A Study in 2 Peter
Introduction & Overview
The last words of people when they are about to die have always been of great interest to me.
They tell you so much about what the person considers truly important.
Such things can be as shockingly bankrupt as they might be blindly oblivious or stunningly blessed.
Sometimes death comes unexpectedly and the last words of those who die in such a manner are often extraordinarily mundane.
Others, who are aware of what is about to take place, demonstrate either their true grasp of it, or their unwillingness to face it and retreat to simply ignoring it.
Tallulah Bankhead, actress of a previous generation simply said: “Codeine…Bourbon” – and perished as she had lived. A slave to those substances.
Vittoria Accoramboni – a famous Italian noblewoman of the 16th century – had her husband murdered so she could marry another. Being murdered herself at the age of 28 blasphemously said: “Jesus, I pardon you.” As though God was responsible for her sin and its wages.
Queen Victoria reported that her husband, Prince Albert said: “I have had wealth, rank and power, but if this were all I had, how wretched I should be.” And a few minutes later uttered: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in thee.”
John Bell, the last person executed in Britain under the age of 16, hanged at the age of 14 for murdering a 13 year old boy for 9 shillings – had a sudden moment of clarity: “Lord have mercy on us. All people be warned by me.”
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley a 19th century artist who was mostly known for his obscene and sexually graphic art. Dying at the age of 25 of tuberculosis sent a note to his publisher that had the heading: “Jesus is our Lord & Judge.” And in it he wrote: “I implore you to destroy all copies of Lysistrata – by all that is holy – all obscene drawings.”
Think of the unaware words of famous surgeon John Abernathy who simply cried out: “Is there anybody in the room?”
Compare then last words of Joseph Bellamy, friend and student of Jonathan Edwards. Someone asked him as he lay dying, “If God should send you to Hell, what would you do there?” And he replied: “I will tell them forever that Jesus is precious.”
I can tell you that out of the hundreds I’ve read, I’ve never come across ones like:
I prayed too much.
I gave up too many sins.
I studied my Bible too much.
I worshipped God far too often.
I loved Christ and His people too much.
Such sentiments never appear. Never. And it does not take much thought to figure out why not.
Peter, like a good father to his children, under the direction of the Spirit is putting forth his last words to them in this letter.
Before we begin to unpack some of that, it might be helpful to go back and get a feel for Peter’s situation as he wrote – and the situation of those he was writing to.
- Situation of Peter – about to be martyred. 2 Peter 1:14 “since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”
This would have put Peter in Rome as the beginning of the persecutions of Nero – as most history and tradition agree.
2. Situation of his readers: As in 1 Peter, Jewish & Gentile Believers, banished from Rome to the backwaters of Roman outposts.
1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”
2 Peter 3:1a “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.”
3. Driving Concern in Peter’s mind: That he leave them a Memorable Legacy.
Which legacy is not wrapped up in being sure they remember HIM well and fondly or in terms of greatness – but that they remember what he taught as the things of highest importance to the Believer in this world – all centered in the knowledge of the person and work of Jesus.
2 Peter 1:12–15 “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
So, he then organizes his thoughts around three things: And the chapters follow that outline fairly closely with just a smidge of overlap in places.
Chap. 1 / The Foundation of the Believer’s Life and Thought.
2 Peter 1:1 “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”
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Drawing from his first letter, he is adamant once again to help the Believer establish in their own hearts and minds who they really are in Christ Jesus. A true, Biblical Christian identity.
Then, he focuses upon what God has provided for us to live out this identity in a fallen and variously hostile world. All wrapped up in the supreme gift of Christ to the Church in His resurrection – that of the Holy Spirit.
And lastly, that we keep in mind that God has a plan, a program for the ages that He is carrying out. Life is not just some random, pointless existence. God is moving all of human history toward a specific end, and only the one born again by the Spirit of Christ gets to live in that reality.
This infuses every experience in life, every decision and life circumstance with meaning and potential to impact our eternal existence.
Chap. 2 / A Forewarning of the most Formidable Challenge they will face.
2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
This warning is twofold:
- A warning against false teachers, and,
- A warning against the doctrines they espouse.
It is common today to hear people say “I don’t want to hear about or learn doctrine, just give me Jesus or the Bible.”
