DAY ONE: BELIEVERS AWAIT CHRIST’S RETURN.
This week we come to the third and final chapter of 2 Peter. Peter has encouraged, warned and now he gives hope. He encouraged us to be sure of our salvation, warned that deniers were dangerous and in this last portion of his letter, he gives us the great and marvelous hope that Christ is coming again! As we study this week, Peter will give us truths about the reality of Christ’s return and how this certainty should influence and change us.
READ: 2 Peter 3:1-2
Peter has just finished writing about the false prophets’ corrupt character, their unholy conduct and the lies they preach. In contrast, he wants his readers to remember what the holy prophets and apostles spoke and wrote about. The certainty of Christs’ return in glory was very likely one of the truths the false teachers denied and refuted. Peter gives three reasons why they can trust in the reality of Jesus’ return: the Old Testament prophets predicted it, the apostles wrote about it and Jesus himself promised it. The Bible is consistent when it comes to this truth. The Old Testament prophets, the New Testament writings of the apostles and Jesus’ spoken words all agree on the sure return of Christ and the coming judgment.
The Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning this judgment day when Christ returns in glory to set up his kingdom. They refer to it as the Day of the Lord. In fact, Jude 14-15 tell us that God was warning of this future time as far back as the days of Enoch, which were pre-flood. (Genesis 5:18-24) The New Testament writers also agree and teach that Christ is coming back. There are over 300 references to Christ’s second coming written in 260 chapters of the NT. The Apostle Paul wrote about Christ’s return in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and John described it in detail in the book of Revelation. But perhaps the most convincing, and to Peter the most memorable, is that Jesus himself promised he would return.
READ: Matthew 16:21-23; John 14:1-4 and Acts 1:6-11
Peter spent three years following Jesus, listening to him preach and teach, and witnessing him perform countless miracles. There was never a time Jesus failed to do exactly what he said he was going to do. Never!! If Jesus said something was going to happen, it did, without fail. If Jesus said he could do something, he did it, period. Jesus never uttered a lie, never misled and never deceived anyone. He was always true to his word. There are few times we can use the absolutes, always and never, and be correct but thankfully, in this case we can. Jesus NEVER says what he doesn’t mean and ALWAYS does everything he says.
When Jesus predicted his death, Peter experienced Jesus’ strong rebuke when he tried to dissuade him. Peter was acting as Satan’s stumbling block. He had to learn that Jesus meant what he said and said what he means. Jesus said he was going to be killed and be raised on the third day and that is exactly what happened. Peter learned countless times over that Jesus spoken words always came to fruition.
Jesus had said, before his death, that he would go away but would come back to take his followers to the place he had prepared for them. Peter heard him speak those comforting words. He was there after the resurrection when Jesus ascended into heaven in the clouds. He saw the angels and heard their pronunciation that Jesus would return the same way he left. Jesus said he was coming back and Peter knew that someday it would happen just as Jesus said it would.
It is hard for us to comprehend such faithfulness to the words we hear or speak. We have made promises that we have not fulfilled and others have let us down by the vows they have failed to keep. But that is not the case with Jesus and Peter knew it. As Peter wrote this letter, he was most likely in a Roman prison. He was jailed because of his testimony about Jesus Christ. But even locked up and behind bars he was still looking for Christ’s sure return. Jesus said it, so for Peter it was as good as accomplished.
- Read Daniel 7:13-14; Joel 2:30-32; Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 14:3-9;Malachi 4:1-2 How does the OT describe Christ’s return?
- Matthew 24:30-31; Luke 21:25-28; l Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 What do Jesus and Paul have to say about the second coming?
- 1 Peter 1:23-25 Quoting Isaiah, what does Peter say about God’s word?
DAY TWO: UNBELIEVERS WILL DENY CHRIST’S RETURN.
In light of Christ’s sure return, Peter writes that there are several realities that his readers need to be aware of. The first reality is that unbelievers will scoff at the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming.
