Holy Conduct And Godliness
“Since all these things will be dissolved, what sort of people you ought to be in holy conduct and godliness ….”
Whether Peter in this statement is discussing the destruction of Jerusalem or the final coming, or both, the point is the same. Since that which we place so much emphasis on and time in is going to be done away, then how should believers conduct their lives? On what should they focus in life (See Cl 3:1,2)? Peter mentions two important points for those who recognize the termination of what presently exists:
1. Holy conduct: “Holy” is from the word that means “to separate.” In living the gospel, the believers’ conduct should be as one separated or detached from what will be terminated. In other words, Christians must not become attached to the material world that in verse 10 will have its end in the consuming fire. Their minds must be on things above, things that will permeate the consummation of all earthly things (Cl 3:2).
2. Godliness: In maintaining a “detached spirit” from the material things of this world, the Christian must seek after God’s ways. He must conduct his or her life as God would direct. Gospel living assumes that one live after the spirit of the One who gave up heaven in order to come into this world. The incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God should motivate incarnational living on our part. We must live the sacrificial life as the Son of God gave up heaven in order to give to us life (See Ph 2:5-9).
Peter’s lesson is clear. The more we understand the temporary existence of this world, the more we will focus our attention on that which will last beyond the final consummation of all things.
The same lesson would apply to those Jewish Christians who were still trusting in the security of national Israel. Since Peter’s words are directed to them, then they must trust only in that which will permeate the ashes of Jerusalem and the temple. What will last beyond A.D. 70 would be Jesus and His gospel.
There were possibly too many Jewish Christians in Peter’s audience who still gave some allegiance to the hope that national Israel would someday be restored to independent glory in the promise land. Nevertheless, God, in just a few years from Peter’s writing, would erase from the earth the physical objects of their pride and the spirit of their nationalistic religiosity. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple would help Jewish Christians to focus their minds off their past and turn to the future with the Son of God as their guiding light.
The reader might be interested in the pictorial inscriptions on the Arch of Titus in Rome. All the instruments and utensil of the temple are pictured being carried back to Rome when Titus made his triumphal entry into the city after the A.D. 70 war. Nothing was left in Jerusalem. All those things in which nationalistic Jews took pride in reference to Judaism were either destroyed or carried away by the Roman army.
Looking For God’s Judgment
“… looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire, will be dissolved and the elements will melt with fervent heat?“
Since that which exists will be “burned up,” then Peter asks a question that he knows his readers will answer correctly. Christians are looking for the day of the Lord because it will be a day of deliverance from the confines of this present world and the persecution in this environment. Therefore, we are “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Co 1:7).
Paul compared the agony of suffering in this present environment with the glory of that which is to come: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with that glory which will be revealed to us” (Rm 8:18). In other words, the glory that will be rewarded to the Christian will far outweigh the most intense suffering we might incur in this life.
Paul wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Co 4:17). Paul’s argument is that our affliction is only momentary in comparison to the eternity of the glory to come. Therefore, “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Co 4:18).
This is precisely Peter’s point in 2 Peter 3:12. We look forward to the passing of the things that are seen in order to enter the glory of that which is presently not seen. In the immediate context of his statement, the recipients of his letter needed to look beyond A.D. 70, though they had no idea of what was about to transpire. But after the calamity, the Holy Spirit knew that they would understand. When in times of persecution, therefore, Christians must look beyond the immediate present. Because we know that our suffering is confined to this world, we can do as James stated: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Js 1:2).
Christians who are spiritually detached from what will pass away will be anxiously hastening the coming of the glory that is eternal. That which is eternal will arrive only when that which is temporary is dissolved. Therefore, the Christian seeks the termination of this world in order to encounter and partake of the heavenly. For this reason, both Paul and John looked for the coming of the Lord (See 1 Co 16:22; Rv 22:20).
[Next in series: Sept. 3]