Scripture declares Christ’s return repeatedly and scoffers dismiss Christ’s return rationally. We must remember that God is sovereign, timeless, merciful, and just. As Christians, we ought to practice righteousness for now and prepare for righteousness forever. We can share God’s salvation now and strengthen our salvation forever. We can grow in Christ now and glorify Christ forever. In this message on 2 Peter 3:1–18, Dr. Jim Shaddix helps us to see the great promise of Christ at his return.
- The world trashes what we treasure.
- We can stumble at the world’s scoffing.
- Our response to this temporary venue is eternal values.
Second Peter 3 in your Bible—let’s study the Word of God together. So I’m going to ask you to take a copy of the Bible and open to that place, and, as you do, let me just go ahead and acknowledge that some of you who have been around here awhile may find, if you’re one of those people that writes notes in your Bible in the margins, some notes there from a couple years ago. It’s about two years ago, and Pastor Bart Box preached. Actually, he was preaching through 2 Peter, so he preached this chapter. I listened to that message, watched it over the last couple of weeks, and I have been just greatly encouraged and strengthened in my own faith through it.
I want you to know that I’m not going to preach his sermon, but I also want to call your attention to the fact that this is a chapter that talks about reminders. And it talks about saying some of the same things over and over again so we don’t forget. So we’re on safe ground this morning, even in a two-year period, coming back to a text that some of us have studied in recent days.
So let me read this text over you as you follow along—2 Peter 3. Here’s what Peter says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
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, 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, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 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.
I don’t know how it’s been with you, but I have found myself longing for the coming of our Lord more in recent months than I can remember doing in a long time. You know, I pastored in Denver, Colorado for seven and a half years, and when I heard about another high school student walking into his high school and shooting a 17-year-old classmate, I found myself longing for Jesus to come back.
I tracked with this story of a teenager in Texas who killed four people while he was driving drunk and then got off on probation on an “affluenza” defense—his lawyer saying that because he was so rich and spoiled, he didn’t know what he was doing and couldn’t be held responsible. I followed that story, and I thought, “Lord Jesus, just come back.”
I watched the story unfold that we saw a segment of by video in our worship gatherings last week about a Christian brother who was gunned down in cold blood in Benghazi, leaving a wife and a young son. I long for Jesus to come back. And then to hear his widow on network television to grant forgiveness to her husband’s murderers, and to think about the fact that that appeal and that statement was getting a whole lot less airtime than a television reality show icon being suspended for an accusation of bigotry because he shared his Christian beliefs during an interview, I thought, “Lord Jesus, just come back.”
And just to think about stuff in my own life and the victory that my flesh gets over me sometimes. You know, I’d like to believe that the older I get the easier this Christian life thing will get and the less temptation there will be, only to realize that Satan never takes a vacation. To see the ways, I know, that in my own life I have grieved the Lord—those are just some of the occasions that have caused me in recent months to look toward the eastern horizon and say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.”
We’re messed up in this world. We live in a messed-up world. Even these bodies that we live in as Christians are messed up by sin. But every time I think about how messed up our world is and I look toward the eastern horizon and Jesus is not there, I find myself staring face-to-face into the temptation to buy into what most of our world has bought into. And that is the belief that He’s not coming.
You ever find yourself there, even if you never articulate it? Do you ever look at the length of time it’s been since Jesus was here the first time and, knowing that we’re part of a Christian tradition that celebrates the hope of His return and we’ve got songs where we sing about it and sermons where we preach about it? But sometimes, when you look at the messed-up condition of our world or maybe even the turmoil in your own life and you put those two things together, do you ever find yourself in your heart of hearts—or maybe when you put your head on your pillow at night—tempted to wonder, “Is He really coming? Is He really, really coming?”
That’s one of the reasons God gave us 2 Peter 3. He knew we would be there. He knew there would times in which we looked at the messed-up situation in our world and we looked at the length of time since Jesus’ first coming and we put those two together and bounce them off of the chaos of our own world, and we would find ourselves wondering, “Is He really, really coming? Are they right? Are they right, those who say, ‘You guys are crazy—not just to sing about that and preach about it, but to believe it and, much less, to build your lives around it!’”
So God’s Spirit inspires Peter to speak into that temptation—into the temptation for us to wonder, into the temptation for us to doubt whether or not He’s coming. And what I want to do is I want to take a popular analytical paradigm—“what?,” “so what?” and “now what?”—and I want to use it to help us to look at these words—look at what He says to us to encourage our hearts this morning.
What? The world trashes what we treasure.
The question, “What?” simply answers the question about the truth that is found in this passage of Scripture. “So what?” forces us to ask the question, “Why is it important for us to keep that on our radar? Why is he talking to us about that?” And then “Now what?” causes us to lean in to ask the question, “What do we do about this? How do we map out a course of action to obey this and to apply it to our lives?”
So let’s start with the “What?” What is it that Peter is saying coming out of the gate in this passage of Scripture? It’s something we all know, and that is that the world trashes what we treasure. That’s modus operandi in the world—to trash Christian beliefs. And in this passage of Scripture, it’s referring specifically to our belief, our conviction, about the Second Coming of Christ—about His return.
And this is why, in verse three, you look at it, Peter says, “…[K]nowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing…” And we know this to be true. We hear it all the time—in media, in entertainment, on the playground, the cubicle next to us at work, at the water cooler in the hallway. We know that the world loves to trash beliefs that we treasure and hold dear.
So what Peter does is he puts this on the table by drawing a contrast between the world and the Word. He draws a contrast between what Scripture says and what the scoffers say when it comes to the Second Coming of Christ.
Scripture declares Christ’s return repeatedly.
So let’s start with the Scriptures. We know this to be true, and that is that Scriptures declare Christ’s return repeatedly. This is one of the reasons that we believe this, right? Because the Bible talks so much about it over and over again. Old Testament and New Testament, it talks about the return of Christ. And notice what Peter says right here. He says, in verse two, that “I want you to remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles…”
So he goes back into the Old Testament and says, “The prophets talked about this. They talked about Messiah coming again.” Jesus talked about it Himself. He said, “I’m going to come again.” And then Peter, as one of the apostles who was left on the face of the earth after Jesus left the first time, says, “We’re talking about it as well.”
I want to show you a place where these three essentially come together. Hold your place here in 2 Peter and turn back to the book of Acts and go back to the beginning—close to the beginning—of chapter three. Now, many of you know where we are in history when we come to this place in the book of Acts. Jesus has been here the first time; He’s lived; He’s died; He’s gone to the cross and He’s been crucified; He’s risen again three days later and He’s ascended back to the Father. So He’s checked out of here and He’s gone back to His home in heaven. And He’s left these apostles to lead the church to announce this gospel to all people.
And so they start. Pentecost comes. The Holy Spirit falls, fills believers, indwells them. In the first sermon after Pentecost, we find Peter talking about this very thing. He goes to the temple and heals a lame man and that gets people’s attention and it draws a crowd. And so people are there and so Peter preaches to them.
I want to show you part of his sermon. Acts 3, beginning with verse 17—look at what he talks about: “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” He’s talking about the fact that they killed Jesus. “…I know that you acted in ignorance…But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” So he says, “You know, the prophets talked about the Messiah’s first coming and this has happened. He came and you did exactly what the prophets said you were going to do. You killed him and this has been the fulfillment of that,” he says.
Look at verse 19: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…” Send Him? Send Him from where? Send Him from heaven, where He ascended back to.
So Peter talks about the prophets, saying, “They said Messiah was going to come the first time and He did, and that’s been fulfilled. And now He’s left, and guess what? You’ve got an opportunity to repent in light of what He did and in light of what He’s going to do. So repent and place your faith in Him, and God will bring refreshment as He sends Christ again—as He sends Messiah again.”
And look at verse 21, if that weren’t clear enough, “…[W]hom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” Now, don’t miss that. He just said the prophets talked about His first coming and that’s been fulfilled. Look at what he says now. He said, “They talked about a Second Coming. They talked about Him coming again. The prophets long ago said this.”
And now here’s the Apostle Peter standing and proclaiming that same thing. No doubt, he had in mind some of the passages we’ve studied during this Advent season, in which Old Testament prophets looked at the coming of Christ all together—His First Coming and Second Coming. We’ve studied on a number of occasions things that were prophesied about the coming Messiah that weren’t fulfilled in His first coming. They could only be fulfilled if He came again.
Think about Daniel 7:13–14, just one example. Look at it here on the screen. It’s what Daniel said.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
That didn’t happen when Jesus came the first time. The only thing that Daniel could have been referring to was the time in which Messiah would come and all of this would be fleshed out for real. And then when Jesus came, He picked the mantle up, started talking about it and repeated it over and over again. I mean, if you look at Matthew 24, Matthew 25, Matthew 26—just in that one gospel, Jesus was talking about it.
One of His earliest mentions was in Matthew 16. Just as an example, look at this. These are the words of Jesus: “For the Son of Man is going to come…” Now, remember, when He’s saying this, He’s here the first time. And He says, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
Jesus talked about it over and over again. And then the apostles that He left led the church to talk much about it. Peter’s talking about it here in this chapter. He talked about it in Acts 3. The Apostle Paul—I mean, you just look at 1 and 2 Thessalonians both, and he mentioned it over and over again—teaches the people about it. John records Jesus teaching on it in his Gospel, chapter 14, when Jesus said, “I’m going away, but if I go away, I’m going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I’m coming back to get you, that where I am that you may be also.”
