“Introduction to the Second Epistle General of Peter,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)
“2 Peter,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
The Prophet Joseph Smith remarked, “Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles” (in History of the Church, 5:392). Sublime means exalted in thought, of outstanding worth, and tending to inspire admiration.
As an eyewitness of Jesus Christ’s transfiguration (see 2 Peter 1:16–18), Peter exhorted his readers to grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ and to seek to obtain godly attributes so they can partake of the “divine nature” (see 2 Peter 1:4–8). He assured his readers that this spiritual growth would help them make their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). “Peter reaffirms that the Lord will come from heaven in great glory and in judgment upon the earth” (Bible Dictionary, “Peter, Epistles of”). By studying Peter’s Second Epistle, students can develop greater faith in Jesus Christ and receive instruction and inspiration that can help them to become more like Him.
The author of the Second Epistle of Peter is Simon Peter, the chief Apostle of Jesus Christ (see 2 Peter 1:1).
We do not know exactly when and where this epistle was written. It is commonly assumed that Peter wrote this epistle in Rome, after the epistle known as 1 Peter, which was likely written around A.D. 64 (see Bible Dictionary, “Peter, Epistles of”).
Peter stated that he was writing “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us” (2 Peter 1:1). This may indicate that Peter’s audience was the same Gentile Christians who received Peter’s First Epistle (see 2 Peter 3:1). The content of 2 Peter 1:12–15 shows that Peter meant this letter to be a farewell message to his readers.
Unlike the First Epistle of Peter, which helped the Saints deal with external persecution, Peter’s Second Epistle addressed the internal apostasy that threatened the future of the Church. False prophets and teachers were spreading “damnable heresies [false teachings], even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). Peter wrote the letter to encourage the Saints to grow in their knowledge of the Lord and to make their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
“The second epistle was apparently addressed to the same churches as the first ([2 Peter] 3:1). It was written in the near prospect of death ([2 Peter] 1:14)” (Bible Dictionary, “Peter, Epistles of”). It also contains some of Peter’s most forceful words and last testimonies.
A dominant theme in 2 Peter is the importance of gaining knowledge about Jesus Christ. Peter promised his readers that if they would seek godly attributes and develop a divine nature, they would “neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8) and would make their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
Peter contrasted the true knowledge of Jesus Christ with the false knowledge and teachings spread by apostates (see 2 Peter 2). At the close of this epistle, Peter gave a final invitation for the Saints to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
2 Peter 1 Peter explains that Jesus Christ’s promises allow the Saints to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). He encourages them to make their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Peter recalls his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, when he witnessed the glorified Christ and heard the voice of the Father. Peter says that he has “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).
2 Peter 2 Peter warns Church members of false prophets and false teachers who will come among them and seek to lead the Saints astray. These wicked teachers will deny the Lord and speak evil of the “way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2). Peter teaches that it is better not to accept the gospel than to make covenants and not live up to them.
2 Peter 3 Peter affirms the certainty that Christ will come in His own time, cleanse the earth by fire, destroy the wicked, and save the diligent and faithful. Peter encourages the Saints to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of … Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).