Live in Expectation of the Fulfillment of the Promise
1, 2. (a) What will yet happen according to the changeless “word of God,” giving rise to what questions? (b) How does the apostle Peter describe what will happen to the present order?
A WHOLE world order is due to change. Every facet of human living is bound to be affected. This change is inevitable since the unfailing “word of God” has decreed the end of the present heavens and earth and their replacement by glorious new heavens and a new earth. What will these developments mean for us? How can we show that we are living in expectation of the fulfillment of what Jehovah God has promised?
2 After referring to the global flood in Noah’s days, the apostle Peter writes: “The heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) The apostle goes on to say that “the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.”—2 Peter 3:10.
3. In view of the Genesis account, what must we logically conclude about the material universe, including our earth?
3 Based on these inspired words, are we to conclude that our literal earth as well as the sun, moon and stars will be destroyed? To answer this question, we must consider God’s view of his own works. With reference to the end of the creative period, the Genesis account tells us: “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) The prospect before the first humans was an eternity of happy living on earth, provided that they remained obedient. (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:3) Nothing in the Genesis account implies that the earth would be but a temporary home for man, finally to be destroyed at some future judgment day. It logically follows that God’s purpose is for the material universe, including our earth, to continue in unending existence.
4. (a) What distinction did Peter make in connection with the situation before and after the Flood? (b) What did the Flood not do?
4 Moreover, the apostle Peter made a distinction between (1) the “heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water” and (2) “the heavens and the earth that are now.” (2 Peter 3:5, 7) Yet, the earth that existed before the Flood is the same planet that still exists. True, the deluge did bring about changes in the physical features of the earth. Since water was no longer suspended high above earth’s surface, this affected the appearance of the visible universe from the standpoint of the human observer. However, these changes were merely side effects of the Flood. Its purpose was not to destroy the literal planet but to destroy the ungodly human society outside the ark. By means of the deluge, all the works and arrangements that the godless human society had built up perished.
5. For there to be a correspondency with the global flood, what must happen at the day of reckoning?
5 Hence, for there to be a correspondency with the global flood, everything associated with the present wicked human society must perish, as if consumed by fire. Yes, the entire framework of human affairs that came into existence after the Flood has been reserved for destruction and a day of judgment or reckoning.
6. Is the “fire,” by means of which the old order ends, literal?
6 That the “fire” is here used representatively of the thoroughness of the destruction is confirmed in the Bible book of Revelation, where the Lord Jesus Christ is depicted as a warring king. His battle action is said to leave many corpses strewn on earth’s surface, to be consumed by scavenger birds. (Revelation 19:15-18) Such a picture could not be fulfilled to any degree if this planet were to be reduced literally to a lifeless cinder.
7. What do the words of 2 Peter 3:10 indicate about the destruction to come?
7 So, then, Peter’s portrayal of the destruction of the present earth and heavens relates to the annihilation of ungodly human society. Man-made governments that have dominated over human society like “heavens” will pass out of existence. (Compare Isaiah 34:2-5; Micah 1:3, 4.) The sound of their dissolving into ruins, described as a “hissing noise” like that of steam escaping under pressure, will build up in intensity. The “elements,” that is, the spirit that motivates ungodly mankind to think, plan, speak and act in their God-dishonoring way will be dissolved or reduced to nothingness. (Compare Acts 9:1; Ephesians 2:1-3.) This will spell the end for all the philosophies, theories, arrangements and schemes that reflect the spirit of mankind alienated from the Most High. “Earth and the works in it will be discovered” or exposed as deserving destruction. There will be no escape for any member of the wicked human society, the “earth.” (Compare Genesis 11:1; Isaiah 66:15, 16; Amos 9:1-3; Zephaniah 1:12-18.) All the works of lawless men—the institutions and organizations as well as what has been built up in connection with these—will be revealed as divinely disapproved, to be disposed of as worthless refuse.
8. Since every part of the present system will be destroyed, what counsel of Peter should we take to heart?
8 We servants of God, therefore, want to live in a manner showing that we really believe that every part of this present ungodly system will perish everlastingly. This is what the apostle Peter urges us to do, saying:
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!”—2 Peter 3:11, 12.
9. Who only will survive the coming destruction, with everlasting blessings in view?
9 When every part of this system is dissolved by the “fire” of God’s anger expressed through the Lord Jesus Christ, only persons with a record of upright conduct and godly devotion will escape. True worship is not passive, reflecting itself solely in a person’s abstaining from certain wrongs. While maintaining moral and spiritual purity is essential, we are also under obligation to demonstrate our love for our fellow humans by being willing and eager to respond to their physical and spiritual needs. And this contributes to great joy, for “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
ACTIONS INDICATING THAT WE RECOGNIZE THE APPROACHING END
10. On account of the approaching “end of all things,” what admonition did Peter give?
10 The following words of the apostle Peter amplify what we need to be doing in view of the approaching “end of all things”: “Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”—1 Peter 4:7-9.
