2 Peter 3 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Peter 3)

Verses 2-3

[2] That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: [3] Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

Be the more mindful thereof, because ye know scoffers will come first - Before the Lord comes.

Walking after their own evil desires — Here is the origin of the error, the root of libertinism. Do we not see this eminently fulfilled?

Verse 4

[4] And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Saying, Where is the promise of his coming — To judgment (They do not even deign to name him.) We see no sign of any such thing.

For ever since the fathers — Our first ancestors.

Fell asleep, all things — Heaven. water, earth.

Continue as they were from the beginning of the creation — Without any such material change as might make us believe they will ever end.

Verse 5

[5] For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

For this they are willingly ignorant of — They do not care to know or consider. That by the almighty word of God - Which bounds the duration of all things, so that it cannot be either longer or shorter.

Of old — Before the flood. The aerial heavens were, and the earth - Not as it is now, but standing out of the water and in the water - Perhaps the interior globe of earth was fixed in the midst of the great deep, the abyss of water; the shell or exterior globe standing out of the water, covering the great deep. This, or some other great and manifest difference between the original and present constitution of the terraqueous globe, seems then to have been so generally known, that St. Peter charges their ignorance of it totally upon their wilfulness.

Verse 6

[6] Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Through which — Heaven and earth, the windows of heaven being opened, and the fountains of the great deep broken up.

The world that then was — The whole antediluvian race.

Being overflowed with water, perished — And the heavens and earth themselves, though they did not perish, yet underwent a great change. So little ground have these scoffers for saying that all things continue as they were from the creation.

Verse 7

[7] But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But the heavens and the earth, that are now — Since the flood. Are reserved unto fire at the day wherein God will judge the world, and punish the ungodly with everlasting destruction.

Verse 8

[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.

But be not ye ignorant — Whatever they are.

Of this one thing — Which casts much light on the point in hand.

That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day — Moses had said, Psalms 90:4, "A thousand years in thy sight are as one day;" which St. Peter applies with regard to the last day, so as to denote both his eternity, whereby he exceeds all measure of time in his essence and in his operation; his knowledge, to which all things past or to come are present every moment; his power, which needs no long delay, in order to bring its work to perfection; and his longsuffering, which excludes all impatience of expectation, and desire of making haste.

One day is with the Lord as a thousand years — That is, in one day, in one moment he can do the work of a thousand years. Therefore he "is not slow:" he is always equally ready to fulfil his promise.

And a thousand years are as one day — That is, no delay is long to God. A thousand years are as one day to the eternal God. Therefore "he is longsuffering:" he gives us space for repentance, without any inconvenience to himself. In a word, with God time passes neither slower nor swifter than is suitable to him and his economy; nor can there be any reason why it should be necessary for him either to delay or hasten the end of all things. How can we comprehend this? If we could comprehend it, St. Peter needed not to have added, with the Lord.

Verse 9

[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.

The Lord is not slow — As if the time fixed for it were past.

Concerning his promise — Which shall surely be fulfilled in its season.

But is longsuffering towards us — Children of men. Not willing that any soul, which he hath made should perish.

Verse 10

[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.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief — Suddenly, unexpectedly.

In which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise — Surprisingly expressed by the very sound of the original word.

The elements shall melt with fervent heat — The elements seem to mean, the sun, moon, and stars; not the four, commonly so called; for air and water cannot melt, and the earth is mentioned immediately after. The earth and all the works - Whether of nature or art.

That are therein shall be burned up — And has not God already abundantly provided for this? 1. By the stores of subterranean fire which are so frequently bursting out at Aetna, Vesuvius, Hecla, and many other burning mountains. 2. By the ethereal (vulgarly called electrical) fire, diffused through the whole globe; which, if the secret chain that now binds it up were loosed, would immediately dissolve the whole frame of nature. 3. By comets, one of which, if it touch the earth in its course toward the sun, must needs strike it into that abyss of fire; if in its return from the sun, when it is heated, as a great man computes, two thousand times hotter than a red-hot cannonball, it must destroy all vegetables and animals long before their contact, and soon after burn it up.

Verse 11

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

Seeing then that all these things are dissolved — To the eye of faith it appears as done already.

