How Should We Then Live?
2 Peter 3:1-14
When Peter writes this second letter (3:1), he knows that his time one earth is quickly fleeting away (1:12). He, in earnest, reminds Christians of not only the truth that saves, but also the error that seeks to divert all believers from the eternal goal (2:1ff).
Denials of Destiny
“...in the last days mockers will come with their mockings” (3:3). The false teachers that will exist during the entire New Covenant period, from the First Century to whenever Jesus comes again, will be characterized by ridiculing and denying biblical truths. “Like heretics in every age, they are serenely assured of their superiority to the ‘simple uninformed believers’ whom they have come to liberate by their new insights’… Accordingly, we should not be surprised to meet their kind today” (The Message of Heaven and Hell, Derek Tidball, p. 283). Obviously, the existence of many today who ridicule the gospel message only confirms the accuracy of the biblical text. Such ridicule then should not be taken to heart. “Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been a statue erected to a critic” (Jean Sibelius).
The Real Motive
“Following after their own lusts” (3:3). Their scoffing is not based on a desire to know the truth, or have an open mind, rather the motivation is entirely selfish. False doctrine often comes from egocentric motives. “Their misdirected desires are the real roots of their misinformed doctrines. Peter has earlier exposed these desires: ‘With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable… appealing to the lustful desires… they promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity’ (2:14,18,19). It is not a pretty picture. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that they deny the promise of the Lord, since one of the primary functions He will perform is to render judgment. There is no ‘coming of the Lord’ – there daren’t be!’” (Tidball, p. 285).
“Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (3:4). Their argument is that human history does not contain any clear evidence of God’s intervention in this world, that is, “the world is regulated by processes which do not admit cataclysmic interventions” (Tidball, p. 283). ‘The scoffers supported their skepticism that God would break decisively into history at the return to Christ, by emphasizing the immutability of the world. Had they been alive today, they would have talked about the chain of cause and effect in a closed universe governed by natural laws, where miracles, almost by definition, cannot happen. ‘The laws of nature’, one can almost hear them saying, ‘disprove your… doctrine of divine intervention to wind up the course of history.’ Their mistake was to forget that the laws of nature are God’s laws; their predictability springs from His faithfulness” (2 Peter, Green, p. 128). “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice” (3:5). Literally, it “willfully” escapes their notice, that is, they must intentionally ignore the evidence all around them that says their argument is not founded on the facts.
God Has Spoken
“That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (3:2); “That by the word of God the heavens existed long ago… through which the world at that time was destroyed being flooded with water” (3:5-6), “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire” (3:7). “Here is the ultimate court of appeal. The Lord God Almighty has spoken!” (Tidball, p. 284). In spite of what scoffers say, this is God’s world, brought into existence by His powerful word (Psalm 33:6), altered by the same powerful word during the flood, and reserved for the final judgment by the same word. Thus, the truth they deny is part of a much bigger message – a message that created the universe, judged the earth in the past, and keeps the planet in reservation of the final judgment.
“God’s greatness is disclosed in the act of creation. His opponents have foolishly introduced this piece of evidence themselves in their charge that nothing has changed ‘since the beginning of creation’. Creation at ‘the beginning’ is excellent grist for Peter’s mill. As he notes, ‘the heavens existed’ – i.e., came into existence – ‘by God’s word’” (Tidball, p. 286). It is a vivid reminder that whatever the scoffer says can be turned against him or her, for even though such people would deny God’s power and existence, they still are created in His image, and cannot speak without disclosing that fact. It’s like people who use “suffering” as an argument against God’s existence. In doing so they are manifesting a concern for right and wrong, which brings us right back to God. If we are really the product of evolution, and survival of the fittest, then no one should ever be bothered with the concept of suffering.
“Do not let this one fact escape your notice… that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). The mockers have also missed something else: not only is God sovereign over the physical universe, but He is equally sovereign over time. “Time is God’s servant, hence it is entirely relative as far as God is concerned” (Tidball, p. 286). Peter is obviously not saying that one day is always viewed as one thousand years to God, but it does give us a valuable perspective. Even in this ratio, it is like one second of our time being like four days to God, or four days of our time being like a second to God. On the one hand, this explains why we will answer for every “idle” word (Matthew 12:36). We need to make sure that we do not excuse our sins on the basis of something happened “in an instant”, or everything happened “so fast”. On the other hand, we need to cease complaining about why God hasn’t done anything yet about the mockers. If we are wondering why God hasn’t brought a man to judgment who has been mocking God for the last twenty years, we need to remember that to God this has only been going on for around a half hour.
God is Just
In the previous chapter, we saw this repeatedly emphasized, “He did not spare” (2:4,5), and in this chapter with the phrase, “the destruction of ungodly men” (3:7). “Thus the return of Christ is demanded by the just character of God. Evil cannot go unpunished forever. The story of the flood is a solemn warning to all perpetrators of evil” (Tidball, p. 286).
God is Merciful
“Not wishing for any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). “The critics therefore stand to be warned as well as corrected. That they continue to experience the deferment of final judgment is not because they have it right and there is no judgment to come. It is because they have it wrong; there is a judgment coming, but the judge is a God who, in His amazing, patient grace, waits for these first-century heretics to come to their senses and submit to the truth of the gospel” (Tidball, p. 288). Thus, the merciful God allows critics to live, and live long, and during that time of mercy to even say things like, “God is cruel”.
How Should We Then Live?
“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (3:11); “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (3:14). Let’s look at life from an eternal perspective. “I don’t want to wait until everything is clearer on my deathbed; I would like my deathbed clarity now, when it can still do some good” (Andre Seu). Let us all determine to have “deathbed clarity” now. When the dust clears it will be just us and God. Everything material will be gone, for that reason, now is the time to finally give up and let go of all our souvenirs of hell.
Learning to see the End (Ecclesiastes 7:8; Psalm 73:17; James 5:11)
Let’s learn to view life keeping in mind what the end will look like not only of the universe, but the final chapter of the righteous and the wicked as well. “During my youth, Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson were all the rage in the academic world for their hands-on research into America’s sexual habits. I just learned in Newsweek the final chapter: ‘We see the thrice-divorced Johnson cursing her former partner from the confines of a nursing home…’. As the Masters, he admitted, ‘I haven’t the vaguest idea… what love is’” (Andre Seu). Yet praise be to God that we do! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Christian, you are on the right road, appreciate it, love it, and stick to it. You know how you should then live, and life lived according to God’s instructions is always beautiful.