SYNOPSIS – The conduct of the church may “hasten the Day of the Lord.” In the interim, God has granted humanity the opportunity to repent before that day inevitably arrives – 2 Peter 3:3-14.
In his second epistle, Peter explained the apparent “delay” in the arrival of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” In doing so, he linked that day with the final judgment and the new creation. Moreover, the Apostle argued that the conduct of the church could, in fact, “hasten” the day’s arrival. According to his letter, God is characterized by mercy and responds positively to repentance – Peter was no fatalist. The relationship of men and women with the Father is dynamic, not static.
Peter was responding to deceptions and false expectations about the return of Jesus being propagated among the churches by false teachers – They claimed either that his coming was delayed or would never come.
(2 Peter 2:1-2) – “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of” – (American Standard Version).
The hope of the “coming of the Son of Man” was a fervent expectation in the early years of the church. However, as time progressed, the surrounding world remained the same. Wars, earthquakes, and other disasters still occurred, but overall, the earth was still intact. Rome did not fall, and the stars and planets continued in their respective courses. Thus, it was easy to assume his return had been delayed, and apparently, certain false teachers were claiming exactly that when Peter wrote this letter.
In defending his position, Peter provided an explanation for why Jesus has not yet returned. Rather than “delay” or failure, the alleged “postponement” of the day was according to the plan and mercy of God – To His desire for all men and women to repent and receive salvation.
In contrast to the “cleverly devised myths” of the false teachers, Peter was an eyewitness of the Transfiguration of Jesus, an event he linked with the “coming” or parousia of Jesus, and event confirmed by God Himself on the “holy mount” – (“We made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”). The display of his glory foreshadowed the fuller glory to be seen at his “arrival from heaven” – (2 Peter 2:1-21).
The Apostle assured his readers they had received a “more firm prophetic word,” one based on Scripture and the apostolic teachings, not on myths or the conceits of deceivers. The two primary issues at play were false claims about the “coming” of Jesus and deviations from the body of traditions handed down by the Apostles.
The false teachers were of the same ilk as the “false prophets” described in the Hebrew scriptures. They had deceived “many,” thus, the “way of truth is defamed.” Regardless of how things appeared, their “sentence” of destruction “is not idle.” Just as God judged the rebellious angels, the world of Noah’s day, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, so also the false teachers were “kept for a day of judgment to be punished.” This explanation is followed by denunciations of the immoral practices and apostasy of Peter’s opponents – (2 Peter 2:10-22).
Peter went straight to the issue by citing a charge leveled by his opponents:
“This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write unto you, and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance; that ye should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles: knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation?” – (2 Peter 3:1-4).
Christians must heed the warnings delivered to them by the Apostles and Jesus himself. In the “last days,” deceivers would arise to propagate false information about the “coming” of Jesus. The accuracy of this prediction was evidenced by the very presence of the false teachers – (Mark 13:21-22, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 3:1).
Like other New Testament authors, Peter saw the “last days” as an era that commenced with the Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation of Jesus. Thus, his statement is not a prophecy concerning events yet to unfold, but one that was well underway in his day. The lies of the deceivers constituted irrefutable proof that the “last days” were underway – (Acts 2:17, Galatians 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:1, Hebrews 1:2, 1 John 2:18).
(2 Peter 3:5-7) – “For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
Deceivers “scoffed” at the notion of a future coming of Jesus that would bring judgment on the disobedient. They pointed to normalcy, the routines and regular rituals of human society that continue day-by-day without interruption – Solid evidence that God would not judge the world. Had not the apostles promised the Lord would return soon, a claim supposedly falsified by the passage of time and history?
However, the deceivers “willfully forget” that God once judged and destroyed the world “by His word.” Rather than prove that life simply continues, history demonstrated the opposite. Not only have natural and manmade catastrophes occurred, on more than one occasion God intervened to bring destruction to sinful society. By that same “word of God,” the universe even now is being kept for the “day of judgment and destruction.”
(2 Peter 3:8-10) – “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Peter cited the ninetieth Psalm to demonstrate that what men considered “delay” was no such thing. God does not account for the passage of time the same way that men do – He is not subject to the timetables and expectations of humanity.
(Psalm 90:4) – “One day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”
The non-arrival of Jesus was not due to delay but to the mercy of God. Peter gives a rational reason for the present situation – God’s desire that all men be saved. His “delay” will mean salvation for many men and women.
However, men and women must not deceive themselves and take advantage of His patience. The “Day of the Lord” will arrive at the appointed time – “Just like a thief in the night.” This simile borrowed from a saying of Jesus stresses the inability of men to know when the Lord will arrive – His coming will be swift and unexpected – (Matthew 24:42-43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Revelation 2:2, 16:15).
Peter connected the parousia of Jesus to the “Day of the Lord.” Likewise, the New Testament often identifies the “coming” of Jesus with the “Day of the Lord – (1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
When he “arrives,” the heavens and earth will “pass away and be dissolved” to make way for the New Creation in which “righteousness is to dwell.” Thus, the “Day of the Lord” will mean the destruction of the disobedient, but also the vindication of the obedient. Considering this, “what manner of persons ought ye all to be in the interim in holy ways of behavior and acts of godliness?”
(2 Peter 3:11-14) – “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.”
Not only ought Christians to live holy lives in expectation of his coming – They can “hasten” its arrival. “Hasten” translates the Greek verb speudō, here, a present-tense participle. Used transitively, speudō means to “urge on, hurry along, quicken, cause to happen soon, act quickly; to accelerate.” The present tense stresses an ongoing process – “Hastening” the object of the verb. The Greek verb has the same sense in the book of Acts:
(Acts 20:16) – “Paul decided to sail past Ephesus so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost” – (Compare – Luke 2:16, 19:5-6, Acts 22:18).
The implications are profound but easily overlooked. Not only does Peter state why Jesus has not yet come, he indicates that Christian action can advance that day’s arrival, but also wrong action or inaction may delay it.
Finally, Peter linked the destruction of the old order and the inauguration of the New Creation to the “coming” of Jesus on the “Day of the Lord.” This leaves little if any room for any “interim” period between the arrival of Jesus and the New Creation.
The arrival of Jesus on the appointed day is certain – There has been no “delay.” Things have not continued as they did in the past – Normalcy has not characterized human history. Instead, it has been punctuated by disasters, catastrophes, destruction, and Divine judgments on sin. That record ought to caution us not to assume things will continue as they always have.
Peter has introduced a revolutionary idea that must change how we live – Christian action or inaction can impact the timing of the parousia – It can hasten or delay it. Our “behavior and acts of godliness” may very well speed it along. Similarly, Jesus linked “the end” to the completion of the gospel mission – (Matthew 24:14, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8).