Many modern critics of the Bible have a vested interest in the idea that Jesus (if they even admit that he ever existed) is both dead and buried somewhere near Jerusalem. It wasn’t really that much different in the first century AD. The idea of anyone rising from the dead was completely foreign to what people might think about a hero or an enemy. Such a thing had no place in the worldview of Hellenistic society or any other ancient culture, despite what some folks like to say today. Peter claimed in 2Peter 3:5 that the scoffers of that day were willingly ignorant or forgetful. The reason being, they have a vested interest in the idea that Jesus must be dead and could not be the Messiah (cf. Mark 12:6-7). Dead men don’t live again, or so they wished it were true (2Peter 2:1-3; 3:5). What they desired to be so ruled their reasoning of what should be true, so their foolish hearts were darkened (2Peter 2:4; Romans 1:21).
The scoffer’s argument in Peter’s day depended upon the idea that God never intervenes in human affairs, but they were willingly ignorant of the fact God created the heavens by the Word or Logos of God (2Peter 3:5), who also caused land to stand (cf. Colossians 1:27) out of the water, which was also formed by water as a habitation for mankind. The sense is that originally the waters covered the face of the deep. The earth had no form and was in the state of chaos. The Word of God collected the land together (Genesis 1:9-10), possibly indicating pressure and heat, and brought it out of the water and forming it by means of water (2Peter 3:5), which may indicate the pressure of the oceans holding the continents in place, thus sustaining them in their positions.
Another argument Peter used to refute the scoffers myths was that God judged the inhabitants of the earth by means of his mighty Word (Logos) by causing the flood waters to cover all the land he originally brought up out of the water (2Peter 3:6). Peter’s whereby (or through whom – G1223 and G3729) in verse-6 refers back to the instrument of creation or the Word (Logos) of God in 2Peter 3:5. Thus, Peter shows the third matter the scoffers willingly overlooked in order to substantiate their argument that God doesn’t intervene in human affairs. God judged mankind in the days of Noah by the very means he used to create and sustain him.
Aside from creating the heavens and the earth and all that therein is and his later judgment of mankind, it doesn’t appear that God actually intervened overtly in human affairs. Certainly, he drew Able, Enoch and Noah to him and they responded, but actual judgment of men’s wickedness seems to have waited until the Flood. That appears to be how God dealt with man in that age.
After the Flood, however, God made a new covenant with mankind in the person of Noah. He would thereafter judge mankind through men (Genesis 9:5-6; Romans 13:4). He promised to never again judge the whole world by water in a single act of judgment (Genesis 9:11-15). Rather, God would execute his sovereignty over man in a more localized manner, and this covenant is symbolized by fire (Numbers 21:26-29). In other words, he judged one nation at the hand of another, but ideally he would judge the wicked by the more righteous within the nation itself (cf. Deuteronomy 13:12-17; Romans 13:4). By keeping shorter accounts with men, they have been preserved or reserved through the fire of war and other stressful troubles (Isaiah 1:7; 29:6; 2Peter 3:7) until final judgment could be administered.
Believers must not permit themselves to become ignorant (G2990 – same word used of the scoffers in 2Peter 3:5) of the fact that with the Lord a thousand years is as a day and a day is as a thousand years. That is, God is not affected by time, so what may appear to us as a delay is something else from God’s perspective. In 2Peter 3:8 Peter seems to point to the Song of Moses in Psalm 90:4. There the Scripture tells us that one thousand years for God is like man considering the works of yesterday. A whole millennium passes by with God, like the night passes for man when he sleeps.
The Scriptures tell us that God’s concern is for the believer (2Peter 3:9), because he doesn’t want to judge him with the wicked. Some translations have it that God is patient toward “you” or Peter’s readers in Asia Minor (believers). Other translations have it that God is longsuffering toward “us”. Nevertheless, wherever Peter uses the pronoun “us” in his epistles he is not speaking of mankind in general but believers in particular. So, whether it is correct to say “you” or “us” the meaning is the same. God doesn’t want to judge the believer with the wicked, and awaits our repentance.
Therefore, just as water was used to preserve, so is fire, and just as water was used to destroy, so, too fire. Every man’s work will be tested by fire, and if anything is left of his works, he shall receive a reward (1Corinthians 3:10-15). Peter wrote to the believers in Asia Minor, saying they were already experiencing this fire of trial (1Peter 1:6-7). So, the trouble they were enduring was meant to purify their faith, and preserve them from greater more destructive trouble by fire which would be used against their enemies at the coming of Christ.