2 Peter 3:8-15 URCSA SKUINSKRAAL 10 DECEMBER 2017

 

1     Second Sunday of Advent Year B [1]

Other Revised[2] Common Lectionary[3] (RCL) texts for today:[4] Psalm 85:1-2; 8-13; Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8

2     Background information about the Bible Book and text:

2 Peter was only recognised as part of the NT canon in the 4th century AD.

Author: Either Simon Peter, the apostle, or one of his students, or his secretary. Most probably written less than a year before Simon Peter’s death.

Dated: Around 67 AD or very early 68 AD.

Style: The book has an argumentative style. Its approach is apologetic and it is a defence of the Christian faith. Vosloo & Van Rensburg (1999:1732) emphasise that 2 Peter has all the characteristics of a testament. The style is that of a person who knows that he/she has a short time left to live.

Historical Setting: 1 Peter focuses on issues of suffering, whereas 2 Peter’s issues show some similarity with the issues Paul had encountered, i.e., false teachers; heresies that denied the Lordship of Christ, and the Second Coming (Acts 20:29-31; 2 Thess 2:3; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1-9). It is uncertain to whom Peter directed this letter but he seems to know his readers well. Apparently there was the danger that some congregants would follow false teachers who, because of the delay in the coming of Christ, had announced that Christ will not come again. Peter warns his readers not to follow these teachings and attempts to convince them that he is proclaiming the true gospel.

3     Text

2 Petrus 3:8-15 1983 Vertaling 2 Peter 3:8-15 (NIV)
8Een ding moet julle egter nie vergeet nie, geliefdes: vir die Here is een dag soos duisend jaar en duisend jaar soos een dag. 9Die Here stel nie die vervulling van sy belofte uit nie, al dink party mense so. Nee, Hy is geduldig met julle, omdat Hy nie wil hê dat iemand verlore gaan nie: Hy wil hê dat almal hulle moet bekeer.

10Maar die dag van die Here sal so onverwags soos ‘n dief kom. En op dié dag sal die hemel met ‘n groot gedruis verdwyn, die hemelliggame brand en tot niet gaan, en die aarde met alles wat daarop is, vergaan. 11Aangesien al hierdie dinge so aan hulle einde gaan kom, moet julle des te meer vroom en aan God toegewy lewe. 12Leef in verwagting dat die dag van God kom en beywer julle daarvoor, die dag waarop die hemel in vlamme sal vergaan en die hemelliggame sal brand en wegsmelt. 13Maar ons leef in die verwagting van ‘n nuwe hemel en ‘n nuwe aarde wat God belowe het en waar die wil van God sal heers.

14Daarom, geliefdes, terwyl julle hierdie dinge verwag, moet julle julle daarvoor beywer om vlekkeloos en onberispelik voor God, en in vrede met Hom, te lewe. 15En beskou die geduld wat ons Here met ons het as geleentheid om gered te word. So het ons geliefde broer Paulus immers ook met die wysheid wat aan hom gegee is, aan julle geskrywe.

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. [5]

11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.3:12 Or as you wait eagerly for the day of God to comeThat day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 1

 

4     Exegetical information (Understanding the text/passage)

Verse 8 (see also Psalm 90:4): The author indicates that God is not bound to time in the same way that we are. God is free from the time limitations that we experience. We know that our experience of time is limited by our two, and perhaps three-dimensional, ideas of time and space. The theory of relativity challenged the idea of absolute time (Hawking 1988:35). Hawking explains that although the laws of science do not distinguish between the past and the future, the laws of entropy (disorder) accept an arrow of time. In a closed system, entropy always increases with time. Psychologically, we feel that time passes because we remember the past, but not the future. Cosmologically, there is also a direction of time in the sense that the universe is expanding rather than contracting (Hawking 1988:152-153).

Any interpretation in which the author equals a thousand years to one day is rejected by many commentators (see König 1980:1-3; The Expositors Greek Testament 1979:144; Green 1968:135-136). König explains how, from very early on in the history of the church, people tried to predict the coming of Christ. The theories behind some of the predictions were based on the understanding that a thousand years equals one day. The six days of creation would thus be equal to six thousand years.

