Peter's Defense on Jesus' 2nd Coming
2 Peter 3:5-16

By Paul Robison

“When the Apostle Paul was being transported as a missionary prisoner to Rome, his ship docked to the south of Rome in the Italian port city of Puteoli. This was a holiday resort for fashionable Roman society, a spa with nearby hot sulfur springs. Many of the Roman emperors had villas here at this Hot Springs of Italy.  Puteoli laid in the shadow of a great, rugged mountain—Mount Vesuvius —a volcano actually, although it hadn’t erupted in nearly a thousand years. Shortly after Paul’s time, Vesuvius exploded like an atomic bomb!  It erupted for forty hours, and while Puteoli was spared, another nearby city was flooded by molten lava and buried before the inhabitants could escape.  They were killed by the gases and the ash, and then preserved by the molten lava, which rolled over them and sealed them in a gigantic tomb of pumice.  That city was Pompeii, and for many years it remained buried under twenty feet of hardened lava.  Excavations have given us a perfectly preserved Roman city, frozen in time, caught in the act of being itself.  Most of the 20,000 people of Pompeii, it seems, worshiped two gods: Mercury, the god of commerce and Venus, the goddess of love.  They worshiped, in other words, money and pleasure.  Their worship of Mercury is evidenced by their economic prosperity.  Pompeii was a thriving city, a neat grid-like pattern of shop-lined streets wrapped in a gated wall.  It pulsed with industry; many of its people working in a winery—Pompeii was world-famous for its wine.  But they also loved pleasure.  The city walls were filled with advertisements by prostitutes.  Prices indicate that the average call-girl cost about the same price of a modest dinner at a Pompeian tavern. ... On the walls of brothels were testimonies by satisfied customers.  Everywhere were models and carving of the phallus, which in ancient Pompeii was considered the symbol of success.  It was carved on sidewalks and houses, drawn on walls and posts.  The statues and sculptures of Pompeii, excavated by archaeologists, were hidden for many years in the “off limits” rooms of the Italian museum because they were so obscene.  On one Pompeian wall, someone with knowledge of the Old Testament had written some graffiti—just three words: Sodom and Gomorrah!  And, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Pompeii perished suddenly by fire.  Judgment came swiftly and without warning, and there was no escape.  Like Pompeii, our world today is drenched in corruption, commercialism, and sensuality, waiting the final judgment.  We don’t know when the volcano of God’s judgment and punishment will erupt,” but the Apostle Peter assures us that one day it will erupt, and Christ will return (Bayles)!

Before we examine more closely what Peter wrote, let's get a little background for 2 Peter.  Like 1 Peter, this letter was written to members of several churches located in northern Asia Minor.  Peter wrote it between 65-68 A.D., and a good two word summary of this book is “Be aware!”  The words “know” and “knowledge” appear 16 times in this brief letter (Tenney).  Peter wants his readers to be aware of three fundamental truths: 1) they have the true knowledge in Christ and do not need to look elsewhere for further religious instruction; 2) there are false teachers infiltrating assemblies only too willing to provide them further instruction which leads down a wrong path; 3) there will be the final judgment, despite scoffers who have tried to create doubts about it.  Peter's defense of Christ's second coming falls under that last truth and is found in chapter 3, and it consists of five major arguments.

Let's begin
reading with verse 3: “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’”  These scoffers are very likely the false teachers that Peter has just strongly rebuked in chapter 2.  Since these men are sensuous, egotistical, headstrong, and independent, they don't want to be accountable to anyone, so they reject the idea that their will be separation between the good and evil based on their behaviors while in this world.  They were familiar with the “promise” of Christ coming, which they themselves had once believed.  But now they have abandoned the faith and are ridiculing its truths.  “The last days” is the period between Christ’s first coming and His second coming.  We continue to live in the last days; this is not only a time of God's grace but also a time of Satan's opposition.  These heretics wanted no absolutes, and certainly not an absolute end of history brought about by an absolute God.  So, they really deny any promise whatsoever of Jesus' return.  Their false teaching goes something like this: “Ever since the patriarchs' deaths in the Old Testament, life on this earth has just rocked along the same as it always has from the beginning.  What always has been always will be!  Let's enjoy our time to the fullest in this world!  We don't need to worry about some final judgment before Christ because it's never going to happen!”  Well, Peter let's his audience know that these false teachers are certainly in error!  Let's see the five arguments that Peter presents to show that Christ's coming and the final judgment will indeed happen!

