Open your Bible to 2 Peter 1:12. As you know, we’re continuing our journey through 2 Peter. Chapter 1 is the call to maturity.
So we’ve seen the introduction, chapter 1. Here is a chapter outline. Verses 1-2 is the intro. From there we move to the call to growth. And it’s there we saw the provisions for growth (verses 3-4).
By the way, you’ve got four provisions for proper nutrition (or growth) in the body, your spiritual man: power, knowledge, promises, and the new nature. Then we saw a portrait for growth. In other words, what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is characterized by these attributes becoming more and more abundant in our lives (verses 5-7).
From there we went into verses 8-11 where we saw the benefits of growing. You know, why submit ourselves to growing pains when it’s much easier to stay immature? So Peter exposed us to five benefits for growth: productivity; harmony with our new identity (living that way, in other words); we develop greater sureness of our salvation; we become more stable; (then this last one in verse 11) we become candidates for eternal rewards.
And before we jump into the next section, let me just revisit verse 11. Because a question came up—not during the teaching part, but during Q&A. I think it was Laverne who asked, “Once you gain a crown, can you lose that crown?” And to be honest with you, I’ve never really had a very firm belief one way or the other.
I see passages going both directions on that, so I enlisted the help of my wife (you’ll remember, during Q&A) and she had a very firm opinion about it. Which is why I asked her because I knew she had that opinion. And my opinion is, “I really don’t know”; at least I didn’t know last week. But I’ve done a little bit more work into that, and I’ve asked some other friends of mine—pastors, and so forth—what they thought. So I have more of a leaning towards it this evening than I had a week ago.
This is related to the question that came up in Q&A, “If you gain a crown at the Bema Seat… Let’s say you do something—the Holy Spirit uses you some way on this earth—and you become a candidate for a crown, can you then throw the crown away? Fumble the ball so the crown is taken away?”
This came up because one of the benefits of growth is entering Heaven fully rewarded. And we got this from verse 11, which says, “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
A maturing Christian is one who has these characteristics in their lives—faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love—and these things are increasing in our lives in terms of character traits. That type of Christian receives five benefits. The fifth of which is not just entering Heaven but entering Heaven (or in this case the future Kingdom) abundantly supplied.
So, the words “abundantly supplied” open the door to the idea that some Christians will enter but other Christians will enter “abundantly supplied.” And that opens the door to the whole doctrine of rewards which we touched on briefly at the end of our last study.
Just to show you that I don’t think I’m reading a doctrine into that passage that doesn’t belong, Charles Ryrie himself comments on verse 11 and says, “A Christian life that can be rewarded will provide that abundance into Heaven.” So, this is a traditional view that everyone enters who is saved, but some enter fully rewarded and others don’t.
2 Peter 1:11 talks about believers entering fully rewarded, but the other side of the coin is in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” So, apparently, while some Christians will enter fully rewarded because they made progress in their spiritual growth (which is Peter’s emphasis), other Christians will enter but smell the smoke on their garments as they enter. Because they remained in a state of infancy, they remained in a state of immaturity, and they never really grew up. So they’ll stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ—happy to be in Heaven—but it says here that they will suffer loss.
Now, I don’t know exactly what “suffering loss” means other than it’s not fun. Think of a loss you suffer. A friend or family member passes away. Or you’re working hard on your computer; you’ve created your 200 page book. Then you hit “delete,” the whole thing disappears, and you can’t figure out where it went. Those kinds of things have happened to me. You know, there’s always a pain associated with a loss.
This is talking about people saved; it says “…he himself will be saved.” “…yet so as through fire” because his works were burned up at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. So, 1 Corinthians 3:15 talks about people entering not fully rewarded, but 2 Peter 1:11 talks about people entering fully rewarded. If you want the two sides of the same coin, take 2 Peter 1:11 and juxtapose it with 1 Corinthians 3:15.
Apparently it is a reality that it’s possible to enter Heaven unrewarded. You’re in Heaven, you’re saved by God’s grace, but you don’t fare well at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. And that’s why Paul unfolds the doctrine of the Bema Seat Judgment to the Corinthian church.
