Johnny Ramsey was one of the instructors when I attended Brown Trail School of Preaching. One of his classes was General Epistles (James – Jude). He taught us to remember each chapter by one key point. He provided the following key points for the book of 2 Peter: (1) Ingredients of Spiritual Growth; (2) Opponents of Spiritual Growth; (3) Motivation and Necessity of Spiritual Growth.
In this lesson, we will consider the last point. Let us notice.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat: both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
The day of the Lord will come. The phrase “the day of the Lord” refers to “the day of judgment” (2 Peter 3:7). This phrase occurs many times in the Bible, with some judgment in view (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 2:31; 3:14; Malachi 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10).
The day of the Lord will come as “a thief in the night.” A thief does not ordinarily announce the exact date and time that he will come (cf. Matthew 24:42-44). We do not know when the day of the Lord will come. We need to be ready for it, whenever it comes.
The day of the Lord will be an awesome day that changes life as we know it. (1) The heavens will pass away with a great noise. The term “heaven” is used of the earth’s atmosphere (Genesis 1:20; Jeremiah 4:25). The term “heaven” is also used of outer-space (Genesis 1:14-17; Psalm 19:1-6). (2) The elements will melt with fervent heat. The word “elements” (stoicheion) means “any first thing from which the others belong in some series or composite whole takes their rise… the elements from which all things have come, the material cause of the universe” (Vine’s). (3) The earth and the works in it will be burned up. There is a textual variant. Some translations follow manuscripts which read katakaio, which is translated “burned up” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV). Some translations follow manuscripts which read heurisko, which is translated “laid bare” (NIV) or “exposed” (ESV). Brian Kenyon comments, “Even if the latter is what Peter actually wrote, it does not change the meaning of the overall context. ‘Will be exposed’ would have reference to the fact that the earth will not offer any hiding place… for the ungodly to escape judgment (cf. Hebrews 4:13; consider also Revelation 6:12-17). Again, the overall context is complete destruction of the entire created order…” (Editor Tommy J. Hicks, A New Heaven and A New Earth, p. 327, Lubbock Lectureship Southside Church of Christ). Let us point out, 2 Peter 3:12 reads, without variant, “The heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.”
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, according to His promise, look for new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-14).
Righteousness matters. Since it is the case that: (1) The day of the Lord (Judgment Day) is coming; (2) The material things of this universe will not endure; (3) However, a new heavens and new earth have been promised [The phrase new heavens and new earth appears four times in the Bible (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). The phrase is used of a new realm of existence following a major event] – holiness and godliness, spiritual things matter. It has been said (credited to H.G. Wells), “If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.” C.S. Lewis is credited with saying, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing that it cannot be is moderately important.”
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). This is in the present tense and in the imperative mood. It seems to be a command. “The imperative mood serves a two-fold function. It is the mood used in commands, and it is the mood employed in petitions (e.g., prayers)” (Wayne Jackson Treasures from the Greek New Testament, p. 16). “The imperative mood is the mood of intention… The imperative is most commonly used for commands… with the aorist, the force generally is to command the action as a whole… with the present, the force is generally to command the action as an ongoing process” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics, p. 485). Christians are to continue to grow.
Some things continue to grow throughout their lives. One site lists 25 animals that never stop growing: (1) Goldfish; (2) Timber rattlesnake; (3) Lobster; (4) Rougheye Rockfish; (5) Crocodile; (6) Galapagos Tortoise; (7) Small Mouth Bass; (8) Goliath Bird-eating Spider; (9) Green Anaconda; (10) King Crab; (11) Shark; (12) Kangaroo; (13) Quahog Clam; (14) Blanding’s Turtle; (15) American Bison; (16) Lungfish; (17) Labord’s Chameleon; (18) Reticulated Python; (19) Komodo Dragon; (20) Tuatara; (21) Coral; (22) Yellow-legged frog; (23) Desert Turtle; (24) Cottonmouth; (25) Chinese Giant Salamander (25 Animals That Never Stop Growing, thecoldwire.com). Furthermore, some plants likewise never stop growing. One site says of trees, “At some point, their height is more or less fixed… But trees continued to add width to their trunks” (Do Trees Ever Stop Growing? earthsky.org). One study suggests that tree growth increases with age (An Old Tree Doesn’t Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Body Builder, January 16, 2014 NPR, npr.org). Christians should continue to grow (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).
We are to grow in grace (favor) and knowledge. To grow in knowledge means to continue to learn and understand more. To grow in grace means to grow in one’s walk with God. Albert Barnes comments, “‘to grow in grace’ is to increase in that which constitutes true religion” (Barnes’ Notes, studylight.org). Adam Clarke comments, “Increase in the image and favour of God” (Clarke Commentary, studylight.org). There is always room for growth.
Spiritual growth is so important. Peter warned that some untaught (unlearned, KJV; ignorant, ASV, ESV) and unstable people twist (wrest, KJV, ASV) the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). May we be cautious, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV), and may we continue to grow.