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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

2 Peter 3


2 Peter 3:1-7 The apostle declareth it to be the design of both his Epistles to remind the brethren of Christ’s coming to judgment, in opposition to scoffers.

2 Peter 3:8,2 Peter 3:9 No argument can be drawn against it from the delay, which is designed to leave men room for repentance.

2 Peter 3:10-14 He describeth the day of the Lord, and exhorteth to holiness of life in expectation of it.

2 Peter 3:15,2 Peter 3:16 He showeth that Paul had taught the like in his Epistles,

2 Peter 3:17,2 Peter 3:18 and concludeth with advice to beware of seduction, and to grow in Christian grace and knowledge.

Verse 1

This second epistle: this confirms what has been said, that this Epistle was written by Peter, as well as the former.

I stir up your pure minds; or, sincere minds: the sense is either:

1. I stir up your minds, that they may be pure and sincere; and then he doth not so much commend them for what they were, as direct and exhort them to what they should be, that they might receive benefit by what he wrote, there being nothing that contributes more to the fruitful entertaining of the word, than sincerity and honesty of heart, when men lay aside those things which are contrary to it, and might hinder its efficacy, 1 Peter 2:1,1 Peter 2:2. Or:

2. I stir up your minds, though pure and sincere, to continuance and constancy in that pure doctrine ye have received.

By way of remembrance: see 2 Peter 1:13.

Verse 2

The words which were spoken before by the holy prophets; the word of prophecy, 2 Peter 1:19; he joins the prophets and apostles together, as concurring in their doctrine, and so useth it as an argument to persuade them to constancy in the faith of the gospel, that what the apostles preached to them was confirmed by what the prophets under the Old Testament had taught before, Acts 26:22; Ephesians 2:20.

And of the commandment of us; by this he means the whole doctrine of the gospel preached by him and the other apostles: see 2 Peter 2:21; 1 John 3:23.

The apostles of the Lord and Saviour; who was the author of this commandment, and the principal in giving it, and from whom the apostles received it, who were but ministers and instruments in delivering it to others.

Verse 3

Knowing this first; especially, as being very necessary to be known. The apostle having in the former chapter cautioned these saints against the more close enemies of the gospel, seducers and false teachers, here he foretells them of more open enemies, profane scoffers.

In the last days: see 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:1.

Scoffers; profane contemners of God, and deriders of his truth, Psalms 1:1; Psalms 119:51; Isaiah 28:14,Isaiah 28:22.

Walking after their own lusts; such as are natural to them; lusts of ungodliness, Jude 1:18.

Verse 4

And saying, Where is the promise? Questioning or denying the great truths of the gospel, thereby to encourage themselves in walking after their own lusts.

Of his coming; viz. Christ’s, mentioned 2 Peter 3:2. Possibly these scoffers might drop the name of Christ by way of contempt, not vouchsafing to mention it, as the Jews did, John 9:29; q.d. Where is the promise of his coming whom you expect?

His coming, to judge the world; q.d. His promised coming doth not appear, the promise of it is not fulfilled.

For since the fathers, who died in the faith of Christ’s coming, and had the promise of it,

fell asleep; i.e. died; the usual phrase of Scripture, which these scoffers seem to speak in derision; q.d. It is so long since the fathers fell asleep, (as you call it), that it were more than time for them to be awakened, whereas we see the contrary.

All things continue as they were from the beginning of the

creation; i.e. the world continues to be the same it was, and hath the same parts it had; we see nothing changed, nothing abolished, but still nature keeps its old course. Thus they argue, that because there had been no such great change, therefore there should be none; because Christ was not yet come to judgment, therefore he should not come at all; not considering the power of God, who is as able to destroy the world as to make it, nor the will of God revealed in his word concerning the end of it.

Verse 5

For this they willingly are ignorant of; they will not know what they ought to know, and, if they would search the Scripture, might know.

That by the word of God; the command of God, or word of his power, as it is called, Hebrews 1:3; see Genesis 1:6,Genesis 1:9; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 148:5.

The heavens were; were created, or had a being given them, Genesis 1:6.

Of old; from the beginning of the world.

And the earth; the globe of the earth, which comprehends likewise the seas and rivers, as parts of the whole.

Standing out of the water and in the water: according to our translation, the sense of these words may be plainly this, that the earth, standing partly out of the water, (as all the dry land doth, whose surface is higher than the water), and partly in the water, (as those parts do which are under it), or in the midst of the water, as being covered and encompassed by seas and rivers. But most expositors follow the marginal reading, and render the Greek word by consisting; and then the meaning may be, either:

1. That the earth consisting of water, as the matter out of which it was formed, (Moses calling the chaos which was that matter, waters, Genesis 1:2), and by water, from which it hath its compactness and solidity, and without which it would be wholly dry, mere useless dust, unfit for the generation and production of natural things. If we understand the words thus, the argument lies against the scoffers; for the earth thus consists of and by water, yet God made use of the water for the destroying of the world; and so natural causes are not sufficient for its preservation without the power of God sustaining it in its being; and whenever he withdraws that power, in spite of all inferior causes, it must perish. Or:

2. The words may thus be read, the heavens were of old, and the earth (supply from the former clause) was out of the water, and consisting by, or in, the water; and the meaning is, that the earth did emerge, or appear out of, or above, the water, viz. when God gathered the waters together, and made the dry land appear; and doth consist by, or among, or in, the midst of the waters, as was before explained.

Verse 6

Whereby; by which heavens and water, mentioned in the former verse, the fountains of the great deep being broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, Genesis 7:11. Or, by the word of God, as the principal cause, and the water as the instrumental, which, at his command, was poured out upon the earth both from above and below.

The world; the earth, with all the inhabitants of it, eight persons excepted. This the apostle allegeth against the forementioned scoffers, who said that all things continued as they were, when yet the flood had made so great a change in the face of the lower creation.

Verse 7

The heavens; the ethereal, or starry heaven, as well as aerial; for, 2 Peter 3:10,2 Peter 3:12, he distinguisheth the heavens that are to perish by fire, from the elements; and 2 Peter 3:13, he opposeth a new heaven to that heaven which is to be consumed; but the new heaven is not meant merely of the aerial heaven. And why should not this be meant of the same heavens, which elsewhere in Scripture are said to perish? Job 14:12; Psalms 102:26; All of them wax old, & c.

By the same word; the same as 2 Peter 3:5.

Are kept in store; are kept safe as in a treasury, and untouched for a time, that they may be destroyed at last.

Reserved unto fire; that they may be consumed by it. The destruction of the world by fire at the last day, is opposed to the destruction of it by water in the flood.

Against the day of judgment; the general judgment.

And perdition of ungodly men; this the apostle speaks with an emphasis, because they were ungodly against whom he here bends his discourse.

Verse 8

Be not ignorant of this one thing; i.e. be sure of it: the same word is here used as 2 Peter 3:5; and so he cautions them against the ignorance of scoffers, and to prevent it, would have them certainly know this one thing, which is extant in the Scripture, which foretells Christ’s coming.

That one day is with the Lord; the Lord Jesus Christ, of whose coming he speaks.

As a thousand years; by a synecdoche, a thousand years is put for any, even the longest revolution of time; and the sense is, that though there be great difference of time, long and short, with us, who are subject to time, and are measured by it; yet with Him who is eternal, without succession, to whom nothing is past, nothing future, but all things present, there is no difference of time, none long, none short, but a thousand years, nay, all the time that hath run out since the creation of the world, is but as a day; and we are not to judge of the Lord’s delay in coming by our own sense, but by God’s eternity.

Verse 9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise; i.e. doth not defer the fulfilling of it beyond the appointed time, Isaiah 60:22.

As some men count slackness; either the scoffers here mentioned, who, because of Christ’s not yet coming, questioned whether he would come at all, as if God had changed his purpose, or would not fulfil it: or believers themselves, who, through the weakness of their faith, and greatness of their sufferings, might grow into some degree of impatience, and think Christ slow in coming to avenge their cause, and give them their reward. So much may be gathered from Revelation 6:10.

But is long-suffering to usward; to us believers, or us elect.

Not willing that any should perish; any that he hath ordained to life, though not yet called.

But that all should come to repentance; all whom he hath elected; he would have the whole number of them filled up, and defers the day of judgment till it be so: or this may be meant not of God’s secret and effectual will, but of his revealed will, whereby he calls all to repentance promiscuously that hear the gospel preached, hath made it their duty, approves of it, hath prescribed it as the way of salvation, commanded them to seek salvation in that way, and is ready to receive and save them upon their repenting: see 1 Timothy 2:4.

Verse 10

But the day of the Lord; the day of judgment is here called the day of the Lord by way of eminence, as the great day, Jude 1:6, and the great day of God Almighty, Revelation 16:14, and the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6,Philippians 1:10.

