Forgetting can have tragic results. Forget to turn off your iron and you might just burn your house down. Forget about the exam on Friday and you might fail the class. Overlook your anniversary and you might spend the night in the dog house. There are some things you should not forget.
The return of Jesus is one of those things! A chorus of New Testament authors sings in unison, “Jesus is coming.” This world is stamped with an expiration date. In fact, you can already smell the stench of its decay. You see the deterioration of the world and feel the groaning within your body pointing undeniably to an end (Rom. 8:18-23).
Despite these blaring horns of revelation and reason, it is easy to forget that we are swiftly turning to earth’s final page. So, in 2 Peter 3, the apostle stops us in mid-sentence, drags us to the end of the book, and shows us life’s final exclamation point.
But, why do we forget such a big event? One reason is because most people are looking in the opposite direction! In the previous chapter Peter warned about false teachers. They corrupted the faith of the church by turning their attention to the flesh. To bolster their case they ridiculed the idea that their worldly playground would ever vanish in some cataclysmic end. After all, you can’t enjoy investing in this world when you expect its liquidation (see 2 Peter 3:3, “scoffing” because of how they were “walking”). Unfortunately, “many followed their destructive ways” (2 Pet. 2:2).
Things have not changed. Most people have their eyes squarely focused on this world. They are passionate about pleasures and possessions, and we gaze right along with them and forget that Jesus is coming just over the horizon.
But then, Peter tilts our minds upward to focus on two characteristics of God.
Two Truths about God
(2 Peter 3:1-7)
God’s Word Is Powerful (3:1-7). God promised to come, and His word has proven to be reliable and powerful. Doubt it? Pick up anything…anything at all. That exists because God spoke it into existence, and He certainly has the power to take it out of existence (2 Pet. 3:5).
Just think about the flood. At God’s word water judged every person on the planet, changed the surface of the earth, and “the world that then existed perished” (2 Pet. 3:6). God’s word changes things.
And the flood is what Christopher Green called a “picture painted on a very small canvass compared to what God has in store” when “the heavens and earth that now exist” will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:7, The Message of 2 Peter & Jude, BST, pg. 133).
Sure the Bible says, “The Day of the Lord will come,” but why should we take it seriously? Because of the credibility and ability of the One who said it. (By the way, 2 Peter 3:1-2, returns to the certainty and authority of God’s word which was introduced in 2 Peter 1:16-21.)
If God is able to come, why hasn’t He yet?
God’s Patience Is Merciful (3:8-9). Peter says, “Look at things from God’s perspective.” To Him, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). That means God can see the whole scope of human history with such clarity, it’s like it happened today. In addition, God sees the events of each day with such scrutiny, it’s like it is divided up into a thousand little bits.
How does God chose to use this eternal perspective? The answer lies in realizing that Peter is quoting from Psalm 90:4, a psalm of Moses. Moses says that God’s eternal nature and knowledge allows Him to thoroughly see our sins, and as a result we deserve to perish in His anger (Psalm 90:7-11).
This terrifying truth causes us to run to Jesus for mercy. There we find patience toward our sin (“long suffering” our sins pain Him) and applause for our change (2 Pet. 3:9). Oh what joy! The slowness of His promise is not a matter of His honesty, but an expression of His mercy.
So Peter says, “Count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15). The Lord gives us today to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). In the words of Moses, “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Let’s do that! In light of Jesus return how should we live?
Four Actions for Us
(2 Peter 3:10-18)
Stay Focused. In the midst of all the distractions and passions of life keep this one certain truth in focus, “The day of the Lord will come” (2 Pet. 3:10). This is the truth that melts away our anxieties, and exposes the triviality of so many of the things that excite us. Oh, if we could keep that great and dreadful day in mind we would live like the pilgrims and exiles we are, and we would use each day as a precious gift for God’s glory.
Stay Clean. When you are going to see a Holy God and face a Righteous Judge, your greatest concern is with your moral purity. As Peter put it, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:11). A wife who is flirting with another man is not eager for her husband to show up. Dear friend, if we are playing with the world will not be ready to see the Lord (1 John 3:1-3).
Stay Calm. Jesus’ return creates more than focus, it weaves a pillow of peace. Look at how verse 14 ends, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” Ah, pure and peaceful! When you know Jesus is coming it changes the way you see the trials and temptations of life. You can be calm (Rom. 8:18). Yes, this sinful world is painful to live in but we “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).
Keep Growing. In many ways 2 Peter 3:17-18 is a summary of the entire letter. Here Peter tells us, 1) there are many wrong ways to live in this world that will cause you to lose your salvation in Jesus, so 2) grow in your knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:3) and in your desire to make Him smile, then 3) go do all things for His glory. To put it another way, only those who are growing in Jesus will be going with Jesus.
For the believer who stays focused, stays clean, stays calm and keeps growing … “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11).
I can’t wait. How about you?
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
OUR CONFIDENCE in Jesus’ return is not based on His word alone, but also in Jesus’ works.
His Resurrection: For example, in 1 Peter 1:3 it says our “living hope” is based on “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In other words, the certainty of the future event comes from the historical reality of the past event. If Jesus is raised from the dead coming again is no problem for Him.
His Ascension: The same is true about the ascension of Jesus. His apostles saw Jesus literally ascend into heaven, and the angel who was nearby said, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
As surely as Jesus died on the cross, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, Jesus is returning again. Our confidence in what God is going to do is grounded in what He has done.
Extra Bit 2:
Some will doubt Jesus’ return saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? All things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4). Jeremiah faced this problem in his day. For twenty years he told the people, “God is coming, this nation will be removed, and you will be taken away.” But nothing happened. After a while the people began to doubt the word of the prophet and mocked him saying, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now!” (Jer. 17:15). They doubted and yet it still came—as history confirms.