John 21, at the end of the book, He’s kind of rebuking Peter, who was concerned about John. And Jesus said, “Don’t worry about John. If I leave him here until I come, what does that matter to you? You just do what I tell you to do.” And then John wrote a whole book on it—the Book of Revelation. And Scripture repeats this over and over and over again. And it’s why we embrace it. It’s why we believe it. It’s why we have confidence in it. That’s one side. But notice that Peter says, “There’s another side, and it’s these scoffers.”
Scoffers dismiss Christ’s return rationally.
He says that scoffers dismiss Christ’s return rationally. And that’s what he’s describing here in 2 Peter 3. He said, “You need to remember the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior and the apostles.” But notice what the scoffers will say in verse four. They’ll say, “Where’s the promise of His coming?” It’s been maybe a few decades since Christ when Peter wrote this. It’s been 2,000 years and people are still saying it. They were saying it then. That’s a long time. “Where’s the evidence of His coming?”
And then this is the case that they build in their own minds: “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” Scoffers say, “We have a closed system here. It’s got order to it and regularity. We get up in the morning. We go to work. We come home at night. We hang with our families and we go to bed. We get up and do it all over again. There’s sameness to this and there really has not been any major interruption like you Christians are saying is going to happen. It really doesn’t make sense.”
And if you stop and think about it from their argument standpoint, that’s true. That it really doesn’t make sense that there would be any kind of catastrophic interruption to what has been going on now for centuries—this regularity, this sameness, these laws of nature that govern what appear to be a closed system. And it’s just kind of weird to think that someday somebody’s God is going to appear in the eastern sky and turn this whole thing upside down. That really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And so Peter says, “This is what the scoffers say: ‘It just doesn’t seem to fit in what we know of in the regularity and the sameness of life.’” I’m not talking about what seems to be chaos sometimes in our individual lives or tragedy or turmoil; just in the universe as a whole. And this is what the scoffers were saying. And whether articulated or not, this is what many people look at today. They just look at this routine we’ve got and this sameness and how long it’s been since Jesus was here the first time, and it just doesn’t seem rational that God’s going to interrupt all of that with a chaos that’s described here and in other places in Scripture.
So Peter says, “Remember that this is what the world does, and this is why they do it. This is what they do. They trash what we treasure and here’s why we do it.”
So What? We can stumble at the world’s scoffing.
So what? So what’s the big deal that Peter would think it so important to say this in the way that he says it here in this chapter? I mean, notice, he says, “I’ve not just written one letter but two, in both of which I’ve mentioned this.” And one of the reasons is, notice there, he says, “I’m stirring up sincere mind.” It means, “I’m trying to get you to think wholesomely.” And then he says, “I want you to think wholesomely, and I want you to think rightly by way of reminder that you should remember this stuff.”
I mean, it’s like, how many other ways can you say, “Get this and don’t forget it and don’t stop thinking about.” So what? The world’s been trashing what we treasure for centuries. Why is it so important for Peter to keep this on our radar? Well, did you notice his flow of thought? Notice he says in verse five, “For they deliberately overlook…”—talking about the scoffers, right? But then notice verse eight: “But [you] do not overlook…”
And then he spends the rest of the chapter talking to Christians; talking to those of us who’ve named the name of Christ. He says, “They overlook some things but now don’t you overlook.” And then he’s going to come all the way down to verse 17—look at it now—and it says, “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.” He’s still talking to Christians.
And the “so what?” is this: We can stumble at the world’s scoffing. We can stumble. It can affect us. But that’s what’s going on here. He says, “Keep this on your radar.” And he says, “Yes, there’s going to be scoffers. You know this and here’s what they’re going to say.” But then he spends the majority of his time talking to believers, saying, “Don’t you overlook the things that they overlook. Don’t you forget that it is possible—when you find yourself at that place of looking at how long it’s been since Jesus was here the first time and looking at how messed up our world is and maybe even looking at the turmoil in your own life and putting all that together—it is possible, as you stare into the face of temptation and wonder, ‘Could that be the case? Maybe He’s not coming? Where is He?’—then it is possible in the midst of that for you to stumble in your faith.” That’s what’s so important about this. That’s why we have 2 Peter 3.
And by the way, it’s even more serious than that. Do you see at the end of verse three he says why the scoffers are doing this? He says, “They’re following their own sinful desires.” And then in verse five he says, “They deliberately overlook some things.”
