THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
Exhortation to Christian Virtue, the Condemnation of False Teachers,
and the Assurance of the Second Coming of Christ
Beloved Heavenly Father,
Fill our hearts and minds with hope in light of Your saving Gospel of salvation. Your Son came to show Your love to humanity and to lead those of us who accept Your gift of salvation home to His heavenly throne of glory. Give us confidence in the truth of Your Sacred Word and the knowledge that all that is temporal in our lives will pass away. We need to be mindful that we should spend every day preparing for the Last Day when Your Son returns in glory to claim the people of His Church. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Peter's Second Letter to the Church and his warning to beware of false teachers and their doctrines that lead us away from the Truth that is Christ Jesus. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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[Peter] he builds the Church, and he commits to him sheep to feed, and though
to all the Apostles he gives an equal power, yet he founded one chair, and by
his authority appointed the source and system of unity. Certainly the rest
were as Peter was, but primacy is given to Peter and one Church and one chair
is shown; and they are all shepherds, but one flock is exhibited, which is fed
by all the Apostles with unanimous consent. And he who does not hold this
unity of his Church, does he think he holds the faith? He who deserts the
chair of Peter, upon whom the Church was funded, does he trust himself to be in
the Church? The episcopate is one, part of which is held by each one in
St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage 248-258, De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate [The United Catholic/Universal Church]
St. Peter wrote his first letter to the universal Church in five different Roman provinces in Asia Minor. He wrote to encourage newly baptized Christians in those faith communities to embrace their spiritual re-birth through the Living Word, to inspire in them the need to remain faithful in love, and for them to respond properly to external opposition and persecution. Now in what he announces in 2 Peter 3:1 as his second letter, Peter writes to the same communities to stress the need for mature growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. And rather than writing about the external forces against Christians, he focuses on internal opposition caused by false teachers who "introduce destructive heresies" that seduce believers into error, immorality, and even to denying Christ (2 Pt 2:1-3).
The authorship and canonicity of the Second Letter of St. Peter was disputed until the fourth century AD. Some scholars, both ancient and modern, have doubted that St. Peter was the author. They point to:
While it is true that the Greek of 2 Peter is not as polished as that of 1 Peter, this difference can be accounted for by Peter writing the letter himself or using a secretary to write down his letter other than Silvanus who wrote the first letter (1 Pt 5:12). The differences in vocabulary can be attributed to the very different focus and subject matter between the two letters. The similarities between 2 Peter and Jude can be explained by either Jude quoting from 2 Peter, as is suggested in Jude verses 17-18 compared with 2 Peter 3:3, or that by the time the two letters were written the context of both letters was the common doctrine of the Church.
Another problem that some scholars point to is that the false teaching Peter mentions is a form of Gnosticism that is believed to have emerged after Peter's death in the early 2nd century AD.(1) No heresy springs up overnight; the progression of false teaching emerges over time as a full heresy. It is possible the kind of false teaching Peter condemns grew over time into the fully heretical Gnosticism of the 2nd century.
Between Peter's greeting and final doxology, the Second Letter of St. Peter can be divided into three parts:
Most scholars, both ancient and modern, believe the letter was written shortly prior to Peter's martyrdom in c. 67 AD (see 1 Pt 1:13-15). Scholars who favor an earlier date base their theory on the fact that while St. Paul was in prison prior to his death in 67 AD, he does not mention Peter also being in prison. This can be explained by the fact that as a Roman citizen Paul would not have been kept in the most notorious Roman prison like Peter who was not a Roman citizen. In Peter's second letter he mentions his "beloved brother Paul in 5:15, perhaps because he knows Paul is also in prison awaiting execution. If the history of the Church that states Peter was leader of the Church in Rome for 25 years is correct, and if the testimony that Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred on the same day with Peter martyred by crucifixion on Vatican Hill and Paul martyred by beheading outside the walls of Rome, then Peter must have been martyred in 67 AD. Sts. Peter and Paul share the same memorial feast day, June 29th, because it has always been the Church's tradition that they died on the same day.
# 12: The Universal Church of the New and Eternal Covenant
(the Final Age of man)
|Covenant||# 8: New Covenant in Christ Jesus|
|Focus||Cultivating a holy Christian character||Condemnation of false teachers and prophets||Confidence in the Second Advent of the Christ|
|Division||Greeting and teaching Christian virtue and maturity by growing in holiness||Dangers of false teaching||Persecution and mockery before the return of the Lord and closing doxology|
|Topic||True prophecy based on authority of the Church||False prophets||Prophecy of the return of Jesus on the "Day of the Lord"|
|Living in Holiness||Avoiding Heresy||Living in Hope|
|Time||c. AD 67 (shortly before Peter's martyrdom)|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
Despite the differences mentioned between 1 and 2nd Peter, no other two books in the New Testament are as much alike as 1 Peter and 2 Peter and in 2 Peter 3:1 the author reminds the receivers of his letter that this is the second letter he has written to them. Despite the internal and external problems detractors have pointed out in questioning the authorship of the Second Letter of Peter by St. Peter the Apostle and Bishop of Rome, the traditional defense of Petrine authorship by the Church Fathers overcomes these difficulties.
