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Remembering the Promised Return of Christ
The Bible promises Christ’s return–2 Peter 3:1-2
Jesus Christ is coming back. This is our Christian hope. This is our expectation. The return of Christ is the blessed hope for our Church, our greatest longing, and the climax of salvation history. His return hails the completion of our redemption, and a time of judgment for God’s enemies. His return also marks the inauguration of Christ ruling this planet for a thousand years in His earthly Kingdom, where glorified saints will rule with Christ in perfect holiness around the planet and regular saints will enjoy a perfect world, ruled by the only righteous ruler who has ever existed.
With Christ’s Second Coming comes your resurrection in a perfect, glorified, flawless, never-tired, never-achy, never-sick body, along with eternal, spiritual reward. And with His return, the joy of living in a righteous world system–it’s no wonder the Early Church found tremendous comfort in the return of Christ. Not only had the readers of 2 Peter experienced persecution from outside the Church, but they now are facing internal turmoil from false teachers. How could they not long for the return of their Savior–the Judge who would make things right?
My friend, Nathan Busenitz writes this, “The hope of Christ’s coming was of paramount importance for the early church. In fact, its certainty was so real that first-century believers would greet one another with the term ‘maranatha,’ meaning ‘Lord, come quickly.’
“Instead of being frightened by the possibility, they clung to it as the culmination of everything they believed. Not surprisingly, the New Testament reflects this intense anticipation by referencing Jesus’ return, whether directly or indirectly, in every New Testament book except Philemon and 3 John.”
As we watch our nation forget its roots, and as our culture crumbles before our eyes, with a pandemic which has the potential to kill but is also used as a tool to accomplish political and sociological ends, we too, FBC, long for Christ’s return. Most of you know in your head, and some of you in your heart, how important the doctrine of the Second Coming is to every Christian. But there is one in our midst who understands how crucial it is for you and for me–possibly better than you do. Know him?
His name is Satan. The devil recognizes how important this truth is to the Church. When Christians live in anticipation of Christ’s promised return, they demonstrate a spiritual zeal and enthusiasm, recognizing they will soon give an account to their Master. I love the way Paul says it in Romans 13:11, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” John wrote, the Second Coming gives us a purifying hope (1 John 3:3).
When believers forget about the Second Coming and begin to focus on the things of this world, they become absorbed in the temporal, grow apathetic and cold toward the eternal. Which is crazy when you compare your life now to eternity. Your life now compared to eternity is the 64th of an inch on the yardstick, the single blip on the radar, the single knot tied into a line of string that is a billion miles long. Satan knows if he can get the Church to minimize the importance of Christ’s return, or even completely deny its reality, he can remove a very significant source of Christian hope, comfort, joy, anticipation and motivation.
To do that, the devil continually places skeptics and false teachers within the Church–men who reject, minimize, and alter Jesus’ promise of coming again. Those same kind of cynics who today plague the Church, seminaries, books and blogs, were also around in Peter’s time. Peter wrote chapter 1 to strengthen our confidence in God’s provision in salvation, and build our dependence on God’s Word written by the apostles.
Peter wrote chapter 2 to expose the false teachers, describing their doctrine, their doom and their deeds so all believers might be able to identify them. And Peter writes chapter 3 to restore their confidence in the certain Second Coming–even though it is combatted by false teachers, Peter affirms it is close and it is clear, and for Christians, the return of Christ is compelling. And that is just how the chapter breaks down, affirming in verses 1 and 2 that the Second Coming of Christ is certain.
You need this chapter–to hear about the Second Coming and the end times, because His return is what makes today bearable for the struggling believer. Students, the end times will challenge you to live purely, not wanting to be embarrassed with anything you are doing 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–and it will only count if you are serving Him faithfully. To hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you have to be a faithful servant.
Your longing for justice will be completely satisfied the moment Christ returns. The return of Christ guarantees a new resurrection body, which is exactly what your aging body, battles with sickness, struggles with health and pains are longing for. 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.
