Unlike 1 Peter, the letter known as 2 Peter does not contain any personal greetings. The first two verses reflect the common style for the introduction of a letter, but otherwise nothing else is suggestive of a letter. It is not addressed to any particular group of believers.
Both in ancient and modern times, doubts have been expressed about whether this letter can be attributed to Peter. Origen (c. 185 to c. 254 CE), in the fifth book of his Commentary on John’s Gospel, stated that Peter left believers “only one letter of acknowledged genuineness. Suppose we allow that he left a second; for this is doubtful.” In his Ecclesiastical History (III, iii, 1), Eusebius remarked that only the first letter of Peter is accepted and that the “ancient elders” quoted freely from it. After referring to the second letter as having been regarded as uncanonical, he acknowledged that many considered it as valuable and that it had been “used with the other Scriptures.” Jerome, who lived much of his adult life in the fourth century CE, stated that Peter “wrote two letters,” adding, “the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him.” (De Viris Illustribus [On Illustrious Men, chapter 1])
Neither Origen nor Eusebius provided any specifics about the reason for doubts about 2 Peter. If the noticeable variation in style between the two letters is the sole reason for the questioning in ancient times, this would be insufficient evidence to establish that Peter could not have been the source of the information in the letter. For the first letter, he had the assistance of Silvanus. Therefore, another believer could have been involved in writing the second letter. The variation in style could then be attributed to the differing ability of the two assistants when formulating and writing Peter’s words in literary style.
In more recent times, some have assigned a late date for the writing of 2 Peter, placing its composition some decades after the apostle’s death and maintaining that the personal information about his being a witness of Jesus’ transfiguration and his knowing, on the basis of Jesus’ words, that he would soon die could have been obtained from other sources. The perceived extensive use of the letter of Jude has been advanced as indicating that 2 Peter could not have originated with the apostle. (Compare 2 Peter 2:1-20 with Jude [verses 4 through 19].) Letters the apostle Paul wrote are mentioned in 2 Peter 3:16, prompting many to reason that a well-known collection of his letters could not have existed at an early date. Another reason for belief in a late date is that the expressions in 1 Peter suggest an imminent return of Christ, whereas 2 Peter stresses patient waiting for this event.
It is true that Peter’s name was attached to numerous writings that he did not originate, but those works came to be recognized as spurious. Unlike 2 Peter, they were never included in the collection of acknowledged “holy scriptures.” There is nothing in 2 Peter that is out of harmony with the writings that came to be accepted as canonical, and the admonition it contains is useful for teaching, reproof, and correction. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:16.) Therefore, it seems hard to believe that a reverential disciple of Jesus Christ would have attached Peter’s name to a letter at a time when it must have been known that he had died a martyr’s death.
There are clear indications that conscientious believers would not have regarded attaching an apostle’s name to a letter as a practice of no consequence. After a problem arose about communication that had not come from him, the apostle Paul, when there might have been a question, authenticated his letters with his name in the concluding greetings, doing so in his own handwriting. (1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2; 3:17)
The close parallels between Jude and 2 Peter need not be regarded as resulting from direct dependence on the part of either one. Peter had close association with James, and it is likely that he also had considerable interaction with Jude. So it would not be unusual for both of them to refer to the same well-known examples from ancient times when addressing similar problems.
Peter’s knowledge about Paul’s letters and their misuse is to be expected. They were personally acquainted with one another, and Peter would have been interested in Paul’s faithful service as an apostle to the nations. Silvanus had closely worked with Paul and knew about the problems that had arisen in connection with his letters. It may well be that he had copies. Solely on the basis of what Silvanus could have told him and provided, Peter would have been able to speak about Paul’s letters and how certain ones were twisting what they contained.
Believers did not know just when Jesus Christ would return in glory. Their speaking about the event in terms of immediacy and patient waiting would not be antithetical. When believers in Thessalonica drew the wrong conclusions about the imminence of Christ’s return, Paul made it clear that certain developments must take place first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) In the case of persons who become overly excited about the imminence of an event, even the passage of a few years can cause them to become impatient. For this reason, admonition about preserving a sense of immediacy and exhortation about waiting patiently do not constitute clear evidence that they come from distinctly different times.
There is no unmistakable proof that 2 Peter could not have originated with the apostle. So, in keeping with the opening verse, one may regard Peter as the source. A person’s not doing so does not contribute anything of real value when it comes to the message 2 Peter conveys.
The salutation identifies “Symeon [Simon, according to other manuscripts] Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ,” as the source for 2 Peter. In the capacity of a “slave” or servant, he was accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ in discharging his commission as an apostle, a disciple who had been specially “sent forth” to bear witness concerning him. Furthermore, being a “slave” of Jesus Christ was an unparalleled honor, for it signified belonging to him as his approved servant. No greater dignity could be granted to any human than to be in the service of the Son of God and, therefore, also in the service of his Father. (1:1; see the Notes section.)
Second Peter is not directed to any specific group of believers living in a certain area. It appears to have been intended for believers generally, to those who “have obtained [lancháno] a faith in the righteousness of our God and of [the] Savior Jesus Christ.” (1:1)
The Greek verb lancháno denotes to receive something by lot and could, in this context, signify to obtain by God’s will. The “faith” specifically centers on Christ, the surrender of his life for the human family, and what his Father accomplished through him. It is a “faith” that all believers share in common, being equal in honor with the apostles (literally “ours”) or with believing Jews as was Peter. It is a faith that is of like preciousness as that of Peter and so of no lesser value than his. (1:1)
The phrase “in the righteousness” has commonly be translated “through the righteousness” and could indicate that the faith of believers has come into the possession of all equally on account of the righteousness, justice, fairness, or impartiality of God and Christ. The Greek preposition en (“in”) could also be understood to signify “in the sphere” of divine “righteousness” or of impartial treatment. This faith came into the possession of believers when they heard the good news about Jesus Christ and responded to it. Through the proclamation of the message, the righteousness or impartiality of God and Christ were revealed, for the call or invitation to become God’s approved children and to share in the associated privileges and blessings came to be extended impartially to both Jews and non-Jews. Jesus Christ is the Savior, for through him believers, without partiality being shown to anyone, are delivered from sin and the condemnation of death to which sin leads. (1:1)
“Favor” or unmerited kindness embraces all the aid and guidance that God and Christ provide to believers, and “peace” is the inner sense of calmness and well-being that comes from the personal awareness of their compassionate concern and love. The prayerful expression is that believers come to experience gracious favor and peace to a greater extent “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” To “know” God and the Lord Jesus Christ means to have an approved relationship with them. It also signifies adhering to God’s ways and the example and teaching of his Son. (Jeremiah 22:15, 16; Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:5, 6.) When believers grow in their relationship with God and Christ, coming to know them better, they, in fuller measure, experience their gracious favor in the form of help and guidance and an inner calm and tranquility. (1:2)
“His divine power” could either be that of Jesus our Lord (the closest antecedent) or that of his Father (if the antecedent is “God”). Both meanings can be found in translations that contain an explicit rendering. “God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything.” (REB) “It was all given to us by God’s own power.” (CEV) “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything.” (NCV) Believers came to experience the working of divine power “through the knowledge of him who called [them] by his own glory and virtue.” This divine power became operative in the lives of believers through God’s spirit, motivating them to think, speak, and act in a manner that is divinely approved. Accordingly, it is divine power that has generously imparted to believers everything they need for “life and godliness.” They are empowered to live life as God would want them to live and to manifest a godly or reverential spirit in everything they do. (1:3)
In verse 3, extant Greek manuscripts read either “his own glory and virtue” or “through glory and virtue.” The reference could be either to the Father or to his Son, and this is reflected in translations. “It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” (CEV) “Jesus called us by his glory and goodness.” (NCV) “God, in his power, has given us everything that we need for a life in true piety. He has done this by letting us recognize Jesus Christ, him who has called us in his glory and strength.” (Gott in seiner Macht hat uns alles geschenkt, was wir zu einem Leben in wahrer Frömmigkeit brauchen. Er hat es dadurch getan, dass er uns Jesus Christus erkennen ließ, ihn, der uns in seiner Herrlichkeit und Kraft berufen hat. [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel])
When the Father is regarded as the one doing the calling, then the knowledge about him may be understood as having been revealed through the Son. The Father’s own glory and virtue could include his marvelous attributes of love, wisdom, compassion, and justice or impartiality. His virtue or moral excellence could be understood of his being the source of everything that is good because of his being holy or pure in the absolute sense. The manuscript reading “through glory and virtue” could signify that the knowledge of the Father was made known by the “glory and virtue” or moral excellence of the Son, for he flawlessly reflected the image of his Father. (1:3; John 1:14)
If, on the other hand, the focus is on Jesus Christ as the one doing the calling, inviting humans to become his disciples (Matthew 11:28, 29), his miraculous works could be included in the manifestation of his “glory.” (John 2:11) Jesus Christ proved himself to be virtuous in every way. In his disposition, words, and deeds, he lived a life unspotted by sin, served others selflessly and, in expression of his love, surrendered his life for the human family. Those who gain knowledge of the Son of God, coming into a relationship with him as his disciples, have everything needed for the real life as devoted servants of his Father and for conducting themselves in a manner that is pleasing to him. The operation of divine power makes it possible for them to imitate Jesus Christ and thus prove themselves to be his Father’s obedient children. (1:3)
Through the “glory and virtue” of either the Father or the Son, humans have responded in faith. This has resulted in their coming into an approved relationship with the Son and, through him, with his Father. By reason of their response to the revealed “glory and virtue,” believers have been given “precious” and surpassingly “great promises.” These promises included coming to be united with Christ on his return as part of the sinless family of God’s children for all eternity. Being God’s children would mean sharing in all the associated privileges and blessings. No greater promises nor more valuable promises than these could be given to anyone. (1:4)
With seeming reference to the promises, verse 4 continues, “through these” believers would become “sharers of divine nature.” This could mean that, on the basis of the promises, they had the assurance of coming to be of like nature as Christ since his resurrection and ascension to heaven. Upon coming to be like Christ in the glorified sinless state, they would be able to reflect the image of his Father flawlessly. Based on the sure hope that these promises provide, believers have “escaped the corruption in the world” that has its source “in desire,” selfish craving, or lust. Their hope motivated them to purify themselves from worldly corruption or defilement and to live in harmony with their having been cleansed from sin on the basis of Jesus’ precious sacrifice. (1:4, 9; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 7:1; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 John 3:2, 3.)
In order to remain free from the world’s corruption, believers need to continue to yield to the leading of God’s spirit. This calls for diligent personal effort in, or active cooperation with, the work of God, which work is promoting the continued growth of believers as reflectors of his glory by their praiseworthy disposition, words, and deeds. The introductory kaí autó touto dé (literally, “also same this, however”) has been variously translated (“with this in view” [NJB], “for this very reason” [NAB, NIV, NRSV], “because you have these blessings” [NCV]) and could relate to the promises believers have been given or to everything in which they have come to be and will be sharers, prompting them to be earnest about acting in harmony with the admonition that follows. (1:5)
On account of what they presently enjoy and have been promised, believers have good reason to exert themselves to conform ever more closely to the image of God. The thought of earnestness, diligence, or eagerness in this respect is expressed by the Greek term spoudé, which, in its basic sense, denotes “haste” or “speed.” Believers are to “apply all diligence” or to make every effort to add to their “faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control endurance, and to endurance godliness, and to godliness brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection love.” (1:5-7)
It is not enough for individuals merely to have faith or belief in God and Christ. Believers need to have an active faith that finds expression in the life they live. So, to their faith, they should add virtue or moral excellence, being diligent about striving to conform their lives in keeping with the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. For one to be identified as a virtuous person would require that one live up to the highest possible standard of uprightness and be responsive to the needs of others. The “knowledge” that needs to be added to virtue is the knowledge that relates to God and Christ. Growth in this knowledge is evident from a believer’s making progress in reflecting to a greater degree the image of God in attitude, word, and action. (1:5)
“Self-control” must be added to knowledge, for knowing what is pleasing to God and Christ must be accompanied by action that is consistent therewith. Therefore, the believer must be earnest about seeking to bridle his passions and desires, not yielding to sinful inclinations. Endurance is to be added to self-control. The distress, pressure, or hardship to which believers may be submitted can last for a considerable period, requiring that they resist the temptation to give up under the strain or to free themselves from the difficult circumstances by divinely disapproved means. So, to be able to continue to exercise self-control, believers need endurance. While enduring difficult circumstances, they need to maintain piety, godliness, or a reverential spirit, not allowing themselves to become irritated, weary, or downcast because of what may happen to them by divine permission. With godliness added to, or combined with, endurance, believers will not become angry at God and Christ but will be able to see how their suffering can result in lasting spiritual benefits. Godliness will also make it possible for believers to pray for those who persecute them, continuing to desire that their persecutors might repent and come to be devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. (1:6)
Although forgiven of their sins, believers are not sinless. Some in the community of believers may at times manifest an offensive disposition, speak in a hurtful manner, or act inconsiderately or improperly. By adding “brotherly affection” to endurance, believers will be able to avoid becoming irritated to the point where they begin to harbor ill will or deep resentment toward fellow believers. Finally, “love” must be added to “brotherly affection.” This love is a selfless concern for the welfare of others regardless of their moral standing. It reaches beyond the community of believers and includes even those who may be hostile toward disciples of God’s Son. (1:7)
One’s adding virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to faith results in a life that honors Christ and his Father. “For when these things exist and abound in you, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:8)
The knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ would include recognizing his role as Savior, the one through whom humans can be delivered from sin and the condemnation to which sin leads. To know him would also mean having a relationship with him because of putting faith in him and living in harmony with his example and teaching. A believer’s knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ should lead to advancement in living an upright life and in doing positive good for others. When the faith of believers is combined with virtue, knowledge, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, being in their possession in a superabundant way, they will not be “idle or unfruitful.” They will be active in doing good, manifesting compassionate concern for others. Their lives will be productive of praiseworthy conduct. The evidence of their knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will be clearly evident from their disposition, words, and deeds. (1:8)
If, however, a professed believer’s life revealed an absence of virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, he would be “blind,” failing to recognize what it means to know Jesus Christ as his Lord whose example and teaching he is under obligation to follow. Choosing to be Christ’s disciple requires assuming the responsibilities associated with it. So one who fails to manifest the qualities that should distinguish believers would be closing his eyes (myopázo), which could signify a deliberate choice not to see what he should be doing. The Greek word myopázo has also been understood to mean to be “nearsighted,” the closing of the eyes being the action of nearsighted persons who squint in an effort to see something. Possibly “blindness” and “nearsightedness” function together to indicate that the individual is so nearsighted as to be blind. According to another meaning conveyed by an interpretive rendering, the individual “is blind or, at least, very near-sighted.” (German, Gute Nachricht Bibel) The failure to grow as a believer reveals the individual’s “forgetfulness of the cleansing from sins of old.” (1:9)
Upon putting faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness his sacrificial death made possible, the believer came to be cleansed from “sins of old” or from all past sins. In harmony with that initial cleansing, the individual should have exerted himself in becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of his life. When not doing so, the professed believer would be one who had forgotten or completely lost sight of his past cleansing and what this required of him to remain divinely approved. Such a person would be in grave spiritual danger, the danger of losing out on the privileges and blessings to be granted to Christ’s disciples. (1:9)
Addressed as “brothers,” or members of the family of God’s children, believers are therefore urged to to be diligent about making their “call and election firm” so as not to lose out. They were called or invited to be reconciled to God as persons forgiven of their sins on the basis of his Son’s sacrifice. Their election was the divine choosing of them to be God’s children. To maintain an approved standing in God’s family, believers need to be earnest in demonstrating themselves to be obedient, continuing to follow the leading of his spirit so as to be more like him and his Son. Accordingly, by acting in harmony with the admonition contained in 2 Peter (literally, “doing these [things]”), they would not be among those who “trip,” stumble, or fail. (1:10)
By making their “call and election firm,” believers are assured of being granted entry into the “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This ultimate entrance into the kingdom would mean coming to be part of the realm where Jesus Christ is recognized as king by his Father’s appointment and enjoying the status of sinless persons in this realm, a realm that is “eternal” or that will never pass away. (1:11)
For those who are found to be approved disciples, their entry into the kingdom would be “richly provided.” This could mean that theirs would be a glorious entry, being welcomed into the heavenly realm as persons acknowledged to have been exemplary devoted servants of God and Christ. It could also signify the high degree of blessedness they would come to enjoy for having exerted themselves in advancing Christ’s cause in attitude, word, and action. They would not be like believers whose works Christ’s judgment would expose as having been worthless but who, because of having him as their foundation, would not lose out on life despite their failings. The deliverance of those whose works would not prove to be praiseworthy would be like that of persons who would lose everything in a fire but would themselves be snatched from the flames. Their entry into the kingdom would then not be “richly provided.” (1:11; compare 1 Corinthians 3:15.)
Because of his concern that fellow believers would make their “call and election firm,” Peter sought “always to remind” them “about these [things].” Previously he had stressed the importance of making advancement as believers, their adding virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to their faith, and then he emphasized the need for them to make their “call and election firm.” Therefore, “these things” would seemingly be included as the object of Peter’s reminders. Additionally, the reference may be to comments that follow — the surety of the prophetic word and the apostolic testimony that served as the foundation for faith in Christ and his return in glory. In fact, everything contained in 2 Peter could be regarded as serving to remind believers about what they already knew regarding their responsibilities as Christ’s disciples and their hope. They were firmly grounded in the truth. This would be the “truth” relating to Christ and all that his Father accomplished through him. In the Greek text, the word for “truth” is preceded by a form of the term páreimi, meaning to “be present,” and here appears to denote that the truth was in the possession of the believers who were being addressed. (1:12; see the Notes section.)
Although the things Peter called to the attention of believers were not new to them, he, as long as he was alive or in his “tent,” his temporary abode, or his physical body, considered it right to stir them up with reminders. He did not want them to become neglectful regarding their responsibilities as Christ’s disciples and then lose out on future blessings. (1:13)
According to John 21:18, 19, Jesus Christ revealed to Peter that he, after having grown old, would be taken where he did not wish, that is, to the place where he would be executed. For this reason, Peter could speak of knowing that he would soon be putting aside his “tent.” Based on what the Lord Jesus Christ had told him, he knew that he would soon die a martyr’s death. (1:14)
While he still had life, he would do his utmost to continue to provide reminders each time he had the opportunity to do so. Then, after his departure, the believers to whom he had given the reminders would be able to recall what he had said and make mention of the things he had drawn to their attention. (1:15)
What Peter had made known about the “power and [future] arrival [parousía] of the Lord Jesus Christ” did not follow some cleverly formulated “myth.” He, James, and John had personally become eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ’s magnificence. While at a location on a high mountain (likely Mount Hermon) and after waking up from sleep during the night, they saw the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. His face shown more brightly than the sun, and his garments appeared whiter than any laundryman could have made them. In the darkness, the brilliance of Jesus’ face and the dazzling whiteness of his garments must have been exceptionally impressive. Rightly, Peter could speak of having been an eyewitness of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:16; Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:2, 3; Luke 9:28, 29; see the Notes section.)
The magnificent appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the transfigured state revealed that his return would be with power, for the appearance was suggestive of surpassing splendor or royal dignity. The changed appearance revealed that, upon his return, he would be manifest in glory. Therefore, all that Peter conveyed about the “power” and future return of Jesus Christ had a solid basis, the basis being the transfiguration for which there were three eyewitnesses. (1:16; see the Notes section.)
On the occasion of the transfiguration, Jesus Christ received “honor and glory” from God the Father. From the “majestic glory,” Peter, James, and John heard the words, “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am pleased.” The voice that conveyed these words to Jesus Christ came from a “bright cloud,” providing a basis for concluding that it is being referred to as the “majestic glory.” (Matthew 17:5; for another possible meaning, see the Notes section.) When acknowledging Jesus Christ as his beloved Son, the Father honored him, and the brilliant transformation he effected in his Son’s appearance constituted a bestowal of glory, splendor, or magnificence. (1:17)
As eyewitnesses, Peter, James, and John heard the words that were conveyed to Jesus from heaven while they “were with him on the holy mountain.” The voice came from the bright cloud that overshadowed Peter, James, and John. This appears to be the reason the voice is referred to as coming from heaven. As the site of the transfiguration and the Father’s acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as his beloved Son, the mountain is rightly called the “holy mountain.” (1:18; see the Notes section.)
If, in verse 19, there is a direct link to the transfiguration, this would mean that the transfiguration made the prophetic word relating to Jesus Christ more firm, serving to establish it as completely reliable. “All this confirms for us the message of the prophets.” (REB) “All of this makes us even more certain that what the prophets said is true.” (CEV) Another possibility is that the message of the prophets served to provide additional testimony on which believers can rely as a sure foundation for their faith and hope. “Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.” (NAB)
Believers do well to focus on the prophetic word “as to a lamp shining in a dark [auchmerós] place.” The Greek term auchmerós literally means “dry” or “parched.” In this context, however, it appears to describe a dreary, gloomy or dark place. In the dark, one needs a lamp or torch in order to avoid obstacles and possible injury. Like a lamp, the prophetic word provides essential enlightenment for believers to conduct themselves in a divinely approved manner. It keeps ever before them the certainty of Christ’s return, encouraging them to live in harmony with his example and teaching so as to be acknowledged by him as his disciples at the time of his arrival. (1:19)
Depending on the punctuation that is chosen, the concluding phrase “in your hearts” may convey two different meanings. If the comments relating to the “lamp” and the “morning star” (phosphóros) are parenthetical, the thought could be, “And we have the prophetic word [made] more firm, to which [word] you are doing well to have [your focus] in your hearts.” This would mean that in their “hearts” or inner selves believers should be letting the prophetic word serve as their guide. They should depend on the prophetic word for guidance just as they would rely on a lamp for illumination in a dark place, doing so until “day dawns and the morning star rises.” (1:19)
The other possible meaning is that the prophetic word should be providing illumination to believers as would a lamp until “day dawns and the morning star rises in [their] hearts.” The dawning of the day likely refers to the time when Jesus Christ returns in glory, at which time the walk of believers in the darkness or gloominess of the world would end. (1:19)
The Greek word phosphóros literally signifies “light bearer” and is the term ancient writers used to designate the planet Venus, the “morning star” that is visible in the eastern sky before or at sunrise. In conjunction with the dawning of day, the mention of the “morning star” may simply be part of the imagery to denote the new day that would dawn at Jesus Christ’s return. (1:19)
There is a possibility, however, that the term phosphóros designates Jesus Christ. According to Revelation 22:16, he referred to himself as the “bright morning star” (astér ho lamprós ho proïnós). Although the Greek expression is different, this may provide a basis for considering phosphóros to apply to Jesus Christ. Without linking the phrase “in your hearts” to the rising of the “morning star,” this could mean that the Son of God would be revealed in all his glory or magnificence like the brightly shining morning star. If, on the other hand, the morning star is to be understood as rising in the hearts, this could signify that, upon seeing Jesus Christ as he really is in all his magnificence as the returned King of kings and Lord of lords, the hearts or inner selves of believers would be illuminated as if the morning star had risen within them. (1:19)
On account of the trustworthiness of the prophetic word, believers were in possession of a solid basis for looking forward to the certainty of Christ’s return. “First” of all, they should “know” or understand that “prophecy of scripture” does not have its source in private explanation or interpretation. The Hebrew prophets did not make predictions on the basis of their own evaluations of trends and developments in human affairs. (1:20)
At no time did the prophecies preserved in the holy writings come from the will or wish of any human. Prophecy proved to be divine revelation, for “men” (the prophets) were “borne” or moved by the “holy spirit” so as to speak “from God.” By means of his spirit, God conveyed his message to the prophets, and so they were the instruments through whom he made known both the sufferings his Son would experience and the glories that would then follow. (1:21; compare 1 Peter 1:10-12 and see the Notes section.)
Jesus Christ gave the name “Peter,” meaning “rock,” to Simon. (John 1:42) Whenever Peter’s original name appears in the Scriptures, the most common spelling is “Simon.” Besides 2 Peter 1:1, the spelling “Symeon” is only found in Acts 15:14 in extant Greek manuscripts.
In verse 1, “Savior” is in the genitive case but is not preceded by the definite article in the Greek text. For this reason, the concluding phrase could also be rendered, as do many translations, “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It appears that the preferable rendering would be to add the definite article before “Savior,” which would harmonize with verse 2, where the reference is to the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
In verse 12, the reading of manuscripts varies (“I shall intend [melléso] always to remind you”; “I shall not neglect [ouk ameléso] always to remind you”).
