Godliness and the Return of Christ - Radical

Godliness and the Return of Christ

God is exceedingly patient with sinners. God’s patience is rooted in his love and displayed in his delay. God is not indefinitely patient with sinners. Jesus will certainly and suddenly come. We should be a people whose priorities reflect our beliefs. If we believe this world is temporary, we should live for one that is eternal. In this message on 2 Peter 3:1–18, Bart Box reminds us to live as those who radiate the gospel.

  1. The arguments against God’s judgment are apparently rational.
  2. The arguments against God’s judgment are ultimately moral.
  3. The arguments against God’s judgment are tragically fatal.

Godliness and the Return of Christ

2 Peter 3:1–18

Well, good evening. Let me invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Peter 3:1. We’re going to look at verses one all the way through verse 18, but 2 Peter 3:1–18 this evening as we conclude our study of 2 Peter. And as you’re turning there, let me thank you for walking through this particular book with me as we’ve look at things like the Transfiguration and Balaam and donkeys and things like that. So, it’s been a joy to do this and I pray that the Lord has used it in your life and will continue tonight. Look forward to seeing how it turns out tonight.

Second Peter 3 if you would, beginning in verse one. Peter writes,

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, [or kind of, of first importance] that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

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. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, [By the way, that’s kind of a good thing for us, isn’t it, that Peter has a difficulty understanding Paul as well?] which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. [And then his final appeal, verses 17 and 18.] You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 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 (2 Pet. 3:1–18).

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we do pray tonight that glory would be ascribed to Jesus tonight and for all of eternity. We pray that you would use your Word to that effect tonight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For the last month or so, the news has been dominated by talk of the debt ceiling and whether we’re going to raise our ceiling on our nation’s debt. In fact, this weekend, today even, politicians and our President have been debating legislation, seeking some sort of compromise. According to some, the failure to do so would result in all kinds of things: higher interest rates, and then they would drive, perhaps, another recession; and all sorts of things. There have been words thrown around about this particular possibility. Things like “catastrophe” or a “debacle” or “going over a cliff” if we fail to act. Now I don’t know how much is political talk and how much is reality. I don’t have a lot of Wall Street experience. Hopefully, we won’t ever find out. In fact, maybe we have a compromise in the works now.

But I want to ask you a question tonight. What if the doomsday scenarios—the going over a cliff—were true? What if you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that beginning on Wednesday, say, that our nation’s economy would totally go over the cliff, as they say, and things like rampant inflation and a stock market crash and food shortages were to began to take place in the coming weeks and the coming months? What would you do? Better yet, what would you do…what would you do tomorrow morning? Well, I don’t know, would you perhaps go to the bank, draw out all your money? Probably wouldn’t take most of us very long to do that. Would we buy gold? Would we…would we do what we…what we always do in Alabama when there’s a crisis? Go to Public’s and buy all the milk and the bread that they have. Well, I don’t know what you would do, but I feel confident that you would do something.

And really, that is the premise of 2 Peter 3. That we…that what we know will indeed happen. The coming day of the Lord, with a day of judgment and a day of salvation. That what we know will happen ought in some way to affect the way that we live in the present. Tonight, I want to walk you through this particular passage. We’re not going to be able, certainly, to cover all the verses in this chapter—18 verses—but I want to walk you through 2 Peter 3 and I want to show you how Peter kind of sets that stage for us. That kind of…kind of sets that possibility; that what we know is going to happen in the future, in verses 1–7, how he shows as he talks about the false teachers…how he shows and kind of knocks down their arguments and demonstrates for the church, really, that what we know is going to happen. That there is going to be a coming day of the Lord. And then I want you to see how Peter uses what is certain and known out there, the coming day of the Lord and then make appeals to you and to me tonight. Appeals for those that are on the fence, perhaps, for those that are unsure or unsteady to repent before God and appeals for…not just for those that are on the fence, but for those that are solid in the church, for us to live lives in light of His coming.

A Condemnation of the False Teachers in 2 Peter 3:1–18

So tonight, I want to walk you through these three sections in the text. Let’s begin, first, with the condemnation of the false teachers in verses 1–7. Now, when we left off last week… You’ll notice if you go back down to chapter 2, verse 22, that Peters says, “What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’” That, if you’ll remember, 2 Peter 2 is the stinging rebuke and criticism of the false teachers. And he really directs it at them, primarily.

And so, when we come, then, to chapter 3, we notice, though, quite easily that there is a real shift in the audience. And so, chapter 2, he’s talking to the false teachers and then in chapter 3 he’s evidently talking to the church. I want you to see it in verse 1, for example, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” He’s obviously speaking either to 1 Peter or some letter that we perhaps don’t know about, but more than likely 1 Peter, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” And notice, there, he calls them “beloved,” a term of affection, a term of endearment for the church. We see it again. Notice it in verse 8, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved. “ Again in verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these…” And then, finally, in verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away…”

And so it’s a reminder that Peter is not speaking here to the false teachers even though he’s talking about them. He’s really laying the groundwork for the church. He’s really kind of laying the groundwork for his argument and for his appeals in verses eight and following. And so, what I want to…what I want to do is I want to kind of examine those arguments that the false teachers are making. I want you to notice three things about those arguments.

The Arguments Against God’s Judgment are Apparently Rational

First of all, the arguments against God’s judgment that they are making (false teachers)…the arguments against God’s judgment are apparently rational. They are apparently rational. In other words, they make sense on the surface. Look at verse four. Verse four, if you’ve kind of hung with us, or maybe if you’re new tonight, certainly key in on verse four. Really gives the false teachers…it’s really all we have from them as far as their explicit teaching. Notice what Peter puts into their mouths. “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

So you can imagine, they were here 30-35 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, and there are all these promises sort of outstanding there that Jesus is going to return and they just kind of look around them and they see the sun rising and the sun setting. They see the tide coming in and coming out. They see the seasons coming and going, decade after decade, year after year. And even going back to Creation. They see just, really, a lack of intervention, or at least they claim to see that, in creation itself. And so, their argument has kind of a, kind of an intellectual or sophisticated ring to it. And so, it’s not just a gut level—or at least, the way they present it—it has this… Kind of in our day, you know, we have sort of a modern understanding that, you know, there’s nothing outside that’s going to affect us and we can count on tomorrow coming. We can count on there not being any real intervention. That it’s kind of a closed system that we’re dealing with.

The Arguments Against God’s Judgment are Ultimately Moral

And so, their arguments are apparently rational, but what I want you to see is that Peter doesn’t buy that at all. In other words, Peter says that the arguments against God’s judgment that they’re making, they are ultimately moral. They’re not rational, ultimately, rather they are ultimately moral. You say, “How do you know that? How do you know that they weren’t making, you know, really sincere arguments? How do you know that they weren’t really, just sincerely objecting to what Peter is teaching or maybe even to the way that they interpret Scripture?” Well, let me…I want to show you in these verses how Peter points out that their problem is primarily moral.

Look at verse three if you would. “…knowing this first of all, [and again, that’s kind of knowing this, of first importance. He says] that scoffers will come in the last days [and last days being even the time that we live in now] with scoffing…” It’s obviously a word that he uses twice there. It’s a word that refers to arrogance, to mockery, to ridicule. We would say that they are making fun of those in the church. There are some in the church that are saying, “No, Jesus really is coming.” And the false teachers look down on them. They make fun of them. They mock them. They scoff at them. And so, Peter says that they are doing that, but notice what else he says in verse three, he says they are “following their own sinful desires.” In other words, it’s not their minds or their learning or their exposure to new ideas that is driving this. Rather, they are really…they’re not driving anything at all.

They are really following along. They are following their own sinful desires. The word that is used for desires there is also sometimes used for sexual desires. And so it’s…it has kind of the idea of passion and drive and energy behind it.

Notice verse five. Peter says it one more time. Look at it if you would. And I would encourage you maybe even to underline this because I think this is really, really the key, really maybe more clear than any of the others. Look at what he says in verse five. “For they [speaking again of the false teachers] deliberately overlook this fact…” I think this is the key to understanding their hearts and I would say to you, I think this is the key to understanding the hearts of many of the people that you share the gospel with. You could translate this, potentially, that they shut their eyes to the truth. In other words, they know the truth. They know the truth that there is a God who judges.

Think about Romans 1:18. Maybe a text that you want to write down in your notes. Listen to what Paul says. I think it’s kind of a similar idea in Romans 1:18. He says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” What Paul is teaching, I think, in Romans 1 and what Peter is teaching here in 2 Peter 3, is that every single person—it doesn’t matter the age, it doesn’t matter whether that was a thousand years ago or a thousand years from now, it doesn’t matter the culture, here or far-every single person that is ever created in the image of God knows that there is a God.

And in addition to knowing that there is a God, knows that he or she is accountable to that God. And that that truth is rising up in every single heart and at the same time, every single person is then—because we don’t want God over us—we push that truth down. We suppress that truth that rises up in our hearts. And so it is with every single sinner. We shut our eyes to the truth of God.

You say, “Well, what about people that have like…people that have sincere objections, that have sincere difficulties about Christianity or the claims of Christianity? Are you saying that there aren’t any sincere claims? There aren’t any sincere objections?” I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine questions and there aren’t things that we shouldn’t answer.

In fact, I think we should make effort to answer the questions that people have. To clear up misconceptions about Christianity. But what I am saying, and what I think Paul is saying, what I think Peter is saying, is that ultimately, objections of this nature are not fundamentally…they’re not fundamentally about logic or about reason. Fundamentally, they are about the heart. That we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We shut our eyes to the truth.

I think this is so clearly illustrated in the conversion of C. S. Lewis. You may know something about C. S. Lewis who began as an atheist in early 20th century England and progressed somewhat from an atheist to an agnostic. And then from an agnostic to eventually a believer in 1929. I want to read to you in just a bit about his conversion that he recounts in a book called Surprised by Joy. Listen to what C. S. Lewis said. He said,

“I had always wanted, above all things, not to be ‘interfered with.’ I had wanted to call my soul my own. However, [he said, sort of in dialogue with God about this, he said] God would not argue with me. He only said, ‘I am the Lord. I AM that I AM. I AM.’ Some people [he said] find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation. Why would that be a problem? Agnostics [he said] will talk cheerfully about mans’ search for God. To me, as I thought then, though, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat. [He said,] You must picture me alone in my room night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.

That which I greatly feared had come upon me at last. And in the spring of 1929 I gave in and I admitted that God was God. And I knelt and I prayed, perhaps [he says] that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

I think that’s a perfect picture of our hearts apart from the grace of God. That we don’t want in our sin anybody, anyone, anything, certainly any god over us, telling us how we ought to live and how we…and what we ought to think. But it’s also, is it not, a beautiful picture for all of us that have been saved by God’s grace, is it not a perfect and glorious picture of a God who is unrelenting in His grace? A God who is overcoming in His grace. A God who overcomes our unbelief and our rebellion and our obstinacy.

It reminds me of Titus 3:3–8, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…” Praise God for His salvation.

The Arguments Against God’s Judgment are Tragically Fatal

We see that there are arguments. They’re on the surface, apparently they are rational. Ultimately, they are moral and then last, notice, that they are tragically fatal. They are tragically fatal. Verses six and seven—and we don’t have all the time that I would wish that we had on these verses… “and that by means [he says] of these [speaking of the water and the Word] the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished [speaking of the days of Noah]. But by the same word…”

And what you see in these verses, verse 5–7, you see verse five, God creates by His Word. God… excuse me, verse six, God judges by His Word. And then verse seven, God sustains by His Word. The Word is a dominant theme throughout this particular section of the text. But by the same Word, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored [they are kept, they are reserved] up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

J.C. Ryle said, speaking about the days of Noah, he said, “They saw no likelihood of a flood. They would not believe that there was any danger, but at last the flood came suddenly and it took them all away. All that were not with Noah in the Ark drowned. They were all swept away to their last account unpardoned, unconverted and unprepared to meet God.”

And so it will be on the day when Jesus returns. There will be many, perhaps some in this room who will be unpardoned, unconverted and unprepared to meet God. Now, I don’t say that with any delight or with any joy or with any flippancy for sure. Indeed, I think if we would take to heart verse seven, we would read and meditate upon the heavens and the earth being stored up for fire and kept until the day of judgment and destruction.

I suspect that all of us would be more urgent in sharing the gospel, more urgent in calling upon those that we know and those that we love that are apart from Christ to flee from the wrath that is to come. So we don’t say it with any joy or with any delight but rather we say this to remind ourselves, to remind others that God can do and God will do exactly as He says.

A Caution for the Unrepentant in 2 Peter 3:1–18

Which then leads, then, to I think, the appeals that Peter makes in verses 8–10 and then verses 11–13 in particular. He lays the groundwork that there is a coming day of judgment and so from that then he moves into a caution for the unrepentant. Look if you would in verse eight, “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” (2 Pet. 3:8). No doubt there were many in the congregation who were accusing God of slowness. There had been relatives who had died. There had been family members…friends who had died.

There had been church members who had died. Decades had elapsed. Nothing is happening. And so, Peter answers them with verse eight. Don’t over look this. One day with the Lord is a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.

Now, I don’t know exactly what Peter has in mind here. Some have developed all kinds of strange interpretations and have really wrung more out of these verses than there were. I heard of one person who looked at these particular verses—1900’s or so—and using mathematical logarithms somehow, you know, come to some conclusion about the age of the earth based on this particular verse.

I’m fairly confident that that’s not what Peter has in mind. That Peter is not intending to be that precise. In fact, I think the opposite is the case. He has intended it to be intentionally imprecise. That we simply don’t know. That we are not aware of exactly how it is or the way that time is understood, particularly from God’s perspective. He says one day is a thousand years. A thousand years is a day. We don’t really know. The point is not that God is agonizingly slow. That’s the point that Peter is making. It’s not that God is agonizingly slow. It’s that God is exceedingly patient with sinners.

God is Exceedingly Patient with Sinners

The point he’s making in verses eight and, particularly in verse nine, is that God’s exceedingly patient with sinners. Look if you would in verse nine. “The Lord is not slow [He is not slow] to fulfill his promise as some count slowness…” (2 Pet. 3:9). No doubt, certainly, from our view. He’s not slow in that way. But rather, “but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” I want you to notice two things about the patience of God.

First of all, this patience is rooted in His love. And second, this patience is displayed in His delay. This patience is rooted in His love and it is displayed in His delay. He is patient. Notice what he says. He is patient toward you. Some have said, “Well, what is the context of this passage? And how do we understand that, particularly in view of the doctrine of election and how does this all flesh…or how does this all work together?”

One thing to keep in mind from the very outset, is He is…it says, He is patient toward you. He’s speaking to the church. And then, by extension, all the others, even into this room. So there is a sense, obviously, in which God is patient with us, has been patient with us. But it does beg the question though, what does he mean…what does Peter mean when he says that God is patient toward you, not wishing—that’s the line that I want to focus on—not wishing that any should perish. How do we understand that? I mean, doesn’t God always get what He wants? And so, are we to imagine God in heaven, wishing? Wishing that some would come to repentance but having no power to effect that?

Well, I would say, no. In this particular book and in 1 Peter 1:3, “…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope…” There are plenty of other Scriptures that suggest this. So I don’t think it’s speaking about the impotence of God.

Some have looked at it and said, “Well, maybe it’s the opposite that He wishes that all should come to repentance and because God wishes it, and because God is all-powerful, well, God will make this happen. And so everybody’s going to be saved.” I mean, clearly, that’s not what he means either, if you look at verse seven. Clearly Peter says that some are kept for the destruction of the ungodly. Peter clearly doesn’t think that everybody’s going to be saved. So what does he mean here?

Well, I think he means the same thing that we see in texts like Ezekiel 33:11. You don’t have to turn there. I’ll read it. Also Ezekiel 18:23 if you want an additional text, but I think Peter, here, is simply saying that God doesn’t delight in people going to hell. Listen to Ezekiel 33:11 “…As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Or to put it positively, I think what this text and many others are teaching, including our text tonight, is that God loves to save sinners. God delights in saving sinners. He delights, He desires, every single person in Peter’s context and in our context tonight… How do we know that? Because He hasn’t come yet. He desires every person to come to repentance and to live.

Isn’t that amazing? Are you amazed at the patience of God? At the love of God toward you? Think about it this way, in terms of this particular passage, that God is so patient and so loving with you that He has in His sovereignty, delayed the coming of His very own Son. The public triumph of Jesus in order that some of us in this room tonight might repent and believe. That is love. He is patient toward us. He is exceedingly patient toward us.

2 Peter 3:1–18 Shows Us God is not Indefinitely Patient with Sinners

But I want you to notice the tension: While He is exceedingly patient with sinners, Peter goes on to say in verse ten that He is not indefinitely patient with sinners. That He is not indefinitely patient with sinners. He hasn’t come yet. That’s the good news in terms of…there is still time to repent but notice on the other had, we don’t know when He is going to come.

He could come before I finish this sermon tonight. Look at verse ten. Some of you are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Verse ten, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet. 3:10).

Two realities that Peter sets before us; we’ll take them together. One, that Jesus will certainly come. He will certainly come. He says there in verse ten, “But the day of the Lord will come…”—not probably, may, might. He will come. The day of the Lord will come. So He will certainly come. And number two, He will suddenly come. That Jesus will suddenly come. He will come, he says in verse ten, like a thief.

Friend, there is coming a day when Jesus like a thief, as He says in Matthew, like a thief in the night, He will come. And on that day, verse ten, the heavenly bodies will be burned up, “…the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, [and then that last one] and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” That every deed you’ve ever done, every word you’ve ever spoken, every thought you’ve ever had, all of it will be exposed before Him to whom we must give an account.

And so it begs the question tonight, are you ready to meet your Maker and your Judge? More sure than sunrise tomorrow morning is the day of the Lord. And I would encourage you, with everything in me tonight, to not presume upon the kindness and the patience of God. It may not last through tonight.

Don’t presume upon the kindness and the patience of God but oh, would you let the kindness and the patience of God, would you let that lead you to repentance? Would you let that lead you to a full and complete trust in the God who loves you in Jesus Christ who died in your place on the cross for your sins? As in verse 15 he says, would you “count the patience of our Lord” would you reckon that, would you consider the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Pet. 3:15)?

A Challenge to the Church from 2 Peter 3:1–18

There is, based on the arguments of the coming of the Lord, there is a caution to the unrepentant and then last, tonight, there is a challenge to the church. There is a challenge to the church. There is a tendency to hear a message like this and say, “You know what, I mean, obviously people that are not ready need to get ready, but I’m ready, so I’ve kind of got this one.” I think that would be a mistake of the first order.

I think Peter is actually building in this particular passage and he is looking to exhort the church. Remember, we see beloved, beloved, beloved over and over. And so, I think Peter has something to say to us tonight. To live in such a way that we live in light of His return.

And I think the key to understanding that…the key that really kind of pops out, I think, in verse 11. Look at what he says. ”Since all these things are thus to be dissolved…” (2 Pet. 3:11). I think this is the question that hangs over this chapter, maybe over the book, is the question or the statement that I would hope that we are left with, at least one of them, as we walk away from this night and from the other nights as we’ve studied 2 Peter, and that is verse 11, “…what sort of people ought you to be?” (2 Pet. 3:11). In light of everything that we have seen tonight and in light of everything we have seen in His Word in 2 Peter, that is the issue before us, I think, before many of us tonight. What sort of people ought we to be?

And I want to suggest three avenues of application based on really that question: What sort of people ought we to be? Drawn from this text…certainly there are more, but I want you to look with me at these three and see if any of these are things that God is speaking to you through.

We Should be a People Whose Priorities Reflect our Beliefs

First of all, we should be a people whose priorities reflect our beliefs. People whose priorities reflect our beliefs. In other words, our practice ought to follow our theology. Our practice ought to be in line with our theology. Look at verse 11 again. “Since…” Now, again, he’s reasoning, if you kind of want to connect verses ten and 11, he is reasoning from verse ten that all the works that are done on the earth will be exposed, and then he draws a conclusion from that in verse 11 and really exhorts us. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11)? To say it another way, you have it there in your notes. If we believe that this world is temporary, we ought to live for one that is eternal. If we believe that this world really is temporary, that everything is indeed going to burn, then we ought to live for one that is eternal and that will endure forever.

Think about everything that you own. Think about your home, your cars, your clothes, your TVs, your computers, your books or things that are maybe less tangible, collections, hobbies, degrees, portfolios, resumes. You know what all of that is according to this passage? It’s all kindling. It’s all going to go up in smoke.

Now I say that, not to encourage you that…or to suggest to you even, that you need to renounce all your possessions. In fact, we just need to at the end of the service that…the appropriate response at the end is just to bring everything and go ahead and get it started right here. You know, just go ahead and light everything. That’s not…not saying we have to renounce everything or that possessions are inherently bad. That’s not what Peter’s saying. That’s not what I’m saying.