The Corinthian church was the most carnal church of the first century of which we have record. In chapters 1-4 they’re divided over their favorite teachers, based on who had the best speaking style. In chapter 5 they’re involved in incest. In chapter 6 they’re involved in prostitution and suing each other before pagan judges. In chapter 7 they’re involved in rampant divorce and remarriage. In chapters 8-10 the stronger brethren are flaunting their freedoms in the presence of the weaker brethren. In chapter 11 they’re drunk and disorderly at the Lord’s Table. In chapters 12-14 they’re all messed up on the spiritual gifts; they’re placing people who speak in tongues on a pedestal. In chapter 15 they’re denying resurrection. Now, how’d you like to be the pastor of that church?
Ray Steadman used to call 1 Corinthians “1 Californians.” But it’s interesting that Paul, all the way through that letter (and then the second letter that comes after it) never says, “Y’all aren’t saved.” He calls them saints positionally at the beginning of the book. Then he gives them the stern warning in chapter 3 that they will enter Heaven, but they will enter Heaven unrewarded.
You might ask, “Why are they entering Heaven at all?” Because entering Heaven is not by human works, right? It’s by grace. And if you understand grace, it opens up the possibility that there are going to be a lot of people in Heaven who really didn’t show a lot of Christian life or truth in their daily conduct during their earthly sojourn. But it does matter because they will not enter fully supplied, “abundantly supplied.” They will enter, but they will still smell the smoke on their garments. See, Peter is saying, “This is why you need to grow up, so you don’t fall into this category” as he articulates the five benefits of maturity.
So there is a doctrine in the Bible where crowns will either be given or not given. All Christians will be in Heaven, but not all Christians will be equally rewarded in Heaven. And we’ve talked before about the five crowns that will either be given or not given. So we don’t have to review all of those.
But Paul himself says, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” For what? Verse 24: the prize. The “prize” is not salvation. If the prize is salvation, then Paul is teaching here works salvation—which would contradict everything he’s ever taught anywhere else.
The prize is a reward that will be received above and beyond salvation. So Paul says, “I don’t want to preach to other Christians not to go back to the sin nature, and then I myself go back to the sin nature and am disqualified for the prize.”
You might remember that we were talking a little bit about this last time. Does that ring a bell at all? And there is this verse where Jesus says, “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” The big issue here is what Laverne’s question surfaced. When it says, “no one will take your crown,” does that mean you can gain a crown and then lose it before the Bema Seat Judgment?
1 Corinthians 9:27 might open that door too. I mean, did Paul already gain a crown but now he might go back to the sin nature and lose a crown? The issue here is, “Are these verses talking about gaining a crown under the Spirit’s power?” So, you’re a candidate for a certain crown based on something the Lord did through you. That happens on Monday. Then Tuesday you have a terrible day; you go back to the sin nature and all of a sudden that crown is taken away.
Is that what this verse is talking about? Last week I would’ve said, “That probably is what these verses are talking about.” But this week… This just shows you that I don’t know everything about the Bible. Amen? So I have to study and learn like everybody else. I don’t sit here with some omniscience saying, “I know everything there is to know.” My thinking is constantly being adjusted on things.
So, rather than these verses saying, “You gain a crown. Oh, you just lost it!” I think what these verses are saying is, “You don’t lose an existing crown that you gained.” Which you lose if God works through you on Monday and you go back to the sin nature on Tuesday. You don’t lose the potential for reward as God worked for you on Monday. What you lose is the opportunity to gain yet another crown on Tuesday. See that? You are not losing an existing crown; what you’re losing is the potential to gain another crown. Does that make sense?
Now, why do I think this way? We did a radio spot at KHCB for the upcoming Chafer Conference. Robby Dean and I were there with Bruce, and we did a couple of those commercials. Robby Dean was walking out with me to the parking lot. He had to rush off somewhere, and I said, “I’ve got you here for 2 1/2 seconds. Can I ask you a theological question?”
We’re walking to the car and I asked him this question, “Can you gain a crown and lose a crown?” He at first (unfortunately) said, “There are verses that go both directions on that.” So that takes me back to where I was last week. But then he said something that registered with me in about 15 seconds. He said, “I don’t think, though, that you can lose a crown. Because if the Holy Spirit truly worked through you on Monday—and that’s the Holy Spirit’s work through you—how could the work of the Holy Spirit ever be taken away?” Does that make sense?
