2 Peter 3:3
3.Knowing this first. The participle knowing may be applied to the Apostle, and in this way, “I labor to stir you up for this reason, because I know what and how great is your impending danger from scoffers.” I however prefer this explanation, that the participle is used in place of a verb, as though he had said, “Know ye this especially.” For it was necessary that this should have been foretold, because they might have been shaken, had impious men attacked them suddenly with scoffs of this kind. He therefore wished them to know this, and to feel assured on the subject, that they might be prepared to oppose such men.
But he calls the attention of the faithful again to the doctrine which he touched upon in the second chapter. For by the last days is commonly meant the kingdom of Christ, or the days of his kingdom, according to what Paul says, “Upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1Co_10:11.) The meaning is, that the more God offers himself by the gospel to the world, and the more he invites men to his kingdom, the more audacious on the other hand will ungodly men vomit forth the poison of their impiety.
He calls those scoffers, according to what is usual in Scripture, who seek to appear witty by shewing contempt to God, and by a blasphemous presumption. It is, moreover, the very extremity of evil, when men allow themselves to treat the awful name of God with scoffs. Thus, Psa_1:1 speaks of the seat of scoffers. So David, in Psa_119:51, complains that he was derided by the proud, because he attended to God’s law. So Isaiah, in Isa_28:14, having referred to them, describes their supine security and insensibility. Let us therefore bear in mind, that there is nothing to be feared more than a contest with scoffers. On this subject we said something while explaining the third chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians. As, however, the Holy Scripture has foretold that they would come, and has also given us a shield by which we may defend ourselves, there is no excuse why we should not boldly resist them whatever devices they may employ.
2 Peter 3:3
Knowing this first – As among the first and most important things to be attended to – as one of the predictions which demand your special regard. Jude Jud_1:18 says that the fact that there would be “mockers in the last time,” had been particularly foretold by thom. It is probable that Peter refers to the same thing, and we may suppose that this was so well understood by all the apostles that they made it a common subject of preaching.
That there shall come in the last days – In the last dispensation; in the period during which the affairs of the world shall be wound up. The apostle does not say that that was the last time in the sense that the world was about to come to an end; nor is it implied that the period called “the last day” might not be a very long period, longer in fact than either of the previous periods of the world. He says that during that period it had been predicted there would arise those whom he here calls “scoffers.” On the meaning of the phrase “in the last days,” as used in the Scriptures, see the Act_2:17 note; Heb_1:2 note; Isa_2:2 note.
Scoffers – In Jude Jud_1:18 the same Greek word is rendered “mockers.” The word means those who deride, reproach, ridicule. There is usually in the word the idea of contempt or malignity toward an object. Here the sense seems to be that they would treat with derision or contempt the predictions respecting the advent of the Saviour, and the end of the world. It would appear probable that there was a particular or definite class of men referred to; a class who would hold special opinions, and who would urge plausible objections against the fulfillment of the predictions respecting the end of the world, and the second coming of the Saviour – for those are the points to which Peter particularly refers. It scarcely required inspiration to foresee that there would be “scoffers” in the general sense of the term – for they have so abounded in every age, that no one would hazard much in saying that they would be found at any particular time; but the eye of the apostle is evidently on a particular class of people, the special form of whose reproaches would be the ridicule of the doctrines that the Lord Jesus would return; that there would be a day of judgment; that the world would be consumed by fire, etc. Tillotson explains this of the Carpocratians, a large sect of the Gnostics, who denied the resurrection of the dead, and the future judgment.
Walking after their own lusts – Living in the free indulgence of their sensual appetites. See the notes at 2Pe_2:10, 2Pe_2:12, 2Pe_2:14, 2Pe_2:18-19.
2 Peter 3:4
4.Where is the promise. It was a dangerous scoff when they insinuated a doubt as to the last resurrection; for when that is taken away, there is no gospel any longer, the power of Christ is brought to nothing, the whole of religion is gone. Then Satan aims directly at the throat of the Church, when he destroys faith in the coming of Christ. For why did Christ die and rise again, except that he may some time gather to himself the redeemed from death, and give them eternal life? All religion is wholly subverted, except faith in the resurrection remains firm and immovable. Hence, on this point Satan assails us most fiercely.
But let us notice what the scoff was. They set the regular course of nature, such as it seems to have been from the beginning, in opposition to the promise of God, as though these things were contrary, or did not harmonize together. Though the faith of the fathers, they said, was the same, yet no change has taken place since their death, and it is known that many ages have passed away. Hence they concluded that what was said of the destruction of the world was a fable; because they conjectured, that as it had lasted so long, it would be perpetual.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet3:4. Where is the promise of his coming?] The question indicates the comparatively late date of the Epistle. St James had spoken (probably a. d. 50) of the Judge as standing at the door; St Paul had written twice as if he expected to be living on the earth when the Judge should come (1Th_4:15; 1Co_15:51; 2Co_5:4), and yet He came not. Men began to think that the Coming was a delusion.
for since the fathers fell asleep] Ordinarily, the “fathers,” as in Rom_9:5, would carry our thoughts back to the great progenitors of Israel as a people. Here, however, the stress laid by the mockers on the death of the fathers as the starting-point of the frustrated expectation, seems to give the word another application, and we may see in the “fathers” the first generation of the disciples of Christ, those who had “fallen asleep” without seeing the Advent they had looked for (1Th_4:15); those who had reached the “end of their conversation” (Heb_13:7). The scoffers appealed to the continuity of the natural order of things. Seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, followed as they had done from the beginning of the creation. In the last phrase we may trace an echo of Mar_10:6, Mar_13:19. “You have told us,” they seem to have said, “of an affliction such as there has not been from the beginning of the creation, and lo! we find the world still goes on as of old, with no great catastrophe.” The answer to the sneer St Peter gives himself, but it may be noted that the question of the scoffers at least implies the early date of the writings in which the expectation of the Coming is prominent.
In the use of the verb to “fall asleep” for dying, we are reminded of our Lord’s words “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (Joh_11:11); of St Paul’s “many sleep” (1Co_11:30). So in Greek sculpture Death and Sleep appear as twin genii, and in Greek and Roman epitaphs nothing is more common than the record that the deceased “sleeps” below. Too often there is the addition, as of those who were without hope, “sleeps an eternal sleep.” In Christian language the idea of sleep is perpetuated in the term “cemetery” (κοιμητήριον = sleeping-place) as applied to the burial-place of the dead, but it is blended with that of an “awaking out of sleep” at the last day, and even with the thought, at first seemingly incompatible with it, that the soul is quickened into higher energies of life on its entrance into the unseen world.
2 Peter 3:4
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? – That is, either, Where is the “fulfillment” of that promise; or, Where are the “indications” or “signs” that he will come? They evidently meant to imply that the promise had utterly failed; that there was not the slightest evidence that it would be accomplished; that they who had believed this were entirely deluded. It is possible that some of the early Christians, even in the time of the apostles, had undertaken to fix the time when these events would occur, as many have done since; and that as that time had passed by, they inferred that the prediction had utterly failed. But whether this were so or not, it was easy to allege that the predictions respecting the second coming of the “Saviour” seemed to imply that the end of the world was near, and that there were no indications that they would be fulfilled. The laws of nature were uniform, as they had always been, and the alleged promises had failed.
For since the fathers fell asleep – Since they “died” – death being often, in the Scriptures, as elsewhere, represented as sleep. Joh_11:11 note; 1Co_11:30 note. This reference to the “fathers,” by such scoffers, was probably designed to be ironical and contemptuous. Perhaps the meaning may be thus expressed: “Those old men, the prophets, indeed foretold this event. They were much concerned and troubled about it; and their predictions alarmed others, and filled their bosoms with dread. They looked out for the signs of the end of the world, and expected that that day was drawing near. But those good men have died. They lived to old age, and then died as others; and since they have departed, the affairs of the world have gone on very much as they did before. The earth is suffered to have rest, and the laws of nature operate in the same way that they always did.” It seems not improbable that the immediate reference in the word “fathers” is not to the prophets of former times, but to aged and pious men of the times of the apostles, who had dwelt much on this subject, and who had made it a subject of conversation and of preaching. Those old men, said the seeing objector, have died like others; and, notwithstanding their confident predictions, things now move on as they did from the beginning.
All things continue as they were, from the beginning of the creation – That is, the laws of nature are fixed and settled. The argument here – for it was doubtless designed to be an argument – is based on the stability of the laws of nature, and the uniformity of the course of events. Thus far, all these predictions had failed. Things continued to go on as they had always done. The sun rose and set; the tides ebbed and flowed; the seasons followed each other in the usual order; one generation succeeded another, as had always been the case; and there was every indication that those laws would continue to operate as they had always done. This argument for the stability of the earth, and against the prospect of the fulfillment of the predictions of the Bible, would have more force with many minds now than it had then, for 1,800 years (circa 1880’s) more have rolled away, and the laws of nature remain the same. Meantime, the expectations of those who have believed that the world was coming to an end have been disappointed; the time set for this by many interpreters of Scripture has passed by; men have looked out in vain for the coming of the Saviour, and sublunary affairs move on as they always have done. Still there are no indications of the coming of the Saviour; and perhaps it would be said that the farther men search, by the aid of science, into the laws of nature, the more they become impressed with their stability, and the more firmly they are convinced of the improbability that the world will be destroyed in the manner in which it is predicted in the Scriptures that it will be. The specious and plausible objection arising from this source, the apostle proposes to meet in the following verses.