Will come as a thief in the night; as a thief comes suddenly and unexpectedly, when he thinks all in the house are most secure.

In the which the heavens; viz. those that are visible, in distinction from the empyreal heaven, or place of glorified spirits.

Shall pass away; either wholly, so as to cease to be; or rather, as to their present being and condition, so as to cease to be what they now are, and to give place to the new heaven, Revelation 21:1. The same word is used, Matthew 24:35; Luke 16:17.

With a great noise; either swiftly and violently, or with such a noise as is usually caused by such violent and speedy motions.

The elements, in a natural sense, as integral parts of the universe, air, water, earth.

Shall melt with fervent heat; so 2 Peter 3:12, where another word is used in the Greek, which properly signifies melting, or being on fire, or burning, shall be dissolved or destroyed. So the word signifies, John 2:19; 1 John 3:8.

The earth also; the habitable part of the world. Though the earth, as a part of the world, be included in the elements before mentioned, yet here it may be taken with respect to its inhabitants, and the things contained in it.

And the works that are therein shall be burned up; not only artificial, men’s works, but natural, all that variety of creatures, animate and inanimate, wherewith God hath stored this lower world for the present use of man; and so all those delectable things in which carnal men seek their happiness.

Verse 11

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved; seeing the coming of the Lord will be so terrible, as to bring with it the consumption of the world, and the destruction of these things here below, upon which we are so apt to set our affections.

What manner of persons ought ye to be; how prudent, accurate, diligent, zealous, and every way excellent persons! The Greek word is often used by way of admiration of some singular excellency in persons or things, Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29.

In all holy conversation and godliness: the words in the Greek are both in the plural number, and may imply not only a continued course of holy walking throughout our whole time, but likewise diligence in the performance of all sorts of duties, and exercise of all those various graces wherewith the Spirit of God furnisheth believers in order thereto.

Verse 12

Looking for; patiently waiting for, and expecting.

And hasting unto; by fervent desire of it, and diligent preparation for it.

The coming of the day of God; the day of the Lord, 2 Peter 3:10.

Verse 13

Nevertheless we, according to his promise: see Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; Revelation 21:1,Revelation 21:27, to which this text seems to refer, speak of a new state of the church here in the world, yet by way of allusion to the renovation of the world, which is ultimately there promised, and the perpetuity of the gospel church till then is thereby assured.

Look for new heavens and a new earth; instead of the present world, which is to be consumed by fire, 2 Peter 3:10,2 Peter 3:12, or the first heaven and earth, which pass away, Revelation 21:1. These will be new heavens and a new earth, either as to their substance, or as to their qualities, refined and purified from all defilement, and free from all that vanity to which the creature was made subject by the sin of man, Romans 8:20,Romans 8:21.

Wherein dwelleth; i.e. perpetually abideth, and not only for a time, Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:14.

Righteousness; either this may be understood of righteousness in the abstract, that together with the destruction of the world the kingdom of sin shall be destroyed, and God’s elect, the inhabitants of the new world, shall be filled with righteousness, whereas before sin had dwelt in them: or else the abstract may be put for the concrete, and by righteousness may be meant righteous persons, who only shall be the inhabitants of the new world, the wicked being turned into hell, Revelation 21:27; and by this way of expressing it may be implied the perfection of the righteousness of such. Not only the new heaven is mentioned, but the new earth, because the whole world will then be the possession and kingdom of the saints, who follow Christ wherever he goes.

Verse 14

Such things; Christ’s coming to judgment; the destruction of this world; a new heaven and a new earth, in which dwells righteousness.

Of him; Christ the Judge.

In peace; at peace with God, from whence proceeds peace of conscience, and an amicable, peaceable disposition toward others; all which may here be comprehended.

Without spot, and blameless: either:

1. By these words he means absolute perfection; and then he shows what we are to design and aim at in this life, though we attain it not till we come into the other: or:

2. A thorough sanctification through faith in Christ, a being got above fleshly lusts, and the pollutions of the world, and any such carriage as our hearts may reproach us for, 1 Timothy 6:14. If it be objected, that such, having sin still in them, cannot be said to be without spot, and blameless, in the sight of God; it may be answered, that though they have sin in them, yet being, through the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, justified in the sight of God, and accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6, he overlooks their infirmities, and imputes no sin to them, sees no spot in them, so as to condemn them for it. The apostle seems here to reflect on the seducers before mentioned, whom, 2 Peter 2:13, he had called spots and blemishes; and he persuades these saints to look to themselves, that they might be found of Christ (not such as the other were, but) without spot, and blameless; or, as it is translated, Ephesians 5:27, without blemish, i.e. in a state of sanctification, as well as justification.

