The Second Letter of Peter

Whereas 1 Peter exhorts believers to stand in the true grace of God during the trial of suffering, 2 Peter warns believers that the coming peril is not an obvious, frontal attack coming from the world without, but rather a subtle danger coming from false prophets and teachers, even from within the church. 2 Peter may be titled “Heresy in the last days” (Bailey & Constable 1999:569).

Historical background

Peter knows he is soon going to die a martyr’s death, so this letter doubles up as his last will and testament (2 Peter 1:14-15; cf. John 21:18-19). Before describing the counterfeit prophets and false teachers, Peter first describes true believers and the true knowledge of God. This true knowledge of believers is not a mere intellectual understanding of some truth (though that is included), but it means ‘a living participation in the truth in the sense that our Lord used it in John 17:3 — “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent”‘ (Wiersbe 2007:930). Through God’s divine power, believers have been granted ‘all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to his glory and excellence’ (1:3; cf. 1:4-8). As he knows his time is short, Peter “reminds” believers, stirring them up by way of a “reminder” (1:12-13; 3:1-2), using the words “knowledge” and to “know” 16 times.

Outline and content

The content (and structure) of 2 Peter can be summarised as follows. After the introduction (1:1-2), Peter emphasises the foundation of the believer’s resources and duty to grow spiritually (1:3-7); reminds Christians of their calling (1:8-11); provides an apostolic witness of the coming of the Lord (1:12-18); and anchors all this in the more sure word of prophecy in the inspired Scriptures (1:19-21).

In sharp contrast to God’s Word, false prophets and false teachers will come alongside the truth, not only denying the Lord, but bringing in destructive heresies and blaspheming the way of truth (2:1-3a). Their condemnation is as sure as God’s judgment of fallen angels, the ancient world through the flood as well as Sodom and Gomorra (2:3b-10a) — and yet, ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials’ (2:9a). The conduct of the false prophets and teachers is likewise plain (2:10b-19), being rebellious, deceitful and boastful —and yet, when they promise freedom they are themselves enslaved (2:19).

Peter reminds believers of prophesies and the Lord’s commandments through his apostles (3:1-2); says scoffers will scoff about the coming Day of the Lord (3:3-10); reminds Christians of their calling (3:11-13) and life in lieu of the future (3:14-16), before concluding.

Having discussed its content, I propose the following chiastic structure for 2 Peter:

A Introduction (1:1-2)
B The Christian’s resources and duty to grow spiritually (1:3-7)
    C Reminder of the Christian’s calling (1:8-11)
      D Apostolic witness about the Coming of the Lord (1:12-18)
        E Divine origin of Scripture and prophecy (1:19-21)
          F Danger & entrance of false teachers (2:1-3a)
            G Godly conduct amidst false teachers (2:3b-10a)
            G’ Ungodly conduct of false teachers (2:10b-19)
          F’ Last state & exit of false teachers (2:20-22)
        E’ Reminder of prophesies and the Lord’s commandments (3:1-2)
      D’ Scoffers scoffing about the coming Day of the Lord (3:3-10)
    C’ Reminder of the Christian’s calling (3:11-13)
B’ The Christian’s life in lieu of the future (3:14-16)
A’ Conclusion (3:17-18)

Peter and Paul

Like Peter, the apostle Paul also knew of his coming death and 2 Timothy is an epistle as well as last will and testament (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul describes the general, apostate condition of people in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-9). Many will have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5; cf. 2 Peter 1:3-8). They will not endure sound doctrine and instead find teachers to tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Like Paul, the apostle Peter emphasises the inspiration of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) and warns of these heretical dangers.


Whereas the theme of 1 Peter is the sufficiency of God’s grace amidst suffering, the theme of 2 Peter is the responsibility to grow in the grace and true knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ amidst increasing apostasy (cf. 1 Peter 1:3; 5:12; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 3:18; Tenney 1985:368; Constable 2017:4). 2 Peter may be titled “The believer’s conflict in the last days” (Gangel 1983:859).



Bailey, M.L. & Constable, T.L., 1999, Nelson’s New Testament Survey, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.

Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on 2 Peter, 2017 edition, Sonic Light.

Gangel, K.O., 1983, ‘2 Peter’, in J.F. Walvoord & R.B. Zuck (eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp. 859-880, David C Cook, Colorado Springs.

Tenney, M.C., 1985, New Testament Survey, revised edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids.

Wiersbe, W.W., 2007, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C Cook, Colorado Springs.

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