Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
2Pe 3:1-18. Sureness of Christ's Coming, and Its Accompaniments, Declared in Opposition to Scoffers about to Arise. God's Long Suffering a Motive to Repentance, as Paul's Epistles Set Forth; Concluding Exhortation to Growth in the Knowledge of Christ.
1. now—"This now a second Epistle I write." Therefore he had lately written the former Epistle. The seven Catholic Epistles were written by James, John, and Jude, shortly before their deaths; previously, while having the prospect of being still for some time alive, they felt it less necessary to write [Bengel].
unto you—The Second Epistle, though more general in its address, yet included especially the same persons as the First Epistle was particularly addressed to.
pure—literally, "pure when examined by sunlight"; "sincere." Adulterated with no error. Opposite to "having the understanding darkened." Alford explains, The mind, will, and affection, in relation to the outer world, being turned to God [the Sun of the soul], and not obscured by fleshly and selfish regards.
by way of—Greek, "in," "in putting you in remembrance" (2Pe 1:12, 13). Ye already know (2Pe 3:3); it is only needed that I remind you (Jude 5).
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
2. prophets—of the Old Testament.
of us—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "And of the commandment of the Lord and Saviour (declared) by YOUR apostles" (so "apostle of the Gentiles," Ro 11:13)—the apostles who live among you in the present time, in contrast to the Old Testament "prophets."
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
3. Knowing this first—from the word of the apostles.
shall come—Their very scoffing shall confirm the truth of the prediction.
scoffers—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate add, "(scoffers) in (that is, 'with') scoffing." As Re 14:2, "harping with harps."
walking after their own lusts—(2Pe 2:10; Jude 16, 18). Their own pleasure is their sole law, unrestrained by reverence for God.
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
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.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
5. Refutation of their scoffing from Scripture history.
willingly—wilfully; they do not wish to know. Their ignorance is voluntary.
they … are ignorant of—in contrast to 2Pe 3:8, "Be not ignorant of this." Literally, in both verses, "This escapes THEIR notice (sagacious philosophers though they think themselves)"; "let this not escape YOUR notice." They obstinately shut their eyes to the Scripture record of the creation and the deluge; the latter is the very parallel to the coming judgment by fire, which Jesus mentions, as Peter doubtless remembered.
by the word of God—not by a fortuitous concurrence of atoms [Alford].
of old—Greek, "from of old"; from the first beginning of all things. A confutation of their objection, "all things continue as they were FROM THE BEGINNING OF CREATION." Before the flood, the same objection to the possibility of the flood might have been urged with the same plausibility: The heavens (sky) and earth have been FROM OF OLD, how unlikely then that they should not continue so! But, replies Peter, the flood came in spite of their reasonings; so will the conflagration of the earth come in spite of the "scoffers" of the last days, changing the whole order of things (the present "world," or as Greek means, "order"), and introducing the new heavens and earth (2Pe 3:13).
earth standing out of—Greek, "consisting of," that is, "formed out of the water." The waters under the firmament were at creation gathered together into one place, and the dry land emerged out of and above, them.
in, &c.—rather, "by means of the water," as a great instrument (along with fire) in the changes wrought on the earth's surface to prepare it for man. Held together BY the water. The earth arose out of the water by the efficacy of the water itself [Tittmann].
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
6. Whereby—Greek, "By which" (plural). By means of which heavens and earth (in respect to the WATERS which flowed together from both) the then world perished (that is, in respect to its occupants, men and animals, and its then existing order: not was annihilated); for in the flood "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" from the earth (1) below, and "the windows of heaven" (2) above "were opened." The earth was deluged by that water out of which it had originally risen.
