A Reminder and Warning to Believers
Copyright © 1978
Indian Hills Community Church
2 Peter 3:1-7
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on Nov. 3, 1996)
Peter began 2 Peter by encouraging the believers to whom the letter was written with a reminder of the sovereignty of God and the power of God in their salvation. Peter also reminded them that God had caused them to be born again and that He had provided everything necessary for life and godliness in the salvation that He graciously bestowed upon them. He went on to remind them that a godly lifestyle was an outflow of being made new in Christ, and he reminded them that both the message of the Old Testament prophets and the testimony of the New Testament apostles confirmed the reality of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Thus, the message of the prophets and the testimony of the apostles provided the foundation for their confidence that Jesus is coming again to take believers to be with Himself.
In chapter 2, Peter gave an extended warning about the danger of false teachers and the corruption that would infiltrate the church as those who professed to know the living God, but had no true relationship to Him, made their way in among believers by teaching doctrines that are contrary to the word of God and promoting and encouraging a style of living which is contrary to what ought to characterize a child of God. There were also repeated warnings about the judgment that would come upon the ones who did not know the living God. The penalty for their sin would be death, and in the plan of God they would experience the full brunt of the wrath of God.
Whereas chapter 2 focused on the false teachers for the benefit of the believers, Peter in chapter 3 encourages them with a reminder of God's love for them and the importance of being firm and unshaken in their commitment to God's truth. Four times in chapter 3 Peter calls them beloved. In verse 1 he writes, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you ...", and in verse 8, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, ..." In verse 14, "Therefore, beloved, ..." and in verse 17, "You therefore, beloved, ..." The word translated "beloved" is a form of the word agape, meaning those who are well loved or those who are precious to him. In chapter 2, Peter had written some horrid and harsh things, severe and stern warnings, but it all came out of his love for them and his concern that they be prepared for what is coming and not be shaken by the attacks of those who live their lives in error.
Peter will continue in chapter 3 to confront mockers. This is the same group that he confronted in chapter 2 - false teachers, heretics, professing believers who are not genuine. In chapter 3, Peter writes that the mockers scorn and ridicule the idea of the return of the Lord, including the coming judgment in the presence of Christ who has returned as the judge of all. Peter wanted the believers to keep firmly anchored in the word of God, not to be shaken or unsettled by the attacks of the enemy. Jesus Christ will return in power and great glory to do two things: Number one, to judge the wicked and mete out their punishment, and number two, to bring glorious salvation and deliverance to the people who He has redeemed for Himself.
Chapter 3 begins, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder..." Note that it says "the second letter." I am amazed how much discussion there is in the commentaries about what the first letter was. If you look in your Bible at the book which comes before 2 Peter, you will see 1 Peter. It seems obvious that 1 Peter is the first letter and 2 Peter is the second letter. It also seems obvious that Peter wrote both of the letters. There are pages of material on who wrote 2 Peter. It is amazing the confusion that people create and the length to which people will go to demonstrate their brilliance rather than to simply accept the simplicity of God's word and to acknowledge its accuracy. To give the idea that someone other than Peter wrote 2 Peter, but to insist that the other person had good intentions and everything is still reliable even though that person is pretending he wrote the first letter, these arguments raise all kinds of problems. This is one of the ways that false teachers and false teaching infiltrate the church. They claim that they are not denying the truth of the word of God, just sharing their insights. The fact that they do not believe Peter wrote this letter and that the first letter is not the first letter and that whoever wrote this letter was really copying some apocryphal Jewish writings is not supposed to undermine your confidence in the authority of 2 Peter. However, this causes confusion to reign and the trustworthiness of the Scripture is undermined. That is what mockers do as they handle portions of the word of God.
