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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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20-3 Is There A Delay In Christ's Return?

And so Peter presses home the point: " The Lord (Jesus- v.15,18) is not slack concerning his promise (to return- of Jn.14:3,18,28), as some men (in the ecclesia) count slackness" , but is longsuffering (v.9). The Greek for " slack" here means 'delay'; this is assurance that God is not 'delaying' as men dilly-dally in the execution of their plans, but is rather postponing this for a good reason. Because this was a major feature of God's dealings with natural Israel previously, it is not surprising that there are a number of instructive Old Testament allusions here.

Is.30:17-19 records how Israel would suffer for their sins, but then God would wait for a certain time until they cried to Him in repentance, before bringing about a time of blessing on the earth based around the Lord's presence in Jerusalem. " One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one (Deut.28 language)...till ye be left as a tree bereft of branches (how Paul describes what happened to Israel in the first century, Rom.11)...and therefore (i.e. because you are such sinners) will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted (through your repentance), that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more (the language of Is.65:17-25, quoted in 2 Pet.3:13): He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry (of repentance): when He shall hear it, He will answer thee" . Not only is God delaying the Kingdom until there is repentance in Israel, but such is His mercy that He will not bring it about until such repentance. His purpose should not be seen, therefore, just in terms of the cold equation 'Repentance in Israel= second coming', but the supreme mercy and love which this arrangement shows should be appreciated. " And therefore will He be exalted" Isaiah comments- by those who understand these things. Rom.11:32-36 is a marvellous example of this.

Wait and watch

Peter's stress on how the word of God would bring about the day of the Lord shows his realization of how the false teachers were really trying to say that the word of God was untrue, and that it was delaying. Perhaps he had Hab.2:3 in mind: " The vision (of the word) is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" . The context is a prophecy concerning the coming Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem. Evidently there were some in Israel who felt that the fulfilment of these words of God was 'tarrying' so long that it would never come. The next verse continues " But the just shall live by his faith" , i.e. in the eventual fulfilment of the word of God. This is twice quoted in the New Testament concerning the first century believers (Rom.1:17; Heb.10:38). It is therefore in order that verse 3 concerning the coming 'day of the Lord' in the Babylonian invasion should have relevance to the same period. If 2 Peter 3 refers here, then this is indeed the case. It is noteworthy that prophecies like Jer.17:27 speak of this Babylonian invasion as a " fire" in both literal and spiritual terms- as 2 Peter 3 also employs " fire" . Reading between the lines of the New Testament epistles, it is evident that Paul often phrased things in such a way as to warn against what was presumably a common temptation- in this case, to think that the day of the Lord had been delayed so long that effectively the brethren felt that it would never come. Thus Heb.10:37 quotes Hab.2:3 which we have been considering with reference to the second coming: " He that shall come will come (cp. 'I am that I am'), and will not tarry" . Rom.13:11,12 makes the same point- " knowing the is our salvation nearer than when we first believed" .

The key to overcoming this temptation was to remember that the delay in the Lord's coming was a sign of God's mercy in granting sinners time to repent. Rather than leading to slackness of service, the delay should lead to greater diligence. " The longsuffering to us-ward" . This longsuffering of Jesus suggests the parable of the persistent widow, whose continued requests should match our prayers for the second coming (the vengeance of our adversaries which she requested will only come then). " Though he bear long" (s.w. 'longsuffering') with us, " God shall avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him" (Lk.18:7). The " us" whom Peter refers to as experiencing the Lord's longsuffering ('bearing long') are therefore to be equated with " the elect" in their fervent prayers for the second coming. The days being shortened- a strong idea in 2 Peter 3- for the elect's sake therefore refers to the hastening of the second coming on account of the elect's prayers (Mt.24:22). In view of the later references to Matt.24, it is not unreasonable to think that Peter is consciously alluding to Mt.24:22 concerning the shortening of the days for the sake of the elect's prayers, through his allusion to the parable of the persistent widow of Lk.18:7.

