A Second Opinion
An apostolic confirmation of the second coming of Christ
2 Peter 3:15b-17
The doctor was concerned, so he asked the nurse, “How is that little girl doing who swallowed ten quarters last night?” The nurse replied, “No change yet.” What kind of comments do you not want to hear right before you drift off into surgery? 1) Oops! 2) Has anyone seen my watch? 3) Blast, page 47 of the manual is missing. 4) Okay, now take a picture from this angle. This is truly a freak of nature. 5) Oh no, the power’s gone off again. 6) Everybody stand back–I lost my contact lens!
Imagine for a moment, you just had a doctor appointment and received difficult news. As you look up your case on the internet and talk to experienced friends, some of the information and friends question your doctor. What should you do? Get a second opinion. If you want to get a strong second opinion, get a doctor who doesn’t like your first doctor or doesn’t get along with the first doctor. If they agree, then you have a very strong, helpful second opinion.
That’s what you get in today’s passage of 2 Peter. You have one apostle who is giving not his opinion, but giving you God’s inspired Word. But there are many who are challenging that word–saying it is bogus, wrong, biased. So the apostle Peter appeals to another apostle–one that the churches Peter writes know personally. One who has written to these same churches in the past. One who is inspired to record Scripture as an apostle of Jesus Christ, but also one who Peter has had issues with in the past–an apostle who actually confronted Peter when Peter was wrong.
But this apostle not only completely and totally affirms what Peter writes, but actually goes beyond what Peter writes and describes not merely the Second Coming and judgment–but all the details of the Day of the Lord, all the end time events, including the Rapture, Tribulation, Kingdom and Bema seat rewards for believers. This apostle has also written inspired letters to the same churches Peter is writing to in 2 Peter.
And though there was that past confrontation, they are one heart when it comes to the truth of the Scripture which the false teachers try to distort. But they are in complete agreement with the truth that Jesus Christ is coming again. Open your Bibles to 2 Peter 3 and follow along with an electronic or paper outline. Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return.
Verses 11 through 15, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”
We’ve walked through those verses, now today verse 15b and following–read with me. “Just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”
Whoa–what is Peter saying here? In verses 1 to 10, Peter was focused on the certainty of the return of Christ, while he destroyed the empty theories of the false teachers who attack that coming. In verses 11 to 18, Peter makes it very clear God intends the Second Coming of Christ to radically change the way you live every day. Daily anticipation of Christ’s return transforms the daily behavior of a Christian.
Peter begins the second half of chapter 3 with an explosive summary statement in verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” This is not a question– it’s a statement! Peter is literally declaring, “How astonishingly excellent you ought to be.” The expectation is, if you are anticipating Christ’s return, you will live different than this world because you are not of this world–you are an alien. This world is not your home. This earth is just a temporary, short term VRBO. Like a foreigner, you will live unique–verse 14 says “holy”, which is unique and separate and godly, or Christlike and God-pleasing.
Now following the verse 11 summary, verses 12 to 18 describe what that unique lifestyle will actually look like in everyday life here on Earth. And we have found that anticipating Christ’s return will cause you to be . . .
#1 Living for ETERNITY; Longingly
Read verses 12 and 13, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
You are looking, meaning you are excitedly anticipating the Day of God. So after God destroys the existing Heaven and Earth, He promises to create a totally new heavens and earth where everything is perfect. When you know everything in this world you love is going to burn up, you will live more for eternity than for this world. You’ll live in absolute righteous perfection. Verse 13, righteousness dwells there–it’s so mind blowing, you will not even remember this world. Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” When your life desires Christ’s return, you will start . . .
#2 Living with sweet internal PEACE; Diligently
Verse 14,” Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace.” In the midst of an unfair, chaotic, brutal, sin-saturated world, which causes most people to live in fear, beloved believers can uniquely live saturated in true peace. This peace will banish worry, destroy fear, and remove anxiety over circumstances. When you look for His soon return to end all the evil, terminate all injustice, stop all foolishness and finish all worldly temptations, believers will live more and more in peace.
As you live in holiness and godliness, your assurance of salvation grows deep and confidence in God’s love, control and wisdom will increasingly change the way you think so that you can live with internal peace. As you draw closer to Christ through His Word, through prayer, and through trials, you will experience more of Paul’s promise to the Philippians. In Philippians 4:6 to 7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As you daily hope for Christ’s return, you will begin . . .
#3 Living for Christ-like PURITY; Genuinely
Verse 14 ends with “spotless and blameless”–these qualities are in contrast to the false teachers who are not spotless but stains, and not blameless but blemishes. Spotless describes Christian character. And blameless describes Christian reputation. The promise of Christ’s return serves as a powerful motivation for all believers to live Christlike in character and above reproach in reputation. Philippians 2:15, “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
We pursue purity to be ready for the judgment of believers–to glorify God by living like the pure and holy Christ, our Savior. To be continually ready for Christ to rapture you at any moment. And to demonstrate the transforming power of the Gospel to those enslaved to sin. Because looking for His return will also change you to be . . .
#4 Living for Faithful Gospel PROCLAMATION; Evangelistically
While you long for Christ, believers will not grow idle or isolated from people—but they’ll pursue their spiritual responsibilities to share the Gospel while they have opportunity. Verse 15, “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” Here Peter commands his readers to regard the Lord’s patience as a charge to you–to continue to share the Gospel and plead with sinners to repent. As God remains patient during this season of mercy, you will buy up every opportunity to explain the only way of salvation.
The Lord only delays His return in order to save the remainder of His elect. which creates for us a window of responsibility and opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. When you live each day awaiting Christ’s return, you live each day knowing that the Lord’s patience in coming back is because He’s waiting for His chosen to come to salvation. Christ will not come back until every person whom God has chosen is saved. If you live in the reality of Christ’s soon return, you’ll share the Gospel with the lost. Believers are exhorted over fifty times to be ready for the Second Coming. In order to be ready, Peter calls his readers to be . . .
#5 Living for Doctrinal CLARITY; Wisely
In verses 15b to 16 is where Peter calls for a second opinion from the apostle Paul on the truth about all the eschatological events of the Day of the Lord. Then verse 17, Peter commands his readers to guard against the errant ideas of the false teachers. To give clear meaning to verses 15 to 17, allow me to read them in outline form.
First The CORROBORATER “just as also our beloved brother Paul,”
Second The CALLING “according to the wisdom given him”
Third The CORRESPONDENCES “wrote to you 16as also in all his letters”
Fourth The COMING “speaking in them of these things”
1 DIFFICULT “in which are some things hard to understand”
2 DISTORTED “which the untaught and unstable distort”
3 DEADLY “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures”
4 DESTROYED “to their own destruction”
Fifth The CONSCIENTIOUS “17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard”
Sixth The COUNTERACT “so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness”
You have got to love Peter–he calls Paul as a witness to support the Second Coming of Christ.
First The CORROBORATER is Paul Verse 15, “just as also our beloved brother Paul”
This is a big deal. Paul is affirmed by Peter as a beloved, very much loved brother in Christ. Paul definitely excelled beyond Peter in many ways–churches started, New Testament inspired letters written, more impactful in the much larger Gentile world. Paul definitely wrote more about the end times events than Peter. And even though Peter had lived with Christ and had seen the glorified Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, Paul had been to the third heaven and back. Yet Peter affirms Paul and uses Paul as a corroborator of truth with the Second Coming.
But maybe the sweetest part of Peter using Paul as a witness to support Christ’s return is the fact that at the beginning of the New Testament era, Peter was still working through His own bigotries towards Gentile Christians, and Paul confronted him on it in Galatians 2:11 to 13. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.”
That was twenty years ago–Peter was confronted by Paul when he wrongly refused to eat with the Gentile Christians. As a primary spokesman for the Early Church, Peter was undoubtedly embarrassed by Paul’s very public rebuke. That would be tough to bear. Nevertheless, Peter graciously accepted the rebuke and responded with repentance. Peter’s respect for Paul was undiminished and now proven here. Regardless of the pointed confrontation, Peter here calls his confronter beloved brother Paul in verse 15.
Peter is saying, “Paul and I are together on this. We believe the same. If you trust me, you can trust Paul–and if you trust Paul, you can trust me. If you believe my writings, you can believe Paul’s. And if you believe Paul’s writings, you can believe mine.” Why? Paul had a unique . . .
Second The CALLING Verse 15, “according to the wisdom given him”
This participle given informs you the wisdom was not Paul’s, but God’s gift to Paul. The word given here means gift or present–and the supernatural wisdom used here is knowledge and experience combined with common sense and insight. God’s calling in Paul’s life was to impart the wisdom of God about salvation, Gods sovereignty and evangelism at the beginning of verse 15.
And God’s wisdom was given to Paul in order for him to clearly teach on the many different aspects of the end times events, like the Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming and Kingdom of Christ. That calling also made Paul not only a beloved brother, but a fellow apostle of Christ who was uniquely inspired as a writer of Scripture to teach these truths.
Third The COMMUNICATION Verse 15, “wrote to you, 16aas also in all his letters”
Peter is appealing to Paul’s inspired letters for support. Peter is saying Paul has written the same things I’m writing you. The apostles, inspired by God to record God’s Word, write the same things because it is God the Holy Spirit who is the author through each apostle. No matter if it is from inspired Peter or inspired Paul, it will be God’s unified revelation.
