NOTES on the SECOND EPISTLE of PETER
In the first epistle Peter writes of himself as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” but here he speaks of himself as “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” He uses his name according to nature, Simon, and his new name according to grace, Peter. In the former epistle to the same people as he now writes (1 Pet.3:1), he wrote of the true grace of God, grace which covers the matters of salvation, service, suffering and rule, and carries the mind forward to the day of the revelation of the Lord to His own. In his second epistle he writes to them as those that have obtained by lot a like or equally precious faith, because this faith is in the same thing, even the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Faith ever partakes of the quality of that in which, or the person in whom, it reposes. If men place faith in men or in deceitful or unworthy things, then their faith is like in quality to that in which their trust is. The AV/KJV renders the Greek en “in”, by “through,” that this like precious faith is obtained through righteousness, but, I judge, the RV, literally translating en “in, ” gives us the correct thought. This is not faith in imputed righteousness, but faith in the righteous character of all the dealings of the Lord Jesus Christ with His own. Moreover, the faith here is not the initial act of faith of the believing sinner in Christ his Saviour. That faith is not obtained by lot, but comes by the hearing of the word of God or of Christ in the divine message of salvation. We obtain faith by lot as the children of Israel obtained the land by lot at Shiloh (Josh.14:1,2, etc.). The tribes lived on the things their inheritance produced. We in this dispensation have not obtained land, but in contrast believers obtain faith by lot, the word of God is that “the just shall live by (Gk. ek, out of) faith.” There is nothing more just than land, if it is tilled it will yield its increase; if it receives rain and sunshine, the blessings of God. Our faith is in the Lord’s righteousness, who will deal justly with His own according to the irrevocable law, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal.6:7,8). The Lord will deal justly with His own both now and at the judgement-seat of Christ. “God accepteth not man’s person” (Gal.2:6; Deut.10:17). Some have thought that the RV by making a change in the text in 1 Tim.3:16, from “God” to “He who,” was weakening the testimony of the New Testament to the Deity of Christ, but here, and in Tit.2:13, in the RV, the testimony to the Lord’s Deity is strengthened by correctly rendering the words “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” instead of “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” as in the A. V. The RV says that Jesus Christ is God as well as Saviour. “Grace and peace,” in the apostolic salutations, are multiplied within the sphere of the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord. The true knowledge of the divine Persons of the Godhead does not puff up, but is a spiritual knowledge which produces lowliness of mind and humility of demeanour.
The source of the supply of all things is by the divine power of God. All things are His servants. The covenant God (Heb. El Shaddai) of Abraham, who gave His pilgrim-friend all he possessed, was God Almighty; and our God, too, who calls us to separation from evil to one of sanctification to Himself, is also the Lord Almighty (2 Cor.6:14-18). He has granted us all things that pertain unto life, as He did in the case of Abraham. He has said to us, “Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for Himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?” (Heb.13:5,6). What God has granted to His own will be implemented by His divine power. There can be no failure with Him. As He has granted all that pertains to life (Gk. zoe), He has granted all that pertains to godliness, so that our lives may be godly lives. Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content…For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim.6:6-10). Divine provision of all that pertains to life and godliness is through the full knowledge of Him who called us; not our full knowledge of Him, but His full knowledge of us and of our needs. Heb. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will see, and the Lord will provide – pre-vision and provision, the one precedes the other. He called us through His own glory and virtue (excellence). We were not called because of any glory or excellence in us. Peter was just a fisherman amongst the rest of fishermen of Galilee, and a wilful one at that, for when he was young he girded himself and went where he would (Jn 21:18). Those who are called have nothing wherein to glory in themselves, but they glory or boast in the glory and virtue of Him who of His own glory and virtue called them. The worthiness of what we are by grace is in Him, not in us.
Faith and promise are related to each other, as are works and law. What men see, either with their eyes or the eyes of the mind, they lust after, and men want to satisfy their lust now. But in contrast, God promises, and faith waits patiently and hopefully for the fulfilment of the promise. Such a man of faith was Abraham. “Looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom.4:20,21). “And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb.6:15). God’s promises are exceeding great. his promises, as His works, are worthy of Himself; there is nothing small and petty with God. Through His promises which we receive by faith we become partakers of a divine nature, a nature which lives by faith, for the just shall live by faith. The initial act of faith in the gospel brings life, and every act of faith afterwards is the means by which we have life abundantly (Jn 10:10). The believer who is living the life of faith in God’s promises is one who has escaped from the world’s corruptions in lust. This world lies in a state of incurable corruption, for it lies in the evil one, in the devil who is totally and completely bad (1 Jn 5:19). As a system it can never be cured till the Lord returns, when the devil and the wicked will be removed in the day of judgement. God’s message in the gospel to men in this world is their one and only hope.
