Where is this coming he promised? - 2 Peter 3:1-18

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the morning service on 30th August 2009.

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How long do you wait for someone who has made a promise to you? Just think about all the different scenarios where you could find yourself waiting to meet someone who has promised to arrive at a certain time.

•    The romantic date. How long do you wait in the restaurant on your own waiting for the woman of your dreams to turn up? There are only so many time you can flick through the menu.
•    Less romantic. Plumber promises to come round and look at your boiler at 3pm. How long do you give them?
•    I remember arranging to meet someone who has just started to come to this church in the centre of town. He wasn’t there when he said he would be. How long should I wait?

And then think about what happens when someone who has promised to meet you never turns up. What starts to go through your mind next? How many of their other promises can I trust?

I’m sure it’s obvious why I’ve started my sermon like this but just in case it isn’t look what Peter writes in verses 3 and 4, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Do you see the big issue? There are people in Peter’s day who are scoffing at the idea of Jesus’ future glorious arrival from heaven. One of the their major reasons for mocking this prospect is that it has been so long. For them it was only 30 or 40 years. Think about us living in the 21st century. Jesus certainly promised to return again. But here we are living 2000 years later with no visible and glorious appearing of Jesus. What does this mean? Does it mean he isn’t coming? How long do you give someone? What does this mean for the rest of the promises Jesus made? This is a huge issue. If he got this one wrong then what about all the other things he said.

Chapter 3 of 2 Peter has been written so that we think clearly about the second coming of Jesus and live rightly as we wait for it to happen.

How are we to do this? Look at what Peter says in verses 1 and 2. “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.”

You must get your thinking right. The way to do this is to fill your mind with the right information from the right sources. Peter mentions two sources. The words spoken in the past by the holy prophets. Now preserved in the Old Testament. Look at what they said. In general and in particular about the return of Jesus and what will happen then.

Then do you see what he does? He places the words of Jesus on the same level as the Old Testament prophets. By this time the Old Testament prophets were regarded as having God’s stamp of authority. A collection of approved writings – a canon. Peter is now adding Jesus’ words to the canon.

He doesn’t simply say the command of our Lord and Saviour. He adds ‘given through your apostles.’ There can be no division between say the recorded words of Jesus in the Gospels and the rest of what we have in the NT. The apostles were the authorized spokesmen and interpreters of Jesus’ message.

As we wait for the return of Jesus we are to stimulate our minds with the truth of God’s written word so that our thinking will be wholesome.

What does this mean in practice?

•    Reading, learning and obeying what the Bible says. Fill your mind with Bible thoughts. It will stimulate you. The word can be translated as ‘refreshing.’ It’s the same word used in 1:13, where Peter says “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I love in the tent of this body.”
•    Can you read other religious books other than the bible? Of course. Read books that will not undermine your confidence in the Bible. That will help you understand and apply what you learn.

Here is the first thing we should do as we wait for Jesus to return – we should stimulate our minds with Bible truth.

The second thing Peter points out is that as we wait for Jesus’ glorious return we will encounter lots of people who think such an event is nonsense. Look again at what Peter says in verse 3. “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”

The last days. This is the time we are living in now. The time between the ascension of Christ to heaven and his return again. One last thing to happen – that is for Christ to return. A few months ago we were learning from 2 Thessalonians that there will be last days in the last days. But here in 2 Peter the last days refer to the whole time period before Christ Jesus returns.

During these days we can expect many people to mock the notion of what Peter calls Jesus Christ’s coming. We met this word 2 weeks again in chapter 1. It’s the word parousia. I told you then that it was a Greek word that was used at the time to speak about the visit of a VIP to a city. The dignitaries would come out and meet the visitor and then they would all journey to the city. Peter is referring to Jesus’ glorious parousia.

The mockers give two main reasons why they don’t think it will happen.

•    It has been so long. How long should we wait?
•    Everything has been the same since the creation of the world. The word has order. Laws that operate. It is a closed system. How can you expect us to believe in a radical intervention?

Peter answers these two questions in reverse order.

Hasn’t the world been without dramatic intervention since it was created? Look at what we’re told in verses 5 to 7. “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heaven’s existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

They deliberately forget. How do you do this? You make sure you don’t look at the places where you might be stimulated to wholesome thinking. In our day, you make sure you stop reading the wholesome books and stop hearing the words that will prick your conscience. If they had looked at the Old Testament, what would they have been reminded of? They would have discovered that everything in the world every second is sustained by God and he can do anything he wants. But they would also have been reminded that long ago God did dramatically intervene and brought dramatic judgement to the world. When the whole world apart from Noah, his family and a number of rescued animals survived the flood waters God brought on the earth.

How are we to understand the flood story? Evan Almighty. Morgan Freeman playing God explains the meaning of the flood. He says many people think it’s all about God’s wrath and his anger but that’s not what I think. I think it’s a story about love. Think about it. All the animals went in 2 by 2. They stood shoulder to shoulder. No one walked into the ark by themselves. It was 2 at a time. We too need to stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side as we go through life.

Peter says, nonsense! It is a reminder to us that God has dramatically intervened in the past to bring judgement and he will do it again. Or in the words or verse 7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement, and destruction of ungodly men.” The day of judgement is a certainty! It will take place when Jesus returns.

Why hasn’t it happened yet? Why has it been so long since Jesus himself made a promise that he would return in glorious splendor? This is what Peter answers in verses 8 and 9. He says, “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 keep his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Do you ever make those ‘To Do’ lists? Ever get frustrated at the end of the day when you don’t get everything done? That’s because we have limited time on this earth and so losing time becomes a big deal. Also when we measure a year against our life span it is a big proportion of our lives. God is not limited as we are by a finite duration. When a 1000 years are measured against eternity then it is really very long. So in God’s calendar 2000 years isn’t actually very long at all.

Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet? Not because the Father has been absent-minded but it is because of God’s commitment to saving people.

How many of you would have wanted Jesus to as Big Ben sounded the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000? Would you have been ready to meet Jesus? One of the reasons God delays is that people may be prepared for eternity. There is an urgency for unbelievers to trust in Jesus.

However, I’m not sure that Peter is addressing this group of people in verse 9. Because look again at what he actually says. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

He is writing to those who would call themselves Christians but who are not living with Jesus as Lord. Peter has already encouraged them to make their calling and election sure. I think he continues this theme here. He is urging those within the church of God to realize that God is patient with them and is giving them time to repent of their sin. There were those who bore the name of Christ and yet who were deliberately sinning without any remorse or repentance.  If they died unrepentant in their sin they would not have received a rich welcome when they saw the Lord Jesus.

This is an encouraging call to back slidden Christians to stop sliding and to start repenting. The Lord is patient with you and doesn’t want any of you to perish.

This helps to explain what is missing. If he was writing about complete outsiders then surely there would be a call to get on with evangelism. We don’t read this. Instead, what do we read in verses 11 to 18? Well let me show you.

Verse 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 as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming.”

Verse 14, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort (This is the same phrase Peter uses in 1:10) to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote about in his letters…His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Verse 17, “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you will not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever!”

How are we live out our days as we wait for Christ?

•    If you are an unbeliever then you must turn to Jesus.

•    If you bear the name of Christ but are denying his Lordship because of your current behaviour then you are to repent.

God is patient with you. He wants you to make your calling and election sure. Don’t rely on a profession made 20 years ago at a Billy Graham crusade. Be ready by living rightly in the present.

•    If you bear the name of Christ and really desire to put him first then keep it going.

We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Start living now as you will then.

Also see that these are the qualities that carry with you into eternity. There will be a relationship between our character as it is now and what wit will be like in heaven.

Why not reevaluate where you put your time and resources? What are your priorities?

Jesus will return. Judgement will happen. The new universe will be created. There are reasons why it hasn’t happened yet. So God has noy let us down. We can trust all his promise.

We can look forward to this future day and live in the light of it because God has promised it will happen and our God is a God who always keeps his promises.

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