2 Peter 3:5
5.For this they willingly are ignorant of. By one argument only he confutes the scoff of the ungodly, even by this, that the world once perished by a deluge of waters, when yet it consisted of waters. (Gen_1:2.) And as the history of this was well known, he says that they willingly, or of their own accord, erred. For they who infer the perpetuity of the world from its present state, designedly close their eyes, so as not to see so clear a judgment of God. The world no doubt had its origin from waters, for Moses calls the chaos from which the earth emerged, waters; and further, it was sustained by waters; it yet pleased the Lord to use waters for the purpose of destroying it. It hence appears that the power of nature is not sufficient to sustain and preserve the world, but that on the contrary it contains the very element of its own ruin, whenever it may please God to destroy it.
For it ought always to be borne in mind, that the world stands through no other power than that of God’s word, and that therefore inferior or secondary causes derive from him their power, and produce different effects as they are directed. Thus through water the world stood, but water could have done nothing of itself, but on the contrary obeyed God’s word as an inferior agent or element. As soon then as it pleased God to destroy the earth, the same water obeyed in becoming a ruinous inundation. We now see how egregiously they err, who stop at naked elements, as though there was perpetuity in them, and their nature were not changeable according to the bidding of God.
By these few words the petulance of those is abundantly refuted, who arm themselves with physical reasons to fight against God. For the history of the deluge is an abundantly sufficient witness that the whole order of nature is governed by the sole power of God. (Gen_7:17.)
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:5. For this they willingly are ignorant of] More accurately, For this is hid from them by their own will. The English phrase “they ignore” exactly expresses the state of mind of which the Apostle speaks. The ignorance of the scoffers was self-chosen. They closed their eyes to the truth that the law of continuity on which they laid stress was not without exception. There had been a great catastrophe in the past. There might yet be a great catastrophe in the future.
that by the word of God the heavens were of old] The history of the creative work in Gen_1 furnishes the first example that the order of the universe was not one of unbroken continuity of evolution. In “the word of God” we may see a reference either (1) to the continually recurring formula “God said” in Gen_1:3, Gen_1:6, Gen_1:9, or (2) to the thought that it was by the Eternal Word that the work of Creation was accomplished, as in Joh_1:3; Heb_1:2; and we have no sufficient data for deciding between the two. Heb_11:3 (“the worlds were framed by the word of God”) is exactly parallel to St Peter’s language, and is open to the same diversity of interpretation. In any case the words are a protest against the old Epicurean view of a concourse of atoms, and its modern counterpart, the theory of a perpetual evolution.
and the earth standing out of the water and in the water] More accurately, and the earth formed out of water and by means of water. The words carry us back, as before, to the cosmogony of Gen_1. The earth was brought out of chaos into its present kosmos, by the water being gathered into one place and the dry land appearing (Gen_1:9). It was kept together by the separation of the waters above the firmament from those that were below the firmament (Gen_1:6). The Apostle speaks naturally from the standpoint of the physical science of his time and country, and we need not care to reconcile either his words or those of Gen_1 with the conclusions of modern meteorological science. The equivalent fact in the language of that science would be that the permanence of the existing order of the world is secured by the circulation of water, rising in evaporation, and falling in the form of rain, between the higher and lower regions of the atmosphere, and that there must have been a time when this circulation began to supervene on a previous state of things that depended on different conditions.
2 Peter 3:5
For this they willingly are ignorant of – Λαιθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο θέλοντας Laithanei gar autous touto thelontas. There is some considerable variety in the translation of this passage. In our common version the Greek word (θέλοντας thelontas) is rendered as if it were an adverb, or as if it referred to their “ignorance” in regard to the event; meaning, that while they might have known this fact, they took no pains to do it, or that they preferred to have its recollection far from their minds. So Beza and Luther render it. Others, however, take it as referring to what follows, meaning, “being so minded; being of that opinion; or affirming.” So Bloomfield, Robinson (Lexicon), Mede, Rosenmuller, etc. According to this interpretation the sense is, “They who thus will or think; that is, they who hold the opinion that all things will continue to remain as they were, are ignorant of this fact that things have not always thus remained; that there has been a destruction of the world once by water.”
The Greek seems rather to demand this interpretation; and then the sense of the passage will be, “It is concealed or hidden from those who hold this opinion, that the earth has been once destroyed.” It is implied, whichever interpretation is adopted, that the will was concerned in it; that they were influenced by that rather than by sober judgment and by reason; and whether the word refers to their “ignorance,” or to their “holding that opinion,” there was obstinacy and perverseness about it. The “will” has usually more to do in the denial and rejection of the doctrines of the Bible than the “understanding” has. The argument which the apostle appeals to in reply to this objection is a simple one. The adversaries of the doctrine affirmed that the laws of nature had always remained the same, and they affirmed that they always would. The apostle denies the fact which they assumed, in the sense in which they affirmed it, and maintains that those laws have not been so stable and uniform that the world has never been destroyed by an overwhelming visitation from God. It has been destroyed by a flood; it may be again by fire. There was the same improbability that the event would occur, so far as the argument from the stability of the laws of nature is concerned, in the one case that there is in the other, and consequently the objection is of no force.
That by the word of God – By the command of God. “He spoke, and it was done.” Compare Gen_1:6, Gen_1:9; Psa_33:9. The idea here is, that everything depends on his word or will. As the heavens and the earth were originally made by his command, so by the same command they can be destroyed.
The heavens were of old – The heavens were formerly made, Gen_1:1. The word “heaven” in the Scriptures sometimes refers to the atmosphere, sometimes to the starry worlds as they appear above us, and sometimes to the exalted place where God dwells. Here it is used, doubtless, in the popular signification, as denoting the heavens as they “appear,” embracing the sun, moon, and stars.
And the earth standing out of the water and in the water – Margin, “consisting.” Greek, συνεστῶσα sunestōsa. The Greek word, when used in an intransitive sense, means “to stand with,” or “together;” then tropically, “to place together,” to constitute, place, bring into existence – Robinson. The idea which our translators seem to have had is, that, in the formation of the earth, a part was out of the water, and a part under the water; and that the former, or the inhabited portion, became entirely submerged, and that thus the inhabitants perished. This was not, however, probably the idea of Peter. He doubtless has reference to the account given in Gen. 1: of the creation of the earth, in which water performed so important a part. The thought in his mind seems to have been, that “water” entered materially into the formation of the earth, and that in its very origin there existed the means by which it was destroyed afterward.
The word which is rendered “standing” should rather be rendered “consisting of,” or “constituted of;” and the meaning is, that the creation of the earth was the result of the divine agency acting on the mass of elements which in Genesis is called “waters,” Gen_1:2, Gen_1:6-7, Gen_1:9. There was at first a vast fluid, an immense unformed collection of materials, called “waters,” and from that the earth arose. The point of time, therefore, in which Peter looks at the earth here, is not when the mountains, and continents, and islands, seem to be standing partly out of the water and partly in the water, but when there was a vast mass of materials called “waters” from which the earth was formed. The phrase “out of the water” (ἐξ ὕδατος ex hudatos) refers to the origin of the earth. It was formed “from,” or out of, that mass. The phrase “in the water” (δἰ ὕδατος di’ hudatos) more properly means “through” or “by.” It does not mean that the earth stood in the water in the sense that it was partly submerged; but it means not only that the earth arose “from” that mass that is called “water” in Gen. 1, but that that mass called “water” was in fact the grand material out of which the earth was formed. It was “through” or “by means of” that vast mass of mingled elements that the earth was made as it was. Everything arose out of that chaotic mass; through that, or by means of that, all things were formed, and from the fact that the earth was thus formed out of the water, or that water entered so essentially into its formation, there existed causes which ultimately resulted in the deluge.
2 Peter 3:6
It seems, however, strange that he says that the world perished through the deluge, when he had before mentioned the heaven and the earth. To this I answer, that the heaven was then also submerged, that is, the region of the air, which stood open between the two waters. For the division or separation, mentioned by Moses, was then confounded. (Gen_1:6;) and the word heaven is often taken in this sense. if any wishes for more on this subject, let him read Augustine on the City of God. Lib. 20.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:6. whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished] The “whereby” is not without its difficulties. Does it refer to the whole fact of creation described in the previous verse, or to the two regions in which the element of water was stored up? On the whole, the latter has most in its favour. In the deluge, as described in Gen_7:11, the “fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened,” and so the waters above and those below the firmament were both instruments in the work of judgment. The stress laid on the same fact here and in 1Pe_3:19, 1Pe_3:20 is, as far as it goes, an evidence in favour of identity of authorship. In the use of the word “perished,” or “was destroyed,” we have a proof, not to be passed over, as bearing indirectly upon other questions of dogmatic importance, that the word does not carry with it the sense of utter destruction or annihilation, but rather that of a change, or breaking up, of an existing order. It is obvious that this meaning is that which gives the true answer to those who inferred from the continuity of the order of nature that there could be no catastrophic change in the future.
2 Peter 3:6
Whereby – Δι ̓ ὧν Di’ hōn. Through which, or by means of which. The pronoun here is in the plural number, and there has been much difference of opinion as to what it refers. Some suppose that it refers to the heavens mentioned in the preceding verse, and to the fact that the windows of heaven were opened in the deluge (Doddridge), others that the Greek phrase is taken in the sense of (διὸ dio) “whence.” Wetstein supposes that it refers to the “heavens and the earth.” But the most obvious reference, though the plural number is used, and the word “water” in the antecedent is in the singular, is to “water.” The fact seems to be that the apostle had the “waters” mentioned in Genesis prominently in his eye, and meant to describe the effect produced “by” those waters. He has also twice, in the same sentence, referred to “water” – “out of the water and in the water.” It is evidently to these “waters” mentioned in Genesis, out of which the world was originally made, that he refers here. The world was formed from that fluid mass; by these waters which existed when the earth was made, and out of which it arose, it was destroyed. The antecedent to the word in the plural number is rather that which was in the mind of the writer, or that of which he was thinking, than the word which he had used.