That was the end of the conversation. I got in my car, and this verse came to my mind as I drove home. Jesus is speaking here of the vine and the branches and being out of the vine, which is a fellowship issue. So, what’s the advantage of a believer abiding in Christ? Jesus says (in the Upper Room), “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”
So, if indeed the Holy Spirit used you on Monday, consequently you become a candidate for one of these five crowns on Monday: the incorruptible crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of life, the crown of glory, the crown of righteousness. If it’s really the Holy Spirit’s work through you (and not your work), and if Jesus said that we would bear fruit which remains, I don’t think you can lose that crown the next day.
If we go back to the sin nature the next day, what we forfeit is the possibility of gaining another crown. Does that make sense? And I think that’s what is being said here in Revelation 3:11. It’s not that your crown can be ripped out of your hands; it’s that the potential for gaining another crown is lost.
And at that point I was so delighted to find this quote from Woodrow Kroll. Woodrow Kroll wrote a book called Facing Your Final Job Review: The Judgment Seat of Christ. He was on the radio for years with Back to the Bible. He makes this statement in his book, and I said, “That’s it.”
He says, “We should never conceive of the loss of rewards as a repossession. God does not take back something he has already awarded to us. At the heavenly bema, we do not suddenly have a quantity of rewards ripped from our hands by the righteous Judge. We are not stripped of rewards as an erring soldier is stripped of his stripes. Not at all… Loss or reward is not like handing back a trophy that was mistakenly given to you. It’s not returning something you earned. It’s forfeiting a reward that you could have earned but failed to do so.”
So, I hope that puts your mind at ease a little bit. Not that my opinion on it is the final say; study it out yourself. But my tentative conclusion on the whole thing is that I lean more in the direction of once God has used you and a crown is now in your future, that crown can never be lost. But the potential for gaining another crown is lost if we go back to sin.
We finished this call to growth and the benefits of growth. Now we come to verses 12-15, which is Peter’s first purpose statement. What he does here in verses 12-15 is give us his purpose for writing. Now, he’ll do this once in 1:12-15, and he’ll do the exact same thing in 3:1-2.
He is following a particular train of thought. But suddenly—in the middle of his train of thought—he stops his train of thought and says, “Oh yeah, I better tell my audience why I’m writing this book.” So, this is the first such purpose statement.
So, if you’re trying to figure out why Peter wrote the book, these purpose statements are very helpful. Notice what he says here in verse 12. Why is he writing? He completely interrupts his train of thought, which is all about spiritual growth. He says, “Therefore [very important word], I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.”
So, as he is explaining his purpose statement (verses 12-15), he’s telling them in verse 12 that, “These are the basics of Christianity.” And he’s reminding them that they already had the basics. What he’s explaining to them is, “If you master the basics, then you’re not going to be swept into false doctrine.”
Remember, this whole book is about preventing his audience from lapsing into false doctrine, which is coming into the Asia minor area in the form of incipient Gnosticism. So, how do you keep yourself away from false doctrine? A lot of people think, “I’ve got to get out there and study everything there is to know about the false doctrine.”
Now, in our day and age there’s been such an explosion of false teaching that it’s impossible to be a master of every false doctrine that comes your direction. In fact, if you devoted your whole life to studying one false doctrine, you probably wouldn’t even scratch the surface of that one false doctrine.
I know people who are complete and total experts on the false doctrine of Mormonism. They could tell you everything there is to know about Mormonism. The problem? Mormonism is a vast subject (number one). Number two, there are other false doctrines out there besides Mormonism.
There are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So now I’ve got to be an expert on them too. Think of all the false religions. Islam…we could go on and on. And what Peter is saying is, “You don’t have to be an expert on all false doctrines to stay away from false doctrine.” What you do need to be able to do is to apprehend and comprehend the finite revelation God has given us in these 66 books.
So, the revelation of God to us in these 66 books? Not only is it sufficient, but it’s finite. In other words, it’s possible for the human mind to—maybe not understand every nook and cranny of the Bible, but to—understand the basics of the Bible. And the more you understand the basics of the Bible, the more you’ll be able to recognize false teaching when it comes your direction.