All these things — Mentioned before; all that are included in that scriptural expression, "the heavens and the earth;" that is, the universe. On the fourth day God made the stars, Genesis 1:16, which will be dissolved together with the earth. They are deceived, therefore, who restrain either the history of the creation, or this description of the destruction, of the world to the earth and lower heavens; imagining the stars to be more ancient than the earth, and to survive it. Both the dissolution and renovation are ascribed, not to the one heaven which surrounds the earth, but to the heavens in general, 2 Peter 3:10,13, without any restriction or limitation.

What persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation — With men.

And godliness — Toward your Creator.

Verse 12

[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?

Hastening on — As it were by your earnest desires and fervent prayers.

The coming of the day of God — Many myriads of days he grants to men: one, the last, is the day of God himself.

Verse 13

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

We look for new heavens and a new earth — Raised as it were out of the ashes of the old; we look for an entire new state of things.

Wherein dwelleth righteousness — Only righteous spirits. How great a mystery!

Verse 14

[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.

Labour that whenever he cometh ye may be found in peace - May meet him without terror, being sprinkled with his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit, so as to be without spot and blameless. Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22.

Verse 15

[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;

And account the longsuffering of the Lord salvation — Not only designed to lead men to repentance, but actually conducing thereto: a precious means of saving many more souls.

As our beloved brother Paul also hath written to you — This refers not only to the single sentence preceding, but to all that went before. St. Paul had written to the same effect concerning the end of the world, in several parts of his epistles, and particularly in his Epistle to the Hebrews. Romans 2:4.

Verse 16

[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.

As also in all his epistles — St. Peter wrote this a little before his own and St. Paul's martyrdom. St. Paul therefore had now written all his epistles; and even from this expression we may learn that St. Peter had read them all, perhaps sent to him by St. Paul himself. Nor was he at all disgusted by what St. Paul had written concerning him in the Epistle to the Galatians.

Speaking of these things — Namely, of the coming of our Lord, delayed through his longsuffering, and of the circumstances preceding and accompanying it. Which things the unlearned - They who are not taught of God.

And the unstable — Wavering, double-minded, unsettled men.

Wrest — As though Christ would not come.

As they do also the other scriptures — Therefore St Paul's writings were now part of the scriptures.

To their own destruction — But that some use the scriptures ill, is no reason why others should not use them at all.

Verse 18

[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.

But grow in grace — That is, in every Christian temper. There may be, for a time, grace without growth; as there may be natural life without growth. But such sickly life, of soul or body, will end in death, and every day draw nigher to it. Health is the means of both natural and spiritual growth. If the remaining evil of our fallen nature be not daily mortified, it will, like an evil humour in the body, destroy the whole man. But "if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body," (only so far as we do this,) "ye shall live" the life of faith, holiness, happiness. The end and design of grace being purchased and bestowed on us, is to destroy the image of the earthy, and restore us to that of the heavenly. And so far as it does this, it truly profits us; and also makes way for more of the heavenly gift, that we may at last be filled with all the fulness of God. The strength and well-being of a Christian depend on what his soul feeds on, as the health of the body depends on whatever we make our daily food. If we feed on what is according to our nature, we grow; if not, we pine away and die. The soul is of the nature of God, and nothing but what is according to his holiness can agree with it. Sin, of every kind, starves the soul, and makes it consume away. Let us not try to invert the order of God in his new creation: we shall only deceive ourselves. It is easy to forsake the will of God, and follow our own; but this will bring leanness into the soul. It is easy to satisfy ourselves without being possessed of the holiness and happiness of the gospel. It is easy to call these frames and feelings, and then to oppose faith to one and Christ to the other. Frames (allowing the expression) are no other than heavenly tempers, "the mind that was in Christ." Feelings are the divine consolations of the Holy Ghost shed abroad in the heart of him that truly believes. And wherever faith is, and wherever Christ is, there are these blessed frames and feelings. If they are not in us, it is a sure sign that though the wilderness became a pool, the pool is become a wilderness again.

And in the knowledge of Christ — That is, in faith, the root of all.

To him be the glory to the day of eternity — An expression naturally flowing from that sense which the apostle had felt in his soul throughout this whole chapter. Eternity is a day without night, without interruption, without end.