The Judgment Is Coming
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 3:1-7
Since it has been 4 weeks, since we were in 2 Peter, let’s take a moment to remember where we are. Chapter 1 was incredibly rich and practical. Peter reflected on the trustworthiness of Scripture and on the hope and the power of the gospel. As a result, he challenged us to pursue godliness and prepare for an “abundant entrance” into the kingdom of our Savior.
But in chapter 2, all that hope and encouragement transitions to a stinging critique of the false teachers who were influencing the church. Peter paints a dark picture of these guys, and he predicts that a harsh judgment awaits them.
As we come to chapter 3, Peter is not quite done confronting the false teachers. In fact, it’s not until chapter 3 that he gets around to refuting their doctrinal claims. Specifically, Peter spends a lot of time in chapter 3 refuting the false teachers’ foundational belief that Jesus is not coming back to judge. In response, Peter explains why we know that Jesus is coming again and what it will look like when he comes. So, this is a very important chapter regarding the end times.
But Peter’s pastoral heart also bleeds through this chapter. He opens in v. 1 by calling his readers, “beloved,” and he repeats this address in v. 8, 14, and 17. Peter cares about his readers; therefore, beyond fighting for a right view of the end times, he is fighting for his readers’ hearts. Therefore, this chapter is a beautiful mix of theology and pastoral exhortations.
This begins with our text for today, vv. 1–7. This passage consists of three distinct units. Peter begins in vv. 1–2 with a pastoral exhortation to remain anchored to God’s truth. Verses 3–4 follow by reviewing the claims of the false teachers. Finally, vv. 5–7refute those claims. Let’s begin in vv. 1–2, where Peter challenges us to…
I. Remember God’s Word (vv. 1–2).
It’s important that we read these verses in context. Again, vv. 3–4 say that the false teachers denied the doctrine of the 2nd And because they claimed that there is no coming judgment, they felt free to “walk according to their own lusts.” Peter responds by turning to Scripture, because he knew that this is the only anchor that would enable them to resist these claims. I’d like to begin in v. 2, where Peter reminds us of…
The Nature of Scripture (v. 2): Remember that 1:16–21 already addressed the inspiration and authority of Scripture, especially concerning prophecies about the 2nd Now, Peter returns to this theme, because he wants his readers to stand on God’s inspired revelation and not be swayed from it.
First, Peter urges us to “Be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets.” Since Peter sets the prophets alongside the apostles as God’s two sources of revelation, we should assume he is referring to the OT prophets and to the OT in general.
His point is that the doctrine of the 2nd coming was no recent invention. Rather, it is deeply imbedded in the message of the OT. Just last week, I finished reading Ezekiel. The 2nd coming is foundational to Ezekiel.
And that’s not just true of Ezekiel. The hope of the 2nd coming is fundamental to the message of the OT and to Israel’s motivation to serve him and to persevere through injustice. So, Peter urges his readers to “be mindful” of the rich biblical tradition regarding the 2nd
Second, Peter urges us to “Be mindful…of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” I must mention that the Greek is a little vague. I believe the NASB gets it right when it says, “the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” So, the commandment is from the “Lord and Savior,” speaking of Jesus, and the apostles delivered Jesus’ commandment to them.
As a side note, I find it fascinating that this is how Peter describes the apostolic message. So often, we can think that Peter, Paul, John, and others developing most NT theology long after Jesus’ ascension.
Certainly, the Spirit continued to build their theology after Jesus’ ascension. However, Peter clearly roots his theology and preaching in the words of Jesus. For the most part, the apostles simply conveyed what Christ had revealed to them. That’s where they got their authority.
Therefore, Peter urges us to remember the apostolic “commandment.” Again, Peter’s main concern is with the reality of the 2nd However, commandment is always used in the NT for some type of exhortation.
Therefore, Peter is especially concerned that his readers remember Christ’s exhortations regarding how we must live in light of the fact that he is coming to judge. For example, the Olivet Discourse is filled with exhortations to prepare for the coming judgment with godly living. And Peter will do the same in this chapter. Our eschatology must change our values and actions.
Therefore, vv. 1–2 urge us to remember God’s promises about the future and to obey his commands about how to prepare. Peter says in v. 1, “I’ve told you this before in a previous epistle (That’s probably a reference to 1 Peter, though it’s also possible that Peter is referring to another letter that no longer exists), and I’m telling you again. Stay anchored to God’s Word.”
So, how do we do this? First, this means that we must know what it says. You can’t “be mindful” of something that you don’t know well. Christians must dig into the Word with a passion to understand as much of God’s revelation as possible.
