From: Teaching Guide to 2 Peter Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2017
The Current Age Reprobates
Broke “Free” Not Only From Limitations
on How They Themselves Acted,
but Also in How They Treated Others
Commentary and Thought Flow
2:1 History repeats itself: there had been “false prophets” in antiquity and in his age there were “false teachers” as well. Similarly, it should not surprise us when such deviations from the Divine ideal pop up in our own age as well. These people were blatantly dishonest: “secretly bring[ing] in destructive heresies.” They were not only blatantly in the wrong, they were also deceitful in admitting what they believed or in how they presented their beliefs so that their true agenda could not be readily understood. If a person truly has the truth, how can candor serve anything but good? But if a person can not get a straight answer, what better indication that the person either doesn’t understand what they themselves are saying or don’t want us to understand them?
2:2 Their covert agenda of libertine living would be popular, yet at the same time their excesses would brand them as extremists in behavior even among those who rejected Christianity—otherwise why would outsiders censure Christians for acting in the same manner? If even outsiders can understand the folly of certain things, this is a clear warning to believers when we encounter a teaching that encourages us to give in to our own moral weaknesses.
2:3 They are not merely libertines, they are “covetous” libertines as well--who hope to advance their own finances or worldly position through the doctrines they advocate and practice. Yet even though they seem to prosper, the truth is that “their destruction does not slumber” but is like a hidden, hungry beast waiting to destroy them—and you.
GW: False prophets were among God's people in the past, as false teachers will be among you. They will secretly bring in their own destructive teachings. They will deny the Lord, who has bought them, and they will bring themselves swift destruction. --
NKJV: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
Alternative Readings: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in [put forward, BBE; introduce, ISV; secretly teach, NCV] destructive [harmful, CEV] heresies [lies, CEV; untrue doctrines, TEV; fatal divisions, Weymouth], even denying [turning away from, BBE; turn against, NLT] the Lord who bought them [ransomed them, NAB; redeemed them, TEV, Weymouth; who paid a great price for them, CEV], and bring on themselves swift [quick, NCV, Young; speedy, Rotherham; sudden, TEV] destruction [ruin, NCV].-
Cross-references: History repeats itself. They were going to go through what earlier generations of God’s people had gone through: “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:8-9).
“Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions” (Lamentations ).
Thinking points and questions: Not every preacher is a reliable one. How can you tell the difference? [(1) Do they discourage you from going to the Scriptures to verify what they have to say? (2) Do you really have to “stretch” the words of Scripture to get anywhere close to what they claim it means? (3) Do they prefer to talk about “feelings” and “love” in place of providing scriptural substantiation for what they have to say?]
GW: Many people will follow them in their sexual freedom and will cause others to dishonor the way of truth. --
NKJV: And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Cross-references: Paul wrote of how God wants us to act in a manner to avoid giving unbelievers an excuse to insult our faith: “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8).
Thinking points and questions: Although nonbelievers are far more tolerant of sin than Christians should ever be, they are neither blind nor oblivious. If you do something brazenly hypocritical or blatantly outrageous even they will notice—and use the occasion to insult (“blaspheme”) the gospel because of your behavior.
* Evil always has a potential market: note that “many” would embrace such excesses.
GW: In their greed they will use good-sounding arguments to exploit you. The verdict against them from long ago is still in force, and their destruction is not asleep. --
NKJV: By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Alternative Readings: By covetousness [greed, Holman, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TEV; thirsting for riches, Weymouth] they will exploit you with deceptive [false, NASB, RSV] words [fabrication, NAB; clever lies, NLT; deceit, BBE; stories they have made up, NIV]; for a long time their judgment [condemnation, Holman, NAB, RSV] has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber [is not asleep, ISV, NASB, NRSV; is certain, NCV].
Cross-references: Peter returns to the monetary motive for their teaching in verse 15 of this same chapter: “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
Thinking points and questions: Some false teachers are simply self-deceived, but there are others who are like those Peter describes in this verse, who are at least partly motivated by what. . . ? [They are motivated by money—“covetousness.” They see a way to “play the situation” to their economic advantage.]
They Should Recognize
That Self-Indulgence Won’t Work:
God Had Repeatedly Punished Such Evil in the Past
Commentary and Thought Flow
2:4 God does not put up with such excess even among angels, but cast even them down to a place of confinement. Using the image of a typical prison of that day, they are confined in the equivalent of “chains of darkness” waiting a day of judgment that will not bring release but further condemnation.
2:5 If ever a person wanted to prove that proper morality is not determined by counting numbers, one could hardly find a better example than that of Noah. Out of the multitudes living, prospering, and going about their business only the eight souls that rejected society’s evils and entered the ark were saved while everyone else perished in spite of their abundant and visible public “success.”
2:6 This could not be dismissed as a mere
exception. The number who
perished was far less in the case of corrupt
2:7 Yet even in
GW: God didn't spare angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, where he has secured them with chains of darkness and is holding them for judgment. --
NKJV: For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.
Alternative Readings: For if God did not spare [have pity, BBE, CEV] the angels who sinned [did evil, BBE], but cast them down to [condemned them to, NAB] hell [Tartarus, Holman, NAB, Weymouth, Young] and delivered [committed, ISV, NASB, RSV] them into chains [caves, NCV, Weymouth; pits, CEV, NASB, RSV] of darkness [eternal night, BBE; gloom, Darby, Rotherham, RSV, Young], to be reserved [kept, Darby, ISV, NAB] for [until the, CEV, Holman, NLT, NRSV, RSV] judgment.
Cross-references: Everyone is subject to the Divine will—not even angels are exempt and if they aren’t, how in the world could we ever expect to be? In fact Christ Himself warned that if we do not treat others right, we will join those angels in punishment: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-32, 41-46).
Thinking points and questions: Judging from what is said here, it appears that the final judgment does not come immediately upon our death—at least assuming that humans are treated with a delay, the same way as angels. If that is true, what reason might there be for delay? [For one thing the full consequences of both our virtues and failures won’t be played out immediately. There will be “echoes” and consequences of it passed on in other lives, as what we’ve done affects what they do and think. The full “report card” on our behavior won’t be available until then.]
GW: God didn't spare the ancient world either. He brought the flood on the world of ungodly people, but he protected Noah and seven other people. Noah was his messenger who told people about the kind of life that has God's approval. --
NKJV: And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.
Cross-references: Because everything is going on “normal”
around you is no more proof Divine judgment won’t happen than it was in Noah’s
day. Jesus Himself warned of that kind
of thinking: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also
in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were
given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came
and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of
Thinking points and questions: People who wish to be blind to their eternal destiny will be blind. What kind of excuses can they use? [(1) “It hasn’t happened for years, therefore it won’t happen.” (2) “God loves me”—then why not take advantage of His love and set your life right? (3) “Nobody believes that”—nor did they believe it in Noah’s day. Didn’t stop it from happening, did it?]
condemned the cities of
NKJV: And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly.
Cross-references: What is written in the Bible about past history is not intended just to provide us with reliable testimony about what happened, but also to illustrate the consequences of defying the Divine will. God will “let us do it,” but it ultimately “catches up” with us: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians , providing examples from the days of the Exodus).
Thinking points and questions: Although the case of Sodom and Gomorrah is clearly intended to be an example to everyone, Peter puts the stress on who specifically such cases should be a warning to—and who is that? [To everyone who wants to imitate the same or similar sins—“to those who afterward would live ungodly.”]
God rescued Lot, a man who had his approval.
NKJV: And delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked.
Alternative Readings: And delivered [rescued, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NLT, Rotherham, RSV, TEV, Weymouth; saved, Darby] righteous [upright, BBE] Lot, who was oppressed [distressed, ASV, Darby, Holman, ISV, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TEV; troubled, BBE, CEV, NCV; worn down, Young] by the filthy [abandoned, Darby; gross, Weymouth; immoral, ISV, TEV; lascivious, ASV; licentiousness, NRSV, RSV; sensual, NASB; unrestrained, Holman] conduct [life, BBE; misconduct, Weymouth] of the wicked [evil-doers, BBE; godless, Darby; immoral, Holman; impious, Young; lawless, ISV, NIV, NRSV, TEV; unprincipled, NAB, NASB].
Cross-references: Regardless of what particular sins
may plague a specific society, they are just as dishonorable as those of
“ ‘And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,” says the Lord. “Everyone take heed to his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor, and will not speak the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves to commit iniquity. Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:1-6).
Thinking points and questions: Mankind has always lived in a world that
takes too much pleasure in its sin—exalting sin beyond mere enjoyment into a
virtual obsession. Our age does that
even more than most, in the delusion that it has “matured” beyond the need for
the “delusion” of sin. Instead of accepting
such, what should be a Christian’s reaction—judging by the example of
Proved Both God’s Ability to Punish,
but Also His Ability to Protect the Faithful
Commentary and Thought Flow
2:8 The reason that
2:9 The two offers of God: delivery from temptation or being marked for Divine wrath. Many people play off the God of the two testaments: In the Old, they say, He was a God of wrath; in the New, a God of love. Actually—as this text among many others proves—in both testaments He was both. Which He was depends upon our loyalty to Him and His moral and spiritual standards. By meeting or rejecting those standards we determine what “kind” of God He will be to us.
he was a man who had God's approval, he lived among the people of
NKJV: (For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).
Cross-references: Two verses from the Psalms easily come to mind as describing his mindframe: (1) Psalms 119:136—“Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.” (2) Psalms 119:158—“I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word.” Consider Holman Standard translation: “I have seen the disloyal and feel disgust because they do not keep Your word.”
Thinking points and questions:
GW: Since the Lord did all this, he knows how to rescue godly people when they are tested. He also knows how to hold immoral people for punishment on the day of judgment. --
NKJV: Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.
Alternative Readings: Then [Since this is so, Weymouth] the Lord knows how to deliver [rescue, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, Rotherham, NLT, RSV, TEV, Weymouth; save, NCV] the godly [devout, NAB; pious, Young; upright, BBE; those who serve him, NCV] out of temptations [trials, Darby, Holman, ISV, NAB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, Rotherham, TEV; troubles, NCV; time of testing, BBE] and to reserve [hold, NIV; keep, ASV, BBE, Holman, NASB, TEV] the unjust [unrighteous, ASV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, Rotherham, RSV, Weymouth; evil, CEV, NCV; wicked, TEV] under punishment for the day of judgment [punishing the wicked right up until the day of judgment, NLT].
Cross-references: Temptations are part of life, but we can count on God to do His part: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13
Thinking points and questions: Temptations are inevitable—only their frequency, intensity, and nature will vary. What is a severe temptation to you may tempt me barely and vice versa. But in either case, what is the absolute prerequisite to avoid yielding? [Not to want to. The person who has no real interest in obeying God acts out of arguments of prudence: “Will I get caught?” “Will it get me in trouble?” Those are good as far as they go, but unless you really want to avoid the temptation, they are only temporary delaying tactics.]
These Contemporary Foes
Within the Believing Community Were
Fully Self-Centered and Took Advantage of Others
Commentary and Thought Flow
These reprobates were not merely wrong in some one area of life or attitude, their failures fed upon themselves and corrupted their entire nature. Whatever unclean desire they enjoyed, they cultivated. At heart they were moral anarchists, despising any “authority.” They were stubborn and mule headed and determined to get their way at all costs—“presumptuous, self-willed.” “I” was the guiding star of their lives.
Angels, by their nature, are greater than any mortal. Yet even they never give themselves over to insulting character assassination the way these people do. Even though, in a very real sense, they deserve such treatment—remember the axiom “what goes around, comes around”?—yet in reporting their evils to God, angels simply report the truth and do not resort to vile insult and rage.
To them truth is defined in terms of what they personally can understand and justify. What “they do not understand” they criticize and reject, showing their ignorance and refusal to submit to any authority greater than themselves. Their ignorance ultimately dooms them to “perish in their own corruption” because--without admitting the authority of a standard greater than reason and personal preference--they deny themselves the insight and power that can liberate them from their chains.
These individuals were so utterly unashamed of their excesses that they even allowed themselves to be seen brazenly doing them in broad daylight—probably meant, in part, as figurative . . . in the sense of where anyone and everyone could easily learn of it. Just as people normally reserve their extremes for the night time where they had a decent chance of them going undetected, these people had no sense of even that elemental prudence. No matter how sociable, outgoing, and friendly they may appear to be in your meals and parties with them, that is only the veneer: at the very same time they are busily taking joy in their own hurtful and injurious schemes (“deceptions”).
They use their eyes not to see but to fantasize adultery and plan how to accomplish it. From the practical standpoint, they “cannot cease from sin.” They have so gutted their own sense of morality and responsibility that the safeguards that discourage evil have been fully removed. They have lost their free will on the altar of excess. This would be bad enough if they were content to leave other people alone, but they are zealous proselytizers instead: they are always on the alert to “entice” spiritually “unstable” individuals into adopting their lifestyle.