What Peter is doing in 2 Peter is basically the same thing that he did in 1 Peter. Nothing particularly new. Peter just wants to call back to the center of their attention these basic truths. Verse 1 contains an encouragement, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder..." He writes that he is stirring up their sincere mind, their pure mind. This indicates that he does not believe that his readers have been corrupted and defiled by the filth in doctrine and life that characterizes the false teachers of chapter 2. He is confident that he is writing to those who have truly come to know the living Savior and are living their lives in a manner that brings honor to Him. So Peter is "stirring up your sincere mind," your mind that has not been corrupted with the things talked about in chapter 2, which included vices and corrupt doctrine. Peter writes that this is by way of reminder. One of the old writers said that people need a lot more reminder than new knowledge. Even for believers that is true, and with the passing of time it becomes increasingly important to be reminded. New believers seem to have an insatiable appetite and hunger for the word of God, and that is as it should be. But sometimes with the passing of time, the believer loosens his grip somewhat on God's word. You turn to certain passages and think, "Yes, I already know that. Yes, I am familiar with that. Yes, I studied that." It is easy to become somewhat dulled in your senses, which prepares the way for you to become a target for false teachers and false teaching. That is why Peter is saying that he is concerned that the believers remember these things.
In 2 Peter1:12-15, Peter writes, "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." As noted in our study of those verses in chapter 1, this is similar to how we handle our children. For instance, you say, "I want to tell you something before you go today." And your children respond, "I know mom. I know." You respond, "I know you know, but listen anyway." You know they know, but are they really thinking about it? How often do we hear someone say, "I knew better. I don't know what I was thinking." The problem was that what we knew was not at the center of our attention at that time. That's what Peter is saying: "I want these things to be on your mind, the center of your attention. I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder."
Peter continues in 2 Peter 3:2, "that you should remember ..." What is it that Peter wanted them to remember? "that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." Peter is saying that he wants them to remember what the prophets wrote in the Old Testament and what the apostles are telling them in the New Testament times. In other words, remember the word of God. He is going to particularly focus the emphasis on Jesus Christ, His coming again and the events associated with His coming again because this is a specific area that will come under attack. Peter mentions the prophets and apostles. He also mentioned the prophets and apostles in 2 Peter 1:16-19 indicating that they together confirm and support one another in the message and work of Christ: "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'--and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." Old Testament scripture and New Testament scripture alike agree on the person and work of Jesus Christ, so believers must keep this ever before them. The important thing in the face of false teaching and in the face of false teachers is that the word of God is firmly in one's grip, that it is fixed in your mind, that the first thing that one thinks of when a doctrine is taught or when a certain style of life is promoted is here's what the word of God says about this. Thus, a believer's conduct and thinking is to be shaped by what God has said.
In contrast, this is the way Satan works. First, he attempts to loosen a person's hold on the word of God. Get a little dusty, not fresh, not current in your thinking. Then he brings along new things that aren't totally off the wall. They are just off. Then one might think, "Oh, that's sort of fresh. I'm just sort of tired and bored with the old things that I have dealt with week after week and month after month and now year after year. It's nice to have something fresh and new. And it's just a difference in methodology, not a difference in message. This is wonderful." Pretty soon Satan has moved you away from the focus of the word of God. Peter is reminding the believers to focus on God's word and warning them of Satan's plans. Peter is not telling them anything brilliant or new. This is how Satan has always worked. If you read the Old Testament prophets, that's the way he worked then. Read about the New Testament apostles, and that's the way he worked. Look around you today, and that's the way he works.
I sometimes talk to you about the perfect tense of a verb. The perfect tense is something that happened in the past and the results continue in the present, so it is used to speak of something that is permanent. Verse 2 begins, "that you should remember the words spoken beforehand..." The verb "spoken" is in the perfect tense. It was spoken in the past but it is enduring in effect. Some people think the Bible is an old, outdated book, but it is permanent. The study of the Bible is the study of the words spoken by the prophets. They were spoken in the past, but they are enduring words because they are the words of the eternal God. Both the message of the apostles and the message of the prophets focus on the return of Christ. That is the particular context that Peter is writing about, and the return of Christ will bring judgment on a fallen world as well as deliverance for a redeemed people. It is in this context that Peter writes about false teachers.