The world that then was … – Including all its inhabitants. Rosenmuller supposes that the reference here is to some universal catastrophe which occurred before the deluge in the time of Noah, and indeed before the earth was fitted up in its present form, as described by Moses in Gen. 1. It is rendered more than probable, by the researches of geologists in modern times, that such changes have occurred; but there is no evidence that Pater was acquainted with them, and his purpose did not require that he should refer to them. All that his argument demanded was the fact that the world had been once destroyed, and that therefore there was no improbability in believing that it would be again. They who maintained that the prediction that the earth would be destroyed was improbable, affirmed that there were no signs of such an event; that the laws of nature were stable and uniform; and that as those laws had been so long and so uniformly unbroken, it was absurd to believe that such an event could occur. To meet this, all that was necessary was to show that, in a case where the same objections substantially might be urged, it had actually occurred that the world had been destroyed. There was, in itself considered, as much improbability in believing that the world could be destroyed by water as that it would be destroyed by fire, and consequently the objection had no real force. Notwithstanding the apparent stability of the laws of nature, the world had been once destroyed; and there is, therefore, no improbability that it may be again. On the objections which might have been plausibly urged against the flood, see the notes at Heb_11:7.
2 Peter 3:7
7.But the heavens and the earth which are now. He does not infer this as the consequence; for his purpose was no other than to dissipate the craftiness of scoffers respecting the perpetual state of nature, and we see many such at this day who being slightly embued with the rudiments of philosophy, only hunt after profane speculations, in order that they may pass themselves off as great philosophers.
But it now appears quite evident from what has been said, that there is nothing unreasonable in the declaration made by the Lord, that the heaven and the earth shall hereafter be consumed by fire, because the reason for the fire is the same as that for the water. For it was a common saying even among the ancients, that from these two chief elements all things have proceeded. But as he had to do with the ungodly, he speaks expressly of their destruction.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:7. but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word] Some of the better MSS. give by His word, but the received reading rests on sufficient authority.
are kept in store, reserved unto fire] Literally, are treasured up. The use of the word in reference to punishment has a parallel in Rom_2:5. In naming “fire” as the instrument of that “destruction” of the existing framework of the world, which is, like that by water, to be the starting-point of a new and purified order, the Apostle follows in the track of 2Th_1:8, and Dan_7:9-11. It may be noted, though not as pointing to the source from which the Apostle derived his belief, that this destruction of the world by fire entered into the physical teaching of the Stoics. It is not without interest to note that it was specially prominent in the teaching of Zeno of Tarsus, who succeeded Chrysippus as the leading teacher of the School (Euseb. Praep. Evang. xv. 18). It appears also, in a book probably familiar to the Apostle, the Book of Enoch, c. xc. 11.
against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men] The word for “perdition” is the same as that rendered “destruction” in chap. 2:1, and is identical in meaning with the verb “perished” in the preceding verse. We cannot accordingly infer from it that the “ungodly” will cease to exist, but only that there will be a great and penal change in their condition. An interesting parallel to the teaching of this passage, probably in great part derived from it, is found in an Oration of Melito of Sardis, translated from the Syriac by Dr Cureton in a. d. 1855. “There was a flood of water.… There will be a flood of fire, and the earth will be burnt up together with its mountains … and the just shall be delivered from its fury, as their fellows in the Ark were saved from the waters of the Deluge.”
But the heavens and the earth, which are now; rather, the heavens which are now, and the earth. The “now” does not refer, as some think, to any change wrought by the Flood, but distinguishes the present heavens and earth from the new heavens and new earth, which Christians are to look for (2Pe_3:13). By the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire. Several of the better manuscripts have “by his Word,” which, on the whole, seems to give the best meaning. The reading in the text may, indeed, be understood in a similar sense, “by the same Word of God;” otherwise it would mean that the original word of creation determined also the duration of the world and the means of its destruction.
The words rendered, “are kept in store,” are, literally, “have been treasured (τεθησαυρισμένοι εἰσίν)” (comp. Rom_2:5). It seems better to take the dative πυρί (“with fire,” or “for fire”) with this verb rather than with the following, as in the Authorized Version. If we take the first meaning of the dative, the sense will be that the world has been stored with fire, i.e., that it contains, stored up in its inner depths, the fire which is destined ultimately to destroy it. But the other view seems on the whole more probable; the heavens and the earth are stored up for fire or unto fire, i.e., with the purpose in the counsels of God of their ultimate destruction by fire. This is the clearest prophecy in Holy Scripture of the final conflagration of the universe; but comp. Isa_66:15; Dan_7:10; Mal_4:1; 2Th_1:8. Such a doctrine formed part of the physical theories of the Stoics; it is also found in the ‘Book of Enoch.’ Against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
The participle “reserved” (τηρούμενοι) is best taken with this clause: “Reserved against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
2 Peter 3:7
But the heavens and the earth which are now – As they now exist. There is no difficulty here respecting what is meant by the word “earth,” but it is not so easy to determine precisely how much is included in the word “heavens.” It cannot be supposed to mean “heaven” as the place where God dwells; nor is it necessary to suppose that Peter understood by the word all that would now be implied in it, as used by a modern astronomer. The word is doubtless employed in a popular signification, referring to the “heavens as they appear to the eye;” and the idea is, that the conflagration would not only destroy the earth, but would change the heavens as they now appear to us. If, in fact, the earth with its atmosphere should be subjected to an universal conflagration, all that is properly implied in what is here said by Peter would occur.
By the same word – Dependent solely on the will of God. He has only to give command, and all will be destroyed. The laws of nature have no stability independent of his will, and at his pleasure all things could be reduced to nothing, as easily as they were made. A single word, a breath of command, from one Being, a Being over whom we have no control, would spread universal desolation through the heavens and the earth. Notwithstanding the laws of nature, as they are called, and the precision, uniformity, and power with which they operate, the dependence of the universe on the Creator is as entire as though there were no such laws, and as though all were conducted by the mere will of the Most High, irrespective of such laws. In fact, those laws have no efficiency of their own, but are a mere statement of the way in which God produces the changes which occur, the methods by which He operates who “works all in all.” At any moment he could suspend them; that is, he could cease to act, or withdraw his efficiency, and the universe would cease to be.
Are kept in store – Greek, “Are treasured up.” The allusion in the Greek word is to anything that is treasured up, or reserved for future use. The apostle does not say that this is the only purpose for which the heavens and the earth are preserved, but that this is one object, or this is one aspect in which the subject may be viewed. They are like treasure reserved for future use.
Reserved unto fire – Reserved or kept to be burned up. See the notes at 2Pe_3:10. The first mode of destroying the world was by water, the next will be by fire. That the world would at some period be destroyed by fire was a common opinion among the ancient philosophers, especially the Greek Stoics. What was the foundation of that opinion, or whence it was derived, it is impossible now to determine; but it is remarkable that it should have accorded so entirely with the statements of the New Testament. The authorities in proof that this opinion was entertained may be seen in Wetstein, in loc. See Seneca, N. Q. iii. 28; Cic. N. D. ii. 46; Simplicius in Arist. de Coelo i. 9; Eusebius, P. xv. 18. It is quite remarkable that there have been among the pagan in ancient and modern times so many opinions that accord with the statements of revelation – opinions, many of them, which could not have been founded on any investigations of science among them, and which must, therefore, have been either the result of conjecture, or handed down by tradition. Whatever may have been their origin, the fact that such opinions prevailed and were believed, may be allowed to have some weight in showing that the statements in the Bible are not improbable.
Against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men – The world was destroyed by a flood on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants. It would seem from this passage that it will be destroyed by fire with reference to the same cause; at least, that its destruction by fire will involve the perdition of wicked men. It cannot be inferred from this passage that the world will be as wicked at the general conflagration as it was in the time of Noah; but the idea in the mind of Peter seems to have been, that in the destruction of the world by fire the perdition of the wicked will be involved, or will at that time occur. It also seems to be implied that the fire will accomplish an important agency in that destruction, as the water did on the old world. It is not said, in the passage before us, whether those to be destroyed will be living at that time, or will be raised up from the dead, nor have we any means of determining what was the idea of Peter on that point. All that the passage essentially teaches is, that the world is reserved now with reference to such a consummation by fire; that is, that there are elements kept in store that may be enkindled into an universal conflagration, and that such a conflagration will be attended with the destruction of the wicked.
2 Peter 3:8
8.But be not ignorant of this one thing. He now turns to speak to the godly; and he reminds them that when the coming of Christ is the subject, they were to raise upwards their eyes, for by so doing, they would not limit, by their unreasonable wishes, the time appointed by the Lord. For waiting seems very long on this account, because we have our eyes fixed on the shortness of the present life, and we also increase weariness by computing days, hours, and minutes. But when the eternity of God’s kingdom comes to our minds, many ages vanish away like so many moments.
This then is what the Apostle calls our attention to, so that we may know that the day of resurrection does not depend on the present flow of time, but on the hidden purpose of God, as though he had said, “Men wish to anticipate God for this reason, because they measure time according to the judgment of their own flesh; and they are by nature inclined to impatience, so that celerity is even delay to them: do ye then ascend in your minds to heaven, and thus time will be to you neither long nor short.”
