Sunday School Bible Survey:      II PETER

Theme: Warnings about apostasy

Key verse:
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2:1).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle Peter (1:1)

DATE: Probably A.D. 66

THEME: Second Peter and Second Timothy have much in common. In both, the writers are aware that martyrdom is near (II Tim. 4:6; II Peter 1:14 with John 21:18, 19); both are singularly sustained and joyful; both foresee the apostasy in which the history of the professing church will end. Paul finds that apostasy in its last stage when the so-called laity (Rev. 2:6; note) have become infected (II Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3, 4); Peter traces the origin of the apostasy to false teachers (II Peter 2:1-3, 15-19). In Peter the false teachers deny redemption truth (2:1); we shall find in First John a deeper depth--denial of the truth concerning Christ's person (I John 4:1-5). In Jude all phases of the apostasy are seen. But in none of these Epistles is the tone one of dejection or pessimism. God and His promises are still the resource of the believer.

The Epistle is in four divisions:

  1. The great Christian virtues (1:1-14)
  2. The Scriptures exalted (1:15-21)
  3. Warnings concerning apostate teachers (2)
  4. The second coming of Christ and the day of Jehovah (3)


  1. J. Vernon McGee said, "The Petrine authorship of II Peter has been challenged more than the authorship of any other book in the New Testament."
  2. Dr. McGee quotes Dr. William Moorehead, who said, "The Second Epistle of Peter comes to us with less historical support of its genuineness than any other book of the New Testament."
  3. Dr. McGee goes on to say, "However, this has caused conservative scholars to give adequate attention to this epistle so that today it is well established that Peter wrote this letter. The autobiographical sections afford internal evidence of the Petrine authorship (see II Peter 1:13, 14, 16-18; 3:1)" (Thru the Bible).
  4. This second epistle was written shortly after his first epistle (II Peter 3:1), and a short while before his martyrdom (II Peter 1:13, 14).
  5. Second Peter has been called the apostle Peter's "swan song," as II Timothy is the swan song of the apostle Paul.
  6. Dr. McGee says, "There is a striking similarity. Both epistles put up a warning sign, along the pilgrim pathway the church is traveling, to identify the awful apostasy that was on the way at that time and now in our time has arrived. What was then like a cloud the size of a man's hand today envelops the sky and produces a storm of hurricane proportions. Peter warns of heresy among teachers as Paul warns of heresy among the laity. Both Peter and Paul speak in a joyful manner of their approaching death (II Peter 1:13, 14; II Timothy 4:6-8). Both apostles anchor the church on the Scriptures as the only defense against the coming storm. The similarity of II Peter to Paul's last epistle of II Timothy explains the sharp contrast between Peter's first and second letters. The subject has changed, and the difference is as great as that which exists between Paul's letters to the Romans and to Timothy.

    Nevertheless, the theme is explained on the basis of the words which Peter uses here as contrasted to his first epistle. The words are different, with the exception of the word precious, which occurs in this epistle twice in the first chapter. Likewise, the word faith occurs twice in the first chapter. The characteristic word is knowledge (occurring sixteen times with cognate words). The epitome of the epistle is expressed in the injunction contained in the final verse: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen" (II Peter 3:18). True gnosticism is not some esoteric information concerning a formula, a rite, or ritual; nor is it some secret order or password. It is to know Jesus Christ as He is revealed to man in the Word of God. This is the secret of life and of Christian living (see John 17:3)."

J. Vernon McGee's outline:

  1. Addition of Christian graces gives assurance (1:1-14)
  2. Authority of the Scriptures attested by fulfilled prophecy (1:15-21)
  3. Apostasy brought in by false teachers (2)
  4. Attitude toward return of the Lord is a test of apostates (3:1-4)
  5. Agenda of God for the world (3:5-13)
  6. Admonition to believers (3:14-18)


  1. The main emphasis of II Peter is found in chapters 2 and 3, where Peter warns against false teachers.
  2. "Chapter one deals with moral corruption and chapter two doctrinal corruption. The developing of a true steadfast Christian character is the only answer, the cure of corruption" (Eric W. Hayden, Preaching Through the Bible). See II Peter 1:3; 3:17, 18; etc.
  3. The New Testament is replete with similar warnings (cf. Jude 3, 4).
  4. Furthermore, the Old Testament has many warnings (cf. II Peter 2:1).
  5. And our Lord gave many warnings (Matthew 7:15; 23:13-15; 24:4, 5, 11).
  6. However, Peter gave these warnings knowing he was about to die (1:13-15) and his opportunity would soon be over.

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —