2 Peter #5
Benefits of Maturity
2 Peter 1:8-21
February 5, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s open our Bibles to 2 Peter chapter 1. As you’re turning there, I just wanted to express my condolences. John Whitcomb went to be with the Lord last night. Of course, I’m very happy for him. Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. He died in his sleep last night; he was 95 years old.
If you don’t know who John Whitcomb is, he co-authored, along with Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood, in 1961. That changed the way Christianity was thinking about Genesis 1-11. The way the Christian church handled Genesis 1-11 was, “You just rewrite Genesis 1-11 to keep up with science”—so-called science.
The Bible was saying such and such about the age of the earth, and Darwin and his group was saying something different. So what the Christian church used to do is just rewrite the book of Genesis. They would call each of the days there in Genesis 1 “ages,” and they had all these things that they did.
Whitcomb and Morris came along in 1961 and reversed that strategy. Instead of rewriting the Bible to keep up with science, they went and challenged science. They started to show flaws in evolution and tried to maintain the integrity of Genesis 1-11.
That strategy is what you have happening with Answers in Genesis. They’re following that strategy today, but that strategy came out of the 1961 book The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. Whitcomb being the Hebrew scholar; Morris being the scientist. That was a groundbreaking book. If you don’t have that your library, you should get that book and give it a read. It’s a seminal book.
But Henry Morris went to be with the Lord (one of the authors) a few years back. And then (I guess it was last night) Dr. John Whitcomb went to be with the Lord. So, a lot of the good guys pass on, but they leave a great heritage for us. Amen?
Let’s open our Bibles to 2 Peter 1:8. We went through the introduction to Peter, you’ll member, a few weeks back. Peter is writing to an audience, and he’s warning them about false teaching that’s coming.
Before he gets into the particulars of false teaching, in chapter 1 he calls his audience to maturity. That’s probably the dominant theme in chapter 1. He wants his audience to grow up spiritually, because he knows that if they grow up spiritually, they’re not going to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
Here is an outline of chapter 1. We saw verses 1 and 2, which is an introduction. We have the writer, the recipients, and the greeting. From there Peter gets right into the call for his audience to grow: the call to growth (verses 3-11).
Verses 3 and 4 are the provisions for growth. So, we have certain things that God has given us in terms of resources whereby we are to grow. We learn there that we have power, knowledge, promises, and participation in the divine nature.
Then, after he deals with the provisions of growth, he gets into the portrait of growth. Here we’re not talking about numerical growth; we’re talking about, “Are we really growing and maturing as Christians?”
So, what does spiritual growth really look like? And we have there (verses 5-7) a tremendous picture of what spiritual growth looks like. So, we know we’re growing spiritually when these attributes are showing up more frequently in our lives. We’re not sinless, but we’re sinning less as we’re seeing our lives characterized by faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. So, we have the provisions for growth; then the portrait of growth.
Then, from there, we moved a little bit last time, if I remember right, into verses 8-11 where we learned about the benefits of growing up. With maturity come privileges. It’s much easier to just not go through growing pains and to remain a spiritual infant. Just like it would have been a lot easier on me if I had just stayed at my parents’ house my whole life and never got out of my room. I mean, I would have been comfortable, at least. I don’t know how comfortable they would’ve been, but I would have been comfortable.
So, why go through all of the work that’s necessary to become a fully mature, functioning human being? Well, because growth brings certain benefits and privileges. Peter, in verses 8-11 describes those benefits. There are probably about five of them.
Notice these verses. Peter says, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Notice there in verse eight he says, “For if these qualities.” What qualities? Those qualities (verses 5-7). “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing…” So, that really is the goal. The goal, in terms of our spiritual growth, is to see those qualities that we mentioned earlier continuing to increase in our individual lives. Again, it’s not sinlessness, but we’re sinning less and growing up in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
So, if these qualities are yours and are increasing. You’ll notice the word “if” there. In other words, this growth is not automatic. There are a lot of systems of theology out there today that make it sound as if maturity is something that automatically happens. It doesn’t automatically happen—anymore than human beings automatically mature.
You see a lot of people today who are a certain age chronologically, but their maturity rate is far less than their chronological age. So, just as you can have arrested states of development in the natural world, you can have that in the spiritual world. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” maybe they are, maybe they are not. We have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that these qualities will become more common.
But if they are yours and are increasing, what you can expect to experience in your life are five benefits. The first of which we already covered last week in verse 8, you start to become productive for God. God starts to use your life for eternal purposes. You are no longer just doing activities, but you can actually see results where God is using you for eternal purposes.
In verse 8 he says, “…they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, we become not useless, but useful to the Master. We become not fruitless, but fruitful to the Master. We talked a little bit about that last time. It’s a wonderful thing to grow in Christ to the point where God actually uses you to bless other people. And He uses you to eternally impact other people.
But there’s another benefit that we receive when we continue to grow, and we pick it up today in verse 9. We start to live in harmony with our new identity. Notice what he says in 2 Peter 1:9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” So, the nice thing about growing up in Christ is that your practice is catching up with your position. You’re living in harmony with your new identity.
According to this verse, it’s very easy to forget who we are. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. So, when we lapse back into sin, we lapse back into our old way of life. And when we lapse back into our old way of life, it’s easy to forget who we are in Christ. It’s easy to forget that we are new creations in Christ Jesus.
And it’s easy to live inconsistently with our identity. In fact, it’s so easy to live inconsistently with our identity that we forget our identity even existed. See that? Verse 9 is bringing out this possibility, that if you lack these qualities (the ones in verses 5 to 7), then you can actually become blind as a Christian, shortsighted as a Christian, forgetting your purification from your former sins.
We go back into sin and we become so comfortable in sin, that what starts to happen is we start to have a memory lapse, and we forget who we are. There are actually people in the Bible where this kind of thing happens. One of them is Lot. I have a sermon called, “Are You a lot like Lot?” As you look at Lot’s story, how he sojourned in Sodom and Gomorrah, how he offered up his virgin daughters to the sodomite crowd, and all of these kinds of things, you would never think the man was saved.
In fact, if I just had the Old Testament record to go by, I would have big doubts in my mind as to Lot’s actual salvation. But in this very book, 2 Peter 2:7-8, he’s called a righteous man three times. So, positionally he was righteous. He was a believer, born again in the Old Testament sense of the word, but his life was completely inconsistent with his identity. And that would be an example of a guy who just felt so comfortable in sin; he was living so differently from his new identity that he probably forgot who he was.
And this can actually happen to a Christian. The way people think about it is… If this happens to somebody, Arminianism says, “Well, they lost their salvation.” Calvinism says, “Well, they never had salvation.” But if you look at this verse very carefully—and you forget Arminius, and you forget Calvin, and you just read the Bible—it talks about people there that are clearly saved. Because it talks about their purification from their former sins. So, there’s no doubt that they’re saved here.
They just forget who they are. They develop, I guess, a spiritual amnesia. And that can happen to a Christian just by going back into sin and practicing sin. But if you’re a growing Christian, what’s happening is you’re living in harmony with your new identity—not your old identity.
If you want an example of somebody else who I think forgot their new identity in Christ Jesus, I like to use, as an example, the prodigal son. You know the story of the prodigal son, right? He went and lived riotously on his inheritance—which he wanted immediately—and then he bottomed out. Which is generally what has to happen to people to get them to come back. He ran out of money.
He was rehearsing to himself, as he went back to his father’s house, what he was going to say to his father whom he had embarrassed. In Luke 15:19, this is what he is going to say to his father (in his mind), “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”
He no longer saw himself as a son, but he saw himself as a slave. The reality of the situation is that his status as a son had never changed. He just forgot his identity because his lifestyle was inconsistent with his identity. And we don’t want to be like these kinds of people. We don’t want to go backwards, forget who we are, become shortsighted, become spiritually myopic, develop spiritual amnesia—forgetting who we are—even though we’re going to heaven. We want to live a life on the earth that’s consistent with who God has made us to be as brand-new creations or creatures in Christ Jesus.
Another benefit of spiritual growth, in addition to being productive and living in harmony with our new identity, is we can develop—I would put it this way—further assurance of our salvation. If you look at verse 10 it says, “Therefore, brethren.” When he throws in the word “brethren” there, whom is Peter speaking to? Believers or unbelievers? He’s obviously speaking to believers here.
“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” So, when we grow in Christ and begin to develop and grow spiritually, and then you actually see the Lord using you to bless other people, it’s a further reminder that we really are Christians. It’s a further reminder that we really do belong to Jesus Christ. So, the assurance of my salvation that I already have starts to deepen. See that?
