Survey of 2 Peter
Book Type: One of the New Testament's General Epistles; the twenty-second book of the New Testament; the sixty-first book of the Bible.
Author: Simon Peter, one of the leaders among the twelve apostles. Peter was the main speaker at Pentecost (Acts 2), and fled Jerusalem after a miraculous escape from Herod around AD 42 (Acts 12). Little is known of his ministry after this time. Peter was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and in Antioch around the same time as Paul (Galatians 2:11–14). Tradition notes that Peter died as a martyr under Nero in Rome around AD 65.
Authorship of this letter was somewhat controversial in early church history. The weight of evidence strongly supports the letter of 2 Peter being written by the same author as 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1), but subtle differences in style between the two have led to doubts. The consensus view is that this is Peter's letter.
Audience: General Epistles are also known as "catholic epistles," meaning they are written to a general audience, rather than to a specific person or church. Second Peter is most likely written to the same audience as that of 1 Peter (2 Peter 3:1). This included Gentile and Jewish believers, even though Peter's ministry was focused primarily on Jews.
Date: Tradition teaches that Peter ministered in Rome during the AD 60s. Since Peter likely died during Nero's persecution around AD 65, the letter was written prior to this time.
Overview: Peter's focus in this letter is on false teaching and the dangers which it presents. The letter can be divided into three sections, corresponding to its three chapters.
The first chapter encourages the reader with a reminder that they are already equipped, by Christ, to lead the life God intended of them. The emphasis here is on living out a vibrant Christian faith, adding the characteristics of Christ to one's example to the world (2 Peter 1:1–15). Peter then adds to this encouragement with a reminder about evidence of fulfilled prophecy. Chief among these, for Peter, was his first-hand eyewitness of Jesus Christ's transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16–21).
The second chapter warns against the influence of false teachers. These deceptive voices draw people away from Christ, and into sin, by speaking about issues which they do not understand. Peter delivers a dire warning for these teachers, who will be judged harshly by God (2 Peter 2:1–9). Those who fall for these schemes are enslaved to sin, something they prove by continually returning to their own moral filth (2 Peter 2:10–22).
The third chapter directly counters the claims of the false teachers. Peter again states that those who pervert the message of God will be subject to extreme judgment. Everything which is not preserved by Christ will be utterly destroyed (2 Peter 3:1–13). Peter concludes the letter with a final reminder that saved Christians can set aside sin and focus on preparing to live in peace with God. Notably, Peter also refers to the writings of the apostle Paul as "Scripture," supporting the doctrine of divine inspiration (2 Peter 3:14–18).
Key Verses (ESV):
2 Peter 1:3–4: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire."
2 Peter 1:16: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
2 Peter 2:2: "And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed."
2 Peter 2:9: "then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment."
2 Peter 2:19: "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved."
2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."