|1 Peter||2 Peter|
|Theme: Advice to the newly baptized and hope in the midst of suffering.||Theme: The dangers of listening to false teaching and the need to discern false prophets.|
|Christological teaching: Sharing in the life of Christ in Christian baptism and glory in uniting with the sufferings of Christ.||Christological teaching: The glory of Christ and the climax of human history at His Second Advent.|
|Frequently used title for God the Son: "Christos"/Messiah = redemptive title.||Frequently used title for God the Son: "Kyrios"/Lord = title of universal dominion.|
|Exhortation: You are among "the chosen" elect; have hope and be encouraged in your present trials.||Exhortation: Christians need full knowledge and right teaching of the Church to discern false teaching and to be prepared for eschatological judgment.|
|Compared with other N.T. letters: Similarities to the teachings of St. Paul in Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.||Compared with other N.T. letters: Similarities to warnings of eschatological judgment in the Letter of St. Jude .|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
None of the differences between the two letters are sufficient to disprove Petrine authorship of both letters.
Question: Why should it not come as a surprise
that the doctrinal teaching in Paul's letters is similar to the doctrinal
teaching in St. Peter's First Letter, or the subject of Peter's Second Letter
is similar to the teaching in the Letter of St. Jude?
Answer: It is neither Paul's nor Peter's nor Jude's teachings but the Holy Spirit inspired doctrinal teaching of the Church universal.
Question: How might you defend the differences in
vocabulary and sentence structure between Peter's first and second letters?
Answer: Differences in vocabulary can be attributed to the very different themes and topics of the two letters and differences in grammar or sentence structure can be attributed to the different secretaries who prepared the letters or if the second letter was written by Peter himself from prison without the help of a secretary.
Our study will be using the New American Bible translation unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) or IBGE (Interlineal Bible Greek-English) or IBHE (Interlinear bible Hebrew-English).
Chapter 1: Cultivating a Holy Christian Character
This is now,
beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; through them by way of reminder
I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition, to recall the words previously
spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through
2 Peter 3:1-2
2 Peter 1:1-2 ~ Greeting
1 Symeon Peter [Petros], a slave and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 may grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Question: In what three ways does the writer of
the letter identify himself, and what is the significance of each way he
It is interesting that St. Peter uses the transliteration of his traditional Hebrew name (not the Greek version "Simon") as well as the title/name given him by Jesus that means "rock" (Jn 1:42; Mt 16:18). His Hebrew name Symeon is used only one other time to refer to Peter in the New Testament in Acts 15:14 at the meeting of the Council of Jerusalem where St. James bishop of Jerusalem, himself a Jew, refers to Peter using his Hebrew name. Perhaps it is because he is identifying with what is at this time in the Church a largely mixed Christian congregation of both Jews and Gentiles, by appealing to both ethnic groups by his Jewish and Gentile names.
Question: The Greek word doulos can mean
either slave or servant. What is the significance of referring to himself as a
slave/servant of Jesus Christ? See some examples in Ex 14:31; 2 Sam 7:5;
Jer 7:25; 26:5;
Jam 1:1; Jude 1:1 and
Rev 1:1; 7:3.
Answer: Moses was called God's servant and so was David. The covenant people of Israel were called God's servants and so were the prophets. St. Paul called himself Christ's servant and so did Sts. James, Jude, and John. It was a long standing tradition from the Old Testament that one who served the Lord God in a special ministry or mission identified himself as God's servant and in the Book of Revelation that special status is extended to those baptized in Christ Jesus.
Peter also establishes his authority in sending the letter by using the title "Apostle," identifying himself as one of "the Twelve" chose by Christ to establish and guide His Church. He has the right to teach and guide the Church by virtue of his special commissioning by Jesus (Mt 16:16-19; Jn 21:15-17).
1b to those who
have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our
God and Savior Jesus Christ ...
Question: What does Peter mean by addressing the receivers of his letter as he does in verse 1 b?
Answer: He tells them that God has no favorites. Every baptized believer who follows His commandments is equal in God's eyes whether an ordained Apostle or any other member of the New Covenant family.
He may be identifying Jesus as both the promised Redeemer-Messiah with the word "Savior" and as fully God: through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ; however, the last phrase can also be translated "our God and the Savior Jesus Christ. He will use the word "Savior" for Jesus five times in 1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2 and 18.