Like the ancient Balaam who was convinced to prophesy destruction upon God’s people due to the generous bribe he was provided, these men also enjoy “the wages of unrighteousness.” If literal, the idea would be of them as schemers attempting to separate followers from their money—or those they partnered with in their lust from their money or possessions. If figurative, the concept would be of them enjoying the pleasures of their evil behavior.
When Balaam was miraculously rebuked for his dishonorable behavior by a mere talking donkey, even his own greediness was reined in. But can these individuals be convinced by anything to act uprightly? Since we have been told that their self-control has been so gutted that they “cannot cease from sin” (), the answer must be “no.” Not that it’s wrong to try, but that it is delusional to expect much in the way of success.
GW: This is especially true of those who follow their corrupt nature along the path of impure desires and who despise the Lord's authority. These false teachers are bold and arrogant. They aren't afraid to insult the Lord's glory. --
NKJV: And especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.
Cross-references: Instead of at least trying to keep their excesses under some kind of control, these extremists had reached the point of not caring any more. Paul warned against this kind of thing by pleading for the opposite: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them” (Colossians 3:5-7).
Thinking points and questions: Notice a central characteristic of those who have fully given themselves over to evil: They simply don’t care any more. They “despise” any authority that might dare say “no” to them. And they are willing to outright insult—“speak evil of”—those whose judgment or position should be respected (Peter calls them “dignitaries” [= angels in the next verse]).
GW: Angels, who have more strength and power than these teachers, don't bring an insulting judgment against them from the Lord. --
NKJV: Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
Cross-references: Angels are repeatedly describing in the Bible in terms of their power: “Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts” (Psalms 103:20-21).
“My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you” (Daniel ).
“And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
Thinking points and questions: Self-justifying mortals fall into the deadly trap of justifying anything and everything they choose to do. But if angels who are infinitely “greater in power” than we—on an earthly scale think of the superiority of a world champion boxer and you if you both get into the same ring—if even they have the responsibility and capability to restrain themselves, then surely we do as well. No one is a law to himself or herself.
GW: These false teachers insult what they don't understand. They are like animals, which are creatures of instinct that are born to be caught and killed. So they will be destroyed like animals. --
NKJV: But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.
Alternative Readings: But these, like natural brute [irrational, Holman, ISV, NAB, NRSV, RSV, Young; senseless, CEV; unreasoning, Rotherham, NASB; wild, TEV] beasts [animals, CEV, NASB, TEV] made to be caught [captured, NAB, NASB] and destroyed [killed, CEV, ISV, NASB, NCV, NLT, NRSV, RSV], speak evil of [are abusive, Weymouth; attack with insults, TEV; revile, NAB; slander, NRSV] the things they do not understand [have no knowledge, BBE; of which they are ignorant, RSV], and will utterly perish [be destroyed, NAB, RSV. TEV] in their own corruption.
Cross-references: Moral ignorance of the difference between right and wrong, of being unable to distinguish between them—or particularly care—is of ultimate injury to that person: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[ the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).
Thinking points and questions: These type of people will not necessarily physically
die because of their sin—“perish in their own corruption” . . . though
sometimes people act so extremely it does happen. What they all will face is physically
dying while buried in their own proud sin and be barred from a joyful eternity
that they could otherwise enjoy. You
might say that they commit “eternal suicide” . . . by what they do in this
GW: And lose what their wrongdoing earned them. These false teachers are stains and blemishes. They take pleasure in holding wild parties in broad daylight. They especially enjoy deceiving you while they eat with you. --
NKJV: And will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you.
Cross-references: These spiritually empty folk will do moral evil any time they get the opportunity; the less extreme at least have sense enough to know that you should hide it out of sight where other people can’t see it: “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night” (1 Thessalonians 5:7). In contrast, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy”—i.e., at night is the time you normally expect such foolishness (Romans 13:13).
Thinking points and questions: Even when they have dinner with you, they are of no more real value than stains on your clothing that you would be embarrassed or ashamed of. Interpreters often make this reference to the equivalent of “church social/fellowship meals” though a fulfillment of Luke 14:12-14 and/or a reference to inter-Christian “feasts” held to show love for the brethren seems far more likely—Jude, verse 12; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 which stresses that such activities are properly placed only outside the formal church meeting for worship.
GW: They're always looking for an adulterous woman. They can't stop looking for sin as they seduce people who aren't sure of what they believe. Their minds are focused on their greed. They are cursed. --
NKJV: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
Cross-references: These folk are zealots—but for evil. They want you to act like they do: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
Thinking points and questions: Their sexual immorality does not exist in a vacuum. They also see you as someone to take advantage of: they have “trained” their heart in the use of “covetous practices.” What they may target you for may vary; but whatever it is, it will be for their advancement and not yours.
GW: These false teachers have left the straight path and wandered off to follow the path of Balaam, son of Beor. Balaam loved what his wrongdoing earned him. --
NKJV: They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
Alternative Readings: They have forsaken [left, NCV, NIV, NRSV; wandered off, NLT] the right [straight, Holman, ISV, NIV, Rotherham, TEV, Weymouth; true, CEV] way [path, Holman, ISV; road, CEV, TEV] and gone astray [wandered off, NIV], following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages [money, TEV; reward, Darby, ISV, Young] of unrighteousness [doing wrong, ISV, NLT, NRSV, TEV; wickedness, NIV].
Cross-references: Balaam saw the opportunity to put a
punishing curse on Israel to assure its defeat as a way to personal
enrichment: “Then he sent messengers to
Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor,
which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: ‘Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and
are settling next to me! Therefore please come at
once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and
drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you
curse is cursed.’ So the elders of
Thinking points and questions: Balaam was a particularly infamous man in Israelite memory. Not because—in this case—that he landed up doing wrong, but because he did right only as the last resort and unwillingly. Unfortunately there are still people like that. . . . people who are looking for the narrow “exception to the rule” so that they can do whatever they would like to do.
GW: But he was convicted for his evil. A donkey, which normally can't
talk, spoke with a human voice and wouldn't allow the prophet to continue his insanity. --
NKJV: But he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
Alternative Readings: But he was rebuked for his iniquity [evil deed, CEV; offense, ISV; sin, TEV; transgression, ASV, Holman, NASB, NRSV, Rotherham, RSV, Weymouth]: a dumb [mute, NASB; speechless, Holman, NRSV] donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained [forbade, Darby, Rotherham, Young; checked, Weymouth; put a stop to, BBE] the madness [error, BBE; foolishness, CEV; insanity, ISV] of the prophet.
