Close Menu X
Navigate

Desire for His Word

October 15, 2017

Passage: 2 Peter 3:1–3:14

Speaker: Tim Foster, Redeemer Church Care Group Leader

1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

My oldest daughter recently moved to Austin, and my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting her last week and had the opportunity to go with her to visit one of the churches on her list. The church was a bit more “high-church” than I’m used to, nothing wrong with that, had a robed choir singing at the back, and cushion-less chairs to help keep you awake. Quite different than the church I was raised in. The church I was raised in had a weekly “church bulletin” maybe 2 pages long. By comparison, Redeemer has a fairly hefty “worship guide” several pages long. The church we visited with our daughter had a “worship instruction manual”! Twenty pages (I counted) of instructions on when to stand, when to sit, what to say, who would pray when, what to sing, which notes to sing (which I needed because I’m not familiar with many songs older than the 1700s), whom to greet, when to greet, how to greet them, what to reply to those that greeted you.

The responsive reading included selections from various creeds, catechisms and Bible passages, and after every Bible passage, the Leader would say “This is the Word of the Lord”, and the “worship instruction manual” instructed us to respond with “Thanks be to God!”

“This is the Word of the Lord” -> “Thanks be to God!”
“This is the Word of the Lord” -> “Thanks be to God!”

Several times throughout the worship service, a leader would say “This is the Word of the Lord” and we would respond in unison “Thanks be to God!”

These responses stirred up in me a profound appreciation for the fact that God’s word is ‘here’ - high and lifted up, holy and separate from all that is worldly. And my response is to acknowledge it as holy and orient my thoughts and my life to what the Bible says. This idea of the cherishing the precious Word of God has been touched on in recent weeks by Ben and Bret, and in today’s passage - which was selected several months ago - Peter brings his audience to this same point of paying careful attention to the words of God delivered through the Prophets and Apostles. Indeed, this is the Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God!

Context

Lest we do Peter an injustice by jumping into this passage without a sense of context, I think it would help us to spend a few minutes quickly reviewing what he’s written to them so far.

In Chapter 1, Peter introduces himself as an Apostle writing to people who have received faith from God, a faith that is a gateway to many great and precious promises of God. These first-century believers are being persecuted for their faith. Peter tells them -and by extension, us- that if we build on this faith (by adding virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love), we will be fruitful in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, and we will not fall. And Peter wants to remind his audience of this (v12).

He then turns his attention to the source of this Word. It didn’t come from cleverly devised myths - indeed, he was an eye-witness to the glory and majesty of Christ. He personally heard the voice of God saying “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” on the mount of Transfiguration. Can you imagine how fantastic that experience would be? To have a front-row seat as God the Father illuminates His Son with radiant glory, undeniably marking Him out as the Messiah and fulfillment of centuries of promises? What a sight that would be! Could there be any doubt in the minds of these disciples as they were eye-witnesses, beholding His glory?

But look at 1:19. Peter says that there’s something more sure than his first-hand eye-witness experience: The prophetic Word. Scriptures! And we would do well to pay attention to it like a lamp shining in a dark place. This Bible is more sure and more reliable than any eye-witness testimony, no matter how fantastic that testimony is. {So if a friend tells you about a fantastic word she felt from Jesus, vision from angels… } Furthermore, Peter tells us, no prophecy was produced by the will of man, but rather, God moved men by the Holy Spirit to say and write these Inspired, Inerrant and Infallible Words of God.

But every time God speaks, satan moves in right away to deceive, distort and deny.

In chapter 2, we see the rise of false prophets and false teachers. Not content to keep their vile lies to themselves, they bring their lies and distortions secretly into the congregation of God’s people. Peter warns us that they entice us through our senses, and that many will fall away by following their sensuality (v3). These false teachers have been marked for destruction from long ago, and Peter cites several specific examples from the pages of Biblical history:

  • Fallen angels were not spared when they sinned. They were cast to hell and committed to chains until judgment day.
  • Noah preached righteousness, but his world didn’t hear him. God sent a flood to destroy the whole world of ungodly people, sparing only Noah and his family
  • Righteous Lot was spared while God sent fire and brimstone from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wicked sensual conduct. In v6, Peter tells us that God made S&G an example of how He will punish the ungodly.

Peter’s point is this: God knows how to rescue the Godly from trails AND how to keep the wicked for the day of Judgment.

Peter then spends the next few verses talking about the behavior of these wicked, godless people. He describes them as “bold,” “untrembling before the glorious ones,” “irrational animals, like brute beasts created to be destroyed,” “blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant,” “destined for destruction,” “taking pleasure in public sin,” “blots and blemishes,” “reveling in deceptions -- while they feast with you{Peter doesn’t want us to think of these people as ‘gross people over yonder’ - they are here! Among us. If we look through Church history, we’ll see a bunch of them. If we turn on the TV, we’ll see scads of them!}

In verse 14, Peter says “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! {When was the last time you described someone this way? Peter does} 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.” They follow the way of Balaam, the false prophet who was motivated by greed. Peter continues with several more verses of vitriol, describing with intense passion these malcontents who would harm the Body of Christ. He ends on this note: These are dogs who return to their own vomit {unable to differentiate between food and vomit}. These are pigs who, despite being cleaned, prefer to wallow in the muck and mire of their own excrement.

