There are many who believe it is impossible for someone to be saved and then fall away. They believe that if a person becomes a Christian and then falls away, they were never really saved in the first place. However, I’m not sure how you could maintain a belief in “once saved, always saved” after sitting down to read 2 Peter. From start to finish, this is a letter warning Christians about falling away.
Peter’s big fear is that after he has died, the disciples he taught would be drawn away by false teachers. Peter not only describes the condemnation of such false teachers, but also the sorts of things they were teaching. Their false teaching was marked by things such as:
Not only were these false teachers bound for condemnation, but those they led astray would likewise be condemned. Peter warned anyone who abandoned a life of following Jesus in favor of this kind of sensual lifestyle would be punished by God on the day of judgment.
Peter makes it clear that he is not talking about people who were never saved. He is talking about people who had “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” but are “again entangled in them and overcome.” Peter says that if a person is delivered from sin and then entangled in sin again, “the last state has become worse for them than the first.”
These false teachers promise freedom, but their teaching results in themselves and their hearers being enslaved to their passions.
But just because it is possible to fall away and suffer condemnation, does not mean most will suffer that fate. It is possible to focus so much attention on Peter’s warning about falling away that we completely miss his hope that his readers will stand firm.
Peter tells his audience they will always remain in a right relationship with God if they are diligent to increase in qualities like:
- Brotherly affection
He certainly doesn’t give them the impression they could accidentally fall away from God at any moment. Falling away is what happens to Christians who stop resisting and struggling with sin and just totally give themselves over to their appetites. Peter assures them if they practice things like self-control, brotherly kindness, love, etc. they will “never fall.”
The Day of the Lord
In the midst of his warnings about what will happen to the wicked and ungodly, Peter describes what might be called the destruction of the world. At first glance, it might seem Peter is contradicting Jesus who says the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5) and Paul who says the descendants of Abraham will inherit the world (Romans 4:13). Peter, on the other hand, talks about things being burned with fire. However, I certainly do not believe Peter is contradicting Jesus, Paul, or the Old Testament prophets (who promised the earth would be filled with the knowledge and the glory of God).
To understand Peter’s argument, you have to understand he is saying that this world we live in now is not the first world to exist; there was a world that existed before this world. However, “the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” Obviously, the fact that the pre-flood world “perished,” does not mean it was annihilated from existence. It means that after the flood, the whole world was different, changed, and transformed. That old world was gone and a new world took its place.
Peter says the world that exists now is awaiting a similar event to the flood. Notice as you read this chapter, Peter doesn’t just focus his attention on the “earth,” but also on the “heavens.” In fact, he gives far more attention to the “heavens” and the “heavenly bodies” than the earth itself. Peter doesn’t actually say the earth will be burned up or pass away, but that the sky (or “heavens”) will be burned up and pass away. The earth itself will simply be “exposed.”
Currently, it is like there is a veil that separates the visible world from the invisible world, but on the “day of the Lord,” that veil will be dissolved with fire and all of the evil deeds people are doing on the earth will be exposed to the light of God’s judgment. We might think of it like a giant curtain being torn away so the One who is behind the curtain can come through and deal with everything on this side.
New Heavens and New Earth
Peter says that after “the day of the Lord,” the righteous will receive a “new heavens and a new earth.” This is the moment for which we are all waiting. In this new creation, Peter says, “righteousness dwells.” After the ungodly and all of their works are destroyed, the only thing left will be righteousness.
The things Peter wrote here, of course, are right in line with everything Jesus, the other apostles, and the prophets have said about the resurrection and the “age to come.” Peter isn’t saying the physical universe will cease to exist and we will all live in some non-physical realm. There isn’t even a hint of such a thing in his words. He simply says the world after the day of the Lord will be “new” in the same way the world after the flood was “new.”
I believe the new heavens and new earth will be a changed and transformed version of the old in the same way our resurrection bodies will be a changed and transformed version of the old. In Romans 8, Paul said the creation itself will “be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The creation will no longer be subject to decay or corruption. Like our mortal bodies, the creation will be redeemed (Romans 8:23).
This is our hope. This is our confident expectation. The evil and wickedness that carry on day-after-day will not always exist. Justice will be served and God’s people will be rescued. God only delays so that even more people might be saved.
I love you and God loves you,