The Promise of His Coming 2 Peter 3
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after 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 the creation (2 Pet. 3:3–4).
Ignoring warnings can result in catastrophic consequences. The Apostle Peter, in every way possible, attempted to prepare believers for the tumultuous last days and the onslaught of deception and error that Satan will launch before his final plunge into the Lake of Fire.
In chapter 1, he gave instruction about how we can equip ourselves to live triumphantly and prepare for an abundant entrance into the presence of Christ. The critical emphasis is on the Word of God. Through it, Christians can be confident that in the Word we have a complete revelation of the “great and precious promises” (v. 4) so essential if we are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (3:18). In chapter 2, he clearly identified the marks and methods of false teachers who will plague the church and deceive the lost before the Second Coming.
Plea to Remember
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (3:1).
Just what is Peter, who is about to make his “exodus” out of this world, urgently concerned that we keep in mind? Once again, he alludes to the words of the “holy prophets” and the specific “commandment” of the apostles (v. 2). In other words, be diligent in remembering the admonitions received in both the Old and New Testaments.
Last December our pastor devoted an entire message to the importance of reading the Bible through in a single year. His premise was that every need of our individual lives would be touched at some point by reading through the Scriptures. In thinking about it, he was actually repeating what Peter promoted in his second epistle—get back to a vital relationship to the Book of Books. It may smack of the simplistic to a generation addicted to novelty, but it is exceedingly sound instruction.
Attacking the Source
A central point of attack by Satan and his cohorts is revealed in the question, “Where is the promise of his coming?” The reasoning follows a simple line, one that is tailored perfectly for people whose basic education has been regulated by 30-second “sound bites.” Their argument is that, after all these years, it hasn’t happened yet! Thus, “if all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,” the promise must not be reliable.
The error of this thinking is, of course, related directly to ignorance of the very nature of God and the Scriptures themselves. By ignoring the Word of God, these “scoffers” “willingly are ignorant” (v. 5)—that is, they demonstrate a lack of knowledge that is self-induced. We might also add, as we shall discover, that it is driven by a darker, more classic motive.
Why has the Lord chosen to delay the promised coming? First, because He is not put upon by the pressures of time. God lives quite outside the inhibiting factors of time and space common to our human experience. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (v. 8). In reality, however, His concern is not to prolong the execution of spectacular events for the sake of delay. No, there is another reason—one related to eternal objectives—far beyond the understanding of those who take pride in doubting God.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (v. 9).
There is a sense in which the Lord lays open His heart in this verse. He has delayed His promised return to give humanity a grace gift that few will ever fully appreciate, much less comprehend. He is not willing that any should pass from this life without the opportunity to come to a knowledge of the truth and be eternally saved. The delay is not based on indolence or indifference. It is, rather, an act of divine long-suffering designed to delay judgment for the sake of those who can still be rescued.
But while this is true, we must not pass lightly over the basic reason for the assault on “the promise of his coming.” It is not strictly a matter of questioning the timing of the Second Advent. The integrity of the one who made the promise is at issue here. The question raised in verse 4 can also be read, “Where is this coming He promised?” If Jesus made a promise to return but is not able to deliver on that promise, He is not trustworthy. And if He is not trustworthy, He is not God.
For years now, there has been a growing emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. We can expect this to continue. As aggressive biblical illiteracy and pop theology become the norm in many sectors, the deity of Christ will become an ever more divisive issue. We cannot say that we have not been forewarned—and to be forewarned is to be prepared to face the challenge of denial of the deity of the Messiah.
His Promise is Secure
God is never late. This is a word in season for every child of His ever tempted to ask the question, “Where was God when I needed Him most?” He is always on time, and one of the greatest lessons we can learn is that God is competent. The promise of His coming is secure.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and the earth also, and the works that are in it, shall be burned up” (v. 10).
This is a description of the final phase of the coming “day of the Lord” that will actually extend for a period exceeding one thousand years. It is the final conflagration, which will consume the earth and the heavens as we know them now. But as surely as the great era of divine long-suffering described in verse 9—the age of grace—will usher millions into the family of God, the great meltdown will prepare us to be eternally housed in “new heavens and a new earth.” The language is specific:
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness” (v. 13).
This new heaven and earth are described in some detail in the Book of the Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. While many things can be said about the new creation, two things should captivate our minds. First, the word new dominates the first few verses of chapter 21: “new heaven,” “new earth,” “new Jerusalem,” “all things new” (vv. 1, 2, 5). But, beyond the fact that we will inhabit an indescribably wonderful creation is the promise that in that place:
“The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (v. 3).
Add to these astounding prospects the fact that believers will all be home at last, and we have enough to rejoice over to fill those new heavens with praise to Him “who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]” (Gal. 2:20).
Helping to Hasten His Coming
In view of all that is being prepared for us, Peter leaves us with some sound admonition. First, he tells us that the promise of His coming should result in changed lives.
“Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness…?” (v. 11).
Implied in the challenge to godly lives is a call to resist becoming enamored with the here and now to the point that we are distracted from serving the Lord as we should. This call is particularly applicable to the present generation of Christians. Do you ever wonder why we are less concerned about reaching people with the gospel than we should be? Or why issues of overwhelming importance—such as the suffering of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world—do not seem to move us to action? Much of the blame can be attributed to our affluence and feeling, whether we say it or not, that this world is our home—and we like it.
A friend of mine returned from China recently with a telling observation. Pastors there, living in poverty and still hounded by their communist overlords, are asking, “What is ahead?”—that is, about “the promise of his coming.” Meanwhile, he said, many in Korea, where the gospel has flourished for decades, are asking how to best enjoy the fruits of their booming economic prosperity.
For those of us who are serious about the coming of the Lord and our consequent obligations in the interim, He gives us a special word—literally:
“…as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…” (v. 12, NIV).
Admittedly, there is a bit of mystery about this word. How can we, frail as we are, help “speed its coming”? Well, one thing has been made clear. Verse 9 speaks of the Lord’s long-suffering and desire that “all should come to repentance.” During this church age, preceding our being called out in the Rapture, we have been commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth—to make Him known. As we obey this mandate, we become laborers together with Him in the great cause of world evangelism. Thus, we are helping to speed the day of His coming. Whatever else may be involved we will learn when He welcomes us home. Maranatha!