The story is told about a preacher who was preaching to a packed church about the second coming. He wound up to a fever pitch and quoted Jesus’ promise, “I amcoming soon!” He preached some more andsaid even more loudly, “I am coming soon!” He preached a little longer and threw his arms up in the air and cried out, “I am coming soon!”
At that point, he lost his balance and fell off the stage into the lap of a man in the firstrow. The preacher got up and apologized to the man, but the man replied, “Oh, that’s okay, you warned me three times that youwere coming! I should have been expecting you!”
The Bible repeatedly speaks of the promiseand the warning of Christ’s coming, but howseriously and expectantly are we looking for that coming? I am fascinated by the way we get so wrapped up in end times things and doomsday prophesies. These kinds ofthings find their way into all kinds of fiction and movie making.
One of the oldest & most famous examplesgoes all the way back to the science fiction novel “The War of the Worlds” written by H.G. Wells in 1898. Perhaps the greatest impact of that novel was felt on Sundayevening, October 30, 1938 when millions ofAmericans were listening to the CBS radio network and heard an announcer’s voice breaking into the music of an orchestra, saying,
“Ladies and gentleman, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.” Then, during the next hour, the audiencewas stunned to hear a series of increasingly hysterical voices narrating an invasion of Martian monsters, landing first on a New Jersey farm, then unleashing poisonous gases over New York City.
The broken, anguished voice of an announcer continued: “All communication with Jersey shore closed…No moredefenses. Our army wiped out…artillery, air force, everything wiped out. This may be the last broadcast.” Later they learned that they had been listening to the Orson Welles – MercuryTheatre production of “War of the Worlds.”
It has been estimated that millions of people experienced serious levels of distress. Thousands were thrown into absolute panic, but none of it was true. More recent examples of these kinds of doomsday stories include the movies: Independence Day, Armageddon, and TheDay after Tomorrow, just to name a few. The big buzz these days has to do with 2012 and the supposed end of the world related to the end of the Mayan calendar.
What is strange to me about all this is the fact that we can get all worked up about speculative things that are not likely to happen, like alien invasions, asteroids colliding with the earth, global warming, nuclear holocaust, or Mayan predictions, but we aren’t concerned enough aboutsomething that we know is going to happen: the return of Jesus Christ.
We have been studying Peter’s secondletter for several weeks, and we have seen that Peter is concerned that his readers grow in the knowledge of the Lord. One of the reasons Peter encouraged his readers to grow in the knowledge of the Lord was the fact that there are false teachers and false teaching. Last week we saw howPeter addressed the character and conduct of the false teachers.
In today’s section from chapter 3, we want to notice how Peter addressed one of the things the false teachers taught. There would be no second coming of Jesus. It’s very important for us to understand the truths of God’s Word. Just like in Peter’s day, we are surrounded today by peoplewho refuse to take the Bible seriously when it speaks about Christ’s return and the certainty of judgment.
Let’s work through these verses and learn important truths about God and Christ’s coming.2 Peter 3:1 NET Dear friends, this is already the second letter I have written you, in which I am trying to stir up your pure mind by way of reminder: 2 I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holyprophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.
3 Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges 4 andsaying, "Where is his promised return? For ever since our ancestors died, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation."
We notice that Peter wrote this second letter primarily to awaken his readers and remind them of the truths they alreadyknew. Because God’s Word is true, we must pay attention to it and take its messageseriously. New converts must be taught the Word and must be established in the basic doctrines of the faith. As I mentioned last week, new converts are often the target of false teachers, because they are more easily swayed from the truth.
But it’s not just new Christians who need tobe in the Word and need to be reminded to hold to the truth – we all need it. Theimportant truth that Peter’s readers needed to be reminded of was the truth of Jesus’ return. The Bible teaches that the Day of the Lord was not something invented by the Apostles. The prophets taught about it andso did Jesus during His ministry, and Jesus’ apostles taught the same.
So here Peter is emphasizing the unity of the Word of God. In their denial of thesecond coming, the scoffers were denying the truth of the prophets, the teaching ofJesus and the writings of the apostles. TheScriptures are like a seamless garment and cannot be cut apart without ruining the whole.
Not only does the Word of God predict thecoming Day of the Lord, but it also predicts the appearance of the very scoffers who deny that Word. Their very presence is proof that the Word they deny is the true Word of God. What is a scoffer? A scoffer is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.
The people in Noah’s day scoffed at theidea of a judgment coming through a flood. The citizens of Sodom scoffed at the possibility of judgment coming through fire from above. Just think of the people in our world today who laugh at the notion of judgment and hell’s fire.
Why do these scoffers scoff? Peter says,…being propelled by their own evil urges… They want to continue living in their sins. If your lifestyle contradicts the Word of God, then you must either change your lifestyle or change the Word of God. The falseteachers chose the latter approach, so theyscoffed at the doctrines of the coming of the Lord and judgment.
And what was their argument? Theypointed to the uniformity of the world. They argued, “Nothing cataclysmic hadhappened in the past, so there is no reason to believe it will happen in the future.” Sohow did Peter answer their argument? Let’s look at the next section.
5 For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water. 6 Throughthese things the world existing at that time was destroyed when it was deluged withwater. 7 But by the same word the presentheavens and earth have been reserved forfire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
All Peter did was remind them of what Godhas done in the past to make the point that God’s work is consistent throughout theages. Peter simply presented the evidencethat the false teachers deliberately ignored. Peter cited two events in history to prove his point – the work of God in creation and the flood in Noah’s day.
With regard to creation – God created the heavens and the earth by His word. Notonly was the creation made by the word of God, but it was held together by the same word. Peter’s argument is obvious: the same God who created the world by Hisword can also intervene in His world and do whatever He wants to do by His word.
The second event Peter cited was the flood during Noah’s time. In the previous chapter, Peter had already referred to the flood as an illustration of divinejudgment, so there was no need to go into detail. The flood was a cataclysmic event.
The people living on earth had probably never seen a rainstorm or the fountains of the deep overflowing, but these events happened just the same. God has the power to “break in” at any time and accomplish His will, even if it has never happened before. God can send rain fromheaven and God can send fire from heaven.
Having established the fact that God has inthe past “interrupted” the course of history, Peter was then ready for his application. The same word of God that created andsustains the world is presently holding it for future judgment. God promised that there would be no more floods to destroy theworld (Gen. 9), but the next judgment will be a judgment of fire that will bring the destruction of ungodly people.
So Peter has proved his point – God has intervened in the course of history in cataclysmic ways and He has promised todo it again. It will come just as surely as the Flood came in Noah’s day and fire and brimstone came to destroy Sodom andGomorrah. This is ultimately the bad news, not the good news.
But the scoffers of that day had theirargument ready: “Then why the delay?” The promise of Christ’s coming and the judgment of the world had been around for decades when Peter wrote this, but it had yet to be fulfilled. We can imagine the scoffers of today being even more emboldened. The promise of Christ’s coming and the judgment of the world hasbeen around for centuries, and it is yet to be fulfilled. Has God changed His mind? Let’s look at Peter’s answer.
8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thingescape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and athousand years are like a single day. 9 TheLord is not slow concerning his promise, assome regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze,and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare.
Once again, Peter exposed the ignoranceof the scoffers. They were not only ignorantof what God had done in the past, but they were also ignorant of what God was like. They were making God in their own image and were ignoring the fact that God is eternal. Being eternal, God has no beginning and end, and lives above and beyond time. With the Lord a thousand years are like a day and a day is like a thousand years.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of a man whowas talking to God one day. “God”, the man asked, “how long is a million years?” God answered, “In my frame of reference, its about a minute.” Then the man asked, “God, how much is a million dollars?” Godanswered, “To me, its a penny.” So the man then asked, “Then can I have one of your pennies?” God answered, “Sure, just a minute.”
Since a thousand years are like a day to the Lord, we cannot accuse Him of delayed fulfillment of His promises. In God’sexperience, His promises are only days old. God is never in a hurry, and He is never late. God is always right on time.
Another thing the scoffers didn’t understandwas God’s mercy. Why is God delaying the return of Christ? It is not because He is unable to act or unwilling to act. Peter explains that God’sdelay is to give more people the opportunity to be saved. Peter says that God
Here we see the very heart of God. Paulconfirms this when he writes to Timothy.…since he wants all people to be savedand to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4 NET
When is Jesus going to return? No oneknows. It will catch us off-guard like the thief comes when no one is expecting him to come. No alarms will sound ahead oftime, and no newspapers will announce it in advance. Jesus tried to make this truth clear duringHis ministry. Jesus said: "But as for that day and hour no one knows it — not even the angels in heaven — except the Father alone. Matthew 24:36 NET
In Matthew 25, Jesus told the parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the talents to teach us the need to be ready all the time for His return. Unfortunately false teachers over the years have boldly predicted the return of Jesus on specific days, and of course they have all been wrong.
In his book “1994?”, he claimed there was a very high likelihood that the world would end in September, 1994, although he did acknowledge in the book "the possibility does exist that I could be wrong." (wikipedia.org)
Doomsday prophet Harold Camping’s revised prediction that the world would endon Oct. 21, 2011 turned out, once again, not to come true. According to the preacher’sprediction, which was revised after his May21, 2011 prophecy failed to materialize. (By ABC News)
So we don’t know when Christ will return, but we are emphatically told that He will return, and we are told how and what will happen. Paul described it this way: 1Thessalonians 4:15 NET For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of theLord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will come downfrom heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ willrise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Later in the chapter, we are told: But,according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. 2 Peter 3:13 NET I want to be with God in the new heaven and the new earth, wherever that is, or whatever it will be like.
Next week, Lord willing, we will look at therest of chapter 3, where Peter applies these truths to our daily living. These realities of God and His promises should cause us to live a certain way as we prepare and await the coming of Christ.
The fact that everything goes on the way ithas for centuries and millennia, should not cause us to doubt the coming of Christ –Jesus is coming soon! The fact that Jesus may not return in our lifetimes should not cause us to relax our attention to godly living, nor should it cause us to delay our repentance and obedience.
Several hundred years ago, William III, the king of England, was trying to put down arebellion in Northern Scotland. He issued a proclamation to all the rebel chiefs to appear at a certain place on or before December 31, 1691 and take an oath of allegiance to the king. Those who did nottake that oath were to be treated as traitors and executed.
There were not many followers, so it wasuseless for the chiefs to rebel. One by one,they all gave in and signed their names to the paper, except one. Alastair Maclain was chief of the smallest but proudest tribe in Scotland. He plannedto sign that paper, but it was his intention to be the last of the Scottish chiefs to submit.
So, a day or two before the deadline, he started traveling to the designated spot. Unfortunately, a severe snow stormhindered him and he was one week late. Heand his followers were executed as traitors. How many people do you suppose there are who are like that with God?
They intend to confess the name of Christand obey him, they intend to repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ, but they want to wait until the last possiblemoment, only to discover how foolish they were to put it off? God has given us this moment for salvation, but we are not guaranteed any more time.
How tragic to be too late! It’s not too late to obey God right now, but for all we know, tomorrow may never come.THAT’S NOT A SCARE TACTIC – IT’S JUST THE TRUTH.