Cross-references: This story is told in Numbers 22:22-38. Note that part of the reason this strange incident happened was to force Balaam to yield to the power of God to fully and exclusively determine what Balaam spoke about the Israelites: “Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.’ So Balaam went with the princes of Balak” ().
Thinking points and questions: The fact that Balaam “was rebuked for his iniquity” tells us what? [That he wanted to do the wrong thing.]
* What he wanted to do is called “the madness of the prophet.” In English that conveys the idea of something either insane or something close to it and a variety of translations use that kind of explicit language to convey the point. You might even say that “the desire for sin had made him crazy.” Do we let it do that to us?
They Were Spiritually Valueless
in Spite of Their Arrogant Claims and
Made Their Followers Worse People
Than They Had Been before Conversion
Commentary and Thought Flow
By utilizing temporal parallels, Peter conveys just how worthless these people are. They are of no more value than a well that has no water in it. (The parallel: these men “look” like Christians but there is precious little Christianity actually in them.) Furthermore they are capable of anything and everything since they are like clouds pushed around by a storm. They are not merely wrong in behavior, they aren’t even stable in their lives of excess. Their ability to be enticed by something totally different is always a danger.
This does not mean that they don’t sound good: their rhetoric carefully misrepresents the real issues, demeans the good intentions and characters of their foes, and feeds off half-truths that come nowhere near providing them justification. Delivered eloquently and with conviction, they deliver yet mere “great swelling words” that prove nothing. But if they can’t convince you by their arguments, they have an even more powerful tool to use in recruiting you: they appeal to your human weaknesses (“lusts”), especially sexual ones (“lewdness”) to pry you away from your loyalty to Christ.
There is a fundamental contradiction between their rhetoric and their reality: they speak boldly and insistently of the “liberty” of behavior they offer while, really, they have lost their liberty by becoming slaves of the moral warts (“corruption”) that they take pride in.
They were not always this way. Once they were fine, upstanding believers. For whatever reason—the reason is really irrelevant since that never changes the result—these individuals had become “entangled” again in their old character faults and been conquered by them. In those cases “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” Then they could at least profess ignore; now they can’t even do that. Then they could at least hope that God would have mercy; now they have cut themselves off from that mercy.
Ignorance is the surest way to guarantee condemnation by God: how can anyone hope to be saved if they ignore what He has revealed through His written word? Yet there is one thing even worse: to know the truth and squash it—to manufacture “ifs” and “buts” around it or rationalize that however true it may be in regard to others, it is not binding on one’s own behavior. A person who has turned that callous of soul would have been better off never wasting the time of becoming a “Christian” in the first place!
On the human level, such people reflect the disgusting excesses of animals: they are like a dog eating its own vomit or a freshly washed pig immediately plunging back into the mire. Indeed, they are worse than such since they have fully developed minds, have known the truth, have lived the truth—and yet they now turn their backs upon it.
GW: These false teachers are dried-up springs. They are a mist blown around by a storm. Gloomy darkness has been kept for them. --
NKJV: These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Alternative Readings: These are wells [springs, ASV, Holman, ISV, NASB, NCV, NIV] without water [dried up water holes, CEV; dried-up springs, NLT, TEV], clouds [mists, ASV, BBE, Darby, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NSRV, Rotherham, RSV, Weymouth] carried [blown, NCV, NLT, TEV; driven, ASV, Darby, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, Young] by a tempest [gale, NAB; storm, ASV, BBE, Darby, ISV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NSRV, RSV, TEV, Weymouth; windstorm, CEV; whirlwind, Holman], for whom is reserved [kept in store, BBE] the blackness [gloom, ASV, Darby, Holman, NAB; Rotherham, RSV, Young] of darkness forever.
Cross-references: Three times in Jesus’ parables in the gospel of Matthew He repeatedly invokes this image of darkness as a place of punishment: “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew ).
“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ ” (Matthew ).
“And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
Thinking points and questions: Of what value is a “well without water?” [None. They exist to provide water and there isn’t anything in them to benefit you.] Of what value are clouds being moved along by the wind--“clouds carried by a tempest?” [Again, none for they can’t provide you the water they exist to provide.]
GW: For uttering bombastic, empty words, they seduce, by fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. --
NKJV: For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
Alternative Readings: For when they speak great swelling [arrogant, NASB; bombastic, Holman, NRSV] words [boasts, RSV] of emptiness [folly, RSV; nonsense, ISV; vanity, ASV, Darby, NASB, Rotherham, Young], they allure [entice, ASV, ISV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, Rotherham, RSV, Young; lure, NLT; seduce, Holman, NAB; trap, CEV] through the lusts [cravings, ISV, Weymouth; desires, NAB, NASB; unclean desires, BBE] of the flesh, through lewdness [debauchery, Holman; lasciviousness, ASV, Young; sensuality, NASB], the ones who have actually [barely, CEV, Holman, NAB, NASB, RSV; just beginning to, TEV; newly, BBE] escaped [made free, BBE; fled, Darby] from those who live in error.
Cross-references: People always find ways to justify their sin—the only difference is what sin it is their preference to justify. Here’s the word portrait the Psalmist uses of those who thought their empty words justified the abuse of others: “Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than the heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth” (Psalm 73:6-9).
Thinking points and questions: These people had arguments in favor of doing what was immoral. What language does Peter use to describe them? [“great swelling words of emptiness”—“great swelling:” there’s lots of them. They can go on endlessly it seems, but they are all ultimately void of substance. He describes them as being “empty.” The lesson for us: There is always a way to justify or excuse sin. The problem is it’s all puffery and not valid.]
GW: They promise these people freedom, but they themselves are slaves to corruption. A person is a slave to whatever he gives in to. --
NKJV: While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
Alternative Readings: While they promise them liberty [freedom, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, Rotherham, RSV, TEV, Weymouth], they themselves are slaves of corruption [destruction, BBE; destructive habits, TEV; depravity, ISV, NIV]; for by whom [anything, TEV; what, NASB] a person is overcome [defeated, Holman, Rotherham; mastered, NIV, NRSV; subdued, Darby], by him also he is brought into bondage [slavery, Darby; enslaved, Holman, NASB, Rotherham, RSV].
Cross-references: Paul also warned of using “freedom” as a buzzword to justify doing what is immoral and evil: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Galatians -14).
Thinking points and questions: “
GW: People can know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and escape the world's filth. But if they get involved in this filth again and give in to it, they are worse off than they were before. --
NKJV: For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
Alternative Readings: For if, after they have escaped the pollutions [corruptions, ISV, NIV; defilements, ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV, Rotherham, RSV; filthy things, CEV; impurity, Holman] of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled [caught, TEV] in them and overcome [controlled, CEV; conquered, TEV; defeated, Holman, Rotherham; overpowered, NRSV, RSV], the latter end [last state, ASV, Darby, Holman, NRSV, Rotherham, Weymouth; last condition, BBE, ISV, NAB] is worse for them than the beginning [their former one, ISV].