Peter goes on in verse 3, "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts..." Peter wants them to grasp the importance of this. "Know this first of all," he says. "Give this your attention." In the Scripture, "the last days" is a reference to the days of the Messiah. When the Old Testament prophets spoke of the last days, they were talking about the days of the Messiah. But the Old Testament prophets did not see the separation between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ. They saw nothing regarding the period of time we live in today called the Church Age. They saw the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ together. That is why, as we saw in 1 Peter 1, they couldn't sort out the suffering and death of Christ and the glorious reign of Christ because they saw them together. How could He both come and suffer and die and also reign in glory? But we understand now that there is a separation of some 2,000 years at least between those two comings. Therefore, since in the Old Testament the last days are the days of the Messiah, including the first and second coming, the period from the first coming of Christ to the second coming of Christ can be called the last days, and we live in the last days. We have been living in the last days since Christ came to earth almost 2,000 years ago. But it is also true that often the emphasis in references to the last days seems to be the increasing corruption that will take place as time passes along toward the conclusion of this time. In the parallel passage in Jude 18, Jude uses the expression "in the last time." "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." Today we seem to be moving toward the conclusion of the last days.
Paul wrote about this in his last letter, 2 Timothy. He makes a connection similar to the one Peter has made in 2 Peter. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul writes, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these." That is what Peter is writing about, the difficulty that believers will experience in the last days. Paul continues in verse 6, "For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses," The moral conduct described in this verse shows their true character, just as we saw with the false teachers in 2 Peter 2. In verse 7, Paul names some of these apostates from the Old Testament, Jannes and Jambres from the days of Moses. In 2 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul continues, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus... preach the word... For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." Paul is making a connection similar to the connection Peter has made, a warning about the difficulty of the last days and a reminder to be anchored and focused on the word of God.
Peter continues in 2 Peter 3:3, "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking ..." Mockers are people who scorn or have a disrespect for the word of God. They despise the word of God. These people ridicule and mock the word of God and what it says. They have their reasons, but the bottom line is that they are rejecting the word of God. It is of no importance to them. They have a need to ridicule the word to justify their life and their lifestyle. The unbeliever does not want to hear about sin, does not want to hear about judgment, and does not want to hear about hell because if it is true that there is an all-sovereign God who is going to call him to account for his sin, that is a frightening concept. If there is a final judgment and an eternal hell, that is an awesome, awful concept. If he acknowledges the reality of that, then he has to come to grips with this truth. He has to deal with God and face the reality of sin. People don't want to hear that. In the same way, the mockers scoff at the idea of the coming of Christ. They scoff at the idea of a coming judgment, and they scoff at the idea of God intervening in a catastrophic way in world events. They don't want to believe it, so they mock it.
David wrote about this in Psalm 1. In that sense, he would be one of the prophets of the Old Testament to whom Peter is referring in 2 Peter 3:2. Psalm 1:1: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" Scoffers is another word for mockers. What is the context? What are they scoffing at? What are they mocking? Verse 2, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night." See the similarity to 2 Peter 3? Peter wants his readers to be reminded of what the prophets of the Old Testament said and what the apostles of the Lord are saying. He wants them to be anchored in the word, to have the word on their minds, to be meditating on it, not to be influenced by the scoffers, the mockers, those who will ridicule and try to undermine their confidence in the living Word of God. Today there really is no excuse for us as God's people to get tripped up, to get deceived, because the method that Satan uses hasn't changed. Millenniums of time go by and yet Satan continues to be effective. Not to minimize Satan's brilliance, but if believers would do what the Scripture says, and that is to meditate day and night on the word of God, focus their attention on the revelation of God, Old and New Testament alike, and keep that before them, then they wouldn't be so liable to drift and be deluded.
Peter is describing the realm and motivation of mockers in 2 Peter. It is important to keep in mind that these are men who handle the Scriptures. Peter noted that in 2 Peter 2:1, "just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies..." In Matthew 4, when Satan came and tempted Christ, he used the Scriptures and he used them very, very effectively. At first it seemed like Satan had a point until Christ responded with the proper Scripture to put the Scripture quoted by Satan in balance. Peter is reminding them in 2 Peter 3:3 that "mockers will come with their mocking ...".
