Living in Light of Eternity
The reality of Hell and Heaven should impact a believer’s lifestyle
2 Peter 3:11-13
When I found myself growing in like with this amazingly cute and godly woman named Jean Sharpe, I started anticipating my contact with her. I took extra care of my appearance. I made certain I didn’t smell very bad. I checked for bad breath. The more I got to know her, the more I began to get a clearer picture of what kind of behavior that might win her heart–and friends, I wanted to win her heart. She tells me that I was a sought-after male fish in the Grace Community Church pond–but in my thinking, I wanted to bag the rarest, the trophied, best-looking and most sought-after big-game female in the ministry jungles at Grace.
The day arrived for her first visit to my dark bachelor apartment. I had learned over time that Jean was neat, clean and she really valued organization. Now I am not averse to cleanliness or organization, but I knew I had to step it up to a whole new level in order to capture this 10-point female. So my apartment got a mega-cleaning–extra vacuuming, dusting, Windex and wipe downs. All the dishes in the sink put away and no water spots on the faucet or counter.
One of my major dilemmas was, I did not have a drawer for my toiletries at my bathroom sink. So I laid out a wash cloth perfectly square and flat, and I lined up my brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. on the counter in nice straight rows, like soldiers in line for inspection. I was ready for her arrival. I was excited and a little nervous, but I had done all I could to prepare for her coming. I definitely made an impression, and I was well on my way to winning her heart. Isn’t it amazing what one will do in preparation for the arrival of someone they love?
The hope of a future relationship with her altered my immediate behavior. And my precious family of Christians, the hope of Christ’s coming in the future will alter your immediate behavior today. Like getting ready for Jean to come, believers should be getting ready for Christ to come again. In 2 Peter 3:11 to 18, Peter is speaking to the churches in Asia, so that Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return.
Open your Bibles to 2 Peter chapter 3 and follow along with your outline as we exposit God’s Word on the Second Coming of Christ. We have studied the first half of the chapter, verses 1 to 10, which was focused on the certainty of the return of Christ and the foolishness of the false teacher second coming theories. Now we’re at the second half of chapter 3, where Peter makes it very clear God intends the Second Coming of Christ to radically change the way we live every single day.
In verses 11 to 18, Peter lists about eight dramatic changes that will occur in a believer’s life if they live in anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming. Verses 11 to 18 inform you of eight major changes God will make in your life. Every one of you will begin to live more for eternity than for today. You will enjoy internal peace, be more faithful to share the Gospel, grow more doctrinally astute, gain great biblical discernment, experience greater spiritual growth in maturity, and live more in continual praise.
The first distinctive change is found in verses 11 to 13. Today is a transition of heart from an earthly focus to a heavenly focus, from a temporal priority to an eternal priority–less love towards the now and more love towards the forever, less enamored by our worldly stay and more enamored by our heavenly home, less consumed with the every day and more consumed with the eternal stay.
Peter wants his readers to face the reality that this existence today is nothing compared to your existence eternally. Peter wants his readers to be gripped by the reality that this kind of life will be done away and a new world is coming. This current life, living for Christ on a fallen sinful Earth, will be burned with fire–and your future life, living with Christ on a new sinless Earth, will all be brand new. And Peter wants his readers to feel the reality that there are only two viable options for eternity—one will be in the place where the unrighteous exist in torment after God’s judgment of this world. And two will be the place where those made righteous will exist in the presence of the One who is righteous. This is why the Bible instructs you to be ready for the return of Christ. Are you living in light of eternity every single day?
Read Peter’s eternal comments to his readers in verses 11 to 14a. As you do, notice Peter’s usage of the word translated looking. See if you can discover a negative motivation and a positive motivation. Out of the eight changes that can occur in a believer’s lifestyle because of Christ’s return, this is the big change, the major change. Peter describes it in verses 11 to 13—read it. “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! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things.”
Peter says you should be looking for the destruction of the old heavens and earth, and looking for the new heavens and new earth. Look at the chart in your outline. In 2 Peter, the apostle is not focusing on any last day event except the Second Coming and His judgment that follows. Peter does not describe the Rapture, the Tribulation, nor the 1000-year Millennium, but only Christ’s return and judgment.