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing; literally, let not this one thing escape you, as especially important. That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. “With the Lord” means in his sight, in his estimate of things (comp. Psa_90:4, “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday”). … God is eternal: his thought is not, like ours, subject to the law of time; and even we can understand that one day, as the day of the Saviour’s death, may have far more of intense action compressed into it, and far more influence upon the spiritual destiny of mankind, than any period of a thousand years. This passage seems to be quoted by Justin Martyr, the ‘Epistle of Barnabas,’ Irenaeus, and Hippolytus; but they may be referring to Psa_90:1-17, though the quotations resemble the words of St. Peter more closely than those of the psalm.
2 Peter 3:8
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years – This 2Pe_3:8-9 is the second consideration by which the apostle meets the objection of scoffers against the doctrine of the second coming of the Saviour. The objection was, that much time, and perhaps the time which had been supposed to be set for his coming, had passed away, and still all things remained as they were. The reply of the apostle is, that no argument could be drawn from this, for that which may seem to be a long time to us is a brief period with God. In the infinity of his own duration there is abundant time to accomplish his designs, and it can make no difference with him whether they are accomplished in one day or extended to one thousand years. Man has but a short time to live, and if he does not accomplish his purposes in a very brief period, he never will. But it is not so with God. He always lives; and we cannot therefore infer, because the execution of His purposes seems to be delayed, that they are abandoned. With Him who always lives it will be as easy to accomplish them at a far distant period as now. If it is His pleasure to accomplish them in a single day, He can do it; if He chooses that the execution shall be deferred to one thousand years, or that one thousand years shall be consumed in executing them, He has power to carry them onward through what seems, to us, to be so vast a duration. The wicked, therefore, cannot infer that they will escape because their punishment is delayed; nor should the righteous fear that the divine promises will fail because ages pass away before they are accomplished. The expression here used, that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, etc.,” is common in the Rabbinical writings. See Wetstein in loc. A similar thought occurs in Psa_90:4; “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
2 Peter 3:9
9.But the Lord is not slack, or, delays not. He checks extreme and unreasonable haste by another reason, that is, that the Lord defers his coming that he might invite all mankind to repentance. For our minds are always prurient, and a doubt often creeps in, why he does not come sooner. But when we hear that the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us, there is no reason why we should any longer complain of tardiness. He is tardy who allows an occasion to pass by through slothfulness: there is nothing like this in God, who in the best manner regulates time to promote our salvation. And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent.
This is a very necessary admonition, so that we may learn to employ time aright, as we shall otherwise suffer a just punishment for our idleness.
Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive all to repentance, so that none may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way.
But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.
But as the verb χωρὢσαι is often taken passively by the Greeks, no less suitable to this passage is the verb which I have put in the margin, that God would have all, who had been before wandering and scattered, to be gathered or come together to repentance.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness …] We enter here on the third answer, and it rests on the purpose which was working through what men looked on as a delay in the fulfilment of the promise. That purpose was one of love and mercy. It was not slackness or tardiness, but “long-suffering.” We note, as an evidence of identity of authorship, the recurrence of the thought which we have found in 1Pe_3:20. The “long-suffering of God” which had shewn itself then, as in the history of Gen_6:3, in the delay of a hundred and twenty years between the first prophetic warning of the coming judgment and the actual deluge, was manifested now in the interval, longer than the first disciples had anticipated, between the first and the second comings of the Christ. We ask, as we read the words, whether the Apostle, as he wrote them, contemplated the period of well-nigh two thousand years which has passed since without the expected Advent; and we have no adequate data for answering that question. It may well have been that though the horizon was receding as he looked into the future, it was still not given to him “to know the times and the seasons” (Act_1:7), and that he still thought that the day of the Lord would come within much narrower limits, perhaps, even, in the lifetime of that generation. But the answer which he gives is the true answer to all doubts and questions such as then presented themselves, to reproductions of the like questions now. However long the interval, though it be for a period measured by millenniums, there is still the thought that this is but as a moment in the years of eternity, and that through that lengthened period, on earth or behind the veil, there is working the purpose of God, who doth not will that any should perish (comp. 1Ti_2:4; Eze_18:23), but that all should come to repentance. Here again the word “perish” does not mean simple annihilation, but the state which is the opposite of salvation.
2 Peter 3:9
TEXT: “but is patient toward plyou”
EVIDENCE: p72 B C P 048vid 81 945 1241 1739 1881 cop(north)
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “but is patient because of plyou”
EVIDENCE: S A Psi 33 614 630 2495 lat vg syr(ph,h) cop(south)
OTHER: “but is patient toward us”
EVIDENCE: K L 104 Byz Lect
COMMENTS: In later Greek the words “plyou” and “us” were pronounced alike. Probably the reading “us” is due to a mistake of the ear. The reading “because of” or “on account of” seems to have been a change by copyists to make the passage more meaningful.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise – That is, it should not be inferred because His promise seems to be long delayed that therefore it will fail. When people, after a considerable lapse of time, fail to fulfil their engagements, we infer that it is because they have changed their plans, or because they have forgotten their promises, or because they have no ability to perform them, or because there is a lack of principle which makes them fail, regardless of their obligations. But no such inference can be drawn from the apparent delay of the fulfillment of the divine purposes. Whatever may be the reasons why they seem to be deferred, with God, we may be sure that it is from no such causes as these.
As some men count slackness – It is probable that the apostle here had his eye on some professing Christians who had become disheartened and impatient, and who, from the delay in regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus, and from the representations of those who denied the truth of the Christian religion, arguing from that delay that it was false, began to fear that his promised coming would indeed never occur. To such he says that it should not be inferred from his delay that he would not return, but that the delay should be regarded as an evidence of his desire that men should have space for repentance, and an opportunity to secure their salvation. See the notes at 2Pe_3:15.
But is long-suffering to us-ward – Toward us. The delay should be regarded as a proof of His forbearance, and of His desire that all human beings should be saved. Every sinner should consider the fact that he is not cut down in his sins, not as a proof that God will not punish the wicked, but as a demonstration that He is now forbearing, and is willing that he should have an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life. No one should infer that God will not execute His threats, unless he can look into the most distant parts of a coming eternity, and demonstrate that there is no suffering appointed for the sinner there; anyone who sins, and who is spared even for a moment, should regard the respite as only a proof that God is merciful and forbearing now.
Not willing that any should perish – That is, He does not desire it or wish it. His nature is benevolent, and He sincerely desires the eternal happiness of all, and His patience toward sinners “proves” that He is willing that they should be saved. If He were not willing, it would be easy for Him to cut them off, and exclude them from hope immediately. This passage, however, should not be adduced to prove:
(1) That sinners never will in fact perish; because:
(a) the passage does not refer to what God will do as the final Judge of mankind, but to what are His feelings and desires now toward men.
(b) One may have a sincere desire that others should not perish, and yet it may be that, in entire consistency with that, they will perish. A parent has a sincere wish that his children should not be punished, and yet he himself may be under a moral necessity to punish them. A lawgiver may have a sincere wish that no one should ever break the laws, or be punished, and yet he himself may build a prison, and construct a gallows, and cause the law to be executed in a most rigorous manner. A judge on the bench may have a sincere desire that no man should be executed, and that everyone arraigned before him should be found to be innocent, and yet even he, in entire accordance with that wish, and with a most benevolent heart, even with tears in his eyes, may pronounce the sentence of the law.
(c) It cannot be inferred that all that the heart of infinite benevolence would desire will be accomplished by his mere will. It is evidently as much in accordance with the benevolence of God that no one should be miserable in this world, as it is that no one should suffer in the next, since the difficulty is not in the question Where one shall suffer, but in the fact itself that any should suffer; and it is just as much in accordance with His nature that all should be happy here, as that they should be happy hereafter. And yet no man can maintain that the fact that God is benevolent proves that no one will suffer here. As little will that fact prove that none will suffer in the world to come.
(2) The passage should not be adduced to prove that God has no purpose, and has formed no plan, in regard to the destruction of the wicked; because:
(a) The word here used has reference rather to His disposition, or to His nature, than to any act or plan.
(b) There is a sense, as is admitted by all, in which He does will the destruction of the wicked – to wit, if they do not repent – that is, if they deserve it.
(c) Such an act is as inconsistent with His general benevolence as an eternal purpose in the matter, since His eternal purpose can only have been to do what He actually does; and if it be consistent with a sincere desire that sinners should be saved to do this, then it is consistent to determine beforehand to do it – for to determine beforehand to do what is in fact right, can only be a lovely trait in the character of anyone.
(3) The passage then proves:
(a) That God has a sincere desire that people should be saved;
(b) That any purpose in regard to the destruction of sinners is not founded on mere will, or is not arbitrary;
(c) That it would be agreeable to the nature of God, and to His arrangements in the plan of salvation, if all human beings should come to repentance, and accept the offers of mercy;
(d) That if any come to Him truly penitent, and desirous to be saved, they will not be cast off;
(e) That, since it is in accordance with His nature, that He should desire that all people may be saved, it may be presumed that He has made an arrangement by which it is possible that they should be; and,
(f) That, since this is His desire, it is proper for the ministers of religion to offer salvation to every human being. Compare Eze_33:11.
2 Peter 3:10
10.But the day of the Lord will come. This has been added, that the faithful might be always watching, and not promise to-morrow to themselves. For we all labor under two very different evils — too much haste, and slothfulness. We are seized with impatience for the day of Christ already expected; at the same time we securely regard it as afar off. As, then, the Apostle has before reproved an unreasonable ardor, so he now shakes off our sleepiness, so that we may attentively expect Christ at all times, lest we should become idle and negligent, as it is usually the case. For whence is it that flesh indulges itself except that there is no thought of the near coming of Christ?
What afterwards follows, respecting the burning of heaven and earth, requires no long explanation, if indeed we duly consider what is intended. For it was not his purpose to speak refinedly of fire and storm, and other things, but only that he might introduce an exhortation, which he immediately adds, even that we ought to strive after newness of life. For he thus reasons, that as heaven and earth are to be purged by fire, that they may correspond with the kingdom of Christ, hence the renovation of men is much more necessary. Mischievous, then, are those interpreters who consume much labor on refined speculations, since the Apostle applies his doctrine to godly exhortations.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night …] The confidence of the Apostle that this will be the end of the history of the human race is not shaken by the seeming “slackness” in its approach. Either reproducing the thought which he had heard from his Master’s lips (Mat_24:43), or echoing the very words of St Paul (1Th_5:2), he declares that it will come, and will come suddenly, when men are not looking for it.
the heavens shall pass away with a great noise] The last four words answer to one Greek adverb, not found elsewhere, which implies the “whizzing” or “rushing” sound of an arrow hurtling through the air (Hom. Il. xvi. 361). The “heavens” (in the plural, after the common mode of speech both in the Old and New Testament) shall, in that great day, be the scene of a great convulsion. We have here obviously the same thought as in Mat_24:29, but the mind of the Apostle, now rising to the character of an apocalyptic seer, beholds in that convulsion not a work of destruction only, but one of renovation. Comp. a like picture of the end of the world’s history in Rev_20:11, Rev_21:1.
the elements shall melt with fervent heat] The word “elements” may possibly stand for what were so called in some of the physical theories of the time, the fire, air, earth, water, out of which all existing phenomena were believed to be evolved (comp. Wisd. 19:18). The word was, however, used a little later on for what we call the “heavenly bodies,” sun, moon, and stars (Justin Mart. Apol. ii. 4. 4), and that meaning, seeing that the “elements” are distinguished from the “earth,” and that one of the four elements is to be the instrument of destruction, is probably the meaning here.
the earth also and the works that are therein] The use of the word “works” suggests the thought that the Apostle had chiefly in view all that man had wrought out on the surface of the globe; his cities, palaces, monuments, or the like. The comprehensive term may, however, include “works” as the “deeds” of men, of which St Paul says that they shall all be tried by fire (1Co_3:13).
But the day of the Lord will come. The word ἥξει, will come, stands emphatically at the beginning of the clause; whatever the mockers may say, whatever may happen, come certainly will the day of the Lord. “The day of the Lord” meets us often in the prophets; it is usually associated with the thought of judgment (see Isa_2:12; Eze_13:5; Joe_1:15; Mal_3:2). In the New Testament it signifies the second advent of Christ (1Th_5:2; 1Co_1:8; Php_1:6; 2Th_2:2).
As a thief in the night. The best manuscripts omit here “in the night.” St. Peter is evidently echoing the Lord’s words in that great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, which must have made such a deep impression upon the apostles. This illustration of the sudden coming of the thief is repeated not only by St. Peter here, but also by St. Paul (1Th_5:2), and twice by St. John (Rev_3:3 and Rev_16:15).
In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. The Greek for “with a great noise (ῥοιζηδόν)” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is one of those remarkable poetic forms which are not unfrequent in this Epistle: the noun ῥοῖζος is used of the whizzing of arrows, of the rush of wings, of the sound of mighty winds or roaring waters. It may be understood here of the crash of a falling world or of the roar of the destroying flames. The word rendered “pass away” is that used by our Lord in the prophecy just referred to (Mat_24:35; also in Mat_5:18 and in Luk_16:17).
And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. It is uncertain whether by “the elements” (στοιχεῖα) St. Peter means the four elements (in the old and popular use of the word), or the great constituent parts of the universe, the heavenly bodies. Against the first view is the assertion that one of those elements is to be the agent of destruction. But the word rendered “melt” means “shall be dissolved” or “loosed;” and it may be, as Bishop Wordsworth says, that “St. Peter’s meaning seems to be that the στοιχεῖα, elements or rudiments, of which the universe is composed and compacted, will be loosed; that is, the framework of the world will be disorganized; and this is the sense of στοιχεῖα in the LXX. (Wis. 7:17; 19:17) and in Hippolytus, ‘Philos.,’ pages 219, 318. The dissolution is contrasted with the consistency described by the word συνεστῶσα in verse 5. The heavens are reserved for fire, and will pass away with a rushing noise, and, being set on fire, will be dissolved; the elements will be on fire and melt, and he reduced to a state of confusion; the earth and the works therein will be burnt up. There does not seem, therefore, to be any cause for abandoning the common meaning of στοιχεῖα, the elemental principles of which the universe is made.” On the other hand, the word στοιχεῖα is certainly used of the heavenly bodies by Justin Martyr (‘Apolog.,’ 2. c. 5, and ‘Dial. cum Tryphon,’ c. 23); and the heavenly bodies are constantly mentioned in the descriptions of the awful convulsions of the great day. The objection that the word does not bear this meaning elsewhere in Holy Scripture is of little weight, as this is the only place in which it has a physical sense. The literal translation of the clause is, “The elements, being scorched, shall be dissolved.” The word for “being scorched” (καυσούμενα) occurs in the New Testament only here and in verse 12; it is used by the Greek physicians of the burning heat of fever. The verb λυθήσεται means “shall be dissolved or loosened.”
The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. By “the works that are therein” St. Peter seems to mean all the works both of God and of man, “opera naturae et artis” (Bengel). There is a very remarkable reading here (supported by the Sinaitic and Vatican and another uncial manuscript), εὑρεθήσεται, “shall be discovered,” instead of κατακαήσεται, “shall be burned up.” If we understand “the works that are therein” of man’s works and actions, this reading will give a good sense. Or the clause may be regarded as interrogative, “Shall the earth and the works that are therein be found?” But the reading, “shall be burned up” is well supported, and suits the context best.
2 Peter 3:10
TEXT: “the works that are in it will be found [out].”
EVIDENCE: S B K P 1175 1241 1739text 1881 syr(ph)
TRANSLATIONS: ASVn NASVn NIV NEB TEVn
NOTES: “the works that are in it will be burned up.”
EVIDENCE: A 048 33 81 104 614 630 945 1739margin 2495 Byz Lect some lat later vg syr(h) cop(north)
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASV RSV NASV NIVn NEBn TEVn
NOTES: “the works that are in it will be found dissolved.”
NOTES: “the works that are in it will disappear.”
OTHER: “the works that are in it will not be found.”
OTHER: omit from “and the earth” to the end of the verse
EVIDENCE: Psi two lat earlier vg
COMMENTS: Probably the difficulty of understanding the meaning of the reading “be found” gave rise to the other readings. Copyists either added a word (“dissolved” or “not”) or changed it to “be burned up” or “disappear.”
2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord – The day of the Lord Jesus. That is, the day in which he will be manifested. It is called his day, because he will then be the grand and prominent object as the Judge of all. Compare Luk_17:27.
Will come as a thief in the night – Unexpectedly; suddenly. See the notes at 1Th_5:2.
In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise – That is, what seems to us to be the heavens. It cannot mean that the holy home where God dwells will pass away; nor do we need to suppose that this declaration extends to the starry worlds and systems as disclosed by modern astronomy. The word is doubtless used in a popular sense – that is, as things appear to us; and the fair interpretation of the passage would demand only such a change as would occur by the destruction of this world by fire. If a conflagration should take place, embracing the earth and its surrounding atmosphere, all the phenomena would occur which are here described; and, if this would be so, then this is all that can be proved to be meant by the passage. Such a destruction of the elements could not occur without “a great noise.”
And the elements shall melt with fervent heat – Greek: “the elements being burned, or burning, (καυσούμενα kausoumena,) shall be dissolved.” The idea is, that the cause of their being “dissolved” shall be fire; or that there will be a conflagration extending to what are here called the “elements,” that shall produce the effects here described by the word “dissolved.” There has been much difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of the word here rendered “elements,” (στοιχεῖα stoicheia.) The word occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Gal_4:3, Gal_4:9; 2Pe_3:10, 2Pe_3:12, in which it is rendered “elements;” Col_2:8, Col_2:20, in which it is rendered “rudiments;” and in Heb_5:12, where it is rendered “principles.” For the general meaning of the word, see the notes at Gal_4:3. The word denotes the “rudiments” of anything; the minute parts or portions of which anything is composed, or which constitutes the simple portions out of which anything grows, or of which it is compounded.
Here it would properly denote the component parts of the material world; or those which enter into its composition, and of which it is made up. It is not to be supposed that the apostle used the term with the same exact signification with which a chemist would use it now, but in accordance with the popular use of the term in his day. In all ages, and in all languages, some such word, with more or less scientific accuracy, has been employed to denote the primary materials out of which others were formed, just as, in most languages, there have been characters or letters to denote the elementary sounds of which language is composed. In general, the ancients supposed that the elements out of which all things were formed were four in number – air, earth, fire, and water. Modern science has overturned this theory completely, and has shown that these, so far from being simple elements, are themselves compounds; but the tendency of modern science is still to show that the elements of all things are in fact few in number.