Under the theme of the certainty of the Second Coming, read 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, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” Two major truths spring from these two verses.
#1 Remember the Return of Christ is PRECIOUS Verse 1
“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.” With deep affection, Peter turns the discussion from evil false teachers in chapter 2, to beloved children of God in chapter 3. The apostle wants his readers to remember Christ is returning. Peter desires the readers to not buy into what the false teachers are selling about Christ’s Second Coming, but to recall what the Scriptures say about the Second Coming.
Peter hopes to re-establish their confidence in the return of Christ and the preciousness of the hope His return brings–by stirring up their minds to remember that the Bible clearly, pointedly and repeatedly teaches Christ will return to judge and to rule. Peter begins chapter three with a reminder that . . .
First The return of Christ is precious to God’s beloved CHILDREN
Look at how verse 1 begins, “This is now, beloved”–Peter shares his care, his love and affection with his readers. “Beloved” is emphasized in the Greek as he introduces his defense and affirmation of the Second Coming. There are five uses of beloved in this letter, and verse 1 is the first of four uses in this chapter alone–look at each one.
Verse 1, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you.” 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.” Verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” Verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men.”
“Beloved” is so close, so personal, so intimate–it is used by God the Father to describe His love for God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the Mount of Transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:17, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.”
“Beloved” is Peter declaring his deep, persistent love for his readers–he loves those believers in the churches in Asia. It’s a love that seeks to promote their true welfare. It’s a love Peter has proven to them as an apostle. In each of its occurrences, “beloved” is connected with a fervent exhortation. And his use of “beloved” is all the more moving after Peter’s resounding denunciation of the false teachers.
In this chapter, Peter corrects some believers who’ve been misled–those who were tempted to embrace the false teaching. They need redirection, so Peter makes certain before he confronts, that they know how much he loves them. It’s so important that you too love the brethren–that you serve and sacrifice for each other. Why? It’s how we love Christ. It’s how we know we’re saved. Those people sitting down your row are beloved–they’re eternal family. Sure, they mess up, sometimes they’re smelly–but they’re beloved.
Beloved is only for those inside God’s family. Those outside God’s family will not look forward to Christs’ return. For outsiders, the Second Coming of Christ means judgment and eternal punishment. For insiders, God’s children, Christ’s return means reward and eternal blessing. But in order for the Second Coming to impact Peter’s readers and you today . . .
Second The return of Christ is precious when you remember it CONTINUALLY
In verse 1, among exegetes, there is massive discussion on this phrase—”the second letter I am writing to you,” see it? Is this 2 Peter, or is it a lost letter of Peter? The best conclusion is that Peter is referring to 2 Peter and 1 Peter, and now here Peter is referring to this letter, 2 Peter, as his other official canonical letter. Peter is telling these churches he wants them to know his zeal and commitment.
It’s almost as if these churches were just like every other church–they didn’t get it the first time, so Peter will tell them the same truths again. I’m writing you, and I will keep writing you until you get this. Get what? The next phrase, “in which I am stirring up your sincere mind”—Peter is heating up his readers and you today to the importance of apostolic teaching and sound doctrine, which are being undermined by the false teachers. Peter is giving you a loving kick in the pants–wake up and realize just how serious this is. You must not ignore this. Do not coast or cruise. This is not just another letter–I have written to you twice on this because you need to get this.
Don’t forget you’re in a war against your own memory. You must not forget the Second Coming. You must remember the Second Coming daily. When Peter says “stir”, it means to wake up, to stay alert, to sober up–move to action. And here, the expression stirring up indicates Peter’s effort to shock his readers out of any complacency so they embrace the spiritual urgency of his warning against these false teachers and the lies they’re perpetrating about Christ’s return.
