2 Peter 3

CHAPTER III.

The apostle shows his design in writing this and the preceding

epistle, 1, 2.

Describes the nature of the heresies which should take place in

the last times, 3-8.

A thousand years with the Lord are but as a day, 9.

He will come and judge the world as he has promised, and the

heavens and the earth shall be burnt up, 10.

How those should live who expect these things, 11, 12.

Of the new heavens and the new earth, and the necessity of being

prepared for this great change, 13, 14.

Concerning some difficult things in St. Paul 's epistles,

15, 16.

We must watch against the error of the wicked, grow in grace,

and give all glory to God, 17, 18.

NOTES ON CHAP. III.

Verse 1. This second epistle] In order to guard them against

the seductions of false teachers, he calls to their remembrance

the doctrine of the ancient prophets, and the commands or

instructions of the apostles, all founded on the same basis.

He possibly refers to the prophecies of Enoch, as mentioned by

Jude, Jude 1:14, 15;

of David, Ps 1:1, &c.;

and of Daniel, Da 12:2,

relative to the coming of our Lord to judgment: and he brings in

the instructions of the apostles of Christ, by which they were

directed how to prepare to meet their God.

Verse 3. Knowing this first] Considering this in an especial

manner, that those prophets predicted the coming of false

teachers: and their being now in the Church proved how clearly

they were known to God, and showed the Christians at Pontus the

necessity of having no intercourse or connection with them.

There shall come-scoffers] Persons who shall endeavour to turn

all religion into ridicule, as this is the most likely way to

depreciate truth in the sight of the giddy multitude. The

scoffers, having no solid argument to produce against revelation,

endeavour to make a scaramouch of some parts; and then affect to

laugh at it, and get superficial thinkers to laugh with them.

Walking after their own lusts] Here is the true source of all

infidelity. The Gospel of Jesus is pure and holy, and requires a

holy heart and holy life. They wish to follow their own lusts,

and consequently cannot brook the restraints of the Gospel:

therefore they labour to prove that it is not true, that they may

get rid of its injunctions, and at last succeed in persuading

themselves that it is a forgery; and then throw the reins on the

neck of their evil propensities. Thus their opposition to

revealed truth began and ended in their own lusts.

There is a remarkable addition here in almost every MS. and

version of note: There shall come in the last days, IN MOCKERY, εν

εμπαιγμονη, scoffers walking after their own lusts. This is the

reading of ABC, eleven others, both the Syriac, all the Arabic,

Coptic, AEthiopic, Vulgate, and several of the fathers. They come

in mockery; this is their spirit and temper; they have no desire

to find out truth; they take up the Bible merely with the design

of turning it into ridicule. This reading Griesbach has received

into the text.

The last days] Probably refer to the conclusion of the Jewish

polity, which was then at hand.

Verse 4. Where is the promise of his coming?] Perhaps the

false teachers here referred to were such as believed in the

eternity of the world: the prophets and the apostles had foretold

its destruction, and they took it for granted, if this were true,

that the terrestrial machine would have begun long ago to have

shown some symptoms of decay; but they found that since the

patriarchs died all things remained as they were from the

foundation of the world; that is, men were propagated by natural

generation, one was born and another died, and the course of

nature continued regular in the seasons, succession of day and

night, generation and corruption of animals and vegetables, &c.;

for they did not consider the power of the Almighty, by which the

whole can be annihilated in a moment, as well as created. As,

therefore, they saw none of these changes, they presumed that

there would be none, and they intimated that there never had been

any. The apostle combats this notion in the following verse.

Verse 5. For this they willingly are ignorant of] They shut

their eyes against the light, and refuse all evidence; what does

not answer their purpose they will not know. And the apostle

refers to a fact that militates against their hypothesis, with

which they refused to acquaint themselves; and their ignorance he

attributes to their unwillingness to learn the true state of the

case.

By the word of God the heavens were of old] I shall set down

the Greek text of this extremely difficult clause: ουπανοιησαν

εκπαλαικαιγηεξυδατοςκαιδιυδατοςσυνεστωσατωτουθεου

λογω. translated thus by Mr. Wakefield: "A heaven and an earth

formed out of water, and by means of water, by the appointment of

God, had continued from old time." By Dr. Macknight thus; "The

heavens were anciently, and the earth of water: and through water

the earth consists by the word of God." By Kypke thus: "The

heavens were of old, and the earth, which is framed, by the word

of God, from the waters, and between the waters." However we take

the words, they seem to refer to the origin of the earth. It was

the opinion of the remotest antiquity that the earth was formed

out of water, or a primitive moisture which they termed υλη, hule,

a first matter or nutriment for all things; but Thales pointedly

taught αρχηνδετωνπανθωςυδωρειναι, that all things derive

their existence from water, and this very nearly expresses the

sentiment of Peter, and nearly in his own terms too. But is this

doctrine true? It must be owned that it appears to be the

doctrine of Moses: In the beginning, says he, God made the heavens

and the earth; and the earth was without form and void; and

darkness was upon the face of the deep. Now, these heavens and

earth which God made in the beginning, and which he says were at

first formless and empty, and which he calls the deep, are in the

very next verse called waters; from which it is evident that Moses

teaches that the earth was made out of some fluid substance, to

which the name of water is properly given. And that the earth was

at first in a fluid mass is most evident from its form; it is not

round, as has been demonstrated by measuring some degrees near the

north pole, and under the equator; the result of which proved that

the figure of the earth was that of an oblate spheroid, a figure

nearly resembling that of an orange. And this is the form that

any soft or elastic body would assume if whirled rapidly round a

centre, as the earth is around its axis. The measurement to which

I have referred shows the earth to be flatted at the poles, and

raised at the equator. And by this measurement it was

demonstrated that the diameter of the earth at the equator was

greater by about twenty-five miles than at the poles.

Now, considering the earth to be thus formed εξυδατος, of

water, we have next to consider what the apostle means by δι

υδατος, variously translated by out of, by means of, and between,

the water.

Standing out of the water gives no sense, and should be

abandoned. If we translate between the waters, it will bear some

resemblance to Ge 1:6, 7:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of,

bethoch, between, the waters; and let it divide the waters from

the waters: and God divided the waters which were under the

firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; then it

may refer to the whole of the atmosphere, with which the earth is

everywhere surrounded, and which contains all the vapours which

belong to our globe, and without which we could neither have

animal nor vegetative life. Thus then the earth, or terraqueous

globe, which was originally formed out of water, subsists by

water; and by means of that very water, the water compacted with

the earth-the fountains of the great deep, and the waters in the

atmosphere-the windows of heaven, Ge 7:11, the antediluvian earth

was destroyed, as St. Peter states in the next verse: the

terraqueous globe, which was formed originally of water or a fluid

substance, the chaos or first matter, and which was suspended in

the heavens-the atmosphere, enveloped with water, by means of

which water it was preserved; yet, because of the wickedness of

its inhabitants, was destroyed by those very same waters out of

which it was originally made, and by which it subsisted.

Verse 7. But the heavens and the earth, which are now] The

present earth and its atmosphere, which are liable to the same

destruction, because the same means still exist, (for there is

still water enough to drown the earth, and there is iniquity

enough to induce God to destroy it and its inhabitants,) are

nevertheless kept in store, τεθησαυρισμενοι, treasured up, kept

in God's storehouse, to be destroyed, not by water, but by fire

at the day of judgment.

From all this it appears that those mockers affected to be

ignorant of the Mosaic account of the formation of the earth, and

of its destruction by the waters of the deluge; and indeed this is

implied in their stating that all things continued as they were

from the creation. But St. Peter calls them back to the Mosaic

account, to prove that this was false; for the earth, &c., which

were then formed, had perished by the flood; and that the present

earth, &c., which were formed out of the preceding, should, at the

day of judgment, perish by the fire of God's wrath.

Verse 8. Be not ignorant] Though they are wilfully ignorant,

neglect not ye the means of instruction.