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
7. (Compare Job 28:5, end).
which are now—"the postdiluvian visible world." In contrast to "that then was," 2Pe 3:6.
the same—Other oldest manuscripts read, "His" (God's).
kept in store—Greek, "treasured up."
reserved—"kept." It is only God's constantly watchful providence which holds together the present state of things till His time for ending it.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
8. be not ignorant—as those scoffers are (2Pe 3:5). Besides the refutation of them (2Pe 3:5-7) drawn from the history of the deluge, here he adds another (addressed more to believers than to the mockers): God's delay in fulfilling His promise is not, like men's delays, owing to inability or fickleness in keeping His word, but through "long-suffering."
this one thing—as the consideration of chief importance (Lu 10:42).
one day … thousand years—(Ps 90:4): Moses there says, Thy eternity, knowing no distinction between a thousand years and a day, is the refuge of us creatures of a day. Peter views God's eternity in relation to the last day: that day seems to us, short-lived beings, long in coming, but with the Lord the interval is irrespective of the idea of long or short. His eternity exceeds all measures of time: to His divine knowledge all future things are present: His power requires not long delays for the performance of His work: His long-suffering excludes all impatient expectation and eager haste, such as we men feel. He is equally blessed in one day and in a thousand years. He can do the work of a thousand years in one day: so in 2Pe 3:9 it is said, "He is not slack," that is, "slow": He has always the power to fulfil His "promise."
thousand years as one day—No delay which occurs is long to God: as to a man of countless riches, a thousand guineas are as a single penny. God's �onologe (eternal-ages measurer) differs wholly from man's horologe (hour-glass). His gnomon (dial-pointer) shows all the hours at once in the greatest activity and in perfect repose. To Him the hours pass away, neither more slowly, nor more quickly, than befits His economy. There is nothing to make Him need either to hasten or delay the end. The words, "with the Lord" (Ps 90:4, "In Thy sight"), silence all man's objections on the ground of his incapability of understanding this [Bengel].
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
9. slack—slow, tardy, late; exceeding the due time, as though that time were already come. Heb 10:37, "will not tarry."
his promise—which the scoffers cavil at. 2Pe 3:4, "Where is the promise?" It shall be surely fulfilled "according to His promise" (2Pe 3:13).
count—His promise to be the result of "slackness" (tardiness).
long-suffering—waiting until the full number of those appointed to "salvation" (2Pe 3:15) shall be completed.
to us-ward—The oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac, &c., read, "towards YOU."
any—not desiring that any, yea, even that the scoffers, should perish, which would be the result if He did not give space for repentance.
come—go and be received to repentance: the Greek implies there is room for their being received to repentance (compare Greek, Mr 2:2; Joh 8:37).
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
10. The certainty, suddenness, and concomitant effects, of the coming of the day of the Lord. Faber argues from this that the millennium, &c., must precede Christ's literal coming, not follow it. But "the day of the Lord" comprehends the whole series of events, beginning with the pre-millennial advent, and ending with the destruction of the wicked, and final conflagration, and general judgment (which last intervenes between the conflagration and the renovation of the earth).
will—emphatical. But (in spite of the mockers, and notwithstanding the delay) come and be present the day of the Lord SHALL.
as a thief—Peter remembers and repeats his Lord's image (Lu 12:39, 41) used in the conversation in which he took a part; so also Paul (1Th 5:2) and John (Re 3:3; 16:15).
the heavens—which the scoffers say' shall "continue" as they are (2Pe 3:4; Mt 24:35; Re 21:1).
with a great noise—with a rushing noise, like that of a whizzing arrow, or the crash of a devouring flame.
elements—the component materials of the world [Wahl]. However, as "the works" in the earth are mentioned separately from "the earth," so it is likely by "elements," mentioned after "the heavens," are meant "the works therein," namely, the sun, moon, and stars (as Theophilus of Antioch [p. 22, 148, 228]; and Justin Martyr [Apology, 2.44], use the word "elements"): these, as at creation, so in the destruction of the world, are mentioned [Bengel]. But as "elements" is not so used in Scripture Greek, perhaps it refers to the component materials of "the heavens," including the heavenly bodies; it clearly belongs to the former clause, "the heavens," not to the following, "the earth," &c.
melt—be dissolved, as in 2Pe 3:11.