Verse 9: People became uncertain of whether the proclamation of the Second Coming (Parousia in Greek) was true. People experienced suffering, with no sign that Jesus was coming on the clouds as expected. The underlying question to this is whether God is unreliable. This verse builds on the previous one and introduces the character of God. God shows his patience (makrothumei) with us. Augustine says God is patiens quia aeternus (Green 1968:134). God does not want (boulomenos) people to perish (apolesthai). The delay in His coming does not spring from an unwillingness or impotence of God to perform.

Verse 10: The verse makes no distinction between the day of the Lord (hēmera kuriou) and the Second Coming as described in the rest of the NT (Matt 24:43-44; Luk 12:39-40; 1 Thess 5:2-4; Rev 3:3; 16:15). The delay of the Day of Yahweh was a problem the OT prophets had to face (Hab 2:3). Manuscripts differ regarding the last part of the verse and different translations show the different choices in meaning that were made between “it will be laid bare” and “be burned up”.

Verses 11-12 are an appeal to the beloved to be ready for the Day of the Lord/ God. They also give a very vivid description of what will happen. It is important to understand that what we really have here is metaphoric language (Durand). With our present understanding of time and space, it is not even possible to think about our universe without thinking metaphorically. When scientists (astrophysicists) speak of the possibility of a fourth dimension, we have no other choice but to think metaphorically, because we already struggle to relate our understanding to three dimensions. For example: if we travel, at the speed of light (300 000 km/s), to the centre of the Milky Way and back to Earth, the time of the return will be sixty thousand years later on Earth – but the traveller will be still relatively young.[6] The only way we can really, or usefully, speak about this is to use metaphoric language.

Verse 13: Here the concept of “expectation” or “looking forward” (prosdokōmen) plays a role. This can be described as an eschatological view based on the promises (epangelma) of God. It can be compared to themes in Isaiah 60:21; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Rev 21:27; 22:15. Important elements of this eschatological view is a new heaven and earth where there will be righteousness (dikaiosuné). The new heaven and earth forms a unit. The reference to heaven here is not the same as in Matt 6:9, where it refers to the place where God is. Here it refers to the totality of creation. This is similar to the way Revelations refers to it. Righteousness refers to relationship – God is Righteousness, but our relationship with God and with each other should also be based on righteousness.

Verse 14: The verse expands further on the concept of expectation and repeats the appeal to be found spotless and blameless and at peace. The Expositor’s Greek Testament (1979:146) says “Peace and righteousness are one”.

Verse 15: The patience (makrothumei) of God with us; it also means salvation.

5     Sermon:

5.1   THE THEME OF THE SERMON

Reflecting on the character and the kingdom of God.

5.2   FROM TEXT TO CONTEXT (What does it say to us in our context?)

5.2.1    Introduction

It is important to understand time in the Bible as being a reciprocal action between the present and the future. What happens in the present can determine the future, while any expectations of the future affect the actions of the present.

Our text seems to speak to believers whose thinking about God and His promises are mechanical and static. The author’s understanding of God is dynamic. God can’t be reduced to fit into a box, nor can thinking about God be in terms of a simplistic, promise-fulfilment scheme. Followers were in danger of losing sight of the kingdom of God, which is about much more than just the expectations of the congregants. Most probably, at the time, some people were going around creating this kind of uncertainty among the congregations.

5.2.2    Be careful in interpreting numbers in the bible

The NT predicts that the time of the Second Coming is near (1 Cor 7:29; Phil 4:5; James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7). These texts were written between 50 to 90 AD. The impression we get is that Paul genuinely felt that the Lord’s Second Coming would happen in his lifetime. These texts are often used in linear interpretations and in the light of, or in the understanding of a promise-fulfilment scheme.

Against this background it is understandable why so many predictions were made of His Second Coming. Many of these predictions were based on literal interpretations of certain numbers given in the Bible, but this, we have come to know, is a dangerous way to interpret the Bible. We have, for example, a group of Christians who, with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, thought that the Second Coming was very near – because it happened to be forty years after the crucifixion and Israel spent forty years in the desert. Another group believed the date would be 100 AD, because that would be seventy years after the crucifixion and the book of Daniel mentions seventy weeks. In the middle of the next century, another group believed the Second Coming was close because Pius was the tenth Roman king and the book of Daniel refers to ten kings. Another group believed that 150 AD would be the year because that was 120 years after the crucifixion and according to Genesis 6:3, people can expect to live 120 years. Another prediction was for 350 AD, based on Daniel and Revelations, and then 380 AD. As we might expect, many speculations focused on the turn of centuries. The years 500; 1000; 1500; and 2000 AD were often mentioned in predictions. The year 1260 AD was also a very popular prediction, based on Rev 12:6.

And then there were the predictions based on 2 Peter 3:8. The basic interpretation is that a thousand years equals one day. Based on this interpretation, there are people who widely proclaimed that the earth was seven thousand years old. Others believed that the earth will exist for seven thousand years: four thousand before the birth of Christ; two thousand after his birth, and then another thousand years of peace.

As far as we know the formation of the planet Earth began about 4.5 billion years ago. Matter, energy, atoms and molecules appeared about 13.5 billion years ago. Until recently, scientists believed the genus Homo in Africa dated back to about 2.5 million years ago (Harari 2011). But on December 6, 2017, Little Foot was unveiled – by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor ever found, older than 1.5 million years. It is also the oldest fossil hominid in Southern Africa, dating back 3.67 million years.

5.2.3   The patience of God

How do we think about the nature of God? The expectation of a new heaven and earth is embedded in the person of Jesus Christ. Heaven and earth cannot be separated from God.

The message of the Second Coming should not be separated from a proper understanding of the nature of God. The Second Coming is a message of hope and not of fear. This passage relates to us God’s desire that all people should be saved.

The patience of God is central to our passage. For anyone who is uncomfortable with the fact that the Second Coming has not taken place, there is a clear message. God has patience with humankind (and creation). The popularity of judgement-preaching is often based on self-justification, rather than justification by Christ. This is the feeling that we are safely in the boat (metaphorically speaking) and now the boat can leave. The danger is that our faith becomes something we have earned, rather than being based on the mercy and patience of God. Our belief in our personal faith then becomes the measure and justification used in judging others.

In the church, many people do not experience the patience of God, but rather a message of judgement.

5.2.4    Righteousness of God

What will we find on this new earth and heaven? Righteousness – relationships.

The author sees the continuity between the present earth and the future in the idea of a new heaven and earth. This expectation of continuity can already be found in Isaiah 65:17-25. This new earth will also be different, but the righteousness of God belongs not only to the new heaven and earth but also in the present heaven and earth. Righteousness will live on in the new heaven and earth. Righteousness refers both to God, who is Righteous, and to the new heaven and earth where we will all take part in righteousness, which is the will of God for us.

The important point is to see righteousness as forming a bridge of certain continuity between the old earth and new earth. The Parousia, the end time, will mean a break from the present. It will be a radical break from the powers that resisted God’s reign. At the same time, it will also be a continuation of the power of the resurrection that is already at work (Durand 1993:402 in reference to H Berkhof).

We should consider the possibility that the new heaven and earth does not necessarily follow on the present heaven and earth, but already exists as a dimension of eternity (Durand 1993:404). In Rom 8:19 the new earth already waits in eager expectation to be revealed to  the children of God.

There seems to be a connection between the new creation and the pronouncement that we are the new creation (kaine ktisis) in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Here, also, we can speak of continuity and discontinuity. We continue to be the same people, but we are also different.

Righteousness should be a part of the identity of the church and in all our actions. The gospel of Matthew calls on us in 6:33 to seek (now) first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

5.2.5    Baptism: Promise and expectation

The covenant of God with Abraham and with us, is God’s way to justify us, and through us the whole of creation.

