3:1 second epistle. This shows that Peter’s second epistle was addressed to the same general audience as the first. They, therefore, would already have knowledge of what he had written before, but now he was giving them additional instruction in light of the difficult days coming and his own approaching demise. The Lord’s return might even have been very soon, as far as they knew, for it was always imminent. Surely Peter’s message of the first century is even more needed and appropriate today in the twenty-first century.
3:1 pure minds. It is vital that Christians in the last days “stir up” their minds, not just their emotions, but exactly the opposite seems to be happening today.
3:1 remembrance. See also II Peter 1:13. It is easy to forget the more important truths when we are being bombarded continuously by the trivial.
3:2 words which were spoken. Peter would remind us here again of “the more sure word of prophecy” to which we should “take heed” (II Peter 1:19). The words “spoken before by the holy prophets” are simply the Old Testament Scriptures.
3:2 commandment of us. The teachings of “the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” were largely known by verbal transition to the churches of Peter’s day, although they probably had seen some of Paul’s epistles (note II Peter 3:15,16) and possibly also had access to Mark’s gospel account (note I Peter 5:13). In any case, these have all now been collected and recognized as the New Testament Scriptures. Peter is, therefore, urging us to stir up our minds by both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures, for this will be more and more important as the world’s rebellion against God intensifies and the coming of the Lord draws near. This very same theme was emphasized by Paul in his last epistle, just before his death, especially in his own closing exhortations (II Timothy 2–4).
3:3 first. “First” means “First of all,” or “of primary importance.” Compare II Peter 1:20. It is vitally important both to understand this key characteristic of the last days (that is, the denial of both creation and consummation), and also to know and practice the divinely inspired Scriptures.
3:3 last days. The context here is set in the last days. Although we must not set dates, these aspects of the last days are surely more characteristic of our own times than any time before us. At least, we are closer to the last days than anyone has ever been before! Thus Peter’s exhortation and analysis surely fits us better than anyone before us.
3:3 their own lusts. People of the last days, by and large, will be almost entirely motivated by self-interest, and will be unconcerned about God’s purposes, either for themselves or for the world as a whole. They will mock God’s Word. This word is used thirteen times in the New Testament, twelve of which speak of mocking Christ.
3:4 the promise of his coming. In Peter’s time, the early Christians were really looking for the Lord’s return, and there have been sporadic periods of prophetic interest in the nineteen long centuries since. The far greater part of the world’s population, however, is utterly indifferent to this hope, and even most of those who are working for global change today are working to bring in a world system based on evolutionary humanism rather than looking for God to return to His creation. In fact, most of the world’s people do not even believe in a personal Creator God at all, let alone His divine incarnation in Christ and His great plan of salvation. They are too busy “walking after their own lusts.”
3:4 beginning of the creation. The pseudo-scientific rationale for this indifference to the promised consummation of all things when Christ returns is their belief that there was never any real creation of all things in the beginning. The things that continue today, they say, are the things that have always been, and therefore always will be. This is the so-called principle of uniformity. According to this principle, it is assumed that the processes that govern nature today have always been the same in the past, so that the present is the key to the past. Since no creation is occurring today, it never happened in the past either. “All things continue”—not just after creation was finished, but “from the beginning of creation.” Thus, what people have called “creation” was accomplished by the same natural processes that continue to operate today. This means, then, that “creation” has been proceeding so slowly over long ages as to be quite unobservable in the mere few thousand years of human records. This remarkable belief is evolutionary uniformitarianism, and it completely dominates the scientific and educational establishments of every nation in the world today. It has been made the basic premise of origins and meaning, not only in science and history, but also in the social sciences, the humanities, the fine arts and practically every other discipline of study and practice in the world. This indeed is a most remarkable fulfillment of Peter’s prophecy, and surely must indicate that these days really are “the last days,” unless somehow the Lord brings about a great revival of truth in the world’s schools.
3:5 willingly are ignorant. It is remarkable that such a universally dominating theory of origins, meaning, and destiny could be based on absolutely no genuine evidence at all! There is no scientific or historical evidence that any significant evolutionary changes have ever taken place, and the most basic laws of science (the laws of probability and thermodynamics) prove that genuine macro-evolution could not happen at all. As Peter prophesied, this belief would be based on “wilful ignorance.” They are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
3:5 heavens were of old. Evolutionists, whether they are atheistic, pantheistic, deistic, or theistic evolutionists, willingly ignore God’s testimony that the heavens and the earth did not evolve by continuing natural processes but were called into existence by God’s omnipotent Word, fully complete and functioning from the beginning. See Genesis 1:1-2:3; Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 33:6-9; Hebrews 4:3,10; 11:3; and many other Scriptures. The only reason God took as long as six natural days to finish the whole creation was to serve as a pattern for man’s six-day work week (Exodus 20:8-11). The various theories of cosmic evolution, stellar evolution and planetary evolution are all unproven and internally destructive, as are the various theories of chemical evolution, organic evolution, human evolution and cultural evolution. There are now thousands of fully qualified scientists, some from every field of science, who have studied the scientific evidence pro and con, and who have come to the conviction that the Biblical record of earth history is precisely correct and that evolutionary theory is totally false.
3:5 in the water. In the first stage of creation, after the second day, the primeval earth material was surrounded by vast “waters above the firmament” and suspended in other “waters under the firmament” (Genesis 1:7). The waters beneath the “firmament” (the “expanse” of the troposphere) later were either formed into seas or confined in a “great deep” beneath the earth’s crust. This regime apparently continued until the time of the great Flood when they all came together again. Until then the earth was “standing” (Greek sunistemi—that is, being “sustained”) in and by the waters. The earth is, in fact, uniquely the “water planet.”
3:6 overflowed. The antediluvian world (Greek kosmos, meaning “ordered system”) was “overflowed” (Greek katakluzo, a word used only here, but obviously related to kataklusmos, which was the Noahic cataclysm) with the primeval waters, both above and below the firmament (“the fountains of the deep” and “the windows of heaven”—see notes on Genesis 7) and perished (not annihilated but utterly devastated and transformed).
3:6 perished. The “perishing” of the “world that then was” is especially evidenced by the vast beds of fossils of plants and animals that have been preserved in the sedimentary rocks of the earth’s crust. These fossil beds have been misinterpreted by evolutionary scientists as a record of the evolution of life over many ages (despite the ubiquitous absence of any true transitional forms in these billions of fossils). What they really represent is the cataclysmic destruction of life in one age, at the time of the great Flood. Both sedimentary rocks and unhardened sediments have mostly been deposited under water, and they now cover most of the earth’s land surface, as well as ocean bottom surface. Furthermore, flood traditions somewhat similar to the Flood record in Genesis have been found among almost all nations and tribes of the earth. The genuine facts of science and history thoroughly support the Biblical account of the flood, while only willful ignorance can warrant the evolutionary interpretation of these evidences, and Peter said it would be so in the last days! Most important of all, of course, is the divinely inspired record in the Bible itself (Genesis 6–9), confirmed by Christ (Luke 17:26,27; Matthew 24:37-39), Peter and others that the Flood indeed was a worldwide cataclysm. That being the case, the fossil record (which is the main hope of the evolutionist) is mostly a record of the Flood, not of evolution.
3:7 which are now. The heavens and the earth which “were of old” (II Peter 3:5) were destroyed by water. “The heavens and earth which are now” will be destroyed by fire (II Peter 3:10). Finally “new heavens and a new earth” (II Peter 3:13) will last forever. In the interim of the present cosmos, processes indeed are under the domain of conservation, or even uniformity (note Genesis 8:22).
3:8 thousand years. This verse has been widely misinterpreted as supporting the day/age theory of creation in Genesis 1. In context, however, it has nothing to do with creation week, but rather with the last-days conflict between evolutionary uniformitarianism and Biblical-creationist catastrophism (II Peter 3:3-6). In effect, Peter is not saying that one day means a thousand years but rather than “one day is with the Lord like a thousand years.” That is, God’s judgment on a wicked world will do as much geological work in one day as could be accomplished by uniform natural processes in a thousand years. It is even intriguing (though probably meaningless) to note that two billion years (which is about the current geological estimate for the time required to deposit the earth’s sedimentary rocks, would correspond roughly to six thousand years of Biblical history (during which the earth’s sediments have actually been laid down, most of them at the time of the Flood) if those years each represented 365,000 years (at one thousand years per day).
