THE BOOK OF SECOND PETER
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Book of Second Peter is a strong exhortation to godly behavior. The apostle harshly condemns people who assemble with the believers but whose behavior is wicked.
Second Peter is a good antidote for the overemphasis on the grace of forgiveness so common in todayís preaching and teaching.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF SECOND PETER
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:10,11)
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: (II Peter 1:1)
It sounds as though the Apostle Peter is referring to Jesus Christ as our God. This is a bit unusual, in that the Apostles ordinarily apply the term "God" to the Father. In fact, the Authorized Version has "righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ." Which expression Peter had in mind I am not certain. There is no problem, however, in that the Father in the Psalms refers to Jesus as "God" and has made Jesus to be our God.
This is an unusual application of the word "righteousness," isnít it? We have received our precious faith through the righteousness of God. In what manner have we received our faith through the righteousness of God? I think it is the same idea as that expressed in "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness."
Perhaps the concept is that the entire creation, including angels and mankind, has become polluted with self-will and all the unclean behavior that proceeds from self-will. Therefore God, who is righteous behavior Personified, regards all creatures as sinful and has introduced His righteous Person so that whoever will forsake his own will and righteousness may receive the true, eternal righteousness of God. In this manner we receive our faith through the righteousness of God.
Or it may be true that God considers giving faith to us to be a righteous action on His part.
We know that we should seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. However, the current emphasis on imputed righteousness, rather than actual righteousness of behavior, tends to confuse our thinking.
Does seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness mean seek the Kingdom of God and the righteousness He is willing to impute to us apart from any change in our behavior? Or does this mean seek the Kingdom of God and the actual change in our behavior as we become, through the Lord Jesus Christ, a new creation of righteous behavior?
Since the Kingdom of God is the doing of Godís will, we assume that the latter is the true interpretation. While imputed righteousness is necessary to free us from the Law of Moses and to start us on the path that leads to full redemption, the outworking of the new covenant is a change in the way we behave. Where there is no righteous behavior there is no Kingdom of God.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (II Peter 1:2)
Grace is the Presence of God in Christ providing man with all he needs to be a son of God in Godís image.
Peace is the assurance that all is well, that there is no reason we should be living in fear.
Grace and peace come to us in increasing measure as we grow in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. It is my personal belief that one of the reasons God places us on the earth is that we may come to know the Lord. As we go through various problems and dangers, and the Lord keeps delivering us, we become convinced that God is faithful and true.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (II Peter 1:3)
"Everything we need for life and godliness." The power of God provides all we need to survive in the world and to behave in a righteous manner. In order to survive we need power. In order to behave in a godly manner we need power. Godly behavior always is a matter of power. The more of the power of God we have, the more able we are to choose what is good and reject what is evil.
The more knowledge of God we have, the more of His Divine power we are able to receive.
God has called us by His own glory and goodness. Far more is said in the New Testament about Divine election than ordinarily is preached and taught in the Christian churches at this time. Perhaps this is because we want to be "fair." Or maybe it is because we cannot understand how God can choose some people and ignore others, and yet punish those whom He has ignored when they behave in an unrighteous manner.
The Bible teaches clearly that God chooses some people to be closer to Him than is true of others. How can this be true if God is to judge all people fairly and impartially? The resolution of this seeming inconsistency is not readily understandable to us. Obviously there are facts of which we are not aware, for we know God always is righteous. So our best course is to accept the Scriptures as they are written and let God be God.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (II Peter 1:4)
Through Godís own glory and goodness He has given us His promises. The Bible is filled with promises, isnít it? If we will do this, God will do that. Have you found that God never breaks His Word? I have!
By means of the promises of God we can participate in the Divine Nature, in Godís Nature. If we will follow Christ with a whole heart, not just "accepting" Him in a one-time religious experience but bearing our cross of denial and following Him every moment of every day and night, we grow in the Divine Nature. Thus we have an adamic, carnal nature and also some of the Divine Nature. By using our will we choose each moment whether to follow our adamic nature or whether to follow the Divine Nature that has been given to us.
There is much corruption in the world, and it is increasing. The corruption comes from our evil desires. Our evil desires come from the sin that dwells in our body and also from the demonic pressures that surround us.
We can choose at every moment whether to yield to the prompting of the Divine Nature that is in us, or to the lusts and passions of our flesh. We understand therefore that our redemption, our deliverance from Satan, depends on the choices we make. God has given us of His Divine Nature. We were born with a sinful, rebellious personality. We must chooses whether to serve the Divine Nature or our sinful nature. God has given us all the wisdom and power we need. Our task is to take hold of what has been given to us so freely. Our salvation depends on it!
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; And to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (II Peter 1:5-7)
"Make every effort." Every effort! Exert yourself! Strive to enter through the narrow door! Press toward the mark! Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Kingdom of God!
There is a teaching today that implies all we are required to do is believe, and Christ will do the rest. No effort on our part is required. This is the devilís own brew, isnít it. If we do not make every effort to lay hold on our redemption, it is certain we will be drawn away by the powerful currents of evil that surround us and press against us continually.
Have we been accepted in the beloved? Are we complete in Him? Then let us have confidence in our position of security and strength and fight the good fight of faith.
Do we have faith? Then we are to make every effort to add goodness to our faith. Goodness is a mixture of love, compassion, mercy, faithfulness, and understanding. These virtues are to be pursued by us until they are revealed in our personality.
Do we have faith and goodness? Then we are to make every effort to add knowledge to our goodness. We grow in the knowledge of the Lord as we pray, meditate in the Scriptures, and obey the Spirit of God. Our problem as American Christians is that we become so distracted with our frenzied culture that we do not set aside enough time for prayer or the contemplation of the Scriptures.
We are so bent on achieving our goals, or even on surviving, that we cannot hear and obey the Spirit of God. If we ask the Lord, He will give us the time and strength to pray and study the Scriptures. Also, He will slow us down so we can hear and obey the Spirit.
Do we have faith, goodness, and knowledge? Then we are to make every effort to add self-control to our knowledge. Self-control is just what the word states. It is control of our self. It is to always choose to do what we know to be right, in spite of the pressures on us to do what is wrong.
I think self-control and possessing our soul are much the same thing. There are so many forces and idols that seek to drive and motivate us. Much prayer, Bible reading, faith in Jesus Christ, and determination are required if we are to maintain control of ourselves; if we are to possess our soul.
God is ready to furnish us with His Divine Nature and power. It is up to us to keep laying hold on Christóday and nightóso we can control our thoughts, words, and actions, and not behave in a manner that we suspect is not pleasing to the Lord.
Do we have faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control? Then we are make every effort to add perseverance to our self-control. If there is a more important virtue in the Kingdom of God than is true of perseverance, I have not discovered it. We have to be patient and persevering until a perfect work of redemption has been wrought in us.
It often is true that God give us a vision, you might say, a promise of what He has in store for us. Of course, we are ready to run right into our land of promise. But there often are many years between the vision and the fulfillment of the vision.
It is during the interval of time between the vision and the fulfillment that the saints are made. So much patience and perseverance are required! The believer may be tempted, as was Abraham, to act before the child of promise is born. In this case, as was true of Abraham, a "wild donkey of a man" will be brought forth, a son whom God does not recognize; a son who will mock the child of promise.
Many begin the Christian race but not all finish. Many are called but few are chosen. It is the individual who "stays the course," who keeps on plodding along through all sorts of mistakes and false starts, who finally emerges into the restful light of Christís Presence.
Do we have faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance? Then let us make every effort to add godliness to our perseverance. Godliness is what the name implies: it is God-likeness. As He is, so are we to be in this world. We are to keep eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ until we are living by Him as He lives by the Father. We are given the body and blood of Christ in the spirit realm every time we choose to turn aside from evil and do what is good.
Those who see our behavior should be seeing the behavior of Christ. Those who see the behavior of Christ are seeing the behavior, the righteous Personality and conduct, of God. This is the manner in which we bear witness of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christónot only by what we say, but primarily by what we are and do.
Do we have faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness? Then let us make every effort to add to our godliness brotherly kindness. It is easy to be kind to those whom we naturally like, who are pleasing to us, who are kind to us. It is not as easy to be kind to Christian brothers and sisters whom we naturally dislike, who displease us by their actions, who are unkind to us.
But God and Christ are kind to all. As we make every effort to add brotherly kindness to our godliness, the Divine Nature will come to our rescue. We will be able to overcome evil with good, to repay unkindness with kindness. To be able to repay unkindness with kindness is the mark of a mature Christian. It is the image of Jesus Christ, the image of God.
Do we have faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness? If so, we are to make every effort to add love to our brotherly kindness.
The Apostle Paul writes that love is greater than faith and hope. The Apostle John informs us that everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God, for God is love. Even the world speaks much of love. But the love the world speaks of ranges from the disgusting perversions of the flesh all the way to the self-love we term "romance."
Godís love is not neither fleshly lusts nor the capriciousness of romantic imaginations. It is the Divine Nature. It is what God is in Essence. It is wholly supernatural, not at all mixed with human nature.
The various forms of love humans experience are shadows or distortions of Godís Nature. In its highest form, such as the love of a mother for her children, human love always is frail; always subject to failure.
Godís love never fails; neither is it self-seeking. It is utterly pure, joyous, creative, peaceful, strong, courageous, and holy.
Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.
God has given us faith through His righteousness. Now, how do we go about adding these seven virtues?
As we follow the Holy Spirit, He convicts us when we do something bad. Let us say we take something from a store without paying for it. If we are walking in prayer as we should, the Holy Spirit will remind us that we have stolen the item.
Immediately we are to go to God for wisdom about returning the merchandise. We are to confess our act as sin, and ask God to help us never to steal again. In this manner we make every effort to add goodness to our faith.
Knowledge is of two kinds. There is the knowledge we gain from studying the Scriptures. Then there is our personal knowledge of God that we gain through experience.
If possible, we never should let a day go by without studying the Scriptures.
As far as our personal knowledge of God, this comes as we diligently follow. Christ each day, patiently bearing the cross of denial that He assigns to us.
I may be incorrect in this, but I believe most of our personal knowledge of the Lord comes as we pass through difficult periods in our life. It is during the "nights" of pressures and dreads that we come to know the Lord. But such knowledge is gained only as we faithfully endure whatever suffering the Lord sees is necessary for our redemption and growth.
Our journey on the earth may be one of the most fruitful times we will have in all of eternity to gain a personal knowledge of Christ. Let us make every effort to take advantage of this opportunity, as painful as it may be at times.
Self-control is largely a matter of the will, I believe. We make certain that no motivation or urge is succeeding in guiding us into that which is not pleasing to the Lord. We pray until we have the strength to resist that which is evil. God has given us a soul, the ability to make moral choices. Let us make every effort to possess it patiently.
Perseverance also is a matter of the will. We can choose to keep following Christ no matter what difficulties we encounter. If we faint in the time of adversity, our strength is small. Throughout the Church Era the Lord has been training members of the royal priesthood. The training is rugged, there is no doubt about this. He shall divide the spoil with the strong.
To be godly, to demonstrate in our personality and actions the Personality, will, and ways of the Lord, requires that we pray continually, study the Scriptures, and above all, keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. We must meet on a consistent basis with fervent disciples if at all possible, having the opportunity to be ministered to, and to minister what God has given to us.
We must present our body a living sacrifice in order to prove the will of God. We have been commanded to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit that we may contribute to the building of the Body of Christ. As we choose to turn away from evil and do good, we are fed with the body and blood of Christ. These elements are the eternal Life of God in us, resulting in godly behavior on our part.
We are to make every effort to add brotherly kindness to the faith that God in His righteousness has given to us. As we look about us we often see opportunities to assist a brother or sister in the Lord. Satan would have us gossip about and slander those believers who are weak, who are having difficulty serving the Lord. Instead we are to pray for the weak one, doing what we can to help him or her grow in the Lord.
If a believer falls into sin we are to do all we can to help him back on his feet. By so doing we cover a multitude of sinsóours and his.
Love is the principal virtue. But how do we make every effort to add love to our God-given faith? First, we can make an effort to do to other people as we would have them do to us. Often this requires getting alone with God and praying until we have peace concerning the individual. Second, as Christ is formed in us, and our sinful nature is destroyed as we obey the Spirit, we begin to feel Godís love in us directed toward people.
Love is the highest calling, the highest mark of maturity. It is the goal we aim at, meanwhile making every effort to behave toward others as Christ would behave toward them.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:8)
"In increasing measure." We have to work at them each day, the Lord helping us.
Is it possible to be ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ? Obviously it is. If we do not make the effort to add these seven virtues to our faith, it may be true of us that our knowledge of Christ has not profited us.
But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (II Peter 1:9)
You know, it has been many years, as I have mentioned in previous writings, that the Lord Jesus first wakened me to the fact that current Christian preaching and teaching are not biblical. Christ emphasized to me that Christians are supposed to grow in righteousness each day. Divine grace is not Godís alternative to righteous behavior.
Yet, this is just what we have made it. We do not reason with the unsaved, as Paul did with Felix, concerning righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. Rather we speak of grace, the "rapture," and eternal residence in Heaven. It is as though how we behave is not the issue; the only issue is a profession of belief in Jesus Christ.
We do not tell the believers that if they do not add the seven virtues to their God-given faith they are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten they were cleansed from past sins. We clearly are not preaching a balanced message. The moral condition of Godís people, and of the civil government for which they are the only light, reveals the overemphasis on the grace of forgiveness.
We claim to believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, but then we ignore them in favor of our traditions.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, (II Peter 1:10)
Is it possible for a Christian to fall? The Christian ministry of today answers vehemently, "No!"
The New Testament answers just as vehemently, "Yes!"
Whom are we to believe?
The implication in Peterís statement above is that if we do not make every effort to add the seven virtues to our faith we may fall.
Have we been called and elected by the Lord? Yes.
Do we have to make every effort to establish our calling and election? Yes. We can be called out of Egypt by the Lord, and then die in the wilderness because of our unbelief and disobedience. If this scriptural fact were emphasized today I believe we would see a significant difference in the moral behavior of the believers.
And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:11)
On what basis will we receive a rich welcome into the Kingdom of Christ? On the basis of making every effort to add the seven virtues to our faith.
Notice that Peter does not say we will receive a rich welcome into Heaven, but into the Kingdom of Christ.
Is there a difference between being received into Heaven and being received into the Kingdom of Christ? Yes, there is.
John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle of Christ all preached the Kingdom of God. Today we are preaching Heaven. We simply cannot depart from the Scriptures in this manner and then serve the Lord properly.
Heaven is a place. The Kingdom of God is a realm of authority. There is an inner kingdom that is born and is formed in us. There also is an outer manifestation of the inner kingdom that will come to the earth with the appearing of Christ. The place in the spirit realm called "Heaven" is neither born and formed in us, nor is Heaven the outer manifestation of that which is born in us.
If we are going to be moving with God in these last days we need to return to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, for this is the original gospel, and the subject of the parables of Christ.
We receive a rich welcome into the Kingdom of Christ when we add the seven virtues to our faith, for they are of the nature of the Kingdom. By being welcomed into the Kingdom Peter must mean being welcomed by Christ and those in whom Christ has been fully formed.
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (II Peter 1:12)
Peter is not writing to teach them but to encourage them in that in which they already have been established.
I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, Because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (II Peter 1:13,14)
Peter joins the ranks of those, such as Moses and Paul, who knew when their labors on earth were finished. I hope this may be true of me some day. How do you feel about thisóabout knowing when your departure is near at hand?
I like Peterís expression: "put it aside," referring to his bodily "tent." These are not the words of a man who is grief-stricken over the thought of dying.
And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (II Peter 1:15)
The Apostle Peter was a man of integrityósomeone who was more concerned with the welfare of others than he was with his own fate.
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (II Peter 1:16-18)
Peter had some marvelous experiences in his life, such as when he walked on the water to go to meet the Lord Jesus. But the episode on the Mount of Transfiguration, when he, James, and John saw the Lord in His glory along with Moses and Elijah, probably was the greatest of all the miracles Peter was privileged to witness.
The three disciples saw the transfiguration of Christ. They heard the Father speak from Heaven. They indeed were witnesses of Christ and His Kingdom.
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (II Peter 1:19)
The above verse is well worth our consideration. Peter is saying that the three disciples indeed did hear the very voice of God while they were on the Mount of Transfiguration. But we have a source of truth more trustworthy than a voice from Heaven, and that is the writing of the Prophets of Israel.
Peter says we are to pay attention to the Scripture, for they are a light shining in a dark place. I think by the "word of the prophets" Peter meant the whole Old Testament. We are to study the Old Testament until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our heart.
Peter at this point has described the working of the new covenant. The Christian is to continually study and meditate on the Scriptures, both the Old Testament and the New Testament as well. We are to notice what God has commanded concerning us and we are to keep praying for the wisdom and strength to obey what is written.
Obedience to the Scriptures is absolutely necessary, but this is not the new covenant. The new covenant consists of God writing His eternal moral law in our mind and heart. Thus we become the Word of God. As this takes place in our personality, we begin to behave righteously.
The new covenant is Christ, the Morning Star. If we are faithful in keeping His Word, eventually the day of the Lord will dawn in our heart in preparation for the historic Day of the Lord that will dawn when Christ returns to the world
The Day of the Lord that is coming with the return of Christ, the time when the Lord alone is exalted, will not drop down from Heaven as the rain. Rather it will come from within Christ and His saints. The Glory of the Lord that will fill the earth will issue from Christ and those in whom Christ has been formed and is dwelling.
In that day the saints will be a covenant of God with mankind. If they will obey us, God will bless them. If they will not come under the rule of Christ issuing from our personality, then the blessing of God will be removed from them and they will find themselves in a barren land and dry desert in which there is no source of refreshing.