11. What is needed for us to remain “sound in mind”?
11 In harmony with this admonition, to remain morally clean or upright in conduct and to be active in promoting the spiritual welfare of others, we need to be “sound in mind.” This requires that we guard against letting emotions rule and allowing them to unbalance us mentally. It is vital that we recognize the truly important things in life, that we have a balanced sense of what deserves priority.—Philippians 1:9, 10.
12. (a) Why is it important to be “vigilant with a view to prayers”? (b) How did Peter come to appreciate the importance of this from his own experience?
12 If we want to remain God’s faithful servants, we cannot hope to succeed in our own strength. We need to look to Jehovah God for aid, being “vigilant with a view to prayers.” From personal experience, the apostle Peter learned the importance of being “vigilant,” watchful or alert with reference to prayers. Just prior to Jesus Christ’s being arrested by an armed mob in the garden of Gethsemane, the Son of God had encouraged Peter, James and John to pray so that they might not fall victim to temptation. However, all three apostles fell asleep at this critical time. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) Weakened by his failure to remain “vigilant” as regards prayer, Peter later denied Jesus Christ three times. (John 18:17, 18, 25-27) Yet, earlier, Peter had confidently declared: “Lord, I am ready to go with you both into prison and into death.” (Luke 22:33) “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!”—Matthew 26:33.
13. What can we learn from Peter’s experience when he failed to be “vigilant with a view to prayers”?
13 There is a vital lesson for us in what happened to Peter. It can impress on us the danger of overconfidence. Because of our limitations and weaknesses, it is only with divine help that we can succeed in resisting temptation. May we, therefore, keep on praying with an alert mind and a heart that is unwavering in its affections for Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.
14. What should be our motive in fulfilling our Christian responsibility, and how is this manifest in our dealings with our fellow believers?
14 Besides remaining alert and balanced with reference to Christian discipleship, we do well to consider whether love is motivating us to fulfill our responsibilities. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) The apostle Peter urged that we have “intense love” for fellow believers. Such intense love is demonstrated by our having a forgiving spirit. When that is the case, we do not exaggerate the faults of our brothers nor do we call undue attention to their failings. We do not look for mistakes, putting the transgressions of others in the worst light possible. In our thus being forgiving, our love will cover a multitude of sins instead of exposing them to full view for others to see.
15. Why may it be necessary to show hospitality, and with what attitude should it be extended?
15 The showing of hospitality is also an expression of love. How fine it is when we share our food and necessities with others, especially those in need! (Luke 14:12-14) When fellow believers lose everything through natural disasters or persecution, this may mean opening our homes to them for extended periods. This may be very inconvenient for us, and we might tend to complain about the extra demands being put on our assets and energies. At such times we do well to guard against grumbling about having to show hospitality time and again, recognizing that this is a fine way in which we can display our love for those whom God loves.
16, 17. (a) How should we view the gifts that we have? (b) What fine attitude did Paul recommend and manifest himself?
16 All of us do have gifts or endowments that we can use for the benefit of others. Our remaining God’s approved servants depends on our using these gifts eagerly and cheerfully. Wisely, we would avoid comparing ourselves with others. This can prevent our being discouraged when seeing that others can do much more than we can. On the other hand, we would not give in to any feelings of superiority when we can accomplish more in some field of activity than others can. (Galatians 6:3, 4) Note what the apostle Peter said: “In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.” (1 Peter 4:10) Accordingly, we are responsible to use to the full whatever gifts we may have. By God’s undeserved kindness we are what we are and have what we have. Hence, all our energies, abilities and talents may be viewed as gifts that have been granted us by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, to be used to bring praise and honor to the Most High.
17 The apostle Paul highlighted the right attitude by means of the following questions: “Who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) Though Paul himself could say that he “labored in excess” of all the other apostles, he did not take the credit to himself but added, “yet not I but the undeserved kindness of God that is with me.”—1 Corinthians 15:10.
18. In what manner should we be using our gifts?
18 As faithful stewards, we will want to be concerned about making full use of whatever gifts we may have in helping others spiritually and materially. The manner in which we do so is also very important. In this regard, Peter wrote:
“If anyone speaks, let him speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God; if anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.”—1 Peter 4:11.
19. How can we glorify God when helping others spiritually and materially?
19 Hence, if we are helping others spiritually, we will want to speak in such a way as to show that the source of our comforting, loving words is Jehovah God. When that is the case, our preaching and teaching will be upbuilding and will not engender feelings of inferiority and shame in those whom we are striving to aid. Similarly, if we give of our time and energies in rendering physical aid, we will want to rely on God for strength. This would de-emphasize our own abilities and highlight God’s use of our capacities for doing good. In this way, our heavenly Father will be glorified. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7) Since such glory or honor is given to the Father because of our being disciples of his Son, Jehovah God is “glorified through Jesus Christ.” Yes, the Most High is responsible for giving us the ability and the strength to accomplish good.
20. Why should we look forward to the coming of Jehovah’s great day, and so what should we be doing?
20 By using our time, assets and energies to aid others, we show that we are in a state of spiritual preparedness, ready to face the great day of Jehovah. In fact, our recognizing that the Lord Jesus Christ could come at any time as the executioner of divine vengeance can incite us to remain spiritually awake. That is why we want to keep ever before us the certainty of the coming of Jehovah’s great day. Because it will open up grand opportunities for all loyal disciples of Jesus Christ, we can rightly look forward to it with eager anticipation. The day of Jehovah will mean being freed forever from the unrighteousness and pressures of the present system of things, to enjoy the blessings of “new heavens and a new earth.” How vital it is that we keep this day “close in mind,” ardently desiring it! (2 Peter 3:12, 13) Our zealous participation in making known God’s purpose to others gives evidence of the proper attitude. It shows that we are convinced that Jehovah’s day will come and that others need to know about it and act in harmony with this vital knowledge.
21. (a) Of what can we be sure in connection with God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth”? (b) How should this affect us?
21 God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” first stated through the prophet Isaiah, will be fulfilled to its fullest significance. (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22) A righteous rule in the hands of Jesus Christ and his associate king-priests over an earthly society conforming to divine law must become a reality. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 20:6) The certainty of this can stir us to action, moving us to do our utmost to be among those who share in the blessings that will result. The apostle Peter admonished: “Beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Peter 3:14) As God’s servants, our concern is to be approved by the Lord Jesus Christ, not being spotted or blemished by worldly attitudes, ways and actions. We want to be free from the stain of sin. Since sin disrupts our peace with God, only by remaining in a state where our sins can be atoned for can we be found “in peace” at the coming of his great day.
APPRECIATE DIVINE PATIENCE
22. Why should we not become impatient about the fulfillment of God’s promise?
22 While we rightly look forward to “new heavens and a new earth,” we do not want to become impatient about the fulfillment of the promise. The fact that Jehovah’s great day did not come long ago has allowed for our own salvation. The apostle Peter stated:
“Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote you, speaking about these things as he does also in all his letters. In them, however, are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”—2 Peter 3:15, 16.
23. (a) Why should we not presume on God’s patience? (b) How did some in the first century fail to recognize the reason for God’s patience?
23 As persons who appreciate Jehovah’s patience, we will want to be careful not to presume on it, justifying a particular course of selfishness on the basis that God’s great day may yet be far away. In the first century C.E., there were believers who apparently did this. The apostle Peter describes them as “untaught and unsteady,” lacking a clear understanding of God’s Word and being unstable with reference to Christian doctrine and practice. These persons even tried to use statements from the letters of the inspired apostle Paul and other parts of the Scriptures to excuse their wrong conduct. It may be that they pointed to what Paul had written about the exercise of conscience and about being declared righteous by faith and not by works of the Mosaic law as providing latitude for all kinds of actions that were contrary to God’s will. (Compare Romans 3:5-8; 6:1; 7:4; 8:1, 2; Galatians 3:10.) They may have misused such points as the following:
“Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) “All things are lawful for me.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) “All things are clean to clean persons.” (Titus 1:15)
However, they ignored that Paul also said:
“Do not use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh, but through love slave for one another. For the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13, 14) “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.
24. Why must we guard our associations even inside the congregation?
24 As in the first-century congregation, so today there are those who would extend the limits of Christian freedom to the point of becoming enslaved to sin. Therefore, we do well to guard our associations, lest we come under unwholesome influence and be led astray. Calling attention to this fact, the apostle Peter wrote: “You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.”—2 Peter 3:17.
MAKE ADVANCEMENT AS A CHRISTIAN
25, 26. After obtaining faith, what should we be doing in harmony with 2 Peter 1:5-7?
25 To avoid losing out on the blessings that Jehovah God has in store for us, we should want to make progress in Christian living and activity. (2 Peter 3:18) Our doing so harmonizes with the apostle Peter’s encouragement:
“Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Peter 1:5-7.
26 Through his Son, Jehovah God has given us the capacity for faith. Hence, in response to, or as a consequence of, what has been done in our behalf, we should want to develop other fine qualities that give evidence of our having genuine faith. This we do by letting God’s Word and his spirit exert their full force in our lives. (2 Peter 1:1-4) The apostle Peter admonished that we ‘contribute all earnest effort,’ exerting ourselves diligently with all the strength that we have, in cooperating with the work our heavenly Father is doing in making us complete Christians.—Compare 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7; James 1:2-4.
27. What is meant by adding virtue to our faith?
27 Our adding virtue to faith means striving to be persons of moral excellence in imitation of our Exemplar, Christ. Such virtue or moral excellence is a positive quality. Its possessor not only refrains from doing bad or causing injury to his fellowmen but also seeks to do good, responding positively to the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of others.
28. Why is it important to grow in knowledge?
28 Moral excellence cannot exist apart from knowledge. We need knowledge to distinguish right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) It is also essential for evaluating just how positive good is to be expressed in a given situation. (Philippians 1:9, 10) Unlike credulity, which makes light of or even resists knowledge, solidly based faith rests on and always benefits from knowledge. Hence, our being diligent in applying the Holy Scriptures will strengthen our faith as we continue to grow in knowledge of Jehovah God and his Son.
29. (a) Why is knowledge essential in cultivating self-control? (b) What is the relationship between self-control and endurance?
29 This knowledge serves to restrain us from giving in to sinful passions, becoming immoderate and unbridled in conduct, or in other ways becoming guilty of a serious failure to reflect the divine image in attitude, word and action. Knowledge contributes to our having self-control, the ability to bridle one’s person, actions and speech. By continuing to exercise self-control, we will have the essential quality of endurance. The inner strength that endurance produces can also help us to resist giving in to sinful passions, compromising when suffering persecution or becoming preoccupied with daily cares, pleasures or material possessions. This endurance stems from relying on the Most High for strength and guidance.—Compare Philippians 4:12, 13; James 1:5.
30. (a) What is godly devotion, and how does it manifest itself? (b) What shows that godliness cannot exist apart from brotherly affection?
30 Godly devotion or reverentialness should be added to endurance. Such an attitude distinguishes the entire life course of a genuine Christian. It manifests itself in a wholesome regard and honor for the Creator and a deep respect and concern for parents or others to whom devotion is due. (1 Timothy 5:4) Without brotherly affection, however, godliness cannot exist. The apostle John stated:
“If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
Anyone priding himself on his reverence and devotion would still be woefully lacking if he failed to show affection, kindness and friendliness to his brothers. We cannot be warm toward God and cool toward our brothers.
31. To whom should love be shown, and why?
31 Love is the outstanding quality that should be especially evident in our lives. This kind of love is not to be limited to our Christian brothers. While we are to have affection for our spiritual brothers, love is to be shown to all mankind. This love is not dependent on the moral standing of the individual. It is to be shown even toward enemies, particularly expressing itself in a desire to help them spiritually.—Matthew 5:43-48.
32. What results when we apply the counsel of 2 Peter 1:5-7?
32 What results when virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection and love are added to faith? The apostle Peter answers: “If these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8) We will then not be standing still, inactive, dead spiritually. With godly qualities lodging in our hearts, being truly a part of us, we will be motivated to think, speak and act in a divinely approved way. (Compare Luke 6:43-45.) When this is true in our case, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to take full control of earth’s affairs will be the start of blessings far grander than we can now imagine.
33-35. How do we benefit from living as disciples of Jesus Christ?
33 May we, therefore, never become careless in our conduct or in the discharge of our Christian responsibilities, including the vital work of making known God’s message to others. If we have chosen a life as disciples of Jesus Christ we can enjoy a clean conscience and wholesome companionship with fellow believers. We can experience God’s strengthening aid in times of trial, and our relationship with others will improve as we conscientiously apply Bible principles.
34 There is not an area of life—at home, on the job, in our dealings with governmental authorities on all levels—that will not be affected for good if we strive to follow God’s Word. It will also make us more aware of the importance of being wholehearted in reaching as many people as possible with the Bible’s comforting message. We will find great happiness and a true sense of accomplishment in responding to the needs of our fellow humans, especially to their spiritual needs.
35 Most important of all, living as genuine disciples of Jesus Christ is the only course that holds promise of an eternal future of happy living. Surely we would not want to lose what we have gained. May the passing of each day find us in a state of readiness for the coming of our Master in the capacity of a completely victorious king. Only then can we share in the boundless joy resulting from our having chosen to stick to our commitment to serve Jehovah God faithfully.