Lesson 5 of 6
In Progress

Theological Themes in 2 Peter

Revised by Matthew L. Skinner, 04/23

Character and conduct

Nothing in this book is more vivid and memorable than the author’s no-holds-barred commitment to soundness of doctrine. But his insistence on the kind of behavior that is consistent with the truth is just as strong (see 3:11).

Consequences of ideas

As an insightful pastor, the writer of 2 Peter understands the allure of setting aside the belief in Christ as the coming judge. Certainly the delay of Jesus’ coming (parousia in Greek) and the force of hostile circumstances heightened the temptation to see the gospel as no more than an ethical framework for this world alone, with no eschatological dimension. But the author will have none of this; judgment is sure to come, and its effects will be all the more severe for those whose skepticism leaves them unprepared.

The witness of tradition

The author argues strenuously that the apostolic message is not only unassailable (whether by critics or by changing events and circumstances) but remains the only foundation for faithful teaching, ethics, and witness.

Jesus’ transfiguration

In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus’ body undergoes a transfiguration while he is on a mountain with a few of his disciples. In this peculiar scene the disciples evidently glimpse Jesus bathed in divine glory, which also provides an apt opportunity for God to address them, referring to Jesus as God’s Son and commanding them to “listen to him.” In 2 Peter 1:16-19, the author recalls the Transfiguration as a means of reinforcing Peter’s distinctive authority, especially when it comes to promises that Jesus possesses God’s glory and will come again with power. The implication is that readers can be assured that Jesus will return, because Peter witnessed a foretaste of the glory that belongs to him as the beloved Son of God.

Cosmic conflagration

In a discussion about the day of the Lord and Christ’s return, 2 Peter speaks about the heavens being burned up and the elements of the universe being destroyed by fire (3:8-13). No other New Testament writing describes this kind of fiery destruction. An expectation of cosmic conflagration, in which a new cosmos comes to pass through the utter destruction of the old one, appears also in some ancient Jewish apocalyptic literature and was relatively common in Stoic cosmological assumptions. While other biblical writings speak of the transformation of the world, 2 Peter, a book replete with threats about judgment, prefers images of incineration.