In our last lesson Peter taught us to look at the character of false teachers. Do not just simply look at their words but also consider their actions, lifestyle, and character. These false teachers were claiming that there is not a second coming of Jesus and there is not a final judgment. Peter wants to address these false teachings one more time.
Second Letter & Reminder (1-2)
1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, (ESV)
This reminder relates back to 2 Peter 1:13 where Peter said that he was writing, “to stir you up by way of reminder since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon.” Peter reiterates that this is the point of this second letter. He wants his readers to remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandments of Jesus that are taught through the apostles. Don’t follow those who are teaching false things. Remember the words of the apostles and prophets. I think it is important to note that Peter is teaching that he and the apostles received the commands of Jesus. We are to follow the writings of the apostles. They are giving us the teachings of our Lord. It is so important for us to know the scriptures. We must know the commandments of Jesus given through the apostles. How well do we know the writings of the apostles? It is one of many reasons why we are preaching through the New Testament letters. Too often we know some doctrine but do not know anything about the writings of the apostles. We know about salvation, but do we know Paul’s letter to the Romans? This passage shows that our understanding of 2 Peter 1:16-21 is correct. Peter not only was referring to the inspired words of the prophets, but also the apostles. They are speaking the commands of Jesus and wrote those words down to stir up our sincere, pure minds.
Further, notice that Peter says that we must remember the predictions of the holy prophets. How well do we know the prophets? How often have we come up with teachings and doctrines without knowing the teachings of the prophets? I think this lack of knowledge of the prophets has caused many misunderstandings of New Testament teachings. Many do not realize that most of the imagery in Revelation is found in the prophets. We are foolish to think that we do not need to study the Old Testament, especially the prophets. Many Christians do not see the point. But not knowing the prophets and only reading the New Testament is like watching the last thirty minutes of a movie or reading only the last quarter of a novel. You will be able to cobble some ideas together, but you are not going to have a full understanding of the message and meaning. We tried to do this the other day while taking a small vacation. We turned on the television and there was a movie already in progress. We tried watching some of the movie, but it was not interesting because we did not know what was going on. We did not understand the story or the characters. The scriptures are the same way. Jesus, the apostles, and their teachings do not make clear sense without a good working knowledge of the whole body of the scriptures. Confusion, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations occur because everyone is focused on the last quarter of the story and are not paying attention to whole book.
Knowing the prophets is not just academic knowledge. Knowing the dates of the exile and return of Israel is not just good trivia knowledge. The reason to know these things is to be able to understand what has occurred to Israel, what was promised to Israel, and how the New Testament is based upon those events and promises.
Mockers and Scoffers (3-4)
3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Now Peter is going to teach us something very important. He says, “Knowing this first of all….” Scoffers and mockers are going to come. They are going to mock your faith in the second coming. The reason these people scoff and mock is because they want to keep living in sinful desires. They will make fun of your faith because doing so justifies their sinful lifestyles.
The basis of their argument is that, “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” These mockers will declare that Jesus is not coming and there will not be a judgment because the world just keeps on going the way it has been going. Why think that things will stop going the way they are going? The world has been continuing this way for thousands of years.
This is the seed of doubt that can come into our minds. When I am questioning my faith, one of the questions concerns how long the earth has been in existence. How can I believe in the return of Jesus? It has been two thousand years since Jesus was on the earth. How can I believe in a final judgment? The earth continues as it has for thousands of years.
I would also like for us to consider that the argument the scoffers are making in the days of Peter is a contemporary argument as well. The theory of evolution is built upon the same premise: things have been continuing like this from the beginning. There have been no changes. Time just keeps marching by and there is no reason to believe that there is a God, that there is a judgment, or that there is a second coming. So there is nothing new in this kind of thinking. Christians have fallen into this kind of thinking. There are some who accept theistic evolution. This teaching says that all that we know concerning evolution is true, but that God is the one who created the matter that kicked off the big bang and that God caused the macro evolution of species to occur. This teaching ignores the clear reading of the Genesis creation account. But the desire is to mold the scriptures to fit scientific data. Why do we think science is so correct? Why do we think that science could potentially be wrong? Science thought the sun revolved around the earth. Science thought the earth was flat. Science thought ships could fall off the earth if they sailed a certain direction. Science thought that brontosaurus was a dinosaur. Science thought there were nine planets in our solar system. Do I need to keep going on about how often scientific knowledge changes? We should not be moved by scientific information. That knowledge could change next month or next year.
Further, scientists have the motivation that Peter mentions. They want to continue following their own desires. They are not objective scientists who are letting the data speak. They do not want for their to be a God so that they can continue following their sinful desires. This explains why it is headline news when they think they have some sort of data to disprove the Bible. But when there is data that proves the Bible, like an inscription concerning King David or that the amount of dust on the moon proves the earth to be no older than 10,000 years old, that information is placed on page 29 in microscopic print. Yet we allow their findings to shake our faith.
Overlooking An Important Fact (5-6)
5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (ESV)
In believing that the world has been continuing as it has from the beginning, they have forgotten a very important historical fact: the earth was destroyed by water. They forget the earth has not always continued on from the beginning of creation. They forget that there has been a worldwide judgment upon the disobedient. A long time ago in the days of Noah, God by his very word destroyed the world by water. Genesis 7:11 reads, “…on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.” Further, Genesis 7:22 reads, “Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died” (NLT). All the inhabitants of the earth, between 1-4 billion people, perished. All animals that were not placed on the ark died.
The order and the arrangement of the earth was completely changed. This information about the complete upheaval of the earth explains why we see what we see on the earth today. The Grand Canyon is not explained by a river slowing eroding the ground over millions of years. If it did, then we should see many grand canyons in our country. Only large amounts of rapidly moving water explains how such a large canyon could be cut out. Only a global flood that destroyed the world explains Yosemite’s Half Dome, a large round rock that looks like it was perfectly cut in half. Even the global ice age, which scientists admit occurred, is explained by the global flood, not by believing that things have continuing the way they always have from the beginning of creation. Moving ice that can cut through the steel of ships causing them to sink also cuts through rock as it is rapidly moving with the waters of the flood.
Notice that Peter says these scoffers “willingly forget” these facts. They do not want to consider the evidence of a global flood. They do not want to see that this is evidence of God’s judgment. Why not? Why do they willingly forget these things? They do so because they want to continue following their sinful desires (3:3). They want to prove that they can continue living in sin without consequence.
Heavens and Earth (7)
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (ESV)
But now we are given the chilling warning. The judgment that took place long ago, which we can see the effects of in our earth today, is not the only judgment. By the same word, that is, the word of God that said to destroy the earth by water, the earth is stored up for fire. God is the only one who will determine the end of this world. Humans will not bring this earth to an end. The scriptures say that God has reserved the heavens and earth for fire, being kept until the day of judgment. It is by God’s word that all things hold together and it is by God’s word that the end will come. God has made this planet durable and it will continue to forward until the final day. Do not let the fact that the earth continues on cause us to be complacent about what is promised. God destroyed the ungodly in the flood before. God has promised that he will destroy the ungodly by fire on the day of God’s choosing.
God will not let sin go unpunished forever. Do not let time be the factor to sway your faith. Peter will explain why in the upcoming verses. But understand that things have not continued the same from the beginning of creation. Do not ignore that there was a global judgment in the past where all humans and all living creatures perished except for those who found God’s grace and were admitted on the ark. Judgment is certain. Are you ready?