A. Remember the words of the Prophets and Apostles. 1-2
B. Scoffers will come doubting God's impending judgement. 3-6
1. There will be scoffers in the last days. 3
They will challenge the promise of Christ's return. 4-6
a. Their challenge will be based on continuity from Creation.
b. They ignore the interruption of the judgement of the Great Flood. 5-6
“Mom and Dad, you promised.” How many times we heard that when our two sons were growing up! Eventually, my wife and I learned that we had to phrase what we said carefully. If we said, “Maybe on Saturday we could do such and such,” it was always taken as a promise. We found it was better to either not say anything in advance, or to at least be clear: “I’m not making any promises, but if we have time on Saturday….”
There was a difference in my sons and the scoffers we are going to look at in this study. My sons called us on what they perceived as promises because of their eagerness to go to the park and play, or whatever it was we talked about maybe doing. The scoffers of 2 Peter chapter three, on the other hand, are, after all, scoffers. They do not believe in God fulfilling His promises in the first place. They are not looking forward to the return of the Lord under any circumstances. They know, I suspect, that it would not be good for them. As we look at the scoffer’s attitude and the attitude Peter says we are to have, let’s remember that we must believe all that God has said in His Word.
There is a controversy over what other epistle Peter is referring to when he calls this current epistle the second: “This now…is the second epistle I am writing to you….” The natural reference would seem to be our First Peter since we have no record of another one he wrote. But some say First Peter does not have the character of a reminder. However, this argument is based on subjective reasoning, not on objective evidence. First Peter does not call itself a reminder, but it does stress some of the same things as Second Peter: obedience and growth in Christ (1 Pet. 1:13-17, 22; 2:1, 11-13; 3:8, 17; 4:1-4, 7-11; 5:8-9). We should have no problem seeing Peter referring to what we know as 1 Peter in his statement of 2 Pet. 3:1.
What is the reminder he is talking about? Although the words Peter uses here are reminiscent of chapter 1, verses 12-15, in 3:1 he is obviously talking about both epistles being a reminder. Therefore this cannot refer to reminding them just about the teaching in chapter one of Second Peter. It is more likely that he is talking more generally of the teachings of Paul and others, since he specifically says in 3:2, “that you might call to remembrance the words spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of our Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” In the study on Introductory Matters, it was pointed out that Peter “wanted these believers to be able to survive spiritually without an apostolic testimony (2 Pet. 1:12-15).” He is reminding them, in capsule form, of many of the things they had been taught by the apostles and their representatives.
In v. 3 Peter uses the same expression of import as in 1:20—“Know this above all”—to introduce an important statement about future scoffers at God’s promise. Who are these scoffers? Many commentators assume that they are the same as the false teachers of chapter two. There is certainly a great deal of probability that, future to Peter’s time, there will be at least some false teachers who will be casting doubt on God’s promise of the return of Christ. Some of my own family members had a pastor who said from the pulpit, “I neither believe nor disbelieve in the second coming of Christ.” He was coming awfully close to being one of these scoffers. And, by the way, he was a false teacher in other areas. But it seems to me that Peter would likely make a clear identification if he saw these scoffers as the same group in chapter two.
Actually, it seems perfectly possible that several groups of skeptics may contribute similar mocking opinions in these last days. These could be liberal so-called Christian thinkers who believe that some of us take the Bible much too literally. They could be cult members who are predisposed to downplay the possibility of a literal return. I also see no reason that these scoffers could not be those skeptics from the outside of the church who mock the Christian’s belief in a second coming. They say, “You folks believe that your Jesus will come back again, but it has already been two thousand years and nothing has changed.”
It is very interesting to note that the argument these skeptics use (“From ancient times things continue as they were in the beginning”), is one of the pillars of evolutionary thought today. It is especially the bedrock assumption of the various testing methods such as carbon 14. These tests assume that an element, carbon 14 for instance, is released at the same rate now as it was many millions of years ago (if indeed, there has been that much time—and I, for one, do not think there has). Scientists who believe in creation and deny natural selection like to point out that any catastrophe would ruin these uniformitarian assumptions. And such a catastrophe as the worldwide flood of Noah’s day would certainly ruin uniformitarianism. Of course, that is the very argument against uniformitarianism that Peter cites, adding that these scoffers are not ignorant, but that they “deliberately overlook” that there was a worldwide catastrophe in Noah’s day.
Could this message from the scoffers cause problems for believers? Certainly! Any serious doubt about God’s promises would cause uninformed or unprepared believers to at least adjust their interpretation scheme to accommodate the doubt. Then they would simply not take God at His word, but would begin to reinterpret promises and end times assurances. Perhaps they would also begin to doubt axiomatic truths like Rom. 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” They might even begin to doubt their salvation entirely and lose their testimony. All of these things do happen today because many believers listen to the voices of scoffers. Are you standing firm?
Next time, God’s patience.
2 Peter Flow Chart
2 Peter 1:1-7
2 Peter 1:8-11
2 Peter 1:12-15
2 Peter 1:16-21
2 Peter 2:1-3
2 Peter 2:3b-10a
2 Peter 2:10b-22
2 Peter 3:7-10
2 Peter 3:11-16
2 Peter 3:17-18