II Peter 1-21
1 The introduction of the name Simeon, before Peter, and slave in addition to apostle, gives us a clue to the character of this second epistle. The emphasis is laid on practice rather than precept. It is concerned with living rather than learning.
2 The recognition of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the source of grace and peace, as well as all that tends to life and devoutness. This is indicated by beginning the epistle proper by "So. . ." and by the repetition of the thought: "through the recognition of Him Who calls us to His own glory and virtue." The word "recognition" probably includes the wider range of realization and appreciation. It is a favorite word in this epistle, for it occurs again in verse 8, and again in 2:20. Standing, as it does, at the threshold of an epistle devoted to conduct, it teaches the important lesson that knowledge is essential to good deportment. Those who refuse to recognize God are given over to a disqualified mind to commit the whole catalogue of crime (Ro.1:28). The only salvation from these things is a vision of His glory and virtue, in this manner becoming a participant of the divine nature which flees from corruption. Consequently, the most powerfully practical course to pursue is to gain a grasp of God's glories and virtues, so that they may operate in us to produce their like.
5 The path of the saint is one of progress or apostasy. If he is not adding, he will probably be subtracting. Hence Simeon Peter exhorts his readers to advance, making each spiritual grace the container of another and a better, until they all unfold for the display of love, the highest and best of all.
5 Faith is the radical virtue. By it all others are possible. In the repeated groupings of graces found in the epistles, faith is invariably assigned the first place, being made to stand nearest the Source of every virtue.
10 Peter, like James, is apt to present the human side of redemption. Calling and choice are purely divine, yet their confirmation in the eyes of men depends on the evidence of ideal acts. The divine side is hidden to all but the one who is called. His conduct should confirm his confession before the world.
14 In that marvelous resurrection scene in John's evangel, where our Lord commissions Peter for the ministry which he fulfills in writing these epistles, He also intimates the character of his death. Peter was to follow Him to the very end, and die like his Master, Who said, "Verily, verily, I am saying to you, When you were younger you girded yourself and walked where you would; yet whenever you may be growing decrepit, you will stretch out your hands, and another shall be girding you and carrying you where you would not" (Jn.21:18). And it is immediately added, "Now this He said, signifying by what death he will be glorifying God."
16 Peter and James and John were especially chosen to accompany the Lord to the Mount of Transformation (commonly called the Transfiguration) to witness a foreglimpse of the coming kingdom and its power and magnificence. Thus they perceived undeniable evidence of its reality and glory. They heard the voice from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I delight. Be hearing Him!" They saw the lowly Nazarene transformed so that His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as light. They recognized Moses and Elijah talking with Him concerning His impending exodus (Mt.17:1-8; Mk.9:2-7; Lu.9:28-35). Here were all the elements of the kingdom. Moses might well represent the dead in Israel awakened from their sleep. Elijah may typify those who are living at His advent. His own face and form assume the glory which belongs to them. The power and glory of the kingdom are anticipated in this scene. It is at once a sample and an assurance of the magnificence and splendor of His millennial reign. There were seven persons present. Peter, James, and John are types of those believers on earth who shall witness the coming of the Lord and enter the kingdom. This reference to Christ's Transformation by one of the eyewitnesses is one of the internal proofs of the Petrine authorship of this epistle.
19 The day star is the coming of the Lord. The lamp is prophecy. No one can find his way in this world without the illumination of the prophetic word. All is dark without it. But prophecies often seem obscure. The prophets themselves did not always know the import of their predictions. Now, however, that the word of God is complete, and some has been fulfilled, and each intimation may' be sorted and compared with all of like tenor, the whole outline of prophecy may be readily perceived. Prophecy is not an attempt by the prophet to explain the purposes of God in current or future events. It is not the result of his observation and experience, or his interpretation of God's ways. Not the human will but God's Spirit produced the words of the writers of prophecy.
The program of prophecy has gradually become clearer with added revelation. The pre-exile prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah know only one advent. In the post-exile prophets, the second advent is distinguished from the first, and Israel's dispersion comes in between. Ezekiel, however, sees still further, and predicts an end to the Messianic kingdom. This is also the farthest range of Peter in his epistles and John in the Unveiling. But Paul goes far beyond, and sees a conclusion to the post-Messianic eon, when kingly government is brought to an end and the Son abdicates because all need for rule has disappeared. Then God becomes All in all. This is the climax of prophecy. It explains its purpose and solves its enigmas.
II Peter 2:4-22
4 The "gloomy caverns" of Tartarus are distinct from the unseen, from gehenna, and from the lake of fire. They are the temporary dungeon of spirits ( cf note on page 392 14).
4 Peter recounts the ancient judgments of God with a view to establishing the certainty of the impending judgments of the end time. That, also, will be a judgment on spirit beings, for Satan will be bound. It will be visited on a world which has reverted to the wickedness which drew down the deluge, and which is guilty of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then, too, the righteous shall be delivered, as Lot out of Sodom, and as Noah through the flood.
10 No one acquainted with the world as it is, and especially the tendency of the times, but will conclude that Peter's epistles will have a very special fulfillment in the dreadful days that are to come. Even now, the revolt against authority has overthrown vast empires, and undermines all established government. Millions "despise dominion", and are drifting toward a worse despotism than any the world has ever seen. But this is most evident in the sphere of religion, The sovereignty of God is unknown and unrecognized. Whole nations defy the Deity and seek to deny His existence. And this leads to the second great sin of the end time. Loosed from the restraints of even formal religion, the world is plunging into the defilements of the flesh. The marriage bond is slack or slighted altogether. Divorces are becoming more and more frequent. The world is rapidly ripening for the time when these sins will have the sanction of religion and the worship of the wild beast will be encouraged by the gratification of the lowest lusts of the flesh.
15 The story of Balaam (Num.22-25) shows the fearful lengths to which men will go for reward, even in the face of divine displeasure. They are lower than the brute beasts in their rejection of God's revealed will, if it leads to preferment or pecuniary advantage.
17 This paragraph brings before us some of the same characters which are found in the sixth and tenth chapters of Hebrews. There were and will be apostates among the Circumcision who will go great lengths in following the Messiah, even as Judas did, yet finally they fall away and repudiate their profession. Our Lord had many such followers who left Him.
Recognition of the truth concerning Christ may prevail with men for a time so as to compel separation from defilements that still allure. The apostle is not contemplating such as have become participants of the divine nature, and so flee the corruption that is in the world by lust; but those whose inner malady is not healed, who have reformed under the influence of truth, and who are still curs and swine.
II Peter 3:1-18
1 It is the special function of the Circumcision epistles to reaffirm and enforce the ancient prophetic Scriptures and the words of our Lord before His death and ascension. This is notably lacking in Paul's epistles. Seldom is the life of our Lord referred to, or His teaching recalled. There is little of prophetic reference. When the prophets are quoted it is usually to show their harmony or agreement, rather than direct fulfillment. The quotations are introduced by such connectives as ''as'' or "according to". This is because Paul is detailing an administration outside of the range of the prophets and beyond the scope of our Lord's ministry. Not so Peter and the Circumcision. They are concerned with the fulfillment of the prophetic predictions and are engaged in the same ministry as our Lord when on earth, for He proclaimed the kingdom as well as they.
3 Not only scoffers, but many who believe the Bible, have fallen into the error of supposing that all things have continued without change from the beginning. The great disruption chronicled in the second verse of the first of Genesis–"the earth becomes waste and sterile" (for it was not created so, Isa.45:18)–has been well nigh forgotten. What system of biblical cosmogony accounts for an earth "cohering out of water and through water"? This is more in accord with some of the theories of science than theology. It seems evident from this passage, as well as the accounts in Genesis and Job, that the earth has gone through much the same processes which we observe in the present condition of other planets. It probably was swathed in vapors like Venus or Jupiter, and once had rings like Saturn. The Hebrew "heavens" is dual, meaning a pair of heavens. We know that, in the new earth, there will be no seas, as on the moon or Mars. It has been and is subject to vast geologic changes, effected, in the past by water. It is stored with fire, which will be one of the means of its next great cataclysmic renovation. Fire in the heavens (perhaps a nebula) and in the earth will form the crucible for the new creation.
8 Time, with God, has none of the limitations which it has with us. The events of a day are vivid in our minds for a brief period, then they vanish and are forgotten. We know nothing of the future. But past and future are alike to God. As the psalmist says, " A thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday when it is past" (Ps.90:4). We can readily recall the record of the previous day. It seems but a brief space of time. So a thousand years seems to Him. Since Peter penned these words nearly two thousand years have passed and His promise to Israel is not yet fulfilled, but there are indications that the time is near.
10 The day of the Lord, though it lasts for more than a thousand years, is treated as though its arrival is to be immediately followed by its end, in harmony with the preceding paragraph. It will come as a thief (1 Thes.5:2). It will close with the great cataclysm (Un.20:11, 21:1) which ushers in the day of God, in the new creation. Two great convulsions divide the history of the heavens and the earth into three grand divisions. One is found at the forefront of revelation, this one is near its finish. The heavens and earth were destroyed by water (Gen.1:2). In the future this will be affected by fire. The past was a physical regeneration. The future will be a chemical re-creation. Water, in the form of seas, is found only on the present earth. It was not on, but about, the previous one. It will be absent in the third earth (Un.21:1). The changing character of the earth on which we live is due largely to the presence of water. It disintegrates the solid rocks. As glaciers, it grinds down the mountains. In streams, it washes the soil into the sea. This is undoubtedly a parable of the impermanent moral processes through which mankind is passing. The new earth will be unchanging, permanent. Having passed through the great crucible of the divine Alchemist, its stones will be precious gems, hard as flint, and indestructible. And this will also be a parable of the moral purity which has been purged by fire and abides. This chapter reveals the fact that the new creation will be the third earth and third heaven (2 Co.12:2).
15 It is evident that Peter, great apostle though he was, could not apprehend fully the ministry of Paul. He did see, however, that the seeming delay in the setting up of the kingdom was being used by God, through Paul, and that salvation was by no means dependent upon Israel's attitude. This subject, which is merely alluded to by Peter, is fully set forth by Paul in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans.