Principles From II Peter

Chapter 1
(II Peter 1:1) - Faith of the Same Kind
(II Peter 1:2) - The Knowledge of God
(II Peter 1:3) - Everything about Life and Godliness
(II Peter 1:4) - God's Plan for Your Life
(II Peter 1:5) - Applying All Diligence
(II Peter 1:5) - Moral Excellence
(II Peter 1:5) - Acquire Knowledge
(II Peter 1:5) - Add Self-control
(II Peter 1:6) - Developing Perseverance
(II Peter 1:6-7) - Brotherly Kindness
(II Peter 1:7) - Christian Love
(II Peter 1:8) - Useful and Fruitful
(II Peter 1:9) - Blind or Short-sighted
(II Peter 1:10) - Calling and Choosing
(II Peter 1:10-11) - The Eternal Kingdom
(II Peter 1:12-15) - Need for Reminders
(II Peter 1:16) - No Cleverly Devised Tales
(II Peter 1:17-18) - Precursor to Heavenly Glory
(II Peter 1:19) - Morning Star Arising
(II Peter 1:20) - An Objective Book
(II Peter 1:20-21) - Author: The Holy Spirit

Chapter 2
(II Peter 2:1) - The Arising of False Teachers
(II Peter 2:2) - Destruction of False Teachers
(II Peter 2:4-7) - What God Can and Will Do
(II Peter 2:5-9) - The Lord Knows
(II Peter 2:10-11) - Exposing the Unrighteous
(II Peter 2:12-13) - Ultimate Destruction
(II Peter 2:13-15) - Hidden Motives, Positive Pretense
(II Peter 2:15-16) - The Way of Balaam
(II Peter 2:17-19) - Empty Promises
(II Peter 2:19-22) - Better Not to Know

Chapter 3
(II Peter 3:1-2) - Another Reminder
(II Peter 3:3-6) - The Uniformitarian Mockers
(II Peter 3:6-7) - First Water, Then Fire
(II Peter 3:8-9) - Certainty of Judgment
(II Peter 3:9) - All to Come to Repentance
(II Peter 3:10) - Coming Like a Thief in the Night
(II Peter 3:11) - What Sort of People
(II Peter 3:12) - Hastening the Day of God
(II Peter 3:12-13) - New Heavens and a New Earth
(II Peter 3:14-15) - How to Be Found
(II Peter 3:15) - Commending Paul
(II Peter 3:16) - Twisting Paul
(II Peter 3:17) - ďBe On Your GuardĒ
(II Peter 3:18) - Grow!



Faith of the Same Kind

The apostle Peter was approaching the time of his death. "The laying aside of my earthly dwelling," he averred, "is imminent" (II Peter 1:14). Like his co-apostle Paul, Peter was informed of his being "poured out as a drink offering," and was motivated to set down in writing the thoughts that were foremost on his mind as final communication to his brethren. Distilled, then, from his thirty-plus years as disciple and apostle of the Lord, his preachments are worthy of careful rumination on the part of all modern disciples. Furthermore, his exhortations call for action on the part of each saint, and motivate each to growth and high performance in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.

There is given to man, through the proclamation of the gospel, one system of faith, "a faith of the same kind as ours," the faith of the apostles. It is exciting to know that modern saints, having this same precious faith, could step back in time and have full fellowship and understanding with their first century brethren. And that, of course, is the same group that will have eternal fellowship in the glories of the eternal city!



The Knowledge of God

"This is eternal life," asseverated Jesus in His prayer on the west side of the Kidron, "that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). It is easy for people to get caught up in the religious trappings of their times and lose sight of the fact that God is looking for those who want to know Him. Jesus used the example of the Gentiles in their prayers, telling His disciples, "Do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:6). People suppose many things about God, and suppose that their sundry rituals will get His attention. "In vain do they worship Me," Jesus quoted Isaiah, "teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Matthew 15:9). The doctrines and traditions of men accomplish nothing as far as their attempts to influence heaven. Hence mankind needs the written revelation of the scriptures to teach men about God and how to know Him through Jesus Christ. "I am the way," adverted Jesus, "and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).

No one can know God or be known by Him apart from being forgiven, as the writer of Hebrews noted in his quotation from Jeremiah, that saints would "know the Lord" when He forgave their iniquities and their sins He would remember no more (Hebrews 8:8-12). All this requires knowledge coming from Godís inspired revelation to man, with the goal that each saint be certain and conscious that the trappings of religiosity and challenges of earthly life do not obscure what it means "to know God and Jesus Christ"!!!



Everything about Life and Godliness

The Bible is truly an amazing book. In a volume a person can carry in his hand, he has all the necessary general guidance for every person in every situation, in every time frame until Jesus comes, at any location on this planet! This is not just the claim of some modern tel-evangelist, making big talk to hawk his program and wares; this is the claim of the inspired scriptures themselves. And maybe this is not so surprising if a person stops and contemplates that it is all based on "the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord," considering the apostle Paulís statement about Christ: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). But still, the fact that it is all contained in small volume instead a whole library is absolutely astounding!

Hence it is that the word of God goes forth upon the land and to the distant coastlands. Imbedded in its words is the call of God. This call, contained not merely in the preaching of the cross of Christ but requiring the full presentation of Godís glory and excellence, is what draws men out of their darkness and into His marvelous light. Each saint, then, fully appreciative of what God has done for him through this gospel, creatively seeks to influence as many people as possible in any honorable way possible. Each follower of Christ has, by Godís divine power, "everything pertaining to life and godliness!"



Godís Plan for Your Life

Followers of Christ often want to know what Godís plan is for their lives. "What is Godís will for me?" is a question thrown out repeatedly. The word of the Almighty is interesting in this regard; the answer is given directly, and not necessarily what the saint initially might want to hear. "For this is the will of God," Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren, "your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality" (II Thessalonians 4:3). An answer like that sometimes brings the brethren up short; they were expecting some sort of detailed instruction on exactly what they were to accomplish that day, or exactly what their function is to be within the body of Christ. But the wisdom of God bluntly says for the saint to be sexually pure and sanctified, and the saint himself is to figure out how to implement that in his daily living. Similarly, then, there is a blanket statement for Godís plan for each saintís life.

The saint is truly free! He can pass by the claws of the roaring lion (the devil), knowing that, since he is a partaker of the divine nature by Godís awesome power, those claws have no flesh to tear!



Applying All Diligence

There is a basic truism, economically stated, but applying to all aspects of living as a vapor during the earthly sojourn. "On that which cost me nothing," is a statement of the principle, "I place no value." The All Wise, knowing how the brain of man works, since He is the One who designed it in the first place, makes provision for followers of Christ to be willing participants in the divine transformation process. "His divine power," affirms Peter, coupled with all the elements of the "true knowledge" of Godís revelation through Jesus Christ, makes it possible for the disciples to become "partakers of the divine nature." Some have the perspective that since all that divine power is applied to the saint, there is nothing for the saint to do; Godís omnipotence and sovereignty, from this point of view, are so complete that all the "saved" can do is stand by and watch God do His mighty work in him. A little more complete look at the scripture, however, shows that Christís disciples are going to be active rather than passive in being partakers of the divine nature. Thus, while God does that which is humanly impossible in the transformation, the saint is required to have maximum input in the process, and therefore he will place high value on what is being accomplished because it cost him something.

