2 Peter 3 (was Re: [asa] Radioactive decay of U-238 is imminent (just wait a few billion years))

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Tue Jan 27 2009 - 15:13:43 EST

Hi Gordon,

Interesting point (I thought!) about II Peter 3 making reference to an indefinite future - and it drove me to reflect a little more on the passage.

What I hadn't appreciated before is that this passage actually contains every point about eschatology that I've so far been trying to make;

First, that the return of Christ is imminent (in the technical theological sense of "suddenly and without warning"): "as a thief in the night."

Second, that the early Christians themselves held some uncertainty about a return of Christ in their lifetime and that the misconception that Jesus had taught that his return would necessarily be "soon" was misplaced: "Where is the promise of His coming? ... with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering."

Third, whilst one ought to be MOTIVATED to action by this promise - "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" - there is no inference from this to the CONTENT of a Christian ethic. That is, it urges "holy conduct and godliness" but doesn't tell us what this entails.

The more I reflect on this, the more it seems to me to confirm what I've been saying all along and I think I'd now put 2 Peter 3 alongside John 21:21-23 as demonstrating that (1) the return of Jesus may well have been expected in the lifetime of the first disciples, but this is a far thing from saying that Jesus (or the Bible as a whole) teaches this; and (2) the timing of Christ's return ought to be of less concern to us than the task of obedience to his commands ("What is that to you? You follow me?")

For what it's worth, I'd also like to affirm George Murphy's helpful remark of a couple of days ago. Scripture most certainly does NOT teach a return of Christ within the lifetime of the disciples - what it "teaches" is that there was a widespread expectation to this effect. Interestingly, 2 Peter 3 gives strong evidence of the existence of this expectation whilst at the same time sufficiently qualifying it such that nobody could reasonably say that the early Christians were not attuned to the possibility of a prolonged delay in the Parousia.


gordon brown wrote:
> On Mon, 26 Jan 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>> Hi Pastor Murray-
>> I think the general population knows what "imminent" means. I think
>> there's some push in theological circles to explain it away, because
>> if not, it looks like the Bible has an error, since it clearly teaches
>> the return of Christ is imminent and that the early believers thought
>> so, and were wrong. The Bible can't be wrong, therefore imminent
>> can't mean what most people think it means. I think this judgment is
>> validated by the quote you gave below- reprinted here- emphasis mine:
> No English translation of the Bible that I know of uses the word
> "imminent" in connection with the Second Coming. It occurs in some
> relatively recent creedal statements. It is a word employed by
> theologians and should be given their intended meaning if their doctrine
> is being discussed.
> Both II Peter 3 and the Olivet Discourse counsel being ready but also
> being patient. II Peter 3 refers to the last days in such a way as to
> suggest that they are in the indefinite future.
> I checked twenty different English translations, and the only
> occurrences of the word "imminent" were as follows: II Peter 1:14 (New
> American Standard Bible); Matthew 27:24 (The Message); Jeremiah 4:5 (New
> King James Version); Jeremiah 9:4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible). In
> no case was the Second Coming the topic.
> Gordon Brown (ASA member)
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Received on Tue Jan 27 15:13:57 2009

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