After the great gap formed by the loss of Paradise, the record divides into two according as the false or the true seed are spoken of, until we come to the next great crisis, the Deluge. Here history seems to repeat itself. The deep (Heb.
tehom) of Genesis 1:2, is not referred to again until we read the record of the flood (Gen. 7:11; 8:2). The "dry land" (Heb.
yabbashah, Gen. 1:9,10), which appeared on the third day from beneath the waters, finds an echo in the "drying up" of the earth after the flood (Heb.
yabesh, Gen. 8:7,14). There are a number of interesting parallel features between Adam and Noah which establish that the relationship is intentional.
For example, both Adam and Noah are commanded to replenish the earth, both have three sons, one of whom becomes involved in a curse and is either "of that wicked one" or the father of Canaan, who in his turn is seen to be of the evil seed. These parallels are so close that most commentators have accepted without question that Peter, in 2 Peter three, refers to Genesis 1:1 and 2, whereas a careful study of his epistles will show that he had, primarily, the days of Noah before his mind. This testimony is important, and the examination of it will necessitate a fairly intensive study, but the subject matter is of the deepest solemnity and fully justifies all the time and space which we can devote to its elucidation.
Just as the Primal Creation is balanced across the gap of the ages, by the new heavens and new earth, and just as Paradise lost is balanced by Paradise restored, so the structure persists and another pair of corresponding members appears.
C. The days of Noah
a. The irruption of the sons of God (Gen. 6)
The nations just before
the call of
b. Preservation in the Ark Noah
un contaminated (Gen. 6:9)
c. Punishment by flood (Gen. 7,8)
d. Spirits in, prison (I Pet. 3:19-22, Jude 6)
C. As it was in the days
a. Antichrist, and the Son of Perdition (2 Thess. 2)
of Noah. The nations
just before Israel are
saved and blessed
b. Preservation, the Lamb's book of life.
Uncontaminated (Rev. 21)
c. Punishment by fire (Rev. 14:,10).
d. Spirits liberated for a season (Rev. 9:14).
Let us now attend to the teaching of Scripture with regard to this great epoch.
A very superficial reading of Scripture will convince the student that there are revealed three great creative movements
- one past, one present and one future.
(1). "In the beginning" (Gen. 1:1). Primal Creation.
(2). "In six days" (Gen. 1:3-2:3). Present Creation.
(3). "In the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12,13). New Heavens and Earth.
The Primal Creation of Gen. 1:1 is separated by the chaos of Gen. 1:2 from the Present Creation-while the Present Creation is again separated from the New Heavens and Earth by the dissolution of 2 Peter 3:10, and the following diagram visualizes
this great purpose of the ages.
Gen. 1:3 to
Gen. 1:2 <- Age-Times->
2 Pet. 3:10
The "first" heaven and earth of Revelation 21:1 is strictly "the former" of two (see Rev. 21:4 where the same Greek word
is translated "former"). This is the sequel to the six days' creation, not to Genesis 1:1. A reference to Isaiah 65:17-20, and to 66:22-24 will show that in the new heaven and earth (outside the Holy Mountain), death will still be possible. Not until the end of the ages, long past the end of the Revelation will the last enemy be destroyed and God be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Peter as a minister of the Circumcision, is particularly concerned with that portion of the purpose of the ages that impinges upon the hope of Israel. There is, however, in the history of Israel much that is typical of vaster things, and we are not surprised, therefore, to discover much that adumbrates the larger issues dealt with by Paul alone. This vast sweep of the ages which we have suggested in the diagram given above, finds an echo in the words of Peter, when he speaks of past, present and future heavens and earth, as they appear in the prophetic view of Israel and its hope.
We may use Peter's language as a guide to the wider purpose of the ages thus:
For Genesis 1:1 we may use the words, "the world that then was".
For Genesis 1:3-Revelation 20:13 we may use the words, "the heavens and the earth which are now".
For Revelation 21:1 the words, "the new heavens and the new earth".
Peter was "a minister of the circumcision" (Gal. 2:7-9), and wrote his epistles to
" . . the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Pet. 1:1).
As 2 Peter three opens with the words, "this second epistle, I now write unto you", it is evident that the chapter before us was equally addressed to the "circumcision". The term
diaspora, "scattered" became a name to designate "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (Jas. 1:1), or the "dispersed among the Gentiles" (John 7:35, R.V.
margin). This term had become fixed during the two hundred years before Christ that the Septuagint had been in use, for in such passages as Deuteronomy 30:4, Nehemiah 1:9, Psalms 147:2;
diaspora is used of the "outcasts of Israel". As we shall have occasion to compare some of the language of Peter with the Gospel according to Mark, it will be well to make sure that the reader is aware of the close association of these two servants of the Lord.
From Acts 12:12 we learn that Peter was friendly with Mark's mother and in 1 Pet. 5:13 he speaks of "Marcus my son." Jerome speaks of both Paul and Peter with their assistants thus:
"Therefore he (Paul) had Titus for a Secretary, as the blessed Peter had Mark, whose Gospel was composed by him after the dictation of Peter".
To this may be added the testimony of Eusebius:
I "After the departure of Peter and Paul, Mark the disciple and
secretary (hermeneutes or "interpreter") of Peter, transmitted to
us in writing what Peter had preached".
The four Gospels, therefore, stand related to one another as follows:
A Matthew Independent
.....B Mark Interpreter of Peter
.....B Luke Fellow worker with Paul
A John Independent.
We are now free to examine 2 Peter three, and we shall remember as we do it, that Peter, the minister of the circumcision, admits in that same chapter that the Apostle Paul has many things to say, which were hard to be understood both by himself and his hearers, and we shall not expect to find the sweep backward beyond Gen. 1:2 in Peter's most far-flung statement, that we find in Paul's great epistles of the Mystery. We must now make a preliminary inquiry into the testimony of 2 Peter 3:1-14 and discover the scope of Peter's Ministry and epistle.
We note that chapters one and two must be considered as introductory, for it is chapter three that opens with the words, "this second epistle, beloved, I now write to you", and the burden of the chapter is the denial by "scoffers" of the possibility of the Lord's return by an appeal to a supposed "Uniformity of Natural Law", and the exposure of the weakness of this objection by the Apostle. An examination of the first chapter will show that this was prominently in the Apostle's mind all the time. 2 Peter 1:16-21 is an anticipation of 2 Peter 3:2,3 and
2 Peter 2:1-22 is an anticipation of 2 Peter 3:3-13 and correspond in the structure which will be given later.
These selfsame scoffers, or their predecessors, had evidently charged the believer who expected the personal return of the Lord, with following "cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16), and from this the Apostle proceeds to the nature and trustworthiness of prophecy, recalling in passing the conviction he himself had received of its truth when upon the Mount of Transfiguration.
The structure of the passage is as follows:
A 2 Pet. 1 :16 What the apostle's witness was
NOT "Cunningly devised fables"
....B 2 Pet. 1 :I6, 17 What it
WAS "Honour and glory"
.......C 2 Pet. 1 :17, 18 How it
CAME "The voice from heaven"
....B 2 Pet. 1 :19 What the Prophetic Word IS "A light, till the day dawn"
A 2 Pet. 1 :20 What it is NOT "Not of its own unfolding"
.......C 2 Pet.1 :21 How it
CAME "Moved by the Holy Ghost".
In this opening argument we have similar features that are restated or amplified in chapter three.
The Second Corning of Christ.
The charge made "cunningly devised fables".
The testimony of Apostle and Prophet.
The introductory phrase "knowing this first".
The Second Coming of Christ.
The scoffers' charge "where is the promise of His coming?"
The testimony of the Prophets and Apostles.
The introductory phrase "knowing this first".
To piece together the complete structure in all its details would take us too long, and is not necessary for our present purpose. The following abridged outline will be all that is required to demonstrate the scope of the epistle and particularly the correspondence that exists between 2 Peter 1:16-21 and
2 Peter 3:2,3, and 2 Peter 2:1-22 with 2 Peter
3:3:3-13. If this be realized, we shall have reached
the first step in our inquiry.
We draw special attention to the two words "overthrow" katastrophe and "overflow"
katakluzo, and the correspondence established between the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,
with the dissolution of the elements.
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER
Opening Benediction. Grace, peace, through the knowledge of God.
Called to His own glory
Give all diligence-never fall (ptaio)
Give diligence-make sure
a. 1:12-15 "Stir up", "remembrance"
b. 1:16-21 The Apostles and Prophets (details given above)
"Knowing this first"
c. 2:1-22 False prophets and False teachers
Reference to fall of angels, the Flood
and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha
An overthrow (katastrophe)
Lusts of flesh and uncleanness
a. 3:1 This second epistle beloved, I now write unto
you: in both which I stir up your pure
minds by way of remembrance
b. 3:2, 3 The Prophets and the Apostles
"Knowing this first"
c. 3:3-13 Scoffers
Reference to Creation and Flood
Dissolution of elements
Walking after their own lusts
B. 3:14-17 Be diligent-fall (ekpipto) stedfastness
A. 3:18 Closing Benediction. Grow in grace and knowledge of
our Lord and Saviour To Him be glory.