The Holy Spirit Himself inspired Peter to put this word into the phraseology: applying! The disciple of Christ cannot be passive about this. He cannot be perfunctory, or lackadaisical. He must really apply himself to the program of God to become a partaker of the divine nature.

This is one of the major areas where the modern Christian, generally speaking, fails. He fails to apply himself "with all diligence," preferring to toy minimally with the scriptures, and focusing instead on things of this earth. Modern brethren need to heed the words of this exordium, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply all diligence to participating in the character of Christ!



Moral Excellence

Even the world recognizes that if there are not generally high moral standards within a local congregation, or within an individual making a claim to be a Christian, the religiosity exhibited thereby is a complete sham! As a whole, people outside the body of Christ ó basic citizenry ó understand a person coming out of some "addiction" might struggle a bit to get himself reoriented, and they actually applaud those efforts. But if a man is known as a "deacon" in the church, and is crooked in his business dealings, the citizenry has total contempt for such hypocrisy. Similarly, if a woman is known as one of the "Sunday school teachers" in the local congregation, but runs around on her husband or is recognized as the worst gossip in the neighborhood, they joke about her "Christianity" behind her back and the name of Jesus is trashed all over town. It is interesting (and encouraging, really) that common folks recognize that there is supposed to be a positive connection between a personís faith in Christ and an uptick in his personal morality.

"They baptized Jesse Taylor in Cedar Creek last Sunday," were the words of one of the songs that made the popular charts in the 1970ís. "Jesus gained a soul and Satan lost a good right arm. They all cried ĎHallelujah!í when Jesseís head went under, ícause this time he went under for the Lord." Yep, olí Jesse Taylor went from being a drinkiní, gambliní, fightiní, womanizer to being a good church goiní, family man, walking in the ways of the Lord. Even the common folks recognize thatís how it should be. And that is why the scripture emphasizes that the first thing the new saint should do is in his faith is to "supply moral excellence."



Acquire Knowledge

When Jesus first issued what is called "The Great Commission," He put major emphasis on teaching. "Make disciples," He said, "Ö teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matthew 28:19,20). One of the primary names for followers of Christ is disciple, and it is clear that these followers begin by learning, and continue to learn all their days. The apostle Paul, for example, in writing to the church in Ephesus, appealed to the brethren to no longer walk as the Gentiles walked, noting that "you did not learn Christ in this way" (Ephesians 4:20). Knowledge, then, is the glove that fits on the hand of learning, and together form the process by which the saint might reach for the upward call of God. The apostle Peter, having listed first faith, then moral excellence as steps on the spiral spiritual staircase, now adds, "in your moral excellence, [supply] knowledge" (II Peter 1:5). What sort of knowledge, therefore, would the saint be supplying to himself?

A little reflection establishes that knowledge is important in increasing the faith and moral excellence of disciples of Christ. The saint, then, should continually be in the process of acquiring knowledge!



Add Self-control

Many a man has "built his house," carefully and cautiously, only to lose it all in a moment of losing self-control. The moment of anger, the situation when the mouth spoke words that cannot be recalled, the occasion when booze was imbibed, the day when despair took over Ö these are those times that must be guarded against and when self-control must be implemented unflinchingly by the process of "mind over matter." Thus in the spiral staircase of character improvement, now comes self-control. "Applying all diligence," said Peter. First comes faith, then moral excellence, then knowledge, then self-control.

When the faithful follower of Christ is able to add self-control to his spiritual arsenal, he simplifies his life greatly. Gone from his life are the thrown wrenches, cuss words, and holes punched in the wall. Gone from her life are jabs with the tongue, spending sprees, and manipulation games. A life governed by self-control is a life without the self-recriminations of someone who knows he is guilty and has really messed things up, wishing they had "do overs." This is a life of joy and peace where, because of self-control, the Christian has the spiritual power to perform when he wants to and when he needs to! Praise God that self-control can be added to faith, moral excellence, and knowledge.



Developing Perseverance

Even the non-Christian world recognizes the value of perseverance, the ability to keep moving forward. One of the more famous poems is entitled, "Donít Quit," and contains the lines, "Often the struggler has given up/When he might have captured the victorís cup." This, of course, is opposite of perseverance, and is the mark of losers. The poem continues, "So stick to the fight when youíre hardest hit ó Itís when things seem worst that you must not quit." Perseverance, then, is a mark of winners, and it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit, working through the apostle Peter, would see fit to add perseverance as another step on the upward spiral staircase, placed on top of faith, moral excellence, and self-control.

The scripture is replete with warnings for those who may want to quit too soon. "Be faithful until death," was the Lordís exhortation to the brethren of Smyrna, "and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). That is the ultimate goal of perseverance!



Brotherly Kindness

When Davidís son Absalom rebelled, David was forced to flee Jerusalem with his entire household. The distress of David is imaginable. Conscious of his being driven from his home because of his own sin with Bathsheba, and hurting over the rebellion of his son Absalom, the "man after Godís own heart" walked up the Mount of Olives barefoot and with his head covered in shame. Adding to his distress was that a man of the tribe of Benjamin ó Shimei ó was cursing David and casting stones at him as he made his ascent to the summit. After resting at the crest of the ridge, the contingent with David made their way down to the Jordan, reaching the riverís edge by nightfall. But a trusted carrier brought a message from Davidís spies posted inside Absalomís circle, warning David and explaining that his entourage must ford the Jordan before stopping or Absalomís men would destroy them. "Then David and all the people who were with him arose and crossed the Jordan; and by dawn not even one remained who had not crossed the Jordan" (II Samuel 17:22). After fording the Jordan ó tired, cold, disheveled ó the people came to the estate of a man of great substance, Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim. He and others of means provided bedding and food for Davidís company, numbering in the thousands, saying, "The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness" (II Samuel 17:29). Furthermore, Barzillai continued to support Davidís household until the death of Absalom and the time that David could return to Jerusalem. In exchange for this great sacrifice of kindness, David kissed Barzillai, blessed him and took his son Chimham as an honored personage to the court in Jerusalem.

Godís goal, according to the apostle Peter, is for the saints to "become partakers of the divine nature." Applying all diligence, says he, in addition to the other qualities mentioned in a description of an upward spiraling staircase, in "your perseverance" add "godliness, and your godliness, brotherly kindness" (II Peter 1:6,7).

To apply all diligence in adding kindness to our list of positive character traits, initially we have to train ourselves to look for opportunities to go the extra mile in helping others. Then we have to develop the habits of inconveniencing ourselves, taking extra time, giving of our resources. Only when these are entrenched as deeply rooted habits will "random and thoughtless acts of kindness" occur.



Christian Love

"Love is all you need," is a line from the now extinct Beatles singing group, part of the bilge from the United Kingdom surfacing on Americaís shores. Coca Cola ó which has so much power in its advertising clout that it caused Santa Claus to shift his colors from green-and-white to red-and-white in order to color coordinate with Coke ó feted the long-running commercial with the theme "Iíd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." In that commercial, the opening line was, "Iíd like to buy a home and furnish it with love." The point is: there is a deeply rooted and instrumental need in mankind to be loved and to love, and the mass marketers are willing to play on these strings in order to carry out their often twisted and selfish agenda. By contrast, the agape love of God is unselfish and concerned about the needs of others, driven by honest affection and appreciation. "In your godliness," says Peter, add "brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness" supply Christian "love" (II Peter 1:10).

