Copyright © 2012 by Gun Lap
2 Peter 3:3-4 says that scoffers will come in the last days. Many churches believe that we are living in the last days now, a time just before the return of Jesus Christ. One “proof” they use is what they call the increasing number of “scoffers” who scoff at the Bible. Here is an example of such thinking from a Living Church of God article.
The increasing number of scholars and writers making headlines by openly challenging fundamental teachings of the Bible should come as no surprise to students of Scripture. Long ago, God foretold that “scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:1–6). … They will agree with Dan Brown’s phrase, “The Bible is the product of man, my dear. Not of God” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 250). … This is where we are today! Modern writers and scholars are twisting the Scriptures, denying the inspiration of the Bible, rejecting fundamental teachings of Christianity and creating in their imaginations entirely different views about the life of Jesus Christ. Prophecies are indeed coming alive! [Douglas Winnail, Tomorrow’s World, May-June 2007, p. 15]
The LCG makes it sound like prophecy is being fulfilled by modern scoffers and that this proves we are in the last days. All these scoffers “should come as no surprise to students of Scripture” because “God foretold” this and “This is where we are today [exclamation mark]” which shows that “prophecies [of the last days] are indeed coming alive [exclamation mark]”.
There have always been critics who scoff at the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we assume that the mere existance of scoffers proves we are in the last days, then we have been in the last days for 2000 years.
Yes, there was a long period when Europe was dominated by the Catholic Church, and during that period “heretics” were persecuted. I suppose there weren’t too many scoffers then, but there must have been a few, even in Europe.
If there have always been scoffers, how do scoffers indicate that the end is near?
Are soffers more prevalent today than ever before? Probably not. The Bible says Jesus himself was persecuted by an angry mob, spat on, crucified, and scoffed at while he was still on the stake. The original apostles were also persecuted. After that, Christians were persecuted for hundreds of years. Such intensity of persecution is not going on today.
Some churches will argue that the increase in scoffers proves we are in the last days. Note that the LCG says “Modernwriters and scholars are twisting the Scriptures, denying the inspiration of the Bible, rejecting fundamental teachings of Christianity…” (from the quote above).
It’s true that scoffing has increased in “modern times”, but the trend of increasing Bible skepticism has been going on for hundreds of years. Are these churches going to tell us that the last days are hundreds of years long?
Have the last few years seen a drastic upswing in Bible criticism that proves the return of Christ is near, and that this prophecy about scoffers is “coming alive” today?
To help answer that question, let’s get a little perspective on the history of “modern” Bible criticism.
In The History of the Higher Criticism, Volume 1 ch. I, Canon Dyson Hague (see the footnotes more more information) says Higher Criticism “is not modern by any means” but that it has been going on since about 1521 or 1670, depending on which starting point we choose. That’s roughly 350 to 500 years.
I don’t think the LCG would claim that the last days began 350 to 500 years ago. Yet that’s when the “modern” academic “scoffers” started to appear. Surely, the rise of such scoffers does not prove we are in the last days, or we would have been in the last “days” for centuries.
Mr Hague divides the movement into “three great stages.” So perhaps this lastest stage, if we can call it that, brought to us by people like Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code, is just a stage that the world is going through. Perhaps there are a few more stages to come, which will last a few more hundred years. Only time will tell. It’s a long-term trend so it does not prove the end is near. People will continue digging up old artefacts, reading old documents, writing criticisms of the Bible, and making books and movies like The Da Vinci Code.
Unless someone can use statistics to prove we are in a sharp upswing in skepticism, rather than part of a growing but long term trend, I don’t see how anyone can use 2 Peter 3:3 (“there shall come in the last days scoffers”) to claim that the last days are here.
What about Peter’s comment on lust? “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts… ” (2 Peter 3:3). Well, people have always had lust. Lust is the result of hormones. Anyone could have predicted that. Once again, this tells us nothing, and predicting that people would come walking in lust is like predicting the earth will continue to spin.
