The conclusion of Peter’s inspired writing ultimately centers around one basic point, found in 2 Peter 3:11-13 – every Christian should soberly consider “What kind of person should I be (since I am a Christian) as I live on this side of eternity?” The preface to our being able to properly answer this question is the reminder in verses 1-7 that…
- We’ve been warned that “scoffers” (vs. 3) will mock our faith because following it would mean they could not indulge in desires to sin, and…
- They will deliberately ignore history in their attempts to involve us in their sins (vv. 5- 6).
The basic “lesson” of this reminder comes in verses 8-10, where Peter points out that the passing of time does not diminish the certainty that God will fulfill His promises. The comparison of “one day” and “a thousand years” merely serves to emphasize this point. Some people mistakenly try to equate these amounts of time, in an effort to equate the span of human history with the six days of the creation week in Genesis 1-2, and thereby “time” the coming of the day of judgement, and while the end of time is plainly in view here, the Holy Spirit is not providing us with a “count-down clock” so that we can pinpoint that day (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36). Peter’s point is the certainty of God’s promised day of judgement (cf. Acts 17:31), not its date!
Peter introduces and emphasizes the main lesson – that because we know for sure that a day of judgement shall come, every Christian should concentrate seriously on how we are living in the current world – by pointing out that the material universe where we now live is destined for destruction (vs. 10)*. 1 If “this world is not my home,” as our old hymn so pointedly declares, then Peter’s point in these verses leads to the very thing he declares in verse 13; that our focus and our actions while here should be directed toward being “found” where righteousness and peace are located (vv. 13-14).
In verses 15-16, it is interesting to realize that Peter was familiar with at least some of the letters Paul had written, as his reference to the Lord’s longsuffering and desire for people to repent is very similar to Paul’s words in Romans 2:4. When Peter mentions that some things Paul wrote are “hard to understand,” he is simply acknowledging that some parts of the gospel require more effort to understand than others (and Christians who are ignorant and careless can easily misunderstand and misuse the more “difficult” parts, which will lead them to destruction just like the scoffers of verse 3).
The final analysis of all this, in verses 17-18, is actually pretty simple: Since we know that some people will scoff and others will handle God’s word carelessly, we should be “on guard” for ourselves, and concentrate on growing and developing into mature children of God!
*Some newer English translations use words like exposed (ESV) or laid bare (NIV) instead of the more familiar burned up at the end of verse 10 because of differences in some of the ancient Greek texts. What is noteworthy is that changing these words does not alter the basic thought (destruction of the material world) expressed in verses 11-12. In addition, other translations that are also based on the same Greek texts nevertheless retain the expression burned up in verse 10 (ASV, NASV, and RSV).