2 may grace and
peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
The three words, grace, peace and knowledge sum up the themes of this letter. "Knowledge" is especially a key term in the letter (see 1:2; 3, 8; 2:20; 3:18). Peter uses the term in emphasizing true knowledge as oppose to false knowledge transmitted by false teachers and prophets.
2 Peter 1:3-11 ~ Exhortation to Christian Virtue
3 His divine power has bestowed on us everything that make for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. 4 Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, 6 devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. 11 For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
God's "divine power" (verse 3) is generated by baptism into Christ and the gift of life in the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of Truth," as Jesus called Him (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13-14), who revealed the complete significance of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as well as the mystery of Eucharist and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. He also revealed to Peter and the Apostles (the Magisterium of the New Covenant order) the hidden depths of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the gift of grace that is our salvation. In other words, God the Holy Spirit, through His teaching mission, continues to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ (Jn 8:31-32; 18:37; CCC# 687).
4 Through these,
he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through
them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the
corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.
The Word became flesh (Jn 1:14) to make us "partakers of the divine nature." This is the reason the Son of God became the Son of Man so that man, by entering into communion with the Word, could receive divine sonship that was lost to man in the Fall of Adam and might again become a son/daughter of God. As St. Athanasius wrote: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God" (De Incarnatione, 54.3) and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods" (Opusculum, 57.1-4).
Question: How does this transformation from
temporal human life to divine life take place? See CCC 460, 1265-66.
Answer: The Sacrament of baptism gives the believer sanctifying grace that not only purifies the believer of all sins, but also makes him/her a "new creature" and an adopted son/daughter of God who has become a "partaker of the divine nature," allowing him/her to be a member of the Body of Christ, a co-heir with Christ, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
5 For this very
reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with
knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance
with devotion, 6 devotion with
mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep
you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and
shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins.
The "fruit" of exercising this progression of seven attributes is spiritual insight and the true knowledge of Christ (verse 8 referred to in verse 3). Seven is the number of fullness, completeness and spiritual perfection.
Question: What is the result of the absence of the exercise of the virtues Peter listed?
Answer: Spiritual blindness.
brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in
doing so, you will never stumble. 11 For,
in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
will be richly provided for you.
Perseverance in exercising these attributes listed by St. Peter is the best preventative measure against losing one's Christian vocation. The regular practice of such virtues safeguard the Christian's ultimate goal that is attaining the "eternal kingdom" that Christ has made ready to receive all His faithful.
2 Peter 1:12-15 ~ Peter's Apostolic Witness
12 Therefore, I always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this "tent," to stir you up by a reminder, 14 since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me. 15 I shall also make every effort to enable you always to remember these things after my departure.
The word "tent" in the Bible can refer to a physical structure and also symbolically for something that is temporary/impermanent:
But the image of a tent also spoke symbolically of what was passing and transitory with the promise of something coming that would be stable and permanent:
In verses 13-15, St. Peter has his physical death on his
mind. Perhaps his letter was written from prison just prior to his martyrdom.
Question: When he says 14 since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me, to what is he referring? See Jn 21:18-19.
Answer: In one of Peter's last encounters with the risen Christ, Jesus prophesied Peter's death by crucifixion. Peter is aware that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled and this may be his last opportunity to instruct the faithful as Jesus' "chief Shepherd" before his death.
2 Peter 1:16-18 ~ Peter's Eyewitness Testimony of Jesus in His Glory
16 We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.
St. Peter begins this passage by assuring Christians that the Gospel message of salvation and the story of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection are not myths like those about the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses that the majority of the population of the Roman world worshipped. Christians can have confidence that the testimony that the Apostles give concerning Jesus Christ and His teachings and works is true because it is eyewitness testimony.
17 For he received honor
and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the
majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 18 We ourselves heard this voice come
from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Question: To what event is Peter referring during his three year ministry with Jesus? Who are the "we: in verse 18? See Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36.
Answer: St. Peter assures his readers of the reliability of the apostolic message by testifying to hearing the Divine Voice of God from heaven during the event of the Transfiguration of the Christ. He heard God identifying Jesus as His divine Son who had His full approval (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 35). The "we" Peter mentions in verse 18 refers to his companions at the Transfiguration event who were the Apostles James and John Zebedee (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2; Lk 9:28).
2 Peter 1:19-21 ~ The Church is the Authority for the Interpretation
19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings being moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God
19a Moreover, we possess
the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
Question: How do you identify the "we" in this statement?
Answer: The "we" refers to the Church founded by Jesus Christ and the ministers He commissioned to lead the Church.
