Time of writing

It is believed that Peter was crucified in ad 68  during the persecutions instigated by Nero from  ad 64. The destruction of the Jewish State was  imminent but had not yet occurred, as Peter says,  “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the  night; in the which the heavens shall pass away  with a great noise and the elements shall melt with  fervent heat” (3:10). Peter himself knew that his end  was very near (1:14). It is therefore suggested that  the epistle was written around ad 65–67.

The author

The first verse of chapter one clearly states that this  is Simon Peter’s letter. He was given the two keys to  the kingdom by his Lord and ministered primarily  to the Jewish Christians, leaving the Gentile ministration to the Apostle Paul. He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness of the “majesty”  of the Lord and had not followed “cunningly  devised fables” (1:16). This epistle was to be his  last testament to his beloved brethren and sisters.

Theme

Chapter 1:10 contains a key message in Peter’s  appeal: “give diligence to make your calling and  election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall  never fall.” He not only encourages his readers,  he vigorously warns them against false teachers in  chapter 2. The “new heavens and a new earth” (3:13)  are the comfort he offers to his brethren and sisters.

Analysis:

1:1–4 Purpose of the great and precious promises

1:5–11 The qualities of the servants of Jesus Christ

1:12–15 Remember your calling

1:16–21 The certainty of the Truth

2:1–3 Beware of false teachers

2:4–9 Certainty of judgment on false teachers

2:10–16 They have forsaken the right way

2:17–22 They are servants of corruption

3:1–4 Scoffers shall come in the last days

3:5–7 They are willingly ignorant

3:8–12 The day of the Lord will come

3:13–16 Look for the new heavens

3:17–18 Grow in grace and knowledge

2 Peter 1

Peter begins his second epistle with similar words  to his first epistle, noting his relationship to Jesus  Christ as his apostle and adding, “a servant” of his  Lord. We have received a “precious faith” (v1) and  it is this faith that Peter wants to see developed and  preserved in his beloved brethren and sisters. This is  the burden of his epistle as he sees the beginnings of  apostasy developing in the ecclesias; it is the subject  of his second chapter.

However in this opening chapter he emphasises  the wonderful fulness of the knowledge of God and  of Jesus Christ (v2,3,8) we have received. The word  “knowledge” in these verses is epignosis which Vine  defines as “a full knowledge, a greater participation  by the knower in the object known, thus more  powerfully influencing him”. As our Lord said,  “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the  only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

To this knowledge must be added the qualities  of our Lord, as Peter outlines in verses 5–7. He  notes that it will take diligence for these qualities to be developed. It is not the work of a moment but  will take a lifetime of dedication and persistence. If  we persevere in the development of these qualities  we will “be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v8).

Peter then seeks to call their remembrance to  things they knew well and had been told previously.  He reminds them that not much time of his ministry remained:“Knowing that shortly I must  put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” (v14). Peter reminds us  that we have not been following “cunningly devised  fables” (v16), because he himself was a witness of  the glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ at  the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1–6). The Lord had  said to Peter, James and John, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from  the dead” (17:9). Peter had never forgotten this  time spent with his Lord, especially the dramatic  experience of the transformation of the Lord and  the words of his Father, “This is my beloved Son,  in whom I am well pleased” (v17). We need to be  reminded that the apostles were eyewitnesses of  the life and resurrection of our Lord and that this  power and experience had transformed their lives.  We can have the utmost confidence in their words,  inspired as they are by God, and having the stamp  of authenticity from their own dedicated lives. “Scripture is not of any private interpretation …  but holy men of God spake as they were moved by  the Holy Spirit” (v20–21).

2 Peter 2

This second chapter is the central portion of Peter’s  letter and expresses his very real concern that the  Truth would soon be corrupted, and even at that  time there were indications that this destructive  process had begun. Having set before us the precious  calling we have received, Peter now warns of the  very real threat to that calling. We have received  the epignosis, the full knowledge of the “Lord and  Saviour Jesus Christ”, but some were turning aside;  they had “escaped the pollutions of the world”, but  now he warns that “the latter end is worse with  them than the beginning” (v20).

These false teachers were not a new dimension;  their practices and teachings had been seen in  other generations. Peter quotes the intervention  of God in past ages to illustrate the condemnation  of God and His just punishments upon any who  corrupted His Truth or ways upon the earth. In  verse 4 he refers us to Numbers 16 when Korah,  Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and  Aaron. God summarily despatched them to the  bowels of the earth for “the earth opened her mouth,  and swallowed them up” (Num 16:32). Peter also  quotes the days of Noah when men had corrupted  God’s ways upon the earth. God “spared not the  old world … bringing in the flood upon the world  of the ungodly” (2:5). Finally, he notes the times of  Lot when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and  Gomorrah, turning them “into ashes” because of  their abominable practices.

In the midst of these examples and the just  condemnation that Peter outlines, he is careful  to note the faithful example of some in their  generation. He singles out Noah and Lot, who  withstood the corruption of their times and stand  as an example to all ages and to us that faithfulness  can be maintained, though wickedness be the  common order of the day. As Peter says in verse 9,  “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out  of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the  day of judgment to be punished” (v9).

The example of Balaam is given in verses 15–16,  who though he received divine intervention through  “the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice”, was so  driven to receive the “wages of unrighteousness”  that he devised counsel to corrupt the children of  Israel. Balaam was caused to only utter the words of  Yahweh when in the presence of Balak, the king of  Moab, but his heart sought the riches of this world.  Later when not constrained by the Word of God, he  “caused the children of Israel … to commit trespass  against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and there  was a plague among the congregation of Yahweh”  (Num 31:16).

Thus Peter notes that the influence of false  teachers was not new. They had wrought their havoc  in past ages and would do so again to his generation.  The lesson is also there for us today – beware and  reject any teachings or practices that would corrupt  the truth we have received. Follow the example of  Noah and Lot who were faithful in their generation,  despite the difficulties of their times.

2 Peter 3

In this chapter Peter seeks to encourage and edify  his readers with the sure hope of the future. Though  he warns of scoffers who would disparage the word  of God, he also takes our minds to the “new heavens  and a new earth” (v13). It is this glorious hope of  the kingdom that also provides for us an anchor to  our souls in the midst of this evil generation.

In the first seven verses Peter writes to “stir  up your pure minds by way of remembrance”. The  prophets and apostles plainly taught the “promise  of his coming”. For Peter’s generation, this found  its outcome in the events of ad 70 when the Jewish  State was totally destroyed and the Jews led away  captive to all nations as Jesus had prophesied. Peter  urges them to hold fast to the words of their true  teachers and to cast aside the taunts of the scoffers.  God had acted in the past; He had overthrown the  world with a flood (v6). Just as surely as God had  acted in the days of Noah He would again fulfil His Word and overthrow the Jewish nation “reserved  unto fire against the day of judgment”(v7).

The wonderful longsuffering of our God is  mentioned in verse 8 where a thousand years are but as  one day with our Lord. He is patient with his creation  in all generations, but the times are marked out by  God and He is “not slack concerning his promise”  (v 9). The day would come when the Roman armies  would be the vehicle of God’s just judgment upon the  Jewish nation. Just as surely the day will soon be here  when the Sun of righteousness will arise and begin  the judgments of God upon our generation, prior to  the establishment of the kingdom.

The lesson in all this for both Peter’s generation  and our own is contained in verse 11: “Seeing then  that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner  of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation  and godliness?” What manner of persons indeed!  The way of life now experienced by our world is  transient. It will soon pass. We are at the end of  the 6000 years of man’s dominion, but soon the  day of rest, when God’s ways will prevail, is about  to happen. As Peter says, “Wherefore, beloved,  seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that  ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and  blameless” (v14).

It is noteworthy that Peter speaks of his close  relationship with his co-worker, the Apostle Paul  in verses 15–16. He commends his writings to his  readers; he speaks of Paul as “our beloved brother  Paul” and commends the wisdom God gave him.  In earlier years, the Apostle Paul had, rightly, the  need to rebuke Peter in the matter of his separation  from Gentile believers in Galatians 2:11–16. Peter  accepted this brotherly rebuke, and in the closing  words of his epistle notes his warm relationship  with and endorsement of Paul. This is an example  of the brotherly relationships that can and does  exist, when brethren and sisters hold dear, principles  greater than themselves.

Peter concludes his endearing letter with a  summary that contains the essence of his message  – beware of false teachers; hold fast to the Truth.

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these  things before, beware lest ye also, being led away  with the error of the wicked, fall from your  own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the  knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”