The first person plural verb forms in verses 16 and 18 (“we did make known,” “having been,” and “we heard”) are probably an editorial plural but could also have been meant to include James and John.
Many understand the reference to the “Majestic Glory” in verse 17 to apply to the Father. A number of translations make this significance explicit. “God, our great and wonderful Father, truly honored him by saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.’” (CEV) “Jesus heard the voice of God, the Greatest Glory.” (NCV) In verse 17, another manuscript reading is, “This is my Son, the beloved.”
Instead of “from God men spoke [elálesan apó theoú ánthropoi]” (in verse 21), other manuscripts read, “the holy men of God spoke [elálesan hoi hágioi theoú ánthropoi].”
To remain divinely approved, disciples of God’s Son needed to be on guard against corrupt influences that would come to exist within the community of believers. “Among the people,” that is, among God’s people Israel, false prophets arose. These lying prophets lulled the Israelites into a false sense of security and contributed measurably to their waywardness. Just as the Israelites came to have false prophets in their midst, believers would come to have teachers of error. The corrupt teachers would become responsible for introducing “destructive sects,” causing division by advancing views that were contrary to the truth that Jesus Christ had revealed by his example and teaching. Those who adopted their erroneous opinions would thus come to form factions that aligned themselves with the false teachers and against believers who rejected their false doctrines. Such factions or sects are “destructive,” for they disrupt the peace existing in the community of believers and are ruinous to the faith that has Christ as its foundation. (2:1)
By failing to adhere to Christ and his teaching, the proponents of error deny him as the “Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Their failure to submit to Christ as the head of the community of believers by advancing their own views leads them into a spiritually and morally corrupt way. Their deliberate course of disloyalty to Christ, denying him as the rightful Lord whose direction they should be following because he bought them with his precious blood, inescapably leads to their destruction. When Jesus Christ renders his judgment against them, their ruin will swiftly follow. (2:1)
Just as the false prophets deceived many among the Israelites, so the false teachers would gain many adherents who would follow them in their “licentious ways” (a plural form of asélgeia). The shockingly corrupt conduct of professed believers, particularly that of the false teachers, would not escape the attention of unbelievers. Because the corrupt individuals would claim to be Christ’s disciples, the “way of the truth” would be “blasphemed.” Unbelievers would begin to blaspheme, revile, malign, or speak abusively of the way of life that centered in the truth that Jesus Christ revealed in his person and teaching. They would point to the debased conduct of the corrupt teachers and their followers as confirming that belief in Jesus Christ was destructive to the existing social order. (2:2; see the Notes section.)
Teachers of error are motivated by “covetousness” or “greed.” “And in [their] greed,” they resort to using “fabricated words” in an effort to “exploit” (emporeúomai) believers. These false teachers would have an inordinate desire for power over others and the material profit and recognition they would receive from their followers. Their words would be mere fabrications, having no basis in truth, but would sound plausible to those who would be deceived. The Greek term emporeúomai relates to carrying on business transactions or trade. In this context, the thought would be conducting business in a dishonest manner and, therefore, engaging in exploitation. With lies, the teachers of falsehood would take advantage of others, making them their victims and persons from whom they could derive personal profit. (2:3)
In the case of the proponents of ruinous error, their “judgment” or condemnation that has been divinely determined upon “from of old is not idle, and their destruction is not dozing.” Adverse divine judgment is certain. “From of old,” God decreed that those who prove to be the devil’s “seed” or offspring would be condemned. (Compare Genesis 3:15; John 8:44; 1 John 3:7, 8; Jude 14, 15.) This judgment is no idle or empty threat that will never be carried out. It is not asleep or dormant, without any assurance that it will ever be executed. (2:3)
Past events provide unmistakable proof that the condemnatory judgment will be carried out without fail. “God did not spare the angels who sinned.” Although they had been in his very presence and once enjoyed the status of his approved sons, they lost their place in his family when they gave up their heavenly estate. According to Genesis 6:1-4, these “sons of God” took “daughters of men” as their wives and had offspring by them. While the Genesis account does not mention the action that God took against these angels who sinned, Jews in the first century appear to have been familiar with accounts that did provide details. (2:4; see the Notes section regarding ancient sources.)
God handed the disobedient angels over to “chains [seiraís] of darkness” or, according to another manuscript reading, “pits [siroís] of darkness.” The “chains of darkness” could designate confining restrictions that placed the disobedient angels in a state of darkness, cut off completely from the “light,” or the life and associated blessings enjoyed by those who are part of the family of God’s children. Similarly, “pits of darkness” could denote a condition of confinement, with nothing to brighten the gloom resulting from the permanent end of all fellowship with God. (2:4)
The debasement of the disobedient angels is seemingly expressed by a form of the Greek verb tartaróo, meaning to “cast into Tartarus.” In their debased and gloomy condition of confinement, the angels who sinned are kept for their final judgment. (2:4; see the Notes section regarding Tartarus.) So, although the ultimate punishment was not inflicted on the disobedient angels, they would not escape the future condemnation. This confirmed that teachers of pernicious error would likewise have no hope of being delivered from the judgment that would be expressed against them. Their future ruin was certain.
God did not spare the “ancient world,” but he preserved Noah, “the eighth one,” a “proclaimer of righteousness,” when he “brought a flood on the world of the impious.” In being designated as the “eighth,” Noah is identified as the one who survived the deluge along with seven others (his wife, their three sons Ham, Shem, and Japheth, and their wives). As a “proclaimer of righteousness,” Noah made known the just judgment to be executed upon the godless world and, by constructing the ark, indicated that only by acting in harmony with God’s commands would individuals survive the coming deluge. The fact that God decreed a means for survival also revealed his righteousness or justice, for those who wanted to do what is right would have the opportunity to be saved from the judgment that would be expressed against the godless ones. In a sense, the building of the ark constituted Noah’s tangible proclamation of divine justice. (2:5)
The fiery destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah reduced them to ashes. By thus condemning these cities or, according to another manuscript reading, condemning them “to destruction,” God set them as a warning “example” of what would befall the impious. (2:6; see the Notes section.)
Lot and two daughters did not perish with the ungodly inhabitants of Sodom. God rescued him, sending two angels to the city to instruct him and his family to flee out of the area destined for destruction. Lot is called a “righteous man,” for he did not live like the morally corrupt inhabitants of Sodom. The debased conduct of the city’s inhabitants was not limited to sexual depravity. According to Ezekiel 16:49, they were an arrogant people who had no regard for the poor and the needy. Lot was greatly distressed when he witnessed the licentious conduct of the lawless inhabitants of Sodom. They were “lawless,” for they acted contrary to the inner sense of human decency and propriety. (2:7)
As a “righteous man,” one who tried to live uprightly, Lot tormented his “righteous soul,” that is, himself. This was because “from day to day,” while residing among them, he saw and heard their “lawless works.” He did not escape being a witness to their God-dishonoring conduct. (2:8)
The fact that Noah and his family survived the deluge and that Lot did not perish with the inhabitants of Sodom reveals that the “Lord knows [how] to rescue godly ones from trial,” distress, trouble, or calamity. At the same time, destruction did befall the ungodly, demonstrating that God can “keep the unrighteous for the day of judgment.” (2:9)
In the Greek text, a participial form of the verb kolázo, defined as meaning “punish,” follows the words about judgment day. This could signify that punishment awaits the ungodly at the time they will then be called to account. A number of translations convey this meaning. “The Lord knows how … to reserve his punishment for the wicked until his day comes.” (J. B. Phillips) “The Lord is well able to … hold the wicked for their punishment until the Day of Judgement.” (NJB) “The Lord knows how … to be reserving the unrighteous for the day of judgment to be punished.” (K. S. Wuest) Others have translated the verse to mean that divine punishment precedes the day of judgment, with the final accounting coming on that day. This, however, does not seem likely, as it does not fit the fact that, in the case of the deluge and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the preservation of the upright and the ruin of the wicked occurred at the same time. (2:9)
Especially is it certain that condemnation will be expressed against persons who indulge their base fleshly desires (literally, “going after flesh in [the] passion of defilement”) and show contempt for “lordship.” These would be persons who are totally given to a degraded way of life and who have no respect for any kind of authority, doing whatever they please without regard for anyone else. As individuals, they are “bold,” brazen, or audacious, and “self-willed” or stubborn, resisting anyone who might stand in the way of their dishonorable objectives. The reference to their not “trembling” at “glories” may mean that they have no fear or respect for anyone who occupies a position of glory or dignity. Nothing appears to restrain them from pursuing their corrupt way of life. They blaspheme or speak abusively of all, refusing to grant anyone, not even God, the honor they deserve. (2:10; for another meaning of “glories,” see the Notes section.)