A Patient Father

This " longsuffering" is because God is " not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (v.9). The " any" and " all" here evidently refer to those whom God has called- the responsible. The fact that millions of people throughout history have lived and died with no chance of repenting or avoiding 'perishing' through response to the Gospel, is proof enough that God is perfectly willing that many should perish and not come to repentance, as far as the world in general is concerned. But such is His desire for the responsible to live up to their spiritual potential, that He has delayed the coming of the Lord. Doubtless Israel deserved immediate punishment for their crucifixion of Christ- a human 'God' would certainly have reacted straight away- but judgment was deferred until AD70 in order to give them every opportunity to repent. God's judgments in the OT were often deferred because people repented (e.g. Is. 48:9; Nineveh); yet such is His supreme grace to Israel that when they unrepentantly crucified His Son, He still deferred judgment. The same is true in our days. What pain it must give our Father to see this time which has been allowed as extra opportunity being used irresponsibly! The bridegroom of the parable " tarried" , the same Greek word translated " delay" in " my Lord delayeth his coming" . Tragically, this resulted in the spiritual slumbering of all of the virgins rather than their greater eagerness and expectancy.

That this passage is indeed concerning the responsible is confirmed by the allusion it makes to Ez.18:23: " Have I any pleasure (Heb. " will" ) at all that the wicked should die...and not that He should return from His ways, and live?" . The context is concerning a Jew (i.e. responsible) who had been wicked but now had repented. The 'perishing' of 2 Peter 3:9 must refer to destruction at the judgment, God is not willing that any of us (" longsuffering to usward" ) should be condemned then, therefore that day is delayed. Perhaps we can infer that it is because of God's particular love for our very last generation of believers that the day is delayed- perhaps by 40 years, as in the case of Israel in AD70? It is possible that there may be a " generation" of 40 years after the blossoming of the fig tree- i.e. the first signs of Jewish repentance (cp. the Jews for Jesus movement?).

Space To Repent

The way this worked out in the first century is demonstrated by the judgment of the false teachers in the Thyatira ecclesia. " I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold...I will cast her into great tribulation...I will give unto every one of you according to your works" (Rev.2:21-23). This latter phrase clearly refers to the second coming (Mt.16:27; Rev.20:12; 22:12); but in addition to their judgment then, they were also punished in the " great tribulation" of AD70 referred to in Mt.24:21,29. As explained in 2 Pet.3, these people were 'given space to repent', but did not. Therefore judgment came. Sadly, there must be similarities with the last days. But it must ever be appreciated that God is doing all things possible to bring about that repentance; and we should likewise help these people to repent, so that the Lord's coming will be hastened. The idea of God being unwilling that any should perish but that all should repent must have some connection with the parable of the lost sheep. The efforts of the good shepherd should be replicated, so the context of the parable indicates, by the believers. Thus the parable is summarized: " It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Mt.18:17 cp. 2 Pet.3:9). The fact that there is/ will be a delay in the second coming indicates that there will be a distinct stubbornness by some to repent in the last days- perhaps the last Christian generation is the lost sheep generation, whose repentance will bring the Lord's return? " When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come" (Mk.4:29).

Coming To Repentance

But what exactly does 'coming to repentance' imply? " Longsuffering" on the Lord's part takes us back to 1 Pet.3:20, where we learn that God's longsuffering resulted in a delay in the flood coming, so that people had the maximum opportunity to repent and enter the ark, representing entry into Christ by baptism. The Greek for " come to" repentance has the idea of entering into a country- a one off act. A glance down a concordance under " repentance" shows that this word is associated with only two things- baptism, or a major repentance by a completely apostate believer. The delay in the second coming is for these two reasons- so that a seriously apostate group within the ecclesia can repent, and so that there can be the maximum possible allowance of time for the encouragement of people to be baptized. In addition to our prayers being able to speed the Lord's return, these two reasons for the delay involve our own effort speeding it. By repentance and encouragement of our weak brethren to repent, this really will happen; and the quicker we spread the Gospel world-wide, " baptizing all nations" , the quicker the delay will end and the Lord will come (Mt.24:14). The latter day Elijah ministry will presumably be after the pattern of John the Baptist- with an emphasis, therefore, on the baptism of Jesus as a means of preparing them for Christ's coming.

Our argument that God being unwilling " that any should perish" only applies to the responsible, may seem to contradict 1 Tim.2:4: " God...will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" . The same argument applies as used above- that this is just not true of " all men" literally. Note that in repentance after baptism, we can come to " the knowledge of the truth" - i.e. a real appreciation of the wonder of Christ. 1 Tim.2:5 continues: " For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" . Our Lord only mediates between God and the believers- called here " men" . Most conclusively, the preceding verses speak of praying for rulers, " that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness...for this is the sight of God, who will have all men to be saved" . " We" and " all men" are parallelled as if to say 'We know God wants us to be saved, but we must live a spiritual life in response to this. So pray that we will be given rulers that enable us to do this without excessive temptation, which may result in our falling from God's great salvation'.

Thief-like Coming

Having explained the reason for the delay, v.10 continues the description of the judgment to come: " The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" . This is an evident reference to another part of the Olivet prophecy, which has reference to both AD70 and the second coming. The Jewish " house" was " broken up" by the thief-like coming of the Lord. 1 Thess.5 refers to this same passage, interpreting it as a description of how Christ will come unexpectedly to the spiritually weak within the ecclesia. It will be a time when they think they are in " peace and safety" spiritually, and will publicly teach this (" When they shall say peace and safety" ). This is exactly the theme of 2 Peter 3- the false teachers within the ecclesia of the last days will preach that the second coming is far off; that in fact all is in peace and spiritual safety within the household. But as the thief would break the house up, so 2 Peter 3 graphically describes the total dissolution of the Jewish system (" heavens and earth" ). Mt.24:43 indicates that the Lord comes as a thief to those who would be watching over the house- i.e. to the leaders of the ecclesia. The false teachers will therefore be in the leadership of the body- otherwise it would be hard for their ideas to gain the following which these prophecies indicate they did and will.

" The heavens shall pass away with a great noise" (v.10) may therefore refer to the destruction of this class of leaders, the 'heavens' of the ecclesia. " A great noise" in Greek implies a whirring- perhaps referring to there being a manifestation of the cherubim at the second coming (" the sign of the son of man in Heaven" ?). Jer. 30:23,24, in a decidedly latter day context, speaks of God's judgments coming as a mighty whirlwind, associated as it is with the cherubim (Ez. 1:4). " The elements shall melt with fervent heat" provides impressive evidence for the AD70 application of this chapter when it is realized that most of the occurrences of the Greek word for " elements" are concerning the Mosaic ordinances (Gal.4:3; 5:21; Col.2:8,20). " Melt" can mean 'to unloose', conjuring up the idea of the law as a burden which was now being unstrapped. The relevance of v.10 to both AD70 and the last days is evidence that just as there were false teachers then, so there must also be in the last days. " The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (v.10) may refer specifically to the judgments coming on the land (" earth" ) of Israel, and the ending of the works of the Law through the destruction of the temple in AD70. As Noah's world was destroyed with literal water, so it is not unreasonable to expect a literal aspect to the " fire" here mentioned, although this is not to question the symbolic reference of fire to the anger of God. The temple was destroyed with fire, although interestingly Dan.9:26 speaks of its end coming with a flood; fitting in perfectly with Peter's connection of the AD70 judgments on Israel with the flood.