But there was more to Peter’s prophecy than that. Let’s read it in context.
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers [ancestors] died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, NIV)
Notice the quotation marks. This is Peter’s prediction of what scoffers would say in the last days. According to Peter, these scoffers would be saying “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Does anyone today say things like “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation”? Most of these Bible scoffers probably don’t even believe in divine creation. Most probably believe in evolution, which states that life is changing, not going on “as it has since the beginning of creation.”
So Peter predicted these scoffers would believe in and speak about divine creation, which is the opposite of what most Bible scoffers seem to believe and teach. He was propesying that they would continue to believe in creation. The scoffers would be scoffing at the return of Christ, not at divine creation.
Furthermore, even creationists today would not say that “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” because we live in a world of rapid changes. People today are more likely to say “everything is changing” rather than “everything goes on the same.”
The truth is Peter did not foresee the coming of the theory of evolution and he did not foresee this modern age of rapid changes. He expected people to believe in creation and he expected things to be continue on pretty much the same, not for the world to go through a period of rapid changes.
If we really are in the last days, this passage cannot be inspired because it prophesies viewpoints for scoffers in the last days that do not accurately reflect the views of modern scoffers.
On the other hand, if this passage really is inspired, then we are not in the last days and Bible scoffers will return to believing in divine creation before Christ returns. Even if so, we would have to explain how, after all of the great scientific, technical, and social revolutions that the world has witnessed, people in the last days could say things are going on the same since creation.
If Peter mis-predicted what would happen in the last days, then he was a false prophet and this passage was not inspired.
- There have always been scoffers.
- Academic Bible criticism is not a recent trend.
- Bible skepticism has been increasing for hundreds of years.
- The last days are not supposed to go on for hundreds if years. If they do, the end could still be hundreds of years away.
- Scoffing, or a gradual increase in scoffing, does not help us identify when the end is near.
- People like Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code are part of a very old trend that could go on much longer. Where is the statistical proof that we are currently in a dramatic upswing in this trend?
- This passage (2 Peter 3:3-4) does not accurately describe most scoffers alive at this time.
- If we are really in the last days, this passage cannot be inspired.
- If this passage is accurate, we are not in the last days.
Note: In The History of the Higher Criticism, Volume 1 ch. I, Canon Dyson Hague, writes:
It is not easy to say who is the first so-called Higher Critic, or when the movement began. But it is not modern by any means. Broadly speaking, it has passed through three great stages:
1. The French-Dutch.
2. The German.
3. The British-American.
In its origin it was Franco-Dutch, and speculative, if not skeptical. The views which are now accepted as axiomatic [self-evident] by the Continental and British-American Schools of Higher Criticism seem to have been first hinted at by Carlstadt in 1521 in his work on the Canon of Scripture, and by Andreas Masius, a Belgian scholar, who published a commentary on Joshua in 1574, and a Roman Catholic priest, called Peyrere or Pererius, in his Systematic Theology, 1660. (LIV. Cap. i.)
But it may really be said to have originated with Spinoza, the rationalist Dutch philosopher. In his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (Cap. vii-viii), 1670, Spinoza came out boldly and impugned [impugn: to fight with words or arguments] the traditional [i.e. of traditional Christianity] date and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and ascribed the origin of the Pentateuch to Ezra or to some other late compiler. [http://user.xmission.com/~fidelis/volume1/chapter1/hague.php]
Note: It also sounds like Peter expected the scoffers to continue to believe in “the fathers” which often refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, some skeptics today even question whether such persons existed. Once again, it calls into question whether Peter really had an accurate foreknowledge of today’s conditions, as Bible fundamentalists assume he did.
Note: For the record, I have preserved the complete Living Church of God article. It appears on page 14 in this PDF file.
Note: To make the analysis easier I’ve ignored the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc, scoffers, and just looked at scoffers in the Christian West. I’ve also ingored most of the scoffing done by scattered Jews for the last 2000 years. To my knowledge, the churches also ignore these scoffers when they look at this verse.