V.1, 2. This is the second Epistle which I write to you, beloved, in which I stir up your pure minds to remembrance, that ye may think upon the word which was said to you before by the holy prophets, and upon our command, who are Apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Here St. Peter comes to us again, and warns us in this chapter to be prepared, and look every moment for the last day. And so he says in the first of it, that he has written this Epistle, not in order to lay down a ground of faith, which he had done before, but to awaken, remind, arrest, and urge them not to forget the same, and to abide in the clear view and understanding which they have of a true christian life. For it is the preacher's office, as we have said often, not only to teach, but also continually to admonish and restrain. For since our flesh and blood ever clings to us, God's word must be stronger in us, that we may not give room to the flesh, but strive against it, and gain the upper hand of it.
V.3, 4. And know, first of all, that in the last days there shall come scoffers who walk after their own lusts, and say, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain as from the beginning of creation. Yet are men swayed hither and thither by a book concerning Antichrist, wherein it is written that the people before the last day shall fall into such error that they shall say, there is no God, and shall scoff at all that is preached of Christ and the last day. That is true, whencesoever it has been taken. But we are not so to understand it as that the whole world shall say and hold such things, but the greater part. For that time is even now at hand, and shall prevail yet more when the Gospel shall come down among the people, when the proud ones shall lift themselves up, and the secrets of many hearts break forth, which are now hidden and unknown. There have even already been many who have altogether rejected the idea of the coming of the last day.
Of such scoffers St. Peter here warns us, and tells us of them beforehand, that they must come, and rush into this hazard and live as they list. At Rome and in Italy this word is now at length fulfilled, and they who come thence, bring such errors also forth with them; for just as they have a long time perplexed themselves therein, so, also, must they perplex the people by the same means. And even though the last day were now before the door, such people must come abroad. So shall be fulfilled that which Christ says, Mat. xxiv.: |Just as it was in the time of Noah, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of Man; for as they were in the days before the deluge, they ate, they drank, they married and were given in marriage, even to the day when Noah entered into the ark, and they knew it not till the flood came and swallowed them all; so, also, shall the coming of the Son of Man be.| Also, |The Son of Man shall come at an hour when ye think not.| Also, Luke xxi.: |This day shall come as a snare, upon all that dwell upon the earth.| And once more, Luke xvii.: |As the lightning lightens over us from heaven, and shines upon all that is under the heaven, so shall the Son of Man be in His day,| -- that is, so quick and unforeseen and sudden shall He break in upon it, while the world shall be living above all, for itself first, and shall throw God's word to the winds.
Therefore this shall be a sign of the last day that it is near, when the people shall live as they list, according to all their lusts, and such talk goes about among them as this: |Where is the promise of his coming? the world has stood so long and continued to abide, is it now for the first time to be otherwise?| Thus Peter warns us that we should not be surprised, and that we have a sure sign that the day will soon come. -- It follows, further:
V.5, 6. But this in their obstinacy they will not know, that the heavens of old, besides the earth standing out of the water and in the water, were (made) by God's word, yet through the same, was the world in its time destroyed by the flood. Such people they are, he says, as show not so much diligence as to read the Scripture, but obstinately refuse to think and be aware that so also it was of old, when Noah built the ark; the world which stood and was made through the water and in the water, was destroyed by water, and the people were yet so safe and secure that they thought, surely there is no danger, -- yet they were all alike destroyed by water. As though he should say, -- if God has for once destroyed the world by water, and shown by an example that he can sink it, how much more will he do it now that he has promised to do it.
But here St. Peter speaks somewhat particularly of the creation. The heaven and the earth stood fast aforetime; they were made of water and stood in the water, by the word of God. Heaven and earth have a beginning; they have not been forever; the heaven was made from the water, and there was water above and beneath, -- but the earth is made and stands in the water, as Moses writes, whom St. Peter here quotes. All is sustained by God's word, as it also was made by the same, for it is not their nature so to stand. Therefore if God did not sustain it, it must all soon fall down and sink into the water. For God spoke a word of power when he said, |let the waters under the heavens gather themselves into a separate place, that the dry land may be seen;| that is, let the water put itself aside and give room for the earth to come forth, whereon man might dwell, -- yet naturally the waters should spread themselves over the earth. Therefore this is, at the present day, one of the greatest miracles that God works.
