2 Peter 3:1-13, Last Things

This week is our final week in 2 Peter. For Tuesday, please read 2 Peter 3. In vv. 1-13, our writer constructs his last argument about the last things.

SCHEDULE: We are taking off the next two weeks (8/8 and 8/15). On August 22, we will begin reading through Tim Soren’s book, Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are. The book explores the question of “What is the point of the church?” and helps us formulate our own answer of how the church can become an active part of our daily lives and in the lives of those in our community. (This is one of the books that Ann Fleming recommended as a compliment to her visioning process.) I will have copies of the book available on Sunday and Tuesday.

The Final Argument

The question addressed in vv. 1-13 is “Where is Jesus?” and “Why has he not returned?” Like Paul, our writer takes up the issue of the last things, like the second coming and the final destruction of evil, as the last argument presented in his letter. See, 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11. It simply makes rhetorical sense to address eschatology at the end of a letter.

Peter’s Continued Testimony:

If you remember our discussion of 2 Peter 1:12-21, the grammar of these verses has more in common with 1 Peter than 2 Peter and may go back to the apostle himself. Likewise, vv. 1-13, and particularly vv.1-3, seem to be part of the same argument that is made in 1:12-21. In other words, it appears the writer used Peter’s final departing message and divided that message up in the letter. The reason is he wants to use Peter’s words in the introduction to the letter (since the letter is based on Peter’s teachings) but he also wants to end the letter with a discussion about the Parousia and eschatology.

The Scoffers:

One of the common beliefs in the early church, as it is in many churches today, is that Jesus’ return in glory is just around the corner. See, Mark 9:11 Thess. 4:151 Peter 4:7. But, at the time of the letter, the apostles themselves have fallen asleep. v.4. The scoffers ask, therefore, if Jesus was going to return, shouldn’t have he returned by now? The writer (maybe quoting Peter) gives us two answers to this question – time and fire.


The first answer given to the question, is simply that God’s time is not our time. One day for God is as a thousand years for us, and vice-versa. v.8. As we have discussed before, this goes back to the difference between chronos (time in the sequential, quantitative, and chronological sense) and kairos (time in the qualitative and opportunistic sense). For the writer of 2 Peter, the right time for Jesus’s return has not yet come, because God is being patient with us. God is not tardy but is showing forbearance towards us and our sinful nature. v.9.


In echoing the Old Testament prophets, the writer tells his audience that the second coming will not be a time of celebration, but a time of judgment when all that is evil will be consumed by fire. See, Amos 5:18, Joel 2, Mal. 4. This teaching is not that different than Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 3:15 or John’s vision in Revelation 20. The Parousia is about the fire of heaven coming with such intensity that everything that is ungodly gets “dissolved” and “melted.” v.12. If you have time, please review our previous discussions on the eschatological fire from Malachi 3 and 4.


This final discourse in 2 Peter about the second coming ends in the same way as John’s Revelation. After everything that is ungodly has been burned up and destroyed, God brings about a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. If you have time before Tuesday, re-read Revelation 21-22. This is the purpose of the fire that comes at the right time. Its ultimate purpose, however, is not to destroy all the dross that is ungodly but to bring about a transformed and renewed world where God’s righteous rules. 

Dinner is at 6. The menu is take-out pizza. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here.

For wickedness burns like a fire,
    it consumes briers and thorns;
it kindles the thickets of the forest,
    and they roll upward in a column of smoke.
Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts
    the land is burned,
and the people are like fuel for the fire;
    no man spares his brother. fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
   All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
   there is none who does any good.

Isaiah 9:18-19

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