Since the creation and the great flood, people have continued to stray from God; the faithful have been few. Through most of history God has not been visibly present and his people have not seemed to be mighty or victorious.
The worldly people think, ¶ "Jesus promised to come but he won't. Our ancestors have since died, but where is Jesus? The world still goes on as it did from its beginning." (2Peter 3:4).
Peter’s answer to this world view is a wake up call. ¶ "When people say this, they forget that... the world was once destroyed by water." Peter then says that the world is now waiting to be destroyed by fire (2Peter 3:5-6).
Peter goes on (still in Second Peter 3) to remind us of three simple and timeless principles that have been true since before the great flood, and will be true until the great fire.
It's close to 2000 years since Jesus promised to return. For Peter and the folk he was writing to, not even a hundred years had gone by. But Peter was led by the Spirit to say, "With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" (2Peter 3:8, cf Psalms 90:4).
Whilst this does not pinpoint the time of the end, it certainly allows for it to be a very long time coming if you count by human reckoning.
Yet even after 2000 years it's still true, if you count by God’s perception of time, that "The Lord is not slow about his promise" (2Peter 3:9). To his mind, he has been waiting as it were a couple of days.
Peter adds that "the Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2Peter 3:9).
Instead of scoffing at the perceived delay, people ought to be glad that God has waited for them. They should have expectation and "look for these things" (2Peter 3:14).
They should hasten to obey God because "the day of the Lord will come like a thief... the earth and its works will be burned up" (2Peter 3:10).
We can't rely on the Lord being slow. He says, "I am coming quickly" (Revelation 22:20). Now that might mean to him that he'll be here in just a few days. But for us his few days could mean several thousand years.
However, we have nowhere near that long. Peter earlier has said, ¶ "I think it right for me to stir you up with reminders while I remain in my earthly body; and I know I'm going to lay aside my body soon." (2Peter 1:13-14).
And even that statement reminds us that we don't have long before we, like Peter, lay aside our bodies and leave earthly time behind. Indeed, we've no guarantee of any time left to us.
What response ought we make to these things? Peter urges "holy conduct and godliness... diligence so you'll be found by him at peace with God, spotless and blameless..." (2Peter 3:11,14).
Now that isn't achievable in a day, so Peter says, "Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation... grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:15,18).
While we wait for our time to go, we are granted our time to grow.
We don't have to achieve this requirement on our own, or in our own strength. We grow "in the grace" of our Lord (2Peter 3:18).
The Lord helps you and me —in his grace he cleanses and strengthens us. Nevertheless Peter still urges us to "be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure" (2Peter 1:10) and he outlines how to do this (2Peter 1:4-9).
Parallel with this idea of growing in grace and acquiring more and more virtues, Peter lays down a severe warning. "The untaught and unstable distort... the scriptures to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, being forewarned of this, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness" (2Peter 3:16-17).
From the flood to the fire people have been misled and have fallen from steadfast holiness. So during your short time on earth, look for the Lord’s coming and repent; grow in holiness and grace; be on guard against error that might lead you astray.