I’ve used, many times, this example. I use it a lot, so forgive me if you’re bored with it or heard it before. But it’s the only illustration I have which communicates the point. What do they call it when they make “funny money”? What’s that called? Counterfeit money!
How do you train someone in the banking industry to recognize counterfeit money? Well, you just help them become familiar with real money. You look at it, and it feels a certain way. It looks a certain way. It probably even smells a certain way. I don’t know if you’d want to taste it—particularly with all this coronavirus stuff out there.
But you feel it all the time—it comes across your hand—and you just know what it’s like. Then all of a sudden you get something that’s odd: it doesn’t feel right; it doesn’t look right; the color is not right; the texture is not right. Maybe the weight—or whatever—is not quite right. It runs across your hand and you just know something’s wrong because you’re so familiar with the real.
And that’s what we’re called to as Christians. You get so familiar with what God says in His Word that when you hear somebody say something… It doesn’t matter if they’re on TV or on radio. It doesn’t matter if they have a big audience. It doesn’t matter if they have the three G’s (the gift of gab, good looks, and a guitar). They may have all the things going for them, but they say something and it’s like, “That doesn’t sound exactly right.” You’re not necessarily an expert in everything that person says or does, but you’re familiar with the truth enough where you can discern.
You start to discern things that don’t seem exactly right. And there’s actually a parallel passage on this in the Book of Hebrews, which is a few books to your left. Go back to 1 Peter, then James, and Hebrews is right there to the left.
Look at Hebrews 5:14. It says, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Practice. Some of your versions say, “constant use.”
“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained…” When you see that word “trained,” you think of what you go through at a job—job training—or athletic training. So training doesn’t happen unless you put yourself through a particular process.
“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” So, when you’re constantly focused on the basics of Christianity over and over again, you’re training yourself and you’re practicing those things. Now you’re in a position for discernment—you can discern truth and error.
That’s the sort of thing that Peter is talking about there in verse 4 where he is reminding them of what they already know. Going back to 2 Peter 1:12, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them...” So, Peter is in this reminding business.
Here is one of the slides we used early on in our study of 2 Peter; it’s all the references to “remind” throughout the Book of 2 Peter. It’s a huge theme: has forgotten that he has been cleansed (1:9); I will always remind you of these things (1:12); it’s right to refresh your memory (1:13); you will always be able to remember these things (1:15); I have written both of them as reminders (3:1); do not forget (3:8); bear in mind (3:15).
I have shared this with you before. At Dallas Seminary Dr. Toussaint, who is now with the Lord, just took a huge pile of bricks off my back one day because I thought I had to get into the pulpit every week and come up with something new. I would think to myself, “Well, they’ve already heard that six months ago. They’re not going to want to hear that again.” Yet, the truth of the matter is your average church can’t remember what you taught six minutes ago, let alone six months ago!
Dr. Toussaint was taking us through these Peter books in a doctoral class. We got to the section about remembering and he said, “You don’t have to come up with something new every week. What people need is to be reminded of what they already know. And they need to be exhorted to live in that.” And that’s what Peter is doing here.
Once he told me that, it was like a weight came off my shoulders. God has not called me to be innovative. I’m not very innovative, anyway. I don’t know what there is to say that hasn’t already been said. That’s one of the reasons I had a difficult time fitting into evangelical academia. Because the big pressure there is you have to come up with an original contribution in your dissertation.
And I thought, “An original contribution? What do I really have to say that’s worth saying that hasn’t already been said?” So, I figured out how to get around that. I took a false teaching that had come out and responded to that false teaching. So, I responded to someone else’s novelty. Because I really don’t have any real novelty on my own.
And that’s what Peter is saying here in verse 12. He’s just saying, “I’m reminding you of what you already know.” That’s why this letter is fairly short; it’s only three chapters. He’s not writing a tome here; he is not writing a dissertation. He just wants to remind them of what they already know. So, that is his purpose statement.