READ: 2 Peter 3:3-7
Peter tells his readers to “understand that in the last days scoffers will come.” The ‘last days’ refers to the time between Christ’s first and second advents. We are living in the last days, as was Peter. The false teachers scoffed at the promise of Christ’s return and they are still mocking it today. They mock thinking the Lord won’t or can’t return because everything continues the same as it has since the beginning. This is known as the theory of uniformitarianism. This geologic theory states what was observed in the past can be expected in the future. They see the world and all the cycles of life continuing to operate uniformly as they always have so there is no reason to think it will ever end. This thinking rules out divine intervention and the power and authority of God to change life as we know it in an instant.
In his letter Peter consistently reminds his readers to diligently remember. However, these scoffers deliberately forget. They forget that God purposefully intervened before and will do so again. Peter cites two cataclysmic events to prove his point, the creation and the flood. At creation, God stepped into nothingness and by his word, spoke everything into existence. And it is by his word alone, that he holds the whole world together. The irony of belief in the theory of uniformitarianism is that God alone set the world and natural processes in place and it is only by his will that they continue, day after day, year after year. He started it all in motion and by his grace, allows it to continue.
God not only divinely intervened to create; he also divinely intervened to destroy. Peter tells us to again remember the flood. God interrupted the course of human history and sent a devastating flood to judge and destroy all mankind. If God did it once, he certainly can and will do it again when he returns to earth for the second time. God set his rainbow in the clouds promising to never again destroy the earth by water but he will again destroy it. Peter reveals the second destruction will be by fire, the fire of God’s all-consuming judgement. Scoffers can laugh now but one day they will mourn. When Jesus returns for the second time, not as a suffering servant but as the conquering King, he will judge them for their ungodliness and unbelief forever silencing their scoffing tongues.
Peter gave us these two examples to prove his point; God will once again step into time and alter the course of history. He did it before and he will do it again. Jesus will return; it is not a matter of if, but when, and only God knows the set time.
- Read Genesis 2:1-2; Jonah 1:17; Matthew 1:20-22; John 14:6; and Hebrews 9:27 What other Biblical truths do unbelievers laugh at?
- Read John 1:2; Colossians 1:15-17; and Genesis 8:21-22 What does the Bible say about creation?
- Read Psalm 2 Who has a right to laugh and what does he laugh at? How does this truth give you comfort and hope?
DAY THREE: BELIEVERS ACCEPT GOD’S TIMING.
Peter now addresses a logical question that comes to mind. If Christ’s coming is so certain, then why the delay? What is taking him so long? Peter gives us the second reality of Jesus’ sure return; scoffers not only laugh at it, but we must wait for it.
READ: 2 Peter 3:8-10
Peter gives us two reasons we must wait for it and they both have to do with the character of God. The first reason is God is eternal. Unlike humanity, God has no beginning or ending. Man is mortal but God is immortal. Man is finite but God is infinite. Therefore, God counts time differently than we do. We see time against time; past, present and future. It’s all we know. We are born into time and live our lives against time. God, however, sees time against eternity. God created time. He works in time but is not limited by time. Peter tells us that what seems like a long time to us is actually very short to the Lord. In our thinking, it has been 2000 years since Christ’s first advent but in God’s mind, it has only been two days. With the understanding of God’s eternality, Peter explains it may seem like Christ’s return is a long time in coming but it is in fact to God just a few short days.
The second reason we must wait for Christ’s Second Coming is that God is patient. We must wait because God is willing to wait. God is incredibly patient and longsuffering, giving people ample time to repent and find salvation. In the face of endless godlessness and sin, he has an immense ability to wait before he brings the promised and deserved judgment. He is not unable to act in judgment, but he is unwilling that any should miss out on his grace and mercy. He is on his time schedule, not ours. According to Wiersbe he is “never in a hurry but he is never late.”1
It must be noted, that Peter is not teaching universalism or universal salvation – the belief that everyone will be saved in the end. That idea is inconsistent with the truth found and taught by the Bible, God’s word. It is God’s desire for all to be saved but he knows many will reject his son’s atoning work on the cross. God is merciful and will patiently wait until every person who is going to be saved will come to Christ in belief. God is patient, but he is certainly coming.
Peter does not want us to be lulled into thinking God’s patience is unending. God is patient but one day his patience will end and Christ will return. We are not told when it will happen, but Peter clearly tells us what will happen. The Lord’s return will be “like a thief.” It will be surprising, unexpected, sudden and catastrophic. Peter once again writes that all of the known earth will be completely consumed by fire. Everything will be destroyed by fire and burned to ashes. This is a sobering truth. In light of the certainty and suddenness of Christ’s return, we should not grow comfortable and complacent but should be constantly prepared. When Christ comes again, we may be unaware but we should not be unprepared.
- Read Psalm 90:4 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4 How do these passages agree with Peter’s writing?
- Read Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39-40, and l Thessalonians 5:2-3 What do these passages say about Christ’s return?
- What do you need to do to be prepared for Jesus’ Return?
DAY FOUR: BELIEVERS WORK WHILE WAITING & WATCHING.
Peter has assured his readers that their hope in Christ’s Second Coming is not in vain. Christ will one day -certainly return. He has also confirmed that it is taking a long time. Though Jesus’ coming is certain, we must wait. Now he answers the next logical question, how should we wait? What should we be doing while we wait? The third reality of our Lord’s sure return is we need to be active while we wait, and that involves two things, watching and working.
READ: 2 Peter 3:11-16
One of the ways we actively wait is to be expectantly watching. In these verses, Peter uses a key phrase. Three times he tells us to “look forward to”. The idea is to wait eagerly and watch expectantly. Our attitude should be one of expectation and excitement as we anticipate the day of Christ’s return. We should not fear it but hope for it. And as we watch expectantly, we need to be preparing diligently. We do this by living holy and godly lives. For the third time in this chapter, Peter emphasizes the total destruction of the current cosmos by fire. Everything on earth will be destroyed. All of man’s great accomplishments and achievements will be gone. The destruction of the current earth will usher in God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth where God will reign supreme. Only what has eternal value will last. This should make a difference in our personal conduct. The knowledge that Jesus will one day suddenly return and the earth will be destroyed, should cause us to actively watch and be prepared by living our lives for God and not the world.
Actively waiting also includes persistently working. He writes “we are to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” Peter tells us to “make every effort” – a phrase he used earlier in chapter one. It invokes the idea of hard work, diligence and maximum energy. We are to consciously and continuously work hard in our Christian faith right up to the day when the Lord returns. Praying, confessing, obeying, trusting, reading and studying God’s Word are all qualities that should be exhibited and growing in our daily walk until the very end. Our goal should be to make every effort to become more and more like Christ so we are unashamed at his return.
Peter specifically exhorts us to actively work at witnessing. Peter seems to single out this important work by once again reminding us of the Lord’s patience. He makes the same point in verse 15 as he did previously in verse 9. God’s procrastination is not negative inaction but rather a deliberate demonstration of his immense long-suffering on the behalf of unbelievers. Our goal and focus as Christians should be to live lives that reflect God’s grace and mercy. We need to be motivated to do all we can to win the lost. We are called to be faithful witnesses to a lost and dying world by exhibiting Christ’s love through our words, actions, and attitudes.
Peter mentions Paul and the letters he has written. He confirms the writings of Paul are full of Godly wisdom and are authentically scripture. This is important because Paul’s letters have so much to say about God’s plan of salvation and Christ’s return to earth. The writing of both Peter and Paul, apostles of Jesus Christ, are in complete agreement. Christ is coming so we must be working.
An engaged bride eagerly waits for her special day to arrive. But as she waits, she is active, diligently preparing. She is excited, expectant, and anticipating her big day. She’s working hard, doing everything possible to be prepared when the time comes. And when the day finally arrives, she is ready to meet her groom. We should be doing the same; actively waiting for Christ’s return by watching and working. May Jesus find us ready when he comes.
- Skim Matthew 25. Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-13 How do these three parables teach us to be watching and working? From the above two passages, what rewards are in store for those who faithfully watch and work?
- Read Titus 2:12-13 What does this teach about how we should be living while we wait?
DAY FIVE: BELIEVERS GUARD & GROW WHILE WAITING.
We’ve come to our last day and the conclusion of our study of Peter’s second letter. In these concluding two verses, he leaves us with two admonitions we are to put into practice while we patiently but actively wait for Christ’s return to earth. We are to be guarding and growing.
READ: 2 Peter 3:17-18
For the fourth time in this chapter, Peter addresses his readers as “dear friends.” This is a very personal letter showing he cares deeply for the recipients. Because Peter does care, he wants them to understand how important it is to take these admonitions seriously. Peter writes “you already know this” which in the literal Greek is one long word, proginoskontes, from which we get the English word prognosis. It is as if Peter is saying – if you don’t heed my warning, this is the prognosis or outcome of your behavior. We would say ‘don’t say I didn’t warn you’! If they ignore Peter’s warning, there is sure to be trouble ahead.
He cautions them to “be on guard” so they are not influenced and led astray by sinful, wicked men. Earlier, he had written extensively about the presence and danger of false teachers, but knowledge alone is not enough. We need to not only be aware of this danger but constantly be on guard against it. We need to aggressively guard truth against error. False teachers will try to break down the line of separation between truth and error. But the line must not be blurred. There must be a clear distinction between the lies false teachers promote and the truth of the Bible. If something is 95% true, it is still a lie. There must be no compromise with the truth of God’s Word, ever! Peter tells us to be on guard to protect the purity and integrity of God’s true Word.
If we carelessly let down our guard, ignoring Peter’s warning then we can “fall from our secure position.” True believers can never lose their secure standing in Christ but we can lose our secure position becoming unstable in our thinking and actions. We must stay vigilant, maintaining our steadfast, firm confidence in the truth and stability of God’s true Word. And we do this by following Peter’s next admonition.
Peter exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The verb ‘grow’ is written in the present imperative tense, meaning our growth is to be continual. Just as we were to be constantly on guard, we are to be constantly growing. Our spiritual growth should be in a consistent state of development, never stagnant or in decline. And we are to grow in both grace and knowledge. Growing in grace means to be always experiencing, learning about and sharing with others the amazing grace and unmerited favor of Jesus Christ. Our growth in grace should be continual as we experience God’s grace on a daily basis, in every situation of life. And as we grow in grace, we simultaneously grow in knowledge as well. This is not just any knowledge but knowledge in Jesus Christ. As we grow in grace, we can’t help but deepen our knowledge of the giver of all grace, Jesus Christ. Peter experienced this abundant grace so his last sentence is a benediction of praise, honor and glory to Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior. As we grow in our experience and knowledge of Jesus Christ and his grace, may our response be one of praise as well. To God alone be all the glory!
- Read Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 21:23; Luke 12:1,15; l Corinthians 16:13; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 1 Peter 5:8-9 What should we guard carefully and what should we guard against?
- Read Romans 6:14; 2 Corinthians 8:7,12:9; Colossians 4:6; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 13:9; James 4:6; 1 Peter 4:10 In what situations do we need God’s grace? In which of these areas do you need to grow in grace?
- What has God taught you through your study of 2 Peter? How will you begin to apply what you have learned?
Peter’s message is as applicable to us today in the 21st century as it was to his readers in the 1st century. Two thousand years have passed and yet the urgency remains. Believers still need absolute assurance that their salvation is secure. There are still false teachers who distort God’s truth and lead many astray. And we are still looking up awaiting Christ’s sure return. Let us take heart in Peter’s encouragement and be assured of our salvation in Christ. Let us take his warning seriously and be consistently on the lookout for error, always comparing any man’s teaching with the irrefutability of God’s true Word. And finally, may we be ever hopeful and watchful as we patiently yet actively wait for the sure and certain return of Christ. Peter’s final letter teaches us that Christian maturity leads to doctrinal stability which prevents being led astray into dangerous apostasy. As confident Christians, sure of our salvation, we can defend truth as we actively wait for the Lord’s return. That is the final message Peter wanted to leave with his beloved readers and to us as well.
1. Wiesrbe, Warren The Wierbe Bible Commentary David C. Cook Publishers, 2007 p. 952
MacArthur, John The MacArthur Bible Commentary Thomas Nelson Publications, 2005
Pfeiffer, Charles F., Everett F. Harrison The Wycliffe Bible Commentary Moody Press, 1962
Walvoord, John F.; Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary SP Publications, 1983
Wiersbe, Warren W., The Wiersbe Bible Commentary David C. Cook Publications, 2007