What am I living for?
Uel Crothers, Ballymagarrick, N. Ireland
An answer from the Second Epistle of Peter
Peter’s Second Epistle was probably written after Paul’s martyrdom in Rome and to believers with whom Paul had been acquainted. It has the tone of a mature apostle, looking back over life’s experiences and thus ably expounding the maturing aspects of a believer’s life under God’s control. His methodology seems clear. In each of the three chapters he recites past events recorded in scripture in order to establish certainties regarding the present and future.
Let’s begin with an overview of the whole letter
In Chapter 1, Peter is underscoring the value of developing Christian character in light of the coming eternal kingdom. This is based upon his experience of the transfiguration which undisputedly proves the point that this eternal kingdom is real. There is an eternal world to live for. Furthermore, what this kingdom entails is embedded in and confirmed by the ‘more sure word of prophecy’, v. 19. For we know that, ‘No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (or, origin). For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (borne along) by the Holy Ghost’, v. 20.
In Chapter 2, we are taken to the theme of judgement. This is introduced by a reference to false prophets. Once again the past is referred to in terms of allusions, firstly to ‘the angels that sinned’ in verse 4 and subsequently to the flood in Noah’s day. These, together with judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah clearly prove the reality of divine judgement and the certainty of deliverance to those who are justified, as in the case of Lot. In contrast to Chapter 1, here we have details of those who have no knowledge of God, who are described, together with their gross and uncontrolled excesses, from verse 10 to the end of the chapter.
Chapter 3 focuses on the promised second coming of the Lord Jesus. Again, reference is made to the past from creation and the flood emphasizing that the coming is certain. God, who made the heavens by the word of His command and brought the earth out from the water and yet surrounded it with water, later destroyed it by a flood. This is the same God who has commanded that the heavens and earth will be consumed by fire in the Day of Judgement when the ungodly will perish. The inspired word of God is thus again shown to be infallible and future events will occur strictly in accordance with God’s sure word. This answers the scoffer who asks, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ or rather, ‘his promised coming’, v. 4. Peter then deals with the coming ‘day of the Lord’ and the ‘day of God’. After a practical exhortation, he ends the chapter with a reference to the day of eternity. The closing section of this chapter also has echoes of the beginning of Chapter 1 with references to grace and knowledge and their associated practical implications.
Let’s now turn back to Chapter1
Firstly, he deals with growing in the knowledge of God and culminating in an ‘abundant entrance’ into the eternal kingdom, vv. 1-11. The second part of the chapter conveys the reality of the kingdom with the ‘power and coming’ of our Lord Jesus Christ, vv. 12-21.
Verses 16 to 21 form an inclusion by referring firstly to clever stories, v. 16, and ending, by contrast, to references to the ‘sure word of prophecy’, v. 19, and the divine inspiration of holy scripture, vv. 20-21. We should also take careful note of the key words in this chapter such as ‘know’, ‘knowledge’ (referring to an experiential rich knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus), ‘power’, ‘glory’, ‘faith’, ‘sure’, ‘remember’, ‘voice’, and ‘speak’.
In verse 11 in the first section there is an isodos an ‘entrance’ and in verse 15 in the second section an exodus, reminding us of our Lord’s words in Luke chapter 9, one of the three accounts of the transfiguration with its links to kingdom glory. Again, making our ‘calling and election sure’ is an important expression in verse 10 as is the ‘sure word of prophecy’ in verse 19. In all these ways we see an inspired cohesiveness in this chapter and, indeed, in the Epistle as a whole.
The transfiguration and our transforming to His likeness
The apostle John, who accompanied Peter and James when they were on the mount of transfiguration, quotes our Lord in His High-Priestly prayer as stating, ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent’, John 17. 3 (italics mine). Peter now says that as we get to know ‘Jesus our Lord’ better, His divine power gives us all we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and virtue (or goodness), and by the same mighty power He has given us ‘exceeding great and precious promises’, v. 4. It is through these, in reflecting God’s character, we partake of the divine nature and escape the depravity and societal decay all around us caused by evil desires.
Firstly, we have the development of Christian character, vv. 1-11
Usually, when believers think ahead, it is their service and the idea of rewards at the Bema which come to mind, but Peter underlines the crucial need for the development of Christian character in this life leading to an ‘abundant entrance’ into the eternal kingdom. This must be linked to the degree to which we have come to know Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, v. 1b, in this life. We, who share ‘like precious faith’ with Peter and the other apostles, are urged to apply the benefits of God’s promises to our lives and to add (‘superadd’ - NEWBERRY margin), to our faith the moral excellence which leads to knowing God better, v. 5.
Knowing God leads to self-control. Selfcontrol leads to patient endurance which in turn leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other believers and then produces a genuine love for everybody. Overall, the more we grow in this way, the more we will become fruitful and useful in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not to do so indicates that we are blind or at least shortsighted, forgetting the fact that we have been cleansed from our old lives of sin, vv. 8-9. Christian living is hard work but by getting to know God and in developing a life for His glory we can prove to others that our calling and election are sure. Furthermore, we will not stumble or fall away. Peter himself had come a long way through failure and restoration to become a great apostle for God.
The penetrating question we all must ask is, ‘How well do I know God?’ It is not enough to ‘stop’ at faith and ignore the development and maturing of Christian character. Character of this type is essential for an ‘abundant’ entrance into the eternal kingdom. In practical terms it is our daily living that will prove the degree of experiential knowledge we have of Him.
Secondly, we are to be living in the reality of the kingdom, vv. 12-21
Peter now turns to the reality of the eternal kingdom. He is recounting a personal experience. He is soon to die and he wants to remind believers of the reality of the kingdom. He personally saw One whose face shone as the sun, (the source of power). He failed to grasp its significance at the time and by proposing booths for Moses and Elijah, who appeared as contemporaries of the Lord, thus putting them on a par with Him, he failed to see how superior He is to them. Moses and Elijah had both experienced an exodus in the past, one by death and the other by translation while living, but neither can compare with the exodus of Christ.
The Lord Jesus was soon to experience the most unique exodus in history by dying on the cross and thereby as the Lamb of God, completing the work of redemption, and raised to the heights of glory where He is today. Like Moses and Elijah all believers will one day stand with Him in glory as His contemporaries!
Peter also heard the majestic and glorious voice of the Father expressing delight in His beloved Son. God spoke from heaven in the same way as He spoke and breathed the words of inspired scripture. It is God’s word which is a light in a ‘dark place’ and as the morning star in the darkness of night precedes the blazing sun, it is our light in the present darkness. One day soon you and I will experience first hand our own exodus either by death or translation. We will have a brilliant illumination in our hearts when He comes and we are changed forever into the glory of His immediate presence.
The question we now need to ask is, ‘Am I living for the eternal kingdom?’ We should be of course for it is the only thing worth living for. Living for it makes us change and in changing we live the more for it!