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophetís own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (II Peter 1:20,21)
I am viewing "no prophecy of Scripture" as referring to the entire Bible. The Bible did not proceed from the mind of man but from the Spirit of God.
There are many today who would tell us the Bible was written by well intentioned men who described the Kingdom of God as they understood it. This being the case, they assume, people are free to accept the passages they believe to be profitable and modify or reject that of which they disapprove.
Such will never understand the Bible. They will never hear the voice of God. If we are to understand the Bible we must realize it did not proceed from the mind of man. It came from the Spirit of God. Because of this, it cannot be interpreted correctly by the mind of man but only by the Spirit of God.
Whenever man attempts to understand and teach the Scriptures he applies human sentiment to it. For example: I was taught in Bible school that Jesus spoke in parables so people would understand and remember what He said. But Jesus said He taught in parables so people would not understand the truth. People whose thinking has been influenced by humanism will never accept that Jesus deliberately concealed His meaning so only those whom God wanted to know the truth would be given the explanation.
The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." (Matthew 13:10-13)
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?" "Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?" So they will understand and remember what I said.
Not quite the same reason, is it? Yet the Pentecostal Bible school I attended was fundamental in doctrine and fervent in spirit.
Then again, the idea that God hardened Pharaohís heart, or that some people are appointed to wrath, is not easily accepted by people of the twenty-first century, whether or not they are Christians.
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ĎWhy did you make me like this?í" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes [honor] and some for common use [dishonor]? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathóprepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for gloryó Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:20-24)
We have a problem with fairness, donít we? How could God make one person for glory and one for wrath? Either the Scriptures are Godís Word or they are not. Once we tamper with one verse we are undone. Anyway, how can we be certain what is fair and what is not? Is the Lord God bound by our concept of fairness?
Some of us live by trusting in Godís unalterable Word. If it is wrong in any part, then our life is built on shifting sand.
There is no doubt that the philosophies of humanism and democracy have entered Christian thinking. We may forget at times that holy men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. So we adjust the Scriptures until they fit our notions of what is fair, what is humanly understandable. Thus the Christian preaching and teaching today contain much error. We are attempting to build the Kingdom of God according to our own understanding. We do not realize that salvation is totally of the Lord.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought themóbringing swift destruction on themselves. (II Peter 2:1)
False prophets among what people? I suppose Peter is referring to the "palace prophets" of the Old Testament.
Why anyone would want to be a prophet when he doesnít know the Lord is a mystery to me. Yet even today we see pastors and evangelists who ought not to be in the ministry. They are seeking personal wealth and glory. Often these "ministers" are capable administrators who would be successful were they in the world. What is it that moves them to enter the Christian ministry? They are bringing destruction on themselves needlessly.
Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (II Peter 2:2,3)
"Exploit you with stories they have made up." It sounds like the typical evangelists. Is it true that there are teachers in the Christian churches who fit the above description? I believe there are. But often the believers do not look too closely at the moral behavior of these "ministers" of the Gospel.
Not so long ago we had the "faith" and "prosperity" aberrations. Preachers pretending to represent the Lord Jesus Christ shamelessly pleaded for money, promising the believers that if they would hand over their money to the preachers God would give them much more money in return. Can you imagine John the Baptist or the Lord Jesus telling their followers that if they would hand over all their money God would make them rich? Indeed, God has sent a strong delusion upon us.
It is time now to turn away from the current traditions and seek the Lord in sincerity and integrity. The world is waiting to see the Character of the Lord Jesus expressed in His people.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; (II Peter 2:4)
Paul told us we are wrestling against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Yet Peter says the angels who sinned have been confined in dungeons until the Day of Judgment.
Perhaps some of the sinning angels were cast down immediately and others have been left in places of spiritual power in order that the saints might learn how to wage spiritual warfare. This makes sense to me.
I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did. The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. (Judges 2:21-23)
If he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; If he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; And if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (For that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)ó If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. (II Peter 2:5-9)
We do not often see the wrath of God fall on sinners, but it has happened in time past and, as Peter reminds us, shall happen in the future. I think today we are not balanced in the presentation of Godís Character, overemphasizing the greatness of His love and not pointing out the greatness of His wrath.
Godís love is unbelievably great. This is true also of Godís wrath.
The flood of Noah remains an awesome example of Godís destructive wrath. The Lord Jesus warned us that His coming will be like the days of Noah.
Sodom and Gomorrah tell us of Godís attitude toward sexual perversity. The citizens of those two cities had plenty of food, and time to indulge their lusts. It reminds us of the Western nations of our day. I believe trouble is coming to the United States in the near future because of the widespread sexual immorality.
Peter refers to Lot as a righteous man. Lot was distressed by the moral depravity he was seeing and hearing, but not distressed enough to move. I wonder how many of us today are distressed by what we are seeing and hearing, and yet are too comfortable to remove ourselves from the company of wicked people.
Peter implies that God delivered Lot because of his righteousness. In the Genesis account it sounds as though God delivered Lot because of Abrahamís intercession. Since both motivations are in the Scriptures it must be the case that both are true. Perhaps Peter had access to an account that was not included when the Scriptures were compiled.
The lesson is, in the Day of Judgment God will spare the righteous. Notice that Peter does not state that God will spare those who accept Christ, but those who practice righteousness. We really are out of bounds today when we make accepting Christ an alternative to godly behavior. The Word of God says through Peter that God will spare the righteous, and this is what is eternally true.
Remember, Peter is pointing out the end of those in the churches who are unrighteous.
This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; (II Peter 2:10)
When discussing the wicked teachers who attend the Christian assemblings, Peters says they follow their sinful nature; they despise authority; and slander "celestial beings." By "celestial beings" I believe Peter is referring to Satan and other highly placed lords of spiritual darkness.
This gives us a picture of arrogant ministers who are not living a holy life, who despise rulers, and who are ready to criticize and demean the angels who at one time had held high positions in Heaven. The irony here is that while they are slandering Satan and his lords, they themselves are bound with chains of darkness.
