2 Peter 3:8-14


The pastor will recall that the canonicity of 2 Peter was questioned in the early church and the debate still goes on.

Franzmann: While the place of the first letter of Peter in the canon has always been an assured one, the second letter is decidedly an antilegomenon, with the weakest historical attestation of any book in the New Testament . . . Origen (AD 185 to 254) is aware of the fact that its place in the canon is in dispute . . . . The authenticity of the second letter was questioned even in the early church and is denied by the great majority of scholars today. . . But the Second Letter of Peter is designed to maintain hope pure and strong in men whose hope is threatened by false teaching and is in danger of being weakened by doubt. . . . The church has been strengthened for battle and heartened in its hope by the living words of this letter, words which are as clear and sure as the history of the letter is dark and uncertain.

2 Peter does not teach anything that is not found elsewhere in Scripture. We should be content to consider this book truly canonical.

The repetition of individual words in this chapter is truly remarkable. Read the entire chapter marking the repeated words, notice the effectiveness of the repetition.

Verses 1-7 give us the situation in which the Christian finds himself in this world. There will be unbelieving scoffers. They will contend that there will not be an end of this world simply because it has not yet come. These scoffers deny two great truths:

  1. that the universe was created by the Word of God but the world was destroyed by the flood; and,
  2. that by the same Word of God the universe is being kept for its final judgment and dissolution.

The denial of God's creation out of nothing is very prevalent in our time. And the denial of the final judgment and destruction of the universe is also very prevalent. People live as if they were going to live forever with impunity. God's Word is completely disregarded.

2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

"But" contrasts verses 5-7 with 8-9. Literally the first part of this verse reads "but let not this one thing escape your notice." The one thing which the scoffers overlook is an attribute of God. The beloved should not forget that their Lord is the eternal God.

Bengel: He does not so fully reply to the mockers as he instructs the faithful.
Franzmann: To speak of 'delay' in connection with the Lord's coming is to impose human standards on the Lord, to try to fit Him into categories which are not His.

TEV gets at the meaning of this verse: "There is no difference in the Lord's sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same." Peter is not quoting Psalm 90:4 which reads: "For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by" NASB.

Bigg: St. Peter is not quoting, but drawing an inference from, the Psalm . . . . What St. Peter wishes is to contrast the eternity of God with the impatience of human expectations.
Bengel: Moses describes God's eternity somewhat more absolutely; Peter, in its relation to the last day, and to men looking for this.
Old Concordia Bible with Notes: What he has determined to accomplish a thousand years hence, is just as sure as if he had determined to accomplish it tomorrow.
Stoeckhardt: Our time does not affect him, nor does our measurement fit into His calendar . . . . The space of a thousand years it to Him but a moment.

Time began in Genesis 1. It will end on the last day (Revelation 10:6). We are bound to time. God is not.

Lenski: His relation to time must never be confused with our relation to time. . . . Peter does not say 'A singe day IS a thousand years and a thousand years ARE a single day.' . . . Both are really the same with the Lord; neither hampers nor helps him.

This verse looms large as a basis for two false doctrines:

  1. The evolutionists and their sympathizers have used this passage as a basis for interpreting the word 'day' in Genesis 1 as a thousand years or a long age; and,
  2. The chiliasts (millennialists) have used this verse for their interpretation of the thousand years of Revelation 20.

Both false doctrines are a clear violation of simple rules of interpretation.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Note that the Majority text reads an article before "Lord." In any case in this verse Peter surely is speaking about Jesus as Lord. We think immediately of Hebrews 13:8 where the attribute of eternity is attributed to the incarnate Christ.

"Keep his promise" means "the Lord does not hold back from the promise, from fulfilling it." 

Old Concordia Bible with Notes: (The promise) of a future judgment when he will save his people and destroy their enemies.

It is wider in application than the word in verse 13.

Bengel: The promise will be fulfilled whatever mockers may prate.
Lenski: The 'some' are not the mockers, who claim that all this talk about the Parousia is nothing; these are some of the Christians who will be disturbed by these coming mockers. . . . 'Some' get uneasy and think that perhaps the mockers are right in claiming that there is nothing to this whole promise of Christ's return.

But the application is wider than Lenski allows. It seems to cover the mockers also. "As if delay sprang from impotence or unwillingness to perform." They merely "consider," They do not believe. They impute slackness, negligence, sloppiness to God because He waits so long before executing His threatened judgments. "But," (untranslated) before "he is patient with you" divides the false thought of this verse from the correct through. note that the majority text reads "toward us" not "toward you." 