Faith, hope, and love are the deep and foundational bases for the Christian life. But at Jesusí coming, faith becomes sight and ceases, hope is now realized and fades. Love, however, continues on forever, fulfilling the statement, "the greatest of these is love."



Useful and Fruitful

There is a direct relationship between character and performance. God, then, is in the process of upgrading the character of His children of faith, that they may become more useful tools in the execution of His eternal purpose. "By His own glory and excellence," is the way that Peter begins to lay out his premise, "He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature." But this participation in the positive characteristics of God requires action on the part of the recipient; "applying all diligence," is the operative description. As the saint progresses through moral excellence, knowledge, and on up to Christian love, he is now becoming like his heavenly Father, and is increasingly fit for bigger and bigger spiritual projects. "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:8).

There is a direct relationship between character and performance. Because God is interested in the ability of each Christian to be useful spiritually and to be able to make disciples, He sets forth the character qualities He sees as being necessary for the positive performance of the saints. And the results are guaranteed! "If these qualities are yours, and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful!"



Blind or Short-sighted

What sight is to the physical realm, reason is to the spiritual realm. The scripture uses this parallel regularly in communicating the truths of the word of God and the nature of the spiritual battle that goes on all around us. Regarding those who are perishing, the apostle Paul noted, "in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:4). Again that same apostle quoted the Old Testament writings concerning his desire to preach where the gospel had not yet gone, "They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand" (Romans 15:21). Even in our customary vernacular, when we come to an understanding of a point another is making, we say, "Oh, I see." The apostle Peter, then, after illustrating what positives result from the saintís climbing the upward spiral staircase of Godís divine character qualities, states the negative in terms of sight or blindness. "For he who lacks these qualities," the apostle emphasizes, "is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins" (II Peter 1:9).

When a person becomes blind or short-sighted, he cannot be as rational as he should be. Because he cannot focus clearly, all sorts of extraneous issues begin to cloud his thinking, he operates in a fog or spiritual daze, and is easily guided into all sorts of traps. The master of these traps is the prince of darkness, who delights in the spiritual destruction of those who wander off the highway of holiness.

When all these things are taken into consideration, it is clear that it is certainly worth the saintís time to spend some quality time every day diligently working on the positive charactreristics that will enable him to be a partaker of the divine nature!



Calling and Choosing

The scripture indicates, from beginning to end, that man chooses. Adam and Eve had their choices in the Garden of Eden, and they chose foolishly. Not only were they banished from the Garden, but they also lost their fellowship with God. They werenít allowed flippantly to say, "Iíve made a bad choice," and then have everything revert back to the way it was without consequences. No, their banishment was real, and their loss of fellowship with God was spiritual death. The nation Israel likewise had to choose: "I have set before you life and death," said the Lord Almighty, "the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). And under the new covenant, the choice is also clear. "He who believes in the Son has eternal life," adverted John the Immerser, "but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).

It is important to nail down the concept that man chooses eternal life or eternal death; the philosophy of Calvinism confuses the issue by promulgating the idea that man cannot choose, that he is so totally depraved that God has to choose him without manís willing participation. The general picture is this: God confronts man with the gospel, and man chooses either to believe or disbelieve the message from heaven. "Therefore, brethren," appeals the apostle Peter, "be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things you will never stumble Ö" (II Peter 1:10).

"Be all the more diligent," were Peterís words, "to make certain about His calling and choosing you." Satan, the roaring lion seeking someone to destroy, is trying to get inside the thought processes of the saints, and pull them back into his orbit. But the follower of Christ has the solemn assurance that if he will increasingly in his faith supply moral excellence, and in his moral excellence, knowledge, etc., he will never stumble! This is an awesome promise, and should provide powerful motivation for the child of faith to increase his diligence in developing these characteristics in his life.



The Eternal Kingdom

"Many shall come from east and west," inculcated the Lord Jesus, "and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:11,12). While the expression, "kingdom of heaven," or "kingdom of God," usually means the church that Jesus built during the years of earthís existence, it can be a reference to church in eternity as it does in the above-quoted passage. In Jesusí interpretation of one of His own parables, after describing the angelsí gathering the stumbling blocks out of His kingdom at Judgment Day, He notes, "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43). This would be "the eternal kingdom" that the apostle Peter mentions. "As long as you practice these things," states Peter, referring to the positive character qualities such as perseverance and brotherly kindness, "you will never stumble; and the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you" (II Peter 1:10,11).

The eternal kingdom will be awesome, beyond earthly description. The scripture uses symbolism, and symbols of symbolism, in the book of Revelation to communicate how wonderful the glories of eternity will be. But for those pictures to have the proper powerful appeal, a spiritual people has to be prepared who can recognize their upward pull. "In My Fatherís house are many dwelling places," encouraged the Lord Jesus. "If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2,3). Come, Lord Jesus!



Need for Reminders

Very rarely do we learn anything new. Most of the time, we just need reminders of what we already know! The Lord, knowing our minds very well, thus instituted memorials in the past age, such as the Passover, to keep His people in remembrance of His great and mighty deeds. Under the terms of the new covenant, even the people upon whom the ends of the ages have come need their reminders, the Lordís Supper being the most prominent. Jesusí words in instituting the Supper are instructive; "Do this," He said, "in remembrance of Me" (I Corinthians 11:25).

The apostle Peter has spent the opening portion of his second epistle talking about the importance of being partakers of the divine nature, and listing some repeatable steps for the saintsí ability to continue to move forward in faith. He knows that these points are nothing new to his readership, but he is so concerned about their abilities to fight the fight of faith that he wanted to remind them.

Peter was crucified upside down, according to secular history, and loosely referred to by Jesus as recorded in Johnís gospel account (John 20:18,19), in about 66 AD. He was not "the Churchís longest reigning Pope" as the Roman Catholics would have us believe, but he was one of the thirteen apostles of Jesus Christ. Considering that very shortly after the apostlesí deaths, these first principles were forgotten, and the church for the most part went out of existence, we would do well to put the appropriate weight on Peterís reminder!



No Cleverly Devised Tales

The story of Jesusí crucifixion, resurrection, and subsequent ascension really is almost in the realm of fantasy. This is why many of the "rational" types such as Thomas Jefferson had trouble with the miracles, and why many doubt that the accounts are more than stories merely rooted in untenable legends, and intelligently presented fantasies for the mindless masses. The apostles, of course, having to be on the cutting edge of declaring the almost unbelievable accounting of His resurrection from the dead, would have encountered this skepticism at every turn. Imagine the challenges Peter faced, as he did before the Sanhedrin, as he tried to convince a hostile world that he was a witness, not only of Jesusí physical resurrection from the dead, but also of His exaltation to the heavenly throne. As he approached his departure from this earth, his earnest desire for his hearers to believe the truth of Jesusí glory shines through.

What Peter and the other apostles proclaimed were not "cleverly devised tales." The "power and coming" of the Lord Jesus to the heavenly throne was witnessed by them in the Spirit. It was confirmed by the miracles the apostles could perform. It was backed by all the Old Testament prophecies. The message of the gospel is true and verified. Believe and obey!



Precursor to Heavenly Glory

The Father is, as expected, a perfect teacher, preparing His students adequately for the next lesson. Specifically, for example, Jesus sent the apostles out two-by-two early on in His ministry to prepare them for the time coming when He was no longer on earth. A couple of years later, after Jesus had already instituted the Lordís Supper but prior to His arrest in Gethsemane, He reminded the apostles of that previous preparation and set the stage for the next aspect of their lives. "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals," He queried, "you did not lack anything, did you?" Upon their answering in the negative, He responded, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ĎAnd He was numbered with the transgressorsí; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment" (Luke 22:35-37). He had prepared them to trust Him in things large and small, so that they could continue to go forward, carrying out His mission.

On an earlier occasion, the Lord had taken just three apostles ó Peter, James, and John ó up on a mountain with Him to pray. Suddenly, His appearance became bright and shining, and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him, radiantly shining also, in the presence of these disciples. When Peter suggested that they make three tabernacles in honor of these three awesome personages, a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of heaven, saying. "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35). Moses, representing the Law, had spoken; and Elijah, representing the prophets, had spoken. But now, in these last days, God would speak through His Son! After things quieted down, Jesus commanded them, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead" (Matthew 17:9). He was preparing them for the glories to come.

Peter, along with James and John, were eyewitnesses of Jesus shining with a glory that was preparing them to testify of what was to come. They saw this glory with their physical eyes and heard the voice with their physical ears, and they were prepared to bear witness to that under any conditions. There were three witnesses, and their testimony was unshakable. How much more, then, their testimony concerning Jesus when He ascended to the glory of heaven itself! The apostles, then, with a few others added along the way, were indeed solid and secure witnesses of His "power and coming" on the clouds of glory as He took His rightful position as Lord and Christ.



Morning Star Arising

Peter, along with other apostles, was certain that Jesus was transfigured on the holy mountain, and the Majestic Glory verified the Sonís authority to speak on all issues. He was equally confident that Jesus ascended to heaven, exalted as the great King. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain," he animadverted in his first preaching of the gospel, "that God has made Him both Lord and Christ ó this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36). In connection with the baptism with the Spirit, poured out upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, there was given to them the revelation of the events in heaven connected with Jesusí glorification. "But when the Spirit of truth comes," Christ had promised, "He will guide you into all the truth." As the Lord continued His discourse, He noted the nature of this guidance: "He shall glorify Me," stated King Jesus, "for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you" (John 16:13,14). The Holy Spirit, then, established the truthfulness of Jesusí resurrection and ascension, 1) by the Old Testament prophecies which He wrote by the hand of inspired men, 2) by His disclosure by revelation to the apostles of what happened with Jesus in the courts of glory, and 3) by the apostlesí ability to perform attesting miracles through the Spirit.

"Christ in you, the hope of glory," is another name for the indwelling Spirit. "God," said the apostle Paul, "sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge" or guarantee of our proper resurrection from the dead (Colossians 1:27; II Corinthians 1:22). So as long as it is the time denoted as "Today," the time when it is dawn before the full blast of the daylight of Christís glory at His coming, we would do well to pay attention to the lamp of Godís revelation ó the Bible ó and make certain that the Morning Star has arisen in our hearts!



An Objective Book

The modern era, is the one in which time is measured, generally speaking, from the birth of Christ. Hence BC stands for "Before Christ," and AD represents "Anno Domini," translated as "in the Year of our Lord." The earthly "powers that be" anticipate the end of Christís influence, and have already designated The New Age as "the Post-modern Era." As they slaver over the prospects of a diminished Christ, they have already begun designating time in terms of BCE and CE, meaning to them "Before Current Era," and "Current Era."

Characteristic of post-modern thought (using the term "thought" generously) is that there are no absolutes; there is no truth. A natural and designed corollary of those processes is that words do not have specific meanings; a word means something to one individual and something else to another individual. Hence there are no "documents of authority"; for example, the Constitution of the USA is a "living, breathing document," in which it is impossible to determine the original intent of the framers of US liberty. Likewise, it is impossible to determine the meaning of any passage of scripture. Thus many modern Bible studies sink to the level of a discussion, centered on "this is what this scripture means to me," while it can mean exactly opposite to another person seated at the same table, and they can experience some sort of unity in diversity. In terms of religiosity, then, the Bible becomes a "subjective book," and all that a person can know about God is what he personally experiences. Movers and shakers, developing and expanding their market share of the religious marketplace, craftily design "experiences with God" in their "worship services," and people are thus programmed to think that they are now walking with Christ when in fact they are being shuttled down the road to hell. They are thus trained, because of the underlying philosophy of post-modern thought, to seek for "personal experience" rather than looking at an objective document of authority like the Bible.

In the times in which we live, in which the philosophy of post-modernism is subtle but rampant, saints seriously have to consider the words of Peter about there being only one correct interpretation of scripture. In our personal work and in our public proclamations, we must recognize the need to establish this principle of reasoning in the minds of each hearer, or they will be subject to whatever emotions the charlatans of this age can generate in them. They will be looking for feelings and signs to guide them, rather than the pure milk of the word of God!



Author: The Holy Spirit

The charge often leveled against scripture is that its teachings are man-made, and that it is a product of man alone, just like the other religions of the world. Those who level such charges are either hostile to the word of God, or shallowly looking for an easy way of not dealing with themselves and their accountability to God. Those who are hostile provide the excuses; those who are shallow accept the excuses. The Holy Spirit, in fact, is the author of the scriptures, as the apostle Peter affirms, "For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (II Peter 1:21). This is a bold statement, but the question in modern times is: Is it provable? The answer is: Yes! And in an extremely brief format, here is how the scriptures are demonstrated to be divinely authored rather than humanly conjectured.

Anyone, then, who would take more than a shallow look at the scriptures, would have to come to the conclusion that they are divinely written. The words of Peter are true: "Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."



The Arising of False Teachers

So long as earth exists, the war for the souls of men will go on. The battle is fierce, and it encompasses all aspects of manís existence during the years of his sojourn. The temptations work inside; the mass pressure works from outside. The "prince of the power of the air" is at war with the "Prince of peace," and there is no place on this planet where a person can run and escape from this warfare. If you are breathing, you are involved!

The saints know, of course, that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19). But what about inside the church? Shouldnít this be a place of refuge, a walled and impregnable city where no influence from the forces of darkness can penetrate? That is true of the eternal city pictured in the closing pages of the book of Revelation, but while "cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night" remain, the warfare will continue inside the church as well, as the scriptures make major efforts to warn us.

But these false teachers inside the church had to do their work secretly at first. They first had to appear as upstanding brethren, holding fast to the apostlesí doctrine as they worked inside to create a following and a groundswell of support for their false and questioning positions. Once they had successfully introduced their heresies, and created a significant faction within the church, then they could position themselves as leaders of the "true church," at the same time as they were running counter to the direction originally given by Peter and his fellow apostles. The message of the apostle is clear: the price of eternal liberty is eternal vigilance!



