Reader: “Here are more words from Peter. . .”
Response: “to a people who are under stress and persecution.”
Scripture: 2 Peter 3:11-18
Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.
And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.
You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Like Paul, Peter is writing this most likely from Rome. We learn from history that Peter was most likely martyred by Nero in 64-65 AD. Tradition says he was crucified head down. Persecution of Christians was significant. Peter is writing to encourage the believers in the midst of a hostile environment. Have you noticed how very certain both Paul and Peter are of the Lord’s return and judgment? Both their words urged holiness and godly living in anticipation of that great day. Like Paul’s words, the Day of Judgment for the earth brings fire. Peter adds the “elements will melt away.” This event is unlike anything the world has ever experienced. On a very positive note Peter writes “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised.” I’d like to expand a bit on this last statement. Frankly, we wonder what that phrase means. As human beings we think of things like this in terms of our own physical world. We’re looking for a descriptive picture. You notice when Jesus described something he would often say, “It’s like a fig tree . . .” In other words, he painted the overall picture using images the people could understand. In describing a new heaven and earth, Isaiah employs a kind of descriptive picture (Is. 65:17-25). I’ll summarize, though it would be worth looking up and reading the whole passage for yourself. In a descriptive list of the new heaven and new earth: no one will think about the old heaven and earth anymore; it will be a place of happiness and joy; God will delight in his people; there will be no weeping or crying; no infant deaths; people 100 years old will not be considered old; adults will not die in mid-life; people will live in houses they build and eat fruit from their own vineyards; people will live as long as trees―another way of saying life expectancy will be entirely different; God will answer prayers before they are even prayed; the Lord is central in everything; there will be no death, sorrow, hurt, or pain; no corrupt people anywhere; even animals will get along! Have you noticed how much this description is like the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall? This is what Peter is referring to when he speaks of a new heaven and earth. This world is coming! The reason it has not yet arrived is because of the Lord’s patience giving people time to repent of their sin. Peter then makes a reference to the fact that Paul had written about these same things, acknowledging that some of the things Paul writes are “hard to understand!” Did you notice also that Peter refers to Paul’s letters as Scripture? This is the very first historical reference to the Canon of Scripture. In other words, Paul’s letters were considered on a par with the Old Testament as the word of God from the very beginning. The coming of baby Jesus to earth is central in bringing all of these things into being. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words in I Cor.2:9 “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Music: “No Eye Has Seen” Michael W. Smith Northland Choir
Prayer: As we wait for the Lord’s return . . .
Be off, Satan, from this door and from these four walls. This is no place for you; there is nothing for you to do here. This is the place for Peter and Paul and the holy gospel; and this is where I mean to sleep, now that my worship is done, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
―This is one of the earliest Chrsitian prayers recorded