Olivet Allusions

The passing away of heaven and earth suggests another link with the Olivet prophecy: " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Mt.24:34). The physical heavens and earth being permanent (Ecc.1:4; Is.45:18; Ps.78:69), our Lord must have been referring to the order of things which would end in both AD70 and the last days. The faithful who came through the figurative 'fire' of those times would do so through their clinging to the Lord's words. We have earlier commented that this is a theme in 2 Peter 3- by God's word the natural and spiritual creation came about, and by it too sinners can be destroyed if they fail to let it act upon them.

The detailed description of all the elements of heaven and earth being destroyed is embedded, as we have seen, in allusions to the Olivet prophecy. It is therefore to be expected that our Lord's talking there about the sun and moon being darkened, the stars falling etc. (Mt.24:29) should also have some connection with 2 Pet.3. The Olivet prophecy speaks of these things being obscured and affected- but 2 Peter 3 describes their complete and fundamental destruction. Sun, moon and stars have several associations with Israel (e.g. in Joseph's dream), and 'Heavens and earth' have also been symbolic of the Jews (e.g. Dt.32:1). Mt.24:29,30 describe how there will be signs in these things, and then the Lord would come with the clouds of heaven. 2 Peter 3 shows how this refers to the lead up to AD70, and that then the Jewish system was totally destroyed. This means that the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven to replace the previous sun, moon etc. would have a limited reference to the system of things based around Christ and his word (Mt.24:34) which was firmly established in AD70. But most importantly, the dissolution of these 'heavens' refers to the second coming, with the destruction it will bring upon both the Jewish and Gentile worlds, and also upon the unworthy in the ecclesia. This shows that the signs in the heavens which warn of the second coming are not just in the Jewish and Gentile world- but (even clearer) in the state of the wicked within the " heavens" of the ecclesia, who will meet their judgment in this horrendous destruction of all that is evil.

Slow To Anger

A number of images found in 2 Pet.3 also occur together in Nahum 1:4-8: " He (God) rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry (cp. the earth standing out of the water in 2 Pet.3)...the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence (" the elements shall melt...the earth shall be burned up" , 2 Pet.3:10), yea, the world, and all that dwell therein (" the earth and the works that are therein" )...His fury is poured out like fire...with an overrunning flood (cp. 2 Pet.3:6) He will make an utter end" . But all this is prefaced by Nah.1:3: " The Lord is slow to anger" . As God always gave ample time for repentance in His dealings with both Israel and the nations in the Old Testament, so He would with spiritual Israel (and even more so?). All God's past dealings with men, as at the flood, with Israel at the Babylonian and Assyrian invasions, in His judgments of the nations, all these will find their summation in how God will deal with us in the last days. In this fact lies the value of following up the Old Testament allusions which Peter makes. That an appreciation of all this must have a fundamentally practical effect upon our lives is something which cannot be over-emphasized. " Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and Godliness" (v.11). The logic is irresistible; all things of the world as we know it are to be dissolved; only our Godly character will survive the fire; the word which develops this will also last beyond the destruction of the heavens and earth, seeing that it is through the word that they will be destroyed (cp. Mt.24:34). By developing such a word-formed character, we are " looking for and hasting the coming of the day of God" (v.12)- a fair summary of what we have read between the lines of this chapter.

The earth being dissolved  connects with Is.24:19: " The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved" . The previous verse alludes to the flood, as 2 Pet.3 does: " The windows from on high are open (cp. Gen.7:11) and the foundations of the earth do shake" (Is.24:18). Other writers have made the point that Is.24, especially in the Septuagint, appears to have been very much in our Lord's mind during his Olivet prophecy. 2 Pet.3 being based on the Olivet prophecy, it is to be expected that it will have connections with the same source passages. " The earth" in Is.24 meaning 'the land' (of Israel) indicates that 2 Pet.3 is also primarily concerning the troubles that came upon the land in AD70.

Loving His Appearing

The fact that " holy conversation and Godliness" is " looking for" the second coming drives home the point that all true spirituality is associated with and leads to an enthusiasm for the Lord's return. Unless we have a fervent desire for that day, a longing for the presence of our Lord, a burning eagerness to behold him in his beauty, then our spirituality is but moral nicety, similar to that shown by Orthodox 'Christians'. So all consuming is a true love of the second coming that any who really " love his appearing" - something shown by both doctrine and practice- are assured of acceptance then (2 Tim.4:8). We can only love Christ's return in this sense if we have a truly dynamic relationship with him now, rather than a cold, legalistic obedience to the 'Commandments of Christ', in our hearts only hoping for the best as far as judgment day goes, coldly indifferent to the real spirit of Christ, carefully covering over the child of faith which is deep within us.

Exactly what the Lord's return means to us personally, and the degree to which our spirituality stands directly related to it, must surely give rise to self-examination. Frequently the Greek word translated " look for" here is used in the context of the second coming, often translated " waiting" (Jude 21; 1 Cor.1:7; Rom.8:19; Phil.3:20; Heb.9:28; Tit.2:13; 1 Thess. 1:10). Our 'waiting' for the Lord is not therefore a passive thing- it is shown by our " holy conversation" , something which needs our constant active attention. All too often the impression is given that our 'waiting' is a grim, passive clinging on to a set of doctrines received at baptism. This is certainly part of it- but the quicker we take a dynamic approach to considering " what manner of persons" we ought to be, the sooner the Lord's coming will be hastened. That our spiritual effort, especially in prayer, preaching and pastoral work mentioned earlier, should hasten the coming of that great day should never  cease to be a source of wonder and inspiration to us. But do we really want to see the day of Christ? Pleasures of family life, the challenge of careers, personal ambition in preaching work, a desire for a few more years to work on our character- these and many other factors lead us away from an all consuming desire to see the day of the Lord. And if we lack that, then there will be little true motivation for developing a spiritual character and doing the preaching and pastoral work, which we know between them will hasten the day.

The End Of All Things

As if to provide motivation in all this, verse 12 repeats verbatim the language of v.10 and 11 concerning the totality of destruction which awaits the present world order: " The day of God , wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved (= v.11)...and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (= v.10)" . This repetition underlines the fact that every element of the present system will be destroyed- the only common link between this life and the future world order is the spirituality which we now develop. We came into this world with nothing, a naked baby; and all we can leave it with is God's record of our spiritual character. Thus it will be by our real spiritual character that we recognize and relate to each other in the Kingdom, rather than by our present physical characteristics. For this reason even the rejected will be able to recognize (in this sense) giants of faith such as Abraham entering into the Kingdom.

Appreciating this, " We according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (v.13), as opposed to the present earth, where " the works that are therein shall be burnt up" (v.10). For Peter, therefore, the vision of the Kingdom was centred around the fact that goodness and righteous principles would so evidently abound, being almost physically manifested in this planet; it will be a " new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" . Psalm 72 stresses the abundance of righteousness in that time, showing that David's picture of that time was similar. Likewise if we truly love righteousness, this is how we will perceive the Kingdom- rather than as a glorified tropical holiday.

" According to His promise" shows that Peter is referring to a specific Scripture- surely Is.65:17, where a picture of the Millenium is titled " the new heavens and earth" . " We, according to His promise, look for new heavens..." contrasts with the words of the mockers: " Where is the promise of his coming?" (v.4). This indicates that " the promise of his coming" was not just the simple statement of Jesus that he would return (Jn.14:3), but it included the details of the Kingdom which he would establish, as outlined in the promise of Is.65:17-25. Thus the doctrines of the literal second coming and the future Kingdom on earth are inseparable. Thus the slippery slope ran: The Lord is delaying longer than I thought; maybe it isn't important that he comes: therefore the Kingdom on earth is a pipe dream. So " the faith" was lost.

There is also a connection with Is.66:22-24: " The new heavens and the new earth which I will shall come to pass that...they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" . These last phrases are quoted in Mk.9:44 concerning the punishment of the wicked at the judgment seat. The reference to fire fits the 2 Pet.3 context, again showing that the 'heavens and earth' which are to be destroyed with fire include the wicked believers who will be punished in Gehenna. Note that the idea of the ecclesia being ultimately purged of false teachers is presented by Peter as a comfort to the faithful remnant.

