V. The Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:1-13)

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V. The Day of the Lord (3:1-13)

3:1-2 The original readers of this epistle were Peter’s dear friends and the recipients of at least two letters from him (3:2). The other letter referenced could be either 1 Peter or a letter that has been lost. In either case, the purpose of both (3:1) was to remind believers of the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of Jesus given through [his] apostles (3:2).

3:3-4 The specific reminder Peter sought to give was that in the last days before the return of Jesus, scoffers would make light of divine realities and not take seriously the things God said. The reason for their scoffing is that God’s truth interferes with their immoral lifestyles. Such people want to follow their own evil desires, and doing so requires keeping God distant (3:3). This is a posture of deism more than atheism. The scoffers believe there is a God, but they claim he has little to do with daily reality. In particular, they deny that Jesus will return to earth. They argue that all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation (3:4). The incorrect implication of their observation—which itself is inaccurate, as Peter will demonstrate—is that world affairs will always continue as they are, and God will not intervene in human history.

3:5-6 Those with a scoffing mentality deliberately overlook the fact that God has intervened in human history numerous times. For one, he intervened long ago by bringing the heavens . . . into being and bringing forth the earth . . . from water (Gen 1). This happened by the word of God (3:5)—that is, when God spoke at creation, things happened. Likewise today, when God speaks his authoritative Word over an individual’s life, things happen. The scoffers also ignore Genesis 6–8, where the world of that time perished when it was flooded (3:6). Here is yet another example of God’s obvious intervention in the affairs of humankind.

3:7 By the same word that created the world and brought the flood, God will intervene in human history again by destroying the present heavens and earth with fire and bringing a day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. So don’t scoff, saying, “I don’t see God.” Those who do so have forgotten what he has done. When God is ready to invade your situation, he can reorganize reality and bring the solution to your problem.

3:8-9 Shifting focus from the scoffers to the recipients of this letter, Peter tells his dear friends they must not overlook God’s timetable. When it seems God’s work is taking a long time, Christians should remember that God can do in one day what it would take humans a thousand years to do (3:8). God’s apparent slowness to intervene on some occasions is not a delay of his promise, as some understand delay. Rather, it is an opportunity for humans to fulfill their responsibilities. The supreme example of this principle is that God delays final judgment because he does not want any to perish but all to come to repentance and believe the gospel (3:9). When we fulfill our responsibilities, we’ll see more of God’s sovereign action. Many are waiting on God, when God is actually waiting on them.

3:10 The day of the Lord in Scripture is distinguished from the day of man. The former refers to instances when God intervenes in the affairs of man, and the latter refers to instances when sinful man appears to be in control of the world. The phrase “day of the Lord” denotes different divine interventions in different Scripture passages. Here it refers specifically to the coming great tribulation period when God will govern the affairs of man in a more direct and open way than he does at present. At the end of the tribulation, the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed (cf. 3:12).

3:11-12 Since the things this world values are to be dissolved in this way, believers should stop focusing on worldly success and achievement. Instead, they should focus on holy conduct and godliness (3:11). In other words, we must abandon what is temporary and embrace what is eternal. Doing so will hasten the coming of the day of God (3:12). Peter is not saying humans can change God’s sovereign timetable. Rather, when a believer focuses every moment of life on pleasing God and doing his will, time seems to fly by like it does on a busy workday in which we hasten from one task to another.

3:13 Based on [God’s] promise, his followers are to be active in their obedience as they wait for divine intervention in their lives, waiting ultimately for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells—a promise God made to his people long ago (see Isa 65:17; 66:22).