Cross-references: This idea of a person who has rejected sin deciding to re-embrace it fits well with a story which Jesus told: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12).
Thinking points and questions: There is a difference between being “entangled” and being “overcome.” The first is dangerous and can become catastrophic; the latter is catastrophic. Though “entangled” we can still fight our way out . . . with God’s help. But if we “throw in the towel” all is lost. Permanently.
* What was evil in our past remains evil today as well. No matter what elaborate chain of reasoning we invent—and the defenders of evil were into flamboyant defenses of it: Remember how they had “great swelling words of emptiness” () and “promising them liberty” () . . . they knew all the right buzzwords that sounded good but lacked true substance. But sin can never be successfully “repackaged” as sinless.
GW: It would have been better for them never to have known the way of life that God approves of than to know it and turn their backs on the holy life God told them to live. --
NKJV: For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Alternative Readings: For it would have been better for them not to have known [acknowledged, Young] the way of righteousness [the right way, CEV, NCV, NLT], than having known [acknowledged, Young] it, to turn [turn back, Holman, NAB, Rotherham, NRSV, RSV, Weymouth, Young; reject, NLT] from the holy [sacred, NIV, TEV] commandment [law, BBE; teaching, NCV] delivered [committed, ISV; given, BBE, CEV, NCV, NLT, TEV] to them.
Cross-references: The ancient Israelites weren’t happy with
this idea that a person returning to old evils was under Divine condemnation: “But when a
righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does
according to all the abominations that the wicked man does,
shall he live? All the righteousness
which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of
which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall
die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord
is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of
Thinking points and questions: The reason for what he says here is that the person has returned to his old, self-centered, uncaring lifestyle. Whatever he gained by becoming a Christian has been lost, so what value was it to have become a Christian in the first place?
GW: These proverbs have come true for them: "A dog goes back to its vomit," and "A sow that has been washed goes back to roll around in the mud." --
NKJV: But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
Alternative Readings: But it has happened to them according to the true proverb [saying, CEV; similitude, Young]: "A dog returns [goes back, TEV] to [lick up, CEV] his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed [bathed, Young], to her wallowing [rolling, BBE, Darby; will roll, CEV] in the mire [mud, CEV, Holman, ISV, NRSV, TEV; dirty earth, BBE; filthy, Weymouth]."
Cross-references: Proverbs 26:11 contains this same first adage and adds an explanation of the intent behind it: “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
Thinking points and questions: Those are pretty gross comparisons, aren’t they? You are no worse than a pig in its mud. And pigs were unclean under the Mosaical Law as well—making the point even more emphatic. Also if the image of a sick dog isn’t enough to make the point, remember that Jews didn’t think much of dogs either!
Both Prophets and Apostles Had Taught
that People Would Ultimately Discount
Divine Judgment on Grounds of Its Delay
Commentary and Thought Flow
3:1 Peter’s motive in writing was to encourage his readers to remember the message he had taught. Repetition may seem useless, but if it is avoided long enough the memory of truths once cherished become a vanishing memory and lose their power to control our behavior.
3:2 Peter’s plea is that they remember the teaching of the ancient prophets for they taught the same moral message—those remain amazingly stable through the centuries—but also the more recent teaching of the apostles. The prophets had been sent by God to reveal the Divine will just as the apostles were sent by Christ to do the same thing. Hence their spiritual vitality required them to pay close attention to both.
3:3 The “first” thing they needed to remember from both sources is that individuals will inevitably arise who will scoff at truth because they are so self-absorbed in following whatever desires and overwhelming dreams (“lusts”) that dominate them.
3:4 Their rationale for indulgence will be that there is no divine judgment coming upon behavior. There is no answerability. There is no punishment for violating God’s rules. So why should they be criticized by others for doing whatever pleases their desires?
GW: Dear friends, this is the second letter I'm writing to you. In both letters I'm trying to refresh your memory. --
NKJV: Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder).
Alternative Readings: Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up [arouse, NRSV, RSV, TEV; awaken, Holman; encourage, CEV; revive, Weymouth; stimulate, ISV, NIV, NLT] your pure [uncorrupted, Rotherham; wholesome, NLT; honest, NCV, Weymouth; sincere, ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV] minds [thoughts, TEV; understanding, Holman; disposition, NAB; intention, NRSV] by way of reminder [refresh your memory, NLT]).
Cross-references: What Peter said here he had already spoken of earlier in this letter as well—that he was writing to “remind” them of what they knew . . . to make sure they kept it in their minds: “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease (2 Peter -15).
Thinking points and questions: When Peter speaks of how he writes to “stir up” their minds, what is that another way of saying? [That he was writing to make them think . . . in this case think about the things he had already said. Hence he adds “by way of reminder.” In effect: “You already knew this. Have you forgotten it already?”]
GW: I want you to remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and what the Lord and Savior commanded you through your apostles. --
NKJV: That you 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 Savior.
Alternative Readings: That you may be mindful [recall, ISV, NAB, Weymouth; remember, Holman, NASB, NRSV, TEV; never forget, CEV; think about, NCV] of the words [predictions, RSV; sayings, Young] which were spoken before [long ago, Weymouth; in the past, NIV, NRSV] by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.
Cross-references: Paul spoke of how the people of God were built upon the foundation of truth laid by both the prophets and apostles: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21).
Thinking points and questions: Why did they need to remember the words of both the Old Testament prophets as well as the New Testament apostles? [(1) They both taught the same basic moral principles of right behavior. (2) They both warned of the danger—and punishment—of drifting away from what God had revealed.]
GW: First, you must understand this: In the last days people who follow their own desires will appear. These disrespectful people will ridicule God's promise. --
NKJV: Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts.
Alternative Readings: Knowing [understand, NCV, NIV, NRSV, TEV] this first: that scoffers [mockers, ASV, ISV, NASB] will come in the last days, walking according to [following, Holman, ISV, NASB; controlled by, TEV; indulging, NRSV] their own lusts [passions, RSV, Weymouth; desires, ISV, NAB, Young; evil desires, BBE, NIV; selfish desires, CEV].
Cross-references: The very fact that they are “scoffers” shows they are willing to verbally “roll over” anything that stands in their way and we would expect a number of associated bad traits would go with that attitude—just as Jude points out: “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude, verse 16).
