John warned, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (II Jn. 7). Speaking about an antichrist or “the” antichrist produces fear in the hearts of many. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and the hardships that have been produced from quarantines, business shut-downs, and the like, there are many concerned that perhaps these events are foreshadowing the end of the world. People are concerned about “the” antichrist entering the world stage and ushering us into “the end of days.”
When we read the Scriptures, though, we learn something completely different about “antichrist.” There is nothing said about an antichrist or “the” antichrist ushering in anything. This is not to say that the doctrine of antichrist (I Jn. 4:3) is not serious, because it is. When we understand what this is, it is a fearful thing. The definition of “antichrist” is “opponent of the Messiah” (Strong’s). Therefore, we do not want God to consider us “antichrist” or Christ’s opponent.
Understanding the definition is just one aspect of our study. Let us make sure we use the word (in this case, “antichrist”) in its proper context. Therefore, to understand this teaching, let us first read everything the Bible says on the subject of “antichrist.” In this case, God speaks about “antichrist” in four places (I Jn. 2:18, 22, 4:3; II Jn. 7). After reading those verses, we can see the attributes of antichrist (opponent to the Messiah) include:
- There is more than one who could be considered “antichrist” (I Jn. 2:18).
- He denies that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). He denies the Father and the Son (I Jn. 2:22).
- He will not confess that Jesus came in the flesh to the earth (I Jn. 4:3; II Jn. 7).
- He is a deceiver (II Jn. 7).
By reading all God says on the matter, we can appreciate that it is a serious and dangerous thing if God considers you “antichrist.” At the same time, there was nothing in those passages said about The Judgment Day, a 1000-year reign, a world-wide power, a world leader, war, rapture, death, resurrections, or any of the other things people generally talk about when they speak about the “antichrist.“ John didn’t even use the term “the” antichrist! He said (by inspiration) that there were “many antichrists” (I Jn. 2:18)! Don’t forget that he wrote this some 2000 years ago. Those opposed to the Messiah have been around for a while!
Now, to the context of II John, we see that antichrist (v. 7) is contrasted with walking after God’s commands (v. 6) and making sure we don’t lose what we have in Christ (v. 8). Let us heed John’s warning. Let us do what God says, and be faithful to His commands. When we think about the subject of “antichrist” in its context, we can see how it is that there were many in John’s day, and how there are many yet today!
Don’t be deceived by false teachers and do not oppose His truth, including the fact that yes, Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Our Savior is real! His word is true! He made a way for us to be saved, and when we believe He is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24), repent of our sins (including being His opponent -- Lk. 13:3), confess Christ as God’s Son (Rom. 10:10) and be baptized (Acts 2:38), we can be forgiven of our sins!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The final words of the epistles interest me. I think about these men and think, “If I was writing a letter to these churches or individuals, what would I say at the end of the letter to leave a lasting impression?” Of course, these letters are inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21), but still, each letter must end. II Peter 3:18 is the end of Peter’s message “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1). How fitting that after telling these people they need to be reminded of the truth, after warning them about false teachers and preparing for the end of the world, Peter says essentially, “While we are on earth, keep growing!”
In this study, I want us to focus on the first part of Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:18. Growing in grace is something that all Christians need to do. Perhaps some folks think God’s grace is reserved for the non-Christian who needs to be saved. Actually, the saved and the unsaved need God’s grace. In the case of the Christian, Peter says we must “grow” in that grace. What do these words mean?
The word “grace” comes from the Greek word “Charis” which means, “good-will, lovingkindness, favor .... is used of kindness of a master towards his inferiors or servants, and so esp. of God toward men .... kindness which bestows upon one what he hasn’t deserved .... pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ” (Thayer’s, p. 666). Some have shortened the definition of grace to mean simply “unmerited favor.” The word “grow” means what we think it means, the original word means, “enlarge or increase” (Strong’s). Mr. Thayer adds to the definition of “grow” by including “augment, become greater.”
Thus, there is a call and command for Christians to increase, enlarge, or become greater concerning God’s favor. The Christian needs to grow closer in relationship to God rather than farther away (Jas. 4:8). The Christian is the one who should realize how much he indeed relies on God’s grace or favor. We are sinners that have been forgiven (Acts 2:38), and now we must grow and continue to resist temptations daily (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:7). Therefore, if you feel like you’re getting farther from God instead of closer to Him, check your growth! Are you growing in the right direction? Let us increase in this grace, and understand that we will not get to Heaven without it!
How do we “grow in grace”? Peter says we need to stand in the true grace of God (I Pet. 5:12). The word “stand” in this text is not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort. We need to beware of the dangers of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). We also need to spend time in God’s book (Eph. 3:4, 5:17; II Tim. 2:15) that we might know what God wants and be encouraged to grow as we need to grow! Don’t forget II Peter 1:5-11 and what we need to do to make our “calling and election sure.” These are necessary actions that we might grow in God’s grace.
Don’t believe the lie where people charge, “You people in the church of Christ don’t teach about grace.” The truth is, when you preach the gospel of Christ, I don’t know how you can keep from teaching on grace! Every aspect of the gospel is a product of God’s grace, His unmerited favor! It is a fact that God’s grace justifies (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24), it produces redemption (Eph. 1:7), and we who are Christians need to “grow in grace”! How are you doing in this area?
- Jarrod M. Jacob
I have been blessed with opportunities to preach on the radio throughout my life. I love radio work and am thankful I have been able to do this! Several years back, I was preaching on a radio station where the DJ/Owner was a Baptist and believed intensely in the “once-saved-always-saved” false doctrine. We had talked about this and other subjects in the past, but seemingly to no avail. On a day I will never forget, I was in the studio and began my program. The study included II Peter 3:17, which I read without comment. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” As I finished, I looked up from my Bible and saw this man literally shaking in his seat. In a moment, he composed himself walked out of the studio, leaving me alone to preach. I was impressed with the fact that the power is not in me, but in the word to change hearts (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12)! What I was unable to do in months of talking, God’s word did in one sentence! He felt the power of those words and could see that what Peter wrote contradicted his belief.
What did Peter teach? Hopefully, as we have studied II Peter, we have seen his concern for the brethren. He wanted the people to be strong and add to their faith (ch. 1:5-10). He wanted to remind the brethren of “the present truth” so long as he lived (1:12-15) and to remain grounded as they prepared for the false teachers (ch. 2). An example of false teaching they faced was those who said the Lord would not return, and there is no judgment (ch. 3). Peter showed that these people were impatient and wrong and that the Lord doesn’t count time as we do (3:9). Finally, we read the warning, “Beware”! Beware that you are not “led away” and “fall from your own stedfastness” (3:17)!
The word “beware” is important. The original word (phulasso) suggests, “keep on your guard, avoid, or keep yourself from something” (Strong’s). We use this word in a similar way in English. To us, “beware” means there is danger to life and limb. Therefore, we need to stay away. Peter warns his readers to beware of being led away by the error of the wicked. Being led away is not harmless fun. It is not a minor infraction. We are in danger of losing our souls when we go with the wicked. Beware!
Notice Peter is telling Christians (1:1), not lost people, that they can fall from their own stedfastness. When people say that a Christian can’t fall away, don’t forget to show them this passage and I Timothy 4:1. Peter (by inspiration) was so concerned about Christians falling away that he wrote an entire book dedicated to keeping folks saved! This was the same motivation of the writer of Hebrews and the apostle Paul in his letters. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we can become Christians, and then after this, we can never fall. That is not taught in the Scriptures at all.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Peter wrote to the Christians and said, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (II Pet. 3:13-15).
What does Peter mean when he uses the term, “new heavens and new earth”? There have been many false doctrines that have arisen from a misunderstanding of this phrase. Some, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have misunderstood this phrase and teach that one day we will live on a “rejuvenated” earth. Some teach that Heaven and earth will somehow be joined together as one mass. To them, this is the “new heavens and new earth.” Neither of these positions teaches what Peter is teaching. They are false. We need to respect the context of II Peter as well as the context of the Bible itself to know the truth and understand what this phrase means.
First, understand that the phrase “new heavens and new earth” is not exclusive to II Peter. It is found in four places in the Bible - Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; II Peter 3:13; and Revelation 21:1. Secondly, the phrase “new heavens and new earth” does not have to do exclusively with Heaven. It merely means a new order of things. While this phrase can refer to Heaven, as it is definitely a “new order” from what we are used to, it does not mean God’s abode exclusively. A prime example of this distinction is found in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. There, it means a new order was coming, and it did, about 700 years later! So, let us respect the context.
In Peter’s letter, I understand him to be speaking about Heaven, God’s abode, because he said that in the “new heavens and new earth,” righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3:13). This agrees with his first letter when he said Christians are recipients of an “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4). This “new order” is a place where we who have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet. 1:4) will live!
It obviously agrees with the immediate context, because Peter said the Lord will return and this earth will be destroyed by fire (II Pet. 3:10-12). Since this is true, we who are His children look for that “new heavens and new earth” (new order) where we will live in righteousness. We can’t do that on this sinful earth, but we can do it in God’s abode!
In preparation for this new order (in this context, Heaven), then let us make sure we are “diligent” to be “found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (II Pet. 3:14). In other words, let us be faithful to God and let us make sure we are living what we are teaching. How strong is our faith (Heb. 11:6)? Let it be seen in our actions (Jas. 2:18b).
Why has the Lord not returned yet? Read II Peter 3:15 and see that Christ’s longsuffering is still active. We also read about this longsuffering in verse 9. Let us thank God for His longsuffering. While we look forward to the new order of things and a new beginning, we can be patient and try to help one more come out of sin (II Cor. 5:11; II Tim. 4:2). What will you do today to help someone be free (Jn. 8:31-32, 36; Rom. 6:17-18?) Let us be active in serving the Lord and look forward to that new order with fondness!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Peter asks his readers a crucial question in I Peter 3:11-12. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” His question is one that has been asked multiple times since then. Since this world will be consumed by fire one day, then how should we act now?
Peter told the Christians in his first epistle to be “obedient children” and to “be holy in all manner of conversation” (I Pet. 1:14-15). These are two great characteristics that ought to describe Christians today! Our obedience to God and our being holy are two things that will not be burned up when this world burns!
Jude 21 adds that we ought to keep ourselves “in the love of God.” This is another characteristic that needs to be seen in us and something that cannot be taken away! It is interesting to note that Jesus connects our love for Him with our obedience (Jn. 14:15, 23-24, 15:14). So, as Peter teaches us to be obedient, Christ says our obedience is an outgrowth of our love for God. This is how we know it is genuine and not merely “rote” action!
What manner of persons ought we to be? How about being “stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58)? Such a determination will keep our hands, and our minds occupied! I believe a lot of the fuming and fussing in the brotherhood can be linked to the fact that Christians are not staying busy in the Lord’s work! When we try to bring lost souls to the Lord as well as encourage the saved to remain strong, we will have a full plate! Let us be this kind of person and see how this work transcends the fires of II Peter 3:10!
I Peter 2:2, and II Peter 3:18 encourage us to grow! We need to be the kind of people who are not stagnant in our spiritual lives. We need to grow and to continue in this growth so long as the Lord gives us breath! Spiritual growth provides us with many challenges, regardless of how long we have been a Christian. Whether as “newborn babes” (I Pet. 2:2), or as mature people (Heb. 5:12-14), there is plenty to do and plenty of growth possible in the Lord’s kingdom!
Peter’s question in I Peter 3:11 is rhetorical, but when examined, it makes for a good reminder. Friend, are you a Christian (Acts 11:26; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38)? If you are, how is your spiritual growth? If you are a Christian, then you should have an appreciation for what is on the horizon (II Pet. 3:10). We don’t know a day or hour, but we can be prepared, and we can help others get ready! Look again at this short list. Are you prepared? Are you growing? If not, why not? Make the time to be prepared while you still can (II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs