Is all this talk of the message of Jesus’ prediction about the fall of the Temple being an included and important part of the message of the earliest Christ-followers pure conjecture? Is there any scriptural basis, or any evidence from the time period of the early church upon which to base such conjecture and related assertions? The second letter of Peter presents an interesting possibility. Now, this will not be an open and shut case by any means. Again, this is conjecture, and is far from being dogmatic, especially considering the questions that surround the composition of the letter itself.
Second Peter is something of a mystery. There are many that insist that it is a composition of the Apostle Peter himself, while there are just as many that insist that it is a composition by another individual, composed well after the time of Peter’s death. If it was composed by Peter, then according to the traditions about the dating of Peter’s death, which is said to have occurred in the late sixties, it had to have been written before the fall of the Temple, which took place in the year seventy.
If one adopts the mindset that the prediction about the fall of the Temple, which would coincide with (or indicate) the Son of Man receiving His kingdom from the Ancient of Days and which Jesus said was going to be seen by the generation to which He was speaking, was a crucial component of the message about Jesus that greatly served to validate the message about Him, then one is provided with an interesting backdrop against which to view a portion of second Peter. If this conjecture is not too terribly wide of the mark, it may actually perform a role in the ongoing debate about authorship and time frame for the letter.
If the letter was composed by Peter before the fall of the Temple, if it is believed that the fall of the Temple (and all that goes along with that) is crucial to the message of Jesus, and if the ongoing presence of the Temple, in light of the fact that the traditions about Jesus included His well-understood prediction that the Temple would fall relatively soon, the fact that the Temple remained standing would have been a major thorn in the side of the young community of Jesus loyalists, practically mocking their allegiance to Jesus (who would be little more than a false prophet perhaps rightly executed if the Temple continued to stand). Thus, one can make note of much of the third chapter with a renewed interest and focus. Beginning in the third verse the author writes: “Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come,” understanding quite well what is meant by the “last days” (essentially, the time before the Son of Man receives His kingdom and the time in which the Temple will fall), “being propelled by their own evil urges and saying, ‘Where is His promised return?” (3:3-4a)
Continuing the scoffing towards the claims of the Christians, and especially the claims concerning the Temple, with a still-standing Temple serving to counterfeit all other claims being made about Jesus including His Resurrection, one reads “For ever since our ancestors died,” thinking about Jesus’ assertion (reported identically in the synoptic Gospels) that this generation will not pass away until all these things take place, “all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (3:4b). While the church claimed that the Creator God had acted dramatically within history to resurrect Jesus, to which the church then pointed as the evidence of the beginning of the renewal of that God’s creation, even not-so-keen observers could scoff at this remark, offering up the insistence that things are continuing pretty much as they have always been.