Study 11 SOME THINGS HARD TO UNDERSTAND
THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 2 Peter 3:14-16 and 1 Corinthians 2:11-16
In this study we shall consider the significance of Peter’s reference in 2 Peter 3:15-16 to “some things hard to understand”. He is referring to the scriptures and in particular to the Apostle Paul’s writings. These letters were quite evidently in circulation and were recognised as having upon them the stamp of divine authority, and the point Peter makes is that there are many things in these inspired writings that are hard to understand. What do we learn from this fact, and from this phrase in particular:-
- (1) There are some things in the Bible that are hard to understand. If anybody boasts that he can easily and at once understand all that is recorded and revealed, do not believe him! Some parts are very hard to understand, and we are not surprised that this is so, for the Bible is God’s book. He is the author and He is infinite. Is it likely that we would understand all His mind and will?
- (2) These things in the Bible that are hard to understand can be understood. Peter does not say we cannot understand them; what he says is that they are “hard to understand”. We can understand the times (1 Chronicles 12:32); we can understand the Lord’s will (Ephesians 5:17); we can be filled with all spiritual understanding (Colossians 2:2). Although it is not easy to understand spiritual truth, it is not impossible.
- (3) It is only possible to understand the Bible and spiritual truth by the spiritual illumination of the Holy Spirit. Study 1 Corinthians 2:14 and compare Matthew 16:15-17; also compare Ephesians 1:18. Every time we read the Bible, therefore, we need to pray the prayer in Psalm 119:18.
Now consider seven themes that Peter mentions in this chapter that are “hard to understand”. Really, we should be studying some of Paul’s “hard things”, for Peter refers to these; the “hard things” of Paul are the same as Peter’s:-
1. The Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (verses 3 and 4)
The writer says that in the last days there will be those who will scoff at the very idea of a second coming of Christ; they will be sceptical and will ‘write off’ the whole idea. Many find the subject of the Lord’s return a difficult one, but it is clearly revealed that Jesus, who came the first time (Hebrews 9:26) will come again (Hebrews 9:28). Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies remain unfulfilled until He comes, and then they will be literally fulfilled. The subject of the second coming is “hard to understand”, but we must be sure of it and be ready for it. See what verses 10 and 11 tell us.
2. The Genesis account of the Creation (verses 5 and 6)
Here again is a subject which is “hard to understand”; scientists are doing all they possibly can to discredit the Bible account of the world and of man, as we have it in Genesis 1 and 2. They say it is out-of-date. The tragedy is that they cannot give us any proven explanation as to the creation of the world and of man; they say the Bible is not true; they assert our ancestors were apes or monkeys – but Genesis 1:26 and 2:7 provide us with a far more satisfying explanation – compare Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-2.
3. The Judgment of God upon the Antediluvians (verse 6)
It is hard to understand how and why God could and should have brought terrible judgment upon the antediluvians, but in Genesis 6, 7 and 8 we have the historical record of this event. Read these chapters, and remember that because God is holy and righteous He cannot condone sin; He must judge sin and punish sinners. He did this in Noah’s day, and His hatred against sin is seen at Calvary, where we also see His wonderful love for sinners (Romans 5:8). There will never be another flood over the whole earth, for the rainbow guarantees this (Genesis 9:13); but there will be judgment, and the future judgment will be by fire (verses 7 and 10), and compare Joel 2:30. The great advances in nuclear science enable us to understand how these prophecies will be fulfilled.
4. The Day of Judgment (verse 7)
We read of judgment and punishment that will fall upon ungodly men and women who, having refused to respond to God’s love and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, will be banished from God’s presence (Revelation 20:11-15). How can a God of love deal so drastically with sinners? If God is God, and if He is righteous, holy and just, how can He ignore the fact of sin and the wilful disobedience of sinners? We can be quite sure that all that God does will be in full accord with His justice and mercy (Genesis 18:25), and read 2 Peter 3:9.
5. The Hastening of the Day of God (verse 12)
Is it possible for us to ‘urge on’ the coming of the Lord? Yes, it is, for His coming awaits the preaching of the gospel to all nations (Matthew 24:14); the gathering of the elect (Acts 15:13-14); and by preaching the gospel and seeking the salvation of souls we may actually hasten the time when the Lord will come.
6. The new heavens and the new earth (verse 13)
It is difficult to understand how this word of God will be fulfilled, but where shall we be when it comes about? It will help to read the whole of Revelation 21.
7. The security of the child of God (verses 16-18)
Is it possible for a believer to fall away and be lost? Do the words in verse 17 about “falling from your secure position” suggest that a Christian can after all be lost? The answer is an emphatic – no! – look up John 10:28-30; Philippians 1:6 and Jude 24.
These are some things “hard to understand”. Peter and Paul mention them and the Bible is full of them. The author of the Book is dwelling within us and He is our Teacher – John 14:16-17,26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15.