Peter's first argument is based on God's power.  Let's read verses 5-7: “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.  But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for the fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  In this passage, Peter underscores the power of God through His word.  It is His word that created the world and not some explosion or a lucky unification of certain atoms. That same word not only created but also it destroyed the earth when God brought about a universal flood.  The scoffers need to take note: things have NOT always rocked along the same as it always has from the beginning!  In fact, shortly after the beginning, Genesis shows us that God did intervene and bring about His judgment!  Then notice in verse 7 how Peter says that the heavens and the earth are being preserved by that same word.  Right now God's word is sustaining our universe!  Now that's inexhaustible power; God' keeps the solar system functioning in balance as it does (Woods)!  But then notice that Peter says our present universe is not only preserved by God's word but also reserved by God's word for the fire.  As water destroyed life during the flood, so fire will destroy the heavens and the earth in the future.  They are reserved for such destruction, and it will take place on the day of judgment.  If men can destroy large areas of the earth with the fire of an atomic bomb, just think what destruction God's unlimited power will bring about!  Notice also how this verse affirms that the ungodly will be punished.  God’s justice will one day be satisfied against the atrocious and malicious sins that the wicked have  committed!  The apostle Paul says something very similar in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10: “… since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire [and there the fire mentioned again], taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction form the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes in that day to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”  As sure as God punished the wicked of Noah’s day through the flood, so God will punish the ungodly of our time on the Day when Christ comes again!  Christ's second coming is true because God's power will make it happen!

Peter's next argument is based on God's nature.  Let's read verses 8-9: “But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  First of all, Peter reminds us that God's timing is different from that of men.  Peter's truth is very similar to what Moses had written thousands of years earlier in Psalm 90:4: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.”  We see a thousand years as being a long time, but it is short to our eternal God.  God is not bound by time and space concepts, so His timetable is unlimited!  In God's sight, only two days have passed since Jesus' birth!  Jesus teaches us that only God knows when the end of time will come: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son, but only the Father”  (Mark 13:32).  Secondly, Peter reveals something wonderful about God’s nature: He is long-suffering, and does not want anyone to perish eternally.  In fact, that’s why the final judgment has not already come.  He is wanting people to repent before it’s too late!  God is not negligent (as those who scoff may think), but He is patient.  His desire is for all people to know the truth so that they can be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).  People will perish because they don’t want to give up their sinful lifestyles; their condemnation to eternal suffering will come, not because God has willed it, but because each person refused to accept God’s provision for eternal life found in Jesus Christ (Mounce)!  His patience keeps time going and delays the catastrophic destruction of all things.  Christ’s second coming is true because God’s nature will make it happen!