One day is with the Lord as a thousand years] That is: All

time is as nothing before him, because in the presence as in the

nature of God all is eternity; therefore nothing is long, nothing

short, before him; no lapse of ages impairs his purposes, nor need

he wait to find convenience to execute those purposes. And when

the longest period of time has passed by, it is but as a moment or

indivisible point in comparison of eternity. This thought is well

expressed by PLUTARCH, Consol. ad Apoll.: "If we compare the time

of life with eternity, we shall find no difference between long

and short. ταγαρχιλιακαιταμυριαετηστιγμητιςεστιν

αοριστοςμαλλονδεμοριοντιβραχυτατονστιγμης. for a thousand

or ten thousand years are but a certain indefinite point, or

rather the smallest part of a point." The words of the apostle

seem to be a quotation from Ps 90:4.

Verse 9. The Lord is not slack] They probably in their

mocking said, "Either God had made no such promise to judge the

world, destroy the earth, and send ungodly men to perdition; or if

he had, he had forgotten to fulfil it, or had not convenient time

or leisure." To some such mocking the apostle seems to refer: and

he immediately shows the reason why deserved punishment is not

inflicted on a guilty world.

But is long-suffering] It is not slackness, remissness, nor

want of due displacence at sin, that induced God to prolong the

respite of ungodly men; but his long-suffering, his unwillingness

that any should perish: and therefore he spared them, that they

might have additional offers of grace, and be led to repentance-to

deplore their sins, implore God's mercy, and find redemption

through the blood of the Lamb.

As God is not willing that any should perish, and as he is

willing that all should come to repentance, consequently he has

never devised nor decreed the damnation of any man, nor has he

rendered it impossible for any soul to be saved, either by

necessitating him to do evil, that he might die for it, or

refusing him the means of recovery, without which he could not be

saved.

Verse 10. The day of the Lord will come] See Mt 24:43, to

which the apostle seems to allude.

The heavens shall pass away with a great noise] As the heavens

mean here, and in the passages above, the whole atmosphere, in

which all the terrestrial vapours are lodged; and as water itself

is composed of two gases, eighty-five parts in weight of oxygen,

and fifteen of hydrogen, or two parts in volume of the latter, and

one of the former; (for if these quantities be put together, and

several electric sparks passed through them, a chemical union

takes place, and water is the product; and, vice versa, if the

galvanic spark be made to pass through water, a portion of the

fluid is immediately decomposed into its two constituent gases,

oxygen and hydrogen;) and as the electric or ethereal fire is that

which, in all likelihood, God will use in the general

conflagration; the noise occasioned by the application of this

fire to such an immense congeries of aqueous particles as float in

the atmosphere, must be terrible in the extreme. Put a drop of

water on an anvil, place over it a piece of iron red hot, strike

the iron with a hammer on the part above the drop of water, and

the report will be as loud as a musket; when, then, the whole

strength of those opposite agents is brought together into a state

of conflict, the noise, the thunderings, the innumerable

explosions, (till every particle of water on the earth and in the

atmosphere is, by the action of the fire, reduced into its

component gaseous parts,) will be frequent, loud, confounding, and

terrific, beyond every comprehension but that of God himself.

The elements shalt melt with fervent heat] When the fire has

conquered and decomposed the water, the elements, στοιχεια, the

hydrogen and oxygen airs or gases, (the former of which is most

highly inflammable, and the latter an eminent supporter of all

combustion,) will occupy distinct regions of the atmosphere, the

hydrogen by its very great levity ascending to the top, while the

oxygen from its superior specific gravity will keep upon or near

the surface of the earth; and thus, if different substances be

once ignited, the fire, which is supported in this case, not only

by the oxygen which is one of the constituents of atmospheric air,

but also by a great additional quantity of oxygen obtained from

the decomposition of all aqueous vapours, will rapidly seize on

all other substances, on all terrestrial particles, and the whole

frame of nature will be necessarily torn in pieces, and thus the

earth and its works be burned up.

Verse 11. All these things shall be dissolved] They will all

be separated, all decomposed; but none of them destroyed. And as

they are the original matter out of which God formed the

terraqueous globe, consequently they may enter again into the

composition of a new system; and therefore the apostle says,

2Pe 3:13:

we look for new heavens and a new earth-the others being

decomposed, a new system is to be formed out of their materials.

There is a wonderful philosophic propriety in the words of the

apostle in describing this most awful event.

What manner of persons ought ye to be] Some put the note of

interrogation at the end of this clause, and join the remaining

part with the 12th verse, 2Pe 3:12 thus:

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner

of persons ought ye to be? By holy conversation and godliness,

expecting and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, &c.

Only those who walk in holiness, who live a godly and useful life,

can contemplate this most awful time with joy.

The word σπευδοντας, which we translate hasting unto, should be

tendered earnestly desiring, or wishing for; which is a frequent

meaning of the word in the best Greek writers.

Verse 12. The heavens being on fire] See Clarke on 2Pe 3:10.

It was an ancient opinion among the heathens that the earth should

be burnt up with fire; so OVID, Met., lib. i. v. 256.

Esse quoque in fatis reminiscitur, adfore tempus,

Quo mare, quo tellus, correptaque regia coeli

Ardeat; et mundi moles operosa laboret.

"Remembering in the fates a time when fire

Should to the battlements of heaven aspire,

And all his blazing world above should burn,

And all the inferior globe to cinders turn."

DRYDEN.

Minucius Felix tells us, xxxiv. 2, that it was a common opinion

of the Stoics that, the moisture of the earth being consumed, the

whole world would catch fire. The Epicureans held the same

sentiment; and indeed it appears in various authors, which proves

that a tradition of this kind has pretty generally prevailed in

the world. But it is remarkable that none have fancied that it

will be destroyed by water. The tradition, founded on the

declaration of God, was against this; therefore it was not

received.

Verse 13. We, according to his promise, look for new heavens]

The promise to which it is supposed the apostle alludes, is found

Isa 65:17:

Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall

not be remembered, nor come into mind; and Isa 66:22:

For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall

remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed, &c.

Now, although these may be interpreted of the glory of the Gospel

dispensation, yet, if St. Peter refer to them, they must have a

more extended meaning.

It does appear, from these promises, that the apostle says

here, and what is said Re 21:27; 22:14, 15,

that the present earth, though destined to be burned up, will not

be destroyed, but be renewed and refined, purged from all moral

and natural imperfection, and made the endless abode of blessed

spirits. But this state is certainly to be expected after the day

of judgment; for on this the apostle is very express, who says the

conflagration and renovation are to take place at the judgment of

the great day; see 2Pe 3:7, 8, 10, 12.

That such an event may take place is very possible; and, from the

terms used by St. Peter, is very probable. And, indeed, it is

more reasonable and philosophical to conclude that the earth shall

be refined and restored, than finally destroyed. But this has

nothing to do with what some call the millennium state; as this

shall take place when time, with the present state and order of

things, shall be no more.

Verse 14. Seeing that ye look for such things] As ye profess

that such a state of things shall take place, and have the

expectation of enjoying the blessedness of it, be diligent in the

use of every means and influence of grace, that ye may be found of

him-the Lord Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead, without spot-any

contagion of sin in your souls, and blameless-being not only holy

and innocent, but useful in your lives.

Verse 15. And account that the long-suffering of our Lord]

Conclude that God's long-suffering with the world is a proof that

he designs men to be saved; even as our beloved brother Paul.

"This epistle being written to those to whom the first epistle was

sent, the persons to whom the Apostle Paul wrote concerning the

long-suffering of God were the Jewish and Gentile Christians in

Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Accordingly, we

know he wrote to the Ephesians, (Eph 2:3-5,)

to the Colossians, (Col 1:21,)

and to Timothy, (1Ti 2:3, 4,)

things which imply that God's bearing with sinners is intended for

their salvation. The persons to whom Peter's epistles were sent

were, for the most part, Paul's converts."-Macknight.

According to the wisdom given unto him] That is, according to

the measure of the Divine inspiration, by which he was qualified

for the Divine work, and by which he was so capable of entering

into the deep things of God. It is worthy of remark that Paul's

epistles are ranked among the Scriptures; a term applied to those

writings which are divinely inspired, and to those only.