" Be diligent"

" Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (v.14)- i.e. with sins covered through the blood of Christ. Such a condition, even for these " pure minds" (v.1), can only be achieved and maintained through much diligence. If it is our desire to be found acceptable by our bridegroom, our awareness of how near we are to meeting him will motivate us to constant self-examination so that we can be presented to him spotless.

The " things" which the beloved look for  are those spoken of in v.17: " Beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" . " These things" are therefore not just concerning the coming Kingdom, but also the warnings of the uprise of false teaching, the prophecies of their success, and the fact that the apparent delay of the Lord's return was to give the opportunity for repentance. Peter's double warning is because he knew how prone we are to forget such warnings, and to lose the reality of our love for the Lord's coming. It is as if Peter is speaking to us personally, as the last (?) generation before the full " day of the Lord" . " Seeing ye know these things before" (v.17) is yet another Olivet allusion- " False prophets shall rise...take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things" (Mk.13:22,23) about this apostacy. " Take ye heed" is matched by " beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked" (2 Pet.3:17). " The wicked" are the false teachers within the ecclesia, referred to in 2:14,18 as " beguiling unstable souls" (= 3:16) and 'alluring'. It follows therefore that the false Christs and prophets which our Lord warned of, would come, in whatever form, from within the ecclesia. The bizarre claims of the few bogus Messiahs that have appeared are hardly much temptation to us- but how different if they are to come from within the ecclesia?

The fact that we are living through a period of delay should never slip our minds- " account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation (i.e. the opportunity for our last generation to gain salvation) : as our beloved brother Paul...hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things" (v.15,16). This sounds as if Peter had in mind a particular passage of Paul, the tenor of which is repeated in all his letters. It may well be that he is referring to the idea of there being a delay in the second coming to allow repentance; however, if " these things" is the repeated warning against the false teachers of the last days, and advice on how to live in those times, then this is quite easily discernible. Moreover, there is a connection back to v.2,3 where Peter reminds us how warnings against false teachers were a major theme of all the inspired writings of the New Testament. Surely there can be no excuse, in the light of all this emphasis, to disregard such warnings?

However, Peter writes as if he is referring to a particular passage in Paul's writings. A likely candidate is Rom.2:3-5, which addresses the weak (Jewish) members of the Rome ecclesia, warning them that there will be a day of judgment, and that they should not despise God's love in delaying that day so that they could repent. " Thinkest thou...that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering (cp. 2 Pet.3:15): not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (2 Pet.3:9)? But after thy...impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself (cp. " kept in store" , 2 Pet.3:7) wrath against the day of wrath (cp. fire) and...righteous judgment of God" (cp. 2 Pet. 3:7).

Another possibility is Eph.5:15,16: " Walk circumspectly...redeeming the time, because the days are evil" . By 'buying up' the opportunities for spiritual development in the daily round of life, we are effectively " redeeming the time" in the sense of hastening the Lord's return. Paul pleads with us to see the urgency of this principle: " Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (v.17). Seeing that they could redeem the time to the second coming in this way, the exhortation is driven home: " Awake! Thou that sleepest!...and Christ shall give thee light" by His early return.

Slippery Slope

We have shown how an underlying theme of Peter's argument is the supremacy of the word of God, and how through understanding of and obedience to it, a character can be developed which will pass through the judgments which that word will bring upon the world. Those who are to be destroyed at that time, such as the false teachers, will have failed to understand these things of which Peter and Paul spoke- they found them " things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest" (v.16). The Greek for " unlearned" means those 'not understanding' or 'ignorant'. But they were not unaware of Paul's epistles- they 'wrested' them through their wilful misunderstanding of them (v.5). The beginnings of this sad situation are found in Heb.5:11, where the Jewish believers are called " dull of hearing" God's word, and therefore found the exposition of Melchizedek " hard" to understand. It is to these same Jewish believers that Peter's letters are addressed. Thus a lack of sensitivity in Bible study, a laziness to work out typology and derive lessons from it, resulted eventually in a wilful misunderstanding of basic teaching concerning fundamental doctrine, e.g. the second coming. It takes real faith in the teaching of God's word here to accept that this really can happen, and has done so. The example of the first century is there for our learning.