the works … therein—of nature and of art.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
11. Your duty, seeing that this is so, is to be ever eagerly expecting the day of God.
then—Some oldest manuscripts substitute "thus" for "then": a happy refutation of the "thus" of the scoffers, 2Pe 3:4 (English Version, "As they were," Greek, "thus").
shall be—Greek, "are being (in God's appointment, soon to be fulfilled) dissolved"; the present tense implying the certainty as though it were actually present.
what manner of men—exclamatory. How watchful, prayerful, zealous!
to be—not the mere Greek substantive verb of existence (einai), but (huparchein) denoting a state or condition in which one is supposed to be [Tittmann]. What holy men ye ought to be found to be, when the event comes! This is "the holy commandment" mentioned in 2Pe 3:2.
conversation … godliness—Greek, plural: behaviors (towards men), godlinesses (or pieties towards God) in their manifold modes of manifestation.
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
12. hasting unto—with the utmost eagerness desiring [Wahl], praying for, and contemplating, the coming Saviour as at hand. The Greek may mean "hastening (that is, urging onward [Alford]) the day of God"; not that God's eternal appointment of the time is changeable, but God appoints us as instruments of accomplishing those events which must be first before the day of God can come. By praying for His coming, furthering the preaching of the Gospel for a witness to all nations, and bringing in those whom "the long-suffering of God" waits to save, we hasten the coming of the day of God. The Greek verb is always in New Testament used as neuter (as English Version here), not active; but the Septuagint uses it actively. Christ says, "Surely I come quickly. Amen." Our part is to speed forward this consummation by praying, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Re 22:20).
the coming—Greek, "presence" of a person: usually, of the Saviour.
the day of God—God has given many myriads of days to men: one shall be the great "day of God" Himself.
wherein—rather as Greek, "on account of (or owing to) which" day.
heavens—the upper and lower regions of the sky.
melt—Our igneous rocks show that they were once in a liquid state.
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
13. Nevertheless—"But": in contrast to the destructive effects of the day of God stand its constructive effects. As the flood was the baptism of the earth, eventuating in a renovated earth, partially delivered from "the curse," so the baptism with fire shall purify the earth so as to be the renovated abode of regenerated man, wholly freed from the curse.
his promise—(Isa 65:17; 66:22). The "we" is not emphatical as in English Version.
new heavens—new atmospheric heavens surrounding the renovated earth.
righteousness—dwelleth in that coming world as its essential feature, all pollutions having been removed.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
14. that ye … be found of him—"in His sight" [Alford], at His coming; plainly implying a personal coming.
without spot—at the coming marriage feast of the Lamb, in contrast to 2Pe 2:13, "Spots they are and blemishes while they feast," not having on the King's pure wedding garment.
blameless—(1Co 1:8; Php 1:10; 1Th 3:13; 5:23).
in peace—in all its aspects, towards God, your own consciences, and your fellow men, and as its consequence eternal blessedness: "the God of peace" will effect this for you.
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
15. account … the long-suffering … is salvation—is designed for the salvation of those yet to be gathered into the Church: whereas those scoffers "count it (to be the result of) slackness" on the Lord's part (2Pe 3:9).
our beloved brother Paul—a beautiful instance of love and humility. Peter praises the very Epistles which contain his condemnation.
according to the wisdom given unto him—adopting Paul's own language, 1Co 3:10, "According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise master-builder." Supernatural and inspired wisdom "GIVEN" him, not acquired in human schools of learning.
hath written—Greek aorist, "wrote," as a thing wholly past: Paul was by this time either dead, or had ceased to minister to them.
to you—Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, the same region as Peter addresses. Compare "in peace," 2Pe 3:14, a practical exhibition of which Peter now gives in showing how perfectly agreeing Paul (who wrote the Epistle to the Galatians) and he are, notwithstanding the event recorded (Ga 2:11-14). Col 3:4 refers to Christ's second coming. The Epistle to the Hebrews, too (addressed not only to the Palestinian, but also secondarily to the Hebrew Christians everywhere), may be referred to, as Peter primarily (though not exclusively) addresses in both Epistles the Hebrew Christians of the dispersion (see on 1Pe 1:1). Heb 9:27, 28; 10:25, 37, "speak of these things" (2Pe 3:16) which Peter has been handling, namely, the coming of the day of the Lord, delayed through His "long-suffering," yet near and sudden.
