I take a preterist view of biblical prophecy, which means I believe that most biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the Apostolic Age. I take most of Revelation, the Olivet Discourse, and Petrine epistles as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD rather than some far off, Left-Behind-esque notion. I do not mean to prove preterism in this post, only to show that it is a consistent option through 2 Peter.
Peter Leithart points out that Peter refers to his second letter as his “deuteron epistolen”, or second letter. This should remind us of Deuteronomy, or second law. Peter is setting himself up as a new Moses, and the parallels are consistent. Peter was present during an exodus (remember, in Luke Jesus refers to his death as an “exodus”), like one of the fathers who travelled with Moses out of Egypt. Peter was present for a theophany that he viewed with only two other people just as Moses was present as the theophany at Sinai. Moses fed the Jews with the rock that travelled with them, and now Cephas, the Rock, is feeding the Jews in the Diaspora. Moses led his people through the wilderness, and now Peter is leading Christians in the wilderness (cf. I Corinthians 10; if Jesus was resurrected in 30 AD, then there would be forty years between his resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem). In the wilderness, both encounter Balaam: Moses opposes the actual man and Peter opposes his teaching. Just as Deuteronomy is Moses’ last will and testament, 2 Peter is Peter’s last attempt to write before he is killed by Nero. Both Moses and Peter are concerned about succession in leadership as the holy people approach the promised land. Keep this in mind while I go on a different thread quickly.
So Moses is now preparing his people for something. This is the end of the wilderness period and the time that the saints would inherit the kingdom. This end to the wilderness period was expected to be soon. Peter, in his epistle, fights against heretics who would say that Jesus is not truly coming. He has been delayed far too long, most of the fathers (first generation) are dying even though Jesus said that “this generation will not pass away before these things happen”. It must not be true, then, that Jesus is truly coming to vindicate his message and his people. The mockers’ criticism would make no sense unless a) first century Christians expected something to happen within their lifetime because b) Jesus explicitly said that he would be vindicated again before they had passed away. If Jesus had promised a far off return, these mockers wouldn’t be able to convince anybody of anything. Jesus was expected to appear in such a way that all of the tribes of the world would mourn him (Matthew 24).
So, if Peter views himself as a new Moses, and something was expected to happen soon, what was it? We really have one option if we can prove that the judgment was expected soon (and I think I have proven that). Peter is using end of the world imagery in chapter 3 to describe the judgment of the Old Creation which takes place in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD.
No Moses figure has ever been alone. Moses had Joshua, Elijah had Elisha, David had Solomon, Jesus had his Bride, and now Peter is looking to the new Joshua, Jesus. But Joshua has to free his people from somebody. The first time, the problem was that wicked Canaanites lived in the land. The second time, Solomon initiates a new conquest to fight foreign gods. The third time, Ezra-Nehemiah fight serpentine intermarriage in the land. Now what is the new Moses fighting? The current land dwellers: apostate Jerusalem and Rome. Follow the typology: Jesus initiates an exodus in his death and resurrection out of Jerusalem, the new spiritual Egypt. The Church now exists in a wilderness stage: apostate Judaism is still a dominant force, the temple still stands, and the Roman Empire is the restrainer keeping the man of lawlessness from persecuting the Christian Church. Just like the wandering Hebrews, the Church is under constant threat from outside forces. God promises to take revenge for the way the Hebrews were treated in the wilderness, so God will also judge the Jewish believers who did not accept their Messiah for persecuting the Christians. Now Peter, the new Moses leading Jewish Christian wanderers, is preparing them for the new Joshua.
Peter previously warned his readers that persecution would come “in the last days” and they should be prepared (I Peter 1:5-7, 13; 4:4-5, 7, 13, 17; 5:1-4) that are to happen before the first generation of Christians die and Jesus vindicates his name that the mockers are skeptical about. His letter is about standing steadfast in hope knowing that prophecy is true and Jesus will certainly return. The phrase the last days need not refer to the actual last days, but the Apostolic period (I Cor 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20). Peter dies around 65 AD, after Nero blames Christians for the Roman fires and the Jewish apostates are allowed to attack the Church. The fiery persecution is upon the Church.
But here is where Joshua comes, years after Peter has written his epistle. The harlot riding on the back of the Beastly Babylon is Jerusalem (only those bound by a covenant of marriage can be a harlot). This imagery is consistent with Peter’s signature that says that he is writing from the church in “Babylon”, drawing a connection to Revelation. Babylon, in Revelation, is also Sodom-Egypt, where Jesus was killed (Revelation 11). The world mourns over the pierced nation, the seat of kings. Joshua has come and vindicated his people fighting off their enemies, Rome and Israel. The kingdom is now handed over to the saints who will reign for a “millennium” before the Second Coming of Christ when he physically unites heaven and earth. The destruction of Jerusalem is Jesus’ vindication that his prophecies were true, and he would be returning to consummate his kingdom in the second resurrection.