And the purpose statement continues on in verses 13 and 14. He says, “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” So, what he is saying is, “After I die (apparently, he thought he was going to die pretty quickly), I’m not going to be around anymore to present these truths to you. So, I’m writing this book to remind you what you already know. Because not too long down the road I’m going to be dead and gone; I’ll be in the presence of the Lord. And I want to just take one last shot at it here to remind you of these truths. Because the day is going to come when I’m not going to be here to remind you anymore.”
You’ll notice that he talks here about his imminent death, “the laying aside of my earthly dwelling.” That’s why 2 Peter reads very nicely alongside 2 Timothy. Just as 2 Peter is Peter’s last will and testament, 2 Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament. And we’ve studied 2 Timothy in this church.
But Paul says the same thing in 2 Timothy 4:6. He says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” Paul writes 2 Timothy with the belief that he’s not going to be around much longer; so whatever is on his heart, he’s got to get it out there. Around the same period of time, AD 64, roughly, Peter is saying the exact same thing. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, making that statement; Peter, the apostle to the Jews, making that statement.
And it’s interesting, as you go back to 2 Peter 2:13, how he refers to his body as an earthly dwelling. Some Bible translations use the word “tent”; he calls his body a tent. Now, what does a tent communicate? If you go camping and you set up a tent, basically what you’re communicating is that you’re going to be living in this temporary dwelling for a short period of time—maybe the weekend—but that tent is not your ultimate home. That tent is not your ultimate destination. You’re actually going to be moving out of that tent in a short period of time.
So, a tent in and of itself communicates that that dwelling place is not your permanent abode; it’s just temporary. Because the day is going to come where you are going to move. And that’s what death is— death is you just move. We sometimes think death is the end, and that’s not biblical thinking. Death is actually the beginning. The only thing that happened is you just moved! When death happens the body and the soul separate and the soul moves somewhere. And if you’re in Christ, absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). And Philippians 1:21-23 says, “…to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
So, when a Christian dies we shouldn’t spend a lot of time mourning and grieving as those who have no hope. Paul tells us that in 1 Thessalonians 4. It’s okay to mourn and grieve because it’s painful when you lose somebody. But you don’t mourn and grieve as those who have no hope because the only thing that really happened is, they just moved—that’s all they did.
And it’s a good thing that we’re moving because what’s going on with our bodies? Have you guys looked in the mirror lately? You run into all these theologians who say, “I don’t think God can create with the appearance of age.” In young-earth creationism one of our arguments is that things can look old when in reality they’re not old. People say, “I don’t believe God can do that.” My response is, “Look in the mirror and you’ll see an example of something that’s just a few years old but looks a lot older than it is!”
I saw friend of mine in the Dallas area, and that’s the first thing he said when he saw me. He hadn’t seen me, really, since I’d moved to Houston. He goes, “Man! You’ve got a lot more gray hair than what I remember.” I said, “Well, pastoring Sugar Land Bible Church might do that to you.” No, I didn’t say that.
But Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16 that our outward man is decaying. Romans 8:23 talks about how our body is groaning. Anybody groaning? We long for that liberation where we’re free from this body. Genesis 3:19 says, “…For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” So, if that’s the current prospect of my body, I guess I don’t really mind looking at it as a tent that I’m going to be moving out of very soon.
So Peter says, “When I’m dead and gone the only thing that happened is, I just moved.” Then he explains why he thinks he’s going to die soon. Look at verse 14. He says, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent…” “Imminent” means any moment. And that’s really the state of not just the Christian; that’s all people, right? Death is something that can happen any second. And that’s the danger; people have this mentality where they want to postpone a decision for Christ. We call those 11th hour conversions.
I heard one man (just the other day on YouTube) put it this way, “The problem with 11th hour conversions is that you might die at 10:30.” And then it’s too late, right? Because death is imminent. It’s imminent for all of us.
He says, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” Does anybody know what event he’s speaking of? He’s speaking of what the Lord said to him at the end of John’s Gospel, John 21. And we’ve actually visited (haven’t we, Anne?) this place where this exchange happened. There’s a name for it, and I forgot the name of it. It’s an Arabic name that they used to name it. Anyway, you can go there—right there on the Sea of Galilee—where Jesus had this conversation with Peter.