We are to be such as have added, or brought in besides, all diligence; but it may be asked what is diligence added to? It seems clear that diligence is added to faith in God’s promises and with diligence we are to supply virtue in our faith. Virtue is goodness, excellence, of any kind. In virtue knowledge; for virtue is soon dimmed by ignorance. In knowledge temperance: temperance saves those who have it from giving a loose rein to knowledge, which is ever liable to be accompanied by pride, to the destruction of themselves and others (1 Cor.8:1,7,10,11). In temperance patience: temperance or self-control does well to have as a friend patience or endurance, indeed these should never be parted for they are twin- brothers. In endurance godliness: even the most patient of men may endure their trials, but if endurance is not wedded to godliness you have a stoical attitude of mind, and not that godly disposition of reverence and awe which is most becoming in the patient. Was it not in this that Job failed? He was patient truly, but he justified himself rather than God (Job 32: 2). In godliness love of the brethren: some may have a kind of seeming godliness, which is really an aloofness which springs from pride, in which there is little or no mingling with the brethren, a monkish or hermit kind of godliness. If such as would be godly in Christ Jesus truly love the brethren, they will desire to be with the objects of their love. In love of the brethren love: love of the brethren, that warm-hearted love (Philadelphia), sometimes liable to run to excess, should be governed by love (Agape), that in which the mind plays a part, governing the affections and directing their flow. In the outflow of love (Agape) we should love God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, love God’s people and house, love the Word; briefly, we should learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
These excellent qualities, supplied one in the other, being or subsisting in believers, and abounding, or in abundance, will make them to be neither idle nor unfruitful unto the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To know Christ was the yearning desire of Paul, and for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord he suffered the loss of all things and counted them as offal. The knowledge of Christ is not passive, but active, bringing our whole being and activities into alignment with His purpose and will, as Paul further puts it in Phil.3:10-14, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead…I press on.” Onward and upward is to be the path for the disciple of Christ, and if we are following Him we shall ever be led in triumph to Christ. Sufferings there will and must be, but it will be a triumphant life; even though it be a lowly and obscure one, it will have a triumphant end. The lack of the things of which Peter writes makes the believer shortsighted; he sees only the things immediately surrounding him; he has no long vision of coming glory, and as to the past has forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. He sinks into a morbid condition of soul, doubting, it may be, whether he had been saved by God’s grace.
Such as believe in the truth of eternal salvation know that the calling and election associated with that cannot be made more sure than it is. This is plainly taught in Rom.8:29,30,33,34: “For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified…Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that shall condemn?” Foreordained, called, justified, glorified! Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? In this view of God’s calling and election human failure can never enter; it is all of God’s work in Christ, not ours; these cannot be made more sure by us, whatever we as believers may do. But the view of the calling and election of which Peter writes is not that which is connected with eternal salvation, but with service. It is such a calling as those in Corinth had known when, as the church (Gk. ekklesia, a called-out people) of God in that city, they had obeyed the call of God and had come out and were separate (1 Cor.1:2; 2 Cor.1:1; 2 Cor.6:17,18), and by obedience to that same call they were found in the Fellowship of that time: “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the Fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor.1:9). From that position it was possible for them to go back to the synagogue or to the idol’s temple, whence they were called, after they had known the call in the gospel, of Rom.8:30. Also, they could leave that people who are described as God’s house (1 Pet.2:5; 1 Pet.4:17), of which each church of God formed a part, and cease to be of the elect who were in Pontus, Galatia, etc., where they are viewed as God’s elect as to service, not as to salvation, as in Rom.8:33; Eph.1:4: Peter exhorts them to be diligent in making their calling and election sure, for if they acted as he had exhorted them, by supplying the things mentioned to the enrichment of their faith, they would never stumble. Stumbling is one of the evidences of childish and carnal believers. Every little stone has to be carefully removed from their path lest they should trip over them; but the believer with a rich and strong faith views mountains as molehills and strides forward with vigour as he pursues the work of the Lord in helping others. The believer with an enriched faith will in the day to come have a richly supplied or furnished entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. What an entrance this will be for some, who by a rich and strong faith have marched through life here! They will enter upon a still wider sphere of service in that eternal kingdom. As compared with the entrance of some, who, instead of having gone from strength to strength, have gone from weakness to weakness, and have, in the sea of life, been the mere plaything of every wind of doctrine!
Things we should remember we are ready to forget. Frequently in the Scriptures God’s people, both in the past and present dispensations, have been called upon to remember. Amongst God’s last words in the Old Testament are these, “Remember ye the law of Moses My servant” (Mal.4:4), and amongst Paul’s last words in his last epistle, his second to Timothy, he said, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim.2:8). So here Peter calls them to remember the things of which he was writing; not that they did not know them, for they were established in the truth which was present with them.