The Rapture is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven and in a moment of time, resurrect the bodies of departed believers, transform the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence and then escort them to Heaven to live with Him forever. The Church, living and dead, will be snatched up to meet the Lord in the air–described in John 14, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
The Rapture is the first phase of the Second Coming, and I believe the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The Tribulation is the unique and final 7-year period of judgment to fall upon Israel and unrepentant humanity, when God will pour out His wrath on this sinful, disobedient world. Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”
The Kingdom is God’s utopia on Earth, which occurs after the Second Coming. Christ’s Kingdom is when Jesus physically establishes a thousand-year reign of glory and peace, fulfilling all the promises He made to the nation of Israel. Revelation 20:4, 6, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. …and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 6they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
The Day of the Lord, which is all the eschatological events yet to come, begins with the Rapture, then Tribulation and finishes with the New Heaven and New Earth. There are many other events which are included in the Day of the Lord–the seals, bowls and trumpet judgments, Armageddon, the anti-Christ and his beast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, the bema judgment for believers, the Great White Throne judgment of all humanity, and many more. But the most important end times event is the Second Coming of Christ. This is the main event of the Day of the Lord, the main event of all the future eschatological events, and the one main event which Peter focuses on in 2 Peter.
In chapter 3, the spotlight is the Second Coming of Christ. Again, the reason for this focus is this—the Second Coming is the promised event. The physical return of Christ is embraced by every end-times theological system. And belief in the Second Coming of Christ is embraced by every born-again believer. Not the Rapture, not the 1000-year earthy reign of Christ, His Kingdom–but all genuine Christians will believe in the physical, literal, Second Coming of Christ. Why?
Jesus’ return is explicitly referred to 1,845 times in the Bible. The Second Coming of Christ is mentioned in 23 of the 27 New Testament books. Out of 260 New Testament chapters, there are 318 references to the Second Coming–that’s more than once per chapter. Jesus’ Second Coming is mentioned eight-times more than His first coming. For every one mention of the atonement in the Bible, there are two of Christ’s return. Jesus Himself refers to His own return 21 times in the gospels and believers are exhorted over fifty times to be ready for the Second Coming.
Are you living ready for eternity? Believing in the Second Coming of Christ moves you from temporal to eternal, from this earth to the new earth. And it is meant to dramatically alter your everyday life, Monday through Saturday. Again, verses 1 to 10 describe the certainty of Christ’s coming, even though the false teachers combat against it. And now verses 11 to 18 describe how trusting that Christ will return in the future will alter the way you behave today. Like crazy Chris, preparing for the arrival of Jean for her first visit to my place, all genuine Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return.
Last week we learned that Peter makes a summary statement in verse 11. Then Peter expands the summary statement with the remainder of the passage. Verse 11 is the warning shout which Peter explains in the remaining verses. Read the main point in verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
Following verse 11, Peter explains the changes the Holy Spirit will make in your life. Peter says Christians will live holy in light of coming judgment. Believers will live less like the world and more like Christ, when they live knowing that Christ will burn this world. Born again saints will make eternal choices over temporal choices daily, when they daily remember the fate of this world from verse10.
“But 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.” Now verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness”–everything will be burned up. Only the fruits of holy living and Christlike conduct will remain. Any life lived for this world will go naked into the judgment, but any life lived for Christ will be laden with eternal riches.
The false teachers want to live lustfully now and not suffer any consequences. They don’t want Christ to return as judge to justly expose every human motive. The false say salvation is by grace, but they teach grace means you can live any way you like in order to live in this world justifying lustful indulgence, love of money and love for praise. So Peter teaches this world you love is going to burn. So don’t live for the pleasures of the world. Don’t be devoted to accumulating money. Don’t live for your pleasures–it’s all going to burn. Verse 11 is not a question–it is a statement. Peter is literally proclaiming, “How astonishingly excellent you ought to be”–if you rightly anticipate the Second Coming, it will impact your daily behavior.
Peter adds at the end of verse 11, “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” What sort of people you ought to be is what manner of people or kind of people. And the Greek word sort refers to alien, foreigner—stating, “this world is not your home.” You don’t belong here. Like someone who doesn’t speak a language you understand, Christians are foreigners. You’re different–not odd. You attract, not repel.
In light of coming eternal destruction and judgment, Christians will live verse 11, holy and godly—”in holy conduct and godliness.” Holiness is unique and separate, and godliness is Christlike and pleasing to God. You live according to the Bible–not merely because it is God’s character and law. But you live according to God’s Word because you love Christ as the Lord who sacrificed everything in order to rescue you from your sins and because He is the Judge you want to please. Like getting ready for Jean to come over, I wanted to prepare, organize and clean because I was loving her. Christians live holy and godly because they love Christ.