That’s why so many Christians struggle with whether they are Christians or not, because they’re not growing in Christ. Consequently, their life doesn’t really mirror their position. If that’s your situation, then Satan will use that to try to convince you that you’re not a Christian at all.
But when we’re growing in Christ and our practice is catching up with our position, then the assurance of salvation that we already have starts to deepen. It becomes a deeper conviction. The conviction becomes more and more intense. That “Yes, I truly am a child of God.”
Now, ultimately, where does your assurance of salvation come from? It comes from the promises of God, Who cannot lie. Jesus said in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has [present tense verb] eternal life.” Not “he might get eternal life,” but “he has eternal life.”
“…and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” “Passed out of” is perfect tense, meaning one time action with ongoing results. That, ultimately, is where your assurance of salvation comes from. It comes from the promises of God, Who cannot lie.
At the end of the day, if you’re struggling whether you’re saved or not, just ask yourself if you’ve ever fulfilled this condition, which is to believe on Christ. Because if you have believed on Christ, then you already have eternal life, and you’ve already passed out of death into life. So, that’s where your ultimate assurance of salvation comes from.
And if you focus too much on yourself and your performance, you’re going to have days where you think you’re saved and you’re going to have other days where you don’t think you’re saved. Because you’re looking at the wrong source. You don’t look at yourself—that’s a depressing subject. You look at the promises of God.
There’s a parallel passage. Jesus gave a chapter later in John 6:47 where He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes [on Him, in other words] has eternal life.” So, ultimately, I know I’m saved because I’m living my life according to the promises of God.
Just like the plane I just got off. Basically, they fly that plane not based on how they feel or not based on what it looks like outside—and it was getting kind of stormy out there, as you can see. How do you fly a plane? You keep your eye on something that doesn’t lie to you. Because your emotions can lie to you, your feelings can lie to you. But God can’t lie to you, because it’s impossible for God to lie. And God has made this promise to us, John 5:24.
However, what starts to happen to the growing Christian—and this is something that only the growing Christian experiences that the non-growing Christian doesn’t experience—is the assurance of salvation that you already have starts to become a fuller conviction.
I like the way Lewis Sperry Chafer puts it in his book, Salvation: A Clear Doctrinal Analysis. He says, “There is a normal Christian experience. There are new and blessed emotions and desires. Old things do pass away; and behold all things do become new…”
Notice what he says here, “…but all such experiences are but secondary evidences [look at that], as to the fact of salvation, in that they grow out of that positive repose of faith which is the primary evidence.”
So, on the subject of the assurance of salvation, he talks about primary evidences and secondary evidences. What’s the primary evidence? It’s John 5:24; it’s what God says. What’s the secondary evidence that I’m a child of God? Well, I see my life is developing. I see my life is growing.
So, God has given me primary evidence that I’m His through His promises, but the conviction that I have resulting from that primary evidence is now a growing conviction. I’m becoming more sure of it. I’m becoming more certain of it.
So, if you’re not a growing Christian, the only thing you’re left with is the primary evidence—which is pretty good, actually. But in terms of God taking that primary evidence and deepening it, that’s not a reality for a lot of people. So they’re always tossed to and fro, “Am I saved? Am I not saved?”
It’s like picking the petals off of a rose or daisy, “She loves me, she loves me not.” “Today I’m a Christian. Maybe I wasn’t a Christian yesterday. But tomorrow I’m a Christian again,” etc.
You fly your plane by the compass (John 5:24). But as we walk with God and grow in Him, then God takes that primary evidence—in terms of secondary evidences that I can see in my life—and the conviction deepens. That’s what Peter is talking about here. He is saying, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent…” In other words, I’m playing a role in my sanctification. I’m yielding more and more to God on a moment by moment basis. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.”
So, you start to see this list, that there’s a lot of benefits in growing up in Christ. You’re productive for God. You’re living in harmony with your new identity—you’re not forgetting your new identity. And the assurance that you already have of salvation that’s available to you is now a deepening conviction.
Then, the fourth thing that happens for the growing Christian is that they start to become more stable. Notice verse 10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things…” Notice, I’m playing a role in my sanctification. I don’t have a “let go, let God” mentality.
I’m playing a role, because as a Christian God has given me many commands to follow. One of them you’re obeying tonight; it says, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some,” Hebrews 10:25. You can obey that command on a Wednesday night, or you can go do 10 million other things.
So, why should I obey the command? Because as I obey the command—along with multiple other commands in the Bible—I’m starting to become more of a stable Christian. “…for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” In other words, there develops into one’s life greater stability. And that becomes the goal of Peter in this book about false teachers. We pointed this out a couple of lessons ago.
But look one chapter to the right. If you look at verse 14 of chapter 2, you see who the false teachers prey on. As he describes false teachers he says, “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing [who?] unstable souls.” So, that’s who the false teachers develop an audience with—Christians who are unstable.
That’s why, in a book on false teachers and warning about false teachers, Peter begins the book by telling Christians to mature. Because he knows that if they’re maturing and they’re growing, they won’t be sitting ducks for deception.
You say, “Are you sure about that? Are you sure that Christians can be deceived by false teachers when they’re immature?” Well, Ephesians 4:11-16 teaches that truth about as clearly as it can be taught when it starts to describe the purpose of the local church. Paul says in Ephesians 4, beginning in verse 11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God [hopefully this is happening to us here at Sugar Land Bible Church].
With what goal? “…to a mature man [see that?], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
So, a Christian who is not under God’s power, actively obeying the commands God has given to that Christian, “not forsaking our own assembling together” being one such example, what is their predicament? Their salvation is not in question, because they already have the primary assurance of salvation if they were to take time to examine it in John 5:24.
Well, if they’re going to heaven anyway, what does it matter? The problem is that they remain in a state of infancy. They remain in a state of immaturity. They remain in a state of lacking basic knowledge of the Bible. They’re not under the spiritual gifts that God has given to the church to help the church mature.
So, what are they like? They’re like waves being tossed about by the wind. They just gravitate from one false teaching to the next. I have been a Christian since 1983. I can’t tell you how many winds and waves that I’ve seen come through the body of Christ. It’s shocking how many fads have come through.
Fads. In the 70s there was one style of dress, and that was replaced in the 80s by another style of dress. Then came the 90s, and a different fad came through. I just wanted to hang on to all my stuff from the 70s, because I knew eventually it would go full circle and I would be in vogue again.
Just as there are all these fashions and fads—and all these kinds of things—that’s exactly what the spiritual world is like. I remember as a young Christian the big thing was “shepherding.” I don’t know if you remember that one? Where the shepherds would get you in these small groups, and they would control every aspect of your life—right down to what kind of tie you’re going to put on tomorrow morning.
Then there came other fads—Promise Keepers. Remember how big that was? No one even talks about Promise Keepers anymore.
Then there was the Prayer of Jabez. Remember that one? They even had all these Prayer of Jabez study books and study groups. No one is even doing the Prayer of Jabez anymore. If you went up to my 13-year-old and told her about the Prayer of Jabez and how popular that once was, she wouldn’t even know what you were talking about. But at one time that was the talk of the town.
So, the immature Christian is just blown around by all this stuff; they just jump on one bandwagon after another. But the Christian who’s growing and stable—because they’re obeying under God’s power the New Testament commands—they’re becoming more stable. They’re becoming more secure, and they’re not blown around by all this stuff. So that would be another example of a Christian who’s developing and growing. Another benefit—you start to develop stability.
Then, another benefit of a growing Christian is you enter heaven fully rewarded. Look at verse 11. “…for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Notice here that the Kingdom is future. Did you notice that?
Do you guys understand that the Kingdom is future? Did we do 84 lessons on that? So, notice here, verse 11, that the Kingdom is future, “… for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” The Greek word for “kingdom” there is BASILEIA. So, it clearly puts it into the future.
What it says here is that if you’re a growing Christian, not only will you enter the Kingdom, but you will enter the Kingdom abundantly supplied. So, that opens up to a doctrine which says all believers will enter the Kingdom, but not all believers will be equally rewarded (or abundantly supplied) when they get there.
So, everyone in the Kingdom is a believer, but not all believers are equally rewarded once they arrive. Only those who have made progress in the middle tense of their salvation (progressive sanctification) will be fully rewarded in the Kingdom.
Now, what is the middle tense of our salvation? Progressive sanctification is in green [on the slide]. “I have been saved, I’m being saved, and I will be saved.” “I have been saved,” justification. “I will be saved,” glorification. “I am being saved,” progressive sanctification.
“I have been saved from sin’s penalty,” past tense of salvation. “The day will come [going to the far right] where I’ll be saved from sin’s presence,” glorification. But what’s happening right now as we yield to God’s resources moment by moment? We’re being gradually saved—not from the penalty of sin or the presence of sin—but from the power of sin. If I’m making progress in the middle tense of my salvation, basically what’s happening is that I’m not becoming sinless—you don’t become sinless until you get to the far right of the “Three Tenses of Salvation” slide—but I’m sinning less.