Destruction of False Teachers

As long as earth exists, there will be warfare within the church. In a way it is unfortunate, that the place of peace and refuge from the storm should have its traitors who walk among the brethren, its wolves in sheepís clothing who steal and kill and destroy. But that is how it is, and that is how the new testament writings present it to the brethren, that the brethren might live eternally rather than dying like Old Testament Israel. The false teachers come from either the side of "the law" or from the side of "the lawless." Each is equally destructive, because both deny "the faith of Christ," which is the only belief system that leads to eternal life. And both "law" and "lawless," in one way or another, as systems of doctrine promoted by false teachers, grant legitimacy to fleshly desires and quench the thrust of the Spirit of God.

Pressures to "go with the flow" can be great. If the saint becomes lax, he will find himself drifting with the downstream currents rather than putting in the effort to maintain true doctrines and following the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The sacrifice to stand for the truth is great; but "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).



What God Can and Will Do

The popularity of false teachers can seem overwhelming. How is it that even in the church in Ephesus, begun by no less than the apostle Paul, it was said that "savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them"? (Acts 20:29,30). How is it, that even in modern churches of Christ, that the writings of Augustine can be venerated, and the writings of Pelagius (what remained from what was burned by Augustine) be discounted? How is it in Christian churches that Billy Graham and his false plan of salvation can be honored, and that those who hold to the way of salvation as first proclaimed by the apostle Peter be regarded as "controversial?" That is the way of the world, that is the way it is within the church. But God is not fooled, and Peter has a list of His judgments prepared to encourage the saints to hold fast the teaching of Christ and the words of the apostles.

The apostleís main point in this passage is that God has tremendous power to exert on behalf of Christians. Not only were those first century brethren suffering physical persecution, but the false teachers were working in their midst. To an honest-hearted individual, this could be discouraging. Peter brings everything into the proper focus: "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment" (II Peter 2:9). The message, then, is that the brethren can continue to move forward with excitement and confidence!



The Lord Knows

The word of God continually reinforces the concept that the saint must choose heaven or earth. Israel of Old Testament times was entrusted with the oracles of God, "but false prophets also arouse among the people." Similarly, "there will be false teachers among you," the apostle warns us, "who will secretly introduce destructive heresies." "Many will follow their sensuality," he says, "and in their greed they will exploit you with false words." And this, remember, is inside the church! This scenario can cause the saint to despair of ever being able to accomplish anything; if much of the work of the apostles turned to ashes, so to speak, how can we modern Christians ever hope to have any of our work be of "gold, silver, or precious stones?" But it does not depend upon us! God is working through all the confusion, and the ones that are interested in truth will be rescued. God, for example, "did not spare the ancient world," when those residents deliberately turned against the principles of the Holy Spirit of God, but He did preserve "Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly (II Peter 2:5). The words of Joshua to Israel ring through the ages: "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve." (Joshua 24:15)

Yes, the saint needs to choose to come out of the world, to choose heaven over earth. But the saint also needs to choose inside the church to follow the teachings of Christ. It is pretty clear from the scripture that the prince of darkness takes his warfare inside the confines of the body of Christ, and works every fleshly angle there to draw the brethren into his realm. Once again, however, there is no excuse for the saint to choose wrongly; the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation!



Exposing the Unrighteous

"I consider it right," said the apostle Peter, knowing that his earthly death was imminent, "to stir you up by way of reminder." What was clearly on his mind was that the church be able to move forward with the momentum and the sound doctrine which the apostles laid as a foundation. "I will also be diligent," he explains, hoping the brethren would hear the earnestness of his appeal, "that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind." And a significant portion of what he wanted the disciples to call to mind were his warnings about false teachers. One of the problems with the false teachers was that their doctrines lead people away from the holiness and righteous conduct that the Lord desires in His children of faith. "Many will follow their sensuality," Peter had proffered, "and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned."

God is a God of goodness and order. Those who are pulled into the corruption of Satan increasingly end up exhibiting his character, and they are disorderly anarchists and hateful revilers. No one of these shall escape the judgment of God; "the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment."



Ultimate Destruction

"The mouth speaks," noted Jesus, "out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12:34). The record, then, of those who have sinned against God and have not found reconciliation through Christ, is not stellar. "Their throat is an open grave," the apostle Paul quotes from the Old Testament inspired analysis, "and with their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Romans 3:13,14). Man, originally formed in the image of God, comes under the control of Satan and plunges into savagery and beastiality of the worst forms. "Destruction and misery are in their paths," added Paul, "and the path of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:16,17). Self-willed, conniving, and brutal ó unless rescued and reformed ó these "walking dead" are worthy of damnation in the eternal garbage heap.

The apostle Peter is greatly concerned about the spiritual future of the brethren. He knows that false teachers were arising and will arise within the church itself, "bringing," as he said, "swift destruction upon themselves." But his overriding concern is for the brethren who might get led astray by such teachers. False teaching leads to false concepts, and false concepts lead to bad decisions and poor judgments. Thus Peter is extensively warning against these teachers and their teachings, knowing that such will bring about, in the brethren, the blackening of their character, the ruination of their souls, and their eternal destruction in the lake of fire. This would be the terrible and ultimate destruction of those who wander away from the truth of the apostlesí doctrine!



Exposing the Unrighteous

"I consider it right," said the apostle Peter, knowing that his earthly death was imminent, "to stir you up by way of reminder." What was clearly on his mind was that the church be able to move forward with the momentum and the sound doctrine which the apostles laid as a foundation. "I will also be diligent," he explains, hoping the brethren would hear the earnestness of his appeal, "that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind." And a significant portion of what he wanted the disciples to call to mind were his warnings about false teachers. One of the problems with the false teachers was that their doctrines lead people away from the holiness and righteous conduct that the Lord desires in His children of faith. "Many will follow their sensuality," Peter had proffered, "and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned."

God is a God of goodness and order. Those who are pulled into the corruption of Satan increasingly end up exhibiting his character, and they are disorderly anarchists and hateful revilers. No one of these shall escape the judgment of God; "the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment."



Ultimate Destruction

"The mouth speaks," noted Jesus, "out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12:34). The record, then, of those who have sinned against God and have not found reconciliation through Christ, is not stellar. "Their throat is an open grave," the apostle Paul quotes from the Old Testament inspired analysis, "and with their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Romans 3:13,14). Man, originally formed in the image of God, comes under the control of Satan and plunges into savagery and beastiality of the worst forms. "Destruction and misery are in their paths," added Paul, "and the path of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:16,17). Self-willed, conniving, and brutal ó unless rescued and reformed ó these "walking dead" are worthy of damnation in the eternal garbage heap.

The apostle Peter is greatly concerned about the spiritual future of the brethren. He knows that false teachers were arising and will arise within the church itself, "bringing," as he said, "swift destruction upon themselves." But his overriding concern is for the brethren who might get led astray by such teachers. False teaching leads to false concepts, and false concepts lead to bad decisions and poor judgments. Thus Peter is extensively warning against these teachers and their teachings, knowing that such will bring about, in the brethren, the blackening of their character, the ruination of their souls, and their eternal destruction in the lake of fire. This would be the terrible and ultimate destruction of those who wander away from the truth of the apostlesí doctrine!