The word, as used here by Peter, would refer to the elements of things as then understood in a popular sense; it would now not be an improper word to be applied to the few elements of which all things are composed, as disclosed by modern chemistry. In either case, the use of the word would be correct. Whether applied to the one or the other, science has shown that all are capable of combustion. Water, in its component parts, is inflammable in a high degree; and even the diamond has been shown to be combustible. The idea contained in the word “dissolved,” is, properly, only the change which heat produces. Heat changes the forms of things; dissolves them into their elements; dissipates those which were solid by driving them off into gases, and produces new compounds, but it annihilates nothing. It could not be demonstrated from this phrase that the world would be annihilated by fire; it could be proved only that it will undergo important changes. So far as the action of fire is concerned, the form of the earth may pass away, and its aspect be changed; but unless the direct power which created it interposes to annihilate it, the matter which now composes it will still be in existence.
The earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up – That is, whether they are the works of God or man – the whole vegetable and animal creation, and all the towers, the towns, the palaces, the productions of genius, the paintings, the statuary, the books, which man has made:
“The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
And all that it inherits, shall dissolve,
And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not one wreck behind.”
The word rendered “burned up,” like the word just before used and rendered “fervent heat” – a word of the same origin, but here intensive – means that they will undergo such a change as fire will produce; not, necessarily, that the matter composing them will be annihilated. If the matter composing the earth is ever to be destroyed entirely, it must be by the immediate power of God, because only He who created can destroy. There is not the least evidence that a particle of matter originally made has been annihilated since the world began; and there are no fires so intense, no chemical powers so mighty, as to cause a particle of matter to cease wholly to exist. So far as the power of man is concerned, and so far as one portion of matter can prey on another, matter is as imperishable as mind, and neither can be destroyed unless God destroys it. Whether it is His purpose to annihilate any portion of the matter which He has made, does not appear from His Word; but it is clear that He intends that the universe shall undergo important changes. As to the possibility or probability of such a destruction by fire as is predicted here, no one can have any doubt who is acquainted with the disclosures of modern science in regard to the internal structure of the earth.
Even the ancient philosophers, from some cause, supposed that the earth would still be destroyed by fire (see my notes at 2Pe_3:7), and modern science has made it probable that the interior of the earth is a melted and intensely-heated mass of burning materials; that the habitable world is only a comparatively thin crust (shell) over those internal fires; that earthquakes are caused by the vapors engendered by that heated mass when water comes in contact with it; and that volcanoes are only openings and vent-holes through which those internal flames make their way to the surface. Whether these fires will everywhere make their way to the surface, and produce an universal conflagration, perhaps could not be determined by science, but no one can doubt that the simple command of God would be all that is necessary to pour those burning floods over the earth, just as He once caused the waters to roll over every mountain and through every valley.
As to the question whether it is probable that such a change will be produced by fire, bringing the present order of things to a close, it may be further remarked that there is reason to believe that such changes are in fact taking place in other worlds. “During the last two or three centuries, upwards of thirteen fixed stars have disappeared. One of them, situated in the northern hemisphere, presented a special brilliancy, and was so bright as to be seen by the naked eye at mid-day. It seemed to be on fire, appearing at first of a dazzling white, then of a reddish yellow, and lastly of an ashy pale color. LaPlace supposes that it was burned up, as it has never been seen since. The conflagration was visible about sixteen months.” The well-known astronomer, Von Littrow, in the section of his work on “New and Missing Stars” (entitled, Die Wunder der Himmels oder Gemeinfassliche Darstellung der Weltsystems, Stuttgart, 1843, Section 227), observes: “Great as may be the revolutions which take place on the surface of those fixed stars, which are subject to this alternation of light, what entirely different changes may those others have experienced, which in regions of the firmament where no star had ever been before, appeared to blaze up in clear flames, and then to disappear, perhaps forever.”
He then gives a brief history of those stars which have excited the particular attention of astronomers. “In the year 1572, on the 11th of November,” says he, “Tycho, on passing from his chemical laboratory to the observatory, through the court of his house, observed in the constellation Cassiopeia, at a place where before he had only seen very small stars, a new star of uncommon magnitude. It was so bright that it surpassed even Jupiter and Venus in splendor, and was visible even in the daytime. During the whole time in which it was visible, Tycho could observe no parallax or change of position. At the end of the year, however, it gradually diminished; and at length, in March 1574, sixteen months after its discovery, entirely disappeared, since which all traces of it have been lost. When it first appeared, its light was of a dazzling white color; in January 1573, two months after its reviving, it became yellowish; in a few months it assumed a reddish hue, like Mars or Aldebaran; and in the beginning of the year 1574, two or three months before its total disappearance, it glimmered only with a gray or lead-colored light, similar to that of Saturn.” See Bibliotheca Sacra, III., p. 181. If such things occur in other worlds, there is nothing improbable or absurd in the supposition that they may yet occur on the earth.
2 Peter 3:11
Heaven and earth, he says, shall pass away for our sakes; is it meet, then, for us to be engrossed with the things of earth, and not, on the contrary, to attend to a holy and godly life? The corruptions of heaven and earth will be purged by fire, while yet as the creatures of God they are pure; what then ought to be done by us who are full of so many pollutions? As to the word godlinesses (pietatibus ,) the plural number is used for the singular, except you take it as meaning the duties of godliness. Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as it may be easily gathered from Rom_8:21, and from other passages.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:11. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved] Literally, Seeing therefore that all these things are being dissolved. The Greek participle is in the present tense, and is probably used to convey the thought that even now the fabric of the earth is on its way to the final dissolution. If with some of the better MSS. we read “shall thus be dissolved,” instead of “then,” the participle must be taken as more definitely future, being coupled, as in that case it must be, with the manner as well as the fact of the dissolution.
ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness] It should be noted, though it cannot well be expressed in English, that both the Greek nouns are in the plural, as expressing all the manifold forms in which holy living (see note on 1Pe_1:15) and “godliness” shew themselves. The verb for “be” is that which emphatically expresses a permanent and continuous state. The thought implied is that the belief in the transitoriness of all that seems most enduring upon earth should lead, as a necessary consequence, to a life resting on the eternal realities of truth and holiness.
2 Peter 3:11
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved – Since this is an undoubted truth.
What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness – In holy conduct and piety. That is, this fact ought to be allowed to exert a deep and abiding influence on us, to induce us to lead holy lives. We should feel that there is nothing permanent on the earth that this is not our abiding home; and that our great interests are in another world. We should be serious, humble, and prayerful; and should make it our great object to be prepared for the solemn scenes through which we are soon to pass. An habitual contemplation of the truth, that all that we see is soon to pass away, would produce a most salutary effect on the mind. It would make us serious. It would repress ambition. It would lead us not to desire to accumulate what must so soon be destroyed. It would prompt us to lay up our treasures in heaven. It would cause us to ask with deep earnestness whether we are prepared for these amazing scenes, should they suddenly burst upon us.
2 Peter 3:12
12Looking for and hasting unto, or, waiting for by hastening; so I render the words, though they are two participles; for what we had before separately he gathers now into one sentence, that is, that we ought hastily to wait. Now this contrarious hope possesses no small elegance, like the proverb, “Hasten slowly,” (festina lente .) When he says, “Waiting for,” he refers to the endurance of hope; and he sets hastening in opposition to topor; and both are very apposite. For as quietness and waiting are the peculiarities of hope, so we must always take heed lest the security of the flesh should creep in; we ought, therefore, strenuously to labor in good works, and run quickly in the race of our calling. What he before called the day of Christ (as it is everywhere called in Scripture) he now calls the day of God, and that rightly, for Christ will then restore the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:12. looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God …] The English versions follow the Vulgate and Luther in this rendering. It is doubtful, however, whether the Greek verb for “hasten,” followed by an accusative without a preposition, can have this meaning, and its natural transitive force (as e.g. in the LXX. of Isa_16:5, and Herod. i. 38) would give the sense hastening the day. So taken, the thought of the Apostle is that the “day of God” is not immutably fixed by a Divine decree, but may be accelerated by the readiness of His people or of mankind at large. In proportion to that readiness there is less occasion, if we may so speak, for the “long-suffering of God,” to postpone the fulfilment of His promise.
wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved] More accurately, on account of which, viz. “the day of God,” the destruction of the present order being for the sake of that which is to usher in a new and better state. On the words that follow see note on ver. 10, which is almost verbally reproduced. Mic_1:4 may be referred to as presenting the same picture of destruction.
2 Peter 3:12
Looking for – Not knowing when this may occur, the mind should be in that state which constitutes “expectation;” that is, a belief that it will occur, and a condition of mind in which we would not be taken by surprise should it happen at any moment. See the notes at Tit_2:13.
And hasting unto the coming – Margin, as in Greek: ““hasting the coming.”” The Greek word rendered “hasting,” (σπεύδω speudō,) means to urge on, to hasten; and then to hasten after anything, to await with eager desire. This is evidently the sense here – Wetstein and Robinson. The state of mind which is indicated by the word is that when we are anxiously desirous that anything should occur, and when we would hasten or accelerate it if we could. The true Christian does not dread the coming of that day. He looks forward to it as the period of his redemption, and would welcome, at any time, the return of his Lord and Saviour. While he is willing to wait as long as it shall please God for the advent of His Redeemer, yet to Him the brightest prospect in the future is that hour when he shall come to take him to Himself.
