According to a survey conducted last year, and reported in the Daily Telegraph, “Britain is one of the least religious countries in the world, with two thirds of the population describing themselves as atheist or “not religious”, a new survey has disclosed. Only 30 per cent of Britons interviewed by pollsters as part of a world-wide project said they would describe themselves as religious, regardless of whether they attended a place of worship. It compared with 53 per cent who said they were “not religious” and 13 per cent who said they were a “convinced atheist”. The remainder were “don’t knows”.[i]
It is ironic because Christians in the first century were branded as atheists by the Roman authorities because they did not believe in the gods. So Christians often lost their jobs, had their property confiscated, were imprisoned and martyred as well. They held on to the belief that the Lord Jesus would return soon, but as the decades wore on, some began to doubt.
The Apostle Peter wrote his second epistle in part to answer those doubts and encourage believers to remain faithful in the face of persecution. He does so by affirming three things about God:
- God’s Word is True
- God’s Work is Consistent
- God’s Will is Merciful
- God’s Word is True: The Assurance of Scripture
“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2I 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.” (2 Peter 3:1-2)
The Bible Is a Perfect Book
Peter describes God’s messengers as “holy” and the apostolic testimony at “the command given by the Lord” It is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), the sword of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12). It contains God’s will. It is the very Word of God.
The Bible Is a Prophetic Book
Throughout the Bible, there are prophecies fulfilled, over and over again. In fact, there were over 300 prophecies given in connection with the first advent of Jesus, and all of those 300+ prophecies were literally fulfilled. (i.e. His virgin birth – Isa. 7:14; His birth in Bethlehem – Micah 5:2; His humiliation and death – Isa. 53; His resurrection – Psalm 16:10, etc.)
The Bible Is a Preserved Book
Every word in this Book has and will literally come to pass. Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). The Assurance of the Scriptures. A perfect book, a prophetic book, a preserved book.
- God’s Work is Consistent: The Ignorance of Scoffers
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)
Their Doubt – They deny the reality of Christ’s coming. Their reasoning? Nothing has changed! Spring still follows winter, summer follows spring. They fail to realize that God is not bound by time as we are. Doubt leads to denial.
Their Denial – These scoffers deny the obvious. Peter uses creation as an example. People deny creation, then from there, they deny the historical events scripture records, then the supernatural elements, the miracles and ultimately the deity of Christ. Every important truth found in the Bible finds its origin in book of Genesis. Without Genesis we cannot explain the origin of life, the origin of gender, or of marriage, or the purpose of work, or the origin of evil and its cure. These doctrines which the Bible assumes remain a mystery without the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Their doubt, their denial.
The Discovery – Why are people so quick to deny the plain teachings of the Scriptures? Why do they seem so eager to invent fables to explain away truths that are so clearly taught in the pages of Scripture? Simple! The problem is not one of the head, but it is one of the heart. It isn’t that they can’t understand, it is that they do not wish to. Notice verse 5, “deliberately forget”, verse 3, “following their own evil desires.” If a person denies the Bible is the authoritative word of God, then it’s a small step to claiming there are no absolutes, no standards of right and wrong and then nothing is forbidden. But if we accept God’s Word, then verse 10 will come true.
“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 in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10)
“The Elements” – literally, “the elementum” the “smallest part.” In modern terms: the atom. Even the air we breathe is filled with highly flammable and explosive gases. Water, which covers 75% of this earth’s surface is composed of gases so explosive and volatile that any molecular change could result in the total destruction of the planet. And what is below the surface? The earth has been compared to a round egg with a hard crust covering a semi-liquid center. In scale, the earth’s crust is the same thickness of a egg’s shell when compared to the vast sea of lava under it. There have been times when this lava has burst forth and killed thousands. Yet, we walk on this thin crust every day and trust in the safety and permanence of the earth.
“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.” (2 Peter 3:7)
“reserved for fire”. In the very building blocks of creation God placed the elements essential to bring about a fiery purification to our world. The world was created in the beginning and it will be cremated in the end. In that day, all that will matter is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Assurance of the Scriptures. The Ignorance of the Scoffers.
- God’s Will is Merciful: The Patience of the Saviour
“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. 9The 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.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)
God Is Punctual – God is a God of order and of punctuality. He will come when the time is exactly right for doing so. People look at the delay and wonder why Jesus hasn’t come. The answer is easy! It simply isn’t time. When it is time, He will come. God always shows up exactly when He is supposed to. God is punctual.
God Is Patient – The reason God is patient is because He is giving lost people time to repent and to turn to Him. God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. He wants all people to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Therefore, He waits and He loves and He calls and He gives people opportunities to get right with Him.
God Has Promised – He will come again, just as He said He would. God is punctual. God is patient. God has promised. How should we then live? Peter leaves us in no doubt.
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)
Do you follow what Peter is saying here? He’s saying that if you are convinced that Jesus Christ is going to return, then it will make a difference in the way you’re living because you’ll want to live right. If we’re looking forward to his return, we’ll naturally concentrate on spiritual matters. Peter lists several actions we must take knowing the certainty of Christ’s return.
Develop holy and godly lives
First of all, they’ll seek to develop personal holiness and godliness. The word “holy” in the New Testament means to be separated. So a Christian is someone who is unwilling to live as others normally do. He makes an effort to live apart from sin, not to wallow in it.
Look forward to the day of God
Second, those who believe in the second coming of Christ have an attitude of eager anticipation. It’s the same word that was used to describe Cornelius when he sent for Peter and was waiting on his front doorstep to greet the one who would tell him what to do to be saved. We should be eager for Christ to come. And the knowledge that he is coming should make a difference in the way we live.
Speed His coming
How do we speed the return of the Lord? Remember the reason for his delay? “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). If that is the reason for his delay, we speed his coming by telling others about Jesus. When the Great Commission has been accomplished, when everyone has had an opportunity to hear the gospel, then Christ will return. So here’s the challenge. If we want to see an end to Satan’s influence, an end to suffering, and end to war, and end to death, if we want to speed the return of Christ, if we want our prayer “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we know what to do.
There are around seven billion people in the world. There are over 2 billion believers. If every believer shared their faith with just three people, we would reach the entire world for Christ. How many friends do you have? How many relatives do you have? How many people do you interact with regularly? Make a list. Our church Connection magazine goes to 1500 homes. Every month we share something of the gospel. I have 2,500 friends on Facebook. Every day I share my devotional reading and leave comment about its application to our lives and a link to a Christian website where the gospel is presented. Lets speed the Lord’s return. Lets look for his coming. Peter’s letter was intended to encourage 1st Century Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. I pray that it encourages you too not simply to withstand persecution but extend Christ’s kingdom and plunder hell. The Assurance of the Scriptures. The Ignorance of the Scoffers. The Patience of the Saviour. Lets pray.
With grateful thanks to Warren Wiersbe, “Be Alert” (Scripture Press) and Dick Lucus and Christopher Green “The Message of 2 Peter and Jude” (Intervarsity Press) for ideas and content used in this presentation for CBSI Virginia Water.
Speeding Christ’s Return