But I think it is at least a challenge to someone like me who would say, “Man, I absolutely, totally 100% believe that Jesus is coming back, that there will be a day of the Lord and everything is going to burn.” And then I look at my life and say, “Is that really what I am saying with my life? Is my practice consistent with what I believe? Am I giving myself to things that are temporal; to things that are trivial? Or am I, knowing that only what is the fruit of holiness and godliness, what is the fruit of the gospel will last, am I giving myself to those things?” Our priorities ought to reflect our beliefs.

We Should be a People Whose Lives Radiate the Gospel

And number two, we should be a people whose lives radiate the gospel. We should be a people whose lives radiate the gospel. Look at the beginning of verse 12. I think as I was studying this passage, there are…you know, you read it and you read it and you read it. This is the one phrase—the one line—that just totally arrested me and totally just set me back all week, all right? And so, I want to share it with you. Look at verse 12. We’ll pick it up in verse 11 again. “…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [and notice what he says] waiting for…” Now if he just said waiting for the day, the coming day of God, I wouldn’t even pause, right?

I mean, just, if we just said, “Oh, you know, surely we’re…everything’s going to be dissolved, we ought to wait.” But notice what he says: We should be waiting for and, then notice that, maybe circle that word, “…hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12).

Now it begs the question, what in the world does Peter mean by that word “hastening the coming day of God”? If you do a word study on the word hastening, what you find is that it means hastening. Now, we laugh of course, but we have to think, don’t we, about other texts in the Bible. And we have to think, clearly, in light of God’s sovereignty.

I mean, think about Acts 1:6–7. You don’t have to turn there, you can just listen to Acts 1:6–7. Listen to what Jesus says, “So when they had come together, they asked [Jesus], ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” It’s obviously a kind of 2 Peter 3 question. Are you…When is the day of the Lord? That’s what they expected, that Messiah would come. He would establish His Kingdom. He would judge sinners and He would save His people. And so they’re asking, “When is that going to happen?” “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father [has what? Do you remember?] has fixed by his own authority.’”

And so, Jesus is teaching—and He teaches the same thing in Mark 13 and Matthew 24—Jesus is teaching that there is a certain day that is fixed on the calendar of heaven. So if you went and looked at that calendar, you could say, “Day, day, day after, Jesus comes.” It’s there. It is fixed. And I want to affirm that.

But I think what this verse is teaching us is that within that sovereignty that God also, obviously, factors in all kinds of things that are then used to hasten the coming day of God. That He factors in things like our prayer and He factors in primarily the preaching of the gospel.

I want you to hear Acts 3:19–20. It’s a text you probably want to write out beside this particular note. Notice…listen to what Peter says. And again, this is good because it’s Peter as well. So you’ve got Peter writing here, later in his life, but listen to what Peter said earlier as he was in the temple not long after the resurrection of Christ. He said this, Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that [and so, it gives three “that’s”, all right? He says repent and turn that three things might happen; #1] that your sins may be blotted out [that makes sense], [#2] that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [that makes sense for the most part, and then number three], and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…” So he’s telling them to repent so that sins may be blotted out, times of refreshing may com, and that God may send the Messiah.

In other words, I think the very same thing that we see in this passage, the same thing that is indicated in verse nine, that God is seeking the repentance of every single person that He has called to Himself and when that happens, then Jesus will come. And one of the ways that is hastened is by people believing in Christ.

So how do we then hasten it? Well, there are two obvious ways, I think. One that I think is implicit in this passage; one that is explicit. First of all, by declaration of truth. If we want to hasten the coming day of God, we do so by declaration of truth. And again, that day is fixed but God is using means to bring it about.

We hasten the day by declaration of truth. It doesn’t mean…it doesn’t mean that we have to be obnoxious or arrogant or unlikeable or condemning. It doesn’t mean that we have to begin every gospel presentation with hell and end with hell. But it does mean that as we declare the truth, we need to tell people what it is that they are being saved from or else I would submit that it’s not really any gospel at all. If we’re just telling people, “You know, you can have purpose in your life. And you know, God loves and has a plan for your life. Why don’t you come get on God’s team?” That’s obviously not the gospel. There is nothing that is really fundamentally life-changing about that.