Such wresting of the Scripture was done " unto their own destruction" (v.16), using the same word translated as " perdition" in v.7, as if their judgment was already workingitself out in this life. That verse speaks of how the " ungodly" would meet their perdition in the day when the heavens and earth were destroyed by fire. thus those within the ecclesia who were so wresting the Scriptures are the same group as those of v.3-7 who would be destroyed at " the day of judgment and perdition (s.w. " destruction" ) of ungodly men" . Jude likewise talks of " ungodly men" who had crept into the ecclesia (v.4). The evident similarities between 2 Pet.2 and Jude are for a reason. 2 Pet.2 and 3 are a prophecy of what would happen in the ecclesia, whilst Jude is the record of their fulfilment; hence his use of the present tense " there are crept in...ungodly men" . It is not difficult to imagine Peter's letter and his verbal expression of these ideas being branded 'unloving', trouble mongering, divisive etc. But within a few years Jude's letter proved the truth of his words. A glance around the latter day ecclesias indicates that there are many " pure minds" (v.2) of the type Peter wrote to; it may therefore seem out of order to suggest that soon the ecclesial situation of just before AD70 will be seen among us. But time and again in this study we have seen the dual application of 2 Pet.3 to both AD70 and our last days. Many other New Testament prophecies could be expounded likewise.

The corrective is hinted at throughout all these prophecies: " mindful of the words which were spoken before" (v.1,2), meditating on the power of God's word in the past, in creation and at the flood, correctly understanding the teachings of Paul and Peter about the last days (v.15,16), bringing our way of life into conformity with our great hope of the second coming (v.11,12), and so by all this growing " in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.18).

As an appendix to this study, it ought to be instructive to list the characteristics of the false teachers which arose in the 'last days' of AD70, and which we have suggested must be seen in our last days too:

- Poking fun at those who had a fundamentalist approach to the teaching of God's word

- Enjoying the good life of the world, which led them to be cold in their hearts to the Lord's return

- Showing aggression to some within the ecclesia

- A disinterest in prophecy

- Initially expressing their false ideas in the form of questions about basic principles

- Senior brethren, leaders of the ecclesia, who had been waiting for Christ for some time

- They had failed to grow in Biblical knowledge and appreciation, having for some time been lazy to work out Bible typology

- Retained the external trappings of the faith

- Their false teaching was expressing ideas which they had held quietly for some time

- Complex arguments were used, but not appreciating the real power of God's word

- Questioning whether the word of prophecy will be fulfilled, implying that the 'spiritual graces' of the life in Christ are so wonderful that the idea of a future Kingdom is irrelevant

- Teaching that there is peace and spiritual safety within the ecclesia- that there is nothing to be alarmed about concerning the state of the ecclesia

- Influencing many brethren and sisters

This list is yielded from 2 Peter 3 alone. Only the " willingly ignorant" would deny that there are far too many of these characteristics developing in the ecclesia today. A witch hunt will be pointless; indeed, each of us may have some of the above tendencies. " Beware, lest ye also..." (v.17). The Greek for " beware" means 'to be isolated'; indicating that this general trend will take some standing up to. However, it cannot be stressed too highly that our duty is not to physically isolate ourselves from the problems, seeking some kind of splendid spiritual isolation, but rather through the power of the word to encourage others within the ecclesia to develop with us that " holy conversation and Godliness" which hasten " the coming of the day of God" (v.11,12).