Peter here looks back to the incident by the sea of Tiberias in that early morning when the resurrected Lord sought them after their fruitless night of fishing, when He filled their nets with fish and themselves with food, and then spoke to him of His needy lambs and sheep, that they needed to be fed rather than that they should feed themselves, as the faithless shepherds of Israel did of old (Ezek.34:2). Then he told Peter concerning the manner of his death by which he was to glorify God (Jn 21:18,19). Peter sees that his end is approaching swiftly and his earnest desire is, that those to whom he is writing would not forget when he was gone the things which they had learned. He as a faithful shepherd had fed them with the good word of God, but soon his voice would be heard no more teaching and admonishing, feeding and shepherding them. These words of Peter must have been received with genuine sorrow by the faithful amongst God’s people who had been blessed by the ministry of this outstanding leader of the people of God. Those words wee akin to the words of Paul to Timothy concerning his approaching end (2 Tim.4:6,7). Thus it was that to the persecuting hand of Nero and the iron kingdom of Imperial Rome there fell the two great apostles of the Lord, Peter and Paul; but they left behind a heritage of divine truth, the latter especially, which was to endure when Imperial Rome had disappeared. This tabernacle is Peter’s body. Paul also uses a similar word for the human body in 2 Cor.5:1-4.
The world is filled with skilfully invented fables. It takes an expert liar to devise deceptions which will be received and believed by multitudes of others. There is nothing cunning and artful about the truths and promises of Scripture. God’s stories and promises are backed by unassailable truth, and evidence is borne by chosen witnesses of unimpeachable veracity. The power and coming (Gk. parousia, presence) of the Lord is attested by what Peter, James and John saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the Lord appeared in glory, when Moses and Elijah appeared with Him and spoke of His decease at Jerusalem. They were eyewitnesses of His majesty. They got a glimpse of what will yet be seen when the Son of Man comes in His kingdom (Matt.16:28), when the Son of Man shall come “with power and great glory” (Matt.24:30).
He who had chosen to become Man, to partake of all the circumstances of his lowly birth and life on earth, received from the Father honour and glory in the presence of His three apostles, when the Father declared for the second time who He is, and ever shall be, even His beloved Son: not a Son by His human birth in time, but God’s only begotten Son, who is Son before all ages. In God’s declaration at the Jordan that He was well pleased in His Son, He summed up His Son’s earthly life from the time He emptied Himself and took the form of a bond-servant (Phil.2:7) until His baptism in Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist (Matt.3:13-17). Here in these verses He reviews His life of public ministry, concerning which He adds, “Hear ye Him.” In this public ministry He found equal pleasure to the life of His Son in the home of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth, about which we know but little. Peter, one of the three holy apostles, the most credible of witnesses, who heard the Father’s voice, says, “This voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount.”
The prophetic word was confirmed by what took place on the Mount of Transfiguration, and Peter says that we do well to take heed to the prophetic word, which is as a lamp shining in a squalid, filthy, dark, obscure, murky place. The word Peter uses (Gk. auchmeros) is a word of dismal meaning, associating darkness with squalor, dryness and neglect. The sole light in such a place of darkness is the word of God. There is none else beside. In the darkness of this present night we look for the Day-star, which is the Lord, who will not rise in the heavens like Venus the morning star, but will rise in our hearts and will never set there. He is “the Bright, the Morning Star” (Rev.22:16). He rises as the Morning Star before He appears as the Sun of righteousness, with healing in His wings, for the deliverance of Israel and other sufferers, when He comes as Son of Man (Mal.4:1,2).
These verses tell us that the prophecies of Scripture do not interpret themselves. One part of the Scriptures casts light on the other. The words of Malachi cast light on God’s dealings with Esau and Jacob (Mal.1:2-5; Gen.25:23, etc.). Again the word of Malachi reveals the meaning of the name and character of Jehovah, “I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal.3:6; Ex.6:2-4). Neither His name nor His covenant with the fathers of the Israel people changed. So it is with all Scripture. The Divine Author of the sixty-six books of the word of God is the Holy Spirit. No part of the Scriptures ever came by the will of man, but men spake from God (Balaam and Caiaphas, who both prophesied, the one unwittingly and other unknowingly, were not holy men, yet both prophecies are of profound meaning and importance) (Num.23:7-10,15-24; Num.24:3-9,15-24; Jn 11:49-52) being moved, or borne along, as things by the wind, by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit used whom He would to communicate His word to men. Though given “by divers portions and in divers manners” (Heb.1:1), yet the complete volume was before the mind of the Spirit before one word was spoken or written, for “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world (or from eternity)” (Acts 15:18). Into this book’s treasuries none but the believer may enter. Here are things hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes (Matt.11:25,26).
How a false prophet was to be treated in Israel is dealt with in Deut.13:1-5: Such an one was to be put to death even though his sin or wonder came to pass. His validity as a prophet was to be determined, not by his wonder, but by the import of his message. By such a false prophet God proved His people whether they did love Him with their heart and soul. False teachers were also to arise in the churches of God in the later apostolic period and bring in by stealth evil doctrine. Paul referred to those when he spoke to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He said, “I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29, 30). The faithful shepherd Paul departed and the grievous wolves entered in. Later, Paul left Tim.in Ephesus, when he was going into Macedonia, to charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine (Gk. heterodidaskaleo to teach a different kind of doctrine than Paul taught) (1 Tim.1:3). Later still, Paul called upon Timothy and those who were faithful to the word of truth to purge themselves out from such as Hymenaeus and Philetus and their followers because of their false teaching (2 Tim.2:15-22), for only thus could the pure teaching be preserved from the corrupting effect of false doctrine. The heresies taught by the false teachers were destructive, both to teachers and hearers, destructive of the house or temple of God (1 Cor.3:16,17), and also destructive, not merely of the lives of believers in their service for God, but ultimately, the destruction of human souls. This we see going on all around. Doctrines are being taught which sink men in endless perdition. That these false teachers, to begin with, were persons saved by grace, we doubt not, for it says, “denying even the Master that bought them,” but we doubt very much if many of those who followed them were saved people. False doctrine can produce only perverted people, and such, we judge, were many of those who followed in their false way.
If the devil cannot destroy those who walk in the way of the truth by enemies without, he will try the more subtle method; he will seek to corrupt them from within. He has been more successful in the latter method of attack. These teachers were licentious, given to lewdness. They were the exact opposite of Paul, as seen in what he wrote to the Thessalonians. “Ye know what manner of men we shewed ourselves toward you for your sake. And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit; so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess.1:5,6,7). The evil doctrine and practice of the false teachers were followed by many, for men will naturally follow the wrong way rather than the right. Only by the Spirit’s enlightenment and quickening power do believers ever follow the way of the truth. Because of the excess and licentiousness of these people the way of the truth would be evil spoken of or blasphemed.
Not sufficed with those whom they have deceived and perverted, they go forth, like the Pharisees, who compassed land and sea to make one proselyte (Matt.23:15), with feigned words, well formed, invented words of deceit, to enrich themselves with an increase of numbers, which amounts to making merchandise of human souls. This goes on on all sides. The Lord said of the proselyte of the Pharisees, “When he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell (Gk. Gehenna) than yourselves.” Thus evil teaching and practice spread. But as with the Pharisees and these false teachers, neither their sentence nor their destruction lingers or slumbers. God will ever requite the wrong-doer.
Peter cites different incidents of divine judgement, and here he begins with the angels that sinned. These are perhaps the angels of the devil, referred to in Matt.25:41; Jude 1:6; Rev.12:7; Jude speaks of “everlasting bonds” (AV/KJV chains, under darkness, Desmos, a bond, a cord, chain or fetter). The AV/KJV renders the Greek word seirais (seira, a cord, rope band or a chain) in Peter as “chains,” but the RV gives “pits,” and others “dens” (Gk. sirois or seirois). The sinning angels were cast down to Tartarus, “which in the mythology of the ancients was that part of Hades (or Hell) where the souls of the wicked were confined and tormented.” According to the ancients the souls of all went to Hades, both good and bad, but Tartarus was the place where only the bad or wicked were confined. If the sinning angels were cast down to Tartarus, how is it that they are in heaven, in Rev.12:7, and are cast down by Michael with the dragon, the devil, to the earth in the middle of Daniel’s prophetic week of seven years (Dan.9:27)? Here is a mystery as yet unrevealed (to me) in the Scriptures. Questions such as, how long are the chains that bind them to the Tartarian dungeons? What measure of freedom do these everlasting bonds allow those angels that sinned? That they were cast down to Tartarus, and that they will be found in heaven with the dragon, and later be found on earth are plain statements of the Scriptures, but how is the gap between these statements filled in? Milton fills it in in his “Paradise Lost,” by his account of the escape of Satan from Hades, but we need more than a poet’s dream, we need the words of the inspired truth to rest upon. Whatever be the solution of such an obscure passage of the word, we are assured that those angels that sinned are now reserved or kept unto judgement, that is the solemn consequence of their sin. It may be useful to some to say that the Greek word here rendered “Hell” in the RV and AV/KJV is not the noun Tartaros (Tartarus), but is a participle, tartarosas, of the verb tartaroo. Someone with an expert knowledge of the Greek may help us to understand the use of the Greek participle here, and what the Spirit through Peter is telling us of the fearful and solemn event of the delivering of the sinning angels to dens or chains of darkness. Parkhurst, in his Greek lexicon, gives a lengthy comment on the difficulty of the word tartarosas. He says in summing up:- “The true original sense of that word (Tartarus) above explained which, when applied to spirits, must be interpreted spiritually; and thus tartarosas will import that God cast the apostate angels into sophos tou skotous, ‘Blackness of darkness’ (2 Pet.2:17; Jud.13), where they will be for ever banished from the light of His countenance, and from the beautifying influence of the blessed Three. ”
Sin will bring its recompense. God’s judgement was world-wide in Noah’s day. We are told that “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits (about 27 feet) upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (Gen.7:19,20), and only eight persons were saved (1 Pet.3:20), “Noah with seven others.” Noah was a preacher of righteousness, who condemned sin and called upon men to repent of their wickedness, but they were unheeding and went on corrupting God’s way upon the earth (Gen.6:12). God has had at all times a way in which men should walk. It was “the law” in Israel’s day (Ps.119:1), it is “the Faith” today, “the Way which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14). It was the Way Paul first persecuted (Acts 9:2; Acts 22:4).
Not only did God turn these wicked cities of the plain of the Jordan to ashes by fire and brimstone from heaven, but Jude tells us that they are now suffering the punishment of eternal fire (verse 7). Eternal fire is something different from the fire which destroyed Sodom and the other cities. Many men have still some measure of dread upon them as they think of the consequences of the sins of Sodom, and laws have been enacted under which the sins of Sodom are punished. Such has been the result of the example of divine punishment in that long past time. Lot was a back-slider, but the changes wrought in him by the work of God through his uncle Abraham were such that to him the lawless licentiousness of the people of Sodom was revolting; it distressed and tormented his soul what he saw and heard in that wicked city; both their conversation and acts were filthy and abominable. Such is the course the flesh takes in man when given a loose rein. Deliverance came for Lot, in one sense through the prayers of his uncle, though God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked (Gen.18:23; 19:29).
How to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment are the prerogatives of God, who in infinite wisdom deals with men, as He sees and knows, with perfect insight, their thoughts and ways. This work He has not delegated to any created being whatsoever. He is the Jud.ge of all. Let the godly be comforted with this word, that their deliverance from temptation is with the Lord, who will not suffer them to be tempted above that which they are able to bear, but with the temptation will make the way of escape (1 Cor.10:13). How deliverance will come is known to Him, not to us.
Here we have the lawlessness of the flesh uncovered. Men are hastening along a slippery course in the lust of pollution and defilement. “Who is lord over us?” is the expression of their thoughts. They despise dominion or lordship. They are lord over themselves and claim the right to direct their own lives according to their own appetites. It has been well said, that “self-determination is self-destruction.” Hence it is that they are daring, presumptuous; they persuade themselves to act as they please, and in consequence are self-willed, arrogant, and they do not tremble to blaspheme, rail at, “glories” (RVM.). They know of nothing more glorious than their own carnal and corrupt selves. In contrast, the angels, though greater in strength and power than men, do not bring against such glories, not even against the devil (Jud.9), a railing charge or judgement before the Lord. He who created the “glories,” even though they be fallen from their original estate, as in the case of the devil, has the sole right to charge His angels with folly (Job 4:18).
Peter is not here dealing with the matter of God’s free grace towards men, but with the behaviour of men. That a child of God can get far away from God, and sometimes his behaviour is such that there seems to be no evidence that he had ever known the grace of God, is not a matter of doubt, but of fact. Peter exhorts his readers that none is to suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer (1 Pet.4:15). Only the Lord Himself knows some of those that are His, and it may be a surprise to some, who at one time believed in Christ and who thereafter drifted far from Him into sin and lost the joy of salvation (Ps.51:12), to be caught up at the Lord’s coming again. Those that Peter here describes are such as walk after the flesh, and a believer who walks after the flesh is little different from sinners in the flesh. These are “as creatures without reason, born mere animals,” but they were not creatures without reason, though they lived bestial lives. As brute beasts in their ignorance they railed in matters about which they were totally ignorant, and in their destroying or corrupting others they would themselves be destroyed or corrupted. This is what Paul said when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth (corrupteth) the temple of God, him shall God destroy (corrupt); for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor.3:16,17). It follows as a sequence that one who corrupts others corrupts himself, and so his work of destruction results in self-destruction. Some may think that they are wise and clever enough to destroy others, and that they themselves shall be saved from the effect of their works, but that is quite impossible. So also in reverse it is the case, that those that seek to save others shall themselves be saved, even as Paul exhorted Timothy, “Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Tim.4:16).
Wrong-doing or unrighteousness has ever its reward, hire or wages. Wrong-doing ever rests in the wrong-doer. Of old Cain cried out when he knew what his wrong-doing brought to him, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” What a man sows he shall also reap (Gal.6:7), and the reaping from some forms of sin is fearful. Not sufficed with revelling in the night, for “they that be drunken are drunken in the night” (1 Thess.5:7), shamelessly they carried on their revels in the day-time; they indulged in their passing pleasure. They were spots and blemishes on Christian conduct; stains upon the testimony of the Lord; living luxuriously in their love-feasts while they banqueted or feasted with the faithful – “with you.”
