“Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

Second Week of Advent
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

“Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

Today we continue our three-part series, “Awake until, Waiting for, and Blameless at the Coming of Our Lord.” Last week we spoke of the need to stay awake until his coming again. Our focus now is on “Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord,” based on the text from 2 Peter 3.

In this section of his epistle, Peter is talking about the Second Coming of Christ. At the time that Peter is writing this, it’s been several decades since Christ ascended into heaven, and Peter himself had heard the promise that Jesus would return in like manner. But, as I say, that was several decades ago. So where is he? Where is Jesus? Why hasn’t he returned yet? What’s taking him so long? Some people were even using what seemed to be the failure of Christ to return–they were using that to ridicule the Christian faith. So this is the situation that Peter is addressing here in this section of the letter.

In the verses just preceding our text, Peter reminds his readers that it should come as no surprise that scoffers would arise in the last days. These scoffers were saying things like, “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.”

Scoffers in the last days. Now if it was the last days back then, back in the first century, then we are in the even “laster” days now in the twenty-first. And the supposed “delay” in the return of Christ has now been going on for an additional close-to 2,000 years. This just gives ammunition to the mockers and the scoffers: “Oh, you Christians! Falling for a bunch of old wives’ tales! You and your Jesus, the made-up Messiah! You’re waiting for this Jesus to come back? Good luck with that! It ain’t happening. Get wise and give up on your old myths. Forget your stupid religion, and do like we do: Live for the moment, satisfy your desires–oh, be a nice person, sure–but you don’t need any old religion to spoil your fun. There ain’t no pie in the sky. This is it. Make the most of it. You are your own god.”

That is the attitude of the world around us. This is the sea we swim in. So it’s a little hard to go against the flow. The world’s mocking of the Christian religion, including one of our main tenets, which is the return of Christ on the Last Day–this scoffing of Christianity could even raise doubts in our mind. Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet? Have we fallen for some big hoax? Is this whole Jesus-coming-back thing just a bunch of made-up hooey?

Peter addresses this. He says that those scoffers have a rude surprise in store for them when Judgment Day arrives. He says, “The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Yes, there is a Judgment Day coming. The world, the cosmos, as we know it, will be destroyed. And the ungodly, that is, those who reject God and mock his word–they will be damned.

Then follow the words of our text, which begin: “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.” You see, God operates by a different calendar than we do. There is no hurrying God. His timing is just right, even though it may not agree with ours. Whether it’s a thirty-year “delay” or a “delay” of 2,000 years, it’s really no delay at all. We’re just a couple of days into the time between Christ’s ascension and his return, if you look at it from the Lord’s perspective. So we need to adjust our clocks to God’s clock. Does anybody really know what time it is? God does, and that’s what counts. He’ll do what he has in mind at just the right time.

So why this seeming delay? Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet? Peter tells us: “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.”

Well, there’s the reason. It’s not that the Lord has forgotten his promise to return. It’s that he is fulfilling his promise to bring sinners to repentance. It’s out of his mercy that the Lord has not come back yet. He’s giving more time for more people to be saved.

Yes, the Lord is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” You know, if God wanted to, he could have just zapped the world with fire a long time ago. It’s not like there weren’t enough sinners around to deserve it. The world is ripe for judgment, and has been for a long time. The defiance of us sinners, our rebellion against our Creator, the mockery of God and his ways, the violence and discord and havoc we have wreaked on the world–well, the fire could have fallen a long time ago. And God would be perfectly just in putting an end to it all any day now.

But then again, he might wait another couple thousand years. We don’t know. What we do know is that God is busy saving sinners in the interim. The Lord is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” So this is the time for the preaching of Law and Gospel. The Law, to show sinners their sin, to show them their guilt and condemnation, that they are lost apart from God’s mercy and headed to hell. The purpose is to bring us to repentance–to change our mind about ourselves and God, to dispel ourselves of the stupid notion that we’re good enough on our own and that there is no judgment to come. Get rid of those thoughts, realize your sinfulness, and fear the judgment to come. That’s what repentance involves. And God would do that necessary work in you and me. We are no less liable to the judgment.

But then comes the preaching of the Gospel, and it is sweet music to our ears. It tells us of a Savior sent from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord. He it is who took the judgment we deserve. By his suffering and death on the cross, Jesus was our stand-in, paying for all of our sins with his holy precious blood. This is the ultimate demonstration of God’s mercy and love for us, his sending of his own Son to die for the sins of the world. With him there is forgiveness, forgiveness paid for with the blood of Christ.

So now the whole purpose of what seems to be a delay in Christ’s coming again–the purpose is that the Word of God should be preached to all nations, bringing sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus’ name. That’s why we’re still waiting. God is busy doing this evangelizing of the world.

But the day of the Lord is still coming, make no mistake about that. And that is what we are waiting for. Now on the one hand, it will be a day of dread and calamity, a day of wrath and ire–indeed, a day of wrath and fire. As Peter tells us: “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.” And then Peter adds: “The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn.”

The first time God destroyed the world, back in the days of Noah, it was by water, in the great flood. This time, when God destroys the world for the second and last time, it will be by fire. The whole heavens and earth will be destroyed in a cataclysmic conflagration. This will be the divine do-over to end all do-overs. This whole corrupted creation, ruined by sin and futility and consigned to death and decay–it will all be wiped away.

But there’s a new day coming, and this is what we Christians are looking forward to. Peter writes: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” New heavens! A new earth! Oh, there will still be sky and earth and so on, but it will be wonderfully restored. Made new. This will be like the Garden of Eden and then some! God is a God of physical creation. Material stuff is his idea, it is not inherently evil. No, that there is a created world, that there will be trees and water and daylight and so on–this is a good thing. That you and I will have physical bodies–this too is a good thing. Jesus, you know, at his resurrection, was not some ghost, but had physical flesh and bone. And so will we.

Only, our bodies, and the new heavens and the new earth–these physical creations currently subjected to futility and decay–our bodies and the new creation will be perfectly restored, made new, according to God’s design, glorious and no longer subject to the damaging effects of sin. This is something to look forward to! It will indeed be glorious, beyond our wildest imagination.

And one of the biggest things is that we will all think and do and live in the way that God intends for us to live, which is, righteously. You and I will do the will of our loving God, and we will do it gladly. Friends, “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” And we will be among those dwelling there.

And so–and here’s the upshot of all of this–if the ungodly world with its sinful desires is going to be destroyed, and if there is coming a new creation in which righteousness dwells . . . if that is the case, then why don’t we get started living that way–that is, righteously–right now? This is the point that Peter is making: “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.” And again: “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

Wherever the Bible talks about the coming of the day of the Lord, there is always with it a call to holiness on the part of the people of God. We are waiting for, longing for, looking forward to, the return of our Lord and life in his kingdom forever. In the age to come, we will all be worshiping and serving the Lord with joy and gladness, without spot or stain or blemish to interfere. So let us now, even now, begin to live that way. That is the Bible’s message to us as we consider the return of Christ. A holy life, as we wait for the return of our Lord. And the Holy Spirit will help us to live those lives of righteousness, dying to sin and rising to newness of life each new day.

“Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord.” It is a call to patience, as we wait on the Lord’s timing. It is a call for the church to spread the gospel, because God is wanting to use this time to bring more sinners to repentance and faith and salvation. And it is a call to holiness, as we who are saved look forward to new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home. Because, by God’s grace, that will be our home, too.

Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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