Instruction to the church scattered
From Peter, the apostle to Jewish Christians
Later tradition credits this letter to Peter—one of “the twelve,” an eyewitness to much of Jesus’ public ministry, and the same disciple who (according to tradition) when sentenced to die requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same way his Lord did.
Initially there were questions about this letter, so it was one of the last letters accepted and made part of the New Testament canon. Peter writes this second letter to the same churches he addresses in 1 Peter. But the address here is more generic, which suggests that he expects this letter to be read broadly to anyone who shares his faith in Jesus.
Life requirements for any true believer
Peter begins by celebrating God’s power and the true knowledge of God, which leads to salvation. For him salvation consists of escaping the corruption that characterizes this world and sharing in God’s very nature.
But believers must cooperate with God’s work in them in order to live fully into the promises God has for those who believe. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, godliness, and love: these are the characteristics that form the life of any true believer.
At the heart of the letter is a warning against the growing influence of false teachers who have infiltrated the churches. With their greed, sensuality, arrogance, and hatred for authority, these false believers are undermining the church. Peter looks back over Jewish history and notices that God did not spare the disobedient in the past, so God’s judgment on the present false teachers is sure.
Some of the false teachers are mocking the hope that Jesus will return again, but Peter assures his audience that any delay in Jesus’ return has to do with God’s patience: He wishes for all to change their ways and enter the Kingdom. The day of the Lord will come, he writes, like a thief in the night, and the old world will give way to a new world as only God can create it.
2 Peter 1:5
God took the first step to rescue us from this corrupt world. He has granted us His power, revealed to us true knowledge, and spoken to us great promises. He has done all this for a reason: that we might participate in His own nature and reflect His own life.
But we are not passive observers of God’s saving actions. We must receive His grace, grow in knowledge, and join Him in this work of redemption.
2 Peter 2:10
Is God different in the New Testament from what He is in the First Testament? In the First Testament, God seems prone to judgment; but some feel God is more concerned about love in the New Testament.
However, the central and most repeated affirmation about God’s character in the First Testament is that He is gracious and compassionate (Exodus 34:6–7). And the New Testament clearly does not ignore the idea of God’s judgment, as this text shows. His judgment will come, but it is delayed by God’s patient mercy.
2 Peter 3:9
Scoffers use the delay in His second coming to question if He is going to return at all. Peter responds by saying that God’s perspective on time is not like ours. What seems long from a finite, human perspective is incredibly short from an eternal one. Peter also describes how God is not slow, but patient.
God wants to allow the time needed for as many sinners as possible to turn from their sinful ways. Unlike some depictions of God as vindictive and enjoying inflicting punishment on people, the God we see here desires that all be saved and not destroyed. If we had true spiritual insight, we would not be amazed by the severity of eternal judgment but by the intensity of God’s mercy.