In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter gives us some great insight into the coming return of Jesus to earth in 11 short verses. Not only do we gain understanding about the return of Jesus, we also hear from Peter about how we should live out our lives with His return in mind.
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.”
2 Peter 3:3-4
From David Guzik:
“Christians should not be surprised to find that there are those who scoff at the idea of Jesus coming again. Peter told us that the scoffers will come. This is the first thing to know.
In a sense, the last days began when Jesus ascended into heaven. Since that time, we haven’t rushed towards the precipice of the consummation of all things; but we have run along side that edge – ready to go anytime at God’s good pleasure.”
Once we understand that the scoffers will come, and we can expect that they will, it helps us to know in advance how we should respond to that. Guzik suggests affirms that the “last days” mentioned in the Bible immediately started ticking when Jesus ascended into heaven. It seems to us a little odd that the “last days” would last 2,000 years. But to give you a word-picture, I would compare the “last days” to a 2,000 year time-clock that started ticking as soon as Jesus ascended.
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? 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 1:6-11
I love this lesson here for me. Immediately before Jesus goes up into heaven, He tells the apostles “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He instructs them to be witnesses and testify of Him in their local area (Jerusalem), their wider metro area (Judea and Samaria), and then out to the ends of the earth!
I just had a tour this last week of the Moody Aviation School where they teach and train missionary pilots. These guys are obedient to Acts 16 as they take the Bible to “the end of the earth”. At the end of an upstairs hallway is a stately-looking old bookcase filled with 40-50 Bibles, each printed in a different foreign language. My tour guide was telling me that these are all the different Bible translations that Moody aviation students have been involved in getting translated and printed. How beautiful and rewarding is that! But the disciples were also called to teach the Word of God locally and in their broader area. Did you know we are called to do the same? For me, that may mean sharing Christ with my neighbors, or with a clerk at the grocery store (my Jerusalem). It also means cooperating with my pastor and my church in reaching our community for Christ (my Judea and Samaria). On top of that, we are all called to sponsor missions work “to the end of the earth.”
Some people have the idea, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming, so it doesn’t really matter.” Others have the idea, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming, so we have to find out and set a date.” The right response is, “I don’t know when Jesus is coming so I have to be alert, eager, and ready for His coming.”
If we knew that the Lord would have us behaving and acting as though He is returning to earth later today or tomorrow, how would that change what we do and say? How would that change how I spend my money and my time?
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:6
Paul tells us to not sleep through this important opportunity to share Jesus. We don’t want to miss this one chance we have.
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. ~ John 9:4
We love our gardening at our home. However, we also live in a climate where we can only work in the garden for about 6 months out of the year – April through September. There comes a season every year when it’s too late. Jesus shows us by His own example that we are to do the work while “it is day”. This means there is coming a time when it’s too late!
Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
~ John 4:35
The time to harvest the garden is now!
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. ~ 2 Peter 3:5-6
There was another time in the earth’s history when it became too late. Noah was a man of God, and God called upon him to build the ark to save a remnant of people (Noah’s own family) to repopulate the earth after it was destroyed. At the time of Noah, just like today, God didn’t want anyone to die without having a chance to turn to Him. So He sent Noah to preach to them.
And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
~ 2 Peter 2:5
The wicked people on earth didn’t listen to Noah’s warnings, and therefore only 8 people were saved (Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives).
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. ~ Matthew 24:37-39
God is calling you and I to reach out to our world to point the way to Jesus! Jesus died to save each of us from our sin and every person in the world needs to hear that. But today the world itself tries to make them forget that the flood of Noah ever happened. They deny the flood and teach an evolutionary theory to convince them. “For this they willfully forget….the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”
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. 2 Peter 3:7
In the end this planet will be destroyed by fire. The Lord explicitly said that He would not destroy it by water again in Genesis 9 (the promise of the rainbow). Peter goes on to describe that destruction even further in verses 10, 11, and 12:
10: “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”
11: “All these things will be dissolved”
12: “The heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat”
It seems pretty clear what God’s plan for the end of the earth will be doesn’t it? But remember that the Lord doesn’t want any single person to perish, He would love to save everybody. As a matter of fact, Christ came to earth to live and to die to save all people who would come to Him.
And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:15
He came to die for me and He died for you. He died for your co-worker, your neighbor, and your friends. He died for the man on death-row, and He died for the President of the United States.
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. ~ 2 Peter 3:8
“Time” is nothing more to God than a tool of measurement that He created. It’s like when we look at a foot-log ruler and observe that it’s 12 inches long and we can hold the ruler in our hand. He created “time” along with the rest of His creation and He said that His creation is good (Genesis 1-2). But He is in no way limited by time.
God has existed for all eternity and He has no limitations. Imagine you hold a DVD in your hand. On that DVD is recorded a two hour movie. You can hold that two hours in your hand for a month, and it’s still a two hour movie you hold. With God it’s the same way. He holds a day in His hand the same way He holds 1,000 years. It’s no different to Him. Young-earth creation experts will tell you that the universe and earth are about 6,000-10,000 years old. Imagine that God is holding in His hand a movie that is about 10,000 years long. 🙂 Yet He exists outside of that movie.
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.
~ 2 Peter 3:9
I love knowing that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”. He wants every one of us in Heaven with Him for all eternity! He puts up with us (suffers us) for a long time in order to give us every opportunity to come to Him for grace and mercy.
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.
~ Psalm 145:8
How long did God “wait” for me to come to Him? If He had returned to earth in 1977, I would have waited too long to accept Jesus as my Savior and I would have missed it. He is so gracious, that He is “longsuffering” for us.
The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. ~ Numbers 14:18
But you know He won’t wait forever right?
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.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2 Peter 3:10-12
When Christ returns on “the day of the Lord”, He will come with no warning “like a thief in the night”. While He waits a long time for each of us to come to Him for forgiveness and salvation, He will not wait forever. Someday soon, judgment is coming. The only shelter we have from judgment is in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us you only need to “believe on Him and you will be saved.”
This portion of Scripture finishes with some reassurance for us.
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13
Someday all believers from all time will dwell with God forever in a new heavens and a new earth. I look forward to that day!
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. ~ Isaiah 65:17