And Jesus made this statement to Peter 30 years earlier. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19)
And I like what Peter says in verse 20. “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [who was that? John] following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”
Peter really wasn’t comfortable with this prophecy that when he was young he dressed himself and did what he wanted, when he gets old he is going to stretch out his hands and people were going to take him where he doesn’t want to go (speaking of his martyr’s death). So, he said, “Well, if this is going to happen to me, what’s going to happen to John?”
John 21:22, “Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’ ” In other words, “Don’t worry about John. I’ve got a plan for John. I’ve got a plan for you. All you really need to worry about is you following Me so My purpose in your life can be executed. And we know—30 years later—what happened. Tradition tells us Peter was crucified upside down. It’s tradition. Maybe that was the fulfillment of this, maybe not. He, most believe, died a martyr’s death, about A.D. 64, not long after he wrote this letter.
John? They tried to boil John to death, according to tradition. The guy wouldn’t die. And they did to him what Domitian did to all the troublemakers (and there’s lots of references to this in Greco-Roman literature of the time). Nero would cut your head off. Domitian would put you out on an island somewhere—and just leave you there to die.
The guy wouldn’t die through being boiled to death. So they put them out on this island called Patmos, and that was exactly what God wanted for John, because it’s there he received the vision that we now call the Book of Revelation. Which we’re studying on Sunday morning; we may even finish it before the Rapture happens.
Jesus says, “Don’t worry about John. I’ve got a plan for John. I’ve got a plan for you. And you just follow Me!” So, sometimes in Christianity we can be Buttinskies where we’re always worried about what’s happening with our Christian friends, our Christian neighbors. “Gee, I need to get online. I need to see all the people I graduated with. I need to see what’s happening in each of their lives. And we all need to lie about the size of each other’s churches.”
“Oh, you’ve got a church of 100? Well, I’ve got a church of 200!” We call that “evangel-lastically speaking,” a lot of times. But the reality of the situation is, God says, “Don’t worry about all that stuff.” You don’t need to worry about your neighbor. You don’t need to worry about your friend. You don’t need to worry about your college. You don’t need to worry about your classmates. God has a purpose for them. God says, “YOU just follow me!”
So, Peter did that. He knew that his departure was imminent and at hand, and that’s why he’s writing this letter. “There is a time coming where I’m not going to be around to give you these reminders anymore. The Lord made a prophecy over my life, so I’m reminding you of these things now.”
Then, the purpose statement concludes with verse 15, “And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” So, how are they supposed to be able to call these things to mind after Peter’s imminent departure? And the answer? Peter says, “I’m going to be diligent to write these things down.” And that’s what we call the Book of 2 Peter.
“I’m just reminding you of what you know. But the day is going to come where I won’t be here anymore, because the Lord told me that my departure is at hand. So, I’m going to write these things down in a short book. So that when I’m dead and gone—and I’m really not gone—I just moved—you’ll be able to pull out the scroll and remember the reminders that I gave to you.”
You’ll notice there that Peter says he has to be “diligent” to write these things down. A lot of times we think, “Well, if God’s going to execute this plan in my life, I’m just going to let go and let God. He’s going to do it all.” And that’s not really biblical either. God has purposes for our lives, but we have to be diligent to press into those purposes.
If Peter had said, “Well, you know, God is going to remind you however God’s going to do it; I’m just going to let go and let God.” No! Peter was diligent in the few moments he had left to write these things down. And I’m glad he did, or we wouldn’t have 2 Peter. That’s an interruption in Peter’s thought flow, giving us his first purpose statement.
Then you go to verses 16-21, where he’s dealing with the subject of the Kingdom. You say, “Why is he talking about the Kingdom, beginning in verse 16? Do you remember how he ended in verse 11? Before he hit his purpose statement? He says, “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
So, he mentioned the Kingdom. You’ll notice how he put the Kingdom in the future. Is Peter writing to Jews or Gentiles? He’s writing to Jews; we covered that in the introduction. This is why studying carefully the audience of the book is a huge advantage, because it helps you understand why Peter is bringing the things up that he’s bringing up.
