Summary: Jesus' coming is delayed to give the greater number of people the greater opportunity to repent.
TIME FOR TRUE REPENTANCE
After the description of the false teachers who deny the second coming of Jesus - which is concluded with the horrible picture of 2 Peter 2:22 - Peter turns to his protégés and effectively says, “I am assured of better things concerning you” (cf. Hebrews 6:9).
It is with a sigh of relief that he turns back to his “beloved friends” using a Greek term derived from “agape.” “Agape” is a word familiar as indicative of that special kind of Christian love which Jesus Himself encouraged Peter to nurture (John 21:15-16). This kind of love is the mark of the New Testament church.
Peter wants to stir us up, and put us in remembrance of the prophecies of the prophets and the teachings of the Apostles which lie at the foundation of the church (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-21). The terms “Lord and Saviour” belong together (cf. 2 Peter 2:20): if we own Jesus as Saviour it follows that He is also our Lord. It is His commandment which the Apostles teach, and which the false teachers have rejected (2 Peter 2:21).
The last days began at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-17), and will continue until the Lord’s return. Peter indicates that “scoffers” will be present throughout the church age, not just at the very end. They are nothing new: they were already present in the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 11:3), as well as in the Apostles’ own days.
The mocking question with which Peter contends may appear perfectly reasonable at first, but it is based upon a wrong set of presuppositions. Even Jesus denied knowledge of the “when” of His return, but He left us in no doubt as to its reality (Mark 13:32). As Peter will show from his illustrations of other times when God intervened in history, it is wrong to imagine that everything just goes on as it always has done.
The mockers deliberately chose to ignore the word of God. God’s creative word was spoken into the waste and void of the cosmos, and the earth appeared in the midst of the waters (Genesis 1:6-7; Genesis 1:9-10). This was intervention number one.
Secondly, God’s word of judgement used the same waters to flood the earth in Noah’s day. God’s creation may seem to be bound by the inevitability of the processes which He has Himself set in motion. In fact, it is only God’s word which is constant (Matthew 24:35).
The word of judgement will be exercised against the heavens and the earth once more, this time with fire. Men may well be carrying on in the same way as they were before the flood when Jesus returns, scoffers scoffing and all (cf. Luke 17:26-27). But the longer the Lord’s delay, the more time there is for repentance.
Peter wishes to emphasize this to his “beloved” friends. To the LORD a thousand years are but as a day when it is past (Psalm 90:4). Yet He stretches out the day of opportunity for just as long as it is going to take to gather in His people.
This is the Lord’s patience. He is not willing that any should perish, but His coming is delayed to give the greater number of people the greater opportunity to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3:15). We also have a part to play in this (Matthew 24:14).
How should we conduct ourselves in consequence of these truths?
We should be marked out by holy conversation and godliness.
We should be looking forward to, and hastening toward His coming.
We should be living in the expectation of the promised new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
We should be walking in peace, spotless and blameless.
We should be firmly based in the Scriptures. All Paul’s letters, incidentally, encourage us to live in the light of the Lord’s return, as do the other Scriptures.
We should be wary of false teachers.
We should be growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And as the doxology says, “To Him be glory, both now and to the day of eternity.”