In this verse we have the same truth as is clearly stated in 1 Timothy 2:4. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord uses verse 9 four times in the article on Election. See Tappert 621.28 and 32 and 629.81; 630.84. God's serious desire that all be saved must not be overlooked in the discussion of Election. The second "but" in this verse does not distinquish false from true doctrine but contrasts the two sides of God's will toward all men.

Stoeckhardt: What some men call slowness is longsuffering and patience on God's part.
Franzmann: The question of the time of His coming fades into insignificance, look at 11, 12, 15.

JB renders this verse: "The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow." That gives a wider application than Lenski allows. By the way, note the utter importance of  "repent," the very lifeblood of a Christian. Bigg quotes Augustine: "God is patient because He is eternal." Is maybe God delaying the Parousia because of my sloppy repentance? Lord have mercy on me!

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Verses 8-9 stress the fact that the day of the Lord will truly come according to His promise and purpose. Verse 10 tells us how that day will come. Verses 11-13 linger on the "how" but are already a bridge to the exhortation. The verbs are in the first person plural. Verse 14 is purely hortatory or parenetic. The verb is in the second person plural. All our version, except AAT, follow the paragraphing in the Nestle-Aland XXVI Greek text.

Note the prominent and emphatic position of the verb. Note the "but" in all but the AAT translation. "But there will come the day of the Lord as a thief."  "Despite the fact that the Lord delays the Parousia for the sake of men's repentance, nonetheless it will come, and what's more it will come as a thief." 

Bigg: There will be no time for repentance then. This is the essential point on which the wise teacher will dwell.

By the way, the terms "the day of the Lord," "the day of God," "the day of Christ," "The day of the Son of Man" are used synonymously in Scriptures. Look at verses 7, 10, and 12. The words "in the night" are most likely imported from 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Jesus used the comparison with a thief at Matthew 24:43 and Luke 12:39.

Franzmann: Jesus cut off all attempts at calculating the time of His return, Matthew 24:43. It is echoed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and John in Revelation 3:3; 16:15.

"Roar" is defined by Rienecker-Rogers thus:  "with a hissing or crackling sound. The word is onomatopoeic, expressing the whizzing sound produced by rapid motion through the air and was used of shrill rushing sounds, the hissing of a snake, the whirr of a bird's wings, the hurtling sound of an arrow and is then used for the rushing movement itself of the accompanying crash or roar. Here probably the roaring of flame is meant." 

"Heavens," as always, causes much discussion. Because of its proximity to "elements"  and because it is distinguished from "earth" many feel that it means the heavenly bodies. Thus Bigg, Bengel, Alford, Plumptre, Green, and TEV. Not so Lenski. In any case the words denote a sudden, universal congflagration and dissolution. The "heavens," "elements," and "earth" denote the things which God Himself created. But the "and everything in it" denote the things man has made.

Kretzmann: All the mighty and magnificent structures of man's hands, the immense cities with their proud skyscrapers, the great ships and all conveyances which the ingenuity of man has devised for used in the sea, on land, in the air, all the wonderful works of art which are exhibited with such self-satisfaction; they all will perish by fire in the destruction of the last day.

Even the most beautiful Renaissance works of art and the exquisite music of Bach are to be used now only to glorify God. THEY WILL PERISH ON THE LAST DAY.

The final verb in verse 10 is very difficult. There are three variant readings: "will be burned" (Codex A, Lenski, KJV, NKJV, RSV, JB, NASB. Another is "will disappear." Thus TEV. But the most difficult is that found in Nestle-Aland Greek text "will be found." Thus NIV, AAT, Rienecker, and Franzmann.

Franzmann: The best attested text is the very difficult 'will be found,' which may mean that THE EARTH AND THE WORKS of man that both adorn and disfigure the earth will be exposed to the fire of God's judgment, be refined and purified, and emerge as God's 'new heavens and new earth' (13). The universe will pass through fearful convulsions (DISSOLVED, 10 'melt,'12) as Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:29. But God's goal for His creation, over which He once spoke His 'very good' (Genesis 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:4), is not extinction but restoration and transfiguration.

2 Peter 3:11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives

Note that a subparagraph begins here. We touched on this matter in verse 10. The first four words in Greek are a genitive absolute. Most version begin with the word "since," making it causal. For the second time the dissolution of all of creation is mentioned. The version take it either as "dissolved" or "destroyed." 

Franzmann: This is the center of gravity in all the New Testament teaching of last things from John the Baptist and Jesus onward.

The New Testament is constantly saying: "be ready, be faithful, be watchful" Sanctification does not save us. It is the fruit of justification. Sanctification means to take justification seriously. It is God's way of preparing us for eternity. The last five words of this verse are a prepositional phrase denoting manner "in holy conduct and godliness." 

Bengel: Peter talks about conduct as regards human affairs, godliness as regards divine things.
Rienecker: In the context the words hint that great things are expected of the readers.
Kretzmann: The thoughts and minds of the Christians are under no circumstances to cling to the things of this world . . . Our conduct should be holy and unblamable, that our behavior at all times should express true godliness and reverence of His holy will.
Stoeckhardt: Three times the Apostle Peter asserts that the heavens and the earth and all the works on earth, and even the elements, out of which all things are made (atoms), will be destroyed by fire. Does it follow from this that the world will sink back into nothing, as was taught by the dogmaticians of the seventeenth century? It does not. It says here that the elements will be dissolved by fire. That means that that which burns is dissolved into atoms. Peter does not say that the substance of heaven and earth is annihilated and turned back into nothing. All that he claims is that the present form of the world shall be totally destroyed.

2 Peter 3:12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

This verse continues the thought begun in verse 11. Verses 11-12 constitute one sentence. The word "expecting" can mean either "causing to come early" or "being zealous about." It is amazing how almost all of our versions, in one way or another, prefer the former translation, NKJV, RSV, and NASB have "hastening the coming." TEV reads "do your best to make it come soon." NIV has "speed its coming." Likewise AAT. We prefer Rienecker-Rogers explanation "to be eager for." 

Franzmann: Preparing for and earnestly desiring the salvation which will be given to God's people.
Lenski: One may expect and yet not be eager regarding what he expects; here also eagerness is to fill the hearts.
Bengel: He who eagerly desires, presses the matter itself, if possible to a speedy accomplishment. . . . God grants TO MEN many thousand days; one, the last, is the great day OF GOD himself.

The day of the Lord itself will be the cause of the fiery dissolution of all things. In this verse Peter mentions only heavens and elements. These words and those which follow are a variation on verse 10. But we agree with Franzmann who interprets "elements" here as "the various parts of which the world is composed." 

Kretzmann: The present heavens and present earth will pass away, not in utter destruction, but to be changed into a new form of existence.

2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Here faith confesses in the first person plural, in keeping with God's promises found in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. The objects are placed first for emphasis. Note the chiastic arrangement of adjectives and nouns. The phrase is adverbial denoting correspondence. In verse 9 we had the promise of the Parousia. Here it's the promise of eternal life.

"Righteousness" is very dear to a Christian. It is that reconciling gift of God in Jesus Christ which is the very antithesis the condition of man and the whole universe ever since the fall.

Franzmann: 'Heavens and earth' indicate the continuity of the world to come with God's first creation, our world. The otherness of the coming world is expressed by 'new,' a word characteristic of the new quality of all that pertains to the world to come. Look at Matthew 26:29; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Hebrews 10:10; Revelation 2:17; 3:12; 5:9; 14:3; 21:1-2,5; for the whole expression look at Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1. Righteousness dwells in the world to come God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. All the ruin and frustration with which man's sin has disfigured God's good work will have passed away, look at Romans 8:19-22.
Lenski: The question is raised as to whether this universe shall be annihilated, and a new heaven and earth shall be created ex nihilo. To answer it one must not stop with passages like Psalm 102:26; Isaiah 51:6; Jeremiah 34:4; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Hebrews 1:11; Revelation 20:11. Include also Romans 8:19-22; 1 Corinthians 7:31; Revelation 21:1-5. The heavens and the earth shall be renovated, renewed, purified, made perfect. There shall be no further separation between earth and the abode of God; they shall be one at last. Besides Revelation 21:1-5 read the whole of Revelation 21:10-27, and close with Hebrews 11:10.

2 Peter 3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

"So then," in view of all that's been said in this chapter. In 2 Peter 2:13 the willful sinners are called "spots and blemishes." We are reminded of the righteousness mentioned in the previous verse. Who are these "dear friends?" Look at Matthew 25:34-40. They are those who live now in daily repentance. Such people produce the fruits of the Spirit and fight sin.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays, Epistle Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp.7-11. Used with permission.

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