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- 2 Peter 3:8 - 13
About 6 years ago, I was given the opportunity to join a few guys on 2-day trip to Salt Lake City, Utah in the winter. We went there to go skiing or snowboarding at Sundance Mountain Resort. I had never snowboarded before and thought I would give it a try. So up the lift I went and then up another lift I went. And when we got to the top of the mountain, you gotta immediately steer to the right or you will careen off the other side.
I wouldn’t call it steering but I did fall off to the right and worked my way over the “easiest” run. Down I went and about an hour later and after many falls, I made it to the bottom. One thing is sure, when you are at the top of a mountain, you gotta go down. You must. And even if ain’t all that pretty, down is the only way you can go.
The churches in II Peter must keep moving as a church. They must push through the challenges from within and from without. There is no going back. And it may not be real pretty as they struggle together to further obedience and faith in Jesus. But that is the only direction to go. And that is the only direction for us as a church. We want to go and grow. We want to follow the good plans of God for His people. We cannot stay where we are.
And sometimes, opposition and struggle pushes us forward and eliminate the option of getting comfortable. We are often times not comfortable but we are comforted by God as He leads us into His plans that are true and good.
A comfort and challenge
The last chapter of II Peter is meant to be a comfort and a challenge for the church. Verses 8-13 can be broken down into 2 parts. The coming of the Lord or the Day of the Lord in verses 8-10. And then how we are to live now in anticipation of that coming day in verses 11-13. And then we will close it out with 3 practical take-aways from the passage. So we will begin with the first: “the coming of the Lord.” We know from last week that the opponents in the church denied the future coming of the King. And they used this as license to live however they wanted to live since Jesus was out of sight and out of mind.
Perhaps the height of all wrong thinking or “folly” is to believe that life is better without Jesus around, that Jesus is the joy killer instead of the joy Giver. That is what the opponents believed. And the way they convinced themselves that Jesus was never coming was by overlooking the obvious instances in history of God radically intervening in the world. They overlooked the flood and allot of other miraculous moments in human history.
What not to overlook
Well there is something that Peter did not want the churches to overlook. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” Peter is showing us something about the nature of God. He does not consider time in the same way that we do. What seems like “forever” is like a day to God. And what seems like a moment is like a thousand years. This is because God is eternal and not restrained by time and so He chooses to both enter into time and exist outside of time. Time is before Him, in front of Him, not around Him like it is for us.
A few days
So the argument that the return of Christ is “taking forever” is not accurate at all. It’s only taking a couple of days from the perspective of God. We are of course “in time,” but the encouragement is that we would be mindful that God’s work is not limited by time like our work is. He can do things very, very quickly and He can take His “time” in doing things in our life. He is patient and steady and always working in ways we can’t always see.
Not slow to fulfill His promise
One thing is for sure: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The perceived delay in Jesus’ coming is not a sign of His indifference but rather His patience. He has made a promise. He has gone to prepare a place for us and will return to bring us there. That is a promise. The fact that this has not happened yet, does not take away from the truthfulness of the promise. The “delay” points to his patience, not his indifference.
The story of Lazarus gives us a window into work that Jesus does that at times seems too late or delayed. Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. And Martha comes to Jesus and says if you have been here, he would not have died. Or in other words, if you had not delayed, our brother would be with us right now. And Jesus’ response is this: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” And she said, “yes, I believe.”
The point of this story is this: God is never late or delayed in responding to the situation. His responses are always perfectly timed because He is infinitely wise and infinitely good. There is no accidental delay or “I got stuck in traffic” type stuff with God. And when He appears to delay, there is always a reason for it that is bigger than we can usually see.
His patience on display
Here, the Lord’s delay in coming is due to His patience. And every day that goes by is another demonstration of His patience. He is benevolent and gracious toward people. Several Old Testaments passages make this very clear: Joel 2:13, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Exodus 34:6, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness….” And Jonah 4:2, “…..for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
So God is okay withholding judgment because of His desire for people to receive or accept repentance. However that quality of God is not meant to give people a false sense of comfort. Romans 2:4,“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” His kindness and patience is meant to allow for people to repent and believe. This is God’s will, His desire. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.
Salvation of God
Now without adding controversy where it doesn’t need to be, we gotta look at this a bit more closely. Scripture teaches that God is the Orchestrator of a human salvation. God causes us to be born again to a living hope (I Peter 1:3). Even while we were dead in our trespasses and sins God “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). In love, God predestined us for adoption…according to the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1:4-5). The language of adoption, predestination, election, choosing and calling are all throughout the New Testament. Salvation is of God, accomplished by God. And yet, not everyone is saved.