In addition to witnessing the Transfiguration event and the other works of Jesus, Peter declares that he and the other Apostles possess the "prophetic message," meaning the authority directly given to them by Jesus to teach, to forgive sins, to guide, and to discipline His Church in the apostolic power to "bind and loose." This power was first given to Peter by Jesus in Matthew 16:16-19, then to all the Apostles in Matthew 18:18, and was repeated to them by Jesus after His Resurrection in John 20:22-23. The prophetic message is also equivalent to the Scriptures since the Old Testament spoke prophetically about the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom. St. Peter's message is that the teachings of Christ, like the Scriptures themselves, are completely trustworthy because the Scriptures are the word of God and Jesus is the Living Word.
19b You will do well to
be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and
the morning star rises in your hearts.
Then, using very poetic language, Peter reminds his audience that the teachings Jesus passed on to the Apostles are the same teachings the Apostles have passed on to the faithful. This faithfully transmitted teaching is like a "lamp shining in a dark place" (that is the world in the darkness of sin) that will guide them on their journey to salvation. Peter is probably inspired by the poetic imagery from Psalm 119:105 ~ Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. The prophetic message that the Church gives will serve as a lamp until "day dawns." The promise of day dawning is probably a reference to the Second Advent of the Lord and the dawn of the new heaven and earth (Rev 21:1-4).
and the morning star rises in your hearts.
The beautifully poetic image of the "morning star" can have three meanings:
In Revelation 2:28 the "morning star" symbolized Jesus' resurrection
victory over death, and in Revelation 22:16, the glorified Christ tells St.
John: I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star" (Rev 22:16).
Question: Who is the "morning star" in Revelation 2:28 and 22:16?
Answer: Jesus Christ
Peter may also be referring to the Christian's share in the resurrection and glory of Christ since the morning star announces each new day and its symbolic rebirth/resurrection. But since Christ Himself is referred to as "the bright and morning star in Revelation 22:16, it seems as likely that he is referring to the presence of Christ who is the light of the eternal day (Rev 21:23). After all, the ultimate reward of each Christian is to be with His Lord in perfect communion.
This coming in hearts is the "lamp" of the prophetic word that will give way to a deeper and more complete understanding in the hearts of the faithful when the Lord Jesus returns. Just as the First Advent of Christ and His Gospel message of the gift of salvation has Let light shine out of darkness, and has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6), so too the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, the "Morning Star," will cause the light of the eternal day to shine in our hearts and souls forever.
20 Know this first of
all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal
interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human
beings being moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.
The Biblical meaning of the Hebrew word hozeh (prophecy) does not simply refer to foretell future events. It refers to the vision or divine revelation of the Word a prophet received from God. Prophecies as predictions are part of God's supernatural providence; however, prophecies are also the words of God's prescience, just as miracles are the work of His omnipotence. In the Greek, the word "prophecy" is from prophetes, meaning "one who speaks for a god, interpreter, expounder, prophet; literally one who speaks for another." When Jesus spoke of all of Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled in Him, He meant the fullness of divine revelation to man of which He is the fulfillment and the climax (Lk 24:25-27; 44-45).
Question: What three statements does St. Peter make in verse 20?
Two are clearly stated and the third is implied.
This is not to say one cannot interpret a passage from Scripture that one reads; however, if that personal interpretation is at odds with the teachings of the Church, it is the Church's teaching and interpretation that prevails.
The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Holy Spirit who inspired it:
One must also take into account the different senses of Scripture (CCC 115-118):
Chapter 2: The Condemnation of False Teachers and Prophets
2 Peter 2:1-3 ~ Beware False Prophets and Teachers
1 There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. 3 In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.
The subject of false teachers in St. Jude's letter echoes this part of
Peter's letter in 2:1-3:3, although there are also differences.
Question: How does St. Peter compare the teaching of the word of God in the covenants of the Old Testament compared to their experience in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus?
Answer: There were false prophets then and there are false prophets now.
Moses warned against false teachers in Deuteronomy 13:1-19. Then as now, false teachers either teach their heresies out of ignorance and the refusal to be obedient to the teachings of Mother Church, or they teach heresy for financial benefit and public acclaim. In either event, their false teachings will condemn them on the day of divine judgment because they will have led people astray and put their eternal salvation at risk.
Question: How does St. Jude describe these false teachers in
verse 4 of his letter?
Answer: They will deny all religion and pervert the grace of God by completely rejecting the saving work of Christ. Like Peter he says these perverters of the truth have already been marked down for destruction.
2 Peter 2:4-10a ~ Lessons from the Past
4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment; 5 and if he did not spare the ancient world, and even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness [but preserved Noah, the eighth, a herald of righteousness], together with seven others [not in Greek text], when he brought a flood upon the godless world; 6 and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless people of what is coming; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people 8 (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship. [..] = literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, pate 635.
