Brit Hadashah Reflections 51
Hebraic understanding of the Apostolic letters
2 Peter 3 : 1 - 18
Peter needs little introduction! A giant of the faith. Bold, flawed, loyal, boisterous, impetuous, enthusiastic, spokesman, obedient to his calling. He was a leader to be admired and a study of his life is rewarding. A fervent Torah observant Jewish believer who met face to face with the resurrected Messiah, with a strong desire to see followers of Yeshua live lives worthy of their calling. This letter was probably written from Rome in the late 60’s C.E.. There is a remarkable likeness in both style and content between this letter and the one written by Jude. Both are concerned with the false doctrine being ‘peddled’ within the “ekklesia”.
Peter went right back to the beginning of man’s time on earth to draw comparison with events of his day. In the ‘last days’ scoffers will abound. We could say the same today couldn’t we? Little acknowledgement of, and no respect for, the King of this Universe. “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” He said, and “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually … and He was grieved in His heart.” (Genesis 6) But the very practical Peter saw that men had been looking at signs of the end times for centuries. We still are. “Where is the promise of His coming” he said.
Then he reminded himself, and the readers of his letter, that God does not see time as we see time. It is a common trait of mankind to limit God to our own understanding. We can’t help it. It is all we know. But as Peter went on to say, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” I do not think that Peter had a specific timeline in mind when he wrote that. Some have made much of the literality of the ‘day’ and the ‘thousand years’. I am inclined to the view that with God, each of those time measures, which mean so much to mankind, are just words to God. His timing is perfect, never early, and never late. At the moment of His choosing He sent Messiah Yeshua into this earthly kingdom, and at the moment of His choosing this age will come to an end. And only He knows the date. We are not to fret about that, but are required, in the time of our sojourn on this earth, to live our lives honourably and to His glory. Which is the message Peter is seeking to impart in this letter.
He emphasized this by telling the ‘ekklesia’ that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” But those who have the opportunity to repent should do so while are able, because “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Now, dear friends that is as clear a statement of the end of time as you will ever read. And you know that just as the thief never makes an appointment to rob your house, so will the end come, without further warning. For those who are alive at that time and not ready it will be too late. For those reading this ‘reflection’ there is yet time! “Therefore beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found in Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
Now the only time Peter makes reference to Paul in this letter comes next. He said that Paul had also written in similar vein to this, but that Paul was sometimes hard to understand. I have pondered this long and hard. I must confess that in my ‘reflections’ on the writings of Paul, there were times when I had difficulty in following his thread. In part because Paul wrote some extremely long sentences, with little or no punctuation. I am quite sure that Paul wrote in a manner that was culturally understood by the recipients, and yet he was a bit of an enigma. An orthodox Jewish Rabbi speaking to a largely gentile audience. And with exceptional clarity, purpose, and success at that. It was the Jewish audience to whom Peter is writing, who had the difficulty. Our difficulty, as gentiles, with Paul’s writings today are for a different reason.
To understand Paul in our Christianised culture we need to get firmly in our minds that although he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he never abandoned his Jewish orthodoxy. NEVER. If you are able to grasp that it will completely change the clarity of his writings. Most of us have been taught to see him in the light of Torah abandonment. (please look at last year’s ‘reflection’ number 44 on Acts 9 for more information) For your own study, put your prejudice on the shelf for a moment, then starting at Acts 9 right through to Acts 28 look at Paul’s own testimony as he suffered many trials at the hands of his Roman captors and the Orthodox Jewish community which he had left. You will find that there is absolutely NO evidence that he ever abandoned his Judaism. Quite the contrary. He took pride in it!
Peter wanted the “ekklesia’ to be well grounded in the pure word of God so that they did not fall prey to false teachers. The only way to know the word is to read and study it yourself. Be a “Berean” (Acts 17). Don’t take others word for it. Check it for yourself and enjoy the experience.