Verse 15

And account; reckon with yourselves, and be confidently persuaded; or take for granted.

The longsuffering of our Lord; viz. in his not yet coming to judgment, and bearing with so much sin in the world without presently punishing it.

Is salvation; i.e. tends or conduceth to salvation, in that hereby he gives space for repentance to the elect unconverted, and alloweth time for the building up and perfecting those that are converted, 2 Peter 3:9.

Even as our beloved brother Paul; not only brother in Christ, as a saint, but in office, as an apostle.

According to the wisdom given unto him; that eminent and profound knowledge in the mysteries of the gospel in which Paul did excel, 1 Corinthians 2:6,1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:3,Ephesians 3:4. Peter makes such honourable mention of Paul:

1. That he might commend to the Jewish Christians the doctrine Paul had preached, though a minister of the uncircumcision;

2. To show that he had nothing the worse thoughts of him for being so sharply reproved by him, Galatians 2:1-21; and:

3. That he might arm the saints against those heretics that abused Paul’s writings, and wrested them to their own meaning, probably, to patronize their errors.

Hath written unto you; unto you Jewish believers, viz. either:

1. In his Epistle to the Romans, Romans 2:4, where is a passage very like this: or:

2. In his Epistle to the Hebrews, which, though it were not entitled to the Jews of the dispersion, yet was written to their nation; and in that Epistle several places there are of the same purport with this here; {see Hebrews 9:28 ;Hebrews 10:23,Hebrews 10:25,Hebrews 10:36,Hebrews 10:37} and other Epistle of Paul to the Jews we have none: and in this he shows much of that wisdom God gave him in the mystery of the gospel; and in this likewise are many things hard to be understood.

Verse 16

As also in all his epistles; to make the sense complete, we must supply here from the former verse, he hath written.

Speaking in them of these things; viz. concerning the second coming of Christ, and end of the world, the patience that should be exercised in waiting for it; about avoiding scoffers that deny these truths, and the other instructions contained in these two Epistles, but especially in the two latter chapters of this Second Epistle.

In which are some things hard to be understood; in which Epistles, or rather, in which things contained in Paul’s Epistles, for the Greek relative is of a different gender, and cannot agree with Epistles: q.d. Some of the doctrines delivered by Paul in his Epistles are hard to be understood. And so this doth not prove Paul’s Epistles, much less the whole Scripture, to be obscure and dark: the style and expression may be as clear as the nature of the things will bear, and yet the things themselves so expressed may be hard to be understood, either by reason of their own obscurity, as prophecies, the excellency and sublimeness of them, as some mysterious doctrines, or the weakness of men’s minds, and their incapacity of apprehending spiritual things, 1 Corinthians 2:14, compared with 1 Corinthians 13:9,1 Corinthians 13:10.

Which they that are unlearned; they that are ignorant of the Scripture, unskilful in the word of righteouness, Hebrews 5:13; or indocible, that will not be instructed.

And unstable; such as are ill grounded, and therefore unstedfast, and easily deceived, 2 Peter 2:14; see Ephesians 4:14.

Wrest; pervert the Scripture, and offer violence to it, and, as it were, rack and torture it to make it confess what it never meant.

To their own destruction; eternal destruction, viz. while they use the Scriptures to countenance their errors; or stumble at some things in them, which are obscure, thereby taking occasion to deny the truth of God; and so make the Scripture the instrument of their perdition, which God appointed to be the means of salvation.

Verse 17

Seeing ye know these things, which I have been now writing to you of, viz. That the Judge will certainly come; or, that heretics, deceivers, and scoffers will come; or both may be comprehended.

Beware lest ye also; as well as others have been.

Fall from your own stedfastness; the stedfastness of your faith. This admonition he gives them, not to discourage them with fear of apostacy, but to awaken them to that holy care which would be a means to prevent it; and so to keep them from security, and trust in themselves, not to weaken their faith, and reliance on the promise.

Verse 18

But grow in grace; in all those spiritual gifts ye have received from Christ, especially sanctifying.

And in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; in faith, whereby ye are sanctified, and made partakers of that grace.

To him be glory both now and for ever; which belongs only to God; and therefore this proves Christ to be God.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.