The second epistles abound with instructions for the last days, giving special guidance and warning to God’s saints as to how they may keep themselves in separation from the apostasy and please God. In Chapter 2 we had the ecclesiastical apostasy with its clerical assumption; here we have the infidel apostasy, the scoffer’s sneer and the denial of the truth. To meet this evil and fortify the true saints against it, Peter writes to stir up those whom he knew to be real, whose minds were pure, “sincere” (Phil. 1:10, for the same word), and to call to remembrance the truth which alone can preserve them from the way of the wicked. Such a ministry is increasingly needful, as the days grow darker and the subtleties and errors of the devil increase. Not only is the truth to be taught to those who know it not, but those who once knew it are in danger of letting it slip; then they form an easy prey to the enemy.
Verses 3-7.—“In the last days, scoffers.” They are everywhere around us—lawless men, mockers of God and His Word. And their scorn is specially directed against “The promise,” as the personal return of the Lord is thrice named in this chapter (verses 4, 9, 13). As these scoffers hear the watching saints speak of their Lord’s coming to take them to be with Himself, they raise the mocker’s sneer, saying—“Where is the promise of His coming?” And this taunt is backed up by the contemptuous statement, that all these things have long ago ceased to be heard of, they belonged to bygone ages, and are regarded as myths by the enlightened thinkers of the present time, who also deny the Divinity of Christ, the value of His atoning death, the inspiration of the Bible, and the eternal punishment of the wicked. These scorners are not yet trembling as they will, when they beg to be hidden from the face of the Lamb upon the throne (Rev.6:15, 17), around, which He will ere then have already gathered His own (Rev. 5:6), whom now they jibe and mock. But to this sneer God has His answer. As the watchman of old, in answer to the Edomite scoffer’s question—“Watchman what of the night?” could reply, “The morning cometh and also the night” (Isa. 21:12), so here, a twofold answer is given to the mocker. First, an appeal is made to the day of the deluge, when men scoffed and sneered, while Noah prepared the ark. Yet the deluge came and swept them away. So the heavens and earth now, are by the same word reserved unto fire, and this last judgment will come suddenly, unexpectedly, as the first. No need for God to wait, everything is ready:—saints ready for glory, sinners ready for judgment; the world stored up with fire, only the outer crust to break. Yet men, with all their boasted knowledge, “wilfully forget” all this. God will interfere when and how He pleases. Verses 8-9 give the second part of the answer. Days and years count but little in the reckoning of heaven. The hour is appointed when God’s hand will interfere; this is enough for the saint. “Times and seasons” belong to men and earth, he belongs to a land where time is uncounted, and on which the sun never shone. And if “the promise” is yet unfulfilled, if the Lord Jesus has not yet come to receive His own to Himself, it is not because He is “slack concerning His promise as men count slackness,” for He is both able and willing to fulfil it. But He is “long-suffering” toward those very scoffers who now sneer at His people and scorn His Word, “not willing that any should perish,” for well He knows, that when His own are removed from the scene, like Enoch of old, God’s hand will suddenly and heavily fall in judgment upon His foes, and all of them shall perish.
Verse 10.—“But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief!” Not His coming for His own, but His coming to the earth, always spoken of as a time of wrath (Isa. 2:12; Thess. 5:3), not “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4:3), in which He magnifies Himself and tramples God’s claim underfoot: not “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2) during which grace reigns and longsuffering lingers over a guilty world. But a day when God will overturn all man’s boasted schemes, in which the despised and rejected Son of Man will scatter the forces of evil and go on step by step subduing all things to God. And so unprepared will the infidel world be for its advent, that it will come upon them “as a thief in the night.” “When they shall say Peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh” (1 Thess. 5:2). All pleased with themselves and with each other, when lo! the judgment comes! Thus we have judgment clearing the scene of present corruption to make way for eternal glory. “In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt away with fervent heat.” All creation must thus pass away, to make room for a new creation—new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness shall have its final home, where no sin shall ever defile, but where God shall be “all in all.” Does God foretell us this for nought? Does He tell us of the future judgement and glory to make us mere prophecy-mongers. Nay, verily. The five weighty exhortations that follow, show how the light of the near future should fall upon us now, and how in the light of “these things” we should live and act here. First: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness? “The manner of our life is to be in keeping with our calling. There is nothing worth grasping at here, all will perish. We are like travellers passing through a bog, and our aim should be, to get along with as few marks of it on us as possible.
Second: “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” By thus living and looking with earnest desire, so completely on God’s side, that we can honestly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus “(Rev. 22:22). Such a prayer is according to the Spirit (v. 17), and grateful to the heart of Christ.
Third: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, be diligent that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless.” Thrice in these exhortations, the word “beloved” occurs, just as if our God would remind us that in the midst of our thoughts on these great and eternal realities, we are ever to remember that we are the objects of that eternal love of His, which, whatever changes time may work, remains the same. That here is to be our dwelling place (1 John 4:16); in it we are to keep ourselves (Jude 21), when apostacy is all around. “Seeing ye look for these things” reminds us of (Rev. 21:7). “He that over-cometh should inherit these things.” What things? The all things new in that regenerated heaven and earth. If the present heavens are not good enough for us, not a fit habitation for God’s ransomed people, surely their present ways should be in keeping with their future home. “Without spot and blameless in His sight.” It will take diligence and watchfulness on our part, a close walk with God in separation from evil according to the Word, anticipating the judgment seat of Christ by judging our ways by that Word now, which will be the standard by which they will be tested then.
Verses 16-17.—The reference to Paul here is exceeding beautiful; so like the Spirit of God. “Our beloved brother, Paul.” Once Paul had reproved Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11), because of his inconsistent conduct. Did Peter harbour hard thoughts concerning Paul because of this? Was he jealous because the Lord called Paul to a larger and higher ministry (see Eph. 3:13, Col. 1:23-25)? Nay, he calls him his “beloved brother,” and here commends his writings, and claims for them the same reverence and obedience as “the other Scriptures.” What a lovely thing grace is; how different from anything the world has to show! Peter wrote to the saints who were in the countries where Paul laboured most (see Acts 15:6, 19:10); thus we learn that kingdom truth which is Peter’s theme, is not opposed to Church truth which Paul had taught. God’s saints need all God’s truth well balanced and duly proportioned.
Yet some will wrest and torture the truth to suit their own opinions. These are the “unlearned,” who have not got what information they possess in the school of God, or by sitting where Mary sat, at Jesus’ feet, and the “unstable,” who, like the weather-cock, are always in motion, whirled about with every wind, ever learning, yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7). Whose end is “destruction.” Solemn words! to which let all who handle God’s Word deceitfully give heed (2 Cor. 4:2).
Verses 17-18.—“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware.” None are too far advanced, none too strong, to live off their guard. Peter himself, was led away and fell; now he warns others. Let us take heed what we hear, as well as how we hear. Some think they can lend their ears to hear what is false, without being affected. But God knows better, therefore, He tells us to cease to hear the instruction that causeth us to “err from the words of knowledge” (Prov. 19:27).
Verse 18.—“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is the secret of preservation from declension of every kind. If “adding” there was to be no barrenness; if “growing” no declining. Growth presupposes life, apart from which there can be none. The allusion is to horticulture; a plant in good soil congenial to it will grow. Thus, the believer rooted in grace, getting more habituated to the knowledge of God, better acquainted with the Lord Jesus, grows. And thus as the Epistle began with grace “multiplied in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus, our Lord,” so also it ends, for only thus can the saints be prevented from declension, and go on from strength to strength, until they stand with their Lord in that eternal glory to which He calls them. “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.” Amen.