God has not called us to vilify Satan, or fallen angels, or demons. We may enjoy "rebuking the devil," "rebuking demons," and so forth. I do not believe this is wise. We are on firmer ground when we resist the devil, that is, when we call upon the Lord to help us overcome sinful urges. Then Satan will flee from us. He is afraid of righteous conduct.
Yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. (II Peter 2:11)
There is an etiquette in Heaven than many of us are not aware of. I remember one time "seeing" an August personage in his position at the entrance to a palace in Heaven. The grandeur of this person, whether angel or human being I do not know, made me feel very boorish and rude. I realized then how inappropriate it is for us to rush into Godís Presence with our demands. We would not approach an earthly ruler like that!
So it is that it is not appropriate for us to hurl names at the fallen lords of Heaven. The righteous angels do not do this, for they realize God is not pleased with this lack of decorum.
There is a Sunday school song with these words: "If the devil is in the way we will run right over him." It is a marvel that God does not punish us for such presumption, but He has mercy on our ignorance. The godly pastor will not permit such ignorant arrogance in the assembly under his charge.
But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. (II Peter 2:12)
The concept of the righteous and the wicked is found in the Book of Psalms.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalms 1:6)
The Lord Jesus spoke of the weeds and the wheat.
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, (Matthew 13:36-38)
This is a difficult subject. We all have known of people who did wicked things, and then received Christ and were completely changed. So we cannot say that some people are destined to be righteous and some doomed to be wicked.
Ezekiel informs us that if the wicked turn from his ways and practice righteousness, his former wickedness will not be mentioned to him. Also, if the righteous turn from his righteous ways and practice wickedness, his former wickedness will not be mentioned to him. This is the Word of God and it shall stand forever.
While the words of Ezekiel agree with our desire for fair play, I cannot say that the whole truth is found here. Given the fact that people can change (God does not cause anyone to sin), there do seem to be people in the world who, as Peter says, are "like brute beasts."
But Paul writes:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, In which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Paul is telling us here that all of us were at one time objects of Godís wrath.
Paul quoted "There is no one righteous, not even one."
The balance seems to be that every individual can choose to be wicked or righteous. I believe God would approve of this statement. At the same time, there is no doubt that it is God who works in us both to will and to act according to that which pleases Him. If we choose to emerge from the sinful, rebellious nature in which we were born, it is because God put that desire in us. We did not choose Christ, Christ chose us and has given us the opportunity to become a new creation of righteous behavior.
To claim we are destined to be righteous or doomed to be wicked is not entirely true, I believe. Yet from the time God called Abraham from Ur, it is clear that God works with people according to His own good pleasure.
If the Apostle Peter says that the wicked prophets and teachers in the Christian churches are like brute beasts, born only to be caught and destroyed, and will perish like beasts, then we say "Amen." God has spoken through His apostle.
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. (II Peter 2:13)
It is difficult to believe there were people like this in the Christian churches of the first century. Notice that Peter does not say they were "standing in grace" and without condemnation. This might be the attitude today.
The Lord has commanded us to overcome evil with good. This means we are to feed our enemy if he is hungry, and not avenge ourselves.
But this does not mean there will be no vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God and He will repay. Therefore we are to keep our heart free from malice and bitterness, realizing that an accounting will be demanded for every evil work.
With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greedóan accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkeyóa beast without speechówho spoke with a manís voice and restrained the prophetís madness. (II Peter 2:14-16)
Are there teachers in the Christian churches who are like this, who are adulterers, who seduce unstable believers, leading them into sinful ways?
They are characterized by greed. There is no doubt that many Christian leaders of our day pursue personal wealth. Their entire ministry appears to be dedicated to raising money. Sometimes they attempt to employ metaphysical principles to attract money to themselves, such as imagining they have money, or using faith to draw money to themselves. A friend of mine in Los Angeles tells me that in some instances the Christians are being taught to send angels to get money for them.
The love of money is the mark of Antichrist! The Bible says the Pharisees were covetous and sneered when the Lord spoke disparagingly of seeking wealth. Whoever is making the pursuit of money the goal of his life has the mark of Antichrist on his head and hand.
God told Balaam, a famous man in his day, to not curse Israel. But Balaam was tempted by the thought of receiving much money. So Balaam went back to God, and God answered him according to his folly.
This powerful prophet finally was killed by the Israelites.
Numerous American Christians of our day have been blinded by their trust in money. I do not say all of them will be lost, but I do say they will lose part or all of what would have been their spiritual inheritance.
These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravityófor a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (II Peter 2:17-19)
It is interesting that Peter refers to the false Christian teachers as "springs without water." Our goal, as we move forward in the plan of redemption, is to become a well of living water which people can drink and receive eternal life.
They are mists, giving the illusion of water, but there is no water to actually drink.
"Blackest darkness is reserved for them." Traditionally Christian teaching has presented two eternal destinies: Heaven, or Hell.
There assuredly is a Heaven, where God and Christ are at the present time. There assuredly is a Hell, and the rich man is there.
However, Jesus mentioned the outer darkness. Perhaps this is Hell. I donít think so. Jesus did not say the rich man was in the outer darkness, but in Hell.
Peter states that blackest darkness is reserved for the false teachers. Is this the same as Hell? Is this the same as the Lake of Fire? I do not know, but I like to think the Bible is specific.
It is fitting that those who spread spiritual darkness while they are alive on the earth will themselves be assigned to utter darkness when they die.
They appeal to the lusts of the sinful nature, enticing people who were just beginning to escape from those who live in immorality.
We need to take heed to Peterís words. Today there is far too much emphasis on grace, on belief in Christ, and not enough stress on the necessity for escaping from lust. The New Testament is a book of behavioróbehavior based on belief in Christ, it is true, but behavior nevertheless. The New Testament tells us what to do, not just what to believe.
America is saturated with physical lust, affecting everyone from children to the elderly. The media bombard us with enticements to lust. It is not enough to tell people to believe in Christ. We must exhort the believers continually to pray until they have enough spiritual strength to flee from all that is not morally pure.
How many Christians drool over the pornography on the Internet? How many pastors and evangelists drool over the pornography on the Internet? This is because we are overemphasizing grace and belief and not stressing the need to escape from the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Now notice the following passage carefully. The prevailing belief in Christian circles seems to be that once we are a Christian we can never fall away and be lost.. However, Peter does not agree with this doctrine.
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (II Peter 2:20-22)
Letís take a hard look at the type of person the passage is referring to. Todayís commentators will remark that if he fell away he never was a true Christian to begin with.
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Not only did he know Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior, but through this knowledge he had escaped the corruption of the world. Can we state in all seriousness that he had never been truly saved? But this is the lengths our modern teachers will go to to prove that once we accept Christ we never can fall away and be lost.
"Are again entangled in it and overcome." Are again entangled in what? In the corruption of the world. Is this not some who had repented, been baptized in water, and was living for God?
Can someone who has at one time been living for God turn back into the world? Can he be overcome by the world Our experience as well as the Bible informs us that such can take place.
What then is true of someone who at one time had been following Christ and then had turned back into the world?
"They are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." Can we accept this as truth? Or are we going to join the ranks of the false teachers who claim no matter how we live after we accept Christ we never can fall away and be lost.
"It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them."
Is the Christian salvation "the way of righteousness"? Does this mean Christians are to behave righteously? And what is the "sacred command"? Is the sacred command that we come out of the world and live a holy life?
Is it true that if someone knows Christ, and then turns back into the corruption that is in the world through lust, it would have been better for that individual never to have known Christ in the first place?
It seems clear to me that our current concept of the Christian salvation is not altogether scriptural. The way of salvation is supposed to be the way of righteousness. Notice that the issue here is not that the person ceased to believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but that he became entangled in the corruption of the world. The implication is that the true Christian life is one of iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God. And so it is. But we are making it a philosophy, a system of belief that saves us by virtue of the fact that we have made a correct profession of belief. We simply are not scriptural in this.
Yes, it is possible to start on the way of righteousness, and then to turn back into the lusts of the world. In this case, we were better off never to have known the way of righteousness. As Jesus said, "No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God."
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. (II Peter 3:1)
I think that "wholesome thinking" in this context would refer to thinking that results in godly, righteous behavior.
I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (II Peter 3:2)
How refreshing it is to read these words. Today we are hearing that the Christian salvation is a special work of God unrelated to the Prophets. This is not true. The entire Bible is useful for instruction in righteousness that "the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16,17)
I believe the teaching today is that we now are under a special "dispensation of grace" such that the commandments found in the Old Testament, as well as the commandments issued by Christ and His Apostles, do not apply. We "stand in grace" and God does not judge our behavior. This indeed is a monstrous error.
Of course we no longer are bound by the covenantal requirements of the Law of Moses, such as the dietary restrictions. We understand this.
But the moral principles outlined in the Ten Commandmentsóthese are of the Nature of God and never change.
I think one could go through the commandments given in the Epistles of the New Testament and find every one of the Ten Commandments as well as every commandment given by Jesus Christ in the four Gospel accounts. Righteousness is always righteousness. Holiness is always holiness. Obedience to God is always obedience to God. How can these change when they are of the Nature of God?
The new covenant includes all of these and goes much, much further. Under the new covenant the eternal moral law of God is inscribed for eternity on our mind and heart. It is written line upon line, statute upon statute, until we become the flesh made the Word of God. Thus the demands on us for moral change are infinitely great.
We can see from this that the current "you stand in grace" is totally misleading as to the intent of the new covenant. When we first come to Christ our sins are totally forgiven. We are without condemnation. We "stand in grace," as it were.
But immediately the Holy Spirit attempts to guide us in prayer and in the understanding of the Scriptures. If we do not cooperate with the Spirit, if we do not pray, study the Scriptures, gather with the saints, the work of God in us is aborted. Thus when the unscriptural "stand in grace" is applied to anyone other than the new convert, it is incredibly destructive.
"But doesnít the blood of Christ make an eternal atonement for us?" Yes, it does. But the condition is that we are walking in the light of Godís will, which means we are confessing our sins as they are being pointed out to us, and turning away from them by the power of Christ. As long as this is true of us, the blood makes up the difference between Godís standard and our personal growth in righteousness.
But, if it is true, as it appears to be of the majority of American Christians, that we are leading a careless life as far as Christ is concerned. trusting that we are "standing in grace," the blood no longer is availing for us. The Scripture condemns us in numerous passages, declaring we are lukewarm; that we are neglecting our salvation and shall be punished accordingly.
What unbelievable error is being preached in America at this time!
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. (II Peter 3:3)
Notice that the issue is not that of accepting Christ but of yielding to the sinful nature. The Book of Second Peter is about righteous behavior, not about accepting Christ as our Savior.
They will say, "Where is this Ďcomingí he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (II Peter 3:4)
The period of time between Godís interventions presents a real problem to us, doesnít it? God acts, and then we have to remember the decisions we made at that time and not change. God does not change. We are not to change. What God has spoken finally shall come to pass. I think a major component of faith is that of holding steady while we are waiting for the promise to be fulfilled.
But they deliberately forget that long ago by Godís word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (II Peter 3:5-7)
They deliberately forget. They choose to forget that the world was formed by the Lord and then was destroyed by the Lord.
It is difficult to imagine that the time will arrive when the entire universe, including the earth, and ungodly men, will be destroyed by fire.
There are several theories today that seek to describe the origin of the physical universe. It seems each year that goes by a new understanding is gained. As far as I can tell, each new increment of knowledge gives us a clearer view of the complexity of space and matter.
Since Godís Word spoke these unimaginable elements into existence, we can readily understand that by Godís Word these vast distances and masses can be withdrawn and disappear.
The heavens declare the glory of God. Our minds are not able to grasp the enormity of what we are beholding when we look at the sky at night. It may be true that there are many more clusters of stars than there have been people born on the earth. How can we imagine such a thing? And Jesus upholds all this by the Word of His power!