There are two participles that elaborate on the word "mocking" and help us to understand it. One is "following" and the other is "saying." "... mockers will come ... following ... and saying ..." Verse 3 ends, "... mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts ..." This connects them to the lustful false teachers Peter writes about in chapter 2, men consumed by and enslaved to their own lust. They are finding excuses for their sin. Today there is a softness towards that kind of message as noted in our study of chapter 2. Somebody will say that his sin is not so sinful. In fact, it may not be sin at all. It may be something he got from his parents. It may be just an addiction. It may be a disease. He may be the victim. The response to this explanation may well be, "Tell me more about that. That's not a bad idea. Can you make it work?" Then it infiltrates and sweeps through the church. People like it when you find a way to excuse their sin. That is all the false teachers are doing, finding a way to make sin less sinful. The fallen nature would like to believe there is an excuse for sin. People say, "I'm not really responsible. I lost my temper, but it's not my fault. I was raised that way." Or, "Of course I go out and get drunk on Friday nights, but it's not my fault. It's a disease. It's in my genes." Or, "You were born that way." This is wretched theology but it appeals to fallen man. They are "following after their own lusts." They are finding a way to excuse their sin and make it acceptable. The church seems to have bought into this lock, stock and barrel, because it doesn't deal with this behavior as sin anymore. Instead, these are seen as people who need help over time, and if you put a fee on this by the hour, you've got a good business going. So everybody benefits, but the word of God is undermined.
The mockers are "following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?'" To make sin less sinful, the mockers have to undermine the word of God. They can't let the word of God speak in its simplicity and its clarity, so they come up with insights that seem to make sense. The particular area that these false teachers -- who are mocking and scornfully handling the word -- deal with is that Christ isn't coming again. They say, "God is not going to intervene in judgment like you've been taught. You went to Sunday School and learned that someday Jesus Christ is going to return to earth and that He is going to bring judgment and He is going to destroy this world. But that is not the way it is. We are dealing with a God of love. There is no limit to His love. There is no limit to His mercy. You don't come to this church to be told you are a filthy sinner. You didn't get up this morning and go to the trouble to get all fixed up and make yourself look good and take your day off to come and hear that you may be on your way to hell. I can't figure out why there are churches doing that to you. What we really need to hear about is how wonderful our God is. Then you will go away feeling good about yourself, not bad about yourself." This thinking has an appeal to us, but it is just not biblical. What they are really doing is undermining the word of God, but they are doing it in a way that has an appeal. It is not a flat-out, direct, "Let's throw the Bible out the window" approach. Instead, they say, "Let's alter its emphasis, and the result will be that you will have a broader appeal and God will be able to work in more lives." When the mockers say, "Where is the promise of His coming?", they are doing the same thing. If they want to follow their lusts, then they can't have a doctrine that talks about Christ coming to judge sin.
In 2 Peter 3:4, Peter writes that the mockers are "saying, '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.'" They are asking a basic question, but it is a sarcastic question. We've all been intimidated by a form of this question. Go back through history, the Old Testament history and the patriarchs, all the way back to the creation. It has always been this way. What they deny is the intervention of God in the activity of the world, and that denial supports their theory that He won't intervene in the future. There are Christians and non-Christians alike that fuel this fire. In 1988 there was a book that I believe sold around two million copies entitled, Eighty-eight Reasons Why the Lord Will Return in 1988. It was revised because the author missed it by a year. The author realized that, when Jesus didn't come in 1988, he meant to say 1989. Well this is 1996. Nobody is reading that book anymore. I don't know whether the author is a believer or not, but when you write a book like that, it just gives fuel to the mockers. Herald Camping, who owns several Christian radio stations, wrote a book and predicted that the Lord was coming early in this decade. You could watch him being interviewed on television and read of it in other news media. The year came and went. What does he say now? "I was wrong." You know what all this is? Fuel to the mockers. Hal Lindsay, who wrote Late Great Planet Earth, stated that since Israel was established in 1948, the Lord would return within a generation, forty years later, in 1988. Wrong. All of this is fuel for the mockers. Then when you share with your friends that Jesus Christ is coming again, they respond, "Oh, yeah, I've heard that. Yeah, the Jehovah's Witnesses, didn't they teach the same thing back in the 1800's and move it from this day to that day?" Sometimes it is confused and misled Christians who provide fuel for the mockers because they are not accurately handling the word. That's why it is important to be very careful that we are being biblical. The Lord is coming again, but I can't tell you when. But I can tell you He is coming.
In verse 4, the mockers are saying "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." They are not saying that things have continued ever since God created everything. Instead, they are going back all the way to the creation, including the creation, as Peter will make clear in the following verses. What they are saying is that if there is a God, He has never intervened in the course of world events. Peter's response is in verse 5, "For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water ..." I like the way the English translation has this: " it escapes their notice." They have overlooked something. They have chosen not to acknowledge something. They purposely overlook the biblical facts regarding creation, and in verse 6, regarding the worldwide flood of the days of Noah. This is not a world that began without God and has continued uninterrupted by God. They choose not to face reality when they talk that way. They ignore the clear evidence "by the word of God ..." This becomes the foundational issue. If you mark your Bible, you could underline or circle "by the word of God" in verse 5, "through which" in verse 6, which is referring back to the word of God, and "by His word" in verse 7. All three of these verses hang together on that emphasis: It is by the word of God that creation came about. It is by the word of God that the flood in the days of Noah came about. It is by the word of God that the final judgment of this world by fire will take place. You have to recognize the sovereign authority of God in the affairs of this world.
Peter is referring to Genesis 1, which is a part of the Bible that is discarded by most people today. They begin with the assumption that the opening chapters of Genesis are not literal, historical fact. Since that is already decided, they just have to decide how to interpret those chapters because they are obviously not telling about a factual account in a normal, literal way. There are all kinds of ways of explaining this. "Well, the people who take this at face value are trying to read it as Americans. They don't understand the poetic way people spoke back in the days in which this was written, and you must realize they didn't intend this to be taken literally." The impact is the same. They are mocking the word of God. They say it does not mean what it says; instead it means what they say it means. Genesis 1:2, "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." As God called matter into existence, this earth was enveloped in water. Peter writes that the earth was formed out of water and that it happened by the word of God.
Note the simple emphasis throughout Genesis 1: Verse 3, "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light." Verse 6, "Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.'" Remember this verse. God is dividing the waters. The whole earth was covered by water. Then He separates the waters, leaving some on the earth and putting some in the heavens. We will look at this more in a moment. Then the end of verse 7, "and it was so." Verse 9, "Then God said, 'Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, ...' and it was so." Verse 11, "Then God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation: ...' and it was so." Verses 14 and 15, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens ...' and it was so." Verses 20 and 21, "Then God said, 'Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, ...' and God saw that it was good." Verse 24, "Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures ...' and it was so." Verse 26, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, ...'" Verse 27, "God created man in His own image, ... male and female He created them." You note the simplicity of the flow of that chapter. God spoke it into existence. By the word of God it happened.
Today, evolutionary science would tell us that can't be, but I question whether evolutionary science is really science. Science is supposed to deal with that which can be demonstrated and observed, and no one was there to see it. You may call it an evolutionary idea or theory and then try to support it with current scientific evidence, but there is no one who was there who can prove it scientifically. Evolution is man's attempt to explain the existence of creation without referring to God. You have two alternatives. You can say God made it, or you can say it happened this way -- there was an explosion. Where the things for the explosion came from, who knows? Maybe they believe in the eternality of matter of some form. They believe that even though science says you can never have something from nothing, there was a time when something came from nothing, unless matter is eternal.
Another idea is theistic evolution. God was involved and He spoke, but then evolution did the rest. In this case there are not six days in Genesis 1, of course, because those would be six ages. However, this creates other problems in interpretation. Believers are always under pressure to wed Scripture to the ideas of fallen man in order to become acceptable and to be recognized as scholars because fallen man doesn't buy the clear, plain statements of Scripture. Believers want to claim that they are scientific like the unbelievers are. The unbelievers say it started with a big bang. Theistic evolutionists would say it started with a big God. But I don't buy that. I can't fit Genesis into that. No, it happened by the Word of God.
Peter understands that and takes it at face value. By the word of God it happened.