Verse 16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of

these things] Paul, in all his epistles, says Dr. Macknight, has

spoken of the things written by Peter in this letter. For

example, he has spoken of Christ's coming to judgment;

1Th 3:13; 4:14-18; 2Th 1:7-10; Tit 2:13.

And of the resurrection of the dead, 1Co 15:22; Php 3:20, 21.

And of the burning of the earth; 2Th 1:8.

And of the heavenly country; 2Co 5:1-10.

And of the introduction of the righteous into that country;

1Th 4:17; Heb 4:9; 12:14, 18, 24.

And of the judgment of all mankind by Christ; Ro 14:10.

In which are some things hard to be understood] δυσνοητατινα.

That is, if we retain the common reading ενοις, in or among which

things, viz., what he says of the day of judgment, the

resurrection of the body &c., &c., there are some things difficult

to be comprehended, and from which a wrong or false meaning may be

taken. But if we take the reading of AB, twelve others, with both

the Syriac, all the Arabic, and Theophylact, εναις, the

meaning is more general, as εναις must refer to επιστολαις,

epistles, for this would intimate that there were difficulties

in all the epistles of St. Paul; and indeed in what ancient

writings are there not difficulties? But the papists say that

the decision of all matters relative to the faith is not to be

expected from the Scriptures on this very account, but must be

received from the Church; i.e. the Popish or Romish Church. But

what evidence have we that that Church can infallibly solve any of

those difficulties? We have none! And till we have an express,

unequivocal revelation from heaven that an unerring spirit is

given to that Church, I say, for example, to the present Church of

Rome, with the pope called Pius VII. at its head, we are not to

receive its pretensions. Any Church may pretend the same, or any

number of equally learned men as there are of cardinals and pope

in the conclave; and, after all, it would be but the opinion of so

many men, to which no absolute certainty or infallibility could be

attached.

This verse is also made a pretext to deprive the common people

of reading the word of God; because the unlearned and unstable

have sometimes wrested this word to their own destruction: but if

it be human learning, and stability in any system of doctrine,

that qualifies men to judge of these difficult things, then we can

find many thousands, even in Europe, that have as much learning

and stability as the whole college of cardinals, and perhaps ten

thousand times more; for that conclave was never very reputable

for the learning of its members: and to other learned bodies we

may, with as much propriety, look up as infallible guides, as to

this conclave.

Besides, as it is only the unlearned and the unestablished

(that is, young Christian converts) that are in danger of wresting

such portions; the learned, that is, the experienced and the

established in the knowledge and life of God, are in no such

danger; and to such we may safely go for information: and these

abound everywhere, especially in Protestant countries; and by the

labours of learned and pious men on the sacred writings there is

not one difficulty relative to the things which concern our

salvation left unexplained. If the members of the Romish Church

have not these advantages, let them go to those who have them; and

if their teachers are afraid to trust them to the instruction of

the Protestants, then let them who pretend to have infallibly

written their exposition of these difficult places, also put them,

with a wholesome text in the vulgar language, into the hands of

their people, and then the appeal will not lie to Rome, but to the

Bible, and those interpretations will be considered according to

their worth, being weighed with other scriptures, and the

expositions of equally learned and equally infallible men.

We find, lastly, that those who wrest such portions, are those

who wrest the other scriptures to their destruction; therefore

they are no patterns, nor can such form any precedent for

withholding the Scriptures from the common people, most of whom,

instead of wresting them to their destruction, would become wise

unto salvation by reading them. We may defy the Romish Church to

adduce a single instance of any soul that was perverted,

destroyed, or damned, by reading of the Bible; and the insinuation

that they may is blasphemous. I may just add that the verb

στρεβλοω, which the apostle uses here, signifies to distort, to

put to the rack, to torture, to overstretch and dislocate the

limbs; and hence the persons here intended are those who proceed

according to no fair plan of interpretation, but force unnatural

and sophistical meanings on the word of God: a practice which the

common simple Christian is in no danger of following. I could

illustrate this by a multitude of interpretations from popish

writers.

