2 Peter 3:1-4
At the very core of the gospel message is the assurance that Jesus Christ will return and establish His Kingdom on earth. Our hope is in His second coming because we recognize that we need His merciful intervention before humanity wipes itself out. As things continue to deteriorate, we keep returning to this confident expectation that there is a solution to the problems that mankind faces, but that solution is still just over the horizon. However, it seems like His return has been “just over the horizon” our entire lives, and we may wonder at times why the end has not yet come.
In this regard, II Peter 3 is invaluable for keeping the right perspective on Christ's return, and especially its timing. The apostle Peter helps us to focus on the right things in anticipation of that day.
Peter begins the chapter with a reminder of all the things the prophets and apostles had been inspired to preach. The timing of Christ's return was the source of quite a bit of confusion in the first century, and so Peter reminds his audience that a tremendous amount of God's Word has to do with that very topic. The Bible contains a solid foundation for at least a general understanding of the end times, even though the exact timing is not spelled out.
In these verses, Peter addresses the prevailing notion that “life goes on” and the public's scoffing at the idea that the Creator would return and intervene in human affairs. In the previous chapter, he paid considerable attention to false prophets, false teachers, and false doctrines that were troubling the church from the inside. In chapter 3, Peter draws attention to all that the true prophets and apostles had written because their writings needed to be the basis of evaluating what the contemporary teachers were saying. Along the same lines, Paul says in I Timothy 4:1 that “the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. . . .”
A picture emerges of people who had “the faith”—a specific faith—at one time, but whose natural desires have overshadowed it. They had regressed to the place where they scoff at the idea that there is anything more to life than what they can discern with their senses. As their faith deteriorates, they conclude that nothing has really changed in the millennia of (accepted) human history, so it is doubtful that this world will ever end. So Peter writes to those who have not departed from the faith, pointing out that God's Word is filled with examples of His intervention, so that they—and we—might be bolstered in the face of the scoffing.
David C. Grabbe
How Much Longer Do We Have?