The problem is not in being scholarly. The problem is not in being scientific. The problem
is where you place your faith. Since no one on earth today was present back when creation
began, everyone is operating with a faith system. Some have their faith in God and the
revelation He has given in Scripture. Some have their faith in something else. Hebrews
11:3 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of
God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." How do you
know that God spoke it all into existence? It says so in Genesis 1, and I believe what God
says. That's how I know that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
God caused it all to come into existence. It's a matter of faith. God tells us what actually
happened. True scientific evidence is in no way contradictory to the accounts of Genesis
1. The problem is not lack of scientific evidence. The problem is lack of faith. Hebrews
11:6 says, "...for he who comes to God must believe that He is ...". You start out with
faith in what God has said.
In 2 Peter, these false teachers choose to ignore the fact that it was by the word of God that creation was brought about. This kind of teaching begins to infiltrate the church and Christian schools, then theistic evolution begins to be taught. Any time you wed the truth of God to the ideas of man, the ideas of man will eventually totally corrupt the truth of God. That's what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump ..." They were to clean out the leaven, using an analogy with sin and the corruption of sin in the church at Corinth. Why? It will spread. That is the way sin works. What happens when you take a moldy orange and lay it on a basket of good oranges? When you come back in a few days, have the good oranges driven out the mold? If that's what happens, you buy different oranges than I do. I end up with green, moldy oranges. What happened? It spread. That's what corruption does. Under the guise of, "We don't want to reject the Scripture; we just want to interpret it in a way that fits our understanding today," we accept a mixture of man's ideas and God's truth. But fallen man has never been happy to have it God's way. Believers act like this is something new today.
In 2 Peter 3:5, Peter affirms God's way: "... it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water ..." God started by calling matter into existence and having this earth enveloped in water. Then out of the water, He separated the water on the earth from the waters above the earth. Then He called all the waters on the earth together. At the end of verse 5, the preposition "by" or "through" can mean God used the waters to shape the earth. As He pushed the waters down into basins, He shaped the earth. The preposition can also mean "amidst" or "between". Remember Genesis 1:6, "Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.'" So 2 Peter 3:5 says the earth was formed out of water and amidst water or in between water. Either of those views, "by water" or "amidst water," are possible here. Both are true. I tend toward the latter, that the earth was amidst water, because in Genesis 7:11, the beginning of the flood is described, "... on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." God broke the fountains of the deep so that the water under the earth exploded up and the waters above the earth crashed down and brought the flood and, in a sense, restored the earth to the days at the beginning of creation when it was covered with water in its entirety, with one little boat floating there that makes all the difference. That is the first example of the cataclysmic intervention of God. How can you say there is no evidence? How can you say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" How can you say God has never been involved? God was absolutely, completely involved from the start of creation. He spoke it into existence by His word.
2 Peter 3:6 continues: "through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water." "Through which" refers back to the word of God which brought the flood. By God's word the fountains of the deep broke up, the heavens opened and the world at that time was destroyed in a flood of water. God intervened in catastrophic judgment, enveloping the whole world in judgment. The mockers choose not to acknowledge that fact. You might say that this evidence is no good if you don't have faith, but the whole word of God is no good if you don't have faith. We as believers ought not to be intimidated. You might not think you can use these arguments with an unbeliever because the unbeliever doesn't believe that God created the world. That's his problem. You know the scriptural approach. Take it. You might not think you can use the flood as an example of judgment because unbelievers don't believe there was a worldwide flood. You know the scriptural approach. That's their problem.
You see, we want to help God out. "God, this book was good when you wrote it, but You realize it's not working today. Let me tell You my idea. If we take what You say here and wed it to this new idea, think of the impact it will have." When did God ever ask your advice? Were you there when He formed the earth? We get ourselves into trouble by trying to improve on God's word. Today the church has a tendency to read about the time of Peter and say those people back then shouldn't have been deluded by the false teachers. Yet the church lets false teachers bring in their mixture of man's ideas and God's word, then grabs on to the mixture like it's the best thing since apple pie. We think we have found a way to be believers, to have God's word and to fit in the world and be accepted. We think something new has been discovered, but it's just the old lie of Satan being recycled through our generation.
