says the heavens and earth and all it’s works will be burned up with an intense heat that will actually melt the elements.
The next characteristic Peter describes is the kingdom delayed. The certainty of the day of the Lord is assured, but the critics say that all has been going along without God’s intervention for so long and so they assume that nothing is going to happen. But Peter quotes Moses who said in effect in Psalm 90, that God does not measure time the way we measure it. And in fact, the passage of time is attributed to the patience of God. Vs. 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. 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.”
So the delay in the Lord’s return is not because He has lost interest, or that He has fallen asleep and things are going to continue to go on, but God has delayed His return for our sake, that we might not perish, but come to repentance so that we might be made a part of His eternal kingdom. God is outside of time and space as we understand time. He is eternal, and what Moses and Peter are saying is that a thousand years in light of eternity is like just a day.
And I will add to that the timespan of a human life was not intended to be as it is today. And even after the fall from the Garden of Eden, until sometime after the flood, from what the Bible indicates, men lived several hundred years. Adam lived 930 years. That’s almost a thousand years. A day in God’s reckoning. And God told Adam, that in the day that he ate of the tree, he would die. God looks at time differently than we do.
And we can thank God that He does. Because that delay of God’s return is actually God’s patience towards us, that we might come to repentance and be a part of His kingdom, and have the eternal life that was originally intended for us at creation. Peter speaks of the patience of God in his first epistle, in chapter 3:20 saying, “the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”
So we can see that Peter corresponds both the first worldwide destruction and the second worldwide destruction as both operating under the same principle of God’s patience, waiting until the time had been fulfilled, until those who would turn had turned, and then His judgment falls.
The next element of the kingdom which Peter emphasizes is the kingdom realized. Vs.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.”
Jesus said in Matt. 24:42-44 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think [He will.]”
The Lord’s coming is certain, and though it seems to be delayed it is really God’s patience, and yet when you least expect it, the Lord will come again. He will come unannounced, like a thief in the night.
So Peter wants to admonish us to be ready when He comes. To be found faithful when He comes. To anticipate His coming. Vs. 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, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” The way the kingdom of God is realized is when we become citizens of the kingdom and we are living in that reality. That means that we live holy lives and live godly lives, under His authority. That is the message of sanctification that Peter started talking about in chapter one of his first epistle. Remember he quoted the Lord in chapter 1 vs 15, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
If we are truly citizens of the Kingdom of God, then we should be acting like it. And how much more knowing that Christ’s return is imminent. The second part of that admonition is that we can work to build the kingdom. We can even hurry the kingdom. We can hasten the coming of the Lord by doing what we can to bring in the lost to the kingdom. We can fight the spiritual battle to overcome the world and the kingdom of darkness. We can do that by holding high the banner of the truth of God’s word. The Bible teaches when the last person whom God has foreordained has been saved, He will return.
So the way that the kingdom of God is realized is by citizens of this world being saved, being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God. And Peter tells us what constitutes salvation. First of all, essential to the citizens of the kingdom is that they live in righteousness. Vs 13 “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Only the righteous shall enter the kingdom of God.
The only way to be made righteous in the sight of God is by faith in what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Only by faith in Christ does God transfer our sins to Christ and transfer His righteousness to us.
The next essential component of our salvation is peace with God. Vs 14 “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” Romans 5:1 says faith in Christ produces peace with God: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We who were enemies of God, who were held captive by the kingdom of darkness, have been offered peace by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and brought into His kingdom.
The other characteristic of salvation is spotless and blameless. This isn’t talking about the righteousness that comes by grace on the basis of faith, but this is talking about the process of holy living. Of crucifying the flesh and it’s lusts and living in the Spirit. It’s talking about a purified, sanctified life. The apostle John says in 1John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” So he is talking about a life of sanctification.
And then he says in vs.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, 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.”
Now in regards to the patience of God what has Peter already said? He said it was to bring you to repentance. And so in this verse he says regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, I believe that repentance is an ongoing aspect of the Christian life. We are to walk in holiness, but when we sin, to recognize it and repent of it, and then go on following the Lord. That is the process of sanctification. And that process of sanctification has inherent in it the aspect of growing in spiritual maturity. And Peter references that in vs.18 “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Grow in maturity. Grow in the spiritual life that God has given us. Grow in your responsibility as a faithful steward of the Kingdom of God. And conjointly, grow in knowledge of Christ. Study His word. Fellowship with His people. Practice what He taught.
In vs 17 Peter gives us one last warning about unprincipled men, who twist the scriptures, who deceive the church for their own advantage, and Peter says beware lest they carry you away in their error and cause you to fall in your own steadfastness. Perseverance and standing firm is the integral stance of the Christian in the face of apostasy. Be aware of the devil’s schemes to defraud you of your prize, through false teaching and living according to the world’s lusts.
So in closing, since the Lord is coming back soon, and the Lord will judge his people, Peter says let us live for His glory. There is an old adage my mother wrote in her Bible years ago; Only one life will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last. This world and all it’s works will one day be burned up. Why do you labor so much for things that are temporary? Let us hasten the day of the Lord and the kingdom of God, and live for the glory of our King.