2 Peter 3

1 Peter indicates that this is the second letter he has written to this group of people. This might indeed refer to 1 Peter, but some feel it refers to another letter, since it is not clear that the recipients are the same nor would they classify 1 Peter as a reminder. It would not be surprising to have lost several of letters from the apostles during that time.

Peter addresses the people as "beloved," indicating his personal attachment to them.

Peter desire is that their sincere minds would be "awakened." The English word for sincere comes from the Latin phrase "without wax." The original Greek word means "judged by sunlight." It is fortuitous that the two come together here. In those days, some pottery dealers would fill cracks in pottery with wax. The only way a buyer could detect this was to hold the article up to the sunlight and see if any light would shine through it. Thus, to pass such a test, it was considered "pure" and without hidden weaknesses.

2 There are two broad areas of teaching that Peter wants his readers to remember. The first is the Old Testament prophets. In our day, it is common for Christians to downplay the importance of the Old Testament. However, the New draws its meaning and foundation from the Old. The words of the prophets still have authority, and should not be ignored. The second area of remembrance is to the commandments of Jesus, which the apostles, being eyewitnesses, taught people all over the world. Just as the Old Testament prophets had authority based on their speaking God's word, so too did the apostles, who spoke Jesus' words.
3 Peter specifically wanted them to keep in mind that in the time span between the First and Second Coming, many will mock Christianity. He might be referring to Isa 5:19. Obviously, this would refer to those who ridicule Christians and their beliefs, but also would include the false teachers that were dealt with at length in the previous chapter. The people who mock God and Christians are likely to be driven by their own ideas and passions rather than seeking the truth that God provides.
4 Mockers scoff at the prophecies of Jesus' return. Now, some 2000 years after His time, this question seems to add justification to their disbelief. Science now has indoctrinated the world with the theory of uniformitarianism, that is, that the same physical laws that exist in the present can be used to explain the past and will continue to work the same way in the future. There is no room for God or spiritual reality in this theory. It is a fact that we see very few of the miracles performed by Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets done today. The Old Testament patriarchs and prophets have lived and died, and regardless of their beliefs about when the End would be, history has managed to move on. Even after Christ, several have mistakenly placed a date for the Last Day and have been proven wrong. The hysteria these people caused opened Christianity to much ridicule. We have already endured two World Wars and innumerable local wars, yet these have not proven to be signs for the approaching Judgment Day. Everything seems to continue as it has from the creation, and it seems that Jesus will never return.
5 However, those who hold to the theory of uniformitarianism either cannot or will not see that events on earth have not always been the same. In the beginning, it was the power of God's word, not the forces of nature, which made the universe.

It is not exactly clear what Peter is alluding to with the phrase "the heavens existed long ago." He could be referring to the formation of the atmosphere on Day 2 of Creation, or possibly the spiritual realm of God, which existed long before the physical universe.

While naturalists assume that Earth congealed from dust into a molten mass that eventually hardened and later was covered with water, Peter affirms the Genesis 1 account that God first made the planet covered with water and then caused the dry land to appear out of it on Day 3. The wording seems to indicate that waters were the building blocks God used to create everything. At the very least, Peter is indicating the significant role of water during Creation.

While naturalists reject the notion of a deity creating the universe, there are other scientists who recognize there that many things we see whose origin can not be explained in terms of natural forces. Yet, because naturalists are highly regarded in the world, several Christian groups have unnecessarily accepted their teachings and ruined their own doctrines.

6 The next significant worldwide event was the Flood. God destroyed most of the life on the Earth using water, the same substance that had played such a significant role during Creation. The worldwide dispersion of water-laid fossils remains as an obvious testament of this judgment, but uniformitarian naturalists attempt to explain these formations in terms of slow and natural phenomena. As of yet, no natural model has been developed to explain the vast fossil beds that exist. Many naturalists now grudgingly admit that only catastrophic events could account for the largest fossil beds, but they are still far away from accepting the global flooding event recorded in the Bible. Their worldview prevents them from believe that a deity exists or would have the power to intervene in history in such a way.
7 God has promised that there will be another global judgment. This one will not be with water, but fire. It will happen at His command, just as Creation did. Like the Flood, it will not be a natural phenomenon. Currently, He is keeping everything as it is until the right moment.

The use of "heavens" here seems to refer to the Earth's atmosphere, and possibly even space, which has implications for how verse 5, which uses the same word, is interpreted.

This judgment by fire will be for judging the world, specifically to destroy those people who refused to believe in God. The Great White Throne Judgment, predicted in Rev 20:11-15, is an obvious illustration of how fire will play a significant and eternal role to the ungodly. For the physical universe, it is not impossible to believe that God will melt it completely (Amos 9:5), wiping out the works of men, and possibly even the reminders of the Flood, in order to recreate the world as He originally intended (Rev 21:1).

Those false teachers who deny that Creation happened consequently deny accountability to God. When they deny the Flood, they lose the fear of judgment. It makes both them and their followers feel more comfortable when they do not believe that there are no rules or consequences. It also naturally leads to lives of sin, as described in chapter 2. However, the denial of the past will not prevent the events of the future. Those who shape their beliefs around naturalist speculations rather than the word of God will likewise be swept away in their unbelief.

8 Part of the scoffer's complaint in verse 4 is that long periods have passed. However, that is a very shortsighted perspective. Our sense of time as humans is liner and has a single direction - forward. We also have limited capacity to observe and assess the world around us, and certainly a limited lifespan in these mortal bodies in which to do it. God, however, is not limited by space or time since He is both infinite and eternal. He can already see the eternal future. Peter's specific point here is that God is unbound by time. It is as if He could take 1000 years to examine every aspect of one day, or could pass by 1000 years with little notice if He so desired. Whether one hopes that Christ comes in his lifetime or feels that He will never appear, God has His own schedule. It would be a fallacy to argue that because one of God's promises has not been fulfilled yet that it never will be. When Jesus said He would return soon, it is by His standard of time, not ours (Rev 22:20). This is a point that the wicked are ignorant of, but Christians should understand it.

Some people try to use this verse to argue that the days of Creation in Gen 1 may not have been 24 hour days. The phrase "is like" clearly indicates that this is a simile. In addition, the wording in Gen 1 is so clear that if we cannot understand the plain reading then there is little point in trying to understand anything. See that section for further commentary.

9 It is for the sake of the people of the world that Jesus is being "slow" about returning. God may have taken six days to create the world, but He has allowed around 2000 years at this point to redeem people in it. Why should anyone be so eager for the end to come yet anyway? For the wicked, it would mean that their punishment would be sooner. For the Christian, it would mean we could enjoy God's full presence sooner, but with less time to spread the Good News in the hopes that more people will be saved. To have as many people as possible in heaven is God's greatest desire. We do not know at what point His plan will be complete and He will say, "enough" and wipe out the evil in this world, although we can be assured that it will be after the offer of salvation has been given to every language, tribe, and nation (Mat 24:14, Rev 5:9). Until then, He is patiently calling everyone to turn to Him.
10 People know that their homes could become the target of thieves, but robbers do not tell when and where they will strike Similarly, only God the Father knows exactly when He will send Jesus back into the world. When it is time, God will destroy the entire surface of the earth with a loud fire.

It is unlikely that Peter understood what elements and atoms are as we know them know, but the wording of the verse definitely indicates that he knew that the rudimentary building blocks of all things would be "dissolved" by the great fire. Interpreting this is modern language, we might say that God will ionize the surface of the earth. This process would break every chemical bond, essentially destroying every plant, animal, rock, and everything people have made. Lightning is a very narrow strip of ionization that happens in the atmosphere. Considering the noise that one stroke of lightning produces, can we even imagine how loud it will be when the entire atmosphere and surface of the earth is subject to ionization?

11 Understanding how the world will end should influence a Christian's perspective. Will we neglect matters of eternal spiritual significance to attain material possessions that will not last? No. Instead, this knowledge should spur our interest in living our lives the way God wants us to. It is not wrong to have possessions, but they should never have more importance in our lives than our faith in God. We should never be so greedy for wealth that we are willing to sin to attain it. Those who have wealth should not hoard it, but rather use what they have to support ministries that encourage people to know God and grow in faith.
12 The Christian looks forward to the End with eager anticipation, not because of the destruction, but because God will remake the world into a better place, as is emphasized in the next verse. The destruction of the heavens and earth is a consequence of this event because every trace of evil is to be wiped out.
13 God has promised that He will make a new heaven and earth. It will not be affected by evil as the world is today, but instead will be filled with righteousness. The sense of the original language is that righteousness will dwell there permanently.
14 This hope should inspire us to live in peace with God and one another. It takes much effort to live in the moral manner He desires because we often struggle with our cravings as we face the many temptations of this world.
15 We are not to consider the "delay" of the Second Coming as evidence that it will not happen, but rather proof that God desires that as many are saved as possible by giving ample time for people to turn to Him.

Peter acknowledges that his audience was familiar with the writings of Paul, as he was. Paul had also written about God's patience towards us, and Peter was corroborating his teaching. The Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians were likely people who would read letters from these two apostles. It is obvious that Peter has respect for Paul and even calls him a beloved brother.

16 Peter admits that some of Paul's writings are hard to understand. Paul was well educated in the Scriptures and Jewish traditions, so at times he made associations and spoke at a level that was difficult for the less educated to comprehend. In addition, some of the topics Paul discussed were so metaphysical, that those who were less in touch with their spiritual side would have no idea what Paul was trying to get across. Despite this, Peter indicates that all of Paul's letters are filled with wisdom and should be regarded as Scripture-quality, inspired work. One of the problems with Paul's writings is that they can be so obscure at times that some will interpret them however they please. Those who wanted to exploit others in the church would twist some of Paul's teachings to their own advantage rather to the advantage of the Church. By believing their own distorted interpretation of Scripture, a false teacher is more likely to bring destruction on himself and his followers rather than salvation. Barnes points out rightly that not everyone who reads and attempts to interpret the Bible is necessarily saved. Certainly, most parts of the Scriptures are clearly understandable, but others require the help of the Holy Spirit to correctly interpret them.
17 Peter warns his beloved audience about this so that they will be aware that not everyone who claims to be a Bible interpreter necessarily does so correctly. He wants them to remain true to their faith in Christ and not fall into error by practicing the things a false teacher might tell them. These false teachers are unprincipled, seeking selfish desires rather than the good of their followers. Since the Christians Peter is addressing already know the truth, they can choose to stay away from those who preach things contrary to it.
18 Finally, Peter encourages his readers to continuously grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Grace is the unmerited favor of God, which certainly allows room to grow and explore. Knowledge here means a deeper understanding. Faith is not meant to be blind. It is important when becoming a Christian to understand the basic principles, but as we continue to experience life in relationship with Christ we should naturally come to understand Him more and more. The titles Peter uses remind us that Jesus is Lord, the rightful ruler over our lives; Savior, the one who saves us from the consequences of sin; and Christ, having divine authority to rule.

Peter ends with a benediction acknowledging that Jesus shares God's glory for all eternity.