While that sounds spiritual, it is in fact quite naïve.
Doctrine, is nothing more than what the Bible teaches, and certainly nothing less.
And each of us HAS, whether we identify it as such or not – a “doctrine” of Jesus Christ: Who He was and is and what He came for, accomplished and rose again to do. And what that means for the future.
Chap. 3 / A look at the Future they are to be Living and Striving for.
This too is 2-fold:
- Future glory for the saints as motivation for how we live here and now.
- Future judgment for all of those outside of Christ.
2 Peter 3:1–4 “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
That this present existence will in fact come to an end. Christ will return. This age will give way to the new heaven and the new earth as prophesied.
The world will not just spin endlessly as it does now, and no one will simply cease to exist – but how and where and under what conditions we will spend eternity is fused together with how we lived here and now, most especially in relation to Jesus Christ as King.
By means of a practical application, we might well ask ourselves what it is we are leaving those who come behind us?
Both our own children and/or grandchildren, and the generations of the Church who will follow us should the Lord delay His return.
To you parents and grandparents here – what will you leave your heirs with?
What will you have passed on to them?
Will that be simply material?
If spiritual, what will that look like?
What will they take away from having lived with you and watched you and listened to you as vital and important?
Not what you SAID was important, but what you actually demonstrated by your commitment of time and money and pursuit.
What captured your fondest attention?
Did you give them any sense of what is worth pursuing and why?
Have you told them why you lived as you live, and how you made the decisions you made?
What will your legacy be?
And will it be useful for the state of their everlasting souls?
I am so grateful that I can look to the example of my own Mom & Dad in this regard.
Oh, they were deeply flawed people – broken and marred by sin as all the rest of us.
But the way they lived demonstrated to us that they had spiritual priorities that were to inform and direct everything else in life – in terms of serving the Christ who had saved them from their sins by His substitutionary death.
They prayed – because they believed that as God’s adopted children, Father God heard.
They read and studied and loved Gods Word because it was to them – God’s Word.
They challenged sin in their lives because they wanted to be delivered from it as is commensurate with why they had been saved.
They wanted to live as the saying is Coram Deo – before the face of God.
And they lived anticipating Christ’s return, or going to be with Him in death.
This is the legacy they left us as their children.
The same legacy I trust I am leaving for my own daughter and grandchildren.
And all of you!
Not a legacy of religious perfectionism, but of the pursuit of holiness out of gratitude for salvation and the desire to live in concert with Christ’s goal of freeing me to be conformed to His image.
The lyrics to Steve Green’s song ”Find us Faithful” come to mind.
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
CHORUS: Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
But the real force of this example is in how Peter emulates and brings attention to how it is Christ Jesus has provided for us.
This is the heritage of the Christian. This is the wonder that Christ has secured for us.
He has opened our eyes through the Gospel to our lost condition apart from Christ.
His Word has informed us of how God created us for Himself, and how sin came and ruined mankind, separating us from the source of both physical and everlasting life – leaving the human race under the awful judgment of God.
How Jesus, God in human flesh came, and died for our sin on the cross of Calvary – taking the just wrath of God against us upon Himself, that we might be reconciled to the Father, forgiven of our sin and guilt, and made new creations in Him.
And promises that all who trust in His atoning sacrifice may be born again, adopted in the very family of God, and have everlasting life.
A life that begins even now, living out the eternal plans and purpose of the One who created us for Himself – as 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”
Beloved – what a heritage we have been left!
Look how Jesus prepared for us in appointing Apostles to found and build the Church…
Sending His Spirit to indwell us and empower us…
Opening the door to the Father throne in unfettered prayer…
Providing other Believers to walk with us…
Preserving His Word that we might know His heart and mind every step of the way…
Now, may we leave that same glorious Gospel to those who follow us – not in word only, but in lives lived in the these things being the central and absolute essentials of living in God’s reality in this universe.
This is Peter’s emphasis. Seeing all that has been provided for us, ought to impact us in powerful ways.
Since we are IN Christ, BY Christ, let us be occupied with His person and work until we are at last one WITH Christ in glory.
2 Peter 3:11–13 “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
2 Peter 3:17–18 “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”