Clearing Up Some End Times Confusion
A sermon based on 2 Peter 3:8-14
Sunday, December 4, 2016 – Advent 2B
The countdown to Christmas has begun! It's only three weeks until the celebration of Jesus' first advent (his coming to this world as a human so he could rescue us). Christmas is, well, coming—and soon! The signs are all here. The decorations are up. The seasonal items are all in the store. The Christmas music is playing on the radio. With only three weeks left, it's time to get ready!
The countdown to Judgment Day has also begun! Jesus' second advent (his second coming) is also coming soon. The signs are all here. Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, false teachers, and the spread of the gospel around the globe have all taken place. With only… well… who knows how much time is left. But it's still time to get ready!
But there's a lot of confusion about the End Times. When are they? Are we living in them now? Or are they still to come? Will the 1000 years before the end be a literal number of years or is that a figurative symbol of something? And what about all that weird stuff in the Book of Revelation? When's Jesus coming back? And why is he taking so long?! Well, I'll invite you to come to Bible Class on Sunday mornings to get the answers to those and other End Times questions as we study the Book of Revelation.
But for now, know that we're not the first have such questions about the Last Days. And it wasn't just John who shared so much information about the End Times. Peter wrote a letter to address some of those questions to the first Christians and to clear up some End Times confusion. So this morning, we'll listen in to what Peter wrote them and maybe get some of our confusion cleared up too.
And as we do, we'll see that 1) God is patient with us, not slow in bringing about our deliverance. 2) We are eager for that day, not scared. And 3), We want to be blameless, not careless as we wait for it to come. Our text for this morning is from 2 Peter 3:8-14…
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. f That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
I. Patient, Not Slow
What is this world coming to? I mean, read the headlines and see all that's going on! A bank robber takes hostages in Florida. A police officer is shot and killed in Anchorage. The number of murders followed by suicide are—very sadly—on the rise. We might wonder if the moral decline that seems so prevalent today will continue. We might wonder what the sad fate of our nation (and our world) might be. We might wonder, "Where is God in all of this? Doesn't he care? Why doesn't he do something? Why doesn't he end all the suffering and pain?!"
Well, we're not alone in wondering that. Peter addressed the first century Christians to answer those same questions: "Where is God in all of this? Why is he so slow in coming to deal with it all?"
Peter answered them, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
God is not slow, but patient. Time is different for God. As we count seconds, he counts years. As we count minutes, he counts decades. As we count hours, he counts centuries. So slow to you and me isn't slow to God. A long wait for his return isn't all that long to a God who's been around for all of eternity past.
But more than that, Peter wanted Christians to know why God is waiting so long between Jesus' first advent and his second. He's waiting for more to come to faith. If God were to end all the evil, he would end would evil people in hell. But God wants no one lost for an eternity apart from him. So he's waiting for more evil people to repent—to turn around!—to come to him. He's working for more people to repent—doing all he can to save more.
And so we too need to be patient like God is. And we too ought to work to bring the Gospel to others, or, as Peter put it, speed the coming of the Last Day. How can we hurry things along? How can we move up the timeline for Jesus' advent? Well, if God is waiting for more to come to faith, we can do all we can to share our faith with others. And we certainly ought to be doing all we can to stay in the faith ourselves, to, "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."
But we grow im-patient, don't we? We hate the delayed gratification of heaven and we want our selfish goals met today. We want our best lives right now, not then! We want comfort and convenience and excitement and fun. And if that comes at the expense of others, well… so be it. If it comes at the expense of spreading the Gospel—if it comes at the eternal expense of others, well… we don't mind so much, so long as we get what we want right now.
And so, of course, we deserve to be melted in the fires that God brings on Judgment Day. We deserve to be lost for an eternity away from God and all his blessings. We deserve the eternal fires of hell! And if Jesus returned today would you and all your loved ones be on the right side? What a frightening thought! So Peter warned, "[The Lord] is patient with you…" God is not slow, but patient.
And we don't need to be frightened. We don't need to be scared of that Day, even though some pretty scary things are going to happened. Instead, Peter says, we can be eager for it, instead of scared…
II. Eager, Not Scared
My brother used to sometimes confuse common sayings. Instead of saying, "What's this world coming to?" He would accidentally say, "What's coming to this world?" But that's really a better question to be asking. "What's coming to this world?" Or maybe better still, "Who is coming to this world?"
You know the answer. Jesus is coming. His second advent could happen at any time without warning—like a thief in the night! And you know what will happen when he does come: The world will be destroyed!
What do you think about global warming? Think it's all made up? Actually, it's Biblical. Well, sort of… God says that when the end comes the world will be destroyed by fire, that it will melt, that the very molecules of this creation will disintegrate in the heat he brings—talk about global warming!
"The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare… That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat."
Like wax melting in a furnace, like paper vanishing in a blaze, the earth will be laid bare, utterly destroyed, completely melted! Some people think that the average temperature around the globe increasing by a few degrees each year is scary. But this… this is terrifying stuff!!
But it's not terrifying for you and me. Peter told the early Christians that instead of being scared at the thought of Judgment Day, they could eagerly anticipate it: "You look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth… you are looking forward to this…"
But how? How could they "look forward" to Judgement Day with eager excitement like kids looking forward to unwrapping all the presents under the tree? How could they be excited about that Day instead of terrified—especially knowing that they were selfish, impatient, rebellious sinners who deserved hell?!
Peter tells us that too: "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."
We aren't terrified of Jesus advent, because we know that Jesus already came to this world. He lived a perfect life in our place, focusing only on saving others, not ever being self-serving or selfish in any way. And we know that went to the cross to endure the fiery wrath of God—the essence of hell itself being away from God the Father, forsaken by him for the sin he carried—your sin… and mine. And having paid for our sin, he removed the threat of hell. He removed the terror of Judgment Day because he promised that with sins forgiven we are righteous and sinless and we will be with him in paradise.
So, "In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." We are eager, not scared. But what about in the meantime? So, now knowing that we're going to with him in heaven, we just kick back and relax? Take it easy and wait for the fire to rain down? No. Peter encourages us to be blameless, not careless…
III. Blameless, Not Careless
You can picture it: The teacher leaves the room, she has some quick business in the school office. And as she leaves she tells the students, "Work quietly and behave yourselves!" Or the CEO of the company goes undercover and visits his employees. He also regularly sends "Mystery Shoppers" to critique the business and give him an honest evaluation of how his employees behave.
How should those students behave? What should those employees do? Well, they shouldn't goof off! They should misbehave! They shouldn't be lazy! Instead, those students should be ready for the advent of their teacher, diligently working even while she is away. Those employees should be ready for the advent of their boss and ready for the advent of another mystery shopper, always prepared, always working, always faithful.
And friends, that's exactly how we should be too! We know that Jesus could come back at any time! And we most definitely want to be ready and prepared whenever he does! But it takes effort to stay ready. Peter said, "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."
Jesus has made us ready for his second advent by his first. By coming to this world as an infant, by coming to keep the law perfectly, by coming to the cross and to the tomb, he's made us sinless and holy and ready for that day when he comes again. But it still takes effort on our part to stay ready.
So set the alarm on Saturday night so get up in time for worship. Schedule time in God's Word on your calendar and guard that appointment with Jesus like you would with anyone else. Make drastic changes in your lifestyle where needed—you know where those areas are—so you root out the sin in your life, so you, "live holy and godly lives… [and] make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." Be blameless, not careless, as you wait for him.
God's not slow, dear friends. He's patient. He's waiting for others to repent, wanting to save them. He's already saved us. So we're not scared of Judgment Day, we're eager for it! Even though scary things will happen, we know it will mean our victory. And in the meantime, while we wait for that day, we're not careless or idle, but make every effort to keep our faith, to live our faith, and to share our faith.
The signs are all here. Christmas is coming and it's coming soon! The signs are all here. Judgment Day is coming and it's coming soon! Let's stay ready and help others get ready too. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.