And just as important is to force his readers to continually recall the truth of the Second Coming. Peter wants the churches to know what the false teachers say about the Second Coming is a complete fabrication and lie. Plus, he wants them to recall, verse 2, that what the Old Testament and New Testament continually repeat about the Second Coming is completely true. Peter intensifies his waking process by making the verb “stir” an ongoing tense. I’m continually waking you up–I’m continually shaking you awake to recall the return of Christ. The apostle aggressively opposed the heretics, hoping to protect his flock from those menacing wolves. But he also wants to actively cause his readers to use their redeemed minds to embrace the Second Coming.
This is why Peter appeals to their sincere minds–verse 1, “In which I am stirring up your sincere mind.” The Greek word “sincere” actually means tested by the sun. Just like you bring something out into the sunlight to see it accurately. Peter wants their new born again minds to be stirred into action. In a sense, Peter is saying if you’re truly a Christian, you’ll see this truth accurately. Like taking a piece of pottery out into the sun, you can see if there are cracks in it. Peter wants them to see the cracks of the false teachers and to appreciate the purity of apostolic teaching.
Peter had to alert the sensibilities of those he wrote so they’d affirm this not only made sense, but was a priority. Peter says you gotta know this and do it. Wake up! Stirring up is Peter waking up Christian soldiers with Revelry. And the sensible mind is the new born again brain washed clean at salvation, so you can think and discern what is true, reject what is false, and determine what is best.
What is best for Christians is to continually be reminding themselves. The last phrase in verse 1 is “by way of reminder.” Is remembering important? Just forget an anniversary or a child’s birthday and you’ll be jolted back to the importance of memory. We have an electronic photo frame that shows all our oldest photos, and it brings back wonderful memories of God’s blessing, people to pray for, events filled with joy. And it makes me anticipate even more sweet events in the future. Memory is so important–both verses 1 and 2 call you (and the original readers) to recall.
“Remember” is repeated twice in verses 1 and 2. Peter wants them to recollect, to bring to mind, to remember the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remembering is the focus of verses 1 and 2, and a crucial part of your spiritual life. Communion commands us to remember the sacrifice of God the Son on the cross. Remembering often is one of the main motivators to a life of obedience. Peter says remember.
Peter wrote these churches twice, seeking to stir them up against error and to stand for truth. The truth is Christ is coming again, and as one of His beloved children, you are to remember His return daily, stir your mind to think about it, review it, look forward to it. Do you remember how excited your kids were when Daddy came home? We are blessed to have grandboys who long for our return and are grieved by our departure. In your heart, are you like them concerning the return of your Lord, God and Savior? Do you remember His Second Coming every single day? Then is your heart longing for His return or are you dreading it? Or worse, are you indifferent?
The Second Coming is the lens through which you look at this world. If you don’t, you will not see Christ correctly. You will not live life biblically. You will not grow to maturity and you will not accomplish His purposes. You need a Second Coming outlook. You need to start each day with, “Maranatha, Lord come quickly!” If you don’t, you are too comfortable here, you are forgetting who is really in charge, you are not functioning on Earth with the right motivation, and you are not loving Christ. The return of Christ is precious, and Peter wants to make certain you . . .
#2 Remember the Return of Christ is PROMISED Verse 2
Read verse 2, “that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” The false teachers want you to think that Christ’s return isn’t going to happen. And if they acknowledge it at all, to the false, the Second Coming was a last minute addition to the earthly ministry of Christ. But Peter says, “No, the Lord’s Second Coming was and is promised in both Old and New Testaments. The Second Coming has been God’s plan since before creation.”
First Remembering the return of Christ PROMISED in the Old Testament
Verse 2, “that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets.” FBC, and all you individual Christians in this family, like the churches Peter writes to, you must be remembering. Fire up your memory, and recall the fact that the Second Coming of Christ was repeatedly promised by the holy prophets.