Hidden Motives, Positive Pretense

Salesmen can be deceptive. Now there is nothing wrong with sales and salesmen per se, because no one makes any money anywhere unless goods are moving from the producer to the consumer through the agency of sales. But the salesman can pretend to be interested in the consumer, while he in fact is only interested in making the sale. That is deceptive.

It is not only in the realm of goods and services that salesmanship is taking place; it is also true in the realm of ideas. Ideas have to be "sold," or propagated. Whether it is the gospel or whether it is Communist propaganda, whether it is the truths of God or the twists of denominationalism, these ideas are spread as people are persuaded rightly or wrongly to follow their courses and believe their world-views. Hence those with a vent toward the telling of tales and spreading of lies will often cover their destructive ideas with a veneer of "caring." They have hidden motives, but disguise them in positive pretense.

The apostle is engaged in an extensive listing of the bad conduct of the unrighteous, and that generates the question as to why he is so doing. He is obviously concerned about the future of the church after he makes his exit from earthly life, and he knows that the behavior of the outside world will tend to carry over into the church. Thus he warns of those who use the cover of Christianity to mask their execution of their lustful desires. And the extensive listing in his comments serves to emphasize the seriousness of the secrecy surrounding those who bring their destruction into the confines of the faith.



The Way of Balaam

The prospect of the divinerís fee caused preliminary itching in Balaamís palm. Called from the west bank of the Euphrates River to curse Israel by Balak, king of Moab, the false prophet was first told by God not to go. But the itching continued, and the Lord knew that the hireling would go to curse Godís people. Hence the Lord squeezed him down step by step, so that when the time came to curse the children of Israel, the prophet could only bless Israel and prophesy of the Christ who was to come from among them. An important part of Godís pressure on the diviner involved Balaamís donkey. The donkey could see the angel of the Lord (one of the Old Testament appearances of Jesus) standing and blocking their way, whereas Balaam was blind to the real spiritual realm. The donkey at first turned off the trail, but was beaten back on track by her master. Next she pressed her riderís foot against the wall, but the beating continued. Finally, as she approached the angel who was occupying the narrow way between two walls, the donkey just lay down on Balaam. When he continued to strike the poor donkey, God opened her mouth and had her speak to the diviner, still driven by the prospects of Balakís reward. Balaam Ė angry and focused on the prospects of the divinerís fee Ė did not even notice that he was carrying on a conversation with the donkey! The Lord then opened the false prophetís eyes so that he could see the angel, and would therefore not curse Israel.

Three times, then, altars were set up at separate locations overlooking the vast horde of Israel camping on the land near Moab and Midian. But three times the Lord would not allow Balaam to do anything but bless Israel. The diviner, however, was not willing to return to his home without some sort of fee for his trouble. Thus he proposed to Balak and the elders of Moab and Midian that their daughters traipse through the camp of Israel. This, in his estimation, would cause Israel to intermingle with the Moabites and Midianites, would cause the sharing of Israelís flocks and herds, and would result in Israelís worshiping the gods of these two neighboring nations. One of the last plagues from the Lord swept through the remaining Israelites who had been over twenty at the crossing of the Red Sea, and Israel learned clearly, at this point, to remain separate. Israel, under the direction of the Almighty, "killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain Ö they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword" (Numbers 31:8).

The apostle Peter, in penning his last reminder to the church, in line after line shows his concern for the future of the church and her ability to recognize modern false prophets. They are sneaky, greedy, and immoral, and will eventually pull the local congregations into false and destructive doctrines if they are not recognized. There is only one "right way," and they have forsaken that to follow the way of Balaam!



Empty Promises

The driest desert in the world is the Atacama Desert in Peru. It generally doesnít rain more than one-half inch every fifty years, and what plants grow in that locale have adapted and get their moisture from the fogs off the Pacific that occasionally blanket the landscape. Picture, then, the pilgrim ó the poor wayfaring stranger ó traveling through that land and trying to sustain himself from what the surroundings supply. It would be a tough trip, but parallel to what happens in local congregations when the accursed children take control, exploiting the saints with false words, and enticing unstable souls.

Just as the fallen angels worked to be lying spirits to put lies into the mouths of the false prophets in Old Testament times, so these false teachers work on behalf of Satan in the church. The earnest warnings of the apostle Peter are so that the followers of Christ will be able to recognize these deceptive types and not fall into the snare of Satan. The promises stemming from the dark lord are appealing, but in the end they are terribly empty!



Better Not to Know

We have long maintained that Satan had the original website! Like a giant, massive spider, he has been enticing people into his realm and entangling them in a sticky, stringy mess from which they have insufficient human power to extract themselves. It is a spiritual web, the threads being people who are linked together in intermeshing chains, and the sticky goo being the demonic forces of the devilís darkness. Key players in this system are the false teachers who influence so many. They turn those who come under their spell away from God and do their part to entrap their victims in fleshly-satisfying, self-justifying false doctrines. Against such teachers and against such systems Peter strenuously warns in his final message to the followers of Christ.

The mind of the saint is programmable; hence the exhortation comes to be transformed by the process of renewing the mind. But this reprogramming process is difficult and requires consistency. Thus the siren song of the false teachers who have crept into the church has great appeal, offering a mental bailout for those whose desire for transformation wanes. How great a destruction it is, then, for one who once participated in the right way, and turned from it. When he burns in the eternal fires of hell, the knowledge of what good things could have been will torment for all eternity. Truly, it would have been better for him not to have known the way of righteousness!



Another Reminder

Peter, a little brash and bold, was the first among the apostles. First to state that Jesus was the Christ, first with the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane, first to step into the empty tomb, first to preach the gospel to the Jews, and first to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, Peter had seen the church grow from its first beginnings to its stretching across the globe. But he was concerned, and rightfully so, about the future of the church and desired earnestly to communicate his warnings to the brethren. Even though he had earlier in his epistle mentioned that he was writing this letter as a reminder, he goes back to this theme. Twenty-first century brethren would do well, then, to pay heed to his warnings!

The false teachers, then, would be working to confuse and corrupt those doctrines, and to pull the brethren back into the realm of darkness. The apostle knows that these forces are already at work within the church, and he also knows that the only way the saint can keep his faith intact and move forward with the gospel is to "apply all diligence" in climbing the spiritual spiral staircase. Understanding human nature, and the tendency of the flesh to take the easy path rather than the right and diligent path, the apostle is making a long appeal to the brethren to be aware of their circumstances. "I am," he said, "stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder." May our minds be sincere!



The Uniformitarian Mockers

Peter, an apostle inspired by the Holy Spirit, not only was reaching out toward his generation, but was also looking to ours. False prophets arose among the people of Israel, false teachers arose in the first century church, and false doctrines would propagate in the future. Welcome to that future!

The most important factor in the first century church was to hold to the doctrines taught by the apostles and the New Testament prophets, such as Mark and Luke. "We are no longer to be children," averred the apostle Paul, "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). The same forces are at work today; hence there is the superlative need to return to the doctrines and practices favorably recorded in the pages of the New Testament writings. This will be for the preservation of our own souls, and for the souls of all those we may influence.

