2 Peter 3:1-10
Stephen Caswell © 2004
The following conversation was heard between an old farmer in the country and the new parstor. Do you belong to the Christian family? asked the minister. No, they live two farms down, replied the farmer. No, no, I mean are you lost? Lost? Why, I’ve lived here thirty years. I mean are you ready for the Judgment Day? When is it? asked the farmer. Well, it could be today or tomorrow. Well, said the farmer, when you find out for sure when it is, you let me know. My wife will probably want to go on both days.
A month ago we saw God's Marked Men. He has reserved these false teachers for judgment. These men are willfully ignorant of God's prophetic Word. Peter affirmed the certainty of Christ’s coming in glory in chapter one and in his first epistle. Apostates question and deny this prophecy. They scoff at the very idea of the return of the Lord, the judgment of the world, and the establishment of a glorious kingdom. We will see 3 things about the Day of the Lord: Reminders Of Christ's Coming, Reasons For Sinners Scoffing, and Reasons For God's Delay.
Firstly, Reminders Of Christ's Coming
What the Bible teaches about the Day of the Lord was not invented by the Apostles. The prophets taught it and so did our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter emphasized the unity of the Word of God. When scoffers deny the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are denying the truth of the prophetic books, the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels, and the writings of the Apostles! Like our Lord’s seamless garment, the Scriptures cannot be cut apart without ruining the whole. Let's look at the different saints who foretold of Christ's return!
a. Peter's Epistles
2 Peter 3:1: Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder,
Peter wrote to the Church to remind believers of things they already knew. He stated this purpose in chapter one also. He doesn't want us to forget God's Word because it's just so important. The Doctrine of the Second Coming is a vital part of God's Word. It provides the Christian with hope when going through trials and persecution. Today, we are so much closer to the Lord's return, yet we rarely hear a message of the Blessed Hope. Yet, in both of Peter's letters he refers to it with certainty. He is absolutely sure that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the world and set up His heavenly kingdom. Peter doesn't want believers to ever forget this. The Blessed Hope is a Christian’s number one motivation for godly living.
b. Prophets Word
3:2a: That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets.
The Old Testament prophets refer to Christ's return many times as well. Beginning with Enoch and continuing to Malachi man is warned to prepare for the Lord's return.
Jude 14-15: Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. Most of the prophets who spoke in the Old Testament gave prophecies that came to pass in their own life time. However, they also gave long range messages about judgment and the Lord's return. Since their short term messages came true we are wise to heed their long range messages concerning Christ's return. They all predicted great suffering and upheaval before Jesus returns.
c. Apostles Commands
2 Peter 3:2b: And of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.
In the New Testament there are even more prophetic messages than in the Old. The New Testament apostles and prophets give further detail about the end of the age and Christ's coming. Paul reveals how society would become lawless in the last days. There are warnings that the Church will become complacent and luke warm at the end of the age. A great apostasy in the Church is foretold by Paul and John. 1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.
d. Christ's Word
The apostles knew that Christ would come back. Since Jesus kept His Word about His death and resurrection He will certainly fulfill His Word on the second coming. The Lord warned of apostasy, a falling away from the faith. Luke 18:8b: Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? Matthew 24:12: And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. On the Mount of Olives Jesus told them about the events that would come to pass just prior to the end of the age. The Lord said that false Christ's would appear and deceive many. He spoke of wars and rumors of wars. He spoke of famines and pestilence's. Christ said that there would be an increase in the number of earthquakes in various places. Why have I referred to these prophecies? Because they are being fulfilled right before our eyes. Therefore the prophecies of Christ's return will soon come to pass also!!
The Final Victory
Some will tell you that triumph will come by the development of human beings. We should just give it time, wait and see. Everything's coming up roses. World War I dealt that theory the cutting blow. World War II broke its spirit. Vietnam laid it in its grave. The takeovers of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan shoveled the dirt of interment on it. Will human progress stop people and nations from sinning? Will human progress and achievement ever wipe away all tears from our eyes or heal our broken hearts? No, the final victory will not come through some natural progress of human development. The victory will not come by an improvement of the present order but through its complete overthrow. The high point of history will be the sudden appearance of the captain of our salvation. John beheld: Look, I see a great white horse and on that horse a rider whose name is Faithful and True, and there are many crowns upon his head.
Prophetic Scripture shines before us like a guiding light. Have you studied it? Are you living in the light of it? Are you sharing the Blessed Hope? Are you looking for Christ’s return?