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
16. also in all his epistles—Ro 2:4 is very similar to 2Pe 3:15, beginning. The Pauline Epistles were by this time become the common property of all the churches. The "all" seems to imply they were now completed. The subject of the Lord's coming is handled in 1Th 4:13; 5:11; compare 2Pe 3:10 with 1Th 5:2. Still Peter distinguishes Paul's Epistle, or Epistles, "TO YOU," from "all his (other) Epistles," showing that certain definite churches, or particular classes of believers, are meant by "you."
in which—Epistles. The oldest manuscripts read the feminine relative (hais); not as Received Text (hois), "in which things."
some things hard to be understood—namely, in reference to Christ's coming, for example, the statements as to the man of sin and the apostasy, before Christ's coming. "Paul seemed thereby to delay Christ's coming to a longer period than the other apostles, whence some doubted altogether His coming" [Bengel]. Though there be some things hard to be understood, there are enough besides, plain, easy, and sufficient for perfecting the man of God. "There is scarce anything drawn from the obscure places, but the same in other places may be found most plain" [Augustine]. It is our own prejudice, foolish expectations, and carnal fancies, that make Scripture difficult [Jeremy Taylor].
unlearned—Not those wanting human learning are meant, but those lacking the learning imparted by the Spirit. The humanly learned have been often most deficient in spiritual learning, and have originated many heresies. Compare 2Ti 2:23, a different Greek word, "unlearned," literally, "untutored." When religion is studied as a science, nothing is more abstruse; when studied in order to know our duty and practice it, nothing is easier.
unstable—not yet established in what they have learned; shaken by every seeming difficulty; who, in perplexing texts, instead of waiting until God by His Spirit makes them plain in comparing them with other Scriptures, hastily adopt distorted views.
wrest—strain and twist (properly with a hand screw) what is straight in itself (for example, 2Ti 2:18).
other scriptures—Paul's Epistles were, therefore, by this time, recognized in the Church, as "Scripture": a term never applied in any of the fifty places where it occurs, save to the Old and New Testament sacred writings. Men in each Church having miraculous discernment of spirits would have prevented any uninspired writing from being put on a par with the Old Testament word of God; the apostles' lives also were providentially prolonged, Paul's and Peter's at least to thirty-four years after Christ's resurrection, John's to thirty years later, so that fraud in the canon is out of question. The three first Gospels and Acts are included in "the other Scriptures," and perhaps all the New Testament books, save John and Revelation, written later.
unto their own destruction—not through Paul's fault (2Pe 2:1).
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
17. Ye—warned by the case of those "unlearned and unstable" persons (2Pe 3:16).
knowing … before—the event.
led away with—the very term, as Peter remembers, used by Paul of Barnabas' being "carried," Greek, "led away with" Peter and the other Jews in their hypocrisy.
wicked—"lawless," as in 2Pe 2:7.
fall from—(grace, Ga 5:4: the true source of) "steadfastness" or stability in contrast with the "unstable" (2Pe 3:16): "established" (2Pe 1:12): all kindred Greek terms. Compare Jude 20, 21.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
18. grow—Not only do not "fall from" (2Pe 3:17), but grow onward: the true secret of not going backward. Eph 4:15, "Grow up into Him, the Head, Christ."
grace and … knowledge of … Christ—"the grace and knowledge of Christ" [Alford rightly]: the grace of which Christ is the author, and the knowledge of which Christ is the object.
for ever—Greek, "to the day of eternity": the day that has no end: "the day of the Lord," beginning with the Lord's coming.