I’m not the man that I used to be. Thank God. And maybe next month or next year or next decade I won’t be the man that I am today. Maybe there will be further conformity of my character into Christlikeness.
There are a lot of people out there who are justified, and they’re on their way to glory because those are given by grace. But they’re still infants in the middle tense, because they’re not really actively obeying the commands of God; they’re not even aware that they exist.
And they’re certainly not in a local church—many of them—that teach these things. They’re just hearing the same kind of sermons every single Sunday—the same three points, a poem, a few jokes, and maybe a smoke and light show up front. People sit in those environments for decades, and they just stay exactly the same.
Maybe they are blood bought and are on their way to heaven, but that’s about it. I mean, they’re not experiencing the benefits of growth that we’re speaking of here. So, they’re going to get into the Kingdom. They’re going to go to Heaven. They’re going to stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. They’re going to see all of these other Christians rewarded, and they themselves won’t be rewarded.
That’s what the Bible teaches on this doctrine of rewards. They’ll be in heaven; praise the Lord! I don’t know how long it will bother them. You kind of look back at your life and regret what could’ve been if you had just been a developing Christian or a growing Christian. So, we believe that the Bible teaches, very clearly, the doctrine of rewards.
There is a future judgment. Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 5:10. It’s not a judgment to determine heaven or hell, but it is a judgment to determine whether we receive a crown or not—in addition to and beyond salvation. If I’m understanding my Bible correctly, what do we do with our crowns? Cast them at His feet.
By the way, this is how I used to think about it, “I have a crown, I cast at His feet, and that’s the end of it.” But study those passages in Revelation very carefully. When we were in those sections on Sunday morning, I tried to draw your attention to it. It says that whenever the Lamb is praised, they cast their crowns at His feet. Do you think the Lamb is going to be praised just one time in heaven? He is going to be praised over and over again!
So, every time He is praised, you cast your crown at His feet. And then He’s praised again! You cast your crown at His feet. So that’s why a crown is a big deal! Because you have this ability to glorify God throughout the ages of time that other people don’t have.
So, at this Bema Seat Judgment of Christ there will be five crowns given. There is the incorruptible crown. You see the Scripture verses in the left column; you can look those up on your own. But the incorruptible crown is for the believer who gains mastery over the flesh. He is learning—or she is learning—to say “No” to the sin nature more frequently.
You have the crown of rejoicing for the soul winner. God gives a crown for the believer who just endures trials—and stays faithful to Him in the midst of those trials. There’s the crown of glory for the believer who faithfully shepherds God’s people. I don’t think it’s just the pastors or elders who receive that; I think it’s any shepherding role you’re in where you’re trying to actively shepherd somebody else. It could be your own children—or your own grandchildren. Or it could be counseling. Or it could be teaching Sunday school—or whatever.
Then there is the crown of righteousness simply for longing for His appearing. So, God actually gives a crown for people who are looking for Jesus to come and rescue them out of the world. Because what can happen to us is that we can become very comfortable in the world. A lot of really young people today say, “Please don’t talk about the rapture too much.” And I say, “Why not?” And they say, “Well, I want to get married.” And then after six months of marriage, they say, “Could you talk about the rapture more frequently?”
We can get like that where we really like our life and everything’s comfortable. “Look at all the cool stuff I’ve got over at First Colony Mall. I mean, I kind of like it here. I like living in Sugar Land. And I sort of forget that this world is really not my home.” So, when we have this ache in our heart, “Lord, I want You to come get me,” there’s even a crown given for that.
1 Corinthians 3:15 says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” That verse right there opens up the possibility that you could actually enter heaven unrewarded. And that would be the opposite of what Peter is saying back here in verse 11 (at the end of the verse). You want to enter the Kingdom abundantly supplied.
We think, “Well, everybody’s going to enter the Kingdom abundantly supplied, right?” Not so! 1 Corinthians 3:15 clearly talks about people entering, because you get into this through God’s grace, not by human works. But God is in the rewarding business. And as we grow in Christ, He wants to reward us for the progress that we’ve made. And if I’m just not actively obeying the commands of God as a Christian, then I run the prospect of entering heaven unrewarded.
