Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord
Peter was/is the Apostle to the circumcision; that is, to the Jewish people, especially to those who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God. In his first epistle he clearly writes that he is writing to the pilgrims or sojourners of the dispersion (diaspora; galut) – to those Messianic Jews not living in the promised land of Israel, who have been chosen to obedience through the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. (1 Pt 1:2) God exiled His people because of the unbelief and disobedience to His covenant and its law. For those of us who do live here now, we also see that although many Jewish people do live here, the large majority of them are still in spiritual exile, still in disobedience to YHVH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
In his second epistle, Peter mentions that he is writing to them again. Yet, of course, the teaching and exhortations and warnings and hopes in both letters are applicable to all believers, whether Jewish or Gentile. Gentile believers are brought into the commonwealth of Israel. So it is also with the Apostle Paul’s letters: he was commissioned by the Lord to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and that he would also speak to the Jews. All believers need to read the epistles in the New Testament — and the Old Testament, too — as if they are all relevant to themselves, while also paying attention to the details, which may make more or less sense, depending from which background we come, such as male or female.
I find it worth reminding us about Peter’s ministry to the Messianic Jews in particular, that he neither preached nor wrote ANYTHING about keeping the Sabbath, eating kosher, or keeping the holidays. (Neither, by the way, did James, who also wrote his epistle to the twelve Israeli tribes in the dispersion. There are no lost tribes to YHVH, God of Israel!)
Peter wrote his epistles at a time when heavy persecution was about to come upon those who were called Christians, followers of the Christ/Messiah, for their faith in a King who required their primary and utmost allegiance. (1 Pt 4:16) Patriotism to our earthly nation is not the evidence of being a true disciple of Yeshua/Jesus, even if we, in obedience to Him, are usually model citizens or residents or tourists, and seek the peace and good of whatever city or country we live in. (1 Pt 4:15; 2:11-17; Rom 13; 1 Tim 2:1-6; Jer 29:4-7) Peter addresses these issues for believers in the face of severe tribulation for our faith.
He is writing to the Jewish believers in the dispersion. (1 Pt 1:1; 2:11-12, 25; 2 Pt 3:1) The Holy Spirit is maintaining through these Scriptures that the Church and Israel are related, yet distinct. God has not finished with Jews, or with Israel, His chosen people and land: there is no valid “replacement theology”, and believing and obedient Christians have a better hope and better promises by virtue of our new birth from Above by the Spirit of God, already being forgiven for all our sins through repentance and faith in the gospel. We always need the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God to cleanse us, since we are never, in this body this side of the resurrection, perfectly obedient or faithful. Just like Peter!
Peter is writing to us about how we are to practically live in holiness and with love in countries and a world among people hostile to the truth of who Jesus Christ is — even within the churches — as we keep our focus on the coming of the Lord and of His kingdom, and on the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity, where our eternal ‘homeland’ will be.
Peter’s second letter is similar to Paul’s second letters: they are written in view of the failure to live up to God’s holy and righteous standard, and to the evil that is coming into the world and the churches more and more. At the end of the age, which we are living in, these conditions are rapidly coming to their maximum level, which will bring God’s judgments – first in His own household; afterwards to those outside. This in order to obtain for Himself in love a holy, spotless, blameless Bride for the Lamb, and a holy and restored people for Himself. By doing so, the Father’s name will be sanctified and glorified, as will that of the Lord Jesus/Yeshua, and so, too, the saints saved by His grace and power!
Ch 1: Peter states several times that he is reminding us of things that we already know. (2 Pt 1:12,13,15; 3:1,2,5,8) We need to be reminded, because we too easily forget all that God has done for us, and all that He has promised to do. Peter tells us that our best guard against falling away is to actively develop in us by the grace and power of God the divine character – the image of the Son of God, who is the exact image of our Father in Heaven. (2Pt 1:2-11) We are to strengthen ourselves in God. Our hope in Christ is much better than what Jewish people under the Old Covenant expect. Through the gospel, and the New Covenant, we find that our joy in life is knowing God Himself personally – God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Ch 2: In the church – the Body of Christ – the same things that happened within Israel also threatens us: false teachers, false prophets come in to try to deceive us, and even by those who supposedly had been “saved”. The primary heresies, which seem to me that these teach, are that YHVH is not the only true God; that Jesus/Yeshua is not God who came to us in the flesh, nor is He physically coming again to judge all unrighteousness and to rule and reign; that YHVH God will not fulfill all of His covenantal promises; that Jesus is not the only way to God the Father; teaching immorality regarding sex, and the unrighteous pursuit and use of money; and that the Bible is not the authoritative Word of God to all people. (2 Pt 2:1; 3:3-7)
Ch 3: Peter also takes us beyond the Millennial Kingdom – the 1000 year reign of Messiah after He returns – to when there will be a new creation of a new heavens and new Earth, where righteousness will dwell. This creation is “very good”; the new creation will be perfect! This creation is “very good”; the new creation will be perfect! Finally! He warns us against complacency regarding the actual return of the Lord, as if nothing has changed, and there are no signs of His coming. Yet Jesus gave us signs to watch for and pray about to let us whom He loves know and prepare for.
We are not to fear persecution, but to rejoice in the glory set before us of being the Bride of Messiah, and of the salvation of our souls and the resurrection of our bodies. Trials and tribulations produce patience and perseverance in the believer, as we learn to put our trust and hope in our Savior. If we do fear persecution in ourselves, all the more we need to strengthen ourselves in God: He is in us, and is with us; our Father loves us with an everlasting love; our Good Shepherd knows His sheep and leads us to life; the Author and Finisher of our faith has gone before us and is now sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for us.
Peter did not expect that the Lord would return “at any moment”; he knew that he was going to die soon; and he knew– or, the Holy Spirit, who inspired Peter’s words and quotes, knew — that the Lord’s longsuffering would last for about 2000 years, or about two days. (2 Pt 3:8-10; Hos 6:1-3; Ps 90:4)
How are we to live knowing these things? Both of Peter’s epistles are looking to the end of our life of faith, the end of our life without seeing but believing – that we would be a praise to His name at the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, when all shall see Him and submit to His good and righteous rule and authority, in the love of the Father. (1 Pt 1:7, 13)
There is much theology in Peter’s letters, and he was not a ‘learned man’. But there is a practical side to theology, which every believer should process: knowing God is the assurance of our salvation.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, November 10, 2018, and reposted with permission.