The gospel is that Jesus died in our place and He saved us from a certain and eternal hell. You say, “Well, won’t that be kind of considered, you know, pre-modern and unsophisticated? I mean, isn’t that kind of like, you know, that fire and brimstone stuff? Isn’t that kind of like 1950’s?” I would submit no, it’s not 1950’s. It’s more A.D. 30. Jesus said in Luke 12:5, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”

Now we don’t just go forward with a message of condemnation. We go forward with gospel. Do we want Jesus to come back? Not rhetorical. Do we want Jesus to come back? Yes, we want Jesus to come back. Then let us preach the gospel in Birmingham and to the ends of the earth until He returns.

We do so by declaration of truth and we do so, I think, more explicit even in this passage by demonstration of holiness. By demonstration of holiness. I wish we had time to unpack this. Verse 11 and 12, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11–12). And I want you to notice that the end of verse 11 is connected with verse 12. So our lives of holiness and godliness are in some sense amplified by this idea of waiting for and hastening the coming day of God.

I think, to put it in the most simple terms, I think that God intends to use our holiness, He intends to use our godliness, as a means by which He will draw people to the gospel. That we will by our lives, certainly by what we say, but also by what we…the way that we live, we will either adorn the gospel or we will discredit the gospel. We will either attract people to the gospel or we will repel people from the gospel. And so, Peter says, let our lives be lives of holiness and godliness that the people will see them. They will turn to Christ and we will hasten the coming day of God.

2 Peter 3:1–18 Commands Our Hearts Long for His Coming

Priorities that are reflective of what we believe, that we should live lives that radiate the gospel, calling people to repentance and then last, we should be a people whose hearts long for His coming. People whose hearts long for His coming. We don’t have to really explore this, I don’t think, in depth, at least textually. Look at verse 12, 13 and 14. Same word three times. “…waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12); verse 13, “…waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13); and then again in verse 14, “ …waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Pet. 3:14).

It begs the question, do we long for His coming? Are you waiting, do you long to see Jesus? Is it even on the radar, this idea of the coming day of God, the day of judgment and the day of salvation? Is this something that in any sense moves you—motivates you—on a daily basis or a weekly basis? Well, if not, and I suspect for many of us it is not where it ought to be in our hearts and in our affections. I think there are a couple of reasons why that might be so.

One, some of us might not really give it the attention that it’s due, just out of ignorance and oversight. Not necessarily overtly sinful, but it’s just not raised to the level that it ought to be in our minds and in our hearts and maybe God will use these sermons to elevate that in your mind, elevate that in your heart.

But it’s possible that it is sinful that we really don’t think about the coming day of God. We don’t really think about the return of Jesus. We don’t really long for His coming because our hearts are so full, so sated with what the world has to offer that there’s no appetite remaining. That we are so consumed with everything that we can get here, that we don’t have any desire for the only thing that we can get there.

If that’s the case, and I think it’s the case in my heart, I think it’s the case to varying degrees in all of us who know Christ. If that is the case, I would turn our attention to verse 13 and it’s what, from the text at least, I want to leave you with. Verse 13, “But according to his promise…” This is good news. This is gospel to us, brothers and sisters. “But according to his promise…” And His promises never fail. “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Righteousness dwells there. Isn’t that good? Righteousness dwells there. Why? Because the King of Righteousness dwells there. And that is what we await. That is what we long for. That is why we pray to Jesus, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

J.C. Ryle said this about looking forward. He said, Let me entreat all right-hearted readers to look onward and forward to the day of Christ’s second coming. A time draws near when Satan shall be bound, and Christ’s saints shall be changed—when sin shall no more vex us, and the sight of sinners shall no more sadden our minds—when believers shall at length attend on God without distraction, and love Him with a perfect heart. For that day let us wait, and watch, and pray. It cannot be very far off. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Surely if our hearts are right, we ought often to cry, Come quickly—come Lord Jesus!

Bart is the Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship Church. He is an Alabama native and has lived in the Birmingham area since 2009. He and his wife Leslie met sometime during kindergarten (they guess), began dating during high school, and have been married since 1998. Before planting Christ Fellowship Church, Bart served as Pastor for Biblical Training at The Church at Brook Hills. During his spare time, Bart enjoys reading, coffee, and coaching youth sports. He and Leslie have four children: Rachel, Jonathan, Abigail, and Isaac.

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