A Decided Destiny
In the midst of a world that often seems out of control, knowing our ultimate destiny is a source of great comfort and motivation to press on in the face of serious challenges and opposition to the gospel. Jude and Peter both knew that in order for Christians to live faithfully as God’s people, they need to look both backward and forward—backward to what God has done throughout redemptive history, and forward to what God has promised to do in the future. Both these realities are found in God’s word, consisting of “the predictions of the holy prophets [i.e., the Old Testament] and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles [i.e., the New Testament]” (2 Pet. 3:2). In it we find “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This word is the result of men speaking “from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). As a result, it is sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3–5).
The God who speaks in this word is the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Jude 20–21). Each person of the Trinity works in cooperation to accomplish the redemption of God’s people. Peter and Jude put the Son on center stage in redemptive history, stressing his authority as Lord and Master (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 4). He is not just the Savior of his people (2 Pet. 1:1, 11; 2 Pet. 2:20; 3:2, 18), but he is also the one who will render final judgment on all God’s enemies (2 Pet. 2:4–10; 3:4–13; Jude 5–15).
Given the priority and importance of God’s word, it is no surprise that false teachers attack it. Throughout redemptive history they have followed a pattern first used in the garden by Satan himself. They begin by questioning God’s word, subtly seeking to undermine one’s confidence in what God has said (2 Pet. 3:16; Jude 4). From there they move on to directly contradicting God’s word, arguing that God cannot be trusted to tell us the truth and nothing but the truth (2 Pet. 3:4; Jude 6–18). With the truth of God’s word now discarded, false teachers offer what they claim is a better alternative that appeals to our natural appetites (2 Pet. 2:2–22). Examples of this pattern are seen throughout redemptive history, such as Balaam, Cain, and Korah (2 Peter 2:15–16; Jude 11). Knowing the true gospel allows believers to not only resist the enticement of false teachers but also rescue those ensnared by it (2 Pet. 1:12–15; Jude 3, 22–23).
God preserves his people by empowering them to persevere in the true faith until the end.
Despite the very real threat posed by false teachers and the challenges of life in a fallen world, believers can rest in the knowledge that the God who saved them is the God who also keeps them. Believers are kept by Jesus Christ (Jude 1), who is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). Even though believers live in a world where immorality is pervasive, God is able to “rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:9). God preserves his people by empowering them to persevere in the true faith until the end. Believers keep themselves in God’s love by pursuing a growing faith, praying in the Spirit, and waiting for the mercy of Jesus at his return (Jude 20–21). They can confirm their calling and election by pursuing growth in various character qualities and thus ensure entrance into Christ’s eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:3–11).
Hope of New Creation
That eternal kingdom is further described as a new heavens and a new earth, the final destination of God’s people. The day of the Lord promised in the Old Testament will bring an even greater judgment on creation than the flood (2 Pet. 3:4–7). God is not slow about keeping his promise; the seeming delay in God consummating his promises is to give more time for sinners to repent (2 Pet. 3:8–10). When the day of the Lord finally does come like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10), it will result in either the complete destruction or the complete transformation of the present creation (2 Pet. 3:10–12). The new heavens and new earth will be a place where righteousness dwells because Jesus the righteous one dwells there with his righteous people (2 Pet. 3:13). That hope of a new creation motivates believers to live “lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:11–12).
Although 2 Peter and Jude were written nearly two thousand years ago, their message remains relevant for our contemporary moment. So it seems only appropriate that we end with closing benedictions from these letters as a means of God speaking his blessing over us:
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Pet. 3:18)
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25)
This article is adapted from The God Who Judges and Saves: A Theology of 2 Peter and Jude by Matthew S. Harmon.
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