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2 Peter 3:4 - Exposition

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? (comp. Malachi 2:17 , "Where is the God of judgment?"). The Lord had prophesied of his coming; St. Paul had spoken more than once as if that coming were very near at hand ( 1 Corinthians 15:51 ; 2 Corinthians 5:4 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ). Yet he came not. Already men were beginning to mock, and to question whether the long-delayed promise would ever be fulfilled. For since the fathers fell asleep; better, from the day that. By "the fathers" must be meant here the fathers of the Christian Church. St. Peter was writing more than thirty years after the Ascension. The first generation of Christians was rapidly passing away. Stephen "fell asleep" first, then James the son of Zebedee, the other James the Lord's brother, and many others who had looked, it may be, to see the coming of the Lord among those "which are alive and remain" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). But they had died, and he came not; and from the day of their death things went on as they were. Should men look for him still, the mockers asked, when the fathers looked in vain? The mockers adopted, in mockery, doubtless, the Christian phrase for death. The Lord first had said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ;" then the holy Stephen "fell asleep;" and so "they which are asleep" became the recognized name for the dead in Christ. Death is like sleep; the holy dead rest from their labours. They "sleep not idly," for they are at home with the Lord, and they are blessed; but yet the quiet rest of Paradise, though "far better" than this earthly life, is sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, which the redeemed of the Lord shall enjoy at last in his eternal glory. All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation; literally, all things continue thus, as they are, and as they have been from the beginning. There has been no sudden catastrophe; the world has gone on as it was; the laws of nature are still working with their changeless uniformity" (see a remarkable parallel in Clement, I, 23, which is important also as an independent proof that this argument of the scoffers is as old as the end of the first century).

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