It is a marvel that God is so gentle with us, as a Father with His children. But the day will come when all that we see shall be burned up along with ungodly men.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (II Peter 3:8)
Apparently the dimension of time does not affect the spirit realm. Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus said He was coming soon. Our idea of soon is not two thousand years. But two thousand years of our time is two days to the Lord, or two minutes.
As far as a day being like a thousand years, this means each day we live is scrutinized by the Lord a moment at a time. We may be in a hurry to accomplish our objectives, but God is carefully examining each word, each motive, each nuance of posture and expression. The hairs of our head are numbered. We shall give an account for every useless word we speak.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
The above verse is a good balance to the doctrine that some are destined to be saved and some to be lost. The eternal Word of God states that God wants everyone to come to repentance. However, we might note that Peter is addressing believers when he says God wants everyone to come to repentance.
We understand that the members of the royal priesthood were chosen before the beginning of the world. We understand that God makes some vessels to honor and some to dishonor. The Bible states these facts clearly. But the Bible declares also that God wants everyone to come to repentance. Since the Word of God cannot be altered in any manner, we just have to say "Amen" and trust that some day we will understand more than we do now.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (II Peter 3:10)
Other translations have that the earth will be burned up, not "laid bare." I think this is to be preferred. Some teach that the present earth will be cleansed by fire and then will become the new earth. This is impossible. The new earth will have to be very much larger than the present earth in order to support the new Jerusalem, a cube 1,400 miles on a side. Can you imagine a city fourteen hundred miles high?
Think about 1,400 miles high. Outer space begins about sixteen miles above the earthís surface. NASAís experimental manned aircraft, the X-15, attained to 67 miles above the earth. Compare this with 1,400 miles!
We know from the Book of Revelation that what Peter is describing here will not take place until after the thousand-year Kingdom Age (Millennium). This leads me to believe that the Apostles did not realize there would be a thousand-year period between the next coming of Christ and the installation of the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. Apparently this understanding came as a revelation to John.
From my point of view, the next coming of Christ is not the time of the general resurrection of the dead, but the resurrection of the firstfruits of the Church. It is a special resurrection, reserved for the Lordís "mighty men," so to speak. It is the first resurrection, and I have written quite a bit about this resurrection. I think it is the resurrection Paul was seeking to attain to.
You may have noticed that the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation divide the Christian churches into two groups of people: those who overcome sin, and those who do not overcome sin. I suspect that the "rewards" assigned to the victorious saints, beginning with access to the Tree of Life and ending with a position on the Throne of Christ, are steps in the attainment to the first resurrection.
It is well to remember that our present physical world is not infinitely substantial. We notice this in the indeterminacy of subatomic particles. Matter really is a form of energy, as shown by Einsteinís famous equation. What has been produced by energy can be dissolved back into energy.
We are foolish when we regard our present world as anything more than a testing ground for the real world of the future, a world infinitely substantial, not formed from such temporary elements as atoms and molecules.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives (II Peter 3:11)
What do we learn from the fact that our present universe shall be dissolved back into the energy from which it was produced? We learn that we are not wise to put our trust in the present world or its devices and allurements. Since all this is to be dissolved we need to prepare ourselves for the day when our present environment vanishes and we are standing before God, giving an account for our behavior in the world.
We learn that we should live a holy and godly life.
As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (II Peter 3:12)
I believe Peter is saying that if we live a holy and godly life we will speed the coming of the Day of God. The Lord Jesus cannot return until there is a company of disciples prepared to return with Him; for the Kingdom of God will be installed on the earth by Christ and His victorious saints.
Is it possible that our behavior could affect the time when the Lord returns? Can we speed the coming of the Day of God by gaining victory over sin? This is what the Word of God states!
The destruction of the heavens by fire, and the melting of the elements due to heat, sounds like nuclear fission, doesnít it. Jude speaks of "eternal fire." When Elijah called down fire on the sacrifice, the fire of the Lord burned up the stones and the soil. An ordinary fire would not burn up stones!
It sounds to me as though the entire physical universe will return to the Divine energy that formed it, so that people are left standing before God with no material support.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (II Peter 3:13)
There is coming a new sky and a new earth. As I said previously, the earth will be many times larger than the present earth. No doubt the new sky will be many times more glorious than the present sky.
Of what will they be composed? Perhaps not atoms and molecules. These after all are somewhat illusory. What appears to be solid consists of molecules having certain properties. When light strikes these the reflection affects our optic nerves and the brain interprets the reflection. This is not a very satisfactory environment, is it? There is more space than substance.
I rather suspect the new heaven and the new earth will be more substantial, more satisfying than the present. All shall be spoken into existence by the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, just as in the beginning.
The new creation will be more glorious than we can imagine at this time. However, the most important part of the new creation is not the wonders of the earth and sky, it is the fact that it is the "home of righteousness."
The present universe reveals the Glory of God. The earth on which we live has many features that we enjoy. However, compared with the spirit world, we are living in a hovelórightly named by King David, "the valley of the shadow of death." It is a suburb of Hell. Compared with the breadth and beauty of the third heaven we are living in a cesspool.
There is much talk today of the exploration of Mars. People are excited about this. The truth is, there is no benefit to exploring Mars. If we were to establish a colony there, and used the planet as an observatory from which to study outer space, it all would be in vain.
Why would it be in vain? Because the members of the colony would bring with them the self-seeking, striving for preeminence, immorality, lust, jealousy, stealing, revenge, lying, slandering, that make life on the earth so unpleasant. The same misery that is true on earth would be true on Mars. Before long someone would be murdered.
When the Bible speaks of the moon being turned to blood, I wonder if the nations of the earth are going to fight over who owns specific parts of the moon.
As long as we sin we are the slave of that sin. No matter where we are, or under what type of government we live, we are a slave. No matter how healthy we are, how much money we have, we will bring misery wherever we go. Were we to establish colonies on every planet of the solar system, we still would be in slavery to the sin that dwells in us.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to make us new creations of righteous behavior. Once we ourselves behave righteously, wherever God brings us will be the home of righteousness. As marvelous as the new heaven and earth will be, they would be no better than the present heaven and earth if the people remained in slavery to sin.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (II Peter 3:14)
Notice carefully that Peter does not direct us to look forward to going to Heaven to live there. Rather Peter points toward the removal of the present sky and earth and the bringing into view of a new sky and a new earth.
