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Second Peter (old series)

The Day of the Lord

2nd Peter 3

Peter is one of those writers who does not mince words. He comes to the point quite nicely. This is useful to us in a very interesting way. Most of the passages which relate to the return of our Lord and the Day of Judgment, or the Day of Wrath (and whether or not those are two separate things) are given to us in a symbolic or pictorial form. We really cannot say that this is literally going to happen (nor that it won’t). The pictures running through Revelation are the supreme example of this. Peter, however, gives you sufficient detail in plain language that you should know what to do about it.

 

1Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

2 Peter 3:1 through 2 Peter 3:13 (NIV)

 

The Day of the Lord

Whenever this subject comes up for new Christians, it’s usually touched upon lightly. After all, it prophesies events such as have never happened before. We shall see, however, how essential this is to the Christian life. To do that, we begin with three aspects:

  1. The source of information on the subject.
  2. The symptoms, described in plain language, which precede that day.
  3. The result.

 

Source: Prophets and Apostles

Everything we know about this comes from the Scripture. In particular, our sources are Christ himself, the Apostles, and the prophets of old. To understand the prophetic writings, there are certain characteristics of those writings which must be kept in mind:

  • Especially in the Old Testament, the prophets commonly saw both advents of the Lord as being together. The events were sufficiently distant in time that they could be seen that way.
  • It is characteristic of these passages that they never describe the events in complete detail – but provide some detail which can be tested. This is because the Scriptures were not written to satisfy our idle curiosity, but to prepare us to live godly lives.
  • Figurative, visual language is the most common way in which these passages are expressed. We think of Daniel’s statue, Revelation (after chapter 3). As a result, it may be difficult to put the pieces in proper perspective. There is much argument as to what that perspective should be.

 

Symptoms: plain language

One of the values of this particular passage is that it is one of the few that express this day in plain language. The obvious question for the Christian is, “When?” It is made clear to us that we will not be told the exact day – but that there will be “signs of the time.” The most obvious one will be scoffers – we are talking about people who appear to be Christians – who say, “What Second Coming?”

  • A key characteristic of these people is that they ignore what the Scripture says about this. We have seen in our time, for example, the Episcopalians sanction homosexuality, despite the Scriptures, because they were “heeding the Holy Spirit.” Right. Sure. It is not a lack of knowledge; it is a deliberate ignoring rather than ignorance.
  • In so doing, they forget who created the universe in the first place. Proclaiming themselves to know better, they forget, deliberately, just who started this universe – and who can end it.
  • How do we know who they are? We need look only for one thing: they are following their own desires. Churches who ordain the homosexual also have “modern” views on marriage, for example. (If you think the evangelical churches are exempt, just ask about a wife’s submission to her husband.)

 

The most commonly cited event that tells you his approach is near is simply this: we are told he will arrive like a thief in the night. The first symptom, for many people, of the time of the return is the flash of glory when he does. It’s somewhat like a heart attack: the first symptom for many victims is death.

But that’s the symptom: everything will be going along just fine. Things will be normal in the view of the world.

 

Two other things which will show us the end is near:

  • There will be an increase in the number of “false prophets” – those who preach, teach and prophesy in Jesus’ name for their own gain.
  • In the church, many will let love grow cold. Indeed, our Lord asks the question, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”

 

But there is one other, rather mysterious, symptom. The “Man of Sin” will be revealed. There are a variety of interpretations put on this, but this much is common to all:

  • This will be a person who is inside the church, as the world would see it.
  • He will be able to produce great miracles and wonders.
  • He will lead many astray.

Some say the true Christians will be raptured first; others not.

 

The result, however, is rather clear: the Day of the Lord will come. Peter gives us a partial description of this here:

  • It involves the renewal by God of the physical universe. What does that mean? I don’t know. But we’ll find out.
  • It means that God is coming to judge the living and the dead; some for reward, some for eternal punishment.

More than that, Peter does not say. He is not gratifying our curiosity, he is telling us how we should live.

 

The Lord’s Patience

Maybe it’s never occurred to you, but it has to many Christians: why doesn’t God just step up and slay the wicked? How is it that he is so patient? Why does he allow such evil in the world?