Watch this, church. This is not a description of lost people in the world just being a lot smarter than Christians, that they can figure it out and analyze it and see where all the facts are and come to this conclusion. That’s not what’s going on here. What’s going on is spiritual warfare—people who’ve been deceived by the enemy into following the passions of their own lusts, leading people to look square in the face at some certain things and just deny them and say, “I’m rejecting that in order to pursue this over here.”
Why? Because there’s an enemy out there that has an agenda and he never lets up. And yes, part of his agenda is to keep unbelievers in a state of deception, believing lies, overlooking truth, embracing not only doubt but denial. But understand this in 2 Peter 3: Part of his agenda is to use their scoffing to try to bring us to the place where we stumble in our faith because we cast our lot in with them and say, “What they’re saying must be true. After all, where is He? And look how messed up our world seems to be.”
So Peter says, “You want to know ‘so what?’ You want to know why this is important? It’s important because it’s possible for us as believers in Jesus Christ to stumble at the world’s scoffing about the Second Coming of Christ.” So Peter takes that and speaks into the lives of believers to say, “I want you to remember some things in order to keep you from those times in the quiet place.”
You see, this is something we would very rarely articulate, right? This thing about wondering sometimes and doubting sometimes. I mean, most of the time, we would never even say that to a friend, but in the quiet place, in the secretness of our own heart, the reality is the Spirit of God knew we would find ourselves there sometime, faced with the temptation. So Peter speaks into the quiet place of our heart. He speaks into the offline times. He speaks into the times when we are putting how long it’s been since Jesus came with a messed-up condition of our world and our own personal journey, and we’re trying to make those things make sense. And we’re wondering, “Jesus, why don’t you just come and get this over with and put an end to this? Why are you standing around watching this stuff happen?” And Peter speaks into those times to say, “Don’t cast your lot in with the scoffers. Don’t compromise your faith. Don’t let the enemy bring shipwreck.”
And you know what he appeals to? You know the things that he calls our attention to? Did you notice it in this reading? Our theology. I mean, he doesn’t pull out some practical advice and say, “Okay. Now, you know, when you find yourself doubting, when you find yourself wondering, and you’re trying to put all this together and you’re being tempted to believe that maybe Jesus isn’t coming, here are some practical steps.” And, you know, “Do this spiritual exercise.” And, you know, “Go to this place or that.” He just appeals to our doctrine of God—our theology, what we know to be true about God.
Remember that God is sovereign.
So let me show you what he says. He says, first of all, remember that God is sovereign. In verses five through seven here, do you understand what the scoffers were saying? You know, they were saying, “We live in this closed system. It doesn’t make sense that it’s going to be interrupted with chaos. And it’s been this way for a long time.” And Peter calls “time out” and he says, “Wait a second. Is that really true?”
Remember, it says that they deliberately overlooked some things? Well, Peter’s about to show us what they deliberately overlook. And you know what it is? What people believe who believe that we live in a closed system and have since the creation of the world or the beginning of time, and it really doesn’t make sense that it would be interrupted by, you know, by some cataclysmic event. People who say that overlook the fact that God has actually interrupted history on a number of occasions in time past with cataclysmic events.
In His sovereignty, He has actually brought order out of a chaos and He’s brought chaos out of order at His sovereign will. Let me show it to you. First of all, He says in verse five, “They deliberately overlook creation.” He appeals to Genesis 1:1–2, when darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, and God took all of that and He created what you see out there and where we live and the orderliness of creation. He made that out of chaos. Basically, Peter says scoffers don’t know their history and they don’t know their Bible. Because if they knew their history and they knew their Bible, they could go back to creation and know that this whole thing started by the sovereign hand of God when He stepped into chaos and brought order to it.
Illustration number two: He reversed that. He brought chaos into order. That’s what’s in verse six, when he appeals to Genesis 7 and the flood of the earth in Noah’s day. And he says that the world existed, was drowned. It was deluged with water and perished. God stepped in at that point in history, into the orderliness of this what people perceived to be a closed system, not capable of being interrupted by cataclysmic events, and He interrupted it. And so Peter says, “It really, really is foolish to say that we have lived in this closed system since the beginning of creation without any cataclysmic interruption because God has interrupted it.”
And those are not the only examples. He doesn’t even mention the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, in which God scattered and confused the orderliness of the people on the face of the earth. But his point is that God sovereignly has done this before. So he comes to verse seven and says, “He’s going to do it again.”