The coming of the day of God – Called “the day of God,” because God will then be manifested in his power and glory.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3: 13. we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth] The promise of which the Apostle speaks is that of Isa_65:17, Isa_66:22, where we have the very words, “new heavens and a new earth,” the context there connecting it with the restoration of Israel to their own land and the renewed glory of Jerusalem. The same hope shews itself in the visions of the Apocalypse (Rev_21:1) as connected with the “new Jerusalem” coming down from God, and appears in a fuller and more expanded form in the Apocryphal Book of Enoch. “The former heaven shall pass away and a new heaven shall shew itself” (chap. xcii. 17). “The earth shall be cleansed from all corruption, from every crime, from all punishment” (c. x. 2-7).
wherein dwelleth righteousness] This again reproduces the thought of Isaiah (65:25) that “they shall not hurt (LXX. “act unrighteously”) nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” and St John’s account of the new Jerusalem that “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” (Rev_21:27). It is implied in St Paul’s belief that “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Rom_8:21). Earth itself, purified and redeemed, is to be the scene of the blessedness of the saved, as it has been, through the long æons of its existence, of sin and wretchedness.
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth; rather, but, according to his promise, we look for. The promise is that in Isa_65:17, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” (see also Isa_66:22 and Rev_21:1). St. John saw in vision the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah and St. Peter: “The first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” It may be that, as the water of the Deluge was the baptism of the ancient world into a new life, so the fire of the great day will be the means of purifying and refining the universe, transforming it into new heavens and a new earth, making all things new. Our Lord’s use of the word “regeneration,” in Mat_19:28, seems to favour this view. In the regeneration of the individual soul the personality remains, the thoughts, desires, affections, are changed; so, it may be, in the regeneration of the world the substance will remain, the fashion (σχῆμα) of the old world will pass away (1Co_7:31). But it is impossible to pronounce dogmatically whether the new heavens and earth will be a reproduction of the old in a far more glorious form, through the agency of the refining fire, or an absolutely new creation, as the words of Isaiah seem to imply. St. John, like St. Peter, speaks of a new earth, and tells us that that new earth will be the dwelling-place of the blessed. He saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven; the throne of God and of the Lamb (he tells us) shall be in it: “The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.” The holy city, Jerusalem, which is above, is in heaven now; the commonwealth of which the saints are citizens is in heaven (Php_3:20). But heaven will come down to earth; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there; there his servants shall serve him. The distinction between earth and heaven will be abolished; for where God is, there is heaven. Wherein dwelleth righteousness (comp. Isa_60:21, “Thy people shall be all righteous;” also Isaiah lay. 25; Rev_21:27; Rom_8:21).
2 Peter 3:13
Nevertheless we, according to his promise – The allusion here seems to be, beyond a doubt, to two passages in Isaiah, in which a promise of this kind is found. Isa_65:17; “for, behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Isa_66:22; “for as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord,” etc. Compare Rev_21:1, where John says he had a vision of the new heaven and the new earth which was promised: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.” See the notes at Isa_65:17.
Look for new heavens and a new earth – It may not be easy to answer many of the questions which might be asked respecting the “new heaven and earth” here mentioned. One of those which are most naturally asked is, whether the apostle meant to say that this earth, after being purified by fire, would be suited again for the home of the redeemed; but this question it is impossible to answer with certainty. The following remarks may perhaps embrace all that is known, or that can be shown to be probable, on the meaning of the passage before us.
I. The “new heavens and the new earth” referred to will be such as will exist after the world shall have been destroyed by fire; that is, after the general judgment. There is not a word expressed, and not a hint given, of any “new heaven and earth” previous to this, in which the Saviour will reign personally over his saints, in such a renovated world, through a long millennial period. The order of events, as stated by Peter, is:
(a) That the heavens and earth which are now, are “kept in store, reserved unto fire “against the day of judgment,” and perdition of ungodly men,” 2Pe_3:7;
(b) That the day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly, 2Pe_3:10; that then the heavens and earth will pass away with a great noise, the elements will melt, and the earth with all its works be burned up, 2Pe_3:10; and,
(c) That after this 2Pe_3:13 we are to expect the “new heavens and new earth.”
Nothing is said of a personal reign of Christ; nothing of the resurrection of the saints to dwell with him on the earth; nothing of the world’s being fitted up for their home previous to the final judgment. If Peter had any knowledge of such events, and believed that they would occur, it is remarkable that he did not even allude to them here. The passage before us is one of the very few places in the New Testament where allusion is made to the manner in which the affairs of the world will be closed; and it cannot be explained why, if he looked for such a glorious personal reign of the Saviour, the subject should have been passed over in total silence.
II. The word “new,” applied to the heavens and the earth that are to succeed the present, might express one of the following three things – that is, either of these things would correspond with all that is fairly implied in that word:
(a) If a new world was literally created out of nothing after this world is destroyed; for that would be in the strictest sense “new.” That such an event is possible no one can doubt, though it is not revealed.
(b) If an inhabitant of the earth should dwell after death In any other of the worlds now existing, it would be to him a “new” abode, and everything would appear new. Let him, for instance, be removed to the planet “Saturn,” with its wonderful ring, and its seven moons, and the whole aspect of the heavens, and of the world on which he would then dwell, would be new to him. The same thing would occur if he were to dwell on any other of the heavenly bodies, or if he were to pass from world to world. See this illustrated at length in the works of Thomas Dick, LL. D. – “Celestial Scenery,” etc. Compare the notes at 1Pe_1:12.
(c) If the earth should be renovated, and suited for the home of man after the universal conflagration, it would then be a new abode.
III. This world, thus renovated, may be, from time to time, the temporary abode of the redeemed, after the final judgment. No one can prove that this may not be, though there is no evidence that it will be their permanent and eternal home or that even all the redeemed will at any one time find a home on this globe, for no one can suppose that the earth is spacious enough to furnish a dwelling-place for all the unnumbered millions that are to be saved. But that the earth may again be revisited from time to time by the redeemed; that in a purified and renovated form it may be one of the “many mansions” which are to be fitted up for them Joh_14:2, may not appear wholly improbable from the following suggestions:
(1) It seems to have been a law of the earth that in its progress it should be “prepared” at one period for the dwelling-place of a higher order of beings at another period. Thus, according to the disclosures of geology, it existed perhaps for countless ages before it was fitted to be an abode for man; and that it was occupied by the monsters of an inferior order of existence, who have now passed away to make room for a nobler race. Who can tell but the present order of thing may pass away to make place for the manifestations of a more exalted mode of being?
(2) There is no certain evidence that any world has been annihilated, though some have disappeared from human view. Indeed, as observed above, (see the notes at 2Pe_3:10) there is no proof that a single particle of matter ever has been annihilated, or ever will be. It may change its form, but it may still exist.
(3) It seems also to accord most with probability, that, though the earth may undergo important changes by flood or fire, it will not be annihilated. It seems difficult to suppose that, as a world, it will be wholly displaced from the system of which it is now a part, or that the system itself will disappear. The earth, as one of the worlds of God, has occupied too important a position in the history of the universe to make it to be easily believed that the place where the Son of God became incarnate and died, shall be utterly swept away It would, certainly, accord more with all the feelings which we can have on such a subject, to suppose that a world once so beautiful when it came from the hand of its Maker. should be restored to primitive loveliness; that a world which seems to have been made primarily (see the notes at 1Pe_1:12) with a view to illustrate the glory of God in redemption, should be preserved in some appropriate form to be the theater of the exhibition of the developement of that plan in far distant ages to come.
(4) To the redeemed, it would be most interesting again to visit the spot where the great work of their redemption was accomplished; where the Son of God became incarnate and made atonement for sin; and where there would be so many interesting recollections and associations, even after the purification by fire, connected with the infancy of their existence, and their preparation for eternity. Piety would at least “wish” that the world where Gethsemane and Calvary are should never be blotted out from the universe.
(5) However, if, after their resurrection and reception into heaven, the redeemed shall ever revisit a world so full of interesting recollections and associations, where they began their being, where their Redeemer lived and died, where they were renewed and sanctified, and where their bodies once rested in the grave, there is no reason to suppose that this will be their permanent and unchanging home. It may be mere speculation, but it seems to accord best with the goodness of God, and with the manner in which the universe is made, to suppose that every portion of it may be visited, and become successively the home of the redeemed; that they may pass from world to world, and survey the wonders and the works of God as they are displayed in different worlds. The universe, so vast, seems to have been suited for such a purpose, and nothing else that we can conceive of will be so adapted to give employment without weariness to the minds that God has made, in the interminable duration before them.
IV. The new heavens and earth will be “holy.” They will be the home of righteousness forever.
(a) This fact is clearly revealed in the verse before us; “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” It is also the correct statement of the Scriptures, Rev_21:27; 1Co_6:9-10; Heb_12:14.
(b) This will be in strong contrast with what has occurred on earth, The history of this world has been almost entirely a history of sin – of its nature, developements, results. There have been no perfectly holy beings on the earth, except the Saviour, and the angels who have occasionally visited it. There has been no perfectly holy place – city, village, hamlet; no perfectly holy community. But the future world, in strong contrast with this, will be perfectly pure, and will be a fair illustration of what religion in its perfect form will do.
(c) It is for this that the Christian desires to dwell in that world, and waits for the coming of his Saviour. It is not primarily that he may be happy, desirable as that is, but that he may be in a world where he himself will be perfectly pure, and where all around him will be pure; where every being that he meets shall be “holy as God is holy,” and every place on which his eye rests, or his foot treads, shall be uncontaminated by sin. To the eye of faith and hope, how blessed is the prospect of such a world!