Now St. Peter would say this: so obstinate and stupid are these scoffers, that they will not do honor to the Holy Spirit, though they read how God holds up the earth in the water, whence they should be convinced that all stands in the hands of God. Therefore, since God at that time drowned the earth, so he will deal with us even yet again. For that example should certainly convince us that, as in that very case he has not lied, so again he will not lie.
V.7. But the heaven which yet is, and the earth, are by his word sustained, that they be reserved for fire in the day of Judgment and condemnation of ungodly men. At that time, when God destroyed the world by a flood, the water pressed down from above, up from beneath and from all sides, so that nothing could be seen but water only; because the earth, as its nature was, must be swallowed up in the water. But now he has promised, and given the rainbow for a sign in heaven, that he will no more destroy the world by water. Therefore he will destroy it and let it perish by fire, so that here it shall be fire only, as there it was water only. Of which St. Paul, II. Thes. i., says: |When now the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, together with the angels of his power, and with flaming fire,| etc. So I. Cor. iii.: |Every one's work shall be revealed; the day of the Lord shall make it clear, which shall be revealed with fire.| So when the last day breaks and bursts in on the world, it will in a moment be fire only; what is in heaven and in earth shall be turned to dust and ashes, and all things must be changed by fire, as that change took place by water. This shall be a sign that God will not lie so long as He has left that for a sign.
V.8-10. But of this one thing, beloved, be ye not ignorant; that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but he is long-suffering toward you, and wills not that any one should perish, but that all should come to repentance; but the Day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, but the elements shall be melted with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. With these words St. Peter meets those of whom he has just spoken, who say: |The Apostles have said much about the Last Day coming quickly, -- and yet so long a time is past, and still all continues as heretofore.| And he has quoted this passage from Moses, in the lxxxix. Ps., where he says: |A thousand years are in thine eyes as yesterday, when it is past.| This is the scope of it.
There are two ways of viewing things, -- one for God, the other for the world. So also this present life and that to come, are twofold. This life cannot be that, since none can reach that but by death, -- that is, by ceasing from this life. This life is just to eat, drink, sleep, endure, bring up children, etc., in which all moves on successively, hours, day, year, one after another: if you wish now to apprehend that life, you must banish out of your mind the course of this present life; you must not think that you can so apprehend it, where it will all be one day, one hour, one moment.
Since then in God's sight there is no reckoning of time, a thousand years must be before him, as it were, a day. Therefore the first man, Adam, is just as near to him as he who shall be last born before the last day. For God sees not time lengthwise but obliquely, just as when you look at right-angles to a long tree which lies before you, you can fix in your view both place and parts at once, -- a thing you cannot do if you only look at it lengthwise. We can, by our reason, look at time only according to its duration; we must begin to count from Adam, one year after another, even to the last day. But before God it is all in one heap; what is long with us is short with him, -- and again, here there is neither measure nor number. So when man dies, the body is buried and wastes away, lies in the earth and knows nothing; but when the first man rises up at the last day, he will think he has lain there scarcely an hour, while he will look about himself and become assured that so many people were born of him and have come after him, of whom he had no knowledge at all.
This, then, is St. Peter's meaning: the Lord does not delay his promise as some scoffers let themselves imagine, but is long-suffering; therefore should ye be prepared for the last day, -- for it will come soon enough to every one after his death, in that he will say, |lo! I have but just now died!| But it comes upon the world all too soon: when the people shall say, |there is peace, no danger threatens,| it shall break forth and come upon them, as St. Paul says, I. Thess. v. And with so great a noise shall the day tear its way and burst forth like a great storm, that in a moment must all be wasted.
V.11, 12. Since then all this must pass away, how careful should ye be in all holy conduct and a Godly life, that ye wait for and hasten to the coming of the day of the Lord. Since ye know this, that all must pass away, both heaven and earth, -- think how ye shall be prepared to meet this day, by a holy and godly life and conversation. For Peter describes this day as one that is to come even now, so that men should be prepared for it, to hope for it with joy, and even hasten to run to meet it, as that which sets us free from death, sin and hell.
V.12, 13. In which the heavens shall pass away by fire, and the elements shall be melted with fervent heat; but we look for a new heaven and a new earth, according to his promise, in which dwelleth righteousness. God has promised by the prophets, here and there, that he would create a new heaven and a new earth, -- as in Is. lxv., |Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein ye shall be happy, and shout and leap for joy.| So in xxx. |The appearance of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the splendor of the sun shall be seven times as bright, as though seven days were joined one into another;| and Christ says, Matt. xiii., |The righteous shall shine like the sun, in their Father's kingdom.| How that is to pass away we cannot know, except that the promise is, that such a heaven and earth are to be, wherein no sin, but righteousness only, and the children of God shall dwell; as also St. Paul says, Rom. viii., there shall be pure love, pure joy, and nothing but God's kingdom.
Here some may disquiet themselves as to whether the saints shall have their station in heaven or on earth. The text seems to imply that man shall dwell upon the earth, -- yet so that all heaven and earth shall be a paradise wherein God dwells, for God dwells not alone in heaven, but in all places, wherefore the elect shall be also even where He is.
V.14. Therefore, my beloved, since ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him without spot, and blameless, in peace. Since ye have escaped, he says, such misery, and come to so great joy, ye should suffer yourselves to be persuaded to despise willingly all that is upon the earth, and suffer cheerfully whatever duty requires. Therefore should ye be diligent, that ye may live a peaceful and blameless life.
V.15. And the long-suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ account for your salvation. In that He so spares, and delays, and does not come to speedy judgment, take account of this as designed for your benefit. He had good reason to be angry and to punish, yet out of His grace He does it not.
V.15, 16. As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom that has been given unto him has written, as he also in all his letters speaks thereof, in which are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they also do other Scriptures, to their own destruction. There St. Peter bears testimony for the Apostle Paul in respect to his doctrine, which shows plainly enough that this Epistle was written long after St. Paul's Epistles. And this is one of the passages which might be adduced to maintain that this Epistle is not St. Peter's, as also there was one before this in this chapter -- namely, where he says, |the Lord wills not that any should be lost, but that every one should give himself to repentance.| For it falls some little below the Apostolic spirit; still it is credible that it is none the less the Apostle's, for since herein, he is writing not of faith but of love, he lets himself down somewhat, as the manner of love is, inasmuch as it humbles itself toward its neighbor, just as faith rises above itself.
But he has yet seen that many unstable spirits wrested and perverted St. Paul in his words and doctrines, inasmuch as some things in his Epistles are hard to be understood, -- as when he speaks in this way, |that no one is justified by works, but by faith alone;| so, too, |the law is given to make sin more gross;| so, too, |where sin abounded, there grace much more abounds,| and more passages of the same sort. For when men hear such, then they say, if that is true, we will go on indolently, and do no good work, and so be righteous, as men even now say, that we forbid good works; for if one so perverts St. Paul's own words, what wonder is it that they should, in like manner, pervert ours?
V.17, 18. But ye, my beloved, since ye know this beforehand, beware for yourselves that ye be not led away by the error of the wicked likewise, and fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, now and forever. Amen. Since ye know, he says, all that has been said above, and see that many false teachers must come, who lead the world astray, and such scoffers as pervert the Scripture and will not understand it, take care of yourselves; guard against them with diligence, that ye fall not from the faith by doctrines of error; and grow, so as to become stronger from day to day by the steadfast practice and preaching of the word of God. Here observe how great care the Apostle shows for those who have come to believe, which urged him even to write these two Epistles, wherein is richly comprehended what a Christian should know, besides also that which is yet to come. May God give his grace, that we also may seize hold upon and retain it. Amen.