The apostles warned that the end times were perilous for the church. They were doctrinally perilous. Paul warned the Thessalonians against being misled by apostolic imposters who claimed that the day of God’s wrath had already arrived (2 Thess. 2:1). He reminded Timothy that the Holy Spirit had revealed that in the last days many would be led away from the true faith by deceitful spirits and by doctrines taught by demons (1 Tim. 4:1).
The end times were also behaviorally perilous. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 Paul warned that self-obsessed, greedy, disrespectful, malicious, sensuous people would invade the church. They would lay claim to an empty form of godliness while trying to victimize the most vulnerable and easily misled members of the church.
Peter warned that “The end of all things is near…” (1 Pet. 4:7). This means that Peter’s readers were living at the end of the end times. The doctrinal and behavioral assault that Paul had warned of was in full swing. This was confirmed in Jude 4 where Jude wrote “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude warned that those whom the apostles had alerted the church to be on watch for had snuck into the church. Doctrinally, they were perverting grace and denying the authority and divinity of Jesus. Behaviorally, they were practicing and promoting unrestrained, unprincipled, sexual promiscuity.
We too live at the end of the end times. As the end of the end times draws near Satan’s fury and opposition is boundless. So, we face an ever growing onslaught of doctrinal and behavioral apostasy. How are we to survive, and even thrive in such a hostile environment? An environment that is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christ and holiness? I think 2 Peter 1:5-8 provides us with an end times survival guide. In these verses Peter gave clear and timely guidance on how to be useful and fruitful in perilous times. In the next several blog posts I will be exploring this apostolic guidance on how we are to thrive in the threats that surround us.
Let’s start with the first clause in v. 5 “For this very reason” (ESV). What was the reason? To answer that question look back to vv. 3 and 4. Note that Peter began by first assuring the reader that God has granted to them everything they needed for both spiritual life and godly living. This was accomplished by means of the knowledge of Christ. In other words Peter was writing to Christians who needed to be reminded that, in spite of the perils, their faith in Jesus had provided them with everything they needed to thrive.
Peter continued in v. 4 where He said that through His glory and excellence Jesus had bestowed certain promises. This no doubt included the promise of salvation by which we are in-dwelt by the Spirit. Peter also wrote of the promise of a future inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-5) and the promise of the Lord’s return (1 Pet. 1:9, 13). But beyond these are all the prophetic promises of both the Old and New Testaments that find their completion in Jesus. This highlights how important the study of prophecy is to a healthy Christian life. As Zane Hodges has written “one of the great lessons of 2 Peter is that to maintain a holy life in a world like ours, we must be deeply rooted in the prophetic promises of God’s word.”1 By these promises, wrote Peter, the believer “partakes of” the divine nature. This does not mean that we become a god. Rather that some of God’s very nature, His Spirit, now indwells us (Rom. 8:9) and that we have a role to play in all that God is going to accomplish.
So, “For this very reason…” in v. 5 refers back to the saving knowledge of Jesus. This saving knowledge completely equipped them with all they need to thrive. It also made them sharers in the Spirit of God and in all that God intends to do in the future.
So, the first item in our survival guide is to reflect on our salvation. Salvation means we are equipped to thrive in threatening times. Jesus called us to salvation in order to equip us. Jesus called us in order to bestow upon us precious and magnificent promises for our future. A future that is very different from the perilous world in which we live now.
Salvation is the starting point, not the end. Our exercise of simple faith in Jesus is just the beginning of our Christian pilgrimage. Having been called and saved Peter urged His readers to build on this foundation. This will be our subject next time.
1 Zane C. Hodges, “Exposition of Second Peter,” The Kerugma Message 1:2 (July-August 1991):4.