Thinking points and questions: This verse tells us why they will do the wrong thing—and that is. . . ? [They will do whatever pleases their lusts/desires. Doing right has become secondary to doing whatever pleases them.]
* There may well be something significant in the expression “walking according to their own lusts.” What is it? [What tempts us most as Christians will vary from person to person. What entices one person away from “the straight and narrow” will barely bother someone else—who may have a different desire tempting them.]
GW: By saying, "What's happened to his promise to return? Ever
since our ancestors died, everything continues as it did from the beginning of
the world. --
NKJV: 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 creation."
Cross-references: The mentality that because they haven’t been punished yet, that they never will be is nothing new: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes ).
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise. Indeed they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now!’ ” (Jeremiah 17:14-15).
“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry’ ” (Habakkuk 2:3-4).
Thinking points and questions: In one sense the fact that things don’t change is good. Why and in what sense? [It allows us live a stable and confident life. We don’t have to worry that tomorrow will be a 180 degrees different from today.]
* When does the stability of life become hurtful in the way this verse is describing? [When we think that sin will ultimately go unpunished since its consequences haven’t yet caught up with us.]
God Had Proved in the Past that
He Could Carry Out Temporal Judgment
When and Where He Chose (3:5-7):
Commentary and Thought Flow
3:5 They fatally forgot history. (In the modern idiom, we speak of “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”) In particular, they forgot that God once created the continents as a place for human life safe from the oceans . . .
3:6 . . . yet used that water to overwhelm and destroy the life that was once on the earth. The “natural order” of separation was reversed. Catastrophe had come--however unimaginable they preferred to think it would be.
3:7 Just as God’s will (“word”) had once preserved the land from destruction by the sea, today the entire earth is similar preserved from the ultimate “fire” of judgment and condemnation of all evil doers. But it is preserved for that day, not to be delivered from it. Hence the bliss of today is no more a guarantee of perpetual safety than it was for those before Noah. Both were secure “today”--but not at whatever “tomorrow” when God decides it is time to put rebellious humankind in its place.
GW: They are deliberately ignoring one fact: Because of God's word, heaven and earth existed a long time ago. The earth appeared out of water and was kept alive by water. --
NKJV: For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water.
Alternative Readings: For this they willfully [deliberately, ISV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, RSV; purposely, TEV] forget [escapes their notice, NASB; ignore, Holman, NAB, NRSV, RSV, TEV]: that by the word of God [God’s command, CEV] the heavens were [existed, NASB, RSV] of old, and the earth standing out of [came out of, CEV; lifted out of, BBE] water and in the water [circled by water, BBE; made from water, CEV].
Cross-references: The Old Testament described what happened this way: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear;’ and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:9-10).
Thinking points and questions: By clear inference Peter is referring to the fact that God spoke and the dry earth was raised above the sea, though still surrounded by it. Hence we read of how this happened “by the word of God,” specifically the spoken command of God.
* It wasn’t by chance. It wasn’t by the pure chance of “evolution.” It was by the active intervention of God.
* He alludes to the creation of the dry earth out of the ocean, because of what he goes to next: that that very same dry earth would be destroyed by water.
GW: Water also flooded and destroyed that world. --
NKJV: By which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
Cross-references: By “the world” being destroyed is meant all of human civilization and all living things that shared the surface of the globe with it. To ensure that was accomplished we are told in Genesis that there wasn’t even hiding room on the highest of the accessible mountains: “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made. . . . And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 6:4, 20-23).
Thinking points and questions: God did not have to do things this way. He could have destroyed the reprobate population by plague. He could have ordered Noah to undertake a pilgrimage into an unoccupied part of his world. But he judged none of these alternatives as adequate for His purpose. What might be some reasons for it? [(1) That He wished to demonstrate the very point Peter is driving home in this section—that just because things are as they currently exist, that there is no certainty that they will continue that way. What is is neither inevitable nor unchangeable. (2) There may be practical reasons, the nature of which we can only guess at—distance to be traveled etc.—that made alternatives impractical.]
GW: By God's word, the present heaven and earth are designated to be burned. They are being kept until the day ungodly people will be judged and destroyed. --
NKJV: But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Alternative Readings: But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word [command of God, TEV], are reserved [held in store, Holman; kept, NAB, NCV, NIV, NRSV] for fire until the day of judgment and perdition [destruction, ASV, BBE, Holman, NAB, NASB, NIV, Rotherham, RSV, Weymouth] of ungodly [impious, Young] men.
Cross-references: God couldn’t use water to destroy human civilization a second time because He had promised in Noah’s day not to do so again: “And I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh (Genesis ).
Thinking points and questions: Notice how the “word” of God has power. The reasoning is: Because He has spoken it, it will be. There is no revoking or changing it. Nor overcoming it by human stubbornness and willfulness.
God Moves on His Own Time Schedule
Rather than Any Human One
Commentary and Thought Flow
3:8 True, a long time by mortal standards may come before Divine judgment. But, as God considers things, time is an irrelevancy. To him a thousand years is as brief as a mortal day and one day can be as long as if it were a thousand years. Human time keeping simply does not matter to the Deity. He is working on His own schedule.
3:9 This “delay” in judgment is not out of some kind of laziness, but because God knows that men and women must change for the better before that day finally arrives. Hence He wants to give the human race all the time He can to set things right before acting against those who refuse to do so. From the human standpoint, this seems like more will suffer due to the forces of earthly evil; from the Divine standpoint, it is far more important that more have the change to repent and alter their lives.
That day of judgment will come to those swallowed in sin as unexpectedly as a thief in the middle of the night. Yet God has warned that it will occur: Humans in their callousness are so rebellious it would be parallel to a homeowner receiving a note that his home is going to be robbed tomorrow night but refuses to even open the letter. Similarly the majority will face disaster because they do not open God’s word to read His advance warning of the fate for rebellion. That day will not only judge the reprobate it will take the earth we know and completely blot it out of existence.
Since this world will be undergoing such a startling and revolutionary fate, what choice do believers have but to excell in both their behavior and their religious fervor? The idea underlying the argument is that this new world will be one designed for such people and the only way to enter it is to already be prepared for it by our manner of life.
3:12 Since believers are both to “look for and hasten the coming of this” climatic event and nothing is stated as to how they are to do this, one must assume that the only other reference to believer conduct in the immediate context—the moral and religious enthusiasm referred to in verse 11—is the means that the apostle has in mind. In short: If you really want the Lord to come, then live in a manner to show that you are ready to greet Him. The human analogy would be an individual “happily and enthusiastically” . . . they claim . . . waiting for a relative to come home from war . . . but who never bothers to keep the house clean and in order so everything will be ready to greet him. The right words may be there, but the behavior undermines the rhetoric.