3:9 slack concerning his promise. The Lord has not forgotten His promise to return to earth, as the scoffers have charged (II Peter 3:3,4), but is still waiting for others to “come to repentance”—that is, to “change their minds,” turning away from conformity to this world’s philosophy (Romans 12:2) and turning to Christ for salvation. But God’s promise will, indeed, be fulfilled (II Peter 3:13).
3:10 day of the Lord. Compare I Thessalonians 5:2. The very first phase of “the day of the Lord” will indeed be sudden and unexpected, when the great rapture of all believers, dead and living, into the heavens will take place (I Thessalonians 4:13-17; I Corinthians 15:51-53). Then the day of the Lord will continue for the seven-year period of tribulation judgments on earth (see on Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:15-30; Isaiah 13:9-11) and the thousand-year millennial reign of Christ on earth following that (Revelation 20:6). Because of this thousand-year “day” of the Lord, many expositors, ancient and modern, have interpreted II Peter 3:8 to teach there would be just six thousand years of history before the millennium, thus making a total of seven thousand years to conform to the six work days plus one rest day of creation week. The main Biblical problem with this concept, however, is that it amounts to setting the day for Christ’s return, and would have discouraged any Christians during previous generations from looking for Christ’s return, as He had instructed them to do.
3:10 heavens shall pass away. The “day of the Lord” will be terminated at the end of the millennium with the long-awaited renovation of the old earth by fire. The earth will not be annihilated, any more than it was annihilated at the time of the Flood, but will be completely changed and purified, made new, as it were. All the elements themselves have been under God’s curse (Genesis 3:17-19), so they must be burned up, along with the vast evidences of decay and death now preserved as fossils in the earth’s crust. Possibly this will be a global atomic fission reaction (note the word “dissolved” in II Peter 3:11), or else simply a vast explosive disintegration, involving transformation of the chemical energy of the elements into heat, light and sound energy. What remains after the global fiery disintegration will be other forms of energy, so that, although God’s principle of conservation still holds, the solid earth will seem to have “fled away” (Revelation 20:11).
3:12 hasting unto the coming. That is, “hastening the coming.” From the human perspective, we can hasten the return of Christ by helping to win converts to Him. The reason why He has not already fulfilled “the promise of His coming” (II Peter 3:4) is because He is waiting for all the elect to “come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
3:12 heavens being on fire. The “heavens” here probably refer only to the atmospheric heavens, whose elements (hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc.) must also be “dissolved” (literally “unloosed”), since they are also presently under “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:20-22) and must be cleansed and renewed just as the elements of the earth. It is even possible that the purging will dissolve and cleanse the starry heavens also, since these once were the domain of “the angels that sinned” (II Peter 2:4) and since “the whole creation” (Romans 8:22) is now in bondage to the law of decay.
3:12 elements. The word “elements” is translated from the Greek stoicheion, meaning “fundamental constituents” and implies an orderly arrangement of these basic entities. Ever since the primeval curse, which affected even “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7; 3:17), out of which all things had been made, this orderly arrangement has been deteriorating slowly. The disintegration process will be speeded up and completed in the great “dissolving.” This will not be annihilation, however, for God does not “uncreate” what He created. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). His basic principle of conservation of mass/energy, the most basic and pervasive law known to science, will still hold; Christ will still be “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
3:13 his promise. All the promises of God, especially including His promise to return and complete His great work of redemption, will be fulfilled, though it seems to us to be long delayed (II Peter 3:4). The old cosmos will have been dissolved, its material elements having been converted temporarily into energy (light, heat, sound, etc.), but will then be made over again as a “new” (Greek kainos, meaning “fresh,” rather than “young in age”) cosmos, with all the age-long effects of sin and the curse forever removed (with the one exception of the lake of fire and its inhabitants—see notes on Revelation 20:10).
3:13 dwelleth righteousness. The new heavens and new earth will no longer harbor any remnants of sin and its effects, so will “remain” forever (note Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; also note Revelation 21:1-5).