Baptism is a reflection of God’s covenant with us that can also be understood in the context of promise and expectation. God’s covenant is God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, which includes all believers (Gal 4-5). Again, this is not a linear promise and fulfilment. We are not directly the children of Abraham. It is through this covenant promise that we are able to look away from ourselves for our salvation. We have the belief that we are included in the covenant with Abraham and what happened on the cross and resurrection (Rom 6). We are part of the new heaven and earth because of our baptism (God’s promises) and not because we deserve it.

5.2.6    Summary

  • Nobody knows when the Parousia will happen. We should be careful not to listen to all the different voices in this regard.
  • In a certain sense the Parousia already happens every day in our midst when we treat others in a just way. We are encouraged to live in justice to make the whole of creation a better place.
  • Our view of God, as the One with patience for creation, will inspire us to live a life of justice.
  • Looking only into our own heart will make us desperate. Knowing that the God of the covenant is the One who accompanied us on our journey will give us hope for ourselves and for creation.

Amen

Dr Frederik B O Nel /10 December, 2017

6       References:

Beukes, Rosemary 2017-2018. Word and Worship, Year B, 21-25

Combrink, H J B 1985. “2 Petrus 3” in Woord teen die Lig I/6, 224-230

Durand, JJF 1993. “2 Petrus 3:13” in Woord teen die Lig III/3, 399-405

Durand, Jaap 2010. Dit is amper dag. ‘n Besinning oor die najaar van die lewe. CUM

Fouche, Leon 1999. Sewe Christelike Deugde: Jou Kompas tussen Lig en Duister.

Green, Michael 1968. 2 Peter and Jude. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale Press

Groenewald, E P 1977.Die Briewe van Petrus & Die Brief van Judas.

Harari, Yuval Noah 2011. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Vintage Books

Hawking, Stephen 1988. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Bantam Books

König, Adrio 1980. Jesus die Laaste: Gelowig nagedink oor die einde. NG Kerk Boekhandel

König, Adrio 1999. Kom Jesus kort na 2000? Lux Verbi

Lombard, H A 1991. Teologie en lewenspraktyk: Die appèl van indikatiewe en imperatiewe in 2 Petrus.

Orsmond, Eddie 2017-2018. Preekstudies met liturgiese voorstelle, gebaseer op die Leesrooster vir lidmate. Revised Common Lectionary:  Jaar B, Advent 2017 tot Koninkrykstyd 2018, 12-17

The Expositors Greek Testament 1979 (Reprinted). WM.B Eerdmans Publishing Company

Van der Watt, Jan  (red); Bosman Hendrik; Du Rand Jan; Janse van Rensburg, Fika; Nel Marius; Smit Dirkie; Venter Pieter 2003. Die Bybel A-Z,

Vosloo, Wil & Van Rensburg Fika, J 1999. Die Bybellennium. Eenvolumekommentaar. Die Bybel uitgelê vir eietydse toepassing, 1736-1739

 

 

Date Created: 2017/12/06 14:35:00                                           Date Saved 10/12/2017

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Word Count: 3036

[1] The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) has a three-year cycle. Year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew; Year B on Mark and Year C on Luke. Each year focuses on different OT and NT books.

[2] The RCL has been in existence since 1992. The Leesrooster (reading roster) project was founded in 1995 and is the Afrikaans equivalent, based on the RCL.

[3]. A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the service of worship. Lectionaries (tables of readings) were known and used since the 4th century AD.

[4] There are four reading for each Sunday. One from the OT; one from the Psalms, one from the Gospels and a second reading from the NT. The Leesrooster project focus on only one of the four texts for preaching on a Sunday.

[5] 3:10 Some manuscripts be burned up

[6] If you’re going at 90% of the speed of light, it takes you a bit under 30,000 years.. At 99% of the speed of light, we’re under 10,000 years. At 99.9% of the speed of light, it still takes 3,000 years. At 99.9999% of the speed of light, it takes you about 80 years to get to Galactic Centre and back, while Earth ages 60,000 years. So that’s potentially survivable. At 99.999999% of the speed of light, we’re getting below 10 years. At 99.9999999999% of the speed of light, it now takes you only a month to get there and back. Again, the Earth ages 60,000 years in that period. https://www.quora.com/profile/David-John-Williamson