Why is he all of a sudden bringing up the subject of the Kingdom here? Because what he’s going to do in verses 16-21 is give them two proofs that the Kingdom is going to come. Now, why would he do that to a Jewish audience? The answer is: early Christianity was all Jewish Christians.
You don’t have any Gentile converts in the church until the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10. Prior to that point in time, every believer in the church, beginning on the Day of Pentecost right up to Acts 10, was a Hebrew Christian. Even the Apostle Paul was a Hebrew Christian. Stephen was a Hebrew Christian. The 3000 who got saved on the Day of Pentecost were Hebrew Christians.
So, part of understanding certain books of the Bible that are written to the Hebrew Christian is thinking like a Hebrew Christian thought. And if you can put yourself in their shoes and ask the questions that they were asking at that time in history, then you can understand why the Bible talks about a lot of the things it talks about.
The big issue on the mind of a Hebrew Christian is, “Where is the Kingdom?” Because they were taught all the way through their Old Testament that King and Kingdom went together like horse and carriage. If the King shows up, then the Kingdom is right with Him. You know Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us [Old Testament].” Is that talking about the First Coming there or the Second Coming? First coming!
Then, what does the rest of the verse say? “And the government will rest on His shoulders…There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore.” So they all believe that when the King comes, the Kingdom would be with Him.
You see, that’s why people stumbled over Christ. He showed up, He proved Himself to be their King, and yet the Kingdom didn’t materialize immediately. So you have John the Baptist (Matthew 11), probably the greatest prophet of the whole Old Testament age. In fact, not probably; Jesus said he was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament age. He believed Jesus was the King, and there he was languishing in prison about to get his head cut off.
So John (Matthew 11) sent, through messengers, a message to Jesus saying, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Because he believed Jesus was the King, but he stumbled over the fact that “Where is this Kingdom? I mean, if Jesus is the King, why am I in prison? Why am I about to be executed?” And this was a massive stumbling block to the Jewish mind, particularly the Jew that came to Christ. They wanted to know where the Kingdom was.
So, that explains the whole purpose of Matthew’s Gospel. By the way, Matthew’s Gospel was the first Gospel written. Why was it the first Gospel written? Because it’s answering a Jewish question. And when was the church predominantly Jewish? At its beginning.
So everybody for 2000 years (until the higher critics came along) has argued that Matthew is the first Gospel. I believe that to this day.
So, what is Matthew doing? Why is he assembling all of his material? He’s explaining this issue to his Jewish Christian audience. If Jesus is the King, where’s the Kingdom? And he’s explaining that the Kingdom has not been canceled but has been…postponed…due to national Israel’s rejection of their King. And until national Israel is in faith one day, you can’t expect the Kingdom. Didn’t we spend about 84 lessons talking about issues like that?
And that explains everything that’s taking place in Matthew’s Gospel. It’s answering a question that might not be dominant in our minds as Gentiles (because we think differently), but it’s very relevant to a Jew. Peter, who is writing to a Hebrew Christian audience as we tried to establish in our introduction to 2 Peter, is dealing with this same question because he just threw in the word “Kingdom” there in verse 11—entering the Kingdom fully rewarded as one of the benefits for growing in Christ (the fifth of five benefits for growing in Christ).
Then he interrupts his train of thought. He gives his purpose statement, which we’ve gone into. But since he’s writing to a Jewish believing audience, he knows his audience is thinking, “If Jesus is the King, where’s the Kingdom?” If he was writing to a Gentile audience, they may not have the same concern.
Because what was happening to the early Christian Jews is that they started to have doubts, “Is Jesus really the Messiah or not?” So a lot of these books (particularly Matthew) are written to explain, “He’s the Messiah! You’ve got the right guy!” In fact, Matthew says, “Let me give you His genealogy.” Matthew 1 goes back to David and Abraham. Not back to Adam (the way Luke’s genealogy does in Luke 3) but back to Abraham and David.
Now why would Matthew spend 18 verses genealogically linking Jesus back to David and Abraham? He is showing that Jesus is the right guy. By the way, He’s fulfilling all of these Old Testament prophecies. Matthew keeps saying, “In fulfillment of… in fulfillment of.” And every time he says that, he’s rescuing the Jewish Christian mind from doubt. Because they, like John the Baptist, are stumbling over this issue: “If Jesus is the King, where’s the Kingdom?”