Verse 17. Seeing ye know-before] Seeing that by prophets and

apostles you have been thus forewarned, beware, φυλασσεσθε, keep

watch, be on your guard; cleave to God and the word of his grace,

lest ye be led away from the truth delivered by the prophets and

apostles, by the error of the wicked, αθεσμων, of the lawless-

those who wrest the Scriptures to make them countenance their

lusts, exorbitant exactions, and lawless practices.

Fall from your own steadfastness.] From that faith in Christ

which has put you in possession of that grace which establishes

the heart.

Verse 18. But grow in grace] Increase in the image and favour

of God; every grace and Divine influence which ye have received is

a seed, a heavenly seed, which, if it be watered with the dew of

heaven from above, will endlessly increase and multiply itself.

He who continues to believe, love, and obey, will grow in grace,

and continually increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as his

sacrifice, sanctifier, counsellor, preserver, and final Saviour.

The life of a Christian is a growth; he is at first born of God,

and is a little child; becomes a young man, and a father in

Christ. Every father was once an infant; and had he not grown,

he would have never been a man. Those who content themselves with

the grace they received when converted to God, are, at best, in a

continual state of infancy: but we find, in the order of nature,

that the infant that does not grow, and grow daily, too, is sickly

and soon dies; so, in the order of grace, those who do not grow up

into Jesus Christ are sickly, and will soon die, die to all sense

and influence of heavenly things.

There are many who boast of the grace of their conversion;

persons who were never more than babes, and have long since lost

even that grace, because they did not grow in it. Let him that

readeth understand.

To him.] The Lord Jesus, be glory-all honour and excellency

attributed, both now-in this present state, and for ever, εις

ημεραναιωνος, to the day of eternity-that in which death, and

misery, and trial, and darkness, and change, and time itself, are

to the righteous for ever at an end: it is eternity; and this

eternity is one unalterable, interminable, unclouded, and

unchangeable DAY!

Amen.] So let it be! and so it shall be! Though this word is

wanting in some reputable MSS., get it should be retained, as it

has here more than usual authority in its support.

Subscriptions to this epistle in the VERSIONS:

The end of the Second Epistle of Peter the apostle.-SYRIAC.

The Second Epistle of Peter the apostle is ended.-SYRIAC

PHILOXENIAN.

Nothing in the printed Vulgate.

The end of the epistles of blessed Peter the apostle, the rock

of the faith.-ARABIC.

The Second Epistle of Peter is ended; and glory be to God for

ever and ever!-AETHIOPIC.

Nothing in the COPTIC.

The end of the Second catholic Epistle of St. Peter.-

COMPLUTENSIAN POLYGLOT.

The end of the Second Epistle of St. Peter.-BIB. LAT., edit.

antiq.

Subscriptions in the MANUSCRIPTS;

Of the second of Peter.-CODEX ALEXANDRIUS, and CODEX VATICANUS.

Of the catholic epistle of Peter.-CODEX EPHREM.

The Second Epistle of the holy Apostle Peter.-Other MSS.

WE have now passed over all the canonical writings of Peter

that are extant; and it is worthy of remark that, in no place of

the two epistles already examined, nor in any of this apostle's

sayings in any other parts of the sacred writings do we find any

of the peculiar tenets of the Romish Church: not one word of his

or the pope's supremacy; not one word of those who affect to be

his successors; nothing of the infallibility claimed by those

pretended successors; nothing of purgatory, penances, pilgrimages,

auricular confession, power of the keys, indulgences, extreme

unction, masses, and prayers for the dead; and not one word on the

most essential doctrine of the Romish Church, transubstantiation.

Now, as all these things have been considered by themselves most

essential to the being of that Church; is it not strange that he,

from whom they profess to derive all their power, authority, and

influence, in spiritual and secular matters, should have said

nothing of these most necessary things? Is it not a proof that

they are all false and forged; that the holy apostle knew nothing

of them; that they are no part of the doctrine of God; and,

although they distinguish the Church of Rome, do not belong to the

Church of Christ? It is no wonder that the rulers of this Church

endeavour to keep the Scriptures from the common people; for, were

they permitted to consult these, the imposture would be detected,

and the solemn, destructive cheat at once exposed.

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