Good morning! Today in 2 Peter we continue reading the words of an early church leader, trying to evoke the disciple Peter in writing to early Christian churches. Here the author refers specifically to the Transfiguration as confirming Christ’s glory, and mentions “our beloved brother Paul” whose letters are “hard to understand”. These references fail to convince me that this is genuinely Peter’s voice though, because the context and intent of this letter (like the first) emerges out of a time significantly later than that of the disciple himself. 2 Peter communicates the strong “us” versus “them” mentality which emerged in the decades after Christianity had taken hold, and seeks to allay doubts about Christ’s nonexistent triumphal return.
2 Peter begins by praising the Christians in his audience who have received God’s promises to be saved from the world through Christ. They are “participants in the divine nature” rather than the nature of the world. He lists virtues for them to claim, as a way of confirming God’s choice of these people for goodness. Such encouragement, however, comes with a healthy serving of opposition to “those people” who don’t practice or believe as this set of Christians do. Whereas true prophecy comes from God to men and women by the Holy Spirit, false prophets are also at work seeking to exploit people for personal gain. The writer goes on at length talking about all the sin that these so-called believers carry with them. He uses colorful imagery from the Hebrew scriptures (including Balaam and his ass in Numbers 22)! 2 Peter foretells their coming destruction, but promises that the godly will be saved. This is all in the service of building a great wall between “us” and “them”, so that his readers will feel disinclined to join “them” because of their disillusionment with orthodox Christianity.
One likely source of that disillusionment gets significant focus: the delay of Christ’s supernatural return. So much time has gone on since Christ’s presumed “second coming” that the author must refute the skepticism of those who say Christ is not returning. 2 Peter takes a line from the Psalms as reassurance that God’s timing is different from that of human beings. Christ’s return only feels delayed to human beings, but God shows remarkable patience in delaying, so that everyone possible gets into the realm of heaven. But rest assured, the author writes, the “Day of the Lord” will come in all the ways that the Jewish and Christian ancestors have foretold. Considering that righteous and prophetic day, the faithful are called to lead holy lives and thereby stay on the “right side” of the great divide.
I’m grateful that such end-times prophecies have not come to pass even these many centuries after 2 Peter. Might there be a less fearsome and more wholesome way we could think about Christ’s return? How about daily, in the people we encounter and the decisions of our lives? But now I’ve moved from the page to the pulpit. 🙂 Happy reading!
Read 2 Peter. (Note that the link here is only to 2 Peter 1. For copyright reasons, you will need to click the button at the bottom of the linked page to read further chapters.)
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 John 1-3. Thanks for reading!