Angels are spiritual beings who have been present since the beginning of Creation. They were tested when Satan, a powerful angel, launched a rebellion against God. He was defeated by Michael the Archangel and his faithful angels. Satan and the other fallen angels (sometimes referred to "stars' in Scripture) were cast out of Heaven. They were flung down to earth and were consigned to the Hell of damnation that was created to hold them: (Rev 12:7-9). The angels who remained faithful were given a role in God's divine plan for mankind's salvation.
Question: Give some examples of what roles have angels played in
advancing God's divine plan for mankind?
Answer: A few examples:
Question: How does Peter compare the false teachers to the
fallen angels and others? See Jude 6; Gen 6:1-4; 19:25.
Answer: God will punish the wicked and He will rescue the righteous. Like the fallen angels, the people of Noah's time and the citizens of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, all false teachers and prophets will be condemned to divine judgment.
4b but condemned them to
the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment
Tartarus is a term Peter borrowed from Greek mythology for his Greek audience to identify with the infernal region or Hell of the damned.
In verse 5b the NAB has "seven others" but the Greek text reads but preserved Noah, the eighth, a herald of righteousness when he brought a flood upon the godless world. It is significant that Peter says Noah was the 8th saved in the Flood judgment and redemption as he did in 1 Peter 3:20. In Scripture eight is the number that symbolizes re-birth and salvation as it does on the day of Jesus' Resurrection which was the eighth day that was the day after the seventh day Jewish Sabbath.
Question: How was Noah the "herald of righteousness"? To whom
did he preach and how did his message and the themes of judgment and redemption
in the Flood prefigure the work of the Church in the Gentile world?
Answer: All people of the earth were the descendants of Adam and there were no unified covenant people in his time. He was a Gentile in a Gentile world, and he preached the message of God's divine judgment prior to the great Flood, even though only his family believed him and were saved because of His message. In the same way, the Church of Jesus Christ is the herald of God's message of salvation before the coming judgment of the return of Christ to the Gentile world.
Question: What examples does Peter give from the Old Testament
to encourage Christians who may be caught up in God's divine judgment on
Answer: He gives two examples of judgment from the Book of Genesis in the great Flood and in the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and two examples of those who were saved in the midst of the chaos of judgment: Noah and his family and Lot and his family. Both are examples of God's mercy.
Peter reminds Christians if God brought His judgment against sinners in the distant past who were "godless people" of "licentious" and "unprincipled conduct" who practiced "lawless deeds" and who "follow the flesh with its depraved desires and showed contempt for lordship," then sinners in their time can expect nothing less than the same judgment and the righteous can expect the same mercy .
2 Peter 2:10b-16 ~ False Teachers Denounced and Punishment to Come
10b Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to revile glorious beings, 11 whereas angels, despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord. 12 But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand, and in their destruction they will also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrongs as payment for wrongdoing. Thinking daytime revelry a delight, they are stains and defilements as they revel in their deceits while carousing with you. 14 Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved payment for wrongdoing 16 but he received rebuke for his own crime: a mute beast spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.
Such false teachers, in their ignorance, are so bold as to revile even
God's angelic host. Peter makes a contrast between the false teachers acting
with the ignorance of "irrational animals" and the donkey that spoke with the
power of God to warn the prophet Balaam.
Question: Who was Balaam and what "wrong path" did he take until warned? See Num 22:1-35.
Answer: The king of the Moabites wanted to hire him to curse the children of Israel. He refused at first, but when the king increased the fee, he submitted and started on his journey to Moab. It was his humble donkey who warned him that the angel of the Lord stood with his sword in hand blocking the road.
Unfortunately, despite the warning God gave the prophet not to speak a curse against the children of Israel but to only speak as God directed him, Balaam did tell the king of Moab how to lure the Israelite men into sexual sins associated with idol worship in Moabite fertility rituals dedicated to the false god Baal. He did this knowing that such sins would cause God to destroy the Israelites. However, because of the heroism of the priest Phinehas, the plan did not unfold exactly as Balaam had predicted. The result of Balaam's deception was a holy war against Moab and the death of Balaam (Num 25:16-18; 31:7-8). The story of Balaam is used as an example of the peril of becoming an apostate from the true faith by turning against God's divine plan for one's own financial or personal benefit.
2 Peter 2:17-22 ~ The denouncement of Apostate Christians
17 These people are waterless springs and mists driven by a gale; for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved. 18 For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped from people who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him. 20 For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them. 22 What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them, "The dog returns to its own vomit," and "A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire."
Question: How are false teachers and prophets like "waterless
springs and mists driven by a gale"?
Answer: They are fruitless and empty, offering nothing of value.
St. Augustine wrote: "Peter calls these people dry springs: springs, because they have received knowledge of the Lord Christ, but dry, because they do not live in accordance with that knowledge" (On Faith and Works, 25, ACCS, 151).
19 They promise them
freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a
slave of whatever overcomes him.
Question: What is the "freedom" they promise but where does their "freedom" lead? See Rom 6:15-18 and 1 Cor 6:12-13.
Answer: They promise "freedom" from the moral constraints of living in obedience to the commandments of God. However, their freedom is empty because the result of living immorally means they have become salves to sin.
20 For if they, having escaped
the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is
worse than their first. 21 For
it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness
than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to
The "holy commandment" refers to the Gospel of salvation with its moral commands and prohibitions and religious obligations (Jn 13:34).
Question: Why will the condition of apostates be worse than before their conversion?
Answer: If those who became baptized Christians apostatize from the faith, their condition is worse than before they converted because they have lost all hope of eternal salvation.
22 What is expressed in
the true proverb has happened to them, "The dog returns to its own vomit," and
"A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire."
Peter is first quoting from Proverbs 26:11 ~ As the dog returns to his vomit, so the fool repeats his folly. The second quote is a popular saying from Hellenistic culture.
Question: What is Peter's point? Both dogs and swine were considered unclean animals.
Answer: Sinners who were once saved and "cleansed from sin" can, if not persistent in faith, become defiled by sin again and become "unclean" and unfit for offering worship to God.
St. Peter's warning is that genuine believers who came in faith to Christ in baptism can fall from God's grace and ultimately lose their hope of eternal life. This denies the false doctrine of "once saved always saved." The person who has never known Christ as Savior is better off than the one who embraces Christ but later denies Christ and rejects the gift of salvation (Mt 12:45; Lk 11:26).
2 Peter 3:1-10 ~ The Denial of the Day of the Lord
1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; through them by way of reminder I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition, 2 to recall the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. 3 Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come to scoff, living according to their own desires 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation." 5 They deliberately ignore the fact that the heavens existed of old and earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God; 6 through these the world that then existed was destroyed, deluged with water. 7 The present heavens and earth have been reserved by the same word for fire, kept for the day of judgment and of destruction of the godless. 8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.
In the last part of his letter, St. Peter refers to the hearers of his letter as "beloved" four times (3:1, 8, 14, and 17). St. John the Apostle and St. Jude also refer to the Christian community as "beloved" in their letters. Peter's teaching in this section is similar to various New Testament passages on the same theme (compare 2 Pt 3:3 with Mk 13:22; Acts 20:30; 1 Tim 4:1-3).
Peter identifies this letter as his second; therefore, the letter appears to suggest he is again writing to the faith communities in the five Roman provinces addressed in 1 Peter 1:1-2. He wants to stir them to remember the teachings of the Old Testament prophets who prophesied the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom, and "the commandment of the Lord and Savior" (meaning the whole of divine revelation given by Jesus to His apostles and passed on to them). He is probably using the word "apostle" in the broader sense and not limiting it to the Twelve but to all the ordained ministers who teach the Gospel of salvation, including St. Paul and others (Rom 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor 4:9; Jude 17).
3 Know this first of
all, that in the last days scoffers will come to scoff, living according to
their own desires 4 and
saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors
fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation."
Some suggest that Peter believed Jesus Second Advent was eminent, but it could also be that he is referring to the present age of the Church which is the "last days" of mankind.
Question: Peter warns them not to be deluded by what false
statement concerning Christ?
Answer: He says that there will be those who will deny the return of Christ as He promised.
5 They deliberately
ignore the fact that the heavens existed of old and earth was formed out of
water and through water by the word of God; 6
through these the world that then existed was destroyed, deluged
Question: Peter refutes the statement of the "scoffers" who reject a return of Christ and a coming judgment when they say "everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation" by using what example and what is his point?
Answer: He refers to the great Flood judgment that occurred after the Creation event. He writes that the world was formed out of the water that covered the earth (Gen 1:1) but it was also destroyed by water in the great Flood in the first de-creation. In other words, God chose to destroy a sinful world once before and it will happen again.
Jesus also warned of false prophets and false messiahs (i.e., Mt 24:23-24), and He also told His disciples to "stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Mt 24:42). St. Paul, in his letter to the church at Thessalonica wrote: Indeed, we tell you this on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thes 4:15-17).
St. Jude also warns of "scoffers" who will try to erode the faith of Christians and cause divisions in the Church in his letter in verses 18b-19: ... for they told you, "In the last time there will be scoffers who will live according to their own godless desires." These are the ones who cause divisions; they lie on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit. Bible scholars have long noted the similarities between the Second Letter of St. Peter and St. Jude's letter to the universal Church.