 

First, there is his desire that all might be saved. If you think not, consider these points:

  • Christ’s sacrifice was for all – not just the righteous. “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” No matter what we have done – see Paul as an example – his sacrifice on the Cross is available for salvation.
  • Indeed, in his call to all, he imposes no conditions. We might reasonably like to say, “Let’s see some good deeds first.” He asks nothing except that we repent and follow him.
  • If that were not sufficient, there is the word of the Lord on the subject. Over and again, “whosoever will” can be saved. Think of the Prodigal Son; think of how the Father ran to greet him.

 

Next, time is of no matter to Him. He created it; he is superior to it. How often have we seen him work his mysterious ways with the most precise of timing! So often, we cannot see how we would have time to finish what he has for us; but time is in his hands. I am reminded of the story told of D. L. Moody. He preached to a friend of his for over 50 years, pleading with him to accept Christ. The man did accept Christ – at Moody’s funeral. God’s timing, not ours.

 

Finally, He often takes millennia to fulfill his promises. This makes them all the more sure; who but God could promise now and deliver two thousand years later? Has it happened?

  • God promised Abraham (~ 2000BC) that through him all nations would be blessed.
  • God promised Moses (~1500 BC) that he would raise up a prophet like Moses, to whom all should listen.
  • God promised David (~1000 BC) that his lineage would have the kingdom forever.

All three of these men went to their graves without seeing these promises kept; all those promises were kept with the coming of Christ.

 

Of course, there is only one remaining logical question: what should we do about this?

 

 

Our Reaction

Just what should we do?

 

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:14 through 2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

 

 

In Peter’s first list of things to do (verse 11) he gives us three items:

  • We are to live holy lives. Holy, by definition, means set apart for God. Our priorities, our pleasures and our pains should be different from the rest of the world.
  • We are to live godly lives, too. Let me pose you three tests of godliness in your life: First, do you make it your practice to imitate Jesus? (WWJD, as some say). Next, is your life one of obedience to God? Or is it a series of excuses? Finally, do you practice the inner life of the Christian, the life of prayer, meditation and study?
  • Then, at least in the NIV, there is the suggestion that we are to speed his coming. (It should be noted that this is not the only possible translation; this could mean simply that we are ready for his speedy coming). The only way this might be done, to my knowledge, is by evangelism. For we know that our Lord told us that the Gospel must be preached to all nations, and then the end.

 

What, then, should be our guide so that we might be ready for his return? The Scriptures, Peter says – but with a warning:

  • First, he makes clear that the Scriptures are given by the wisdom of God. They ought, therefore, to be held in honor and diligently searched for such wisdom.
  • This does not mean, however, that they are always easy to understand. Peter evidently had read some of Paul’s letters – and even the Apostle had to work through them.
  • The danger, of course, is that the Scriptures can be distorted and used for private gain. We are to be workmen who “rightly divide” the word of truth.

 

The Great Divide – the Return

Peter finishes by telling us to be on our guard. This might sound difficult at first, but he assures us that we already know what to do. There is nothing new; his warnings are found elsewhere in Scripture as well. The sad thing is this: despite all the warnings, some will not be found ready for his return. They will be carried away by deceivers.

So, how do I know who the bad guys are?

  • Look at what they preach and teach. Is it in accord with the plain sense of the Scripture? Or is it some “bold, new” interpretation updated with “modern thinking?”
  • Look at their lives. Are their lives in accord with the idea of being holy and godly? By their fruits you will know them.

 

Rather, he tells us, we are to grow in grace and knowledge. Permit me a metaphor for this. It is as if we are redwood (sequoia) trees. In their growth, their roots go down deep – so that even if standing alone, they are hard to topple. But they are not standing alone; those same roots interlock with the roots of other trees – just as we are interlocked in the church. As we grow closer together, we strengthen each other.

Then, we grow upwards, lifting ourselves towards God, seeking his rain and light. The rain comes in the storms of life; the storms that make us strong. The light comes in his word, in prayer and study. By this we grow.

So it is that the church – the forest of redwoods – grows tall and mighty.

 

Peter ends with the words “to him be the glory both now and forever.” We should bring glory to God now so that we can continue to do so forever. Remember, the rest of eternity starts now. Choose your path carefully; you will be on it forever.

 

Holy and Godly lives

Here it is again: be ready. How? By living a life pleasing to God. He mentions three things in closing:

  • Make every effort to be spotless, blameless and at peace - in other words, live the quiet Christian life you should.
  • Be on your guard so that you are not led astray.
  • Grow in grace - and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

Often enough we think that our lives should be those of spectacular Christians; for a small number of us, this is true. But most of us are one of many; but that should not excuse us from knowing just what the many should do.

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