So if God is the author of salvation, why is He wishing or willing that people be saved when He has the power to save them? Why not just save everyone?
Some tension here
Here is the tension that Scripture maintains. God is good. And there is no evil in Him. He is pure holiness. And He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is not eager to mete out judgment. He is love. So He sends the Son to die in our place. So His desire is that all will be saved. However, He does not follow this desire with saving everyone even though He could.
So we see this in Noah and the ark. God is grieved by the evil in the world. He is grieved in His heart. So He saves Noah and His family and he does not save the others. Why? You could argue that Noah was righteous and that was why God saved him. And that would be true to a point. But that is not the main message of the story. Noah found grace or favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah like us was saved by grace not by works. So God gave Noah and his family grace and he gave the rest of the world justice. He has the right to do both or give whichever one He wants.
Not happily meting out judgment
The idea of God willing that none should perish does not mean that God is “hoping” that people will receive repentance. The idea is that God is not happily meting out judgment in the world. He does it but He does it after much forbearance, delay and patience. If you have kids, you know that correction or discipline is not the happiest part of the day. You would rather not need to do that part of parenting. So you try to delay it, forbear, be patient. You would rather have your kids need no correction. Your will or desire is to not bring correction or discipline. But that does not mean you won’t do it if you must.
I think Peter is giving us a window into God’s character as a loving, patient and just God. And that patience is meant to stir the world to repentance.
The ending point
However this patience will have an ending point. The day of the Lord will come and it will come as a thief. Jesus says something very similar in Matthew 24:42, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” And Revelation 3:3, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
Time to go
You know if are going on a trip and you have 3 days to pack for it. And you try your best to get ready but you end up stuffing things into whatever free space you got left in the vehicle. And you rush out the door (cause you gotta enjoy every last bit of your vacation!). What happened there? You ran out of time. The moment comes when you gotta leave. And sometimes you are not ready.
The coming of the King
That of course is a poor analogy for the coming of the Creator King but you know the feeling of something coming more quickly than expected. Jesus will return like a thief shows up in the night. No one goes to bed waiting for the thief to show up and steal all their valuables. If you know the thief is coming, you ain’t going to bed that night (You’re going to watch Bonanza reruns until you fall asleep on the couch). Jesus’ coming will be quite sudden, without allot of buildup or obvious signs that His return is imminent.
When He comes 3 things are going to happen: The heavens will pass away with a roar, the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. To the first point, Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” And Isaiah 34:4,“All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll.” The heavens and earth will pass, fade out of existence. A new heavens and a new earth will be ushered in.
And the heavenly bodies will be burned up: fire, water, earth, air, all the things that make up the core elements of this earth will no longer exist. Hebrews 1:3 says that all things are held together by the Word of His power. By a word they existed and by a word those things can fall apart, come undone and no longer exist. This will happen.
Maybe you spend some days just trying to keep things together. Christ holds things together at all times. He has done this from the beginning. But one day things always held together will come undone, be burned and dissolved.
The page turned
And the works done on the earth, good and bad will be exposed before the God to whom we must give an account. There will be a final reckoning. This is a page in the story that has never been turned. But it will be turned and these are the things that will happen when that page is turned.
That is what will take place. Now, what do we with this revelation of what will come? How do we now live? Verse 11, Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God….” So notice what it does not say. He does not say, seek to discover the exact time and date of Jesus return or quit your job and sip lemonade on the back porch till you see the skies open up. He instead moves the mind to the task at hand on the earth right now.
Staring into the sky
When Jesus ascended in Acts 1, the disciples were staring up in the sky. And 2 guys dressed in white told them, “why are you standing around staring into the sky? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” And this same Jesus had told them earlier that it is not for us to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed… but we will receive power to be His witnesses. So Jesus and the 2 men in white and now Peter here is saying: this is how we respond to the future coming of Jesus: we live like Jesus wants us to live right now. We are to live lives of holiness and godliness.
This is much more than doing good deeds. It is rather a lifestyle that honors the Lord Jesus. It is a gospel-centered life. So yes, we go to a church gathering and then we go home and love our kids and wife. We sing praises to God and then we speak encouraging words to people. This is meant to embody all of who we are, not just a public display of faith. It is a lifestyle of holiness and godliness since we are joined to holy God at all times. We don’t turn off or turn on our Christian life like a switch. Christians follow the Christ always.
Waiting and hastening
A part of this lifestyle is waiting for and hastening the coming of God. Acts 17:31 says that God “….has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed;” So I don’t think this is necessarily changing that appointed time through our hastening. However, we are to wait for it and hasten it and join in the prayer Come, Lord Jesus. So it appears that God’s set date and our hastening work together to lead us to His coming. And when He comes, He will usher in some incredible things. The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved. The heavenly bodies will melt away as they burn.
Not to be scary
But this is not meant to be scary for us or alarming. Why? Because God will be with us. His coming will bring these things about. And He will come with the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells. This is the ending or really the beginning of the story for those who are trusting Christ today. Our Deliverer is coming. The God who led His people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land will lead His people out of this present trouble into glory. That page of the book will be turned and we are on the cusp of that page being turned. And when it is, we will be brought into the new earth where righteousness dwells.
Remember God’s patience
So what are a few practical take-aways that would be helpful for today? Here are a few. 1) Remember God’s patience for you and remain patient with others. God’s patience is not always a quality that gets allot of notice. But it is inherent to Who He is and it is worth noting and celebrating. God puts up with allot. He is forbearing and gentle and longsuffering toward us. He does not punish us according to what we deserve. That is meant to do deeply soften our hearts towards others.
The unforgiving servant
Perhaps you know the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. This servant had a debt larger than he could pay back in many lifetimes. His master tells him well you gotta sell yourself and your family in place of paying back that debt. The servant pleads with the master to have mercy on him. And the master does. He forgave the whole debt: 10,000 talents. And one talent was equivalent of 20 years of work. No payment plan. No bankruptcy: Just total forgiveness. Debt eliminated.
Well this same servant had a guy who owed him 100 denarri. A denarri was about a day’s wage. So it was a decent debt but nothing like many lifetimes worth of debt. This is a few months. Well the forgiven servant goes and grabs the guy by the throat and said, “pay what you owe.” And the guy said, “have patience with me and I will pay you.” The wicked servant threw him into prison and demanded that he work until the debt was paid. Well the good Master got word of this and threw the wicked servant into prison until that servant paid back all that he owed (which was impossible).
Here is the application: we have been forgiven of an un-payable debt, an eternally expensive debt. Since we have been forgiven of so much, who are we to withhold forgiveness from others? Be patient with others and forgiving of others as God in Christ forgave and is patient with you.
Second take away. Work hard for Christ’s glory while eagerly anticipating His return. Perhaps a lesser-recognized effect of being born again is the desire to see Christ, to experience Him fully. That is a good energizing desire that actually fuels our work right now. So perhaps it could be illustrated like this: you are having people over for dinner and the house is a mess. You got 2 hours to get it cleaned and presentable. In anticipation of the coming of your guests, you get the house looking pretty good. The future coming motivates you to do the work that needs to be done now.
Be alert and ready
Christ’s coming is meant to be a fuel that motivates us to be alert and ready and active in doing the things that please Him. “God is coming let’s do everything we can to be ready for that moment.” C.S. Lewis has a great quote on this. “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” Or as Jesus said, “Those who want to save their lives will lose it. Those who lose their lives for my sake will find it.” The losing of our life for Christ’s sake happens when we do what He has given us to do. When we love our kids, speak kind words, go to work faithfully, concern ourselves with other people’s concerns. When we do these things, we please Him and hasten His coming.
Encouraged by gospel hope
And the 3rd take-away is this. Don’t let the occasional bleakness of life dim your view of the life to come. Be encouraged by gospel hope. There are very difficult things to walk through, struggle through, wade through in life. This is normal and actually to be expected according to Jesus in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Gospel hope is not denying trouble. It is embracing our God Who has overcome it. You will not be overcome by the tribulation, the trouble, the sorrow that you feel might overcome you. Why? Because Christ has already overcome it
Battle defeated foes
So we battle against the defeated foes of anxiety and sullen moods and criticism and fears of the future. And our hope in that is in that word “defeated.” At the cross, our enemies were ultimately destroyed, the biggest being sin and death. And Christians are now free ultimately from those thing even if we don’t feel free. So let yourself dream gospel dreams. Imagine the best things about God that are actually stated in His Word and accept those things.
I am loved. I am accepted. I am made holy. I have a bright future. I will never be forsaken by my Father. My life is hidden with Christ in God. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ. And on and on goes the lists of gospel truth. Within the occasional bleakness of life, move your eyes to the promises of God.
The new heaven and new earth
Here is what awaits those who love Him and love His coming. Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And Revelation 22, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Because God reigns over us and not our circumstances or troubles, we will reign with Him forever and ever. That is the bright future that awaits us today. And in anticipation of that day, we say, “come Lord Jesus. Come.” Let’s pray.