Paul himself was terrified that he would be in the situation here, 1 Corinthians 3:15. Because he says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Here he is talking about disqualification for the prize, verse 24. People say, “Well, the prize is heaven.” No, it’s not heaven. If the prize is heaven then he contradicted everything he taught everywhere else. Because he was about as clear as it can be communicated that your arrival in heaven is by grace. It’s not by running a race. It’s not by exercising self-control. It’s not by making your body a slave.
No, the prize is not heaven. The prize is a reward above and beyond heaven. It’s the incorruptible crown for gaining mastery over the flesh; that’s what Paul is talking about there. So, Paul was afraid. After unfolding this doctrine of rewards, he was afraid that he himself might be disqualified for a reward. That’s what he’s expressing fear of. So, he obviously was a great believer in this.
You say, “Do you have any other verses that support this doctrine of rewards and that some Christians are unrewarded?” I’m glad you asked that! I do have another verse or two. One of them is Revelation 3:11. Jesus says this to the church at Philadelphia, “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” He’s not talking about loss of salvation there; He’s talking about the prospect of not receiving a full reward.
Then, one more. 2 John 8, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” So, “If I engage in a little bit of profanity when nobody’s around, does it really matter? I mean, I’m going to heaven anyway, right?”
“I’ll just skip church; there’s other stuff going on. I’ve got to watch the Super Bowl pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-show. I’ve got to make sure I don’t miss anything. I mean, if I miss church, what’s the big deal? No one will even know I’m not there, right?” Well, the reality is that we’re all tempted to make those kinds of choices.
But when we make those kinds of choices, we’re really not growing the way we should. And if we’re not growing the way we should, then some of these benefits don’t come our direction: productivity; living in harmony with our new identity; gaining greater sureness of our election and calling; being more stable as a Christian; and then entering the Kingdom fully supplied.
Now, you’ll notice the word “kingdom” in verse 11. Who is Peter’s audience, Jews or Gentiles? Jews. We went through that in our first or second lesson on this. And Peter is the apostle to whom? The Jews.
The Jews in the first century that were Christians, believers in Jesus, believers in Yeshua. It’s hard to make sense of a lot of these verses unless you think the way they think. If you think the way they think, and you ask the questions that they are asking, then all of a sudden a lot of the things in the Bible will start to make sense.
One of the things that was really bugging them was where is the Kingdom? If Jesus is the King, where is His Kingdom? Because their Old Testament Hebrew Bible told them that King and Kingdom would go together—horse and carriage. They always went together.
They knew very well. Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end.”
“Well, we’ve got the child right. Where’s the government of peace? I don’t see it. I see Rome oppressing. I don’t see Jesus ruling and reigning in His Kingdom.”
So, what is being addressed in certain books of the Bible that are written to Jews? Those books would be Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, and Matthew. There about six books of the New Testament that are written purposely to Hebrew Christians and addressing their questions.
Those books will explain—and we’re in one of those books here, 2 Peter. They give an answer to the question, “If Jesus is the King, then where is the Kingdom?” And what they explain is, “The Kingdom is going to come.” But in the interim, God is doing something different that was unexpected through the Age of the Church, meaning that the Kingdom in the present age is not canceled but what? Postponed.
In fact, when you go through Matthew’s Gospel, every single thing that shows up in Matthew’s Gospel is answering that question. If Jesus is the Jewish King, where is His Kingdom? And He assures them that, “Yes, the Kingdom is not here, but don’t worry about it. You’ve believed on the right Messiah.” He’s about as Jewish as they come, beginning with His genealogy that goes back to David and then Abraham.
But what happened is Israel in the first century rejected their King. God does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself, so it was always His purpose to create the Age of the Church, which consists primarily of Gentiles who are believers in Yeshua. We are believers in the very Messiah that Israel rejected, and we’re part of the body of Christ. God has been at work with the body of Christ for 2000 years, but we are not the Kingdom. But don’t panic, you Hebrew Christians, because the Kingdom is going to come one day.
So, in verse 11, he puts the Kingdom in the future. And what he’s going to do is cycle back to that question beginning in verse 16-21. And he’s going to give two proofs that the Kingdom is going to come one day.
Proof number one is the fact that Peter saw the Transfiguration, and he describes that in our chapter, 2 Peter 1:16-18. Peter, James, and John, on the Mount of Transfiguration, saw the transfigured Christ. They saw Jesus appear in His full glory.
Peter says, “I know the Kingdom is going to come one day because I was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration (which, in essence, was a token of the coming Kingdom).” And it shows up very strategically in Matthew 17 after Israel has rejected the offer of the Kingdom. And obviously the Kingdom would not come through first century Israel. It was being postponed. So, to prevent all the Jewish Christians from hitting the panic button and thinking the Kingdom will never come, Jesus transfigured Himself. And Moses and Elijah appeared with Him.
Jesus showed Peter, James, and John what He was like in His glorified state, which was a reminder that the Kingdom would come one day. So He gave to them a token of the coming Kingdom. Peter was an eyewitness to that, and he tells us about his eyewitness testimony to it 30 years later in this book that we’re reading here. That’s what he’s doing in verses 16-18.
Then Peter is also going to say, “There’s another proof, though, that the Kingdom is going to come, and this is a proof that’s more sure than eyewitness testimony.” And that proof is the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised the Kingdom as well. He’s going to describe that in verses 19-21.
He actually says there that, “That promise is made more sure than the eyewitness testimony that I saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, because the Old Testament Scriptures came into existence through men who were moved by the Holy Spirit.” And those men who were moved by the Holy Spirit wrote down prophecies like Isaiah 9:6-7 and countless other prophecies that you are familiar with because you went through our 84 lessons on this.
Those Old Testament prophecies also revealed to you that the Kingdom is going to come. I mean, it’s on track. Don’t confuse a postponement with a cancellation. “I already watched it transfigure right in front of my eyes,” Peter says.
Number two, “Even if you weren’t there, you’ve got something even more powerful than the eyewitness testimony that I had. It’s the Scriptures, which were breathed into existence by God that promise the coming Kingdom, that function as a light shining in a dark place, that you would do well to pay attention to.” And that’s what he’s saying there in verses 19-21.
You say, “Why is he going this direction?” Because he’s concluded his thought in verse 11 with a reference to the Kingdom yet future. Remember what verse 11 said? “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
In other words, when you enter you want to be fully rewarded. And in the process, he takes the word “kingdom,” BASILEIA, and puts it into the future. Now he’s writing to Jewish Christians, and he’s dealing with the number one thing on their minds. “Well, where is it?” And Peter says, “Don’t worry about it. It’s coming! And I’m going to give you two proofs that it’s coming. I saw a token of it when I was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration,” verses 16-18.
“And even if you weren’t there to see what Peter, James, and John [myself and the Sons of Thunder] saw, you’ve got something right there in your hands that’s even more potent than eyewitness testimony, which is the Scripture.” Do you realize that the most powerful testimony you can introduce into a court of law is eyewitness testimony? And Peter says, “What you’re holding in your hands through Hebrew Bible is more powerful than eyewitness testimony itself, because it promises this Kingdom. And it was breathed into existence by God as men were moved along by the Holy Spirit.”
If you don’t put some of these things together, you won’t understand why he’s going this direction at the end of this chapter. He’s going this direction at the end of this chapter because he just used the word “kingdom” in verse 11 as he’s rounded out why we need to grow in Christ. And he understands that his Jewish audience, as believers in Messiah Jesus (Yeshua), is going to have this basic question, “Where’s the Kingdom?” So, Peter says, “The kingdom has been postponed—but not canceled—and let me give you two proofs of it: the Transfiguration (verses 16-18) and the “more sure word” of prophecy in the Old Testament (verses 19-21).”
So verse 11 leapfrogs into verse 16 where he gets into this issue. I’m just trying to get us to see why he’s dealing with this subject. Because if you don’t connect the dots, you’ll think he’s just throwing random subjects at you. Which he is not.
But before he gets to that subject of the coming Kingdom, he throws in his first purpose statement (verses 12-15) where he will temporarily interrupt his train of thought and explain why he’s writing this book.
Verses 12-15 is his first purpose statement, “Here is why I am writing.” And he’s going to give you a second purpose statement in 2 Peter 3:1-2. These are two times where Peter is following a logical train of thought, but he stops just for a minute to remind his audience why he’s writing. But once he finishes that purpose statement, he’ll complete his thought about the coming Kingdom. The door to that subject matter has already been opened in verse 11. See how that all fits together?
That’s where we’re going next time. Next week when I’m with you we’ll pick it up there in verse 12. We’ll look at his purpose statement, and then we’ll look at his justification as, “You don’t need to worry anything about the Kingdom. It’s right on track.”