Why holy prophets? Peter says this in contrast to the unholy false teachers. The holy prophets were men who sought to walk in obedience to God’s Word, stay on the right path, live in such a way as to please their Lord. Far from perfect, they knew, loved and obeyed their God, where the false teachers do not know, do not love and do not obey their Lord. These were the holy prophets. As the holy prophets promised the return of Christ–Peter says, “spoken beforehand.” The verb “spoken beforehand” means to be told in advance–to prophesy the future. And the tense describes they spoke it, and what they spoke (and wrote) remains today. The words they wrote about the Second Coming are just as alive today as back then. And they will all come true.
What are you and I to be remembering? What did the prophets predict in advance? The return of our Lord! Turn to Isaiah 34:1 to 4–it sounds like the book of Revelation. “Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, …. 2 For the Lord’s indignation is against all the nations, and His wrath against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter. 3 So their slain will be thrown out, and their corpses will give off their stench, and the mountains will be drenched with their blood. 4 … and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll.”
Ezekiel 30:3, “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near; … a time of doom for the nations.” Joel 2:31, “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Micah 1:3, “For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.” Zephaniah 1:14 to 18, “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly; … 15A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, … 17I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung. 18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Malachi 4:1 to 3, “’For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The Second Coming of Christ is not a secret–it is promised in the Old Testament Scripture. Christ’s return is not a wish–it is written down from Isaiah to Malachi. The holy prophets recorded God’s Word, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end and described the theme of God’s final wrath, often called the Day of the Lord, repeatedly promised, with the Second Coming being the centerpiece of that prophetic day.
Second Remembering the return of Christ PROMISED in the New Testament
Peter adds in verse 2, “and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” Peter says, “Remember what the Lord Himself promised, and remember what the chosen authors of the Scripture–the New Testament writers, your apostles promised.” The apostles not only wrote down what Jesus spoke while on Earth, but the apostles were uniquely inspired as the writers of New Testament Scripture and wrote down what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write.
And these were not merely sincere Christians-notice, these were your apostles. The ones who were set apart by God. Not the fake ones–the ones who brought you the Gospel for the first time and ministered in your midst. You know them–Peter and Paul and potentially others. Peter reminds his readers and you, this is not merely a claim–it is Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, the living Word of God repeatedly proclaims the Second Coming.
Twenty-three of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament explicitly refer to the Lord’s return. Of the four that don’t, Galatians 5:5 does allude to it—”For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” And 2 John 8 speaks of the believer’s future reward, a doctrine that finds its ultimate fulfillment after the Second Coming. So only 3 John and Philemon don’t mention Christ’s return. But of the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are around 300 references where the Lord’s apostles, your apostles, make mention of Christ’s Second Coming.
In proclaiming this great hope, the apostles were merely repeating the promise of our Savior. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” Matthew 16:27, “The Son of Man is going to come…and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Luke 12:40, “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” Matthew 24:29 to 31, “Jesus taught, ‘…immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds.’”
Matthew 24:42, “…be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Mark 8:38, “…whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Then at the ascension in Acts 1:11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” And the apostles continued to affirm His coming with 1 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.”
Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” First Thessalonians 5:23, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; … preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” First Peter 5:4, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
Jesus is coming back friends–and you and I must learn to remember His return every single day. The apostle John describes the Second Coming best. Revelation 19:11 to 16, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
From Matthew to Revelation, Jesus’ return is reiterated over and over and over again. Peter wants you to feel the weight of the inspired Old Testament prophetic, and New Testament apostolic testimony. The false teachers are wrong, God’s Word is right. FBC, Jesus Christ is coming again. Declare it. Live it. Remember it. Long for it. Treasure it. Dream about it. Hope for it. And expect His return with unwavering confidence.
TAKE HOME these FOUR HOWS
A How intense is your HEART ANTICIPATION for the Second Coming?
Do you remember your wedding day? For most of us, it is so over the top, we have to take pictures to make certain we don’t miss parts. Jean walked down the aisle, I cried, I was so excited about the gift she was to me. She is gorgeous and she loves the Lord so deeply–and when we were married, she had a Godly maturity well beyond her 26 years. We wanted that day to be special, and it was. We made some unusual commitments on that day in order to have the wedding focus on Christ. John MacArthur told me later that he had never sensed the Spirit of God more in any wedding he had previously officiated. It was an amazing event.
But do you recall how excited you were at your wedding? That’s where our hearts are to be with the return of Christ. It is our wedding–a perfect wedding. The best wedding. Not just sensing the Spirit of God, but immersed in the Spirit, one with Christ forever. Are you anticipating?
B How intense is your ANGER over INJUSTICE awaiting the Second Coming?
I know what you’re going through with the changes in our society, our government–I know you secretly–no, that’s incorrect. It’s no secret, you want justice. You want truth, not lies. You want justice, not politics. You want what is internally right and not judgments made on externals. You are depressed, angry, disappointed, livid. You are trying to figure out what state you can move to, or what country you can live in, or what planet you can get to that will free you from the chaos and injustice. Friends, the solution is on its way. Justice will reign. There will be no more lies, manipulations, no more injustice. Christ will rule with perfect righteousness. Please stop looking at the world for solutions and look forward to the world to come. Please turn your focus from the corruption and turn it to Christ. Stop dwelling on this pitiful realm and dwell on the perfect Ruler. As a Christian who is beginning to understand just how important the Second Coming of Christ is, you must move to more anticipation of Christ’s coming and less struggle over how bad this world is.
Bring back the Early Church greeting. Say it to others, and most of all, say it to yourself—“Maranatha, Lord come quickly!” Repeat it, think it, pray it. When you are tempted to go down that dark path, say, “Lord, maybe today, maybe now, come Lord! Come quickly! MARANATHA!”
C How BOLD are you at turning the CONVERSATION toward Christ’s coming?
Let the lost know where your hope lies. Some won’t care, but others are already thinking about their death from COVID and wondering what is after death. Because even though they don’t know Christ, they’re wondering where this chaos is all headed. Tell them, “I’m living as responsible as I can right now, but I have to tell you, I am not afraid, because my great hope is, I get to go be with Christ. And I know someday soon He is coming back to rule this planet.”
Some friends or family have been minimizing and mocking the Second Coming of Christ. Some might think you are insane, judgmental or just plain weird. But they are thinking about death and they need to hear the hope you have. They might look at you funny–but I guaranty, they will think more about the future than they ever have. Point them to Christ, His salvation and His soon return. Tell them who you are hoping in.
D How certain are you that you’re ready for the JUDGMENT at the Second Coming?
The Second Coming is only for those who are in the family. Those inside the family face reward and eternal blessing forever with Christ. But those outside the family of God face judgment and eternal punishment. Listen carefully, becoming a Christian is not something you chose, but someone God chose. You don’t pray a prayer, walk an aisle or make a decision–but God must change your heart. You must see yourself as a vile sinner, condemned before God for your very nature as a sinner and for all your choices to miss God’s perfection and violate His law. You did that by your pride, selfishness, lying, cheating, stealing, harsh words, anger, lusts, impatience–and all you need is one sin to condemn you for all eternity in Hell.
You’re so saturated with sin that you can’t save yourself–God must do it. Because He loves you, He determined to come take care of your sin problem on His own. Christ is God, born a baby, lived perfectly, then offered Himself as a sacrifice–willingly choosing to die on the cross for the sins of His children. He paid the penalty and satisfied God’s judgment as God. And He took your place and my place as a man and suffered the death we deserved. Because He had no sin of His own, He rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven and now stands as the only way you can be right with God.
Mohammad, Buddha, and Joseph Smith are still in the grave–only Christ has risen. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man can come to the father except through Christ. What you must do is cry out to God to forgive you of your sin. Cry out for God to give you faith to trust in Him with your life. Cry out to God to give you a new heart, to cause you to be born again. A whole new forgiven person who now knows Christ intimately will chose to follow Christ with their life by obeying the Bible and can’t wait to be with Him in eternity. Cry out to Him today. Let’s pray.