But that’s not enough. Peter wanted the truth of Scripture to “stir up” in them a “pure mind.” He wanted it to dramatically shape their thinking and affections. Of course, this requires more than just knowing facts somewhere in the dark corners of your brain.
No, Peter wanted them to keep the 2nd coming of Christ and his judgment of the world at the forefront of their minds so that they lived differently.
That’s what we all need. We don’t just need to know Scripture; we need it to reshape everything about us. And Peter says this requires lots of reminders. The Bible will never dominate your life if you don’t live in the Word and surround yourself with biblical influences.
Godliness demands that you constantly return to basic truths about the gospel, about the hope of eternity, and about my need to be ready to stand before the Lord.
And one of our most important ministries to each other is that, like Peter is doing here, we constantly remind each other of these basic truths. When others begin to love the world or get frustrated with the world, help them focus on God’s promises. So, vv. 1–2 commands us to remember God’s Word. Then vv. 3–4 tells us why this is so important. The 2nd major challenge is…
II. Expect false doctrine (vv. 3–4).
This is the first time Peter articulates the basic theological claim of the false teachers. Peter says they “scoffed at” or mocked “the promise of His coming.” They didn’t believe Jesus is coming again or that he will judge the world.
And notice that they based this claim, first, in the delay of Christ’s return. They mockingly asked, “Where is he?” At that point it had been roughly 30 years since Christ’s ascension, and they thought that was proof enough Jesus wasn’t coming. Of course, the wait has only increased, and we’ll address that next week in vv. 8–10.
Second, they claimed, “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” In other words, their argument was that the prophecies about the coming judgment involve drastic, almost unimaginable divine intervention into creation.
But they claimed that this is not how the world works. Natural laws have always governed the world, and they always will. So, nothing as drastic as the Day of the Lord could possibly happen.
It’s not that they denied the existence of God or even that God intervenes in small ways. They were “spiritual” people. But they denied any sort of major divine intervention that should seriously affect how we live.
This sounds like a lot of people today. They believe there is a God out there somewhere, but he has very little to do with my life. For the most part, I am the master of my fate, and I am my own god.
And as we can see in so many people around us, this idea had dramatic, practical consequences. First, it led to pride. Verse 3 says they at. It wasn’t just that they rejected the biblical doctrine of the 2nd coming, v. 3 says they “scoffed” at it like snobbish intellects.
Second, v. 3 says that their theology produced moral perversion. They were “walking according to their own lusts.” We say repeatedly in chapter 2 that they used their denial of divine judgment as a license for all sorts of perversion.
Third, they were prejudiced in their viewpoints. They didn’t come to these questions honestly with an open mind. No, v. 5 says they “willfully forget” evidence that contradicts their viewpoint.
That’s typically how it goes. In fact, more often than not, consequences have ideas as much as ideas have consequences. Most people don’t reject the gospel primarily because of logical concerns. No, they want to believe things that God condemns. Their bias drives them to willfully ignore the truth and to create a reality that fits what they like. All of us need to be mindful of that tendency in our sinful, deceitful hearts.
In sum, the false teachers denied the 2nd coming and ultimately any sort of significant divine intervention in the world. And they used this as license to arrogantly chase their own lusts.
And Peter responds in v. 3 by saying we shouldn’t be surprised, because God said this would happen. The OT prophets confronted many false prophets, and Jesus warned, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matt 24:4b–5). We should expect false doctrine.
Therefore, we must heed the challenge of vv. 1–2 and constantly live in the Word. The more the Word is stirring within you a “pure mind,” the better equipped you will be to spot deception and resist it. Finally, vv. 5–7 offers 3 arguments that refute the false doctrine. My third major challenge is…
III. Expect God’s judgment (vv. 5–7)
God created the world (v. 5). This verse makes a profoundly simple argument against the belief that the universe is solely governed by natural laws. Specifically, natural laws did not create the universe; God did. That’s the ultimate intervention. Creation stands against naturalism.
Peter makes this point by drawing on the creation account in Genesis 1. Despite the claims of many today, it’s obvious that, Peter did not view Genesis 1 as mythology or as a metaphor representing some form of theistic evolution. Peter assumed that Genesis 1 records literal history.
First, when Peter states “by the word of God…” he affirms that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). The universe is not the result of a naturalistic “Big Bang”; instead, Peter states that “word of God” created the heavens and the earth.
And Peter also assumes that Genesis 1:2 is correct, when it states, “The earth was (originally) without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.” This is apparent in that Peter assumes that the earth’s surface was originally entirely covered by water.