So after Peter shouts the summary statement for this section in verse 11, how astonishingly excellent you ought to be–Peter then describes how believers will live different in light of eternity. Your marriage, parenting, home, schooling, job should be impacted by Christ’s return. The first big way is . . .
#1 Living for ETERNITY; Longingly
Read verses 12 and 13, “Looking 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! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” There is both a positive and negative motivation here–something to flee from and something to pursue. Something fear being a part of and something to hope to be a part of. Something to dread and something to desire.
Verse 12 is Christians looking for the day when this world is destroyed. And verse 13 is looking for the new heavens and new earth. Verse 12 is temporal and verse 13 is eternal. Verse 12 is warning and verse 13 is promise. The longing for eternity is seen in . . .
First The EXPECTANCY for the destruction of the old universe
The key verb for these verses is “looking”–used in verses 12, 13 and 14. It means to await eagerly, to be expectant. You find the same Greek word “looking” in Luke 3:15, “Now while the people were in a state of expectation.” Peter is describing an attitude of excitement and anticipation as you wait for the Lord’s return. Grow an outlook on life that watchfully waits for the Lord’s arrival, because you realize this world will be dissolved, and that even the very elements will be disintegrated. You fix your hope, not on anything in this world, but only on the Lord Jesus Christ and eternity with Him. What you see around you now is all gonna burn.
Since you don’t know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return, you and I must be continually ready. There is a danger here. When you stop looking for His Second Coming, when you stop anticipating His return, when your expectation slows–then your heart for Christ will grow cooler and your love for this world will increase.
You know this verse, but notice the direct connection between loving the world and loving the Father. First John 2:15, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This verse makes a clear connection between the love of the Father and the love of the world–it is all or nothing. You can only love one or the other. Like being in the flesh or being in the Spirit, you love one or the other. When you love the world, you don’t love the Father. When you love the Father, you don’t love the world.
I believe it is also true for Christians–the more you love the world, the less you love the Father. And the less you love the world, the more you love the Father. What things of this world do you love too much? Shopping, electronics, cars, pets, jewelry, clothes, books, collections, pictures, movies, sports, events, theme parks, food? What is it that competes for your love for Christ? What of this world do you love too much? God’s desire is not necessarily that you burn it, but for you to know that it will burn.
It is not necessarily that God desires for you to get rid of it, but to make certain it is carved out of your heart. There are certain things, like social media, an item, a pet, or an event you may have to give up entirely, because you’re prone to treat it like an idol. But the real issue with the world is always a matter of the heart. Do you love the world or love Christ?
You were born again to love the Father, but it is the love of the world and the things of this world which drain your love for God as a Christian. So Peter says, look not at this earth, but look for the new earth. Where are you looking? Are you looking at this world or are you looking to the world to come? Verses 12 and 13 and 14 call believers to look. There are three major directions to look–which direction are you looking? Up, around or at yourself? Are you looking to Christ, eternity, your future home in Heaven–looking up? Or are you looking around at what this world has to offer? Or worst of all, are you only looking at yourself, only what you want and only what will satisfy you?
Verse 12, “Looking 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.” Why would you want that? Why would you hasten to look for the Day of God? The phrase Day of God—”hastening the coming of the Day of God.” That is not the Day of the Lord.
John MacArthur writes, “The day of God refers to the eternal state when God will have permanently subdued all of His enemies like Psalm 110:1, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” First Corinthians 15:28, “When all things are subjected to Him…” Philippians 2:10, “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.” Philippians 3:21, “the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” The “day of the Lord,” refers to the final, tumultuous events accompanying the last judgment of unbelievers; followed by the day of God.”
Christians are eager in hastening for the day of God, but their attitude toward the turmoil that precedes it is much more sober. So we look for the day of God. Verse 12, “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God”–the eternal state. See the phrase, “coming of the day of God.” Coming means presence, speaking of the personal presence of Christ–we are looking for our Savior to come, face-to-face.
We long for Christ, but we don’t long for the judgment of the lost when the universe is to be destroyed because of sin–verse 12, “because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.” You Christians have nothing to fear from this day of judgment, because you have a Father who loves you–you have nothing to fear from the world’s complete destruction. So before the new heaven and earth, when every knee will bow before Christ, the entire universe (Peter calls it the heavens here) will be destroyed–literally demolished by fire, dissolving everything/every element with the hottest combustible heat. The entire world, down to the smallest atom. The elements will be completely burned up.
