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Introduction to the Second Epistle of Peter


I. Writer


The writer called himself “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1), i.e. the same author with the first epistle of Peter (see 3:1; 1Pet.1:1). The writing style of the two epistles were distinctly different, and probably it was because the first epistle was written by Silvanus (see 1Pet.5:12) and the second by Peter or another anonymous saint. That is why there are considerable differences between the two epistles in terms of the literary form.

Simon Peter was the first disciple among the twelve disciples. He was originally called Simon, and the Lord gave him another name Cephas (in Aramaic), Peter in Greek (John1:42). He is often called Simon Peter in the Bible (see Matt. 16:16).

Both Cephas and Peter mean “stone” in the original. By such alteration to the name, the Lord may reveal a truth that men are useless dust before they are saved (see Gen.2:7) but His salvation will transform men into living stones (1Pet.2:5). The Lord Jesus is the foundation of the building of the church (1Cor.3:11), and He will build more people that have been saved ---- all the living stones, namely, the church ---- upon this rock (Matt.16:18) for a habitation of God in Spirit (Eph.2:22).

The Lord entrusted the key of the kingdom of the heavens to Peter (Matt.16:19) and asked him to open the door of salvation among the Jews and the Gentiles (see Acts2:40-42; 10:44-48). Peter’s mission was consistent with his work when he was called by the Lord. At that time, when he was casting a net into the sea, the Lord Jesus called him and said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt.4:18-19). Therefore, the ministry of Peter was to gain a multitude of men to be materials of the building of the church (see Acts2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 10:44).

Peter was an inborn leader, who was often the first to speak and act and took the leadership (see John21:3) and was also often rebuked by the Lord thereby (see Matt. 14:28-31; 16:22-23; 17:4-8, 24-27; 26:33-34). However, after the three-and-a-half-year training and discipline of the Lord, especially after the Lord’s resurrection, Peter appeared to be born anew and had been transformed into another man by the revelation and teaching through the Spirit for forty years (Acts1:2-3), thus becoming a true spiritual leader who was humble and bold and stable and easy to work with others in one mind (see Acts 3:1,12; 4:13; 11:17; 12:17; 15:7-11).


II. The Time and Location the Epistle was Written


Since it was said that Peter was killed by the tyrant Nero (54-68 AD), obviously, this epistle was written not long before Peter’s being martyred. Therefore, this epistle was inferred to be written in Rome during 66-68 AD.


III. The Recipients


Peter mentions that “I now write to you this second epistle” (see 3:1), so the recipients of this epistle must be the same with that of the first epistle ---- i.e. to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1Pet.1:1)


IV. The Motivation for Writing this Epistle


Since Peter at that time foresaw that he would be martyred for the Lord, he wrote this epistle to remind the church to keep the true faith and grow in the grace and knowledge (see 1:12-15; 3:18) so as to face with the impending crisis ---- there would be “false teachers” who would secretly bring in destructive heresies (see 2:1).


V. The Importance of this Book


This epistle provides important materials for the defense of the true faith (2:1-3:13) as well as particular spiritual knowledge: 1) steps of things pertaining to life and godliness (1:5-7); 2) knowledge about the secret of the Scriptures (1:19-21; 3:2, 15-16); 3) secrets of the last day and judgment (2:4, 9; 3:7-10); 4) the heavens and the earth will be dissolved by fire (3:6-12);


VI. Main Structure and General Description


    The knowledge of the Savior Jesus Christ makes us partakers of all things pertaining to life and godliness. Therefore, we have to give all diligence in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and add more and more so as to go abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of Him. And the way of obtaining such knowledge is to pay heed to and remember the words in the Scriptures and to be firmly convinced of the Lord’s promise instead of being deceived by the heresies brought by the false teachers. Therefore, we will be without spot and blameless.


VII. Special Points


    This epistle has the following special points:

1.    It is one epistle of “the common epistles”, which is not written to one particular church or person, but to all Christians.

2.    It is an epistle of defending the heretical doctrines. In the early church time, the church had already been attacked by heresies.

3.    It is an epistle that emphasizes the importance of knowledge. According to the original, words like “know” and “knowledge” have appeared for sixteen times in this epistle.

4.    It is an epistle proving that the Scriptures are of the inspiration of the Spirit. “Scriptures” means the collection of the words inspired and breathed by God.

5.    It is an epistle written by the apostle for the circumcised (Gal. 2:7-8). The quotations and illustrations are much familiar to the Jews.


VIII. Its Relations with Other Books in the Scriptures


1.    Its relation with the Old Testament: a) Peter takes Noah (Gen. 6-8) and Lot (Gen. 19) for example to show that God will save those who are godly and perseverant; b) Peter takes Balaam (Num.22) for example to illustrate the actions of false prophets and to warn believers not to imitate him.

2.    Its relation with the Second Epistle to Timothy: the two epistles have the following similarities: a) this epistle is the final epistle of Peter, and the Second Epistle to Paul is the final epistle of Paul; 2) both of the two epistles alert believers to the false teachers (2Pet.2; 2Tim.3); c) both of the epistles mention the “divine inspiration” of the Scriptures (2Pet. 1:20; 2Tim. 3:16) and the holy Scriptures are the only weapon of resisting heretical teachings; d) both of the epistles have mentioned they will be martyred for the Lord (2Pet. 1:13-15; 2Tim. 4:6) and face it calmly.

3.    Its relation with the Epistle of Jude: at least fifteen verses in the whole twenty-five verses of the Epistle of Jude have partly or even completely appeared in the Second Epistle of Peter. Besides, many concepts, words and terms in the two epistles correspond to one another. Therefore, some Bible scholars infer that this epistle probably is written by Jude and he quotes extensively from this epistle in the Epistle of Jude written by Jude himself.


IX. Key Verses


“As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (1:3).

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (3:14).


X. Key Words


“Know”, “knowledge” (1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12, 14, 20; 2:9, 10, 20, 21, 21; 3:3, 17, 18);

“Be multiplied to”, “add to”, “grow” (1:2, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 10; 3:18);

“Promise” (1:4; 2:19; 3:4, 9, 13);

“Diligence” (1:5, 10; 3:14);

“These things” (1:8, 9, 10, 12, 12, 15; 3:14, 16, 17);

“Sure”, “be established”, “steadfast” (1:10, 12; 2:14; 3:16, 17);

“Remind”, “Be mindful of” (1:12, 13, 15; 3:1, 2);

“Holy” (1:18, 21; 2:21; 3:2, 11);


XI. Outlines of the Book


Theme: Grow in the True Knowledge

A.   The source, profits and nature of the true knowledge (1:1-4);

B.   The pursuit of the true knowledge (1:5-11);

C.   The connotation and premise of the true knowledge (1:12-21);

D.   The enemy of the true knowledge ---- the false teachers and their heretical doctrines (2:1-22);

E.   The end of the true knowledge ---- be dissolved by fire or abide forever (3:1-13);

F.    Be diligent in the growth of the true knowledge (3:14-18);


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou