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To Whom and to When are I and II Peter Written?
-- Jeff, Sunday 01-23-2011, 11:31 am CST


"There seems to be a question." People who were part of the Way Corps program may remember this statement emanating from the dining hall "head table" at the Way College of Emporia and elsewhere on occasion. Used as a preface to a discussion about whatever the question happened to be. Of course, I won't be dealing here with rumors about a Lightbearers outreach, a L.E.A.D. expedition, or a "Happy Household Holiday Relocation." But this observation "from days of yore" does fit with the post.

What I want to deal with is a Biblical research question that, in some circles seems to have been wondered about, looked into, and maybe even "decided." Yet to my knowledge no research on it has ever "seen the light of day" as far as publication or public teaching. (If I'm mistaken, readers are of course welcome to point out where it has been published or taught).

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Specifically, I want to deal with the proposition that the books of I and II Peter are not addressed to believers who are alive during the "administration of the grace of God" (of Ephesians 3:2) that began on the Day of Pentecost. But instead, they are addressed to believers who will live through "the day of the Lord" (of Revelation 1:10; a.k.a. the "Revelation administration," the "Appearing," etc.), during which time the nation of Israel will be reconstituted as a nation (see Romans 11:25-33).

The reason I believe that this thesis merits a blog post here at the BRJ, is because of how many times over the years I have run into Way Corps graduates who have accepted it as an established truth of God's Word.

I first heard the thesis put forward in the fall of 1982 -- I believe it was -- during a class at the Way College of Emporia headed up by Rev. Walter Cummins. The subject of which were the biblical principles that would be involved in producing the research papers that, as a requirement for graduation, the senior in-resident Corps was in the process of writing.

At the time, Walter did not bring up this thesis as an established truth from God's Word. Rather, he made it clear that he was bringing up the question about "to whom" and "to when" I and II Peter are written as a research question then current. And, giving reasons from the books of I and II Peter, he stated that the proposition that they might be addressed to believers living in the next administration was something that the Research Department was looking into.

Although I did not handle this subject for the research paper that I produced, I have researched it since. And I have come to the conclusion that the thesis is wrong.

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One section that Rev. Cummins put forward to show that an apparent contradiction existed was from the book of I Peter:
I Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

The imagery in these verses -- imagery of a "generation," a "priesthood," a "nation," and a "people" -- belongs to Israel; not to the Church, the called out of God who belong to the Body of Christ as revealed in the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:19-23
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Because the Church is the Body of Christ, the imagery that Church Epistles often use to illustrate how it functions is that of the human body. For instance, in I Corinthians 12:
I Corinthians 12:12-18
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

If we are going to rightly divide the Word of truth, this apparent contradiction -- and it is only apparent -- between the Church Epistles and I Peter has to be accounted for.

The questions on the table therefore would be: 1) Is the discrepancy best accounted for by reckoning the books of I and II Peter to have been written to believers living in the next administration? And if not, 2) how is it best accounted for?

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That the nation of Israel will be reconstituted during the "Lord's Day" (for a detailed discussion of this term and its Biblical synonyms, see A Study of II Thessalonians Chapter 12 [PDF], Footnote 1) is made clear in the primary book of the Bible that deals with that time period, the book of Revelation. For example, the section where it deals with the 144,000 people on earth who will be "sealed."
Revelation 7:1-8
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

But if we look at I Peter 2:9-10 again, we will see one thing that absolutely will not apply to these believers during the Day of the Lord:
I Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Looking at Verse 9, will the 144,000 sealed during the Lord's Day be "a chosen generation"? Yes. A "royal priesthood"? Yes. A "holy nation"? Yes. A "peculiar people"? Yes (then again, God's people are always peculiar from the world's point of view grin).

But looking at Verse 10, there is one thing that they will not be. They will not be a group who "in time past were not a people." Indeed, the whole point of Revelation 7:1-8 is to establish that in times past they were a people. In times past, their ancestors made up the nation of Israel. A nation which at that time God will be "reconstituting," as I have termed it.

As a matter of fact, Revelation 1:7-8 is one of the scriptural records of that "reconstitution" of Israel as a nation during the Lord's Day. Revelation even traces these 144,000 who will be sealed by God back to their individual tribes within that nation.

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At the time of the writing of I Peter 2:10, who were the people who "in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God"? The only possible answer from Scripture comes from the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:13-15.
But now in Christ Jesus ye [Gentiles] who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, who hath made both [Judean and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [Judean and Gentile] one new man, so making peace;

The people who make up the "one new man" of Ephesians 3:15 -- who before were either Judean or Gentile -- that is who Peter is addressing in I and II Peter. Has to be. Because there is no other group that can be found in all of Scripture that I Peter 1:10 could possibly apply to.

It is the Judeans and Gentiles who "in time past were not a people," but who now, together, are "one new man," the Body of Christ, the Church that began on the Day of Pentecost.