Secondly, Reasons For Sinners Scoffing
2 Peter 3:3-4: knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.
a. Indulgence In Their Own Lust
If you have tried at all to witness for Jesus Christ, you have no doubt met people who scoff at the idea of hell or a future day of judgment for this world. Why do these folk scoff? Because they want to continue living in their sins. Peter made it clear that false teachers cultivate the lust of uncleanness and allure weak people by means of the lusts of the flesh. If your lifestyle contradicts the Word of God, you must either change your lifestyle or change the Word of God. The apostates choose the latter approach, so they scoff at the doctrines of judgment and the Second Coming of Christ.
Not only does the Word of God predict the coming Day of the Lord, but it also predicts the appearance of the very scoffers who deny that Word! Their presence is proof that the Word they deny is the true Word of God! We should not be surprised at the presence of these apostate mockers. A scoffer or mocker ἐμπαίκτης is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously. The people in Noah’s day scoffed at the idea of a judgment, and the citizens of Sodom scoffed at the possibility of fire and brimstone destroying their sinful city. I once heard a Church deacon say that they've been predicting Christ's return since my grandfather's time but it still hasn't happened! He fulfilled this Scripture with his own comments.
b. Ignorance Of Past Judgment
2 Peter 3:5-6: For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
What is their argument? The uniformity of creation. Nothing cataclysmic has ever happened in the past, they argue, so there is no reason to believe it will happen in the future. They take the scientific approach by examining evidence, applying reason, and drawing a conclusion. The fact that they willfully ignore a good deal of evidence does not seem to disturb them. How did Peter refute the foolish argument of the apostate scoffers? Peter simply reminded them of what God had done in the past and thus proved that His work is consistent throughout the ages. Peter simply presented evidence that the false teachers deliberately ignored.
Firstly, God created the heavens and the earth by His word. By faith we believe that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. Not only was Creation made by the word of God, but it is held together by that same word. Peter’s argument is obvious: the same God who created the world by His word can also intervene and do whatever He wishes to do!
Secondly, Peter cited Noah’s flood. The Flood was a cataclysmic event. In fact, the Greek word overflowed κατακλύζω gives us our English word cataclysm. The people living on earth had probably never seen a rainstorm but these events happened just the same. Their scientists could have argued as the scoffers argued, everything goes on as it did from the beginning. Life is uniform so nothing unusual can happen. But it happened! God has the power to break in at any time and accomplish His will. He created the world by His Word and sent a flood by His Word!
c. Indifference To Future Judgment
2 Peter 3:7: But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
God can send rain from heaven or fire from heaven. Psalm 115:3 says: But our God is in the heavens: He has done whatever He was pleased to. Having established that God has in the past interrupted the course of history, Peter then applied it in verse 7. The same word that created and sustains the world is now holding it together, stored with fire, being preserved and reserved for that future day of judgment. God’s Word is powerful. Because God promised not to flood the world again, the next judgment will be of fire.
Mount Vesuvius- Pompeii
Shortly after the Apostle Paul died, Mount Vesuvius exploded like an atomic bomb. It erupted for forty hours, and while Puteoli was spared, another nearby city was flooded by molten lava, buried before the inhabitants could escape. They were killed by the gasses and the ash, then preserved by the molten lava which rolled over them and hermetically sealed them in a gigantic tomb of pumice. That city was Pompeii, and for many years it remained buried under twenty feet of hardened lava. Excavations have given us a perfectly preserved Roman city, frozen in time, caught in the act of being itself.
The twenty thousand people of Pompeii, it seems, worshipped two gods: Venus, the love goddess, and Mercury, the god of commerce. In other words, they worshipped, money and pleasure. The city walls were filled with advertisements by prostitutes. On the walls of brothels were testimonies by satisfied customers. The statues and sculptures of Pompeii, excavated by archaeologists, were hidden for many years in the off limits rooms of Italian museums because they were so obscene. On one Pompeiian wall, someone with a knowledge of the Old Testament had written some graffiti — just three words: Sodom and Gomorrah! And, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Pompeii perished suddenly by fire. Judgment came swiftly and without warning, and there was no escape. And, like Sodom and Gomorrah, our world today is awash in corruption and confusion, awaiting the judgment.
If the Day of The Lord is certain why do sinners scoff? So they can indulge in their wicked lifestyles. If they admit that God judges sin they would have to change their ways. So they change God's Word instead. They are ignorant of God's past judgment. They ignore the facts that prove God has judged in the past. And they are indifferent to future judgments. How should Christians respond to these scoffers? By trusting in God's Word completely. By living in expectation of Christ's return. And by warning people of God's judgment like Noah did.
Thirdly, Reasons For God's Delay
a. God's Perspective Of Time
2 Peter 3:8: But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
God has a different perspective on time than man does. People rush around madly in an attempt to get everything done. But God doesn't work this way. The Lord is never in a hurry and yet He is never late. The Lord doesn't work to our timetable. The Lord is eternal and exists outside of time. He is not bound by time like we are. Peter was certainly referring to Psalm 90:4: For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Isaac Watts used Psalm 90 as the basis for the familiar hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past.
A thousand ages, in Thy sight, Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.
Since a thousand years are as one day to the Lord, we cannot accuse Him of delayed fulfillment of His promises. In God’s sight, the whole universe is only a few days old! He is not limited by time the way we are, nor does He measure it according to man’s standards. To God, a thousand years is as one day, and one day as a thousand years. God can accomplish in one day what it would take others a millennium to accomplish! He waits to work, but once He begins to work, He gets things done! The scoffers don't understand this.
b. God's Patience On Transgressors
3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Something else the scoffers don't understand is God's mercy and grace. The Lord doesn't want to punish people. Ezekiel said, The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He would rather save them. Romans 2:4: says: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance. The Lord is not willing for any to perish. The parable of the lost sheep brings this home very clearly. God rejoices over one sinner who repents. God is long-suffering toward lost sinners because some of them will believe and become a part of His elect people.
1 Timothy 2:4 says: God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He shows His mercy to all even though not all will be saved. Why is God delaying the return of Christ and the coming Day of judgment? It is not because He is unable to act or unwilling to act. He is not tardy or off schedule! 2 Peter 3:15a says: And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation. Nobody on earth has the right to decide when God must act. God is sovereign in all things and does not need prodding or even counsel from sinful man. God delays the second coming of Christ and the day of fiery judgment because He is long-suffering and wants to give lost sinners the opportunity to be saved.
Mercy Or Justice
The story is told of a politician who, after receiving the proofs of a portrait, was very angry with the photographer. He stormed back to the photographer and arrived with these angry words: This picture does not do me justice! The photographer replied, Sir, with a face like yours, you don’t need justice, you need mercy! So too, God is withholding justice for a time to extend His mercy.
c. God's Punishment Is Thorough
2 Peter 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
God graciously waits for people to repent but when His judgment falls it will be swift, and thorough. It is worth noting that God revealed this same long-suffering in the years before the Flood. God gave the people 120 years to repent while the ark was being built. When will the Lord come? Nobody knows when, because it will come to the world as a thief in the night. Our Lord used this phrase and so did Paul. When the world is feeling secure, then God’s judgment will fall. The thief does not warn his victims that he is coming!
Christ will suddenly come and judge the world. The reference to the earth being burned up will not happen until the end of the millennium when Satan leads his rebellion. Revelation 20:9 says: They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. This is followed by the Great White Throne Judgment and the creation of the new heavens and the new earth stated in v 13. The mention of judgment and perdition in verse 7 agrees with this also.
Spiders Over the Fire
America’s greatest theologian is often identified as Jonathan Edwards, a New England pastor of the 1700s. But he is best known for Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God—the most famous sermon in American history. He preached it on Sunday, July 8, 1741, while ministering in tiny Enfield, Connecticut. A group of women had spent the previous night praying for revival. When Edwards rose to speak, he quietly announced his text was Deuteronomy 32:35, their foot shall slide in due time. This hellfire and brimstone approach was somewhat a departure for Edwards. Of his one thousand written sermons, less than a dozen are of this type.
Edwards neither gestured nor raised his voice. He spoke softly and simply, warning the unconverted that they were dangling over hell like a spider over the fire. O sinner! consider the fearful danger. The unconverted are now walking over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that it will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. Edwards’ voice was suddenly lost amid cries and commotion from the crowd. He paused, appealing for calm.
Then he concluded: Let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom. Strong men held to pews and posts, feeling they were sliding into hell. Others shook uncontrollably and rolled on the floor. Throughout the night cries of men and women were heard throughout the village, begging God to save them. Five hundred were converted that evening, sparking a revival that swept thousands into the kingdom.
What are the reasons for God's delay in judging sin? Firstly, God has a different perspective on time. The Lord doesn't work to our time schedules. God is never in a hurry to do anything, but He is never late. Secondly, God is patient toward sinners. He is not willing that any should perish. The Lord desires to save people not condemn them. God waits for people to be saved from the wrath to come. Thirdly, when God punishes it is thorough. When God's grace comes to an end sinners will experience His wrath in full measure.
Tonight we have seen, 1. The Reminders Of Christ's Coming. The Scriptures speak of it often. Are you ready to meet Him? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? Are you looking for His return? 2. The Reasons For Sinners Scoffing. They are ignorant of past judgment. They don’t want to change their sinful lifestyles. 3. The Reasons For God's Delay. The Lord is patient not wanting any to perish. He is giving people time to repent. Let us live in expectation of Christ's return. Let us labor for the master while He tarries. Amen!
The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. William Barclay
2 Peter 3:17-18: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.