III. In spite of the scoffers who doubt the Lord's coming, let His soon return and judgement on the ungodly motivate you to godly living. 3:1-16
C. But God’s judgement on ungodly mankind is sure and terrible. 7-10
1. The next judgement is already scheduled. 7
2. God delays for the salvation of the elect. 8-9
3. Judgement will be sudden and terrible. 10
Years ago, there was a popular song titled, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” I have a sort of comical desire to have all the clocks in our house correct and synchronized. I like to know what time it is. So every week or two I check the time on the Internet. But I know a man who is even worse; he has his computer set up to automatically check the time every day by an atomic clock.
Although most people want to know what time it is at a given moment, they don’t pay much attention to the passing of time. People believe that they have, as the expression goes, all the time in the world. This is true especially in relation to the prospect of God’s judgment. Even those of us who expect God’s judgment often get casual about the progress of time.
But God has a definite timetable for all future events, and particularly for judgment, as we will see in this section of the second epistle of Peter. God is in control over the universe because He created it. He knows when it is the best time to act because He planned everything from the beginning. Jesus said concerning end times events: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). The great God in heaven definitely knows what time it is!
Remember that in the last study we saw that Peter was refuting the scoffers whose challenge is, “Where is the promise of His coming?” They argue that from the beginning things have always been the same and so should always continue the same. But Peter points out that they deliberately overlook the interruption of the destruction of the earth by the flood in Noah’s day.
In contrast to the former world which was destroyed by flood, the Apostle reveals that this present heaven and earth have a different destiny. God will be faithful to the covenant he made with Noah that He never again would destroy the earth by flood (Gen. 9:8-17). The next judgment will be even more severe and is already scheduled “by His word” (3:7). And Scripture is clear that God’s word cannot fail.
Peter begins v. 7 with a contrast between the “former world” of v. 6 and the “present heavens and earth” of v. 7. He announces in v. 7 that the present heavens and earth are “stored up for fire and reserved for the day of judgment.” The word, “stored,” has to do with storing up something as in a storehouse (see for instance Matt. 6:19; Rom. 2:5). ‘Reserved’ has the idea of keeping an eye on, guarding. The two verbs are included together for emphasis. God has made an appointment for these heavens and earth, not for renovation, not for further glory, but for the fire of judgment. This will be a judgment on ungodly humanity—all those who reject God and His Christ and choose their own way. Peter used the same description in 2:5 for those judged in the flood in Noah’s day. The worst part is that it was these that Christ died for, according to Rom. 5:6.
The scoffers want to know why there is a delay. So in vv. 8-9 Peter again draws a contrast—this time with the impatient attitude of the scoffers. Our attitude should be different. Then he explains God’s reasons for delaying. First, in v. 8, it needs to be realized that time is not the same in God’s perspective as in ours. One of our days is more like a thousand years to God. So what seems like a very long time to us is nothing at all to God. We are impatient over two thousand years of time since Christ. But since God is eternal two thousand years is insignificant for Him.
Second, in v. 9, he stresses that it is not that the Lord is slow; it is that He is patient with reference to His promise to His own. The scoffers use the large delay (in our perspective) to try to challenge the return of Christ in judgment. The do this for their own motives. They want free reign for their lusts. Of course, they do not care what the real reason is. Peter is pointing out that we need not fall for their reasoning.
Notice that Peter says that God is patient “toward us” (some manuscripts have ‘you’, but the result for this argument would be the same). This is not God’s desire for as many as possible to be saved as in 1 Tim 2:4, this is God assuring that He will not lose any of His elect, as in, for instance, John 6:39. Peter uses the word ‘promise’ to refer to the scoffer’s question, “Where is the promise of His coming.” The promise is as sure today as when it was given, because God will not allow for any of His elect to perish.
Now that he has explained God’s seeming delay, Peter warns us in v. 10 that the coming of Christ in the day of the Lord is not to be viewed lightly. Once again, there is a contrast. The large amount of time could lull people into complacency. But there is a reason to be alert: that day will be unexpected and it will be cataclysmic. The image of the “thief in the night” is used frequently in Scripture (Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2). Just as a thief does not give advance warning of his coming, God does not let us know precisely when various stages of end time’s events will occur. People will be completely caught unawares.
The cataclysmic destruction of that day will feature intense internal heat. Everything will be burned up with fire. How will this come about? Perhaps we get a clue in the fact that Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), and “in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Scientists may hold theories about the forces at work in the atom, and how they hold together, but Christ is the real answer. If He simply lets go, all matter will be destroyed by some sort of internal nuclear explosion.
It is customary to say that things seem terrible now, whether we are speaking morally, economically or politically. But one day God will conclude everything in His way. Christ will indeed return and eventually there will be a new heavens and earth. What should we do in the meantime, those of us who know Christ and are waiting for Him? We will find out in the next study.
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 3:1-6
2 Peter 3:11-16
2 Peter 3:17-18