2 Peter 3:14
14.Wherefore. He justly reasons from hope to its effect, or the practice of a godly life; for hope is living and efficacious; therefore it cannot be but that it will attract us to itself. He, then, who waits for new heavens, must begin with renewal as to himself, and diligently aspire after it; but they who cleave to their own filth, think nothing, it is certain, of God’s kingdom, and have no taste for anything but for this corrupt world.
But we must notice that he says, that we ought to be found blameless by Christ; for by these words he intimates, that while the world engages and engrosses the minds of others, we must cast our eyes on the Lord, and he shews at the same time what is real integrity, even that which is approved by his judgment, and not that which gains the Praise of men.
The word peace seems to be taken for a quiet state of conscience, founded on hope and patient waiting. For as so few turn their attention to the judgment of Christ, hence it is, that while they are carried headlong by their importunate lusts, they are at the same time in a state of disquietude. This peace, then, is the quietness of a peaceable soul, which acquiesces in the word of God.
It may be asked, how any one can be found blameless by Christ, when we all labor under so many deficiencies. But Peter here only points out the mark at which the faithful ought all to aim, though they cannot reach it, until having put off their flesh they become wholly united to Christ.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:14. be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace …] The language, like that of ver. 8, is that of one who still lives in the expectation that he and those to whom he writes may yet survive to witness the coming of the Lord. The hour of death has not yet taken the place in the Apostle’s thoughts, as it has done since, of the day of that Coming. In the exhortation that men should be diligent (better, be earnest) to be found in peace at that day, we may trace an echo of our Lord’s words, “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Mat_24:46). “Peace” is used in its widest Hebrew sense, as including every element of blessedness, peace with God, and therefore peace with man, the peace which Christ gives, not as the world gives (Joh_14:27), the peace which passes understanding (Php_4:7).
without spot, and blameless …] The words are nearly identical with those which describe the character of Christ as “a lamb without blemish and without spot” in 1Pe_1:19, and their re-appearance is a fresh link in the chain of evidence as to identity of authorship. They who expect the coming of Christ should be like Him in their lives. The first of the two words may be noticed as used also by St James (1:27).
2 Peter 3:14
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent – That is, in securing your salvation. The effect of such hopes and prospects should be to lead us to an earnest inquiry whether we are prepared to dwell in a holy world, and to make us diligent in performing the duties, and patient in bearing the trials of life. He who has such hopes set before him, should seek earnestly that he may be enabled truly to avail himself of them, and should make their attainment the great object of his life. He who is so soon to come to an end of all weary toil, should be willing to labor diligently and faithfully while life lasts. He who is so soon to be relieved from all temptation and trial, should he willing to bear a little longer the sorrows of the present world. What are all these compared with the glory that awaits us? Compare the 1Co_15:58 note; Rom_8:18 note, following; 2Co_4:16-18 notes.
That ye may be found of him in peace – Found by him when he returns in such a state as to secure your eternal peace.
Without spot, and blameless – See the notes at Eph_5:27. It should be an object of earnest effort with us to have the last stain of sin and pollution removed from our souls. A deep feeling that we are soon to stand in the presence of a holy God, our final Judge, cannot but have a happy influence in making us pure.
2 Peter 3:17
17.Ye, therefore, beloved. After having shewn to the faithful the dangers of which they were to beware, he now concludes by admonishing them to be wise. But he shews that there was need of being watchful, lest they should be overwhelmed. And, doubtless, the craft of our enemy, the many and various treacheries which he employs against us, the cavils of ungodly men, leave no place for security. Hence, vigilance must be exercised, lest the devices of Satan and of the wicked should succeed in circumventing us. It, however seems that we stand on slippery ground, and the certainty of our salvation is suspended, as it were, on a thread, since he declares to the faithful, that they ought to take heed lest they should fall from their own steadfastness.
What, then, will become of us, if we are exposed to the danger of falling? To this I answer, that this exhortation, and those like it, are by no means intended to shake the firmness of that faith which recumbs on God, but to correct the sloth of our flesh. If any one wishes to see more on this subject, let him read what has been said on the tenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
The meaning is this, that as long as we are in the flesh, our tardiness must be roused, and that this is fitly done by having our weakness, and the variety of dangers which surround us, placed before our eyes; but that the confidence which rests on God’s promises ought not to be thereby shaken.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 3:17. beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked] Better, of the lawless ones, as in chap. 2:7. It is noticeable that while St Paul had used the word for being “led away” of Barnabas as being influenced by the Judaizing teachers at Antioch (Gal_2:13), St Peter here applies it to those who were persuaded by teachers at the opposite pole of error. Comp. note on chap. 2:1. The word for “error” is prominent in the Epistles to which St Peter has referred in the preceding verses (Eph_4:14; 1Th_2:3; 2Th_2:11).
fall from your own stedfastness] The “steadfastness” of the readers of the Epistle as contrasted with the unstable or unsteadfast of verse 16 is acknowledged; but they are warned that it requires care and watchfulness to preserve it. He does not assume any indefectible grace of perseverance. The tense of the verb in “lest ye fall” indicates that it would be a single and decisive act.
2 Peter 3:17
Seeing that ye know these things before – Being aware of this danger, and knowing that such results may follow. People should read the Bible with the feeling that it is possible that they may fall into error, and be deceived at last. This apprehension will do much to make them diligent, and candid, and prayerful, in studying the Word of God.
With the error of the wicked – Wicked men. Such as he had referred to in 2 Pet. 2, who became public teachers of religion.
Fall from your own steadfastness – Your firm adherence to the truth. The particular danger here referred to is not that of falling from grace, or from true religion, but from the firm and settled principles of religious truth into error.
2 Peter 3:18
18.But grow in grace. He also exhorts us to make progress; for it is the only way of persevering, to make continual advances, and not to stand still in the middle of our journey; as though he had said, that they only would be safe who labored to make progress daily.
The word grace, I take in a general sense, as meaning those spiritual gifts we obtain through Christ. But as we become partakers of these blessings according to the measure of our faith, knowledge is added to grace; as though he had said, that as faith increases, so would follow the increase of grace.
To him be glory. This is a remarkable passage to prove the divinity of Christ; for what is said cannot belong to any but to God alone. The adverb of the present time, now, is designed for this end, that we may not rob Christ of his glory, during our warfare in the world. He then adds,for ever, that we may now form some idea of his eternal kingdom, which will make known to us his full and perfect glory.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Peter 3:18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ] The final thought of the Epistle, like that with which it opened, is the growth of the Christian life. Here, as there (chap. 1:5), stress is laid on knowledge as an element of growth, partly as essential to completeness in the Christian life, partly also, perhaps, in reference to the “knowledge falsely so called” (1Ti_6:20) of which the false teachers boasted.
To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen] The word “glory” in the Greek has the article, which makes it include all the glory which men were wont, in their doxologies, to ascribe to God. The Apostle has learnt the full meaning of the words “that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (Joh_5:23). The effect of his teaching may be traced in the Churches to which the letter was mainly addressed, in Pliny’s account of the worship of Christians in the Asiatic provinces, as including “a hymn sung to Christ as to God” (Ep. ad Trajan. 96). The Greek phrase for “for ever” (literally, for the day of the æon, or eternity) is a peculiar one, and expresses the thought that “the day” of which the Apostle had spoken in verses 10 and 12 would be one which should last through the new æon that would then open, and to which no time-limits could be assigned.
The absence of any salutations, like those with which the First Epistle ended, is, perhaps, in part due to the wider and more encyclical character which marks the Second. The Apostle was content that his last words should be on the one hand an earnest entreaty that men should “grow” to completeness in their spiritual life, and, on the other, the ascription of an eternal glory to the Lord and Master whom he loved.
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace – Compare Col_1:10. Religion in general is often represented as “grace,” since every part of it is the result of grace, or of unmerited favor; and to “grow in grace” is to increase in that which constitutes true religion. Religion is as susceptible of cultivation and of growth as any other virtue of the soul. It is feeble in its beginnings, like the grain of mustard seed, or like the germ or blade of the plant, and it increases as it is cultivated. There is no piety in the world which is not the result of cultivation, and which cannot be measured by the degree of care and attention bestowed upon it. No one becomes eminently pious, any more than one becomes eminently learned or rich, who does not intend to; and ordinarily men in religion are what they design to be. They have about as much religion as they wish, and possess about the character which they intend to possess. When men reach extraordinary elevations in religion, like Baxter, Payson, and Edwards, they have gained only what they meant to gain; and the gay and worldly professors of religion who have little comfort and peace, have in fact the characters which they designed to have. If these things are so, then we may see the propriety of the injunction “to grow in grace;” and then too we may see the reason why so feeble attainments are made in piety by the great mass of those who profess religion.
And in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – See the notes at Joh_17:3. Compare the notes at Col_1:10. To know the Lord Jesus Christ – to possess just views of his person, character, and work – is the sum and essence of the Christian religion; and with this injunction, therefore, the apostle appropriately closes this epistle. He who has a saving knowledge of Christ, has in tact all that is essential to his welfare in the life that is, and in that which is to come; he who has not this knowledge, though he may be distinguished in the learning of the schools, and may be profoundly skilled in the sciences, has in reality no knowledge that will avail him in the great matters pertaining to his eternal welfare.
To him be glory … – Compare the Rom_16:27 note; 2Ti_4:18 note. With the desire that honor and glory should be rendered to the Redeemer, all the aspirations of true Christians appropriately close. There is no wish more deeply cherished in their hearts than this; there is nothing that will enter more into their worship in heaven. Compare Rev_1:5-6; Rev_5:12-13.