2 Peter 2:21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
There have always been some who appear to receive Christ, but later walk away from him. Family and friends may hope for their salvation, but this verse is not encouraging. To come to Christ, and walk away, is worse than never coming to Christ at all.
But what about the young man who comes to Christ right out of high school, and makes a good start. He prays, reads his Bible, goes to church, and shares his faith with others. Then he goes off to college and finds himself living in temptation city. He stumbles several times and gets back up. But eventually, sin gets the best of him, and he stops getting up. He no longer prays, reads his Bible, or goes to church. Is he still going to heaven? Was he ever really saved?
Whoever truly comes to Christ can never be lost. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish (John 10:28), said Jesus. The reason Judas walked away from Christ is because he never truly believed (John 6:64). But Peter looked a lot like Judas when he was denying Jesus three times with a curse (Matthew 26:69-75). Is there a way to tell the difference between a Peter and a Judas? Not really. Sometimes Christians fall away and later return (like Peter). But those who never return were never really saved (like Judas).
The status of those who fall away cannot be known unless or until they return to Jesus Christ. Either they have temporarily lapsed, or permanently apostatized. If they ever truly believed, however, they will return—even with their dying breath. And since we cannot know what happens between a person and God at the moment of death, we should be careful not to judge with too much certainty.
2 Peter 3:8 With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
The first thing many of us hear each morning is an alarm clock. We hurry out of bed to start the day. Then we hurry at work because there is so much to do. Then we hurry to get home, so we can do a little more. Then we fall into bed, and set the alarm again.
And with age, time seems to accelerate. When we are five years old, a year is twenty percent of our life. When we are fifty years old, a year is only two percent of our life. Since two percent is less than twenty percent, a year seems shorter at fifty than it does at five.
And time itself is hard to understand. The past exists only as a memory, the future exists only by anticipation, and the present is so brief it cannot even be measured. Young people look forward, old people look backward, and the middle-aged just look frustrated.
Thankfully, God does not experience time the way we do. We measure time by the sun and the moon, but God created the sun and the moon. He lives in eternity, and so will we one day. A billion years from now, we will still have forever to live.
Perhaps the funniest joke in heaven will be, What time is it? Then we will answer as Peter did. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. No more alarm clocks—ever.
2 Peter 3:9 [The Lord is] not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
This reveals God’s heart for all sinners everywhere. For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:32), wrote Ezekiel. According to these and other verses, people have two choices. They can turn from their sins and live, or remain in their sins and perish forever.
Many years ago, a man was playing cards in a North Dakota saloon. There he was cheated out of his money by a professional, so he shot him in the heart. The killer was sentenced to death, but his mother took his case to the governor, who agreed he might be pardoned, if there was any sign of repentance. So he sent an official to the prison, with a signed pardon in his pocket, just in case the man repented.
But instead of repenting, the man spoke of the terrible injustice he was going through. It was all the cheater’s fault! Thirty minutes later the official left with the signed pardon still in his pocket. There is no sin that God will not forgive, if we are willing to repent—but we must repent. [He is] not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:17 [B]e on your guard so that you may not . . . fall from your secure position.
The Bible teaches the security of the believer (John 10:28-30), as well as the possibility of falling (Hebrews 6:4-6). To overemphasize the believer’s security can lead to careless living. To overemphasize the possibility of falling can lead to chronic distress.
Christianity is a relationship with God in which we are secure as long as we are not foolish. A person can be secure on a tenth floor balcony, if they are on the right side of the railing. But if they climb over the railing, anything can happen. God has shown us how to live so we can be secure. But if we defy his commands, we put ourselves at risk. Do not fall from your secure position.
Reflection and Review
Why is turning away from Christ worse than never knowing him?
Why do some people refuse to repent?
Why do some Christians live carelessly?