“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty,” 2 Peter 1:12-16.
“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 Saviour: 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,” 2 Peter 3:1-4.
I read these verses this morning (Friday, May 19th) as part of my Bible reading and they came home to my heart with special power. They remind me of what the essential character of a minister of the gospel is ever to be. He is a ‘remembrancer’ to the people of God.
I. PLEASE NOTE WHAT IT IS HE IS EVER TO REMIND THE CHRISTIAN OF.
“These things”, that is the “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we “might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” verse 4. The preacher’s agenda is set down plainly for him to follow and never to deviate from.
1. God’s Word largely comprises ‘promises’. Among the very first words God spoke to Adam was the ‘implied promise of life’. “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Genesis 2:15-17. It is clearly implied in these words that life was promised to Adam as long as he was obedient and did not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord again speaks in the gracious terms of a promise to fallen Adam. The promise is found in the words spoken directly to the devil but doubtlessly heard by Adam. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” Genesis 3:15.
Here is the first glimmer of gospel light. Paul makes it clear that the ‘seed’ referred here and later when the Lord spoke to Abraham, was Christ. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ,” Galatians 3:16.
Thus there was in the first words of God to fallen Adam a promise of mercy and pardon through the sufferings of the ‘Mediator’ Jesus Christ.
2. The promises were ‘exceeding great’. Nothing illustrates this more than the Bible’s declaration of the sufferings of Christ to bring about this promised salvation and the dimension of that salvation.
No verses speak of the sufferings of Christ more extensively than the words of Isaiah in chapter 53 of his book.
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors,” verses 1-12.
The same prophet sets forth the glorious extensiveness of God’s mercy to sinners. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,” Isaiah 43:25.
“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee,” Isaiah 44:22.
I could repeat verse after verse which echo these heart-melting truths. How great is the mercy of God to sinners! We say with Paul: “ Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift,” 2 Corinthians 9:15.
3. But God’s promises are precious. This is another hallmark of God dealings with sinful man. They are of ‘great value and worth’.
Speaking from fifty nine years of experiencing the blessing of God through His ‘promises’, I can but faintly relate the treasure that they have brought into my life. Indeed, every day I see new aspects of God’s mercy that I have enjoyed over the years of my pilgrimage. My wife and I often speak together of what the Lord has done for us, shown to us, preserved us from, bestowed upon us and our loved ones. We do so with the sweet knowledge that we look upon God’s mercy toward us “through a glass, darkly” and in truth we cannot possible, this side of eternity, comprehend all that the Lord has done for us.
The hymn writer was correct when he said: “The half cannot be fancied, this side the golden shore.” I can echo joyfully the words of another hymn.
For all the Lord has done for me,
I never will cease to praise Him;
And for His grace so rich and free,
I never will cease to praise Him.
I never will cease to praise Him,
my Saviour, my Saviour;
I never will cease to praise Him,
He’s done so much for me.
II. PLEASE NOTE THAT A PREACHER’S DUTY REQUIRES A FREQUENT REPEATING OF ‘THESE THINGS’!
Peter says “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth,” verse 12.
There is to be a holy repetitiveness about the faithful man’s sermons. This pattern is clearly that followed by the Lord when He gave us the revelation of TRUTH in the Bible. It is a book of REPETITIONS!
1. The Lord’s repeating of His truth is never boring but ever fresh. Likewise, the preacher is ever to seek that freshness which only the Holy Spirit can give to his sermonising. “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” 2 Corinthians 3:6. A mere repeating of divine commandments and laws, in the fashion of the scribes of old, will bring no life. What is needed is ‘utterance in the Spirit”, Acts 2:4.
2. The purpose of repetition is in order to ‘stir up’. This is what Peter says his purpose was. “As long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance,” verse 13. The words literally mean ‘awaken from sleep’! It is used in Mark 4:38 and Luke 8:24 of the disciples waking up the Saviour in the boat when the storm began.
We all have a tendency to fall asleep. Just like certain substances such as paint, we are inclined to settle down and stiffen and congeal!
It is especially true of us in this age for the Saviour specifically warned that “Then (that is in the last days – 24:36-37 etc) shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom . . . . . While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept,” Matthew 25:1, 5. I have often considered the difference in ’slumber’ and ‘slept’. The Greek words indicate a gradual slipping into a state of senselessness. The word ’slumber’ means ’to nod off’. The word ‘slept’, on the other hand, means ’to yield up to sleep’. It is to sink down into a deep sleep.
It is to be noticed that both the wise and the foolish descend into sleep. The Saviour is telling us that at the close of this age, it will be difficult to tell the believer and the worldling apart!
Is there not there evidence of that taking place all around us!
3. There is often resentment to being stirred. It is certainly the case when we have drifted off into a comfortable sleep and likewise, Christians often show displeasure when attempts are made to do what Peter was seeking to do, ‘stir up’ his readers. Evidence of that displeasure is seen in the reaction of many to the Saviour’s preaching and also to the labours of Paul the apostle as is seen in his experiences in Corinth, to name but one instance. His efforts brought him the displeasure of the church there. He was forced to say of their reaction to his care of them: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved,” 2 Corinthians 12:15.
4. Peter hoped to make a long-term impression. “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance,” verse 15. Peter accomplished his desire for the Lord will so endorse the witness of faithful men that their testimony will live long after they have gone to glory. The libraries of the godly are filled with the books penned by good men from the days of the Reformation and the glorious days that followed. To me, they, along with the chief witness of truth, the Bible, form the bedrock upon which preachers may still build a witness for God in these days. Paul stated it in this fashion: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” Ephesians 2:20-22.
Good men are still making a blessed impression on the people of God!
III. WE HAVE TO SEE THAT THE PREACHING OF THE ‘EXCEEDING GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES’ DOES NOT EXCLUDE WARNING OF THE END-TIME APOSTASY.
I repeat the words at the beginning of chapter 3. “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 Saviour: 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,” 2 Peter 3:1-4.
Peter would have them remember God’s truth and also the flood of the devil’s lie against that truth.
1. Peter is but repeating what has been set forth by God’s servants in ages past. “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets.” So important is this warning that it has been repeated throughout the ages by God’s servants. The ‘last days’ are of particular importance for they will see the increasing advance of apostasy and rebellion, especially at the ‘end’ of the last days when God, in the fulfilling of His eternal purpose, will release the restraint that He has exercised upon the devil since the fall of man. An example of that restraint may been seen in Job 1:12 and 2:6. “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD . . . . And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.”
The devil is presently under the restriction and curtailment of God’s omnipotent power. But in the last of the last days, during that period known as ‘the great tribulation’ the Lord will lift that restraint to a degree and allow the devil a freedom he has not had before. But it is for a short time only. The chief manifestation of the devil’s ‘freedom’ will be his presenting to the Roman world his ‘man’, the false Christ, the ‘ANTICHRIST. However, God makes it clear to us that this time of triumph for the devil will end precisely when God wills it. Revelation 13 introduces the devil’s agent. He will be chiefly known for his ‘big mouth’! “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven,” verses 5-6.
I hope you notice the little phrase: “And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” The word ‘power’ carries the meaning of ‘liberty of doing as one pleases’. God thus sets the limits of the devil’s liberty to forty and two months or three and a half years — time, times and half a time as it is often termed, or twelve hundred and sixty days. Those three dimensions indicate surely that the Lord would have you make no mistake about the length of the time the Antichrist and his master, the devil, will exercise their limited influence upon the territory of his empire.
Yet, of course, despite this repeated emphasis, obstinate men still would have us believe God did not mean what he repeatedly said!
2. A denying of the reality of the Saviour’s return to this world has increasingly marked this age. Now Peter was warning those of his generation of the lying witness of those “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,” verse 3-4. That is because the ‘last days’ began back then. We are living in what might be termed the ‘last’ of the last days.
Remember what we read in Hebrews. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds,” Hebrews 1:1-2. So time is more or lest divided into two parts. ‘The ‘time past’ before Christ came and the ‘last days’ which began with Christ’s first advent.
Thus the words spoken with relevance to the first century readers of Peter’s epistle have still relevance to today for we live in the same period of time, the last days, as did they.
Indeed, the relevance is increasing since the lie spoken by these ’scoffers’ or mockers, will increase in influence as more and more turn away from God’s truth and embrace the lie.
Paul warned of the same threat in these words. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” 2 Timothy 4:2-4. So there will come a time when there will be a seeking after teachers of lies and there will be a turning from God’s truth.
Can any deny that such a time is upon us. Whatever seeking after error there has been in the past, never before has the ‘error of the devil’ been offered so extensively within the borders of the ‘professing Christian church’ as it is today! Indeed, it must be said that the ‘mainline churches’ are almost totally given over to the devil’s lie. That is evidenced every day in the pontifications of ‘Archbishops, Moderators and Presidents’, reported extensively by the media.
The denials and evil questioning and doubting of God’s Word is born of a wilful and willing ignorance, verse 5. They put away the truth and willingly embrace what they in their hearts know is a lie!
3. This lie can only be countered by us being ‘mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour’. Many would have us believe that what the prophets have said about the final days of this age are not to be taken literally, even though there is perfect harmony between them and the words of the Christ and His apostles. If this were not so, Peter would not call on us to be ‘mindful’ of them. That is a lovely self-explanatory word. God would have you fill your mind and keep it filled with “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”
It is clear that the subject of the words of those we are here told to be mindful of, all refer to ‘the last days’ and the apostasy that will develop and grow in that time period.
Peter draws a parallel between the days of Noah (as did the Lord Jesus -Matthew 24:37-39) and the last days of this age and reminds us that as the rebellion of mankind ended with the universal flood, so a like judgment will bring this age of rebellion to an end. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7.
The wild confusion we see abroad today is not because God has forgotten His promise. No. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.
No, the latter part of that statement indicates that what appears to us as a delay on God’s part, is in fact Him acting in mercy toward ‘us’.
He is “not willing that any (of us) should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God will save all of His elect, even as He delayed his destruction of Sodom until He had rescued Lot.
That is what is taking place today, Christian.
We see before us the immeasurable mercy of God toward His own amidst the horrific rebellion of men. He will not act against today’s ’Sodom’ until he has the last ‘Lot’ delivered out of it.
Let us therefore be patient as God works out His merciful works amidst the darkness of this age.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
20th May 2023