By the way, if you witness to a Jewish person today who doesn’t know Christ, they have the exact same issue. Not to be overly stereotypical, but I went through law school and had access to a lot of Jewish people (Jewish professors, Jewish students). So I got into this discussion quite a bit with them about Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah. And when I would point out to them, from their own Hebrew Bible, that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah (the prophecies about Jesus are given in Hebrew Bible, like Isaiah 53) the answer I got in response was always the same. They would say, “Where is shalom, then?” “Shalom” means what? Peace.
And when they say “peace,” they don’t mean it the way we think of it (peace with God). What they mean is political peace. “Why is the United Nations always ruling against the nation of Israel? Why is the nation of Israel always under attack by terrorists? Why is anti-Semitism growing in the world? I mean, if Jesus is the King, where’s the Kingdom?” So their answer to it is, “Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah; because if He were the Messiah, we would have shalom, or peace.”
Now, the Reformed movement comes along and answers the question this way: “Oh, we’re in the Kingdom. Don’t you know that? It’s just the promises are being fulfilled spiritually.” That’s Protestant Reformed theology at work. So, the Reformed theologian says, “Jesus is the King and He did bring in the Kingdom, spiritually.”
The Jew says, “Jesus couldn’t be the King because if He were the King, then we would have the Kingdom politically.” And what is our view? Dispensationalism comes along and says, “Jesus is the King. The Kingdom is going to be literal. It’s just that right now it’s been…postponed.”
Peter, now, is basically offering two proofs that the Kingdom is going to come one day. He doesn’t say, “It’s here now,” contrary to what you hear from Reformed theology, because verse 11 puts the word “Kingdom” in the future. BASILEIA is in the future, clearly.
And he’s not saying that Jesus somehow failed in His mission. He’s kind of dovetailing on what Matthew was speaking of—how the Kingdom was offered, rejected, postponed, will be accepted in the future. But this is a great stumbling block to the Jewish mind, so Peter has to explain to them that, “Yes, Jesus is the King; you believed in the right Person. But currently what’s happened is that the Kingdom has been postponed. To you it looks like Jesus failed, but He didn’t fail! Because God has every intention to bring the Kingdom in one day.”
So how do they know that God is going to bring the Kingdom in one day? He gives two proofs. The first proof is in verses 16-18; that’s the Transfiguration. The second proof is in verses 19-21, and that’s Old Testament prediction.
In verses 16-18, Peter is going to explain that, “I was there on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus transfigured Himself. I, as an eyewitness, saw Him in His full, and total, and complete glory. And Jesus gave that to us as a token of the coming Kingdom.” That takes place in Matthew 17, and that occurs very strategically in Matthew’s Gospel after the Kingdom offer had been rejected by the nation (Matthew 12).
To assure His readers that the Kingdom will come one day, Jesus gave a token of it (or a prefigurement of it). It’s like a promise ring, in a sense. It’s a promise of a coming benefit. So he explains that and how he was an eyewitness to that in verses 16-18.
Then in verses 19-21 he explains, “But you know what? You’ve got something right there in your lap—right there in your hands—that’s even more reliable than eyewitness testimony. It’s even more reliable than the experience I had (along with James and John) seeing the transfigured Christ.”
You’ve got the Kingdom promised right there in the Scripture. And no origin of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation. Because when this book was written, men were carried along by the Holy Spirit and they wrote for God. So, that’s what he’s doing there in verses 16-21; he is giving two proofs that the Kingdom is going to come. “It’s just not coming today. It hasn’t been canceled; it’s been postponed.”
And you’ll never understand why those two proofs are at the end of 2 Peter unless you figure out who he is writing to. That’s why, when we started the book, I went into all this painstaking detail. A lot of you are saying, “Why is he going into all this (explaining who the audience was)?” Because unless you can put yourself in the position of the audience, you don’t really fully understand why Peter is surfacing the issues he is surfacing.
Of course, Peter would talk about things like this since he’s not the apostle to the Gentiles. He is the apostle to the what? To the Jews. We will stop there. Try to read verses 16-21 for next time, and we’ll be looking into that issue.