Question: Compare 2 Peter 2:1-3:3 and Peter's
closing doxology with Jude verses 4-18, and Jude's doxology in verse 25. What
are the similarities? How do you account for the similarities? Who are the
"they" in Jude verse 18b?
|Second Letter of Peter 2:1-3:3, 18||The Letter of Jude|
|2:1 There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them ...||Verse 4: For there have been some intruders, who long ago were designated for this condemnation, godless persons, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.|
|2:4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment...||Verse 6: The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day.|
|2:6 ... and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes...||Verse 7: Like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.|
|2:10 ... and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.||Verse 8: Similarly, these dreamers nevertheless also defile the flesh, scorn lordship, and revile glorious beings.|
|2:11-12a ... whereas angels, despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand...||Verses 9-10: Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!" But these people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals.|
|2:14, 17 Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin ...These people are waterless springs and mists driven by a gale...||Verse 12: These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they carouse fearlessly and look after themselves. They are waterless clouds blown about by winds, fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead and uprooted.|
|2:15 Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam ...||Verse 11: Woe to them! They follow the way of Cain, abandoned themselves to Balaam's error for the sake of gain, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.|
|2:17b ... for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved.||Verses 13: They are like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameless deeds, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever.|
|2:18 For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped from people who live in error.||Verse 16: These people are complainers, disgruntled ones who live by their desires; their mouths utter bombast as they fawn over people to gain advantage.|
|3:1-2 This is now, beloved....to recall the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your Apostles.||Verse 17: But you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ ...|
|3:3 Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come to scoff, living according to their own desires...||Verses 18b-19: ...for they told you, "In the last time there will be scoffers who will love according to their own godless desires." These are the ones who cause divisions; they lie on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit.|
|3:18 But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.||Verse 25: ...to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, power, and authority from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015|
The key to understanding the similarities is in the "they" in Jude 18b that refers to Peter and the other Apostles mentioned in Jude 17 and the quote suggests he is actually referring to Peter's second letter in 3:3. The similarities can be accounted for by the fact that this was the voice of the Church, expressed in both letters and probably in homilies by St. Peter and others.
7 The present heavens
and earth have been reserved by the same word for fire, kept for the Day
of Judgment and of destruction of the godless.
Peter is referring to the Creation event in Genesis chapter 1 when God spoke the divine Word in Genesis 1:3 and the events of Creation began to unfold. Just as the Word played a role in the first Creation event, the Word will play a similar role in the final event.
Question: In Genesis 9:8-17, God formed a covenant with Noah and
all Creation in which He promised He would never destroy the world by water
again. How will the world be destroyed on the final Day of Judgment that is
coming? See 2 Pt 3:7, 10, 12; Jude 7; 2 Thes 1:7-8.
Answer: It will be destroyed by fire.
2 Peter 3:7 and 10 is among the most explicit descriptions of the Last/Final Judgment in New Testament Scripture. Peter prophesies that the world and the visible cosmos will melt down in flames. The goal of God on this day of "the Wrath of God" is not annihilation but re-Creation in a new heaven and a new earth (see 3:13). God's divine judgment in destruction by fire was not a new concept. The sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain by the Dead Sea were judged and destroyed by fire (Gen 19:23-25). Fiery destruction imagery is also used by the prophets to describe God's judgment on Edom ( Is 34:1-5), the judgment and overthrow of wicked kingdoms (Hag 2:21-22), and the promised judgment and devastation of Judah and Jerusalem in the Babylonian conquest (Jer 4:23-28), and by Jesus in His description of the fate of the wicked in the Last Judgment:
8 But do not ignore this
one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a
thousand years like one day. 9 The
Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with
you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Peter's point is that they should not think Christ is not returning simply because many years have gone by since His Ascension (at this point about 37 years). Christ will not return until His Gospel message of salvation has reached the ends of the earth (Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8) and what seems to be a delay is only the exercise of God's patience and mercy. In verse 8, Peter is alluding to Psalm 90:4, A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday... and also to Sirach 35:19-20, God indeed will not delay, and like a warrior, will not be still till he breaks the backs of the merciless and wreaks vengeance upon the proud.... St. Paul expressed the same teaching as St. Peter in 9b that the destiny God has planned for all of us is to be saved, but it is our free-will choice to accept or reject that destiny: This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3-4; see CCC 1037, 2822).
10 But the day of the
Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty
roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything
done on it will be found out.
Peter is repeating what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24:42-45 and the warning in the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
2 Peter 3:11-17 ~ Exhortation to Preparedness and Final Doxology
11 Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. 13 But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. 15 And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, 16 speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. 17 Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. 18 But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
13 But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. In the Book of Revelation, St. John is given a vision of the creation of the new heavens and the new earth: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more (Rev 21:1). The same revelation was given to St. Peter who makes this statement according to the promise Jesus revealed to him.