This reminds Peter’s churches to reject what the false teachers say and to remember what Paul wrote to them, according to the wisdom God gave Paul. Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, explains God’s plan for humanity now and in the future. In verse 15, Peter uses a general verb for wrote, affirming Paul’s writing is fact. It’s interesting that Peter uses a verb that does not specify a particular Pauline letter or letters. Instead, Peter gives a general endorsement for Paul’s inspired writings, which prove the divine origin of Paul’s letters as God’s revelation.
Peter says, “Listen churches—Paul, inspired by God, wrote the same things I wrote about Christ’s Second Coming.” It seems obvious from this context that Peter sent his letter, 2 Peter, to the same regions of Asia Minor as his first epistle. If so, his readers were most likely familiar with several of Paul’s letters, since Paul wrote many of his letters to that same area, like Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians.
So Peter’s reference to all of Paul’s letters suggests that Peter’s audience was familiar with much of Paul’s inspired writing. Because Paul was speaking in his letters of these same things (salvation and end time events), it makes sense that Peter would cite Paul’s works here. Which is exactly what Paul did–he wrote about Christ’s Second . . .
Fourth The COMING Verse 16b, “speaking in them of these things”
There is some debate as to what “these things” is referring to–is it referring to the beginning of verse 15 about God’s patience in bringing salvation to His chosen ones? Or is “these things” referring to all the eschatological truths of the end times? Both are true of Paul, but it seems Peter is referencing the end times events which are being distorted by the false teachers.
When Peter says Paul is speaking–that’s the ongoing action of teaching and writing about these end times truths which are the same truths Peter teaches. But that doesn’t mean everything Paul taught or wrote was immediately understood–there were some truths which were . . .
A DIFFICULT Verse 16c, “in which are some things hard to understand”
With Paul’s writings about the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ, and the glories of eternity, Peter acknowledged there are some truths which Paul wrote that are hard to understand. The Greek word for hard to understand carries the connotation of difficult to explain or difficult to interpret. By using this term, Peter was not implying that Paul’s teachings are impossible to understand–they were just, at times, difficult to understand.
This is why there is additional difficulty interpreting the Rapture of the Church, the coming antichrist, the return of Christ in judgment, and the glories of Heaven to follow. Peter is simply recognizing that some of the written revelation, especially the prophetic passages, are more complex than others. Because Paul was so detailed about the end times, and some of his teaching contained some difficult, but not impossible, passages to interpret–the false teachers purposely distorted them to make them say what they wanted.
B DISTORTED Verse 16d, “which the untaught and unstable distort”
The false teachers purposely distorted the end time passages to make them say what they wanted, and not what God intended to say. The original meaning was lost. The author’s intended meaning was manipulated. They made the Bible say what they manipulated it to communicate and did not teach what God meant. The complexities of some of the end time passages opened the door for the untaught and unstable, the false teachers, to distort what Paul taught about the future.
Untaught describes a lack of information. Unstable points to a faulty spiritual character. And what these ignorant and unscrupulous false Christian teachers did was to, verse 16, distort the Bible. Distort speaks of wrenching someone’s body on a torture rack. It vividly pictures how false teachers manipulate certain prophetic issues, torturing the Word to confuse the weak Christian and deceive the false Christian. Not only do they twist and torture the end times passages, but they are . . .
C DEADLY Verse 16e, “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures”
The false teachers didn’t stop with prophetic passages–they also tortured the rest of the Bible, including the biblical teaching on God’s law, repentance, justification by faith, preferential issues, freedom, and sanctification. Notice the fact that Peter placed Paul’s writings on a par with the rest of the Scriptures–clearly affirming that what Paul wrote was divinely inspired truth. Verse 16 here proves the inspiration of Scripture, where God used his chosen apostles to record His Word.
The word translated Scriptures, “the rest of the Scriptures,” is graphas, from the verb to write, which occurs about 180 times in the New Testament, of which half refer to the Bible–the written Word. The noun graphē is used about 50 times, exclusively of Old Testament and New Testament Scripture. Peter is talking about the Bible here.
Plus, you learn from verse 16e, that the New Testament apostles were aware they spoke and wrote the Word of God. Peter realized the New Testament writers brought the divine truth that completed the Bible. Paul tells us he knew he was writing God’s written, perfect, living Word in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” The apostles knew when it was inspired.
Never forget, beloved—the Scriptures are the tool the Spirit of God uses to save. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” and to sanctify, John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Because the Scripture is required for salvation and sanctification; because only the Bible can rescue you off the path to Hell and to Heaven–then it is absolutely essential that the Word of God not be distorted. But this is exactly what the false teachers did to all the doctrines of the Bible. Therefore they will be . . .
D DESTROYED Verse 16f, “to their own destruction”
By distorting the Scriptures, the false teachers were securing their own destruction as well as certifying the spiritual demise of their followers. What happens then, to those who blindly twist the Scriptures? They will be, verse 16, destroyed. Peter is not describing the fate of those Christians who have difficulty interpreting the Word of God. No, Peter is describing the false teachers who “torture” the Word in order to support their false doctrines. They are led to their own destruction.
