In his second letter, Peter spends considerable time refuting false teachings within the church. Peter is concerned for the health of the church and wants to see Christians growing in faith and godliness. False teachers are a threat because they distort the truth, which in turn leads to faulty thinking and ungodly behavior. One of the lies the false teachers were propagating was the thinking that Christ would not return as he had promised. They pointed out that Christ had said he was coming soon, and soon had already passed.
If this false teaching were true, it would mean there would be no day of judgement and no ultimate accountability for our actions. If there is no judgement, what was the point of striving for godliness and denying oneself the varied pleasures of this world? Peter well understood the consequences of doubting, or all-together dismissing, the promised coming of Christ, and so in chapter three, he sets to work to counter the arguments of the false teachers – he does so by appealing to history.
Similar to Paul’s argument in Romans 1, Peter writes that the false teachers are deliberately forgetting what God has plainly revealed in his Word. They are suppressing the truth and exchanging it for a lie. They know the story of Noah and the Flood, but they dismiss it as irrelevant and so miss the valuable lesson taught therein. Instead, the false teachers argue that God does not and will not intervene in human history in order to judge the ungodly – “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Peter wants us to be attentive to what God teaches us in the past because it has real-life consequences for the present and the future. If we have ears to hear God’s warning contained in the Flood account, we will realize that God does not let injustice roll on like a river, rather in God’s good and perfect timing he will drown out all ungodliness. Those who lived in the time of Noah scoffed at Noah because they thought his boat building was a waste of time. But Noah believed God’s Word that judgement was indeed coming, and so he lived like it.
Judgement came for Noah and his contemporaries. Noah was counted righteousness because of his faith and so God kept him safe from the rising floodwaters. The scoffers however were washed away and their end was destruction. The lesson, Peter explains, is the same today. Christ has spoken of the second coming and the day of judgement will appear as surely as the rains of the Flood. All the unrighteousness and evil of the world will be burned to nothing by the fire of God’s judgement, just as the Flood devastated the earth. A new heaven and earth will be established which is the “home of righteousness.”, in the same way God began anew after the Flood.
In light of this truth, we ought to be turning from all unrighteousness and living holy and godly lives. Like Noah, we must obey God and let his Word drown out the lies and mockery of the world. We fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, knowing that when we are in Christ, we are in the safety and security of the “ark” which can save us from the waters of judgement.