The opponents in view in 2 Peter taught that believers like Peter were wrong in their interpretation of the times. In 2 Peter, Peter was strongly polemical against a specific group of false teachers with whom he disagreed. These teachers had come to different doctrinal conclusions not only out of errant analysis of Scripture but also because of moral license (2 Pet 2:10-11, 13-14, 18-19; 3:17). Peter’s response to those who opposed him and his friends was grounded in the storyline of Scripture.
(1) In 2 Pet 2:5-7, Peter recalled accounts of deliverance and destruction in Genesis to remind his audience that God is able to rescue whomever He would choose while destroying their opponents. When the Lord saw the wickedness of humanity, He said He was going to judge the world by flooding the whole earth. Moses wrote, “Noah, however, found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen 6:8). The Lord rained fire and sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah but sent angels to rescue Lot (Gen 19:29). Peter wrote that in light of God’s historical faithfulness to simultaneously save and condemn, He was able to care for the believers in Peter’s audience while obliterating those who reject the gospel.
(2) In 2 Pet 2:15-16, Peter cited Balaam’s greed as an analogy for the greedy prophets surrounding his audience. Balak king of Moab was intimidated by Israel and sought to hire Balaam to curse them (Num 22:1-6). Balaam acquiesced to Balak’s request and came to Moab, stating, however, that he would speak only as the Lord directed him (Num 22:7-21). Along the way, the Lord rebuked Balaam by sending an angel to speak through the mouth of the donkey carrying him to Balak (Num 22:22-35). Peter knew the flow of the story in Numbers 22 and thought it illustrative for his audience. In Peter’s analysis, the false teachers terrorizing his audience did so because of greed. Like Balaam, they sought the wages of unrighteousness (2 Pet 2:14-16). Peter said that judgement was reserved for those who walked in Balaam’s steps (2 Pet 2:17).
(3) In 2 Pet 2:22, Peter quoted Prov 26:11 to portray the awfulness of apostasy. Some of those who opposed Peter’s audience at one point had professed faith (2 Pet 2:20). Peter said that it would have been better had they not known the way of righteousness than having known it to be entangled again in worldliness (2 Pet 2:21). Proverbs 26:11 illustrated the situation of the apostates, they were like dogs that return to their own vomit.
(4) In 2 Pet 3:5-7, Peter noted the power of God’s word in creation and in preserving the world until the day of judgement. In the account of creation in Genesis 1, God’s word was the creative means by which He formed all that is seen (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). Peter knew this and knew that God maintained by His word what He had created by His word. The heavens and the earth are being held by God’s word until the day of judgement when God will destroy the wicked with fire. Peter portrayed the period of delay as an exclamation point on God’s mercy—a time when the Lord wanted many to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:8-9).
(5) In 2 Pet 3:4, 10, Peter portrayed the Day of the Lord—described by the prophets as the day of judgement—as the time of Christ’s return. Israel’s prophets reminded their audiences of the future day when God would judge all who opposed Him and His faithful ones. Isaiah said the Day of the Lord would be a time of reckoning upon the arrogant for their idolatry (Isa 2:5-22). It would be the time of Babylon’s destruction (Isa 13:6-22). Joel prophesied that the Day of the Lord would be signaled by cataclysm in the heavens and on earth, bringing devastation upon the nations that oppose God (Joel 1:15-2:11). The false prophets Peter had in mind in 2 Peter led a lifestyle of deceit and libertinism (2 Pet 2:1-3), took advantage of those weak in faith (2 Pet 2:17-22), and mocked the Lord’s imminent return (2 Pet 3:1-7). Rather than recognizing the Lord’s patience as an opportunity for holy and godly living (2 Pet 3:11-12), they became naturalists, materialists, and sought all sorts of selfish greed. Peter prophesied that they would be judged when Christ returned like a thief (2 Pet 3:4, 10). Peter encouraged his audience to await the new heavens and earth, where righteousness will dwell without end (2 Pet 3:13; Isa 65:17).