The word destruction is repeated six times in 2 Peter. The King James Version translates it as damnable, pernicious, and perdition, as well as destruction. Destruction means the rejection of eternal life, which results in eternal death. There are severe warnings in God’s Word towards those who are loose and fast with the Bible. You are never to make it say what you want–only what God meant in its original context.
When you are listening to someone teach the Bible and you say, “I have never seen that there before”–most often it is because it isn’t there. Be warned–those who torture the Scriptures now will be tortured for eternity. The false teachers were securing their own destruction as well as the spiritual ruin of their followers. That is why all of you must become . . .
Fifth The CONSCIENTIOUS Verse 17a, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard”
Guard yourself—literally, be constantly guarding yourself. Peter’s much-loved believers already knew what the truth was—”knowing this beforehand.” They heard God’s Word from Paul and from Peter. They had heard and read God’s Word from God’s apostles. But Peter warned them that knowledge alone was not sufficient protection. They had to be on their guard–they had to be alert.
It is easy for people who have a knowledge of the Bible to grow overconfident and to forget the warning of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” By twisting the Scriptures, the false teachers were assuring their own destruction and leading those they taught to the same annihilation. That’s why Peter warns his beloved readers beforehand, so they might be on their guard against the error of such unprincipled men–how?
Sixth The COUNTERACT Verse 17b, “So that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness”
Along with Peter’s warning to guard, believers must not allow themselves to be carried away by the lies of the false teachers. Rather, they must be alert and discerning lest they be led astray, carried away by error, and fall from their own steadfastness. Unprincipled men are literally teachers who are morally corrupt. In this age where we accept everyone, Peter tells his churches and ours, you cannot embrace those who live in error or teach error. There is no communion between truth and error. The false teachers live in error and Christians live in the sphere of truth. You must not be accepting of those in the Church who embrace or teach error.
Now you know true Christians cannot fall from salvation and be lost, but they can fall from their “own steadfastness”. Steadfastness means to lose your firm footing–it is the opposite of being stable. Peter’s concern was not that his readers would lose their salvation, but that they might slip from doctrinal stability and, catch this, lose their confidence in the truth. The stability of a Christian comes from his trust in the Bible, his knowledge of God’s Word and sound doctrine, and his ability to use God’s Word in everyday life.
Don’t be the make-believer who falls away in 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
TAKE this HOME:
A Is the Bible your AUTHORITY?
You must strive for doctrinal clarity. In these verses, Peter establishes that God’s Word has authority over anything anyone would say or teach. Is the Word of God your main reference for all decisions? Is the Bible what you use to determine your priorities? Are the Scriptures what you use to guide your parenting?
I honestly believe most Christian parents are winging it by following what their parents did or didn’t do and what they pick up from others that seems to work, but not actually following the Scripture on spanking, on discipline, on consequences, on accepting responsibility, on truly discipling your kids. The only hope you have in parenting is for you parents to live the Bible as your absolute authority and to teach your children to follow its teachings as written for the rest of their lives. You need to do what the Bible says.
B Don’t harmonize truth with ERROR
“I would never!” Yet it is happening all around us. Hopefully this is not you. A six literal 24-hour consecutive day creation is being mixed with evolutionary ideas. The woman’s role is being ignored and the distinction of the sexes blurred. The details of the Day of the Lord are being cooked into a soup no one can understand. Singles are not supposed to be irresponsible but undistracted in their devotion to Christ. Marrieds are not called to tolerate each other, but to be one in Christ.
Christians don’t merely attend church, but are interconnected to the church family. Believers are not complainers, but those who “rejoice always, in everything give thanks.” God’s sovereignty is never an excuse not to pray, not to serve and not to give. Do not mix truth with error.
C Be thankful for the WORD OF GOD
When Peter actually wrote 2 Peter, it is possible Paul’s epistles had already been collected so people had access to much of God’s Word. But you here today have the completed canon–both Old and New Testaments. Thank Him for revealing His will, His plan, and His living words to you. Thank Him you can always turn to His truth to find comfort, wisdom and direction.
Thank Christ that the words you read in your Bible are His very words–the living words of the One who is Lord, who is in control, who loves you and is all-wise. Thank your Lord for the Scriptures that thousands have died for (burned at the stake) so that you could have it in your hands today.
D Remember, His genuine children love His TRUTH
His truth is what saves you. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” If you don’t love the truth, then the Holy Spirit, called the Spirit of Truth, is not in you. That means you are not His child. If you love Christ, you will love what He says. First John 4:6, “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” You will want to listen to, follow and obey God’s Word. Today, do you need to cry out to Christ to give you a new heart that loves His truth? Let’s pray.