Martyred missionary Jim Elliot says it best—”He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” There is nothing here on Earth that will last. People are eternal, God’s Word is eternal—but nothing else. The point–give your life to investing God’s Word into people, to reach them for Christ and to equip them to become like Christ.
What do you think it is like to abandon your home, knowing it is going to be covered with lava, or burned by a wildfire, or destroyed by a flood? Peter says live like that–because that is exactly what is going to happen. Live knowing your home, money, valuables, pictures and possessions will all be burned. Come to grips with how foolish it is to live for this temporary world. To live for eternity, expect this world to be completely destroyed. Also live with . . .
Second The EAGERNESS for the coming creation of a new universe
Peter not only motivates you with coming judgment–negatively. But Peter also motivates you positively with your coming eternal home. God promises His children they will live in a new heaven and new earth in verse 13. “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” God will create a totally new universe. The word new means new in quality, unlike anything you have ever imagined. The new heavens and earth will be far more than new in chronology.
They will also be new in character. Peter says it is so awesome, it’s a realm, verse 13, “Where righteousness dwells.” Dwells means to settle down and be at home, or to take up permanent, comfortable residence. In God’s new order, perfect righteousness will enjoy a permanent, flawless existence around you, with you, and in you forever. You are free. Imagine what it will be like to be fully you—full of joy, love and perfect peace as you live in absolute righteous perfection. Peter is declaring this–believers who anticipate the Second Coming will turn their focus from this world to live for their eternal future home.
Following the complete destruction of this sin-stained universe, the day of God will arrive–and this corrupted world system will completely be annihilated, totally gone. According to His promise, that new day will feature a new heavens and a new earth. God will create an entirely new universe. It is so good, so mind-blowing that you and I, with the rest of the redeemed, will not even remember the former world, this world. Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” With the reality of Christ’s return . . .
TAKE this HOME
A Are you LONGING?
One day soon, this universe will be entirely destroyed. In final retribution, God’s wrath will melt away the material world in a final holocaust of unimaginable intensity. For God’s enemies, this future judgment will be an inescapable nightmare. But for God’s children, it will mean the fulfillment of all our hopes–a dream come true. We will be with Christ face-to-face. He will rule for a thousand years, then He will create a new universe that will be so good, we won’t even remember the old. And God will ultimately triumph over all who oppose Him, eradicate sin and destroy death. Are you longing for that day?
I was gone once for 4-1/2 weeks. I will never forget Jean meeting me on the jetway, trembling in tears, waiting for her groom. May you and I manifest the same longing toward Christ’s return. Colossians 3:1, “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
B Where are your AFFECTIONS?
Do your affections rest on this world or with Christ? Can you figure it out? Let me help you determine your affections–by examining three of your essentials. Look at . . .
#1 your calendar–your use of time indicates where your affections linger
#2 your conversations–what you talk about is a window into your affections
#3 your money–what you give or don’t give reflects your affections/heart
Christ is to be our Revelation 2:4, first love–above all other affections. Are you loving Him now, living for Him now and your eternal home–or living for yourself and this temporary tinderbox called planet Earth?
C Are you PREPARING today?
I remember one day my dad suddenly, unexpectedly arrived home–pulling up in the driveway, catching me making mud in the planter area. It was bad, because he told me earlier in the week not to do it. I was caught in an embarrassing action. Someday Christ will suddenly, unexpectedly return–and the goal is for you to live in such a way that He would be pleased by your behavior when He returns. Peter shouts how astonishingly excellent you ought to be. John states in 1 John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
D Are you CLINGING now?
Knowing Christ is not a name tag, T-shirt, or a bumper sticker. It’s not attending church or having a Bible, or having a few Christian friends. It is about knowing Christ. John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” A lot of people in the Church are like those in Hell–they know about Christ. But they never knew Him as the friend they are intimate with, their Savior who has forgiven them, their Physician who healed them, their Redeemer who has transformed them, and the Lord they love and obey.
Your sin separates you from God. Only by surrendering to Christ, turning from your sin in repentance, and depending on Him by faith will transform you from God’s enemy to God’s friend. You must cling to Christ as your only hope. Exchange all that you are for all that He is. I pray you will.