2 Peter 3:3-7 “The Second Coming, Part 1: What to Expect and How to Respond”


Knowing this first of all, in the last days mockers will come with their mocking as they follow after their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, everything continues since the beginning of creation.’ For it escapes them as they maintain this that the heavens were existing long ago, and the earth was formed from water and between water by the word of God. Through which, the world perished at that time, being deluged by water. So, the present heavens and earth exist, having been preserved by His word for fire, being guarded for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.


After the general exhortation to remember all that they have been taught from the prophets and the apostles, Peter provides his readers with some specific expectations. In the remaining verses of chapter 3 we get a look inside some of the false teaching warned against as well as Peter’s arguments against it. These arguments are both rational and biblical and expose the rationale of the false teachers to be threadbare and barren garments masquerading as grand vestments. The second coming of Jesus Christ is the major topic from this point forward. In these verses, Peter begins to encourage his reads by explaining to them what they should expect as the day draws nearer and how they should respond.


What to Expect: Mocking Mockers (vv. 3-4)


Peter repeats the phrase (τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες) he used n 1:20.[1] This is likely not the very first thing that the readers need to know but is likely a phrase Peter uses when stressing a major point. In any case, this is important as it helps to fill out what the beloved are to remember and why.[2] Plainly stated, Peter reveals that in the future mockers will come with their mockery. The purpose here is to encourage the readers by revealing what they should expect regarding these mockers.


Expectations of Their Coming (v. 3)


This is a summary verse that links back to the reminder of vv. 1-2, condenses all of chapter 2, and ensures the readers understand the eschatological nature of the context. The Greek last (ἔσχατος) is where we get our term eschatology, or the study of the last things.


The Timing of their Coming


Knowing this first of all, in the last days mockers will come with their mocking


The “last days” (ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν) has been used to describe the final days on earth leading up to Messiah’s kingdom (Gen. 49:1; Num. 24:14; Deut. 4:30; 31:29; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1; Zech. 14:8; Is. 2:2; Jn. 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48; Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; Jam. 5:3). The last days are described as being filled with blessing, cursing, retribution, and restoration. By assimilating all the biblical data on the subject, we define the last days as that period between the two advents of Jesus Christ. Yet here, Peter uses a common enough phrase with a future idea. He writes nearly 40 years after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and is therefore living in the last days. Yet he points to a time that will come, a future time that is nearer the second coming than Peter’s own day. While we should be careful to guard against setting dates, Peter seems to indicate the time when this present age draws to a close.[3]


The future indicative from ἔρχομαι announces the coming of mockers with their mocking. The preposition ἐν ἐμπαιγμονῇ indicates the manner of their coming. Mockers come doing what mockers do. Whatever else they are guilty of, we can add to it the fact that they sit in the seat of the scoffers (Ps. 1:1).[4]


The Character of Those Who Come


As they follow after their own lusts


Peter makes a clear connection between these mockers and the false teachers described in the previous chapter. The present participle περευόμενοι (following) modifies the future indicative ἐλεύσονται (they will come) to describe the manner of their coming. These are men who mock while at the same time follow their desires, lusts, and pleasures. Because of the teaching provided in chapter 2, the readers are prepared to dismiss these evil men[5] who are known chiefly by their lust and blasphemy.[6] There is nothing more needed to be said.


Expectations of Their Content (v. 4)


Grammatically, Peter’s prediction of the last day mockers consists of two participial clauses. The first revealed what they will do: they will come following after their own lusts. The second reveals what they will say. What follows reveals the specific content of the mockers’ mockery as well as their rationale explaining why they would say such things.


Their Ridicule


And saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’


The level of derision is at an all-time high. By using terms like “promise” and “coming” they phrase this question in the realm of orthodox teaching. Jesus did in fact promise that the Son of Man would return (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:3, 32-36; Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:11).[7] Yet the very form of this question betrays the intention of mockery. Skepticism has often been presented in the form of a question (Jer. 17:15; Mal. 2:17; Ezek. 12:22).[8] This is not a genuine quest for understanding. Their derision of the second coming drips from every pore. It is one thing to present a flat denial of the second coming. But these take a step further to mock the idea of it. What follows is the logic upon which they base their ridicule.


Their Rationale


For ever since the fathers fell asleep, everything continues since the beginning of creation.


They reach back to the time of the patriarchs and beyond, all the way to the time of creation. Their point is simple: The world has continued in a constant and consistent manner from the days of the patriarchs and Old Testament saints to this day. In fact, since the days of creation, nothing has disturbed the normal ebb and flow of life. Why would we believe in the myth of Christ’s coming which supposedly is accompanied by change of cosmic proportions?


Again, the mockers couch their mockery in orthodox language. To suggest that the fathers “sleep” implies a belief that they will rise from the dead. Yet how will they rise if Christ does not return to raise them?[9] Their derision knows no bounds. Is this sound logic? Is it true that the cosmos has not been interrupted since the days of the patriarchs and creation?


How to Respond: The Apostolic Apology (vv. 5-7)


Here Peter puts the logic of these mockers to the test. If their rationale fails at any point, then their conclusion is brought into question. It is noteworthy that Peter is not engaging these mockers (for they have not yet entered the scene) but the beloved brethren. The following apology, or defense, is designed for their encouragement much more so than to debate with mockers. First, Peter points to the facts of history and then draws a biblical conclusion for his readers.


Missing the Historical Precedent (vv. 5-6)


This defense is based on what the mockers missed. The present indicative from λανθάνω describes someone or something that has avoided detection or awareness. There is something that they have overlooked. Something has escaped the attention of these mockers and avoided their detection. If the argument is that there has never before been divine intervention in the affairs of man on any significant scale, then perhaps these mockers should review the facts of history as recorded in Genesis. Peter presents two such instances where God intervened in the affairs of man to such a degree that the universe would be altered.


Creation (v. 5)


For it escapes them as they maintain this that the heavens were existing long ago, and the earth was formed from water and between water by the word of God.


The first example of divine intervention Peter presents is creation itself. It is rather obvious that if God had interrupted the flow of normal existence by speaking the world into creation, then the world would never have been. By stating that the heavens and the earth were formed from water and between water (καὶ γῆ ἐξ ὕδρατος καὶ δι᾽ ὕδρατος) Peter refers to the precise wording of Gen. 1:2-10. In the beginning there was nothing but the primeval deep over which the Spirit of God hovered (Gen. 1:2). After speaking light into existence (v. 3) and defining what a “day” is (vv. 4-5), God caused separation between the waters above from the waters below (vv. 6-8) and then separated the waters from the waters so that land existed between the waters above and the waters below (vv. 9-10). The land that now exists between (διά) the water above and the water below is in a perfect position to become flooded (v. 6).[10]


All of this came about by the word of God (τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγῳ). God’s actual verbally spoken and audibly perceived words were the means and agency of creation. God spoke, and divine intervention occurred. God very purposefully disrupted the contemporary norm. Consistency was broken, never to return to the way it was. Unlike many evangelicals, Peter interpreted Genesis 1-2 literally. He hangs his entire argument on the fact that God spoke, and stuff happened.


Catastrophe (v. 6)


Through which, the world perished at that time, being deluged by water.


Peter moves from the creation account in Genesis 1-2 to the global flood in Genesis 6-9. God intervened in a powerful and distorting manner in creation. He will do so again in the instance of the flood. The first was to bless the world with its being. The second will be to curse the world by causing it to perish.


Through the command of God, the world came into being and through this same divine fiat the world perished. The world that was brought forth from the waters was erased by the waters. In case the mockers forgot to read their Bibles, the Noahic flood is a significant instance of divine intervention whereby God disrupted the contemporary norm. Cosmic consistency was dramatically and permanently altered in both creation and the flood. Why would the mockers think that their contemporary consistency is safe?


The whole point of the flood is to demonstrate God’s willingness to judge the world while showing grace to His select and elect few. The flood is the precedent for future judgment. To deny future judgment is to question the historic flood. To question the historic flood invites doubt regarding future judgment. Peter builds his case for the second coming of Jesus Christ on the historic realities of creation and the flood as described in Genesis. If only evangelicalism would take the same view.


Missing the Biblical Significance (v. 7)


So, the present heavens and earth exist, having been preserved by His word for fire, being guarded for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.


Peter distinguishes between the “now” heavens and earth () and the heavens and earth just mentioned. After all, they were destroyed (ἀπώλετο). Not in the sense that they were annihilated and ceased to exist, but that they were so drastically changed so as to be irreversibly altered.[11] The present heavens and earth certainly exist. That’s part of the mockers’ logic. But it is foolish to think that they will continue to exist indefinitely, for they are being preserved by God’s word for fire. Just as God’s command brought the heavens and earth from the water, just as the divine fiat empowered their submersion, thus the word of God will preserve the heavens and the earth until the day of their fiery destruction. That day, just as in Noah’s day, will see more than the destruction of physical creation. That day will be a day of judgment, a day when ungodly men will also be destroyed. By overlooking the historical presence of creation and the flood, these mockers miss the biblical connection of the future judgment associated with the second coming of Jesus Christ.


Conclusion


There seems to be a correlation between the faithfulness of a local body and their adherence to the plain interpretation of the biblical text. Liberal and licentious bodies are usually ones who deny a literal understanding of Genesis 1-11 and reject a literal understanding of Rev. 19-22. To accept that God intervened and disrupted the flow of normal events invites the thought that He will do so again. To admit that God killed millions of people for their wickedness in the flood invites the idea that He will one day slay billions with fire. One cannot justify their current immorality while affirming God’s intervention in the past or the future.


Yet these are words of encouragement for the believer. It is because God created the world in 6, twenty-four-hour periods that we can anticipate Christ’s return. It is because God flooded the world and slayed sinners that we can anticipate justice reigning from Christ’s throne in Jerusalem. The glory of the beginning will be established in the end.


Soli Deo Gloria!




[1] Archibald Robertson, The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol. VI, VI vols., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), p. 173. [2] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 371. [3] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 142. [4] Ibid. [5] Schreiner, p. 372. [6] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 339. [7] Hiebert, p. 143. [8] Schreiner, p. 372. [9] Hiebert, p. 145. [10] Ibid, p. 146-7. [11] Ibid, p. 148.

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