Because we are looking forward to a new world of righteousness, we are encouraged to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with the Lord.
Today when we point toward the coming of the unscriptural "rapture," or of our dying and going to Heaven, we do not associate these with our making every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with the Lord. We just assume we are saved by grace and no further effort is necessary.
Why is this? What is the difference in outlook? I think it is because we believe that when we "get to Heaven" sin no longer will be a problem, and we will be free from dread, pain, and responsibility.
However, nowhere does the Bible speak of going to Heaven so sin no longer is a problem, or so we will be free from dread, pain, and responsibility. Other religions may speak of a paradise we enter after we die, but this is not the emphasis of the Bible.
The emphasis of the Bible is the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The Kingdom of God and His righteousness consists of the thinking, speaking, and acting of God as revealed through Jesus Christ, and then through Jesus Christ revealed in us. The Kingdom of God comes to us as we gain victory over sin and Christ lives in us. This is a totally different objective from the idea of going to Heaven so we can escape pain, dread, and responsibility.
The present traditions of the Christian Church have been established through the centuries. In our day the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit is explaining to us the actual plan of redemption, which emphasizes the removing of the sinful nature from man and the forming and dwelling of Christ in him. I have no doubt that this message of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness shall be brought to the whole Christian world by the Holy Spirit. The result may be a division, in which the majority of believers cling to their religion and a remnant "sell everything to buy the truth."
Bear in mind that our Lordís patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (II Peter 3:15,16)
God does not strike down a person or a nation when sin is abounding. Rather God waits in the hope that people will repent, turn to Him, and be saved. This delay between our sinning and Godís response leads people to believe that God will never exercise judgment. They are mistaken. Once God is satisfied that no further progress in righteousness will be made, God will intervene in our affairs. God is capable of swift, violent action. Never interpret Godís patience to mean He is willing to accept sinful behavior.
To the Apostle Paul was given the explanation of the transition from the Law of Moses to the grace of Jesus Christ. The explanation is fairly difficult to understand and certainly is subject to destructive distortion.
The Apostle Paul strove to convince Jewish people that they could place their faith in Jesus Christ and be righteous apart from the works of the Law of Moses. This is why Paul stressed we are saved by faith, not by works of righteousness we have done.
We Gentiles have interpreted the Apostle Paul to mean we will go to Heaven by believing in Christ no matter how we behave. We should have known this is not what Paul meant. Paul, as well as the other writers of the New Testament (especially true in the case of Second Peter!) exhorted us to live righteously and warned us of the consequences of not turning away from the sinful nature.
If the true Christian salvation consisted of admittance to Heaven when we die on the basis of believing in Jesus Christ, then the text of the New Testament would be radically different. It would stress belief and going to Heaven. It does not stress belief and going to Heaven. It emphasizes righteous conduct and the Kingdom of God.
When are we going to abandon our unscriptural traditions and teach the Bible?
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. (II Peter 3:17)
"Lawless men" are members of the Christian religion who tell us we do not have to keep the commandments given by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles. We are "saved by grace," they claim, meaning God is pleased with us if we say we believe in Jesus, even though we are not making every effort to add to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
The main thing is to believe the correct theological facts and make the correct theological statements. This is what saves us, it is taught. The truth is, this approach to salvation is more Gnostic than it is Christian.
True salvation occurs as we take up our cross of self-denial and follow Christ every moment of every day and night. This is how we show our love for Jesus, not by repeated statements that He is our Lord and Savior. Jesus wants to be our close friend, not a distant God concerning whom we make theological pronouncements.
"What does the Lord require of you but to behave righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?"
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (II Peter 3:18)
To grow in the grace of Christ is to increase in thinking as He thinks; speaking as He speaks; acting as He acts. This is the rest of God, and maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
To grow in the knowledge of Christ is to gain an appreciation of the Person, will, way of God and His eternal purpose in Christ. I think that most of our knowledge of the Lord comes through our experiences in the world. Some of our knowledge comes from the Bible, some from the gifts and ministries given to the members of the Body of Christ.
I would not doubt that one of the main reasons why we have been assigned to our lifetime on the earth is so we can gain the knowledge of Christ. I am not certain how the time we spend in the spirit realm after death will increase our knowledge of Christ, or our growth in the rest of God.
My personal belief is that our redemption, our deliverance from the person and works of Satan, is a specific program and process that continues until our separation from Satan is total.
Growth in Christ is another matter. From my point of view, our growth in Christ and in the knowledge of God will continue forever. But it may be true that there are some aspects of our growth in grace and knowledge, that can take place only in the fires of life on the earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ learned obedience through the things He suffered here. Yet He had been with the Father from the beginning of the creation.
Let us think about Godís faithfulness, for example. We learn how faithful God is as He delivers us from trouble time after time. How can we be repeatedly delivered from trouble while we are in the spirit realm?
As far as learning to live in the rest of God where we think, speak, and act in parallel with Christ, it seems to be the pressures of life on earth that drive us into such a relationship. Christ already was in this relationship with the Father when He came to earth.
There is nothing more important to us, after we have received Christ as our Lord and Savior, than growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Our American culture is so dynamic, so filled with opportunities of all kinds, that it is the rare believer, it seems, who is willing to tear himself away from all this and concentrate on growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
But think for a moment. All we experience during our brief lifetime is temporary. All we can take with us when we die is our growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
On some of the newer caskets there is a little compartment where someone may place a Bible, or something else of importance to the deceased. One could place a billion dollars in the compartment but, unlike the beliefs of the Egyptians, not one penny would benefit the individual who is entering the spirit world.
But growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ! These are huge treasures whose worth can never be calculated. These the person will bring with him or her into the next life. If an individual understands this, he or she is foolish indeed to think only of the present and neglect the daily walk with the Lord.
Only one life. It will soon be past. Only that which is accomplished through interaction with the Lord Jesus will last for eternity.