The mockers have been catapulted into the lead and visible positions in the educational, scientific, and media establishments. They are demonstrably hostile to even entertaining a sensible discussion concerning intelligent design or creation, and are a part of the anti-God forces at work on a massive scale in the modern world. Christians need to pay attention to Peterís reminders, and hold on to the apostlesí teachings about Jesus Christ!



First Water, Then Fire

The old proverb is, "There is none so blind as him who will not see." Sin hardens the heart and blinds the mind to the truthfulness of Godís testimony in the Creation, as well as in the written word. Mankind as a whole has been in rebellion against God since Genesis chapter three, and the forces of darkness foment and agitate that rebellion, bringing it to a more intense ferocity than would have been accomplished by man alone. "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth," Moses recorded, "and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). The true history, passed from Noah to Shem to Abraham to Moses, continued, "And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:6). The result was that the antediluvian world perished before the Lord. The Almighty then promised not to destroy the earth with water again, saying, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of manís heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done" (Genesis 8:21). But the lesson of the Flood stands, communicating to anyone willing to strip the blindness from his mind, and see the judgment of the Lord against sin.

"They did not understand," said the Lord Jesus of those rottenly corrupt individuals in the days of Noah, "until the flood came and took them all away." To which He added, "So shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:39). When the level of mankind sinks to what it was before the Flood, then Jesus will come to execute His judgment. This time it will not be water; it will be fire!



Certainty of Judgment

The recent statement of Jesusí coming on May 21, 2011, by Harold Camping, is typical of those who refuse to believe Jesusí comment that no one knows the day or the hour of His return. But "Adventists" of all kinds have been making such predictions all along, with destructive results. The idea of Jesusí second coming is thusly discredited, and mankind as a whole plunges deeper into the abyss of depravity rather than repenting. However, the Day of Judgment will come, even though the deceptive forces of darkness work diligently in convincing mankind that prospects of such a judgment are holdovers from an earlier age, an age where people could be fooled by such "fairy tales."

The Flood happened when God was ready, when the time of His patience ran out. The destruction of the earth by fire will happen likewise, when the time of His patience runs out. No one should be confused by that patience, as Peter confirms, "But the day of the Lord will come!" (II Peter 3:10).



All to Come to Repentance

Children need to be trained in the ways of righteousness. Left to themselves, they become spoiled, self-willed, lazy, and incorrigible. Thus their approach to life becomes one in which they throw temper tantrums and engage in manipulation techniques to get their own way. But while such behavior is somewhat understandable in a child, it is sickening and destructive in an adult. "Accursed children" is the terminology of the Holy Spirit in describing such as should be mature (II Peter 2:14). But such is the human race, and Godís plan is to rescue as many as possible from the dysfunctional family, and bring them into existence as new creatures in Christ, with a new family, a new environment, and a new potential.

But what about those of us already rescued? What about those of us who cry out, "Marantha (O Lord come)!" on a regular basis? Well, we also will just have to wait. Just because we have had the opportunity to enter into eternal life does not mean that we should slam the gate closed behind us. It is true that the word of God does not paint a very pretty picture of earth as time nears its end, "men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world" (Luke 21:26). But if we can develop the same perspective that God has ó that all should come to repentance ó then we can have the patience to persevere until Jesus comes!



Coming Like a Thief in the Night

The saint is to take courage from this certain fact: "The day of the Lord will come!" The forces of darkness are at work trying to confuse the issue of Jesusí coming by having certain charlatans give their predictions of the exact day. Other forces are at work trying to convince people that the Second Coming will not happen at all. In a lecture on the Montana State University campus I attended as a guest of a student participating in a philosophy class, the professor wowed the students with this impressive opening statement: "The kerygma of Jesus Christ is essentially unbelievable because the parousia never occurred in the manner expected." Those early saints, he postured, expected Jesusí second coming ó the parousia ó to occur in their lifetime, and when He didnít show, they changed their story to the idea that the second coming is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Because of that, he maintained, the kerygma (the proclamation) of the gospel of Christ is not believable. The ultimate conclusion, of course, is that the story of the Christ is all mythology, and that there will be no such thing as the Lordís return in judgment. But the saint is to take courage from this certain fact: "The day of the Lord will come!"

When Jesus returns, there will be no rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and there will not be any seven years for an "Antichrist" to reign over earth. There will be no 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth, for there will be no earth to reign over. When Jesus comes everything physical is vaporized. Hence it is that both the faithful follower of God and the unbelieving infidel will both receive a resurrection body. Those who transgressed against God will leave earth to stand judgment, receiving as their punishment eternity in the lake of fire. The saints will be resurrected to stand judgment, and will pass on into a heavenly eternity in a glorified body. The material universe burns, but there will be no people in that burning; each will have gone on to his reward.



What Sort of People

Everyone has to stop and analyze where they should put their time and effort. On a theoretical basis, at least, people recognize that it is not smart to invest in a failing venture, especially when it is clear that the venture will die. On the other hand, it is prudent to throw all possible resources into a guaranteed, profitable, honorable, and important success. So why, in general, do people waste most of their time and energy in that which is temporal at best, and destructive at worst? Answer: deception! "Sin," said the apostle Paul, "deceived me" (Romans 7:11). Coupled with "the deceiver" ó Satan himself ó and the capacity of the human race for self-deception, the deceptiveness of sin puts the vast bulk of the populace on the broad road that leads to eternal destruction in the lake of fire. But there is no need for the Christian to put himself back on that path. He has been enlightened; has been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit; he has tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come; and he can fix his hope and attention on things eternal. Apparently, however, he must be warned.

God spent most of earthís time in history preparing for the special people called Christians. The inspired word was "written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11). As those who have been born again, strengthened by the Spirit, walking in faith, directed by the word of God, truly "what sort of people ought we to be!"



Hastening the Day of God

Can disciples of Christ really change the history of the world? Can the prayers of the saints really redirect the flow of the order of mankind? Can the actions of the brethren impact the timing of Godís events? The scripture gives many examples of how, in the Lordís divine spiritual economy, the prayers and participation of Godís people altered the course of history. The prayer of Moses, pleading with God not to destroy the fledgling nation just freshly delivered from Egypt, and the repentance of Nineveh following the preaching of Jonah, come to mind as such cases in point. What about the time, then, of Jesusí second coming? The apostle Paul, preaching at the open forum on Mars Hill near Athens, Greece, closed his message with this appeal: "God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:30,31). That there is such a day is fixed; but can the timing of that day be altered?

"You are," said the apostle Paul, "Godís field, Godís building" (I Corinthians 3). Having adroitly switched the metaphor, the apostle then compared the spiritual church to a physical temple. "Do you not know," he queried, "that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16). Anticipating the involvement of the Gentile Christians in moving the "living stones" into place in the spiritual building, Zechariah prophesied, "And those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord" (Zechariah 6:15). At some point, then, the last living stone, "the top stone," will be emplaced with shouts of "Grace, grace to it," the true temple of the Lord will be complete, and the plan of God will be finished. Let us "look for and hasten the coming of the day of God"!



