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In 2Peter 3:13 Peter states:

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

This reminder is set in the context of delayed expectations: the promised return of Jesus Christ has not yet occurred, and because of this unbelievers are scornful and believers plagued with doubts.

In this context Peter gives us three points of encouragement:

Scoffers are inevitable, but God’s promise is sure
There will always be people who mock God’s promise because of their unbelief. Their scorn arises from their ignorance of God and of his powerful working in the past and his gracious working in the present. However, the very thing that causes their mockery – the non-event of the promised return of Christ – is evidence not of God’s powerlessness and inability to keep his word, but of his purpose and his patience because of which he deliberately delays Christ’s coming to enable more people to come to repentance and faith. The day of Christ’s return will come. It will be a day of final judgement. From that day onwards there will be no more opportunity for repentance. Thank God that he did delay that day long enough for you to repent – such is his grace – his power, his purpose, his patience active for you.  [2Peter 3:3-10,15].

Because of their deliberate rejection of the word of the Lord concerning his return and the accompanying judgement and concerning the past judgement at the time of Noah, these scoffers follow ‘their own evil desires’. They see no point in believing God’s promises and no point in believing God’s commands.

What kind of people ought you to be?
The return of Christ, and with it the destruction of the present heaven and earth and establishment of the new heaven and the new earth, is certain. Because of this certainty Peter asks the question ‘What kind of people ought you to be?’ and gives us the answer: ‘You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming’ [3:11,12]; ‘… since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ [3:14].

In this the life of a believer should stand in stark contrast to the deliberately chosen lifestyle of the unbelieving scoffers. The delay in Christ’s return should never make us slack in our faith and obedience; rather, its certainty should make us deliberately diligent in our faith and obedience. [See also 2Peter 1:3-11, where this deliberate diligence is strongly commanded.]

Be on your guard
Peter has spent the whole of his second chapter exposing false teachers within the church. This chapter, and Peter’s warning in 3:17-18, make it almost certain that the ‘scoffers’ referred to in 3:3-4 are not unbelievers outside the visible church but unbelievers inside the visible church.

The return of Christ and the ‘new heaven and new earth’ are certain. They are written irrevocably in the purpose and the Word of God. Because of that utter certainty we must all be on our guard so that we will ‘not be carried away by the error of lawless men’ [3:17]. These false teachers within the church:

Secretly introduce destructive heresies [2:1]
Deny the sovereign Lord [2:1]
Impact many [2:2]
Bring the way of truth into disrepute [2:2]
Exploit believers with made up ‘stories’ [2:3]
Follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority [2:10]
Are bold and arrogant [2:10]
Mouth empty, boastful words that entice immature believers away from the truth [2:17-19].

Because we are looking forward with sure and certain knowledge to the new heaven and the new earth, the very certainty of this new heaven and new earth should not only motivate us to be careful how we live [3:11-14] but also motivate us to be on our guard against any teachers who would carry us away into error [3:17]. Rather than be deceived into becoming slack and believing error we should ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ [3:18] as we wait with eager expectation for his coming and for the new heaven and the new earth.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012, 2019