This is the latest book in the whole Bible, probably written around the year 100, and it is presented as a second letter by Peter. Its three chapters deal with three concerns in the Church of that time:
– preserving the faith as it was taught by Jesus’ eyewitnesses;
– fighting against “teachers” who distort the faith at the same time as they lead to immorality;
– explaining why Christ had not yet returned.
1Symeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have been sanctified by our God and Savior Jesus Christ and have received a faith as precious as ours:
2may grace and peace abound in you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
We share in the divine nature
•3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and piety. First the knowledge of the One who called us through his own glory and Might, by which we were given the most extraordinary and precious promises. 4Through them you share in the divine nature, after repelling the corruption and evil desires of this world.
5So, strive with the greatest determination and increase your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6knowledge with moderation, moderation with constancy, constancy with piety, 7piety with mutual affection, mutual affection with charity. 8If all these riches are in you so as to abound in you, you will not be idle and useless; you will rather be rooted in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. 9Whoever is not aware of this is blind and shortsighted and is forgetful of the cleansing of former sins.
10Therefore, brothers and sisters, strive more and more to respond to the call of God who chose you. If you do so, you will never stumble. 11Moreover you will be generously granted entry to the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12So I shall always remind you of these things, though you know them and remain firm in the truth that you have. 13It seems fitting that as long as I live in the tent of this body, I refresh your memory of them, 14knowing that my tent may soon be folded up, as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me. 15I will, nonetheless, endeavor to see that after my departure, you will be constantly reminded of all this.
The foundation of faith
16Indeed, what we taught you about the power and the return of Christ Jesus our Lord was not drawn from myths or formulated theories. We ourselves were eyewitnesses of his majesty, 17when he received glory and honor from God the Father, when from the magnificent glory this most extraordinary word came upon him: “This is my beloved Son, this is my Chosen One.” 18We ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
19Therefore, we believe most firmly in the message of the prophets which you should consider rightly as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the break of day, when the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
20Know this well: no prophecy of Scripture can be handed over to private interpretation, 21since no prophecy comes from human decision, for it was men of God, moved by the Holy Spirit, who spoke.
•1Just as there have been false prophets in the midst of the people of Israel, so will there be false teachers among you. They will introduce harmful sects and, by denying the Master who saved them, they will bring upon themselves sudden perdition. 2Many, nonetheless, will imitate their vices and because of them the Way of Truth will be discredited. 3They will take advantage of you with deceitful words for the sake of money. But the judgment made upon them long ago is not idle, and the destruction awaiting them is not asleep.
4In fact, God did not pardon the angels who sinned but cast them into hell, confining them in the dark pits, keeping them there until the Day of Judgment. 5Neither did he pardon the ancient world when he unleashed the waters of the flood upon the world of wicked people, but protected only Noah, the preacher of righteousness along with seven others. 6God also condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes, to serve as a warning to the wicked in the future. 7But he saved Lot, a good man deeply afflicted by the unbridled conduct of those vicious people. 8For Lot, a righteous man who lived in their midst, suffered day after day in the goodness of his heart as he saw and heard of their crimes.
9So, then, the Lord knows how to free from trial those who serve him and keep the wicked for punishment on the Day of Judgment.
10He will do this especially for certain people who follow the baser desires of their nature and despise the Lord’s majesty. Proud and daring they are not afraid of insulting fallen spirits 11while the angels, who are superior to them in strength and power, do not permit themselves any injurious accusation in the presence of the Lord.
12Those people are like irrational animals born to be caught and killed; after they have slandered what they cannot understand, they will end like animals 13and they will suffer the repayment of their wickedness.
They delight giving themselves to deprivation even in the daytime; they are deceiving you even when they are sharing your table. 14With their eyes always looking for adultery, they do not tire of sinning and seducing weak souls. They are full of greed—an accursed people.
15They abandoned the right way and followed Balaam, son of Beor who was attached to what he gained from his wrongdoing. 16But he was rebuked for his sin: his she-ass began to speak with a human voice, stopping the prophet in his madness. 17These people are like waterless springs, clouds driven by a storm which move swiftly into the blackest darkness.
18With their boastful and empty discourses, they encourage the lust and impure desire of those who have just freed themselves from the common errors.
19They promise freedom when they themselves are slaves of corruption: for people are slaves to whatever dominates them. 20Indeed, after being freed from worldly vices through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they returned to those vices and surrendered to them; and their present state has become worse than the first. 21It would have been better for them not to know the way of holiness than, knowing it, to turn away from the sacred doctrine that they had been taught. 22In their case these proverbs are relevant: “The dog turns back to its own vomit,” and: “Hardly has the pig been washed than it again wallows in the mud.”
Why is the second coming of Christ delayed?
•1Dearly beloved, this is the second letter I write to you. In both of them I have intended to remind you of sound doctrine. 2Do not forget the words of the holy prophets and the teaching of our Lord and Savior, as you heard it through his apostles.
3Remember, first of all, that in the last days scoffers will appear, their mockery serving their evil desires. 4And they will say, “What has become of his promised coming? Since our fathers in faith died, everything still goes on as it was from the beginning of the world.” 5Indeed, they deliberately ignore that in the beginning the heavens existed first and earth appeared from the water, taking its form by the word of God. 6By the same word of God, this world perished in the Flood. 7Likewise, the word of God maintains the present heavens and earth until their destruction by fire; they are kept for the Day of Judgment when the godless will be destroyed. 8Do not forget, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. 9The Lord does not delay in fulfilling his promise, though some speak of delay; rather he gives you time because he does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion. 10The Day of the Lord is to come like a thief. Then the heavens will dissolve with a great noise; the elements will melt away by fire, and the earth with all that is on it will be burned up.
11Since all things are to vanish, how holy and religious your way of life must be, 12as you wait for the Day of God and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire and the elements melt away in the heat. 13We wait for a new heaven and a new earth in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise.
14Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault.
15And consider that God’s patience is for our salvation, as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you, with the wisdom given him. 16He speaks of these things in all his letters. There are, however, some points in them that are difficult to understand, which people who are ignorant and immature in their faith twist, as they do with the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17So then, dearly beloved, as you have been warned, be careful lest those people who have gone astray deceive you in turn and drag you along, making you stumble and finally fall away. 18Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to him be glory, now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
• 1.3 Christians tempted to become complacent are told two things:
– God’s call is such a great favor that we cannot really understand it;
– it is not enough to have been called to believe: we must confirm this election by a truly holy life that prepares us to enter heaven.
You share in the divine nature (v. 4). This paragraph, with the texts of St. John, is the strongest expression of what we are and what we shall be. We have not merely been called to a good way of life that will be rewarded, to love a God who will be grateful to us. Jesus has come to reveal who we are: his brothers and sisters, members of a unique Humanity that is to become part of the eternal mystery of God. He was made human so that we become all that God is, nothing less.
What we taught you… was not drawn from myths or formulated theories (v. 16). Faith is not based on reasons and theories. We believe in what the apostles saw and in the prophets’ words. It is true that through the centuries the understanding of the consequences of faith has developed, situating it within the realities of life; there has also been a constant effort to express what faith is in the language of our day. Nevertheless we continue holding and believing the mystery of Christ in the way the apostles believed and understood it.
The last sentence clearly says what we find in the Bible: all that is there was said on behalf of God and all is the work of the Holy Spirit. It does not say that the Holy Spirit dictated the books nor that he granted revelations to all the authors. One same spirit guided all when each author wrote in his own style, and according to the custom of the time, what seemed good to write. Each author was aware that he was expressing the faith of his people, but was not necessarily conscious that he was inspired. Yet the Spirit arranged everything so that all the books make one whole that becomes a unique witness needed by humankind in every age. The Scripture is at the same time the work of the Holy Spirit and human literature in the language of a particular age.
Therefore, no prophecy of Scripture can be handed over to private interpretation (v. 20). It is true that anyone, according to his intelligence and faith, can understand one text or another. The message, however, is the whole. When we try to see how statements fit together, to see the important lines or discover the spirit of the Bible, then only the Church and those who are spiritually alive in her can discern.
The Morning Star (v. 19). This refers to Christ (see Rev 22:16).
• 2.1 This chapter dealing with false masters repeats, in part, the threats found in the Letter of Jude.
• 3.1 Two generations of Christians had already waited for the return of Jesus: a similar hope stimulated their perseverance. Now false teachers refute the words of the prophets (those who announce an imminent end) by citing daily events.
They sow doubt showing that the apostles also died and did not witness Christ’s coming. The response is twofold. On one hand, God does not measure time as we do. He may present something as being very near and not fulfill it immediately. On the other hand, if to us the time seems long, it does not mean that we can settle in this world; we should make good use of the time given us for genuine conversion.
In our days the majority of Christians give little thought to the return of Christ: because we see it as a long way off, or because we do not understand its meaning? In reality it is always urgent to give ourselves totally.
The paragraph referring to Paul shows that already at that time Paul’s letters had the same authority in the Church as the old sacred books or the Gospel, the “rest of Scripture.” The Church was also concerned about the wrong interpretations that people might get from passages in which Paul did not express himself clearly.