The new world that will be given Christians is one in which “righteousness” dwells. Not in which they are persecuted or abused. Not in which they represent a minority--and even frowned upon--lifestyle. Rather a world in which the only ones there will be those who want to live that way and are quite comfortable with it.
GW: Dear friends, don't ignore this fact: One day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. --
NKJV: But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Alternative Readings: But, beloved [dear friends, CEV, Holman, NIV, NLT, TEV, Weymouth], do not forget [ignore, NAB, NRSV, RSV; escape your notice, NASB] this one thing [fact, ISV, NAB, NRSV], that with the Lord one day is as [like, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV; the same as, BBE] a thousand years, and a thousand years as [like, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV; no more than, BBE] one day.
Cross-references: The Old Testament also speaks of how a long time is as nothing to God’s way of thinking: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night” (Genesis 90:4). Contemporary English Version: “But a thousand years mean nothing to you! They are merely a day gone by or a few hours in the night.”
Thinking points and questions: Human time is an irrelevancy to God. He neither ages nor dies. He outlives every change in earth culture, society, and government. The Old Testament expresses this idea by having God describe Himself as “I Am” (Genesis -15). He was throughout the infinitesimal past and He is in the eternal “today” as well (for “today” is “today” tomorrow as well). He has existed forever both when viewed toward the past and toward the endless future as well. At all points in the spectrum, He will be able to say “I Am.”
GW: The Lord isn't slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn't want to destroy anyone but wants
all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act. --
NKJV: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Alternative Readings: The Lord is not slack [slow, BBE, CEV, ISV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TEV, Young; does not delay, NAB] concerning His promise [keeping His word, BBE], as some count [think, CEV, NLT, NRSV, TEV; understand, ISV, NCV, NIV] slackness [slowness, NASB, NIV, NRSV], but is longsuffering [patient, CEV, Holman, ISV, NAB, NASB, NCV, NIV, TEV] toward us, not willing [wanting, NIV; wishing, NASB] that any should perish [be lost, CEV, NCV; be destroyed, TEV] but that all [everyone, ISV, NIV] should come to [reach, RSV] repentance [reformation, Young; turn from sin, CEV; change their hearts and lives, NCV].
Cross-references: Paul certainly stressed this same underlying agenda that is ever in God’s mind: the redemption of every soul who will grab the opportunity: “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).
Thinking points and questions: Instead of some inability, what is it that really causes God to delay bringing to an end our world? [He does not merely want “some” to set their lives right and wonderfully span the leap into eternity; He wants to maximize the opportunity for everyone to share in that blessing—“that all should come to repentance.”]
* What one word best describes God’s delay? [(1) Love. (2) Grace. Either would serve as an excellent one word description of motive.]
GW: The day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day heaven will pass away with a roaring sound. Everything that makes up the universe will burn and be destroyed. The earth and everything that people have done on it will be exposed. --
NKJV: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Alternative Readings: But the day of the Lord [the Lord’s return, CEV] will come as [like, NASB] a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away [disappear, CEV, ISV, NIV, TEV] with a great [loud, CEV, Holman, NRSV, RSV; mighty, NAB; roaring, ISV; terrible, NLT] noise [sound, ISV], and the elements [substance of the earth, BBE] will melt [be destroyed, ISV, NASB, NCV, NIV, TEV; be dissolved, Darby, Holman, NAB, NRSV, Rotherham, RSV, Young; be changed, BBE] with fervent [intense, NASB; fierce, Weymouth; violent, BBE] heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up [vanish, TEV; disclosed, Holman, NRSV; exposed, ISV; found out, NAB; laid bare, NIV].
Cross-references: In the book of Revelation this language is applied to the final triumph of the Lord: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them” (Revelation ).
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).
Thinking points and questions: What does it mean to “come as a thief in the night”? [Unexpectedly. There is nothing going on “that screams at you”—“it’s about to happen!”]
What does the language of “the element” and “the earth and the works that are in it [being] burned up” convey? Is there going to be anything left? [It is going to be removed and replaced with something thoroughly different.]
GW: All these things will be destroyed in this way. So think of the kind of holy and godly lives you must live. --
NKJV: Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.
Alternative Readings: Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved [destroyed, CEV, Holman, ISV, NASB, NCV, NIV, TEV], what manner [kind, NIV, TEV; sort, Holman, NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV] of persons ought you to be in holy conduct [behavior, BBE, Young; living, Weymouth] and godliness [godly conduct, Weymouth; pious acts, Young; righteousness, BBE; dedicated to God, TEV; serve God, NCV; devotion, NAB].
Cross-references: The reason we need to pay heed to our lives and its nature is that we will be judged by it and that will determine whether we enjoy the blessings of Heaven or face permanent exclusion from it: “And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:6-8).
Thinking points and questions: The fact that the future will be so different from the present argues that we should prepare for it—by living the kind of lives God wants us to live. By then it will be too late to change and our opportunity gone forever.
GW: As you look forward to the day of God and eagerly wait for it to come. When that day comes, heaven will be on fire and will be destroyed. Everything that makes up the universe will burn and melt. --
NKJV: Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.
Alternative Readings: Looking [Waiting, NAB, NRSV] for and hastening [speed its coming, NIV; do you best to make it come soon, TEV; earnestly desire, Holman] the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens [skies, NCV] will be dissolved [destroyed, CEV, NASB, TEV, Weymouth; come to an end, BBE], being on fire, and the elements [everything else, CEV; substance of the earth, BBE; heavenly bodies, TEV] will melt [be changed, BBE] with fervent [fierce, Weymouth; intense, NASB] heat?
Cross-references: The “day of God” is such not only because it is the day of God’s own ultimate triumph over all earthly evil but also because it is the day of triumph of God’s unique Son, Jesus the Messiah (who also shares deityship): “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
Thinking points and questions: Why should we be “looking for” the ending of the world—with its overtone of it being something to look forward to? [Because that new world will provide us the blessings we can never have in this life—perfect health, no threat of death, a place where joy rather than sorrow is triumphant.]
* A good number of translations believe that the Greek behind “hastening the coming of the day of God” more properly has the concept of “eagerly desiring.” If that is the case how, does this interlock with the preceding words “looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God”? [It would be a logical way of making that “looking” even more emphatic—we are passionately looking forward to it.]
* If we take the text and preserve the wording “hastening the coming of the day of God,” in what way might we do that? [God wants everyone to be saved and that is why He delays the ending, so it would make sense that the greater degree to which others are given that opportunity by learning of the gospel, the sooner it is likely that God will decide that everything that can be done has been done. We will have done our part in “speeding it up,” so to speak.]
GW: But we look forward to what God has promised-a new heaven and a new earth--a place where everything that has God's approval lives. --
NKJV: Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Cross-references: There is no room in heaven for moral evil: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’
“And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8).
Thinking points and questions: People like to justify their sin by saying, “How I live is solely up to me.” There’s a lot of truth in that claim. But they overlook the flip side that grows out of the right to make our own moral decisions: Answerability. And Peter tells us that one of the consequences of the wrong answers will be exclusion from heaven.
Therefore They Needed to Remain Steadfast
in their Moral Character until that
Time of Divine Intervention Was Fulfilled
Commentary and Thought Flow
If this is the kind of world you really want, you need to prove it by how you act. You must be pursuing “peace” with others—rather than confrontation and animosity—and your behavior must be like the flesh of a pure animal that was offered in the animal sacrifices of that day, “without spot and blameless.”
The delay in bringing about that world is to be viewed not as a matter of sorrow but from an optimistic viewpoint--how that “longsuffering” permits “salvation” to be brought to many who would otherwise miss it. Peter then points out that Paul himself had been divinely blessed with “wisdom”—since it was “given to him” where else could it have come from but a source greater than man? The fact that Paul is introduced argues that his readers are acquainted with Paul’s writings and have a significant respect for him whether they have personally met him or not.
3:16 This is one of the most misrepresented texts in the Bible as many introduce it as “proving” that the Bible can not be understood: (1) there are “some things hard to understand” in his writings—not “all things”—and which of us would deny it? (2) that they are understandable is seen in the fact that those who misrepresent them are sowing the seeds of “their own destruction.” (3) Those who misuse him are doing so out of ignorance (“untaught”) or the inability to have a firm set of convictions (“unstable”). An abiding lesson of this verse for today is that we should candidly admit when a text does not make sense to us rather than go out on the limb and firmly assert an “interpretation” as the definitively “right” one. We need to hedge our words when we are not certain rather than trying bluffing it out.
“Forewarned is forearmed:” since they know the writings of Paul (and others) could be twisted by the theologically and immorally self-serving (“the error of the wicked”), they needed to be alert to efforts to handle the scriptures that way and not fall into the trap.
to end the epistle on a positive note, he urges them to continue their
spiritual growth. To abstain from evil
and heresy is one side of the coin, but the negative is never enough: without the positive Christian virtues we
become a mere shadow of what we should be.
GW: Therefore, dear friends, with this to look forward to, make every effort to have him find you at peace, without spiritual stains or blemishes. --
NKJV: Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
Cross-references: Paul touched on that same theme, though in different words, when he wrote: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians ).
Thinking points and questions: “Be diligent” suggests what? [That we have to work at it. It won’t happen by itself. We have to be dedicated to producing that result.]
GW: Think of our Lord's patience as an opportunity for us to be saved.
This is what our dear brother Paul wrote to you about, using the wisdom God gave him. --
NKJV: And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—
as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you.
Cross-references: The “wisdom given to him [i.e., Paul]” does not refer merely to any intellectual human insight he may have had for it was “given to him;” this “wisdom” wasn’t inborn. Rather it refers to how he was inspired by God with his message: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
“How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: (Ephesians 3:3-5).
Thinking points and questions: Why is “the longsuffering of our Lord . . . salvation”? [Because it gives those who would otherwise be lost that much more time to change their behavior.]
GW: He talks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in his letters are hard to understand. Ignorant people and people who aren't sure of what they believe distort what Paul says in his letters the same way they distort the rest of the Scriptures. These people will be destroyed. --
NKJV: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Alternative Readings: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard [difficult, TEV] to understand, which untaught [ignorant, ASV, CEV, ISV, NAB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TEV] and unstable [unsteady, CEV; unprincipled, Weymouth] people twist [distort, ISV, NAB, NASB, NIV; pervert, Weymouth] to their own destruction [ruin, Weymouth; disaster, NLT], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Cross-references: People twisting/distorting that which God has revealed is nothing new. They did it back in Old Testament days as well” “And the oracle of the Lord you shall mention no more. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God (Jeremiah ).
Thinking points and questions: How does Peter limit how much of Paul’s writings is difficult to understand? [He refers to “some things hard to understand”—and not “all things” or “most things.]
* We should remember that there is a profound difference between “hard to understand” and “impossible to understand.” Furthermore, what might be hard for you or me, might not be all that difficult for someone else—and vice versa: We might find certain passages “easier going” than they do!
* A vital rule to remember: If an interpretation contradicts other scripture, then the interpretation itself is wrong. All scripture is inspired by God and, therefore, fully consistent. What scripture tells us that all scripture comes from a Divine source? [“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.]
GW: Dear friends, you already know these things. So be on your guard not to be carried away by the deception of people who have no principles. Then you won't fall from your firm position. --
NKJV: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.
Alternative Readings: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand [already know this, NCV, NIV; been forewarned, Holman; you have been warned ahead of time!, CEV], beware [be on your guard, ISV, NAB, NASB, Rotherham, TEV; take care, Darby; be careful, NCV; watch out, NLT] lest you also fall [be led away, TEV] from your own steadfastness [secure position, ISV; secure footing, NLT; stability, NAB, NRSV], being led away [led astray, Weymouth; carried away, NASB, NRSV; lead you down the wrong path, CEV] with the error [deception, ISV; false teaching, Weymouth] of the wicked [lawless, ISV, NIV, RSV, TEV; uncontrolled, BBE; unprincipled, NAB; immoral, Holman].
Cross-references: Jesus also spoke of how He was forewarning His disciples so they would not be led astray: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand (Mark -23).
Thinking points and questions: We use the expression “forewarned is forearmed.” How does this verse illustrate it? [Since they were “forewarned” of spiritual dangers to their loyalty to Christ—their spiritual “steadfastness”—they were in a position to be on the alert lest it sneak up on them unaware. We are to be confident in our spirituality, but not blind to our potential weaknesses.]
GW: But grow in the good will and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to him now and for that eternal day! Amen. --
NKJV: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Cross-references: Paul also provides a similar admonition—so it is clear that this was a principle recognized as applicable to Christians in every place—just like it is today: “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).
Thinking points and questions: The best protection any of us will ever have against drifting from the Lord is a continual effort to grow in our “knowledge” of Christ and His will and living in such a way as showing our respect and love for “the grace” (divine favor) He provides us with as faithful Christians.