Celebrate Christ Returning Soon
An overview of 2 Peter 3:1-16 and the return of Jesus Christ
She was 6 years old when her Mom asked her what her favorite Bible story was. Without hesitating, the little girl said, “Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding.” Knowing that their home was immersed in the Bible and that her little girl had heard all the events of the life of Christ recorded in the gospels, her mother was puzzled by her little girl’s choice of that story.
She went along with it and asked her girl, “What did you learn from that event in the life of Christ?” and at the same time wondering what her little girl was thinking about–wine, weddings or something else. It ended up being something her Mom had not considered. The little girl replied, “What I learned from that story is this–when you have a wedding, it is a good idea to have Jesus show up!”
If you know Christ, I think you’d say the same thing. As the world is crumbling, as government becomes more corrupt and society presses harder against Christians, every single believer would say, “It is a great idea if Jesus physically showed up.” And that is exactly what He promises and the New Testament reaffirms, Jesus is coming again. In fact, He is coming to His wedding with His Bride. The Church is the Bride of Christ made up exclusively of born again Christians. And one day, we will see Christ the Groom return. And Jesus will not merely show up, but He will take over. And that celebration is coming closer and closer. Christ the groom is returning for His Bride, the true Church. The wedding is coming–and would you agree, it is a good idea to have Jesus there?
No real born again believer denies the second coming of Christ. No genuine believer would ever say that Jesus is not physically returning to Earth in glory. But a false teacher would make that claim, and a make-believer might buy into that lie. Satan, his demons, this fallen world and our own flesh have done a tremendous job of minimizing, mocking, and lampooning the Second Coming of Christ.
Who of us has not seen the comics, heard the comments, and felt the contempt for our beliefs in the end of the world? How many times have you seen the man standing on the corner holding up a sign saying, “The end is near,” in some form of mocking cartoon? Almost every portrayal of the people who believe in Christ’s return, Christians, pictures you and me as insane, judgmental, murderous or just plain weird.
This is what the believers were facing in 2 Peter. They had false teachers attacking, belittling, minimizing, and mocking the second coming of Christ. They lived in the world where Rome was so powerful, they had conquered the known world. Caesar was treated like a deity, supposedly in control of all. So to believe Christ was the one who was truly in charge, the King, the Lord over all rulers including Caesar, was a challenge. To believe that Jesus is the one who is running the world was difficult to proclaim. Then add the false teachers who were undermining the belief in the Second Coming made it all the more difficult for believers to hope in His future return.
So Peter takes the last chapter of 2 Peter, his final letter, to bolster their belief in Christ’s Second Coming and to correct the errant Second Coming claims of the false teachers. I have been passionate to get to this third chapter for almost a year, and this morning I want to give you an overview of the entire passage. Then in the following weeks, I will exposit two to three verses at a time of these same verses, to dig out every single glorious truth God has given us about His Second Coming.
I want you to see the big picture today, look at the map, do the flyover. Then in coming weeks we will land the plane and hike over the same territory, uncovering every rock and exploring every cave. (We’re taking questions via text, and will answer them in upcoming sermons, the weekly letter and Nigel’s Saturday seminar.) Jesus Christ is coming back as the unchallenged Lord of this universe and will rule this planet for one thousand glorious years. His return is CERTAIN, it’s CHALLENGED by false teachers. But His coming is CLEAR and His return is COMPELLING—life-changing.
Look at the chart in your outline–you will see the order of the coming events. These events make up the doctrine of eschatology, which is the doctrine of last things. Biblically, today 2 Peter 3 is describing part of what makes up the Day of the Lord. This entire chart, starting with the Rapture and ending with the final Eternal State, is describing the Day of the Lord. All those events are the day of the Lord–God’s future events, God’s future plan for this planet, Israel, the Church and you.
Some of you come from a background where you pick and choose what theology you want to believe. At FBC, we actually believe all theology is derived from the study of Scripture, interpreting the Bible in a normal/literal manner, seeking only the author’s one intended meaning to his original audience. If you approach all the Scripture in this manner, you will end up with a belief in the Day of the Lord that will look very close to the chart I’ve listed here. If you approach the Scripture where you use a different hermeneutic, meaning you choose to spiritualize or allegorize prophetic passages, you will end up with an entirely different understanding of end time events.
We are pre-millennial, not a-mil or post-mil. As a church, we do not succumb to the easy method of picking and choosing our theology from a smorgasbord of choices. But we determine our theology out of the Bible, through the hard work of exegesis, seeking the normal understanding of the Scripture. As we do, we believe the Scripture is clear that there is a Rapture, a Tribulation, a Second Coming, a thousand-year Kingdom, a final judgment and an eternal state when Heaven and Earth will be together forever.
This would be considered a pre-millennial understanding–that Christ returns before the 1000-year millennium. We don’t believe Christ comes after the millennium, which is post-millennial. Nor that Christ merely returns and there is no thousand-year Kingdom, which is a-, or no, millennium. In the final chapter of his final letter, Peter focuses only on the single main event of the Day of the Lord–that is the Second Coming of Christ. Peter does mention that Paul in his letters describes more events other than the Second Coming as it relates to the entire Day of the Lord, all the end time events, like the Rapture and the Tribulation.
But the churches Peter is writing were wrestling with the main issue. The central issue–will Christ physically return to Earth? This is so important that all the various theological systems, even those that are not pre-millennial, clearly teach Christ will physically return. Peter teaches that Christ will literally return to planet Earth. That fact is so foundational, if you do not believe in a physical Second Coming, you are not a Christian. So today, let’s fly over these verses and get the general intent. Then in coming weeks, we’ll cover the same ground, but do some digging, taking only two to three verses at a time.
My friends, you need to hear about the Second Coming and the end times. The Day of the Lord is what makes today bearable for the struggling believer. The end times exhorts believers to live purely, not wanting to be embarrassed the moment He returns. God’s future plan helps you to understand what is happening in the world right now.
Eschatology motivates you to make certain your life counts for eternity through service today. Your longing for justice will be completely satisfied (yes), the moment Christ returns. The return of Christ strengthens your hope for the future, intensifies your love for the lost, and fires up your intimacy with the Savior as you move from faith to sight. Remarkably, all four points begin with the letter C. Christ’s return is CERTAIN. The second coming is CHALLENGED by false teachers. The Lord’s coming is CLEAR. And the second coming of Christ COMPELS you to live uniquely for Christ by the Spirit.
#1 The return of Christ is CERTAIN Verses 1 to 2
The proof of the return of Christ is based upon God’s authoritative Word. Listen to Peter’s opening words of this final chapter in verses 1 and 2, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”
Peter says, “I want to wake you up to remember!” Peter is trying to heat up his readers, and you today, to the importance of apostolic teaching and sound doctrine, which are being undermined by false teachers. Peter is giving you a loving shake, a kick in the pants, a bucket of cold water–wake up and realize just how serious this is. You must not ignore me. You must not take this lightly. Do not coast in your Christian life. Do not cruise, when it comes to doctrine.
Peter says, “Hey, Christian, some of you are doing this. You’re forgetting you’re in a war, you’re neglecting your Bible, you’re sleepy when it comes to learning the Word, and you’re not zealous about identifying and rejecting error.” Peter is passionately reminding his readers that this is way bigger than Peter. This is not merely Peter’s opinion, Peter’s passion, or Peter’s ideas–this is truth, this is God’s living Word from both Old and New Testaments.
Look at verse 2–these truths about the coming Day of the Lord, with the Second Coming of Christ in judgment have been repeatedly taught by 1) the Holy Prophets in the Old Testament, and 2) by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and 3) by the apostles in the New Testament. Look at just two examples from hundreds in the Old and New Testaments in Micah 1:3 and 4, “For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. 4The mountains will melt under Him and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place.” And Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
The return of Christ will change the entire planet and expose every person for who they really are. Peter says, “You are not rejecting me if you don’t affirm the Second Coming of Christ. Get this, you are rejecting the entire Scripture, God’s Word, the entire Bible.” And when you reject God’s Word on the Second Coming, you are rejecting God Himself. The Second Coming is certain. It is guaranteed by hundreds of promises made in God’s never wrong, always right, living and active Word–both Old and New Testaments.
Friends, if you reject the Second Coming, then throw your Bible away. Christ’s return is guaranteed. He will judge the nations, He will judge the governing leaders, He will judge the unrighteous, and He will restore His people Israel, He will bless His Bride the Church. This is your hope, this is your confidence, this is God’s truth.
If Christ’s return is not true, then you might as well live like a pagan and fight to get all you can, can all the rest, sit on the can and spoil the rest. If this is not true, then this life is all there is. If this is not true, then you should live unholy, impurely, ungraciously and unrighteously—just like the false teachers proclaim. Which is why the false teachers fight against the return of Christ.
#2 The return of Christ is COMBATTED Verses 3 to 4
The arguments given against the return of Christ. Verses 3 and 4, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’”
The false teachers infecting the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Ephesus–all in Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey, did all they could to undermine the truth of the Second Coming for one reason. They don’t want to be held accountable for their sinful lifestyle. If Christ is truly returning as the Judge of mankind, then you will have to give answer to how you lived your life–how you acted, how you treated others, what you thought and what you said.
But if Christ isn’t coming back, then you don’t have to change the way you live, because there is no one holding you accountable. So the false teachers said everything they could in every way possible, to try to prove that Christ was not returning at all, let alone as the Judge of mankind that all of you will have to answer to. You can see from verses 3 and 4 what the false teachers did.
1) They RIDICULED the Second Coming, as if you are an idiot to believe that. That’s what Peter means in verse 3a, “In the last days mockers will come with their mocking.” The false teachers laughingly sneer at the truth that Christ will return.
2) They lived IMMORALLY, trying to prove from their very lifestyle they’d not be judged by Christ. They live how they want to, to assert they won’t be judged. That’s what Peter means in verse 3b, “following after their own lusts.” Those who reject Christ want to live by their strong urgings and desires–lust. They want to live immorally–fornicating, committing adultery, embracing perversion, divorcing their spouse, getting drunk, slandering others, and doing what they want.
But they can’t live that way and still call themselves Christians who are obedient to the Word of God. They want to think they still have salvation, but they don’t want to answer to God. They don’t want to admit they are headed to Hell, so they have to create a scenario (a false belief) where they can still enjoy sin, live in sin, and still be called a Christian.
But the false teachers can’t live sinfully if the pure Christ returns and judges every detail of their lives–which He will. So they mock the Second Coming by living as sinfully as they can, following after their own lusts–in an attempt to prove to believers that there are no consequences for their sins and no accountability for their sins, because (as they teach) Christ is not coming back.
3) They taught UNIFORMITARIANISM
That’s what Peter means in verse 4, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” John Piper quotes another commentator, who makes this statement. “This is an amazingly modern argument for rejecting the supernatural, bodily second coming. It simply says, the laws of nature are constant and unchanging. The sun has come up and gone down, the seasons have followed each other, the tides have risen and fallen for thousands of years in perfect order.
“Therefore, we must expect this constancy for the future, and any thought that the sky might be rolled up like a scroll and the earth purged with global, fiery judgment by the returning Christ is unimaginable and unwarranted. This is exactly the position of much modern science, and there are hundreds of pastors and theologians in the churches and seminaries today who reject a physical second coming and future judgment for the same reason.”
This is the same heresy you hear taught in the secular classroom, affirmed in movies, and displayed in almost every museum. The declaration that science proves that the earth is millions of years old, and that the earth is constant, functioned back then just like it has today. Day to day, year to year, century to century, it has always been the same, uniform, consistent. That’s not science, and it is completely wrong.
The false teacher doesn’t want you to believe God has radically interrupted the normal sequence of events with a global, worldwide flood which covered the planet with water, or made the sun stand still, or radically changed regions with exploding volcanoes. The false teacher instructs that nothing has changed in the past, so nothing will change in the future. The false teacher believes, just as the sun comes up the same every day, it will come up exactly the same in the future–therefore, they teach Christ is not coming back to blacken the sun and eventually we won’t need the sun. These immoral, so-called spiritual leaders hate the idea of Christ’s return, because they do not want to even consider being judged for their sins. But Peter fights back with . . .
#3 The return of Christ is CLEAR Verses 5 to 10
The arguments given for the imminent return of Christ. Peter has already affirmed that the living Word of God has already guaranteed the return of Christ, and now Peter destroys the false teachers’ arguments against the Second Coming of Christ with three additional proofs.
First The pattern of HISTORY proves God interrupts the natural course Verses 5 to 7
In verses 5 to 7, Peter refers to three historical events which prove God is in charge and can interrupt history any time He chooses. Verse 5 refers to . . .
1 THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
Verse 5, “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” The first thing the false teachers overlook is, this world was made by God, and its very order and material all hang on His will. The laws of nature are not absolute–Christ holds all things together and when He determines to interrupt His own creation, He will do so.
You see this all the time–just like your kids with Playdoh, they can make whatever shape they want, and they can change it whenever they will to change it. Christ created the world, sustains the world and He will judge this world and redo His world. Verse 6 refers to . . .
2 THE UNIVERSAL FLOOD
Past judgment happened, verse 6, “through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” False teachers also ignore that this world has not continued as it did from the beginning of creation. Peter argues God brought judgment on the world in the flood of Noah’s day with a great upheaval in the natural flow of events. Everything dramatically changed after the flood–animals, environment, longevity and more. Then verse 7 refers to . . .
3 FUTURE JUDGMENT
Which will happen, verse 7, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” God has demonstrated He can and will alter the course of history in judgment. In the past, God judged with water. In the future, God will judge with fire at the coming of Jesus Christ. If the false teachers were not so blinded by their own lusts, they could see it’s foolish to deny the future cataclysm of Christ’s coming–just because the course of the world has been constant for so long.
Second The profoundness of ETERNITY proves God is orchestrating history Verse 8
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” Peter is answering the criticism that Christ has delayed so long you can’t really believe He is coming back. But Peter says you would not waver about His return, if you saw eternity from God’s perspective. From God’s experience of time, it hasn’t been long at all.
The older you get (and God is eternal) the more you say, “It seems like yesterday I was a college pastor” or “I just got married to Jean” (actually 40 years ago today) or “the kids were young just yesterday.” And the more joyful the time is, the faster it goes. You’re in an hour meeting that feels like you aged a decade. Or you’re on a two-week vacation so full of joy, it felt like it lasted a day. Well God is old and God is full of joy–and from God’s experience of time, it is as though Christ just arrived at His right hand yesterday and His return is tomorrow.
Third The DEPTH of God’s character proves God is orchestrating history Verses 9 to 10
You would only be tempted to believe He is not returning if you have a low view of God. Peter responds to the problem of Christ’s delay in verses 9 and 10, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
Christ is not delaying His return because He is indifferent, powerless or distracted. No–Christ is waiting to return because he is merciful. He waits until all His chosen sheep are safely in the fold of His care and not one is lost. He delays so elect sinners might come to repentance. Raise your hand if you were saved in the last 15 years–He was waiting for you. In reality, He was waiting for all of you who are now, by His grace, made into His children.
Who is not yet saved? Don’t raise your hand–just turn to Christ. We are all waiting for you–hurry up! Surrender to Christ. Cry out to Him to give you a new heart, hate your sin in repentance and depend on His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead by faith, as you follow Him as your Lord and Master. And you’d better hurry, verse 10–He is coming unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night,” and everything will be judged by fire, burned up then made new. What will the Second Coming do to you?
#4 The return of Christ is COMPELLING Verses 11 to 16
Christ’s soon return motivates believers to live a godly life–the exact opposite of the false teachers. They want to believe they will not be judged and they are not accountable for how they live before God–therefore can live a lustful lifestyle. True believers believe Christ is returning at any moment and He will evaluate our lives. And therefore we seek to live a godly, God-honoring lifestyle.
Verses 11 and 12, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” One day very soon, the universe will be completely destroyed under the judgment of God’s wrath. The universe will melt away in a holocaust of incredible intensity.
For God’s enemies, all unrepentant sinners, judgment will be an inescapable nightmare. For God’s children, it will mean the fulfillment of your hope, a dream come true, ushering in the beginning of God‘s rule on Earth, followed by the creation of a new heaven and new earth. This is why 1 John 3:3 says, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Those who want to be with Him will seek to live like Him.
There is so much more that remains in this chapter and there are huge amounts of incredible truth we didn’t mine in the verses we just looked at. So to get even more excited about Christ’s return, to understand what will happen and how it matters today and to you, you will have to come back next week. Only one life, will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Take this HOME:
A. Are you READY for death and judgment?
If you are hanging onto your life, you’re not ready for death nor judgment. But if you’ve surrendered your life and are hidden in Christ, then you are ready for death and judgment. Ask God to open your heart to respond to Him in faith and repentance. Believe Christ is God, who was born a man, took your punishment for sin on the cross, and rose from the dead. Confess your sin and follow Christ as Lord.
You will have to answer for your life before the perfect Judge–are you ready? The only way you’ll be declared not guilty is if you’re clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness.
B. To ignore Christ’s return means you’re DISTRACTED with this world
The false teachers are completely given over to this world, but Christians can drift. When our affections are here, our money is spent here, our time is spent focused here–we will lose the importance of our true love, our true treasure and our forever eternity. Ask yourself, does your life truly reflect the certainty of Christ’s soon coming? Not only that you live in a way where you would not be embarrassed by Christs return–but your longing, your priorities, your money, your time and your service all are geared toward longing for His reward and hoping only for His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant–enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21).