New Heavens and a New Earth

Thus begins the word of God: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Here we have the creation of the physical universe; here we have the formation of the first natural laws: the law of gravity, the first law of thermodynamics (that the total combination of matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed), the laws of momentum. But it was destined to be only temporary. When Adam chomped down on the forbidden fruit, the law of death and decay entered in. "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth," the writer of Hebrews quotes the psalmist, "and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle You will roll them up; and as a garment they will also be changed" (Hebrews 1:10-12). The sin of Adam set in motion the destruction of the physical universe! And the moral decay which became endemic in the human race set in motion the motive of God for destroying the physical creation, ushering in the day of judgment, and the ultimate rescue of those who would successfully claim faith in Jesus Christ.

The Creation at first was described as "very good" (Genesis 1:31). But once the sin of Adam entered in, the picture is drastically altered. "And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth," Moses recorded, "and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:6). Since that time every institution has been corrupted by the sin that works in the human heart in general, and by the influence of the prince of the power of the air. The saint then comes to the recognition that there is no justice on earth, that nearly everything is unfair, and that, while corruption, crookedness, and scandal is rewarded, the good and honorable is trashed and persecuted. According to His faithful and sure promise, then, we who are truly justified by faith look to the upcoming new spiritual universe "in which righteousness dwells."



How to Be Found

"Who then is the faithful and sensible steward," asked Jesus, using His parable-type of teaching, "whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?" (Luke 12:42). The Lord is discussing His second coming with His disciples, trying to help them understand the necessity of constant vigilance. "You too, be ready," He had stated, "for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect" (Luke 12:40). The saint, then, in our time, if he truly possesses the faith, believes that Jesus could come at any instant. He knows that he has been entrusted with the stewardship of faithfully shepherding his life, and is continually to be executing his responsibilities. "Blessed is that slave," commended the Christ, "whom his master finds so doing when he comes" (Luke 12:43).

The most important question for the one properly immersed into Christ is this: how will Jesus find him when He returns? Will he be diligent in becoming "spotless and blameless?" Will he be at "peace" with his Lord? Or will he begin to "beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards?" One thing is for certain: he will be found!



Commending Paul

The apostles Peter and Paul were in agreement in their doctrine and practices. This unity was described by the apostle Paul in a discussion he had with the churches of Galatia. Referring back to a meeting which occurred in Jerusalem as described in Acts 15, Paul sets the stage for this encounter with the apostles Peter and John. "For I would have you know, brethren," he initiates his conversation, "that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11,12). So when problems developed in Antioch over the acceptance of the Gentiles as Christians by those of Jewish background, Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders of the congregation there. After submitting to them the gospel which he preached, Paul remained unchanged, noting "those who were of reputation [meaning specifically Peter and John] contributed nothing to me" (Galatians 2:6). The result was that Peter, John, and James (elder in the church of Jerusalem, and half-brother of Jesus) "gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised" (Galatians 2:9). Later, in Antioch, Paul had to correct Peter in the presence of the whole congregation because of his being carried away into hypocrisy ó refusing to eat with the Gentile brethren. To Peterís credit, and as a recorded example of how brethren need to work through difficulties, Peter accepted Paulís rebuke rather than splitting the church, and obviously highly respected Paulís efforts and teachings. Now, at the time of Peterís "imminent departure," both of these awesome apostles had been working in Rome.

One of Peterís great final closing statements is his commendation of Paul. Paul had made it plain that he had the same preaching and same practices everywhere he went. "For this reason," he stated to the church at Corinth, "I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church" (I Corinthians 4:17). Peterís recommendations of Paulís writings establishes that all the true first century congregations all taught the same doctrines and all practiced the same essential practices. This basic and powerful truth is the beacon for how we are to conduct ourselves today!



Twisting Paul

The apostle Peter was greatly concerned about the coming of false teachers into the church after his physical death on earth, which he termed his "departure." It needs to be re-emphasized: "There will be false teachers among," was his warning, " who will secretly introduce destructive heresies." "Many will follow their sensuality," he continued, "and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned" (II Peter 2:1-3). Unfortunately, those who were to follow did not pay enough attention to Peterís admonitions, and by approximately 50 years after Peterís departure, most of those who claimed to be disciples of Christ had been led off into the very heresies that this great apostle was pouring out his heart and soul in warning against. Not only would they reject the pleadings of Peter, they would also twist the teachings of Paul.

The word of God is a perfectly designed instrument of judgment. It, in the words of Hebrewsí author, can discern "the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Of Jesus, John the Immerser said, "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor" (Matthew 3:12). If the untaught and unstable distort the word, it is because they are not honest before the Lord. It is incumbent upon us, then, as those who are honest in the sight of the Almighty and All Knowing, to make certain that we do not twist scripture, but that we "rightly divide the word of truth"!



ďBe On Your GuardĒ

Our time on earth is clearly nothing more than a testing ground. Since earth is all we have ever known, based on our five senses, it is a challenge to put physical life in its proper perspective based on the word of God, revelation from heaven. But it must be done. "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it," Jesus Himself informed us, "but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospelís shall save it" (Mark 8:35). And this point is a continuing theme of the Christ: "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal," He added, near the end of His own earthly life. "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:25,26). Not only is there the concept of preserving self for all eternity if a person serves Christ, but there is added benefit of being honored by the Father as a positive motivation for those desiring to lose earth in order to gain heaven.

But Satan is at work, trying to pull the saintsí attention back to the things of this world, and obscuring their view of heaven. In so doing, he can drag the brethren back into the destruction he, his angels, and those who never knew God or never obeyed the gospel reap. Hence he has his false teachers who appeal to sensuality, greed, and adultery. And against such Peter warns again and again.

The love of the apostle Peter for the church, for the movement of which he was a major part, is evident. He himself was a victim of Satanís destructive activity more than once. "Simon, Simon," said Jesus, just prior to His arrest in Gethsemane, "Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat" (Luke 22:32). That sifting occurred, but through Jesusí prayer, Peter was able to turn back again to serve the Lord. Later, Satan was able to incite Peter not to eat with the Gentile brethren in Antioch of Syria, and thus set the stage for a lot of dissension and confusion in the church at large. But the Lord was able to use the apostle Paul to correct the misunderstanding. So Peterís words are straight out of his own experience and straight from his heart: "Be on your guard!"



Grow!

When Jesus preached in His home synagogue of Nazareth, He read from the passage in Isaiah about "good news for the afflicted," "liberty to the captives," and "freedom to the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1,2). In this prophetic passage, clearly about the church built on Jesus Christ, those who hear the trumpet sound announcing the year of the spiritual jubilee are "called the oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). From the seed of the gospel, planted in the good and honest hearts of the hearers, these mighty oaks grow. But they need proper nutrition and a good growing environment.

The scriptures of II Peter open and close with grace; but that grace is closely tied to knowledge. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you," is Peterís opening prayer, adding "in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord" (II Peter 1:2). The apostle closes with the exhortation to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." What a blessing it is to have received a faith of the same kind as those of the first century Christians! What a blessing it is to have the word of God communicating the truths concerning Jesus our Lord! And what a blessing it is to function under the grace of our Father and the Jesus our Savior! "To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."