It was not until day 2 that “the earth (i.e., dry ground) stood out of water.” “Then God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good (Gen 1:9–10). Peter assumed this was literally so, not that it was the result of billions of years of slow uniform processes.
Now, I must say there are some questions about how to understand the last phrase, “in the water.” The NKJV seems to take it as if Peter is simply saying that the dray land stands in the midst of water, meaning between the waters above and below the land.
But this preposition normally indicates causation or instrumentality. Peter probably means that God used the ocean waters to help form the dry land.
Regardless, I do want to pause and emphasize that the Bible is very clear about the origins of the universe. Yes, we face a lot of pressure to reject a normal reading of Genesis 1–2, but we must stand firm. This is God’s inerrant Word, and we should not be ashamed to trust what it says.
And if you’d like help knowing how to answer questions about evolution, we’d love to help point you to some good resources, because Christians have done some very good work to provide answers.
Then, returning to Peter’s main point, creation clearly demonstrates that this world is not solely the result of naturalistic causes. No, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1). And BTW, everyone knows that, but as Peter states, they instead, “willfully forget” what is obvious. The 2nd argument against the false teachers is that…
God destroyed the world (v. 6). This verse refers to the worldwide flood of Noah’s day. Ironically, the same water that God originally used to shape the world, he later used to destroy the world. BTW, this was no local, natural phenomenon. No, Peter uses the verb katacludzo. We get our word cataclysm from it. Peter believed Genesis 6–8 are literally true.
Of course, lots of people today mock the idea of the flood. A naturalist can’t imagine a cataclysm on that scale. And we agree that natural causes could not have produced the flood.
But that’s okay, because the flood was no natural occurrence. Rather, Peter assumes that it was a magnificent display of divine intervention. God caused the flood by supernatural force.
And BTW, the evidence for the flood is everywhere. I was watching a NG program on the Grand Canyon recently, and they said that the evidence increasingly demonstrates that the Grand Canyon was formed rapidly by water coming from many directions, not, as was long held, by gradual erosion from the Colorado River. But of course, they refuse to even entertain the possibility of a divine cataclysm. The issue is not the evidence; it’s their bias against divine intervention.
In sum, the flood is strong evidence that, “All things (do not) continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” By God’s word, he powerfully interrupted the natural flow of creation.
As well, the fact that God judged the world once with such devastating force, means he can surely do it again. If we ever begin to think that sin has no consequence and I can get by with whatever I want, all we need to do is remember Genesis 6–7. It tells us all we need to know about God’s hatred of sin and his ability to judge. The 3rd argument Peter mounts is…
God will destroy the world again (v. 7). Notice that while the flood only affected our planet, v. 7 returns to the broader scope of v. 5 and includes both “the heavens and the earth.” And Peter adds that the same “word of God,” which v. 5 says created the world, now “preserves” the universe. No matter what the false teachers of Peter’s day or atheists of our day may claim, natural laws alone do not govern our universe. God sustains it.
But God will not preserve it forever. Rather, Peter reminds us that one day God will destroy his original creation. Considering the size of the universe, this divine intervention will be on a magnitude that will be unmatched since Genesis 1. God will gloriously interrupt the natural laws and destroy this universe.
But what is particularly significant is the coming “perdition (i.e., destruction) of ungodly men.” Of course, this is not annihilation. No, Jesus said that they will face eternal judgment in hell. They will forever endure God’s just judgment for rebelling against him.
Of course, this coming day of accountability changes everything. It means that I will be held accountable for how I have lived my life. I can’t do whatever I want without consequence. No, the coming judgment should shape how I think about each day and each decision.
So, if you have never believed on Christ for salvation you may like to pretend that God won’t judge, but creation and the flood scream of the fact that God is powerful and active, and he will come to judge you. If you do not receive the gospel, you will face the wrath of God for all eternity.
But the good news of the gospel is that Christ already endured our wrath on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to. Therefore, if you receive Christ as Savior, you can face the judgment with confidence knowing that you are safe from wrath. Please come to him today and be saved.
And if you are saved, praise God that you are safe from wrath, but also understand that 2 Corinthians 5:10 states, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body.” We will also be held accountable for how we have lived our lives, and we will be rewarded for our service.
Yes, fear of judgment shouldn’t be your primary motivation for serving Christ. We primarily love God and serve God, because he is worthy and because he has done so much for us.
But the NT is also clear that my day of accountability should weigh on me. I don’t want to stand before Christ ashamed of how I wasted my days and gifts. No, I want to prepare well, so that my day is a day of joy and gratitude.
And praise the Lord that it can be by the grace of God and Spirit-inspired effort. Jesus is coming again. Let’s prepare for that day and look forward to that day.