Peter’s next argument is based on God’s day.  Let’s read verses 10-12: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”  First of all, the day of the Lord, the day also of Christ’s return, will surprise!  Jesus Himself warns us in Matthew 24:42ff: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief  would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore, you also be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Secondly, God’s day will not only surprise but also it will destroy.  Notice Peter’s vivid description.  “The skies will pass away with a great noise!”  There’s the big bang that you can believe in; Peter says it’s coming to finish things off!  And the planets, stars, comets, asteroids, and all that other debris in space is going to melt because the heat will be so fervent.  “On March 5, 1979, nine U.S. satellites simultaneously radioed back to earth that a gamma radiation explosion occurred in a nearby galaxy known as N-49.  This explosion lasted for only one-tenth of a second, but it released more radiation than our sun does in 3,000 years!  Doyle Evans, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories in New Mexico, noted that if this explosion of energy had occurred in our galaxy, it would have instantly vaporized the earth” (Mounce)!  “And the earth and all that’s in it will be burned up.”  One commentator states: “Along with the dissolution, there will be the burning of all that man has accomplished—houses, cities, monuments, etc.—everything to which he has set his hand here.  These, along with all of God’s material creation, are to be dissolved, consumed in the heat of the mighty catastrophe” (Woods).  Another commentator noted that the last part of verse 10 is literally translated “to be found” instead of “to be burned up,” so that one could translate the last part as a rhetorical question: “Will the earth and everything in it even be found?”  And the answer, of course, would be “No!” because the intense heat has vaporized it and caused it to disappear (Mounce).  Notice again at the end of verse 12 how Peter again underscores the dissolution of the skies and the melting of space.  Here’s a question for you: does this sound like anything in the universal order as we know it is going to be spared and recreated in some way?  It sure doesn’t sound like there’s going to an earthly paradise or a peaceful rebuilt Jerusalem on earth does it?  No, it sounds like God’s noisy, explosive, fire-stormy day is going to incinerate every material object in all the universe—the firmament, the galaxies, the earth and all that was on it are totally gone!  They have all vanished!  The apostle John wrote: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.” (Revelation 21:1).  A newer version said, “Then I saw new heaven and a new earth.  The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished.”  Since all is going to be dissolved and vanish, Peter then asks, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?”  Yes, we’d better living as our holy God desires in order to be ready for God’s great surprising and destructive day!  Christ’s second coming is true because God’s day will make it happen!

Peter’s next argument is based on God’s promise.  Verse 13 states: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  Has God ever promised there would be a new order?  Oh yes, the prophet Isaiah said in 65:17: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”  God’s new order will be totally different.  Time, corruption, age, decay, pain, and suffering will no longer exist.  We will dwell with God, Christ, and all the saints for all eternity in an immortal existence!  And only that which is righteous will fill this new order!  There will be no Devil, no evil, no wickedness, no sensuality, no war, no killings, no sin!  What a tremendous divine promise!  Christ’s second coming is true because God’s promise will make it happen!

Peter’s final argument is based on God’s apostles.  Let’s now read from verse 14: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.  You therefore,  beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen.”  First of all, we see how the apostle Paul wrote also about God’s long-suffering!  God’s patience in keeping the world from destruction was not just revealed to Peter alone.  It was the Gospel that Paul preached as well!  In other words, Paul reinforces in his writings exactly what Peter has just affirmed in his writings!  The writing of James, John, and Matthew say the same thing.

Secondly, Jesus, God’s ultimate apostle as one sent with a divine mission, teaches also of His second coming.  He makes this promise and gives this warning in Luke 21:33ff: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  This is grace and knowledge from Jesus that we can not only count on but also stake our lives on!  Christ’s second coming is true because God’s apostles have said it will happen!

Several years ago, a father and his daughter were walking through the grass on the Canadian prairie. In the distance, they saw a prairie fire devouring the field and eventually, they realized, it would engulf them too.  The father knew there was only one way to escape. Quickly he started a fire right where they were and burned a fairly large patch of grass. Then, he took a small tarp and furiously beat out the flames.  When the huge fire drew near, they then stood on the section of grass that had already been burned.  When the fire actually did approach them, the girl was terrified by the raging flames. But her father assured her, ‘The flames can’t touch us, honey.  We are standing where the fire has already been!’  The same is true of God’s judgment. You see, Jesus has already gone through the flames before and for us.  And if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, obeyed His Gospel by being immersed in His name for the forgiveness of your sins, and tried to live then in accordance with His will, then you are standing where the fire has already been! As long as we are in Jesus, we never have to fear the fire of God’s final judgment” (Bayles).  If you need to make Christ your Lord, or if you need to rededicate yourself to Him, He and God are waiting patiently while there is still time.  Please don’t let God’s volcano of judgment catch you unprepared!  Stand in the safety of the flames where Jesus has been!