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II Peter 1-3 Listen
An introduction to II Peter
II Peter was written by Peter about the same time (of course, afterward) as I Peter - 62 to 64 A.D.
The benchmarks of committed Christian living (II Peter 1:1-15)
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Verse 1 contains an interesting comparative phrase regarding the quality of one's salvation. As "an apostle of Jesus Christ," he declares regarding the salvation of his readers that they "have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." The phrase "like precious" (Greek adjective: "isotimos") means "equally precious," a reference to the fact that their salvation in Jesus Christ is in no way inferior to his own as an apostle.
Every verb used in verses 2-4 is in either the Greek aorist or perfect tense - both tenses indicating the completed action of salvation. Here's what a Believer gets at the point of salvation in Jesus Christ:
Because of all of this, Believers have "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (verse 4). Again...all of the verbs used in verses 2-4 are either aorist or perfect, indicating that all of these items accompanied our salvation experience when we were saved. Now notice particularly verse 4, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." This "divine nature" is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Believer's life.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
We see the qualities of victorious Christian living in verses 5-8. We already know from Paul's writings, especially to the Galatians, that these attributes are achieved through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as seen in Galatians 5:16-25 (see notes). Let's take particular note of the phrase he uses in verse 5, "add to your faith." The compound Greek word for "add" there is "epichoregeo" which means to "super add" or "add upon." In other words, it means "to add to what is already there." This word is just used five times in the New Testament - twice by Peter (here and verse 11 where it is translated "ministered," see below). So, while Peter encourages Believers to "add" these qualities, Paul explains the mechanics of doing so in his explanation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25 (see notes).
And talk about the joy of Christian living, look at verse 8, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." So when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, then verses 5-7 flow naturally and the joy of verse 8 is realized. I fully recognize that Peter doesn't actually make reference, per se, to the Holy Spirit here. However, Paul clearly defines the Believer's condition of verse 8 to have been achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But what about the immature Believer - the one who has not advanced in the faith? Well...there he is in verse 9, "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." There's no question that Peter's talking about a saved person here because he has been "purged from his old sins." However, the subject is obviously not happy or fulfilled in his Christian life...as he tries to live it without the fulness of the Holy Spirit working within. Understand, all Believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit according to I Corinthians 12:13 (see notes), but not all Believers are filled by the Holy Spirit as we see from Galatians 5:16-25 (see notes). Of course, God wants all Believers to walk in the fulness of the power of the Holy Spirit all the time.
Now, let's move to the verse that some have incorrectly used to indicate that a Believer may lose his salvation. By the way, A BELIEVER CANNOT LOSE HIS SALVATION! Verse 10 says, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" Verses 5-8 are the symptoms of Spirit-led living that make our "calling and election sure." The Greek word for "sure" here is "bebaios" which means "stable." This is the opposite concept of the last word of this verse which is "fall." The Greek word for "fall" is "ptaio" which means "stumble." The word "fall" here is NOT to be taken as losing one's salvation. This verse simply means that when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit (verse 5-8), we demonstrate a stability in our Christian walk unlike the immature Christians who stumble.
When Peter was admonishing his readers to add the attributes of verse 5-7 (see above), he used the Greek word, "epichoregeo" which means to "super add." Here the word is used again in verse 11, but this time the KJV translates it "ministered." It appears to be a play on words by Peter in using the same word twice - here and verse 5. So...when your life reflects the attributes of verses 5-7, then the appearance (KJV: "entrance") of Jesus Christ (aka "rapture" - see I Thessalonians 4:13-18, see notes) will have special "super added" significance attached to it. In other words, when you prepare for the appearance of Jesus Christ, that appearance will hold super abundance for you when it takes place. In verses 12-13, Peter emphasizes his commitment to keeping the message of Spirit-led service before his readers. He saw his mission, as he describes in verse 13, "to stir you up by putting you in remembrance." The Greek word for "stir...up" there is "diegeiro," which means "to fully awaken." Let's face it, some Believers need a wake-up call from time to time to help them recognize or remember their responsibility to live their lives in a way that glorifies our Lord. Peter anticipates his death in verses 14-15, but emphasizes that he wants this message of Christian living to endure past his death.
A reference to the transfiguration (II Peter 1:16-21)
16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Peter uses two events to validate the Messiahship of Jesus Christ in verses 16-18, the supernatural occurrences at his baptism and the transfiguration.
Peter's two points of validation for "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 16) are:
Peter points out that he was an eyewitness of the glory of Christ in Matthew 17 (see notes) when Christ appeared with Moses and Elijah.
Then, in verse 19, Peter further establishes the Messiahship of Jesus with prophecy. The prophecies of the Old Testament are further validated because the Transfiguration is a preview of their fulfillment. Peter links this transfiguration experience with Old Testament prophecy and then explains the supernatural aspect of scripture in verses 20-21, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." In other words, scripture is not given by man's intellect (not "of any private interpretation"), but it comes from God ("but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"). These two facts make Christ through scripture uniquely worthy of our honor.
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
Here is a chapter with some rather sobering warnings to those who resist the truth and preach false doctrine. False doctrine is false doctrine; it is seated in wickedness. False teachers many times have elements of truth all through their teaching, but false doctrine is false doctrine. Beware of those who do not embrace the entire doctrine of righteousness in their teaching. Disregard their eloquence or rationale; go for 100% truth.
Now, let's deal with the doctrinal implications of this passage with regard to the state of salvation for these false teachers. It's unrealistic to read this chapter and conclude anything other than that these false teachers are headed for Hell. Peter goes way out of his way with terminology and examples to make this abundantly clear. Now for the problem: What then does verse 1 mean when it says, "...even denying the Lord that bought them."? I mean, if you are "bought," aren't you saved? In case you're wondering, you won't get any help from knowing the Greek verb for "bought" here; it is "agorazo," which simply means "to buy." Quite a lot has been written on this verse in the way of explanation. Much of what has been written sounds like double talk...giving so much irrelevant information that one may not realize the real issue has not really been satisfied. So, let's try to cut through the double talk and come to a viable conclusion about this verse.
Let me give you two positions held by credible Bible teachers on this verse and give you an opportunity to decide for yourself.
Regarding the second position here, give some thought to Romans 5:8 (see notes), "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And what about I John 2:1-2 (see notes), "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." It is certainly plausible to assume that Peter may have been writing in these terms in reference to false teachers being "bought," though having never appropriated salvation for themselves by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior.
You may find it helpful to know the underlying Greek noun used four times in these three verses, "apoleia." The KJV translates it as "damnable" and "destruction" in verse 1. In verse 2 it is translated as "pernicious ways." In verse 3 it is translated "damnation." Peter used the exact same word in all four instances. In addition to these four renderings, Peter uses the exact same Greek noun in chapter 3, translated "perdition" in verse 7 and "destruction" in verse 16. Altogether, "apoleia" is used 20 times in the New Testament. One more significant occurrence is in II Thessalonians 2:3 (see notes), "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." That's a reference to the "beast" of Revelation 13:1-10 (see notes), the man we typically refer to as the "antichrist."
Make no mistake about it; verses 4-22 clearly establish that these subjects are wicked, unregenerate people.
4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
In light of the wording of verses 1-3, it seems futile to try to make a case that eternal damnation for these false teachers is not the intended meaning here. Peter gives several examples of God's judgment on wickedness in verses 4-19 to reinforce his point. Verses 20-22 require some explanation in this context as well - saved people or not? Well...we've already established that they're not saved - these false teachers. But verse 20 indicates that "they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Isn't that saved? No! Many people have the knowledge and move toward salvation, but never get saved. These false teachers were obviously people who had convincingly positioned themselves where it appeared they were following Christ, but not really - never got saved. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15 (see notes) illustrates this condition exactly. In that parable by Jesus, only the fourth category of seed recipients actually responded; the first three received knowledge but declined. So is the case with these false teachers.
In verses 4-6, Peter gives three Old Testament examples of the destruction of wickedness:
The deliverance of Lot from Sodom and Gomorrha is seen in verses 7-9 as an example of how Peter expects to see his readers delivered from these false teachers. The wording in those three verses leaves no doubt that Peter considered these false teachers to be unregenerate. Verse 10 needs a little explanation, "But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities." The Greek word for "government" there is "kuriotes," which is only used four times in the New Testament. The other three times it is translated "dominion" in the KJV. When Paul uses the word in Ephesians 1:21 (see notes) and Colossians 1:16 (see notes), he uses it in the context of referring to supernatural authority. It seems best to understand it in that context here as well. Furthermore, the word "dignities" comes from the Greek word "doxa," which is a frequently-used word almost always translated "glory." Translating it as "dignities" in the KJV only occurs here and Jude 8 (see notes). So, the wording of verse 10 doesn't reflect their resistance against human government, but rather supernatural powers. That understanding is supported by verse 11 where it is said that angels (supernatural powers) "bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord." The moral shortcomings of these false teachers are certainly identified in verses 12-14 just prior to being compared to Baalam in verses 15-16. That reference gives us a good bit of insight regarding these false teachers. Balaam was a false, pagan prophet - although he did actually get a word of prophecy from the one true God...but so did his donkey. We start reading about him in Numbers 22 (see notes). Balaam was an enemy of God and Israel who just happened to get a Word from God.
In verse 17, these false teachers are compared to empty wells and storms without rainfall. They offer promise, but don't deliver spiritual nourishment. We see in verses 18-22 that their motivations are altogether corrupt. Regarding the issue of the authenticity of their faith in these verses, see the comments above. Peter wraps up these false-teacher comments with an Old Testament proverbial quote - Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly." This puts the lid on the case of these false teachers. They are unregenerate evil people who verbalize just enough truth to doctrinally snag the uninformed.
1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Does it seem like a long time - I mean a long time for the promise of the return of Christ? Peter addresses this issue in verses 1-6 when he compares our waiting for the return of Jesus to that of the long wait for the judgment of God against the inhabitants of the earth prior to the flood. He indicates in verses 3-4 that there will be those who will prompt others to question the promises of God, just as in Noah's day. In that passage, Noah appears to have preached righteousness for 120 years prior to the flood, but to no avail (Genesis 6:3-7, see notes). Peter concludes this comparison in verse 7 when he says, "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." In other words, "Hang on! It's coming!" And really...the wait isn't that long after all; he says in II Peter 3:8, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." God has a timetable. We get impatient, but to him everything is on schedule. Perhaps Peter was thinking of Psalm 90:4 (see notes), "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."
Some have used verse 8 here as a consistent timetable formula. I'm not comfortable with the notion that one day with God always means 1,000 years with man. That formula has been used in a variety of prophetic applications - and even utilized as an innovative look at the six days of creation. The emphasis for Peter here is that God's definition of a long time is not necessarily our definition of a long time. I really don't feel comfortable making it mean anything beyond that.
Verse 9 has created a dilemma for some, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." For those who firmly teach that God has determined that some people who are born into this world are "willed" to be lost without hope of salvation, this verse is very difficult to explain. Their view is that "saved" people only are being called upon to "repentance" in this verse. In view of the Noahic flood analogy of verses 5-6, that position simply doesn't make sense. This verse seems, instead, to indicate that God is allowing time (lots of time) for the salvation of more people prior to his return because he is "...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." If you have questions about foreknowledge, election and predestination, click here to read the notes on Romans 9.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Verse 10 begins, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night..." So, what day, exactly, is that - the rapture, the second coming of Christ, the beginning of the new Heaven and new Earth - what? The word "day" here is undoubtedly used figuratively like we use that word ourselves (i.e. "back in my day..." or "there's coming a day..."). Paul used the word similarly in II Thessalonians 2:3 (see notes). As a matter of fact, we know from the Book of Revelation that the events of II Peter 3:10-13 may be a description of those which take place during the last few weeks of the Tribulation during the "vial" judgments (Revelation 15, see notes). Perhaps, however, Peter is making reference to the occasion detailed in Revelation 21:1 (see notes) which follows immediately upon the heals of the millennium when the current Earth is completely destroyed at once and a new Earth is created. As a matter of fact, the wording of verse 13 matches exactly the provisions of the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 (see notes).
By the way, nobody knows when a thief is coming. It is reserved for our future as a big ol' surprise. That being the case, verse 11 encourages us to be in pursuit of godliness at all times. In the New Heaven and New Earth, only righteousness will prevail (verse 13).
Stand strong! (II Peter 3:14-18)
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
And finally, stay away from those teachers with false teaching. Don't let them get you off track (verse 14). Peter makes reference to Paul's writings in verses 15-16 and mentions the false teachers again who reject this sound teaching. Don't listen to those teachers (verse 17); they'll chisel away at your stability ("steadfastness") in the Lord. The opposite of this "stedfastness" is the confusion that results in the "destruction" of the "unlearned and unstable." These are referenced in verse 17 as those teaching "the error of the wicked." The KJV translates the Greek verb "strebloo" as "wrest" in verse 16. However, the word actually means "to twist or pervert." These are references to the same false teachers of chapter 2 (see above). They are wicked and bound for destruction.
Stick with the unadulterated Word of God. Here's the key to victorious living in verse 18, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."