Remember the Warnings

Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.

“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

II Peter 3:1-4

Peter began the second chapter warning that “there shall be false teachers among you” even as “there were false prophets” (1). Now he begins this third chapter by admonishing the young Christians to remember the warning that there will be scoffers. It is extremely important to Peter that they be forewarned about the false teachers.

Peter addresses the young Christians as “beloved.” This is the first of four times in this chapter that he uses this expression of endearment. Because of inspiration we know that every time he used it, he meant it. It is because of his love for them, and because he sees them as loved by God and by Jesus, that Peter is urgent to alert them. At the same time, their being beloved stands in sharp contrast to the divine hatred for the deliberately deceitful false teachers.

It is urgent that the young Christians remember to be alert for false teachers. Peter deliberately tells them that he is writing them to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” They (and we) need to be stirred up to remember because we are apt to forget. In the first chapter Peter saw the importance of their remembering what they had been taught before (II Peter 1:13-15). Now he wants them to remember the warnings the prophets and apostles had given them about the presence of mockers and scoffers. Note that Jude does the same (Jude 1:17, 18). It was obviously important to the apostles and the Spirit that we be alert and not surprised by false teachers and those who scoff at the Christian religion and the promises of God.

It is interesting to note that Peter speaks of their “pure” minds. A pure mind is sincere; it is a mind that receives the truth as found in God’s word, and then reflects on that truth in light of the rest of God’s word. A pure mind does not put its own thoughts on Scripture, but lets Scripture interpret Scripture.

Specifically, what are the young Christians to remember? “The words which were spoken before.” The tense Peter uses here indicates that these words of the prophets of old were still ‘speaking.’ The saints had been told and were being told things “by the holy prophets.” These prophets are the “holy men of God” who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21), that is, the Old Testament prophets. These prophets foretold the coming of Jesus Christ to judge the world of the ungodly, to destroy the present world, and to create a new heavens and earth. Enoch, “the seventh from Adam, prophesied…, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints'” (Jude 1:14). Isaiah told of One who would judge with righteousness, reprove with equity, smite the earth, slay the wicked (Is. 11:1-4), and create a new heavens and a new earth (Is. 65:17). Daniel and Malachi did the same (Dan. 7:9-14Mal. 4:1).

These young Christians were also told these things by “the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” The Lord Jesus is the author of the commandments of the apostles. He sends them with His commandment. The command was given in the Great Commission: “whatsoever I command you” (Matt. 28:20). The apostles taught in such a way that the hearers were conscious that they were hearing the Lord and Savior. We are told that this was the case with the Ephesians (Eph. 4:21) and with the Thessalonians (I Thess. 2:13); and it was for all the others as well. Accept as fact that when you receive a commandment of the apostles, you are receiving it from the Lord Himself.

That which the apostles taught the people by commandment was that there would be an end of this age. This end comes with a judgment of all. And prior to the end there will be a persecution by those who scoff at such an idea that the world will end, even as they live as if the world will continue forever.

Christians, young and old, are to live watching and praying. They are to live in the consciousness that the end is coming and they must prepare for that coming. It is urgent that they remember to watch for the coming of the end.

The promise of Jesus’ coming is most precious to believers. It is the hope of spiritual pilgrims: as we travel through this life we are looking for the city whose builder and maker is God. It is God’s promise that He will lead His beloved elect to eternal glory. He promises that He will judge their ungodly persecutors. This is the time when our justification will be made plain to all and we will dwell in perfection in glory.

The return of Jesus Christ is the hope of the Christian. We are pilgrims traveling through this world. All the tribulations and spiritual warfare of this life increase the desire for Christ’s return and for the heavenly city. We look for the time when every tear shall be wiped away and sin, pain, and death shall be no more. The hope of God’s promise sustains us in our pilgrimage. And that is why the scoffers mock it.

The “scoffers” are mockers. They deny God’s word of promise concerning Christ’s return. This is the way the devil used scoffers of old. In Isaiah 5:19 and in Jeremiah 17:15you find that they used similar language. They like to ask, “Where is the word of the Lord?” And remember that Jesus foretold that in the end the scoffers would live as if the end was not coming, just as they did in the days of Noah (cf. Matt. 24:38 and Luke 17:26-30). They ridicule the prospect of Christ’s return and coming judgment. They mock any notion that they will ever be judged for their sins.

That is why there is such a close connection between the teachings of the scoffers and the way they live. They live and teach a life-style of selfishness, “walking after their own lusts.” They live as they please. They are very bold in their self-satisfying sins, wanting no authority to prevent them (cf. II Peter 2:10b). They blasphemously and irrationally attack glories that they do not understand (cf. II Peter 2:12). They proudly seek only their pleasures, unashamedly doing them in the light of day (cf. II Peter 2:13, 18). They are full of themselves, wanting to satisfy only their own covetous selves at the expense of others (cf. II Peter 2:14). Like Balaam they so love the wages of unrighteousness that they press on even when a dumb ass talks to them (cf. II Peter 2:15ff.). The end of these entangled false teachers and their disciples is as horrible as a dog turning to his own vomit (cf. II Peter 2:20-22Matt. 12:45Luke 12:47, 48Rom. 2:12).

The longer that the world exists, the more sure the scoffers are that they are correct. Their argument is that nothing has changed: “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.” We might think that if this mockery was raised in Peter’s day, then it is even stronger now, as another 2,000 years have come and gone. But it is the very presence of these mockers that is a sign of the end of the age. Is not that ironic?

The last (ending) days began after Pentecost, and this whole new dispensation is called the last days because nothing more is to happen in God’s plan except the return of the Christ. There are no more wonders of grace that have to be accomplished before the end (cf. Heb. 1:1 and I Cor. 10:11).

These are like the days of Noah before the flood, when men also denied the coming of the end in judgment. Then, too, men mocked Noah as he built the ark and preached judgment; and they did so increasingly as the day approached.

There is such mockery today. There is the open scoffing of the atheists, holding to an evolutionary life of this world. There is the mockery arising out of the church, when men speak of an anticipated Christian kingdom in Jerusalem. There are increasing and more blatant efforts to fulfill one’s own desires, with sin increasingly more open, as if there will be no judgment. And the hope of a new heavens and earth is ridiculed.

But we must “know” this and be ever “mindful” as the people of God today. If it was true for the church in Peter’s time (and it was), then it must be much more true for us today. This is the Scripture’s evaluation of our world. We must not modify or mollify this description and evaluation.

Know this! Know this to avoid the dangers and temptations, so we will not be deceived by the scoffers. Know this so we will be confirmed in the hope of God’s faithful promise of Christ’s return. He is coming! And He is coming quickly!