It’s not a legitimate argument to say, “Okay, it’s been two thousand years. We’re in this closed system. Yeah, there are problems here and we have natural disasters and stuff, but as far as the universe is concerned, things have been hopping along. And it just makes sense that they’ll be hopping along forever without any seismic interruption.” And Peter says, “Not. Not. God’s done this before. He’ll do it again at Christ’s coming. Don’t forget that.”
And to underscore that, did you notice he talks about how God has done this? Did you notice the common denominator through all three of those verses? God has done this by His very Word. Do you see it in verse five? He brought order out of chaos at creation by the Word of God. In the beginning of verse six, by means of these same words then, He brought chaos into orderliness at the flood. And then he says in verse seven, “By the same word, the heavens and earth that now exist, though they’ll be turned upside down when Jesus comes again. God will do it again.”
Do you understand that the only orderliness that has ever been in creation has been because God has spoken? That’s the only thing holding this together. Take a look at Hebrews 1 here on the screen. This is what the author of Hebrews says, speaking about Jesus: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
That’s the only reason we seem to have orderliness now, and any order that’s ever been has only been because God is speaking. If He ever stops talking, chaos. This is what the Word of God says. And Peter’s point is, “Don’t forget that.”
Brook Hills, when you find yourself settling into a presumption and a routine of hearing sermons about the sovereignty of God and singing songs about the sovereignty of God, when you find yourself tempted to think that’s mundane and that’s just a theological tenet that we need to throw in now and there, fight that temptation hard because it is not just a theological tenet that we need to throw in.
It is the very foundation of the hope that we have in Christ’s return. And one of the things that we rest on in the quiet place—in the quietness of our heart when we find ourselves wondering—when we’re tempted to entertain the idea that maybe He’s not coming based upon the rational arguments that people give. Peter says, “Remember that He’s sovereign.”
Remember that God is timeless.
And then he says, “Remember that He is timeless.” In verse eight, he appeals to Psalm 90:4, that talks about the Lord’s omniscience and His omnipresence and one day being to Him like a thousand years and a thousand years being like a day. And then, basically, he says that if God’s omniscient and is omnipresent, then all points in time—watch this, try to get your arm around this—all points in time are equally near to God.
You ever process that? I mean, you and I as humans, we operate in linear fashion: “Okay, I was born, and then a little bit later I got my first iPhone (that’s got to be the most significant event, you know). And then, you know, I got married. And then, you know, before this, my parents, they were over there somewhere.” And we look at this at points in time. And the farther we go on the timeline, the farther we are from those things because we’re not omnipresent.
We’re not everywhere at once. You know, we’re at a point in time but God’s not like that. He is everywhere present and He is all-knowing. That makes Him everywhere present on this entire timeline and that means that God was equally as near at my birth as He was at my marriage and as He is as I’m standing right now. He’s not any farther removed from any of those and, consequently, the events in history that we’re talking about—like creation and like the flood and like the Second Coming—He is equally as near to those things because He doesn’t relate to time in the same way.
If you stop and think about it, if for God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is a day, well, then it’s only been a couple of days since Jesus was here the first time, right? Think about it. And that means that the day in which I stand looking somewhere in the future at the hope of Christ’s return, but looking back that it’s been two thousand years since He came the first time.
And at this point in time, sometimes, when I look at the messed-up world in which we live in—my own flesh—and I look at these distances in time, and I’m tempted to wonder and I’m tempted to doubt, Peter says, “Remember that God is timeless. And to say, ‘Look how long it’s been since Jesus came the first time. I wonder if His coming is not valid because all these points are equally near to God.’ He’s not bound by those things. He’s timeless.”
2 Peter 3:1–18 reminds us that God is merciful.
And then Peter says, “Remember that God is merciful.” You see, one of the things the scoffers were saying is that, “God must be incapable of fulfilling His promise, of being faithful to this. He must be kind of like the prophets of Baal, you know, in Elijah’s day. Maybe He’s on vacation. Maybe He’s, you know, taking a nap. Maybe He’s, you know, just wrapped up in His cosmic Facebook page or something. He’s distracted and, you know, God is slow if anything. Something is wrong with God. He’s impotent and incapable of doing what you Christians say He said He was going to do.”
And Peter says, “Are you kidding? Not only does His ‘slowness’ not underscore some inability on His part, it actually underscores what’s at His very heart and nature. And that is that He’s merciful.” And that is what we see there in verse nine: “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.”
Beloved, in the quiet place of temptation, quiet place of doubt, the online place of wondering, “Could it be true what some of my friends are saying, what the media says, what Hollywood believes? That He’s really not going to come back. Could it really be true?” In that place, remember the very heart of God, and that is that God is waiting.
And if I could say to those of you that may be in this room or listening to this by recording at some point, those of you that may be listening without Christ, I want you to hear this above all. Hear the very heartbeat of God. The Word of God says that the distance between the time Jesus came the first time and where we live now, that time period there is not because He’s incapable or He’s distracted. It’s because He’s waiting, and He’s waiting for you.
And His heart is—as we sang a moment ago—is the rescuer of mankind; it has been to pursue you in Christ Jesus. And any moment, any day, that goes by that Christ doesn’t return is not because God is incapable of being faithful to His promise, but it is because His heart is for you. He’s waiting for you and He’s pleading with you.
And we join Him in that today—to invite you to realize His love for you and the extent to which He’s gone to pursue you in sending His only Son to live the life that you couldn’t live and die the death you should have died, and we all should have died, and He has rises from the dead to give you back the life He created you to have. Repent of your sin today and place your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone, because this is a merciful God.
And those of us who’ve already embraced that—have said “yes” to Jesus and are His disciples—remember that Peter says this: “I’m saying to you because this is one of the things you must remember in the quiet place, the offline place, when you find yourself wondering, ‘Look how long it’s been. Look how messed-up our world is.’ Remember the heartbeat of the God that you worship. Remember the character and the nature of the God that you serve. He is merciful. And the only reason He’s waiting is because He desires more men, women, boys and girls to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.”
2 Peter 3:1–18 reminds us to remember that God is just.
And then you’ve got to put this last one. You’ve got to put it alongside that one because Peter says, “Remember that God is just. He’s fair. He will bring justice.” And that’s what you come to in verse ten when he says, “But the day of the Lord will come…” And he uses the same analogy that Jesus used on a number of occasions, and that is an analogy that says, “People will not be expecting it and so they won’t be prepared. Just like a thief comes to your house and he doesn’t text or email before he comes to let you know he’s coming. He just shows up and he shows up when you’re not expecting. And, therefore, you’re not prepared.” And he says, “That’s the way it’s going to be. That’s the character and nature of God in bringing justice and rightness to this whole deal.”
I can’t think of anything that, really, even though there’s great discomfort in thinking about some of the things that will go along with His justice, anything that could be more encouraging when I am looking at a messed-up world and I’m looking at how long it’s been since Jesus came, and I find myself thinking and tempted to say, “Well, maybe He’s not coming,” is to remember the character of God in that He will not leave this unaddressed. He is just, and He will bring closure to this deal.
So Peter says, “And this is what it looks like: [T]he 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.” The language of the New Testament—that last phrase in the verse there—implies, it suggests, there’s a point in time in which God announces penalty. The gavel comes down and He says, “This is done and here is how everyone gets what they deserve.”
Fire is used throughout Scripture in relation to the righteous judgment of God. You find it in Deuteronomy, not to mention the sacrificial system even before that, all the way to Malachi. In the New Testament, it’s often associated with the Second Coming of Christ. Peter uses it at least three times here. Back up in verse seven, he says, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment.” Here in verse ten we just read, Peter mentions it. Then verse 12 talks about the coming day of the Lord, in which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolve and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn.
You know, I realize that there are good Christians that have debated through the years whether the fire references are literal or whether they’re figurative. I personally lean toward them being literal. It’s hard for me to come to verses five through seven and say, “Oh, at creation water was literal because that’s what Genesis 1:1–2 says. And verse six, oh, the water is literal because we know it flooded the earth in Noah’s day,” and then, in the same breath, come to verse seven with the fire and say, “Oh, that’s figurative.”
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m going to tell you what we do know for sure, and that is the judgment of God will be awful. It’ll be devastating; it’ll be purifying; and it will be fair. It will be just. And Peter comes to verse ten and says, “Understand that right alongside understanding that God is merciful and that He’s waiting must come the understanding that He is just and He will bring closure to this.”
I want to show it to you in 2 Thessalonians. Just hold your place here real quick. Take a look at this. Second Thessalonians 1 is almost, in so many ways, a parallel passive to this 2 Peter 3. But this is one of the places where Paul mentions the Second Coming of our Lord. And notice how he describes it. Second Thessalonians 1:5—He says, “This is evidence of the…” What does your Bible say? What does it say? What kind of judgment? Righteous judgment of God. The right judgment of God. The fair judgment of God. The just judgment of God. He says, “…[T]hat you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering…”
Isn’t it interesting that fire oftentimes is used to describe suffering as well? And so Paul says,
… [S]ince indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…
That’s what Paul says about the coming of our Lord. It is going to be about the right—the just—judgment of God. And watch this now. This is what fire does. You know, we talk about fire refining metals. What does it do? It burns away the dross. It burns away that that has no value, and it keeps that which has value. And just so we’re very clear at this point and nobody is confused about those who get what’s coming to them and what we deserve, the only reason there’s anybody sitting in this room today that will not fall prey to the judgment of God is because of Jesus Christ. It’s not because we’ve done anything right or good, right? We just believed. God did it in Christ Jesus. But be very sure that God will bring justice and He will bring justice in an unexpected time. And there will be a lot of unprepared people but He will bring justice.
Now What? Our response to this temporary venue is eternal values.
What do we do with that? What’s he showing us? The world trashes what we treasure and it’s always been that way. It will be until Jesus comes. So what? Why is that important? Because we’re going to be tempted, at times, to be discouraged, to be frustrated and to find ourselves wondering. When we look at our messed-up world and we look at how long it’s been since Jesus was here the first time to wonder if that’s true and maybe even to buy into that if we’re not careful. What do we do with that?
Well, the Apostle Peter says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “If all of that is true—all of what he’s been saying is true—then,” he says, “our response, our natural response, to this temporary venue in which we live is eternal values.” The only possible response to a conviction that this is all temporary and one day God’s going to speak interruption into this what-seems-to-be-orderly world and routine world and turn it upside down at the Second Coming of Christ with fiery judgment, and this is all going to be burned up and He’s going to usher in the Kingdom for His people. If that’s true, then the only thing that makes sense is that we would give everything we are and everything we have to eternal values—to things that last.
Look at it—2 Peter 3:11: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved…” And then in verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these…” What does he say? He says, “Do you want to talk rational? You want to talk something that makes sense?” when the scoffers are saying, “It only makes sense that there can be no interruption to this orderly world.” He says, “You want to talk something that makes sense? The only thing that makes sense is, if this is true and this is temporary, this life—all that we’re associated with in this life—if this is temporary and it’s going to fall prey to the judgment of God and be dissolved, then it just makes sense that we would latch on to things that are forever and things that are eternal and we would give our lives to those things.”
This is why he says there in verse 11, “What sort of people ought you to be?” Kelley says, “How exceedingly, how outstandingly, how exceedingly joyous ought these Christians to be as a result of this.” And then you know what he does? The rest of the chapter he just identifies what some of those values are. I want to show them to you in three pairs real quickly and just show you that, in each of these pairs, what Peter does is he talks about how we are invested in eternal values in the present. So that effects things that we do and then they’re all done in view of the future forever.
2 Peter 3:1–18 teaches us to practice righteousness for now, and prepare for righteousness forever.
So here we go. The first thing that he says is, “Practice righteousness for now and prepare for righteousness forever.” Verse 11: What sort of people ought you to be? Lives of holiness and godliness. And then in verse 14 he says, “Without spot or blemish and at peace.” Beloved, this is our conduct. This is the way we live. This is our personal lives. It is our public lives. It is our private lives. It’s the here and now and this is what Peter says. He says, “The only logical thing—the only thing that makes sense if this is temporary—is for you to live for the eternal and that starts with your daily conduct—moment by moment, hour by hour.”
And then Peter says, “But you know what? That’s all done in view of the fact that one day there’s going to be perfect righteousness.” You’ve got practical righteousness now, but he says in verse 12, “[You’re] waiting for and hastening the coming day of God…” And then he says in verse 13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This is the order of the day. This is what it’s going to be like. Righteousness lives here. And so this is where you’re headed and this is what you’re waiting for. And those two things feed one another.
By the way, I think this is one of the greatest indications that there are so many cultural Christians, hypocrites, people who use the religious language—they talk about Jesus and they go to church, but they’re not really true believers because, when they walk out the doors of a church building, their lives look just like the world. Peter says, “Are you kidding? If you really believe this—if you really believe this life is temporary and you really believe there’s another life that’s forever, and, in that life forever, righteousness is the order of the day—it dwells there—then that informs how you live in this life.” So practice righteousness now in your personal life as you prepare for righteousness forever.
Share God’s salvation for now, and strengthen your salvation forever.
And then the next pair is share God’s salvation for now and strengthen your salvation forever. Peter says some really encouraging and profound and challenging things about Paul’s writing in verses 15 and 16. I mean, the encouraging thing that he says to me is that sometimes the Scriptures are hard to understand. Anybody else here glad that verse is in the Bible?
You ever look at Romans 9–11 or some of the places in the Thessalonians and think, “What in the world is he talking about?” Well, this is the Apostle Peter talking about Paul’s writing and says, “You know, sometimes there’s some things hard to understand, but this is the very thing that scoffers use to twist around and make them say things that they don’t say.” It’s encouraging to me that he would acknowledge that. This is not his major point, but he acknowledges it.
And you know the profound thing—again, not his major point—but the profound thing he says here is he puts Paul’s writings on the same level as inspired Scripture. Even in the first century, they were recognizing the Apostle Paul’s writing. Paul wrote half of the New Testament as the inspired Word of God. That’s what he says at the end of verse 16.
But none of those are his main point. You know what his main point is? It’s the challenging thing he’s saying. And that is what comes at the beginning of verse 15, when he says to believers, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…” You know what he’s saying? He’s saying, “Paul talked about this. I’ve been talking about it. And that is, the reason God’s waiting is so more people can come to know Christ.”
And, by the way, you remember God’s plan? Plan A is that twice more men and women, boys and girls like us would be the instruments, the mouthpieces, of sharing the gospel—taking it to the nations. He has no Plan B. This is why we’re left on the planet. If this is why He’s delaying and this is why we’re left on the planet and this is the day of salvation based upon God’s mercy and patience, then it just makes sense that you would do what Paul says in every one of his books. And that is do everything you can to tell as many men, women, boys and girls how they can miss hell and make heaven in view of Christ’s return.
That’s how you count this as a day of salvation in the patience of our Lord. Share God’s salvation for now. And while you’re doing it, remember that, along the way, there are going to be the quiet places and the quiet times when you glance back at how long it’s been for Jesus to come, and you listen to the news in the evening or read it on the Internet and are reminded about how messed-up our world is, and you’re going to be tempted to begin to wonder, “Could what those people are saying be true?”
And so he says, “You be sure and strengthen your faith as part of the eternal salvation of God. You find yourself in the sanctifying process, strengthen your faith.” In verse 17, he says, “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.”
So Peter says, “While you’re sharing God’s salvation with people, make sure you don’t let your guard down. Don’t let Satan come in and blindside you and shipwreck your own faith because you begin to cast your lot in with the scoffers.”
2 Peter 3:1–18 teaches us to grow in Christ now, and glorify Christ forever.
And then finally, he says, “Grow in Christ for now and glorify Christ forever.” It’s what you find in verse 18—the mention of two things: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Grace and knowledge are just the strength and the practical wisdom he gives to help us live the Christian life—to help us mature in our faith. And listen to me, beloved.
Listen, I know we’ve filled in the last blank but don’t check out on me. Watch this. Come in here real close. There are no profound secrets to this. It’s the same stuff that’s been in place, that’s been yours in Christ to mature in your faith and grow in Christ since Jesus was here. It’s available to you in Christ and the stuff we always talk about.
Identify with His church through baptism and church membership. Be a part of a body like this. Immerse yourself in His Word. Hang out with His people a lot. Rehash the gospel by taking communion together and reminding one another about what Jesus has done. Talk to Him a lot through prayer. Spend your days telling as many people as you possibly can about how they can be saved as a result of Christ’s work. That’s how you grow in Christ. That’s what He’s made available to you.
And then Peter says, “While you’re doing it, just practice giving glory to Him because that’s what you’re going to be doing in all of eternity.” He implies that by ending with this doxology that just kind of hovers all of this: “To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” That’s what we’re going to be doing. So Peter says, “Let’s do it now and let’s practice and let’s give ourselves to this.”
These are the things, beloved, that help build spiritual armor—walls of protection—around the temptations that we face to wonder and to doubt whether or not Jesus is coming back. Jesus and Paul both knew we would be at those places. And I think that’s one of the reasons why both of them, in talking about communion—about the Lord’s Table—attached the Lord’s Supper to the Second Coming of our Lord.
Jesus, in Matthew 26:29, said this to His disciples when He instituted the supper, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” It’s almost as if Jesus somewhat toasted His disciples and said, “Guys, I’m coming back for you. And every time you come to this table, you remember that promise.”
The Apostle Paul, when he talked about the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:26, said this, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” So when we come to the table, we remember back to the first time Jesus came as a suffering Servant and He died on the cross for our sins, that we might be forgiven. But every time we come to the table, we remember the promise of the future as well. And that is that He’s coming back to get us and this time He will not come as a suffering Servant. He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
What? – The world trashes what we treasure.
- Scripture declares Christ’s return repeatedly. (1-2)
- Scoffers dismiss Christ’s return rationally. (3-4)
So What? – We can stumble at the world’s scoffing.
- Remember that God is sovereign. (5-7)
- Remember that God is timeless. (8)
- Remember that God is merciful. (9)
- Remember that God is just. (10)
Now What? – Our response to this temporary venue is eternal values.
- Practice righteousness for now. (11-14)
- Prepare for righteousness forever. (14)
- Share God’s salvation for now. (15-16)
- Strengthen your salvation forever. (17)
- Grow in Christ for now. (18)
- Glorify Christ forever. (18)