In the second chapter, which corresponds with the section
dealing with the scoffers and their condemnation, Peter speaks
of the following recorded interventions of the Lord, showing
how untrue the scoffers were when they attempted to rule out the future Divine intervention of the Lord's return by saying,
"since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they
were". Four instances are given by the apostle of judgments that could
not be the mere working of natural law.
The casting down of the angels that sinned (2 Pet. 2:4).
The bringing in a flood in the days of Noah (2:5).
The turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes,
condemning them by an "overthrow" katastrophe (2:6.)
The rebuking of Balaam by the speaking of a dumb ass (2:15,16).
From these examples the Apostle draws the conclusion:
"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Pet. 2:9).
We have now advanced a step in our pursuit of the truth. The fact has been established, that there were three Creative Movements recorded in Scripture, and that Peter whose reference to Creation is occupying our attention, was a minister of the circumcision, when he wrote his second epistle. To this we have now added some idea of the general scope of this epistle, and of 2 Peter 3:3-I4 in particular. We are, therefore, now ready to give 2 Peter 3:3-I4 a fuller and more detailed examination.
Before we can come to any definite conclusion about the intention of the Apostle in 2 Peter 3:3-14, we must arrive at some certain understanding of the terms he uses. There are few students of Scripture who, when they read the words of 2 Peter 3:4, "the
BEGINNING of creation", but will go back in mind immediately to Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, where the same word
arche "beginning" is found either in the Septuagint or in the original Greek N.T. Yet upon examination, such a reference back is proved to be untrue. We have already spoken of Mark the "interpreter" of Peter and the present is an opportunity to test his words. Mark uses the word
arche "beginning" four times thus:
A "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God"
B "From the beginning of the creation" (Mark 10:6)
A "The beginning of sorrows" (Mark i 3:8)
B "The beginning of the creation which God created" (13:19).
The two references to creation challenge our attention, and we
are sure that the established meaning of these two passages in Mark's Gospel must influence most profoundly our interpretation of the same words in 2 Peter three. Here, therefore, is the second passage in full.
"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male
and female" (Mark 10:6).
It is not a matter of debate, therefore, that Mark uses the expression, "the beginning of the creation", to refer exclusively to the creation of Genesis 1:3-2:3, and so by logical necessity
cannot include Genesis 1:1.
Let us read the second reference:
"For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be" (Mark 13:19).
All we need to do to show that the same limitation must be observed is to place beside this reference, two parallel passages.
"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).
"There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time" (Dan. 12:1).
We cannot conceive that any reader with these passages before him, would wish to read into Mark 13:19 a reference back to Genesis 1:1. The words "since there was a nation" being the earliest statement, out of which the others have grown.
We are, therefore, certain that the words quoted by Peter "from the beginning of the creation" are limited to the Adamic earth. The context moreover of any expression has a part to play in deciding its meaning, so we must now observe the way in which it is introduced and with what other terms it is associated.
"Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation".
It is strange enough to think of linking up the death of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ("the fathers") with the six days' creation; it is unthinkable when we attempt to link such events with the
remote period of Gen. 1:1. The argument appears to be that just as the "fathers" died one after the other, and no interference with "nature" has yet broken the hold of death, so, from the beginning of the world all things have continued without a break, and ever will, so rendering either the hope of resurrection, the Second Coming or the Day of Judgment unreasonable.
Peter, however, has already met this argument. Did all things continue as they were, in the days of Noah? Was there no Divine intervention in the days of Sodom? Is there no import in the use of the two distinctive words
katastrophe and katakluzo?
Further, we must not forget that the words in question were spoken by the "scoffers". What did these scoffers know about the primal creation? What did they know of the "overthrow of the world"? Not one of them so far as there is any record had ever seen the skeleton of a brontosaurus or a fossilized ichthyosaurus. The science of their day made creation originate from chaos (see Hislop's Two Babylons), and these scoffers most certainly did not know more of ancient history than the inspired Apostle.
In his opening rejoinder the Apostle says, "For this they willingly are ignorant of", a sentence that does not do justice to either the English language or the inspired original. The R.V. reads, "for this they
willfully forget" and Dr. Weymouth renders the passage, "for they are
willfully blind to the fact". No person can be charged with "willful forgetfulness" if the matter lies beyond his ken. The heathen world was without excuse in their idolatry because of the witness of creation around them, but not even the scoffers could "wilfully neglect" the evidences of the primal creation because they were unrevealed and were unattainable by human search at that time. These scoffers, however, could be charged with
willful neglect of the Divine record of Genesis which shows how the selfsame water that played so prominent a part in the six days' creation, was actually used to bring about the flood in the days of Noah. This they could have known, and with its neglect they could be charged.
Lanthano, the word translated "be ignorant" in 2 Peter 3:5 A.V. occurs again in verse 8, "be not ignorant of this one thing". This fact must not be "ignored" by ourselves, as it is evident that such a recurrence indicates a structural feature, and is of consequence to true interpretation. The word
lanthano seems to demand an English equivalent that lies somewhere between the
"ignorance" of the A.V. and the "forgetting" of the R.V., and
Moffatt seems to have chosen wisely here, for he renders the
word in both passages "ignore". Ignorance of any fact
modifies the culpability of a person, forgetfulness while serious,nevertheless modifies the guilt of an act, but to "wilfully ignore"
leaves no such margin of excuse, and that is the thought here.
Without making too great a diversion by dealing with the
structure of 2 Peter 3:1-13 as a whole, it will be sufficient for our
present purpose to confine ourselves to verses 4-9.
A. 2 Pet. 3:4 The
Promise. Where is this promised Advent?
False argument derived from
misconception as to time
B. 2 Pet. 3:5-7
a. Heavens of old and Earth | willfully
b. The Word
|<----- Water ignore
c. The World
a Present Heaven and Earth |
b. Same Word
c. Ungodly Men
B. 2 Pet. 3:8
Do you not ignore
The argument concerning relative time
2 Pet. 3:9 The Promise
The apparent "slowness" of the Lord must not be
misconstrued as "slackness".
The day of the Lord will come.
God does not hold man accountable where knowledge is unattainable. Knowledge concerning things that, happened during the Primal Creation of Genesis 1:1 could not be "ignored" by anyone, because no details are given in the Revealed Word. These men, however, could, and evidently did, wilfully ignore the testimony of Genesis 1:3-8:22, and so were without excuse. The reference to "the world that then was being overflowed with water perished" must either refer to the chaos of Genesis 1:2 and must exclude the flood in the days of Noah, or it must refer to the flood of the days of Noah and exclude Genesis 1:2, it
cannot refer primarily to both. We have positive evidence that Peter makes reference to the Deluge of Noah's day as part of his teaching and while this does not prove anything so far as 2 Peter 3:6 is concerned, it is a weight in the scale. We must continue our study of the terms used by Peter.
"The heavens were of old". Do these words refer to the
primal creation of Genesis 1:1? or do they refer to the creation of the world for Adam and his race?
Ekpalai occurs in but one other passage in the
N.T., namely in 2 Peter 2:3.
"Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not".
There is no need for any argument here. These false prophets must belong to the Adamic creation, and consequently there is added reason to believe that Peter's second use of the term will be but an expansion of the first, and that 2 Peter 3:6 refers back as far as Genesis 1:3 but no farther.
Palai simply means "old", palaios, palaiotes
and palaioo also occur and should be examined. We give just two examples.
"But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Pet. 1:9).
"God Who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past" (Heb. l :l).
The expression, "the heavens were of old", therefore refers quite legitimately to Genesis 1:6. This "firmament" was temporary and is to pass away, as many passages of Scripture testify. There is no passage, however, that teaches that
Heaven Itself, the dwelling place of the Most High, will ever pass away, and this is an added reason for limiting Peter's words to the present creation.
The earth "standing" out of the water, appears to refer to the way in which the present system was brought into being.
Sunistemi is translated "consist" in Colossians 1:17, and while it would take a scientist to explain the meaning of 2 Peter 3:5, the .reference is so evidently back to Genesis 1:3 onwards that scientific proof is not necessary to our argument.
The association of the "water" and creation, with the "water" that caused the "overflow" of 2 Peter 3:6, is emphasized when one observes that after the many references to water in Genesis one, no further mention is made until the ominous words of Genesis 6:17 are reached, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth".
These things the scoffers "wilfully ignored". The future dissolution will involve the heavens as well as the earth (2 Peter 3:10)
whereas it was "the world" not the heaven and the earth that
"perished" in the days of Noah. The heavens and the earth remained, and so could be called by Peter "the heavens and the earth which are now". In the second chapter of his epistle,
Peter refers to the Flood and speaks of "the old world" and
"the world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5), similarly in both 2 Peter
2:4 and 2 Peter 3:7 he uses the word "reserved" in reference to
Again in 2 Peter 3:6 the Greek word katakluzomai is used where the translation reads
"beingoverflowed with water". In
2 Peter 2:5 he uses the word kataklusmos (which becomes in English "cataclysm") "bringing in the flood upon the world of
the ungodly", which makes the parallel between these two
chapters even more obvious. The result of our examination leaves us
with the conviction that Peter refers to the creation that came
into being for the habitation of man, and that we are not
justified in using his words to cover the whole of the record of
Scripture, except as a type and shadow of the greater event.