God spoke and the flood came upon the world. Some commentators, claiming to be believers, are confused on the opening chapters of Genesis. They want to make them poetic, but that doesn't explain how creation came about. They also don't believe in a worldwide flood. They explain that it was a local flood but it took care of all the people because all the people were living in a given locality. I guess all the insects and crawling creatures were there. That would take almost as big a miracle as a worldwide flood. You have every insect, every bird, every animal -- that would take quite a fence -- all in this little place. Remember that in Genesis 7:11, the beginning of the flood is described, "... on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." In Genesis 7:19-20, "The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered." A cubit is about 18 inches, so 15 cubits is 22 to 23 feet. This does not say the waves were lapping at the tip of the mountains. No, water was 22 or 23 feet above all the mountain tops under the whole heavens. A person could drown in that, and that's the most shallow place. We either believe what God said or we don't. If you have a problem with supernatural activity, then you don't have much of a God. And if you have a problem with supernatural activity on a broad scale, then you don't have much of a God. The real bottom line is whether people want to acknowledge the true and living God and bow before Him or not. All this other stuff is just smoke blown in the air to confuse confused people.
In 2 Peter 2:5, Peter has already used the flood in the days of Noah as an example of the judgment of God on the world, "and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly." The two major events Peter has brought together are the two major worldwide events. The creation of the entire world, heavens and earth, and the destruction of the entire world in the flood of Noah. There is only one other such event predicted for the future, the destruction of the present heavens and earth and the recreation of the new heavens and a new earth. The world is divided into three separate times, pre-flood, present time, and new heavens and new earth. Those are the three major periods of earth's history from beginning to eternity, and that's what Peter is addressing. The flood is an example of God's intervention in catastrophic judgment.
Let me just note that, in the days of Noah, the population of the earth would have been a large number of people, and only eight people were saved. I don't want to make more of this than we should, but Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:14, "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." In the coming destruction of the world by fire, we may be surprised how many are destroyed and how many are saved. The percentage of those on the earth that are truly believers may be much smaller than we would like to think. That would mean a lot of people are parading around dressed up like Christians who really aren't. I don't want to make a theological point out of that, but at least we ought to be aware of the devastating effects of that worldwide judgment.
In 2 Peter 3:7, Peter continues, "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." The same power that could bring everything into existence, the same power that wiped out the entire world except for eight persons, that is the same power in the word of God that is keeping or reserving the present heavens and earth for fire. It's this present period today, between the flood and the coming destruction by fire, the days we are living in, which is under the keeping power of God. The words "reserved" and "kept" are words that are used of the Christian's inheritance in glory being kept by God's power. That same sovereign power that is keeping and preserving believers and keeping and preserving your inheritance is also keeping the world of the unbeliever. It is being guarded by God to be brought to the ultimate, final judgment that He will bring upon a fallen world. That's an awesome concept.
I am amazed at the literature I am getting as we come up on another presidential election. It says we are supposed to pray for revival. I don't have any problems praying for God's work to be done, but I get the idea from this passage in 2 Peter that the world is being kept, not for its glorious salvation, but for its coming judgment. The literature would have us believe that there is going to be a great turnaround, just a few votes placed in the right places and the "right" president and the "right" Supreme Court and the "right" Congress, then the Lord will heal our land -- but you better get to Palestine because the Bible wasn't talking about the United States. You can see how Christians and professing Christians just grab on to verses and swing them around. Christians say, "Wow, this is wonderful. I want to be part of it." We never stop and think whether this concept is anchored in the word of God. This is what God says, "This world is being reserved for judgment." Post-millennialists believe it is going to get better and better here on earth, and ultimately there will be worldwide salvation and we will usher in the kingdom here on earth. However, I don't think that is what the Bible teaches.
Instead, God is carefully guarding the world, preserving it and keeping it. There will be worldwide destruction. This isn't going to happen because somebody accidentally tripped off a nuclear explosion, causing a chain reaction in which the world dissolved in a nuclear holocaust. No. It's going to come by the word of God. The same word that brought it all into existence, the same word that wiped it out in the flood of Noah's day, will someday bring judgment. This will be discussed further in our study of 2 Peter 3:10. It is the sovereign power of our God. Thus, there is evidence in the past and there is support for the future intervention of God by His Word.
Let me summarize what we have seen in these verses.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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