In the meantime, Peter writes that Christians must be patient and cling to the promises of Christ concerning His return and maintaining a state of righteousness so as to be prepared for His Parousia (the "Presence" of His Coming): 14 Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
15 And consider the
patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to
the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, 16
speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them
there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort
to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.
Peter may be mentioning Paul because he is also in prison awaiting martyrdom. Peter warns them not to let false teachers distort Paul's writings. It is the distortion of Paul's teachings in letters to seven different churches and seven different individuals that have led to a number of heresies by those who profess to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus in Peter's time and continue today.
Question: What is the danger of such distorted teachings? Can you name any examples of such false doctrines?
Answer: Such false teachings might even cost someone their eternal salvation and include the denial of the humanity and divinity of Christ, or denial of the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity, or denial of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. False teachings also include the doctrine of "divine security"/ "once saved always saved," or the doctrines of "faith alone" and divine authority through "Scripture alone," or the doctrine of "universal salvation" (the belief that there is no Hell and no one is condemned by God no matter what the sin). All these false doctrines are refuted by Jesus and His apostles in Sacred Scripture and by the authority of the teachings of the Church.
17 Therefore, beloved,
since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the
unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. 18 But grow in grace and in the knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of
Peter makes one final appeal to remain on guard, not to be led into error, and not to stumble in faith. Then in his final exhortation he urges Christians once again, as in the beginning of his letter, to grow in both grace and in true knowledge of our "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," closing with a doxology that is similar to his First Letter.
St. Peter's Martyrdom
Sts. Peter and Paul were among many Christians arrested in the first great wave of Roman persecution in the mid to late 60's AD. Writing about Sts. Peter and Paul's martyrdom, Bishop Eusebius' 4th century Church History cites from an earlier work by Bishop Dionysius of Corinth (d. 171) and records: "That they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth.'" Eusebius also quotes from a work by Origen, the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt: "And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way... These facts are related by Origen in the third volume of his Commentary on Genesis" (Eusebius, Book III, chapter 1:1).
Eusebius also records testimony of Peter written by Peter's friend and associate St. Clement of Rome who became the third Pope after Peter: "They say, accordingly, that when the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, Oh thou, remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them." (Eusebius quoting from St. Clement of Rome, Book III, chapter 20.2).
St. Peter was martyred on Vatican Hill near where Julius Caesar had erected an obelisk brought back as a trophy from Egypt. Peter was crucified as Jesus had predicted in John 21:18-19 and he was hung up-side down as he requested. His body was collected by Christians and buried. Later, under the rule of Constantine the Great (272-337), the first Christian Roman Emperor (306-337), St. Peter's Basilica was built on Vatican Hill where Peter was martyred, and his bones were wrapped in purple cloth and reburied in a crypt under the high altar. Just prior to WWII, an archaeological excavation rediscovered Peter's burial place and a wall marking his grave painted with red paint and an inscription that identified the tomb: "Peter is here." After the war when his bones were relocated and examined, it was discovered the bones belonged to a robust man between 60-70 years old. However, the bones of the feet were missing. Then it was remembered that according to Church history Peter was crucified upside down and it was suggested that in removing Peter's body from the cross that the Roman soldiers simply hacked his feet from his body for easier removal. St. Peter's bones were reburied in the crypt immediately beneath the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: In 2 Peter 5:15-16, Peter wrote about how some have distorted St. Paul's teachings. Martin Luther rejected the Church's teaching on the necessary link between faith and works and espoused the doctrine of justification by "faith alone" based on Paul's statement that we are "justified by faith" (Rom 5:1). How would you refute this false teaching by using Scripture from the New Testament? For example, use Jesus' description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 and also James 2:14-26 where the two words "faith alone" are only found together in Scripture and nowhere else.
Endnotes: 1. Gnosticism describes a collection of ancient religions that gained prominence in the 2nd century AD and taught that everything material was sinful and only embraced the spiritual world as good. The Gnostics denied the historicity of the Gospels, and neither the historical Jesus whose humanity they denied nor the events of His life meant anything for salvation. They viewed these as only "signs" of an eternal, invisible and secret reality, and they believed that physical matter and the world were inherently evil, the creation of an inferior god. For the Gnostics, the goal of humanity was in escaping from the physical body and earthly constraints and in returning to the higher spiritual world from which humans fell. The means of achieving this "spiritual reality" were contained in a "secret truth" revealed only to the Gnostics and not found in Sacred Scripture or the Tradition of the Church. These teachings were refuted by St. Irenaeus who established the principles for the interpretation of the Scriptures guided by the "Rule of Faith, handed down by the Apostles," and insisting the whole Bible portrays one continuous history from Creation to redemption and consummation. He affirmed the teaching of the Universal Church that salvation takes place in time and history and the Old and New Testaments form a single vision within this historical sweep. See the document "Ancient Heresies Recycled in the Modern Age".
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.