The Day of the Lord
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Second Peter (new series)

The Day of the Lord

2nd Peter 3

Lesson Audio

 

    It is best if we read it through at once:

     

    2 Peter 3:1-18 NASB This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2) that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. (3) Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, (4) and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." (5) For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, (6) through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (7) But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (8) But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (9) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (11) Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (13) But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (14) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (15) and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, (16) as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (18) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

     

    Day of Wrath

    The reader will note that this lesson cannot possibly contain all that might be said about the Day of Wrath; indeed, end times in general. Moreover, there is substantial disagreement, some of it sinfully vehement, about the order of events and the meaning of various passages. We will therefore constrain ourselves to that which is almost universally agreed on, and which is also needful to understand Peter’s teaching here.

     

    Prophesied

    Peter begins his tale by telling us that the Day of Wrath is prophesied. Indeed it is. Beginning in the Old Testament[1], then frequently amplified and repeated in the New Testament[2], we have the solemn assurance that Christ returns and in the process delivers the wrath of God in the form of judgment on sinful man. The order of events is disputed, but the coming of the judgment is sure.

    So why don’t we hear about this from the pulpit? Pulpit topics have their fashions, and it is still an anathema among many preachers to “preach hellfire and brimstone.” The theory is that people don’t like that – and that their dislike is a good reason not to preach it. (We may draw a parallel concerning the sin of adultery; it too is unpopular – and not preached.) The matter resolves itself when the preacher sticks to the number one topic: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.[3]

     

    New Heaven, New Earth

    It is one of the Seven Last Things: the new heaven and the new earth. The phrase itself is found only in Revelation[4], but the concept is throughout the Scriptures[5]. The idea is simple: at the end, God will destroy the existing physical reality and replace it. Those who are his children will be invited to inhabit it forever. All things will be purified, which is to say that all things will be judged and cleansed.

    How is God going to do this? I have no idea. I just know that his Word says that it will happen. It is something without precedent in physical reality.

     

    Thief in the night

    You can well imagine that Christian fanatics and scholars alike would be fascinated by the question, “when?” I can give you only a little information on the subject:

  1. First, it will happen when things are going along just like they always have. There’s always someone screaming the end is near, so we must include that in the definition of “normal” as well. From the world’s point of view, it will be a total surprise.
  2. At this event, or near it, there will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked. (There is much debate on more than one separation, in what order, and so on. My point is that there will be a separation.)
  3. So, considering all prophecy, we must remember that no one will know when.[6]
  4.  

    This is serious stuff. Please remember that it is said here in the context of talking about false teachers. It’s Peter’s warning to those who have taken their own way: a horrible judgment awaits you.

     

     

    Scoffers will come

     

    Let us be specific about this: those who lead the people of the church will come with a sneering, scoffing attitude.

    • They will use social pressure – from the pew or the pulpit, we are talking about those in authority – to belittle those who hold to the Scriptures.
    • They will do so according to their own evil desires – “lusts” in some translations. “It’s all about me.” So throughout the centuries we have had what today might be called a “rock star church.” (Watch those folks who are so proud of being so humble.)
    • Most important, they will deny (or perhaps just refuse to speak about) the return of the Lord.[7]

     

    Deliberately overlook

    How, one might reasonably ask, do they justify this? In our own age this is greatly helped by the anti-intellectual tenor of evangelical Christianity. “Check your brain at the door because God wants your heart.[8]” But the method is simple:

  5. They deliberately ignore the Word of God – the Scriptures. A good example is the modern church’s treatment of homosexuality.
  6. They forget the simple fact that God created the universe – and that therefore it is no great logical leap to think he might recreate it.
  7. Of course, they can point to the “failure” of those who believe the Scriptures; things are going on just like normal, right?
  8.  

    Judgment is coming for such

    It is a fairly obvious question: if God tells us that such people are in the church, why doesn’t he simply strike them dead? Their destruction is coming anyway, why not now? We may see two answers:

  9. First, there is the “wheat and tares” problem.[9] Sometimes you have to wait to discover just which is which, and ripping them out now might disorder the church.
  10. More than that, there is the patience of God. It is not his will that any should be lost, and that includes the apostates too. Time for repentance must be given.
  11.  

     

    What we should do

    Having described the problem (and ultimate solution) thoroughly there remains the question: what should we do about it in the meanwhile?

     

    Remember

    Peter points out to us that he is stirring our memories. Here are three things to remember:

  12. First, the prophecies in the Scriptures. Many have been fulfilled at the first advent of Christ – giving us all the more reason to expect the rest to be fulfilled “soon.”
  13. Next, we should remember the patience of God. Indeed, we are to regard it as salvation – for if God doesn’t instantly toast the apostate, how much more patient will he be with ordinary sinners?
  14. Finally, we have the Scriptures themselves (see his remark about Paul) which we are not to neglect.
  15.  

    Holy conduct and godliness

    It is not just our memory but our conduct which is required. Again, three things:

  16. We are to pass our time waiting and hastening Christ’s return. The waiting is to be done expectantly (“even so, Lord Jesus, come”); but what about hastening? Perhaps he expects us to take the Gospel to every tongue, tribe and nation! Then the end will come.
  17. In the meanwhile, note that we are to be diligent to be found by Him in peace. In short, there is no prescription for church rebellion; rather, we are to strengthen the bond of peace all the more. There are the weapons of the Lord, and the weapons of the world.
  18. Our personal conduct should be, of course, spotless and blameless.
  19.  

    Be on your guard

    As this is the end of the series, I may point out that nothing in Peter’s letter tells us to raise revolt. We are not to divide the church – and ruin her witness to the world. But there is a final pair of “do and don’t”:

  20. Don’t be carried away by every little fad or “bold new thinking.” Test all things by the Scripture. Hold firm to Christ and the Word he has given you; let the false teacher’s doctrine splash against that rock and drain away.
  21. Do continue to grow – first in grace, so that you might be both forgiven and forgiving. Also grow in the knowledge of Christ – it is the Christian’s great defense against the apostate, the heretic and the false teacher.
  22.  


    [1] See, per Nave’s Topical Bible, Isa_2:12; Isa_13:6; Isa_13:9; Isa_34:8; Jer_46:10; Lam_2:22; Eze_30:3; Amo_5:18; Joe_2:1; Oba_1:15; Zep_1:8; Zep_1:18; Zep_2:2-3; Zec_14:1

    [2] See, per Nave’s Topical Bible, Mal_4:5; 1Co_5:5; 2Co_1:14; 1Th_5:2; 2Pe_3:10

    [3] 1st Corinthians 1:23

    [4] Revelation 21:1-2

    [5] See, for example, Isaiah 66:22

    [6] Matthew 24:36

    [7] Our own preacher’s recent sermon on heaven, which militantly failed to mention the resurrection of the dead, the Lord’s return or the judgment was rather disturbing on this account.

    [8] See Mark 12:28-30 for the obvious rebuttal.

    [9] Matthew 13:24-20

     

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