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2 Peter chapter 3

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

New King James Version

What does 2 Peter chapter 3 mean?

Second Peter 3 focuses on dismantling the arguments of the false teachers. Peter's purpose is urging Christians not to waver in their beliefs, but to continue to live out what they know to be true.

One specific claim being made by false teachers is that that Christ would never return. In some cases, it was also rejecting the idea that God would judge the sins of humanity. These deceivers mocked those ideas by asking, "Where is the coming of Jesus?" According to their challenge, it had been too long. Since time—too much time, in their opinion—has passed, but the world seems to be going along as it always has, they think nothing will change. This is a suggestion that God would never alter the course of the natural, physical world to enforce His will.

Peter's answers: God made the world, so He can alter it whenever He desires. The laws and patterns of the universe are His to override if He so chooses. These false teachers are also forgetting about Noah's flood. In that event, God brought catastrophe on the earth as judgment of the sins of humanity. This was a supernatural act through physical means, and an intervention by God in the natural world. For that judgment, God used water. For the next, ultimate judgment, He will use fire.

Peter also points out that God is not bound by time as we mere humans are. For Him, what people perceive as a day and a thousand years are alike. Just because we don't understand or agree with God's timing doesn't mean He is not acting. Or, that He won't act at all. God's delay, as we see it, should be considered evidence of God's patience and mercy. He longs for as many people as possible to come to repentance and to place their trust in Christ. The additional time is an opportunity for more to be saved.

However, Peter reminds us, the judgment will come eventually. The day of the Lord will come unexpectedly. Christ will return. And then the heavens and elements will burn; the earth and everything on it will be laid bare; everything will be destroyed.

Peter then asks an essential question: Because the prophecies of Scripture are true and the false teachers are wrong, how should Christians live right now? Instead of indulging in sin without fear of consequence, as the false teachers suggest, we should lead holy and godly lives. We should live as people looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. That means we should keep working to set aside our sin and to live in peace with God.

Peter indicates that Paul has made the same point about the apparent delay in God's judgment. The fact that we are waiting for the day of the Lord is due to God's patience and mercy. In saying this, Peter also affirms that Paul's words were Scripture: his wisdom was from God.

False teachers, on the other hand, twist Scripture. Christians who know God's Word are responsible to resist being led away from the truth. Instead, we must keep working to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
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