Introduction to 2 Peter
Author, Date, and Recipients
Peter identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). He specifically mentions that he was an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16–18; see Matt. 17:1–8). Peter probably wrote this letter from prison in Rome (see 2 Pet. 1:12–15) not too long before his death by execution, sometime during a.d. 64–67. It is impossible to identify with certainty the churches Peter addresses. He may have been writing to the churches of Asia Minor, because Peter mentions that this is his second letter to these same people (3:1; see 1 Pet. 1:1–2). (On the similarities between 2 Peter 2 and Jude, see Introduction to Jude.)
God’s grace in Christ truly transforms and empowers Christians to live righteously, despite opposition. This grace, introduced in 1:2–4, serves as the foundation for the whole book. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces virtuous qualities in followers of Christ (1:8–12). This results in fruitful lives.
Purpose and Occasion
Peter writes his brief, final reminder to the churches so that his readers will, by God’s grace, live in a way that is pleasing to God. In doing so, Peter must also combat the false teachers who were apparently exerting pressure on the churches to depart from the true knowledge of Christ (see esp. ch. 2). The false teaching is not only a theological challenge but also a moral one, promoting some form of sexual permissiveness as a legitimate Christian lifestyle.
While the false teaching can be described based on what Peter writes, it is historically impossible to identify who the false teachers were. For example, there is no clear historical evidence that these teachers were Gnostics.
Second Peter deals with serious issues, but it is also filled with famous proverbs and wise sayings, as well as vivid poetry and imagery.
- God, through his grace in Jesus Christ, has enabled Christians to partake of the divine nature (1:2–4).
- God’s grace results in godliness (1:5–15).
- The revelation of truth in Christ and in Scripture is sure because it is from God and not from man (1:16–21).
- False teachers are handed over for destruction at the hand of God (2:1–10).
- False teachers are ethically bankrupt (2:11–22).
- Believers must endure in the face of opposition, knowing that they are living in the last days (3:1–13).
- The Lord is patient with his creation, but someday he will suddenly return to judge it (3:8–10).
- God rescues the righteous (2:7–9; 3:13–18).