Combating the Critics of Christ’s Coming
Scouting the enemy team about Christ’s return–2 Peter 3:3-4
Did you hear about the crazy housewarming gift Nigel got? It was a parrot! This parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. Nigel tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to clean up the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, Nigel was fed up and he yelled at the parrot–the parrot yelled back. Nigel shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder.
Nigel, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes, the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly he was totally quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, Nigel quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto Nigel’s outstretched arms and said, “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.”
Nigel was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, “May I ask . . . what the turkey did?” When death is on the line, things change. When an attack occurs, we often don’t respond with grace.
Open your Bibles to 2 Peter 3 and follow along in your outline. In 2 Peter 3, when Peter lists the attacks of the false teachers against the certain Second Coming of Christ, Peter is gracious but firm. Few things are more difficult than dealing with attacks against the Church. You don’t always know who you are dealing with. They could be a misled believer living in the flesh. They could be an immature believer getting feisty. They could be an almost-believer who is being misled. They could be a false teacher seeking to damage the Church.
Have you ever tried to stand in the middle of a dust devil as it is spinning around you? Ever stood against a 60-mile-an-hour wind? Ever been close to a tornado? Then you know what it’s like to try to stand spiritually strong against apostasy today. Apostasy, false teachers, deception, lies, rejecting the truth, tolerating error, making the Gospel cheap, God’s judgment, Hell, and in 2 Peter chapter 3, maligning the Second Coming of Christ. Why do false teachers fight the truth of Christ’s return? Because they don’t want to be judged by the returning Lord, so they make up reason after reason, lie after lie, argument after argument in order to cover the truth.
The Bible calls this suppression in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” These liars hurting the churches in Turkey, Peter writes, are pushing the truth down, suppressing the truth. To stand against this error and affirm Christ’s coming, Peter wants you to be diligent to reject the lies and embrace the truth that Jesus Christ is coming again.
Students, what do you say when teachers or friends throw so-called science in your face while belittling your belief that Christ is God who will rule this planet? Ladies, when you are overwhelmed by the dangers of this world for your kids, are you truly confident in the Second Coming? Men, are you able to answer a mocker’s attack with a clear Gospel, explaining any challenge to Christ? In the coming verses of chapter 3, Peter calls his beloved Christian brothers and sisters to be diligent, to consider all the Scripture, to guard against these frauds and to grow in Christ. Last week in verses 1 to 2, Peter convinced you Christ is returning by stating . . .
#1 The return of Christ is CERTAIN Verses 1 to 2
The proof of the return of Christ based upon God’s authoritative Word. Verses 1 to 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 you to wake up and remember that the Second Coming of Christ in judgment is 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.” If Christ is not coming back, then throw your Bible away, because His return as God, Lord, and King to judge the entire world is everywhere in your Bible.
The return of Christ will change the entire planet and expose every person for who they really are. And His return is certain–guaranteed by hundreds of promises made in God’s never-errant Word. Peter is saying it is their word against God’s Word. The Bible says Jesus is coming again–it’s a certainty. So what do the false teachers say?
#2 The return of Christ is COMBATED Verses 3 to 4
The false teachers infecting the churches in 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 returns, they will have to give an answer for how they lived their life–every single motive, thought and behavior will be brought to light. But if Christ isn’t coming back, then they won’t have to stop their sinful lifestyle, because there is no one they have to answer to. They won’t have to face judgment, or answer for their sins.
Friends, not wanting judgment does not change the Scripture which declares judgment. And teaching against judgment, does not alter God’s holy character which guarantees judgment. Christ’s return is certain and judgment is coming. Let me be pointed–today it is fashionable in mega-churches to teach on basically three topics of interest: marriage, parenting and sex. This approach is to get people to come to church and try to show them that God’s Word has some helpful principles so that they might consider asking Jesus into their heart.
But the Bible’s approach is different. The Bible says you’re in trouble with God because of your sin. It’s your sin that has messed up your marriage, parenting and intimacy. And because you’ve rebelled, God will judge each of you for your sin eternally, unless you submit to Christ. When you turn to Christ, you know Christ as God who was born as a man, who took the punishment you deserved for your sin on the cross, then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. When you believe, out of love for you that Christ became your substitute, and turn to Christ in repentance and depend on Him by faith–then and only then will He enable you to live according to His Word. And by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit, He can make you into a better spouse, parent and partner.
This is why Bible-teaching churches are not often mega-churches. By teaching God’s Word as it is written, determining the author’s intended meaning, you will not always feel good. It will not always be comfortable. Your self-image will not improve and your heart will not always be moved emotionally, but you will know the truth, even of God’s judgment. Judgement isn’t fun, but it is true. The only way you’ll survive His judgment is for your sin to fall on Christ on the cross and His righteousness to cover you. The only way you will see lasting change in your marriage, parenting or sex life is for you to be born again, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who then will live through all those who depend on Him.
Sinful man will invent any possible excuse so they do not have to submit to the one true God. They will suppress the truth they intrinsically know (and the Spirit puts in every human), of the certainty of coming judgment. To suppress that reality, the false teachers in Peter’s churches came up with three arguments against the return of Christ–three approaches still in use today. Read 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.’”
Verse 3, as a first line of defense, Peter exhorts his readers to, “Know this first of all.” This phrase is not about a chronological sequence, but rather about a first priority. Peter will tell his readers two priority truths. The first is, this is the most important—”Know this first of all” could be translated, “know this especially.” Christians must guard against these mocking errors.
Second, Peter teaches his beloved believers to be constantly aware they’re living in the last days and Christ is coming soon–live like it’s today! “Know this first of all,” most importantly . . .
1 Watch out for the enemy’s TACTICS, and
2 Keep your heart focused on Christ’s RETURN
Peter is challenging the churches to know your enemy. Like scouting an opposing team in sports, know how these heretics work and the tactics they use. What three arguments do they use in order to destroy the almost-believer and to cause doubt in the genuine believer concerning the return of Christ? What are they?
2-FLAUNTING THEIR FREEDOMS–living by lust
3-causing REASONABLE DOUBT–scientific skepticism
In order to repress the truth about coming judgment, non-Christians, news reporters, college professors, and seminary heretics use intimidation, immoral example, even arguments from science to dismiss the return of Christ, so they might indulge in their own sinful exploits and create a belief system which will allow them to think they will escape divine consequences. These very attacks bombard you today–be aware. So get prepared to meet the opposition and dismantle their arguments.
First They attack with INTENSE INTIMIDATION
As if you’re an idiot to believe in the Second Coming—“What’s wrong with you? You’re just silly to hope Christ will return!” 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 come to judge. With the verb “will come”, “in the last days mockers will come,” Peter is informing you that you will be intimidated—it’s gonna happen.
The verb “will come” is emphasized first in the Greek sentence, letting the readers know intimidation is not only possible, intimidation is certain. If you believe in the return of Christ, you will be laughed at–it comes with being a believer. The mockers came in the Old Testament. The mockers spoke out against Christ. Jesus warned His disciples against the mockers. And Peter now says mockers will vilify you in the Church.
Without question, the Early Church believed Christ’s return was imminent. The apostle Paul actually thought it might occur in his lifetime. We know the Thessalonians were so convinced Christ was coming back soon, some just stopped working. So as time wore on, the mockers used Christ’s apparent delay to intensify their intimidation. That’s why Peter affirms in verse 3, the mockers will be present during the entire verse 3, “last days”. The last days includes the entire time between the first coming and the Second Coming of Christ.
Here, this “last days” seems to emphasize the time of trouble which will intensify at the close of this present age, just before the Rapture. Today? So all throughout that long period, which intensifies at the end, mockers will come, seeking to undermine the Christian’s confidence in Christ’s return. The passage of time can threaten a church’s sense of expectancy. Some of the Christians Peter writes were beginning to doubt if Jesus were coming back at all. Their hope was not as certain as when they had first believed. And those pesky false teachers were quick to capitalize on those fears, planting seeds of doubt and nurturing apocalyptic anxiety.
Verse 3, “In the last days mockers will come with their mocking”–literally, mockers with their mockery are coming, scoffing scoffers, scorning scorners. The term mockers is used only here and in Jude 18. And here, Peter depicts mockers as individuals who treat lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.
And false teachers try to intimidate God’s people through sarcastic ridicule. Peter emphasizes their mocking by listing the term twice in verse 3, “Mockers will come with their mocking.” Peter repeats the mockers expression to tell you false teachers attack Christ’s promise of return and they especially attack all who believe it. The mockers are not logical. They are vicious intimidaters who put down hope-filled Christians, trying to make them feel laughable, absurd and uninformed–that’s mocking!
Why do they mock? Because they are guilty. Because they do not want to repent. They mock because this is their way of suppressing the truth they intrinsically know. What do they know? That they will die, they will face Christ as judge. And when Christ does judge them, they will be found guilty. They intimidate you for your correct beliefs because they want to continue living incorrectly in their sins. If your lifestyle contradicts the Word of God, you must either change your lifestyle or change the Word of God. The apostates alter the Word of God, not their lifestyle. So they mock you, because you believe the truth of judgment and the coming of Christ.
And never forget, 2021 Christian, the more Christ offers Himself through the Gospel, and the more Christ invites men and women to His Kingdom, the more the ungodly will vehemently push back against your message and vomit poisonous words at you, the messenger. Friends, you and I need to grow in Spirit-dependent confidence and Spirit-empowered courage. Today is not the day to decrease in fear, but to increase in fervor.
They may laugh at you today, but they will not be laughing on that day! They may seem to have the upper hand today, but they will lose eternity. Just as Christ came the first time, He will come again–this time to judge and rule. He wins, He triumphs, He conquers, He rules as the Sovereign King, and you are on His side, in His family, in His house, under His protection. Mockers are not. What are mockers like? Next, Peter exposes their lustful emotions and devious minds. How do they attack the Second Coming?
Second They attack by FLAUNTING their so-called FREEDOMS
Living by lust, the mockers try to prove from their lifestyle they will not be judged by Christ. How? They live how they want to, to assert they won’t be judged. They say, “Catch this, I can live in lustful sin and nothing happens to me now, so nothing will happen to me later.” Peter says it this way in verse 3b, “Following after their own lusts.”
They live licentiously, promiscuously, and lustfully. This phrase connects them with the false teachers of chapter 2 who in verse 10, “indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires.” They’ll not admit it, but immorality is the real reason false teachers deny the Second Coming. The Greek word “following after” in “following after their own lusts” is a form of a verb meaning to travel or go, describing a course of conduct or long-term behavior. The lifestyles of the false are all about sensuality. They deny Christ’s return because they hate the thought of divine retribution. They want the freedom to pursue lustful pleasures without any fear of future punishment.
The false teachers even live immorally to prove they won’t be judged, saying, “See, I live pervertedly and nothing has happened to me, so nothing will happen to me in the future. They will commit adultery, divorce and remarry on a whim, get drunk, take drugs, exalt homosexuality and worse–pursuing every desire of their lusts. All the while, they still claim to be Christians. They want to think they still have salvation, but don’t have 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. So they declare Christ isn’t returning–there will be no judgment, we’re free under grace.
But God in His Word does not allow this–Christ is returning and will judge. True believers embrace Christ’s return, and that they will give account for their lives. Romans 14:12, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Christ will bestow rewards based on our service to Him.
Believers know when Christ comes, He’ll X-ray the hidden motives of the heart. First Corinthians 4:5, “Do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” True believers long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And true believers know the Lord will expose their motives and evaluate all their works.
True believers’ confident hope in Christ’s return also gives them a massive incentive and powerful motivation to live obediently and holy every single day. Listen to 1 John 3:2 and 3, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Unlike the mocker who lives in lust, true Christians know each one of us will give an account of himself to God. So born again Christians pursue purity from a heart that wants to. But that won’t stop the mockers from coming up with excuses to reject Christ’s coming.
Third They attack by pushing REASONABLE DOUBT
Scientific skepticism–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.” They say science proves He’s not coming, or the laws of nature reject His return–how? They say the laws of nature are unchanging. The sun comes up and goes down, the seasons follow each other, the tides rise and fall in perfect order—exactly the same as they have done for thousands of years. Therefore we can expect this constancy in the future, so any thought Christ would judge the world, darken the sun or even replace the sun are ridiculous.
This is the same heresy you hear taught in the secular classroom, nature shows, the zoo and museums. You hear the declaration that science proves the earth is constant, functioned millions of years ago exactly like it functions today. They argue nothing cataclysmic has happened in the past, so there’s no reason to believe anything cataclysmic will happen in the future–such as Christ returning in glory. Year-to-year, century-to-century, it was always been the same, uniform, and consistent.
