Notes on 2 Peter 3:8-18

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day (is) with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter is probably saying that God is not bound by time, as we are.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Here, “slack” and “slackness” could mean “careless” or “remiss”, per the dictionary definition, at

Peter is emphasizing that God is NOT careless, remiss, or anything else but very long-suffering. Paul used the same concept in 1 Corinthians 13:4 to describe love (“charity” in the KJV). Peter also said that the LORD is not willing that any should perish (compare John 3:16) but wants all people to “come to repentance”. Repentance is mentioned often in the New Testament: in fact, the first sermon of the New Testament era was based on “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand (see Matthew 3:2)!” Other Scriptures would include Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, 26:20; Rev. 3:19, to list a few. Any of the standard concordances will provide additional listings, as would Nave’s Topical Bible and other Bible study helps.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

The phrase, “The day of the LORD”, is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament. Reading the references, this does not seem to be a day of glad tidings. Here, Peter adds additional details that are not specifically mentioned elsewhere: the heavens passing away, the elements melting with fervent heat, and the earth plus all that’s on it being “burned up”.

Peter does not give a specific time when this event will take place—perhaps the Holy Spirit kept him from doing so?—but according to Revelation 21:1, written several years later, John “ saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away”. This most likely occurs after the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20. The heavens and earth ‘fled away”, but it is not recorded that either one of these was destroyed at that time.

11 (Seeing) then (that) all these things shall be dissolved, what manner (of persons) ought ye to be in (all) holy conversation and godliness,

This is another exhortation to all believers to live holy lives. “Conversation” here means way of living or lifestyle, very important to manage in view of the coming destruction of the earth and the universe.

Are we ready for that day to come?

12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

The “day of God” seems to be another way of expressing “the Day of the Lord”, comparing this verse with verse 10. Peter repeats the coming destruction of the earth. It is not certain what “hasting” means but one thing is clear: every day we live brings us one day closer to the Day of the Lord.

13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

This is most likely a reference to Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, where God promises a new heaven and earth!
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Peter gives another exhortation to godly living. He adds, “be diligent”, stating that each believer has the responsibility to do this.

15 And account (that) the longsuffering of our Lord (is) salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament and spoke of salvation in nearly every one of them. It is not clear what Peter meant when he said “Paul . .(wrote) unto you”, as Peter made no geographic references nor does he mention any names specifically. This may imply a period of time between 1 Peter and 2 Peter because Peter did not mention Paul or his letters, by name, at all, in 1 Peter.

16 As also in all (his) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as (they do) also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

From a human perspective, no one could truly understand Paul or his writings. The Holy Spirit gave Paul the words to speak and write (2 Tim. 3:16) but the “natural man” could not receive them (1 Cor. 2:14).

Peter also sounds a warning, stating people were already trying to “wrest” or to make Paul’s letters, as well as the other Scriptures say something neither the writer nor the Holy Spirit intended. As early as Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, there was a forgery, allegedly written by Paul, which he denied in no uncertain terms (2 Thess. 2:2-5). Even the Judaizers (Galatians 1-3, Acts 15) appealed to the Scriptures to try and prove their point, but they were misusing the Scriptures. Paul also insisted he was not “corrupting the word of God”, in spite of, perhaps, accusations to the contrary (2 Cor. 2:17).

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know (these things) before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

Peter concludes this second letter with a pair of exhortations. In this verse, he reminds the readers that even though they knew the truth in the past, and were still familiar with it at the present time, they needed to be aware of the false prophets and false teachers. Some of them had already come, and others (and more) would come later. The warning here for the believers is to not let anyone lead them away with “the error of the wicked”.

“Steadfastness (corrected spelling)” means unwavering, firm in purpose, steadily directed, plus a few other meanings per James had warned his readers about being “double-minded (James 1:8, 4:8) and Paul, several times, mentioned the need to stand fast or stand firm (1 Cor. 16:13, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:11, 6:13, to list a few).

18 But grow in grace, and (in) the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him (be) glory both now and for ever. Amen.

This final word of exhortation tells the readers to grow, most likely “keep on growing”, in grace, which is a regular word of closing in Paul’s letters. Peter had stated he and the readers were familiar with at least some of them by this time. He also encouraged them to grow in the knowledge of “. . . our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. At the beginning of this letter, he had instructed them to grow in eight specific areas (1:5-7). One can never have too much knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour!

Conclusion: Even though there are no persons named in this letter, nor any geographic regions, this letter has much information about Christian living and the rise of false prophets and false teachers. By focusing on the truth and learning the truth, the likelihood of falling away to false doctrine is reduced. May each one of us grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord!

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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