|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-4 The purified minds of Christians are to be stirred up, that they may be active and lively in the work of holiness. There will be scoffers in the last days, under the gospel, men who make light of sin, and mock at salvation by Jesus Christ. One very principal article of our faith refers to what only has a promise to rest upon, and scoffers will attack it till our Lord is come. They will not believe that he will come. Because they see no changes, therefore they fear not God, Ps 55:19. What he never has done, they fancy he never can do, or never will do.
Verse 4. - And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? (comp. Malachi 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment?"). The Lord had prophesied of his coming; St. Paul had spoken more than once as if that coming were very near at hand (1 Corinthians 15:51; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). Yet he came not. Already men were beginning to mock, and to question whether the long-delayed promise would ever be fulfilled. For since the fathers fell asleep; better, from the day that. By "the fathers" must be meant here the fathers of the Christian Church. St. Peter was writing more than thirty years after the Ascension. The first generation of Christians was rapidly passing away. Stephen "fell asleep" first, then James the son of Zebedee, the other James the Lord's brother, and many others who had looked, it may be, to see the coming of the Lord among those "which are alive and remain" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But they had died, and he came not; and from the day of their death things went on as they were. Should men look for him still, the mockers asked, when the fathers looked in vain? The mockers adopted, in mockery, doubtless, the Christian phrase for death. The Lord first had said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ;" then the holy Stephen "fell asleep;" and so "they which are asleep" became the recognized name for the dead in Christ. Death is like sleep; the holy dead rest from their labours. They "sleep not idly," for they are at home with the Lord, and they are blessed; but yet the quiet rest of Paradise, though "far better" than this earthly life, is sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, which the redeemed of the Lord shall enjoy at last in his eternal glory. All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation; literally, all things continue thus, as they are, and as they have been from the beginning. There has been no sudden catastrophe; the world has gone on as it was; the laws of nature are still working with their changeless uniformity" (see a remarkable parallel in Clement, I, 23, which is important also as an independent proof that this argument of the scoffers is as old as the end of the first century).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?.... That is, of the coming of the Lord and Saviour, 2 Peter 3:2; the object of their scorn and derision, and whom they name not, through contempt; and the meaning is, what is become of the promise of his coming? where the accomplishment of it? The prophets foretold he would come; he himself said he would come again, John 14:3; the angels, at his ascension, declared he would come from heaven in like manner as he went up, Acts 1:11; and all his apostles gave out that he would appear a second time to judge both quick and dead, Acts 10:42 1 Peter 4:5, and that his coming was at hand, Philippians 4:5; but where is the fulfilment of all this? he is not come, nor is there any sign or likelihood of it:
for since the fathers fell asleep; or "died": which is the language of the Scriptures, and here sneered at by these men, who believe them so fast asleep as never to be awaked or raised more; and by "the fathers" they mean the first inhabitants of the world, as Adam, Abel, Seth, &c. and all the patriarchs and prophets in all ages; the Ethiopic version renders it, "our first fathers":
all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation; reasoning from the settled order of things, the constant revolution of the sun, moon, and stars, the permanency of the earth, and the succession of the inhabitants of it, to the future continuance of things, without any alteration; and consequently, that Christ would not come, as was promised, to raise the dead, judge mankind destroy the world, and set up a new state of things: the fallacy of which reasoning is exposed by the apostle in the following words.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. (Compare Ps 10:11; 73:11.) Presumptuous skepticism and lawless lust, setting nature and its so-called laws above the God of nature and revelation, and arguing from the past continuity of nature's phenomena that there can be no future interruption to them, was the sin of the antediluvians, and shall be that of the scoffers in the last days.
Where—implying that it ought to have taken place before this, if ever it was to take place, but that it never will.
the promise—which you, believers, are so continually looking for the fulfilment of (2Pe 3:13). What becomes of the promise which you talk so much of?
his—Christ's; the subject of prophecy from the earliest days.
the fathers—to whom the promise was made, and who rested all their hopes on it.
all things—in the natural world; skeptics look not beyond this.
as they were—continue as they do; as we see them to continue. From the time of the promise of Christ's coming as Saviour and King being given to the fathers, down to the present time, all things continue, and have continued, as they now are, from "the beginning of creation." The "scoffers" here are not necessarily atheists, nor do they maintain that the world existed from eternity. They are willing to recognize a God, but not the God of revelation. They reason from seeming delay against the fulfilment of God's word at all.
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