The scoffers say in verse 4, “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” Arrogantly they deny judgment day will come. They repudiate the truth that everyone must give an account for their words and deeds. They scoff at Jesus’ promise He will return on the last day, so they ask contemptuously, “Where is this coming He promised?” 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 even more pointed–they don’t want you to believe Jesus Christ is God who was born a man, the God-man, did miracles, died for the sin of His children, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, and promised to come again as King. Most of what Christ accomplished messed with the natural order. Calming a storm? Raising the dead? NO way. The false teacher instructs that nothing has changed in the past–so nothing will change in the future.
Verse 4, “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” Who are these fathers? Are they the forefathers of the scoffers? The first believers in the Old Testament, or are they Christians who have already died in the 1st century? Phillips translates it this way: “Since the first Christians fell asleep, everything remains exactly as it was.” The mockers might be saying that the coming of Christ has made no difference in respect to death and dying. They say the first Christians died just the same as other people die. So the mockers conclude the Gospel is irrelevant. They say Christ makes no difference–you’re still gonna die just like everyone else.
But notice in verse 4 how the title “fathers” is linked to creation. Plus, the New Testament normally uses the term fathers to refer to the Old Testament fathers. So verse 4 is probably the mockers saying, “Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Sadly, the mockers not only leave out creation, but the flood, the tower, the sun standing still, and every Old Testament miracle. And the mockers also leave out the birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ–ignoring all the massive Old Testament and New Testament references to divine intervention in history. The mockers declare everything remains the same since the day of creation.
In saying this, they are declaring the person and work of Christ has no validity and equally Christ has no bearing on the natural order of events or on everyday life. But true saints know, the coming of Christ has changed everything–everything. God has made Himself known, declared His rule and provided salvation–everything changed! And His return will bring about the end of the old and a beginning of everything new. Judgment will fall upon this earth and judgment will fall upon every person who has ever lived and Christ’s physical rule over this earth and everyone on it will begin forever.
Everything doesn’t continue as it was from the beginning of creation. It is not a closed, naturalistic system of cause and effect. But an open system, where God ordains a uniform operation of natural causes, but also a universe where He intervenes. Christ did quietly enter the world to provide salvation with his first coming and Christ will return dramatically to this world with judgment, and rule in His Second Coming. This world and everyone in it will be rocked with the return of Jesus Christ.
TAKE THIS HOME
1 You will be JUDGED–have you turned to the only SUBSTITUTE?
Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Judgment is inevitable because all have sinned. The only way to escape judgment is for your judgment for sin to fall upon someone else who takes your place. The good news is, from a heart of love and mercy, Jesus Christ–God in the flesh, took the agony of an eternity in Hell upon Himself for your sins on the cross. The wages of sin is death and Christ died for you, then rose, then ascended. And now He can not only forgive you and make you new, but He can also cover you with His perfect righteousness, justifying you so you can be right with God now and live with God forever in Heaven.
But if your sins do not fall upon Christ now, then you will be judged for them later forever in the eternal torment of Hell. Cry out to Christ to open your heart so you can be forgiven. Turn from your sin in repentance and depend upon Christ in faith and follow Him.
2 You are ACCOUNTABLE for how you live–are you SERVING Christ?
Romans 14:12, “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” You will not hear, “Well done good and faithful servant,” from Christ, unless you serve. You were saved to serve in the church and share in the world. God will evaluate your life–in the power of the Spirit, what service will you show Him, what giving will you send ahead, which people will you impact for His glory?
3 You are God’s CHILD–are you longing for His RETURN?
Matthew 25 describes the story of the ten virgins, awaiting the return of the groom–some were ready and others were not. The same chapter describes the master giving his servants money to invest while He is away. Are you investing your gifts, talents, time and money for His purposes while He is away? Readying yourself for Christ’s return is a way of living. It’s a walk of obedience, a life of dedication.
It’s also a heart of longing–a desire demonstrated with affection. On the last day of our visit, my middle grandson is sitting in front of his screen door, looking out with tears. I am Kuku to Finn–that’s Grandpa in Hawaiian. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m waiting for Kuku to return.” Though we’re not meant to sit and just wait for his return, in your heart, are you longing for Christ? Do you want Christ to return? Then say it, live it–not merely because of what He will do, but just for Him.