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The imagery of Verse 9 of I Peter 2 -- which is imagery that, no doubt about it, harkens back to Israel -- is just that. It is imagery. And just like the imagery of the human body in I Corinthians 12, the imagery of Verse 9 is depicted via a figure of speech. Both sections contain an Allegory (see A Guide to Figures of Speech Used in Scripture [PDF], page 26, cf. "b. In Comparisons").

Since an Allegory is a figure of comparison, the questions that pertain to Biblical accuracy then become:

1) Are the members of the body of Christ comparable to "a chosen generation"? Well according to Romans 8:28-30, we have been "called" of God. 2) Are we comparable to a "royal priesthood"? Well according to II Corinthians 5:17-21, we stand in Christ's stead as his ambassadors. 4) Are the Judeans and Gentiles together comparable to "an holy nation"? More than that, as we have already seen, we are comparable to "one new man." And finally, 4) are we peculiar? I think the answer to that we have already established...grin

Clearly, when the allegory is recognized, there is nothing in the imagery of I Peter 2:9 that fails to flow in harmony with the truths of the Church Epistles that apply to all the members of the Body of Christ of whatever background.

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Peter used a figure of speech of comparison with imagery strongly related to Israel in I Peter 2:9-10 for one very simple and logical reason. Because of "to whom" he was sent as an apostle (the basic meaning of the word "apostle" is "one who is sent"; see Strong's Concordance G652, et. al.). The Apostle Paul writing:
Galatians 2:6-9 (NIV)
As for those who were held in high esteem -- whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism -- they added nothing to my message.

On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.

For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul declared that Peter was an apostle to the Judeans just he as himself was an apostle to the Gentiles. And this fact is reflected exactly in their writings.

For instance the Church Epistles written by Paul, with one exception1 are addressed to the called-out ("called-out" being the basic meaning of the Greek word for "church," ekklesia; cf. Strong's G1577, et. al.) who are of Gentile background. Again, we look at Ephesians chapter 2:

Ephesians 2:11-18
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands [talking about the Judeans];

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, who hath made both [Judean and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [Judean and Gentile] one new man, so making peace;

And that he might reconcile both [Judean and Gentile] unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

And came and preached peace to you which were afar off [the Gentiles, who were out in the gooney weeds], and to them that were nigh [the Judeans, because they were of Israel].

For through him we both [Judean and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Does this mean that there were no believers of Judean background among the church at Ephesus? Of course not. Study out Paul's "standard operating procedure" whenever he arrived in a new city to preach the good news of Christ, and you will discover that if there were any Judeans in that city, he always made God's Word available to them first.

Nevertheless when he wrote to the believers in those cities, because of his apostleship to the Gentiles, God had Paul address his epistles to those cities to the believers of Gentile background.

Likewise with the Apostle Peter. As an apostle to the Judeans, God directed him to hold the believers of Judean background uppermost in mind as he wrote I and II Peter. As evidenced precisely by I Peter 2:9-10, quoted above. Where as we have seen, Peter used terms that apply literally only to Israel2 -- "generation," "priesthood," "nation," "people." Terms which, addressed to the called-out -- whether are of Judean or Gentile background -- only apply figuratively.

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Were there believers of Gentile background among the people to whom Peter ministered the Word of God? To whom he wrote the epistles of I and II Peter? Of course there were. Peter recognized that God had called out Gentiles just like He had called out the Judeans ever since God sent him to the household of Cornelius (as recorded in Acts 10:1-11:18).

Which means that Peter was addressing believers of both Judean and Gentile background when he closed out those epistles with the following:

II Peter 3:14-16
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

In these remarkable verses, the Apostle Peter not only points out Paul's epistles as "scripture" -- that is, the Word of God, which people wrestle with to their own destruction -- he also indicates that Paul addressed what he wrote to the very same people that he was ministering to -- "hath written unto you," that's exactly what the verse says.

We have already seen that the Church Epistles, written by Paul, were addressed to believers of Gentile background -- some of whom were among those to whom Peter ministered as "one new man." But did Paul write anything addressed to the believers of Judean background? Yes, that would be the book of Hebrews. Which is addressed to Judeans who, whether they were born again or not, were "still zealous for the law" (see Acts 21:20).3

To rightly divide the Word of truth, not only do we have to get "to whom" a particular scripture were written correct (either "Judean, Gentile, or Church of God"; see I Corinthians 10:32), we also have to get "to when" correct. If we read scriptures addressed to Judeans alive during the Grace Administration as if they were living during the Appearing Administration, we are not going to stand approved as workmen of the Word of truth.

Clearly II Peter 3:14-16 -- where Peter points back in to Paul's epistles as the Word of God addressed to the very same people that he was addressing -- represents a final nail in the coffin of the thesis that I and II Peter are addressed to believers living during the Day of the Lord.

It is wrong.

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1. The exception is the book of Romans, which contains sections addressed to Gentiles and Judeans.

2. Check II Samuel 7:23:

And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?
The answer to the rhetorical question is "none." The only nation God ever called out was Israel.

3. See the beginning of the book:

Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers [that is, the founders of the nation of Israel] by the prophets,

Hath in these last days spoken unto us [who belong to the nation of Israel] by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

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