The course of these corrupt individuals contrasts sharply with that of angels who are superior in “strength and power.” These angels do not abuse their greater strength and power, never acting in a high-handed manner or resorting to insults. They “do not bring blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” Possibly the “them” against whom angels do not express judgment in abusive words are the teachers of error, as they have been the main focus of the warning admonition. “But even the angels, who are much stronger and more powerful than false teachers, do not accuse them with insults before the Lord.” (NCV) Although the angels would have reason to denounce them, they do not employ blasphemous or abusive speech, manifesting the highest regard for God as the holy one who disapproves all reviling. (2:11; see the Notes section.)
The corrupt proponents of error are like irrational animals that have come into existence to be captured and destroyed or killed. These brute beasts to whom teachers of falsehood are likened are also described as physikós, meaning “physical” or “natural,” and could signify that they are mere beasts governed by instinct. It would appear that the reference to coming into existence to be “captured and destroyed” could relate to the fact that the roles of predator and prey are part of the existing cycle in the wild and also that these animals served as a food source for humans. As creatures hunted or raised for food, the ultimate end of their existence proved to be capture and slaughter. Teachers of pernicious error are described as “blaspheming,” or speaking abusively or insultingly of things they do not “know” or understand. Without any appreciation for God’s upright ways, they ridicule or insult whom or what they should regard with due respect. “In their corruption,” or in their pursuit of a debased way of life, “they also will be corrupted” or destroyed like the brute beasts. (2:12)
These individuals wrong themselves by their wrongdoing. The “wage,” or repayment for the injury they cause, is the ruin that results to them and which they have brought upon themselves by their God-dishonoring ways. (2:13; see the Notes section.)
The corrupt teachers regarded “luxury” or self-indulgence in the “day,” a time when they should have been engaged in productive work, as a pleasure to be enjoyed. Their objective was to satisfy their debased cravings. Because of their corrupt conduct, they proved to be “stains and blemishes,” ruinous to the reputation of believers. While they feasted with believers, they reveled in “their deceptions.” This could mean that they used the social interaction at meals to advance their corrupt teaching and to exploit others for their vile objectives. (2:13)
They transformed occasions that should have been times for expressing genuine love into opportunities for indulging their passions. Their eyes were “full of adultery [literally, ‘full of an adulteress,’ according to P72, Codex Vaticanus, and numerous other manuscripts] and ceaseless of sin.” They passionately looked for women with whom they could commit adultery and, without letup, they indulged their lusts. Having a “heart trained in covetousness” or greed, they would entice “unstable souls.” These individuals were “accursed children,” for God’s curse rested on them because of their degraded conduct. The “unstable souls” they tried to seduce would have been persons who had not as yet become firmly grounded in the truth about Jesus Christ and what living in harmony with his example and teaching required. In their “heart” or their inner self, the teachers of falsehood had become accustomed to being impelled to desire that to which they had no right, and this motivated them to ensnare others into engaging in immorality. Sin had become their way of life, and they never desisted from striving to satisfy their base desires. (2:14)
The proponents of falsehood had forsaken the “straight way,” turning aside from the course that honored God and Christ. As victims of their self-deception, they were misled, drawn into a debased way of life. “They followed the way of Balaam of Bosor [Beor or Beoorsor, according to other manuscripts], who loved the wage of unrighteousness.” (2:15)
According to the Septuagint reading of Numbers 22:5, the diviner Balaam was the “son of Beor.” YHWH God revealed to him that he should not curse the Israelites, but he very much desired the reward that Balak, the Moabite king, offered him for doing so. Although YHWH permitted him to accompany the second delegation Balak had sent, provided that he would only speak what would be revealed to him, Balaam appears to have set out on the way to meet Balak with the intent of obtaining the “wage of unrighteousness.” He, in defiance of God’s will, wanted the reward for the unrighteous or unjust act of cursing the Israelites. That this was his ultimate objective, though not expressly stated in the account in the book of Numbers, is evident from the fact that, when he could not curse the Israelites, he instructed Balak how he could use Moabite and Midiante women to seduce Israelite males to share in idolatry and sexual immorality, thereby having them bring God’s curse upon themselves. (2:15; Numbers 22:7-21; 25:1-3, 17, 18; 31:16; Revelation 2:14)
On the way with the second delegation Balak had sent, Balaam received a reproof for his “own lawlessness,” or for his intent to transgress the divine command that he not curse the Israelites. A “speechless” pack animal, his own female donkey that had no inherent ability to speak, uttered words with the “voice of a man,” which, at the time, “restrained the madness of the prophet.” As a diviner, one who made predictions, Balaam was a prophet. His madness involved his foolhardy defiance of God’s directive to him. For a time, the words of his female donkey brought him to his senses. Based on the account in Numbers 22:22-35, the “angel of YHWH” appears to have made it possible for Balaam to have perceived the words being spoken as coming from the mouth of his donkey. The example of Balaam may serve to show that not even a miracle would cause the false teachers to amend their ways. Possibly there is also an implication that believers whom the false teachers looked down upon as if they were inferiors would be able to resist them, just as the donkey restrained Balaam. (2:16)
Proponents of error are never the source of anything that proves to be beneficial. They may give the appearance of being like springs or wells from which a thirsty person might obtain refreshing water, but they are waterless, devoid of anything that would contribute to a person’s well-being. Teachers of pernicious error are likened to “mists” or, according to the reading of other manuscripts, “clouds” that a strong wind blows away. The formation of mists or clouds may give promise of much-needed rain, but those who look for rain are disappointed when they see mists or clouds quickly disappear because of being driven by fierce gusts of wind. No light or enlightenment can come from false teachers. “For them the gloom of darkness has been kept.” They are destined for the darkness of the condemnatory judgment that has been reserved for them, forever cut off from the possibility of any relationship with God and the blessings to be enjoyed by his family of devoted children. (2:17)
Proponents of falsehood utter “pompous” (hypéronkos) expressions, but their utterances are “emptiness” (mataiótes). What they say may sound impressive and be spoken with forceful confidence. The Greek word hypéronkos is descriptive of something that is “puffed up” or “swollen” and, therefore, can signify “haughty,” “bombastic,” “pompous,” or “high-sounding.” What is uttered is designated as being mataiótes, “emptiness,” “nothingness,” “nonsense,” something that is of no use or value. The utterances are just empty words. (2:18)
In their bearing and manner of speaking, false teachers can be very persuasive. By appealing to “the desires of the flesh,” they endeavor to entice believers who have “just” (olígos) or “really” (óntos, according to other manuscripts) escaped from those who conduct themselves “in error.” The Greek term olígos, basically means “little,” “small,” or “short.” In this case, the word denotes a “short time ago” or recently. The false teachers focus on persons who just recently had separated themselves from living as did those who conducted themselves in “error” or engaged in sinful practices. Especially for new believers, the pull from wrong desires can be very strong, making them more vulnerable to falling prey to corrupt teachers. (2:18)
In the Greek text, the expression “desires of the flesh” is followed by the plural form of asélgeia, which term would describe all manner of licentiousness or shockingly unbridled or indecent conduct. This could mean that, besides appealing to the desires of sinful human nature, the false teachers made licentiousness appear as acceptable, harmless, or desirable. (2:18) Translators have variously rendered the thought. “With their high-sounding but empty talk they tempt back people who have scarcely escaped from those who live in error, by playing on the disordered desires of their human nature and by debaucheries.” (NJB) “Talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped from people who live in error.” (NAB) “They use sensual lusts and debauchery as a bait to catch people who have only just begun to escape from their pagan associates.” (REB)
To those who are the objects of their deceptive words, false teachers “promise freedom,” making it appear that believers are under no restraints in pursuing whatever they might desire. They do not and cannot offer anyone true freedom, which exists among those who live in harmony with a good conscience and have the highest regard for moral law. The proponents of pernicious error are themselves not free, for they are “slaves of corruption.” Depravity has gained the mastery over them. So, as slaves, all they can offer to others is a slave status, because whatever comes to control one’s life enslaves. (2:19)
“Knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” involves a person’s coming into an approved relationship with him as his disciple, as a believer who recognizes Jesus Christ as his Lord whose example and teaching he is under obligation to follow and who, as his Savior, delivered him from the condemnation to which sin leads. “If, after having escaped the defilements of the world” upon having come to know Jesus Christ, individuals again become entangled in the kind of unclean or degrading practices common in the world of mankind alienated from God and Christ, their last state would become worse than their first. Their condition would then be worse than the one in which they found themselves prior to their becoming believers. As unbelievers, they acted in ignorance. After coming to know what is right as clearly revealed in Jesus’ life, activity, and teaching, those who return to a corrupt way of life have no excuse. They cannot claim ignorance, making their sin much more serious. (2:20)
It would have been better for them not to have known the “way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that had been given to them.” For those who do not yet know the “way of righteousness,” the hope exists that they may respond to the message about Christ and begin living an upright life. Their God-dishonoring course is not as serious. It does not bring the kind of direct reproach on God and Christ as does the waywardness of professing believers who received the “holy commandment” or the pure teaching of the Son of God that should have served as a law to them. The injurious effect on the conscience is not as great in the case of unbelievers, for wrongdoing did not require a revolt against the restraint of a conscience that had been enlightened by knowledge of God and Christ and the obligations this knowledge imposed. (2:21)
In the case of those who return to a debauched way of life, the “true proverb,” the saying that expresses an undeniable truth, applies, “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the bathed sow to wallowing in mud.” Professed believers had left defiling conduct behind (comparable to the dog’s vomit and the mud that had been washed away from the sow) and had been cleansed from their sins but then, instead of continuing to make progress in upright living, returned to their former degraded state like unclean animals. (2:22; compare Proverbs 26:11.)