It is not having eyes full of adultery, but “eyes full of an adulteress.” The would-be adulterer has his eyes full, not of adultery, an abstract act, but full of the object of his adultery, the woman, the object of his lust. These false teachers who are here described could not cease from sin, for they sinned continually in thought, as the Lord clearly stated of those whom He condemned in Matt.5:27,28: They allured or enticed unsteadfast souls, and woe to the women who became their prey. Their heart, which was exercised in sin, became increasingly strong in its coveting, lust, or craving, which was against the law which said, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife,” as well as anything else that was their neighbour’s. Truly, such false teachers and their dupes were children of a curse, as in 1 Cor.16:22:
These false teachers were once in the right way, but they left it. This is what Paul prophesied would happen in Ephesus after his departing, that, besides the grievous wolves who would enter in among the flock, and possibly among the elders also, from among the elders men would arise, speaking perverse (perverted or distorted) things to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:30). Thus the false teachers went astray themselves and deceived others who followed them, for teachers ever seek to lead others to where they are themselves. They followed the way of Balaam, who, it is said, loved the hire of wrong-doing. If men have not heavenly rewards before them for right-doing, they will have before them the wages of the hireling in worldly honour and wealth. Each man will have his price according to his gift and astuteness. Let it be clearly understood that such men and their works will be against God’s people, as was Balaam of old, whom Balak sent for to curse Israel. God calls Balaam’s way “madness,” and He caused his ass to rebuke him with a man’s voice. It was a miracle indeed, which, if it had been heeded, would not simply have “stayed” the prophet’s madness, but would have stopped it and sent him home again. Alas, it did not cure his madness, so on he went in his folly to curse, if possible, a people whom God had blessed. Men believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do.
In their ministry there was no refreshing. They were dry as dust and as lifeless; their ministry had neither spirit nor soul, but was a mere body of words, and such words are no better than pebbles in the mouth. They were as mists which beclouded the eyesight, but gave no rain; for such men the gloom of darkness is reserved. Confessedly, it would be a great difficulty if the words “for ever” (Gk. eis aiona), as in the AV/KJV, were in the original Greek text, for the chapter begins by telling us that the false teachers denied the Master that bought them. No sinner bought by the Lord with His precious blood can be in the blackness of darkness for ever. The words “for ever” are omitted in the RV and by several of the great textual critics, so we judge that the gloom of darkness which is kept for these false teachers is the gloom of present darkness, and not the outer darkness of the lost. The “swift destruction,” of verse 1, is not eternal destruction, but the destruction of the life of the believer.
Swelling words were words which swelled like a tumour, pompous, boastful words, the language of pride. They were words of vanity, useless, unprofitable, but they were words to bait, to allure and trap, for they wrought by lasciviousness or lewdness on the flesh of those who were just escaping from them that live in error. If these escaped out of one snare, they were faced with the snare of the false teachers. How artful and mischievous the devil is! He sets his snares everywhere to catch God’s children and keep them from ever reaching God’s house where they may serve God according to His word. The appeal of false teaching is ever to the flesh, in one kind or other of carnal attractions. The false teachers promised liberty, while they were themselves bondservants of corruption; it was a promise which could never be fulfilled. If the false teachers overcame, vanquished, or subdued those who were escaping from error, then they brought them into the same bondage as they were in themselves.
Here we have contemplated persons escaping from one form of evil through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then being trapped and overcome in another form of evil through the work of false teachers. This state of things abounds in our times, and it becomes all who would find the right way, the way of the truth, to pray like David, “Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth” (Ps.86:11). All that is taught by men should be tested by the word of God, which, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, will surely direct the steps of all who would be led by Him. Escaping from one snare and then to fall into another, the last state of the person will become worse than the first.
It is better, and will incur less responsibility and correspondingly less judgement, for a person not to know what is right than to know what is right and turn back from it. Sin against light is worse than sin in darkness, for the former involves the sin of the will which is rebellion, which is the worst form of wrong-doing. Then Peter quotes a proverb showing what happened in the case of those who were overcome by the false teachers. It must not be interpreted as teaching that as the dog and the sow were unclean animals, so these who were overcome were unregenerated sinners who had never been cleansed from their sins. Unregenerate sinners do not escape from evil by the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as these backsliders had been escaping when they became entangled and overcome by the false teachers. The proverb simply teaches that they have become entangled in a like evil, perhaps a worse, than that in which they had been. Sectarianism is like a rabbit burrow with many holes. By whichever hole you enter, you are in the same burrow of sectarianism. Some leave one form of sectarianism and go to another. They vomit up the former phase of sectarianism and swallow it in the other. So also the sow which wallowed in one heap of mire, comes out, is washed, but returns to another heap to wallow again as before. Let children of God turn to their Bibles and to the God of the Bible, and according to the sure promise of the Lord, “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching” (Jn 7:17).
Of old God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make a proclamation to grant liberty to the Jewish people, to return to Jerusalem to build the house of the LORD, and He also stirred the spirit of the heads of the fathers’ houses of the remnant to go up to build the house (Ezra 1:1,5). God stirs some to life and activity and these stir up others. We may also stir ourselves up, as Timothy was told to stir into flame the gift of God which was in him. Here, in Peter, it is to stir up their sincere (Gk. eilikrines, which means to judge in the sunshine, and in consequence of being viewed in the sunshine, what is seen is pure and bright) minds to remember the words of the Old Testament prophets, and the Lord’s commandments through their apostles in the New Testament. How vital it is to us all to have our minds well- stored with the Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments!
“Mockers” and “mockery” are words derived from Gk. empaizo (en, in, paizo, “to play in the manner of children”). Paizo comes from pais, a child. Such mockers sported and treated God’s things as child’s play. What folly! Instead of treating life as real and earnest, they walked after their lusts, scorning the idea of the Lord’s return, and their accountability to Him. They were like the mockers of Noah’s time. Where was the promise, or the evidence of the promise of His coming? The certainty of the promise could not be demonstrated; all things were as they ever had been, and would be to the end, so they thought.
Such mockers willingly hide from themselves the work of God, that there were heavens of old, and an earth which out of and amidst, or through water, subsisted, when by the word of God it arose from the waters on the third day of Gen.1, when God said, “Let the dry land appear.” Those same waters which receded and were gathered together, overflowed the world in Noah’s time and the world perished. No doubt the wicked mockers in the days of Noah mocked him as he, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his family, by which he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Peter thus draws a parallel between the mockers of the last days and what happened in the time of Noah.
This verse does not teach by the words, “stored with fire” (RVM), that the centre of the earth is a burning molten mass. That is no doubt perfectly true. What it does say is that both the present heavens and the earth are, by the word of God, stored up for fire, or, as the AV/KJV says, “kept in store, reserved unto fire.” We think of what men have discovered in the last few decades about the atom, that the earth and heavens have in them all the potential for self-destruction when the day of burning comes. That time of destruction is in the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men, which carries the mind forward to the judgement of the Great White Throne (Rev.20:11-15).
Time, as we know it here on earth, given to us by the movement of the earth in relation to the sun, moon and stars (Gen.1:14-19), does not exist with the Lord, as is evident from the statement, “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (Ps.90:4). Thus the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise to return again is not regulated by our clocks and calendars. He shall come in His own time, at a time when the evil servant was saying, “My lord tarrieth;…in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not” (Matt.24:48-50), He shall come. We have to be ready for His coming and expecting Him.
The “perishing” here is not the perishing of sinners, but that of saints, in the loss of the lives of saints in service, not the eternal loss of sinners. Note the words, that the Lord “is longsuffering to you-ward.” The Lord’s desire is that we should be anxiously awaiting His coming as He Himself is, who says, “I come quickly.” He looks forward with keen expectancy to His coming again and to the joy of that day. May we respond to His words, “I come quickly,” and say, “Amen: come Lord Jesus”! With such words our Bible closes, words which have sung their way from heaven to us, the sweetest music to the hearts of saints, and which have echoed back to the throne in that long “Amen,” the sweetest sound that rises from earth in our Lord’s ears – “Come, Lord Jesus,” we want Thee to come. If in any wise our hearts have wandered from Him, His desire is that we should come to repentance, that with a change of mind our whole inward being should be properly adjusted to Himself.
The coming of the Lord for His saints, as in verse 9, and the coming of the Lord with His saints in the beginning of the day of the Lord, as in verse 10, are two different events. Note how verse 10 begins with “but.” The day of the Lord is more than a thousand years in extent. It begins with the coming of the Lord to earth as the Son of Man, and continues to the judgement of the Great White Throne, when the earth and heaven flee away from the face of the Lord who shall sit upon that throne, and there will be found no place for them (Rev.20:11). Note the force of the words “in the which, ” that is, in “the day of the Lord.” The heavens are to pass away with a great noise. The great explosions of atomic weapons may give some faint idea of this “great noise.” We are told that “the elements shall be dissolved (Gk. luo, to loose or unbind) with fervent heat.” “Elements” (Gk. stoicheia) is described by Liddell and Scott as “the first and simplest component parts.” The elements, to the ancient Greeks, were “water, earth, etc.,” but there is no doubt a depth in the word stoicheion used by the Greeks which they could not imagine with their rudimentary knowledge. What the conflagration will be when the elements disunite and are dissolved, we cannot now conceive. Then the earth and its works shall be burned up. Some say, as in RVM, “shall be discovered” or others “shall be detected,” for “burned up,” but it is difficult to understand what is to be discovered when the elements are dissolved.
The present participle does not mean that a thing of necessity is going on. Note “delivereth” in 1 Thess.1:10: Quite evidently the Lord was not continually delivering. Also see Jn 1:29, “beareth,” the Lord was not then bearing sin. How God will yet deal with the earth in that coming day of judgement, should make us to behave ourselves holily and godly, and to set our affections on things above and not upon things on the earth. Earthly things should be used as a means to an end, not as though they were themselves the end and objective in life here. Yet how many seek to build abiding habitations around themselves with what is yet to be completely destroyed!
“Looking for” means to wait with expectation; “earnestly desiring” is rendered by some as “hastening.” The Greek word here, speudo, is rendered “hasting unto” (AV/KJV) and “earnestly desiring” (RV) and “hastening” (in some other translations). It does not seem to me that we can hasten, that is lessen as to time between now and then in any sense in regard to a day which is in the hand of God; but we can eagerly desire it and long for that eternal day of joy and rest. (The thought of hasting doesn’t infer the bringing forward of the day of God, but the Christian’s looking forward to the day of God. It relates to the zeal and carefulness produced by the “all holy living and godliness” of the previous verse. This manner of living will heighten the believer’s anticipation of the coming (Gk. parousia) and unique splendour of that ultimate and unending day.) “Wherein” (AV/KJV) is quite incorrect, for the passing away of the heavens and the dissolving of the elements with fervent heat is in the day of the Lord, as verse 10 shows, and not in the day of God. The RV is correct when it says, “by reason of which,” that is the coming or presence of the day of God. The “day of God” is similar, I judge, to “the day of eternity” (RVM) rendered “for ever” in the AV/KJV and RV (2 Pet.3:18). This day follows on after the “day of the Lord”, which closes with the passing away of the heaven and the earth and the judgement of the Great White Throne. Earth and heaven and material things of the present order of things having passed away, and the dead having been raised and judged, things of the eternal order connected with the new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem will then become the permanent order in the “day of God,” the eternal day. Thus Peter says that “according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Whilst the Church which is the Body of Christ will be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing in the day of the Lord’s coming, when He shall present it to Himself in all the perfection of His own work, the saints as to their behaviour may not be without spot and blameless, but we have to be diligent to be found in peace and in this spotless and blameless condition. This has to do with our behaviour and service.
We have here a most affectionate reference by Peter to Paul, his fellow-apostle. He does not say, “Paul wrote to you,” or “the apostle Paul,” or “our brother Paul,” but “our beloved brother Paul. ” It shows that even though differences may creep in betimes between the Lord’s fellow-workers, as happened at Antioch between Paul and Peter (Gal.2:11-21), these should not antagonize brethren, allowing the flesh to produce a state of bitterness between them. Let us emulate Peter’s example and think of our fellow-workers as beloved brethren. Paul wrote to the same people as did Peter and the only epistle which answers to this is the epistle to the Hebrews, the Pauline authorship of which has unfortunately been disputed by some. Paul’s epistle to the Heb. is written on the subject of the salvation of God’s saints from the great evil of falling away from the living God (Heb.3:12), by drifting away from the things that were heard during the Lord’s ministry (Heb.2:1-4). Peter writes his epistles in a similar strain, that the salvation of saints is through the Lord’s longsuffering, as it says in verse 9, that “the Lord … is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” See note on verse 9: Peter says that Paul wrote in his epistles some things that are hard to be understood. It is interesting to think the apostles read and pondered the writings of other apostles, even as the prophets read the writings of
other prophets (Dan.9:2; Zech.1:4,5,6; Zech.7:7,12). But, sad to say, the untaught, or ignorant, and the unstedfast or unestablished, wrest, distort (Gk. strebloo, which comes from the Greek word for a rack, an instrument of torture, on which the limbs of a victim were racked or distorted) the writings of Paul, as they do the other scriptures. Note the force of the word “other” here, which shows clearly that the epistles of Paul were regarded by Peter, and as Peter was writing by inspiration, were regarded by God to be part of the Holy Scriptures. The words “scripture” and “scriptures” are never used in the New Testament of any other writings than the Holy Scriptures. Men who wrest the Scriptures destroy themselves in so doing, besides destroying others.
The apostle closes his epistle with a note of warning and an exhortation. They were to beware of the error (Plane, deception which causes wandering) of the wicked, lawless or unrestrained, by which they would be led away or seduced to follow the example of the lawless, and so fall from their stedfastness in the Lord’s way. In contrast to this they were to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which will ever save us from falling a prey to evil and to evil men. To our blessed Lord be the glory both now and unto the day of eternity. Amen.