In verse 2, not all manuscripts contain the expression “way of the truth.” Fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, a correction in fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, and a number of other manuscripts say “glory of the truth.”
Comments about Tartarus and the punishment of the disobedient angels are found in 1 Enoch, a book that appears to have been regarded as authoritative in the first century CE and earlier, as well as in later times. Presently, only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) accept 1 Enoch as part of the Scriptures. According to the book of Enoch (X, 11), God instructed the angel Michael to “bind Semjâzâ and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness.” This binding, however, is not represented as their final punishment, but they are said to remain in their bound state until “the day of their judgment and of their consummation.” (X, 12) “In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire.” (X, 13) Another passage (XX, 2) indicates that the angel Uriel is over Tartarus.
In the Septuagint, there are three occurrences of the expression “Tartarus.” Proverbs 30:16 includes Tartarus among the things that never say, “Enough.” Job 40:20 indicates that, when the wild beast (“behemoth,” according to the Hebrew text) ascended the “steep mountain, it made the quadrupeds in Tartarus rejoice.” In Job 41:24, the “dragon” (“leviathan,” according to the Hebrew text) is represented as accounting “Tartarus of the abyss as a captive.” These references to “Tartarus” could be understood as applying to the netherworld, but nothing specific about how the term was understood among the Jews can be established from the context.
In Greek mythology, Tartarus was the place of confinement for the Titans after the Olympian gods defeated them. In his Against Apion (II, 34, 35), Josephus commented on the compositions of the Greek poets about gods and goddesses, referring to the Titans as the “oldest” of all the gods and as having been bound “in Tartarus.” He, however, did not endorse the Greek myth about Tartarus, but included it among tales regarding deities that Greek intellectuals had rightly censured.
It would appear that caution needs to be exercised about any definitive conclusions regarding how first-century believers may have understood comments about the binding of the angels who sinned and their being “cast into Tartarus.” Moreover, spirit persons are not subject to the same kind of restraints as are humans, and the visual imagery that appears in the Scriptures must of necessity be expressed in human terms.
Another manuscript reading of verse 6 represents what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah as an example to those who were about to act in a godless manner.
In verse 10, some interpret the “glories” to mean the superterrestrial powers of darkness or the fallen angels, maintaining that they still have a measure of “glory” or splendor by reason of their existence as mighty spirits. The faithful angels, though, by reason of having the backing of the Almighty God, are in possession of greater “strength and power” than these “glories.” (Verse 11) According to this interpretation, the faithful angels do not express an insulting judgment against the fallen angels before God. Support for this view is drawn from verse 9 of Jude, where the reference is to the archangel Michael who, when disputing with the devil about Moses’ body, did not dare to express judgment against him in blasphemous or abusive words. It does seem highly unusual, however, that persons who defied God and his guidance would be specifically censured for speaking abusively of fallen angels.
Instead of “wronging themselves” followed by the word “wage” (in verse 13), other manuscripts say “receiving a wage.” Numerous manuscripts, including P72 (of the late third or early fourth century CE), contain the word apátais (“deceptions”), whereas many other manuscripts read agápais (“love feasts”).
Peter addressed fellow believers as “beloved ones,” mentioning that this was the second letter he had written to them. Like the first letter, this one also served as a reminder of things they knew. He wanted to arouse the “sincere thought” (eilikriné diánoian) of fellow believers. The Greek expression for “sincere thought” has been variously rendered “sincere intention” (NRSV), “honest minds” (NCV), “honest thought” (REB), and “unclouded understanding.” (NJB) The basic sense appears to be that Peter wanted his letters to stimulate the recipients to give sincere consideration to matters he brought to their attention. (3:1; see the Notes section.)
He wanted them to recall the words the “holy prophets” had spoken in the past and the “commandment of the Lord and Savior.” The words “of your apostles” are linked to this commandment, indicating that the “commandment” was originally made known through the apostles who had heard it from the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Savior, for it is through him that individuals are forgiven of their sins and delivered from the condemnation to which sin leads. (3:2)
In the context of this letter, the words the “holy prophets” spoke appear to relate specifically to the coming judgment upon the ungodly. As servants of God who faithfully proclaimed his message, they were “holy” or undefiled. They were not like the false prophets who uttered lies and so were unclean in God’s sight. According to verses 14 and 15 of the letter of Jude, Enoch was the first one of the prophets to speak of a day of judgment. Among the Hebrew prophets who warned of a judgment to come were Isaiah (66:15, 16), Jeremiah (25:31-33), Ezekiel (38:2-39:6), Daniel (7:9-22), Joel (3:11-15 [4:11-15]), Amos (9:1-4), Habakkuk (3:16-18), Zephaniah (1:14-18), Haggai (2:21, 22), Zechariah (14:1-16), and Malachi (4:1 [3:19]). In relation to the future judgment that would occur at the time of his return in glory, Jesus Christ gave the commandment for his disciples to remain awake or alert and to be prepared to welcome him, proving themselves to be loyal to him and actively advancing his interests. (Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:35-40; 21:34-36) The apostles, including Paul the apostle to the nations, did not neglect to convey the commandment to be prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the judgment to come. (3:2; Acts 3:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
The reference to “your apostles” need not be understood to mean that the writer excluded himself as an apostle and that, as some have concluded, he was no part of the generation which directly heard the teaching of the apostles. Joshua, for example, when addressing warriors from the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, commended them, saying, “You have not forsaken your brothers,” that is, your fellow Israelites. (Joshua 22:1-3) The use of the second person plural “your brothers” did not mean that Joshua did not consider himself to be a “brother” or fellow Israelite. (3:2; Joshua 22:1-3)
“First,” or first of all, believers needed to know or understand that, in the “last days,” scoffers would come on the scene to scoff or ridicule, indulging their “own desires” or lusts. Some have taken these words to point to a late composition for 2 Peter, but these words do not point to knowledge of a development that was foreign to early believers. The apostle Paul warned the elders from the congregation in Ephesus that, after he would be gone, men from their midst would mistreat fellow believers, corrupt the truth, and get others to follow them as their disciples. (Acts 20:29, 30) Jesus Christ had indicated that, when seeing that his return appeared to be a long time away, certain ones in the community of believers would become abusive toward fellow believers and in other respects conduct themselves in a reprehensible manner. They would express themselves like a slave whose master had departed, saying regarding his return, “My master delays in coming.” (Matthew 24:48-50; Luke 12:45-48) Failing to recognize that Jesus Christ could return at any time, the scoffers would ridicule the thought about any imminent return and would speak of it as if it would never take place. Acting without any sense of accountability to the Lord Jesus Christ who would indeed return to render judgment, they would act according to their own debased cravings. (3:3)
Having lost faith in Jesus’ promise that he would return, the scoffers in the “last days” or later times would say, “Where is the promise of his arrival [parousía]?” In their view, no evidence existed that the promised return and time of judgment would take place. Nothing had changed since their “fathers” or ancestors “fell asleep” or had died. Everything in the human realm, with people marrying, having children, and growing old and dying, had remained the same “from the beginning of creation.” (3:4)
Contrary to the thinking of the ridiculers, everything had not continued to be the same since the beginning. Although aware of the account that is preserved in the book of Genesis, the scoffers, “according to their wish” or their deliberate choice, would ignore what they knew about developments in the days of Noah. “Heavens” existed “of old,” and “by the word of God, earth out of water and through water came together [synístemi].” The Greek word synístemi basically means to “stand together” and can signify to “combine,” “prepare,” “establish,” or “hold together.” Based on the Genesis account, the formation of the land areas came about by their rising “out of the water.” “Through the water” perhaps means through the collecting of the water into seas that surrounded land and through the suspension of water above the land and the seas, which water became part of an apparent celestial dome. (3:5; Genesis 1:6-10)
The introductory “through which [plural in many manuscripts but singular in a few others]” could, as a plural, refer to the water on the earth and the water above the earth. This would mean that the land was flooded by means of water from the sky in the form of rain, combined with the water already on the earth, destroying the then-existing “world.” Another possibility is that the introductory words “through which” (plural) could indicate that the destruction of the world came about through God’s word, or by his express will, and the water. The singular “which,” found in a few manuscripts, could apply to either the word of God or to the water as causing the world to perish. The world that was destroyed included everything in the human realm outside the ark. (3:6)
The now-existing “heavens and earth,” however, are stored up by the “same word for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of impious men.” It was God’s word, or his declared purpose, that brought into existence the former “heavens and earth” and the factors that made a flood possible. The same “word” (God’s decreed purpose) that has reserved the present “heavens and earth for fire” will not fail to be fulfilled. (3:7)
Many have reasoned that, because literal water flooded the land, the divinely determined future destruction would be by literal fire, resulting in the conflagration of the whole material universe. This, however, is not necessarily the case and does not appear to be indicated in the Scriptures as a whole. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul spoke of the whole creation as longing for the revelation of the “sons of God,” that is, of humans who have become part of his beloved family. At the time of this revelation of God’s children in the glory or splendor of the sinless state, the whole creation would be freed from the bondage in which it shared on account of the divine condemnation of human sinfulness. The creation would then no longer undergo senseless devastation and ruin. If the entire universe were to be utterly destroyed by fire, the creation would cease to exist and would not be liberated from the baneful effects that human sinfulness has had on the whole environment. A fiery end of the entire creation would not be its long-awaited liberation, or the means for obtaining the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (3:7; Romans 8:19-21)
In verse 13 of the third chapter of 2 Peter, God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth” is mentioned. This promise is found in the book of Isaiah, and so it reasonably follows that the reference to the destruction by fire should be viewed in the light of the words of the prophet. Regarding the judgment to befall Edom, for example, Isaiah 34:9-11 (NAB) reads, “Edom’s streams shall be changed into pitch and her earth into sulphur, and her land shall become burning pitch; night and day it shall not be quenched, its smoke shall rise forever. From generation to generation she shall lie waste, never again shall anyone pass through her. But the desert owl and hoot owl shall possess her, the screech owl and raven shall dwell in her.” Edomites no longer exist as a people. So the land they once inhabited has ceased to be their possession, just as if it had been completely consumed by unquenchable fire. Although the portrayal of the utter desolation is represented as being by fire that continues to burn, the land is not depicted as destroyed but as becoming the habitat of birds and other creatures. (Isaiah 34:11-17) Similarly, in 2 Peter 3:7, the “heavens and earth” are stored up for fire, but it is not a “day of judgment” for the material universe but a time of judgment for humans who defiantly pursue a God-dishonoring way of life. The destruction to come is specifically identified as affecting the impious or godless ones. This also fits the parallel with the flood in the time of Noah. The world of ungodly humans ended, but the universe remained, as did the earth itself. (3:7)
The expression “heavens and earth” is best understood in the light of the prophetic scriptures. Often “heaven” or “heavens” applies to the celestial dome, and so the expression “heavens and earth” is simply a way of identifying the sphere in which humans live. This sphere is an area of land and water that lies below what appears to be a vault or dome, where the sun may be seen during the day and the moon and the stars at night. In the prophetic writings, the destruction of nations is portrayed as the end of the sphere in which they lived. When these nations are no more, the sphere in which they lived (their land and its apparent celestial dome) no longer exists as far as they are concerned. According to Isaiah 34, YHWH’s anger would be directed against the nations and he would hand them over for slaughter. In connection with this judgment, the “heavens” would be “rolled up like a scroll.” Thus the sky or the celestial vault is portrayed as a scroll that touches the land and, when separated from the horizon, is rolled up. (Isaiah 34:2-4) Accordingly, also in 2 Peter 3, the fire for which the “heavens and earth” are reserved is indicative of the future thorough destruction of everything associated with the sphere of impious humans. (3:7)
God’s time for the execution of judgment is not to be gauged by the way in which humans reckon time. What to humans may appear to be a long time is but a short time in the sight of the eternal God. On the other hand, God can effect in a brief period things that would take many years for humans to accomplish. Peter wanted his “beloved ones” or fellow believers to be aware of this fact, “One day [is] with the Lord like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” Recognizing that a “thousand years” are but as a day to God helps one to realize that the passage of many years does not mean that his word will not be fulfilled. Nevertheless, one should not postpone the reality of the coming time of judgment, reasoning that a very long time needs to pass for all aspects of the prophetic word to be carried out. What to humans might seem to require a thousand years, God can do in but one day. (3:8)
He is not slow about fulfilling his promise, as some might consider him to be because things do not happen as quickly as they imagine they should. The reality that Jesus Christ has not as yet returned in glory and that believers are still experiencing distress and have not been united with him as his Father’s sinless children does not mean that God is slow. Explaining the reason for what some might consider a long delay, Peter continued, “But he is patient with you [‘us,’ according to another manuscript reading] not wishing anyone to be destroyed but [desiring] all to have opportunity for repentance.” Divine patience has provided humans in the generations that have passed with the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus Christ and to respond in faith and be found approved at the time of his return. As a loving Father, God wants as many as possible to become reconciled to him as his beloved children. (3:9)
The “day of the Lord” is certain to come. Jesus Christ will return in glory as the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords, with blessings to his approved disciples and severe judgment directed against those who have persisted in defying him and his Father. That day will arrive “like a thief” (“like a thief in the night,” according to other manuscripts), unexpectedly as would a thief to steal under the cover of darkness. All but Jesus Christ’s devoted disciples will then be found in an unprepared state. Nothing of the ungodly world will remain. “The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed by burning, and the earth and the works in it will be found [eurísko].” The sphere in which the ungodly functioned will come to a complete end. As with the loud crackling of materials that an intense fire consumes, the celestial dome of the ungodly will vanish. All the “elements” or parts of that godless world will be obliterated as by fire. The “earth” or the land that the ungodly regarded as their possession and all the works of human manufacture would be “found” or “discovered.” This could mean that the destructive element would not spare anything associated with the godless society. As the ungodly would lose everything, their whole world of “heavens and earth” would be utterly consumed. (3:10; see the Notes section.)
The entire world of godless human society (the present “heavens and earth” that constitute the sphere in which this society operates) is destined to end (literally, to be “loosed” as when something is broken up or dissolved). Not a trace of this world will remain. Its destruction will be as complete as that caused by an intense fire. Therefore, believers needed to consider carefully how they were living their lives, making sure that their conduct remained untainted by the corruption of the world. This aspect is presented in the form of a question, “What kind of [persons] should you be in holy conduct and godliness, awaiting and hastening [speúdo] the arrival [parousía] of the day of God [‘Lord,’ according to a few other manuscripts] by which the heavens being set on fire will be destroyed and the elements melted by burning?” (3:11, 12)
The realization that everything of the godless world will come to an end should motivate believers to avoid being contaminated by it and to conduct themselves in a “holy” or pure way and to manifest a godly or reverential spirit in everything they do and say. Godliness would also be evident in their having an active concern for the welfare of others, being willing and eager to respond compassionately to their needs. (3:11)
The “day of God” is the time when he will judge the world by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This day will arrive at the time Jesus returns in glory as the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords. Believers demonstrate that they are awaiting the day by maintaining upright conduct and being diligent about advancing Christ’s interests. In this manner, they continue to be in a state of readiness for the arrival of the “day of God,” looking forward to the blessings that will then be bestowed on his devoted servants and loyal disciples of his Son. The “hastening” of the day could either mean to eagerly desire it or to hasten it mentally, keeping it always in view as a day that could come at any time and acting in harmony with what that day will mean for faithful believers and for those who defy God’s will. The world, or godless humans and the sphere in which they operate (a sphere consisting of “heavens and earth”), will come to an end. Its heavens will be destroyed (literally, “loosed” or dissolved) by fire, and all the elements or parts that make up the world will melt as does, for example, wax when subjected to heat from fire. (3:12)
Believers live in expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promise concerning “new heavens and a earth, wherein righteousness dwells.” (3:13) The old world, the sphere of heavens and earth in which corrupt human society operates, will be replaced by “new heavens and a new earth,” a sphere free from corruption and godlessness and where all will be conducting themselves in an upright manner. The promise concerning “new heavens and a new earth” is found in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. According to the context, the prophetic words of Isaiah do not signify the replacement of the earth and every other part of the vast universe. Instead, what makes the heavens and the earth new is a complete transformation, with an end to everything that brought pain, harm, and distress. (Isaiah 65:17-25) That the prophetic language does not mean a new planet is indicated by the judgment that is to befall rebels against God. Their corpses are depicted as lying in a place of refuse, where fires are kept burning and maggots feed on the bodies that the flames do not reach. If the expression “new earth” designated a new planet, this would mean that the corpses of the godless would have to be preserved from the fire that consumes the old earth and then become part of the permanent scene in the new earth. The context simply does not justify this kind of literalism. (3:13; Isaiah 66:22-24)
In view of all that his fellow believers awaited, Peter urged them as his “beloved ones” to strive being found by God (and so also by his Son the Lord Jesus Christ) as persons who are “spotless and unblemished” as well as “in peace.” In disposition, words, and deeds, believers should be spotless and unblemished, not being stained by the corruption of the godless world or blemished by having in any respect yielded to God-dishonoring conduct. For believers to be found “in peace” at the arrival of God’s day for judgment by means of his Son would require their maintaining a good relationship with him. A failure to act in keeping with their status as God’s children and disciples of his Son would alienate them from him, disrupting the peace they had come to enjoy upon being forgiven of their sins. (3:14)
While waiting for the great “day of God” and the relief from distress it promises to bring to believers, they need to be patient. Peter reminded fellow believers that the patience of “our Lord” has meant “salvation.” As he had mentioned earlier (3:9), God’s patience (which also his Son manifests) had provided the opportunity for more individuals to come to repentance and to be delivered from the condemnation to which sin leads. (3:15)
Peter referred to Paul as “our beloved brother” and then to what he had written. The context does not provide any specifics that would make it possible to identify which particular letter or letters may be linked to the words of Paul. First Peter was addressed to communities of believers in Asia Minor, providing a basis for concluding that 2 Peter was also sent to them. In that case, the letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians could have been received by the same believers as was 2 Peter. Moreover, Paul mentioned a letter he had sent to the Laodiceans. (Colossians 4:16) This may indicate that only a portion of the letters he wrote have been preserved through copying and recopying over the centuries. Paul’s preserved letters sent to believers in Asia Minor did include comments highlighting that compassionate divine patience has made salvation possible. (Compare Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 1:21-23.) The things he wrote were based on the “wisdom” that had been “given him,” indicating that this wisdom had been divinely granted. (3:15)
The aspect of divine patience is mentioned in letters Paul wrote to communities of believers other than those in Asia Minor. To the Romans, for example, he said, “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NRSV) Furthermore, various thoughts expressed in 2 Peter are found in Paul’s letters. These include comments about the return of Christ, the judgment to be expressed against the ungodly, and the necessity for believers to lead exemplary lives. Therefore, the words about Paul’s “speaking of these [things],” as he does in all his letters, could include the major points that are emphasized in 2 Peter. (3:16)
In relation to Paul’s letters, problems had arisen. Some things he had written proved to be hard to understand, and “ignorant and unstable” ones, as also in the case of the rest of the scriptures, twisted his words to their own ruin. This suggests that communities of believers who possessed copies of Paul’s letters considered them authoritative, just as they did the recognized “holy writings” that were read in the Jewish synagogues. (3:16)
Among the things that appear to have been hard to understand would have been Paul’s emphasis on freedom and on the reality that “all things” were “lawful” and “clean.” (Compare 1 Corinthians 6:12; Galatians 5:1; Titus 1:15.) What he had written was probably twisted to justify or condone base conduct. (3:16)
The “ignorant and unstable” ones likely were those who presumed to be teachers of others. They were “ignorant,” for they had no sound understanding of the subject matter but appear to have imagined that they were knowledgeable. These would-be teachers would have been unstable persons, not founded on the truth that Jesus Christ taught but enamored by their own views. Impressed with their own warped opinions, they would have been very bold when making their assertions. (Compare 1 Timothy 1:6, 7.) So it was to their own ruin (and also the ruin of anyone who might have been deluded by them) that they misused the words contained in the “holy writings” and in Paul’s letters. (3:16)
By means of the words contained in 2 Peter, the “beloved” or dear fellow believers had been forewarned about the danger posed by those who would attempt to introduce corrupt teaching. This admonition alerted devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be on guard against being led astray with the “delusion” or deceptive teaching of the lawless ones and falling “from [their] own steadfastness.” Proponents of error were “lawless,” for they disregarded the commandment to let love govern in all their thoughts, words, and actions. Instead, they were determined to satisfy their lusts without regard for the hurtful effects on others. Their delusion doubtless included imagining that, on account of God’s great mercy, they would not be disapproved for pursuing their debased craving and for emboldening others to do likewise. Believers needed to watch out that the plausible arguments of false teachers would not sway them, causing them to cease being steadfast in their living a life that harmonized with Jesus Christ’s example and teaching. (3:17)
To remain steadfast in their devotion, believers needed to “grow in the favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Growing in “favor” would include advancing in a life that conformed ever closer to the example of Jesus Christ so as to be the recipient of his favor in the form of continued aid and guidance. “Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” would relate to the kind of knowledge that revealed an individual’s having an approved relationship with him. The godly life of believers would prove that they belonged to him as their Lord and the Savior who liberated them from the condemnation to which sin leads. Because of all that Jesus Christ has accomplished by surrendering his life for the human family, the prayerful expression with which 2 Peter concludes is most appropriate, “To him [be] the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen [‘So be it’ (not in all manuscripts)].” Jesus Christ is Lord, in fact, the King of kings and Lord of lords and so in possession of far greater dignity and authority that any human ruler might have. “Glory,” majesty, or splendor are rightly his, and that is the case now and will be so forever, or throughout all the endless ages to come. (3:18)
Translators have variously rendered verse 1. The German Neue Genfer Übersetzung interpretively represents the two letters as serving to recall to the minds of the recipients things that would aid them to remain awake and to avoid allowing anything evil to influence their thinking. Other translations, though less interpretive, convey a variety of meanings. “This, dear friends, is now my second letter to you. In both I have been recalling to you what you already know, to rouse you to honest thought.” (REB) “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (TNIV) “My dear friends, this is the second letter I have written you to help your honest minds remember.” (NCV) “My dear friends, this is the second letter I have written to you, trying to awaken in you by my reminders an unclouded understanding.” (NJB) “My dear friends, this is the second letter I have written to encourage you to do some honest thinking.” (CEV)
The reading “your apostles” (in verse 2) has superior manuscript support. Numerous manuscripts, however, say “our apostles.”
The reading (in verse 10) “will be found” (a form of the Greek word eurísko) has the support of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus as well as numerous other manuscripts. Still other manuscripts say “will be burned up” or “will disappear.” One manuscript (P72, thought to date from the late third century or early fourth century CE) reads “will be found dissolved” or destroyed.