In this “Dispensation of Tolerance,” this kind of language is often deemed unacceptable in the company of Christians. I think that’s to our shame. There are a number of places in Scriptures where the enemies of God are described with such vitriol. Even Jesus Himself uses this language - and not only for the religious elite - He uses this language to refer to those who refuse to participate in the sanctifying grace of brotherly accountability. Here’s a suggestion: If the Bible authors talk this way, shouldn’t Bible believers also talk this way. Food for thought.

But then in chapter three, we turn a corner. Peter changes both his topic and his tone and takes on a tender, nurturing demeanor towards his audience, calling them “beloved” (v1). This gentle, nurturing demeanor is in sharp contrast to the previous chapter, where Peter used scathing language to describe those who are opposed to God, His Word and His people.

Peter gently and lovingly reminds us, yet again, to hold fast to that which the Prophets and Apostles have predicted according to the Word of the Lord.

The first thing Peter wants to bring to his audience’s attention is that in these last days, scoffers will come, and they will scoff. Scoffers are people who laugh at us - and no, they are not laughing with us, they are laughing at us. Their intention is to look down their noses at us, put us down, and mock us for the things we believe, say and do - and if possible, to kill us. These scoffers are agents of Satan, doing his bidding. In John 8, Jesus called these scoffers children of the devil:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. (John 8:44-45).

And twice in that passage, Jesus tells them that that is why they wanted to kill Him: because they couldn’t handle the truth. These scoffers are carrying out the devil’s deceit by distorting and denying God’s Word - and if they can get away with it, they will kill God’s people too.

Motivation

What is it that motivates these scoffers to stand as enemies against God?

Peter says in v3 that they are motivated by their sinful desires {lusts, evil desires}. Their desire is to gratify their lusts, to cater to their evil desires; but the truth of God’s Word gets in the way of that, so they attack Him and anyone who looks like Him or sounds like His Word.

Here, Peter is laying out for us two contrasting motivations or desires:

  • The people of God are pursuing virtue (we saw a list in chapter 1); the enemies of God are pursuing vice.
  • With those virtues, the people of God are building up the Body of Christ; pursuing their vices, the enemies of God are tearing down the Body of Christ;
  • The people of God desire godliness; the enemies of God desire godlessness.
  • The people of God are told to desire and pay attention the Word of God; the enemies of God try to deny, distort, and destroy the Word of God.

Now’s a good time to pause and ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Do you daily desire the Word of God, or is it something that sits on the shelf and hopefully you remember to grab it as you rush out the door Sunday morning?
  • Do you pay attention to it like a shining light in a dark place?
  • Do you use it to light up your path so you can see your way clearly, or do you use it to beat others over the head so they can see your way and how cleverly you’ve walked your path?
  • Do you let scoffers get to you and retreat into a position of cowardice, diminishing a light that should shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven?

Let’s get back to our scoffers.

Take a look at v4 where we see one of the main denials of the scoffers: “Where is the promise of His coming??” You know what ‘coming’ they’re scoffing, right? That’s when Jesus comes to render judgment on the godless. And they’ll deceive people about His promised coming using a variety of different methods:

  • Some scoffers will deny God Himself, explicitly: “There is no god; therefore no Jesus; therefore no judgment!”.
  • Some scoffers will deny God implicitly, by following other religions and world-views that don’t them to think about a coming day of judgment. And they might even sound scholarly and scientific when they say it: "Billions and billions of stars. …The Cosmos is all that is, or was, or ever will be. … For the first time, we have the power to decide the fate of our planet and ourselves.” Carl Sagan and his “Cosmos” documentary in the ‘80s. Like all the godless scientists of his ilk, Sagan is implicitly denying that there’s any judgment that should concern us. “Everything is continuing just as it has from the beginning”
  • Other scoffers will happily acknowledge that God exists, but they’ll deny that Judgment is a real part of God’s plan: “God is a god of love; love wins; therefore no judgment!” Oh, they’ll pay lip-service to judgment, but when pressed, they’ll deny every essential element of that judgment. (Rob Bell)

The Bible’s authors place a lot of emphasis on the Lord’s coming in judgment. It’s mentioned all throughout the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelation. It’s preached to the godless and the God-fearing. In fact, it’s the first recorded sermon in the Bible. To find it, we don’t look at Genesis - the first book of the Bible - we look at Jude. Let’s turn there.

The book of Jude closely mirrors 2 Peter, almost point-for-point. Think of it as a Cliff Notes for 2 Peter. When it comes to warning about the Christ’s coming in judgment - Christ’s Second Coming, Jude tells us this:

It was also about these [enemies of God] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 1:14-15)

Jude, like Peter, goes on to use harsh language to describe these people and their evil desires/lusts; tells them that Scripture predicted that false teachers would come; and he calls the people of God to build themselves up in the faith.

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, shows up in the time frame of Genesis 5. He’s a few hundred years before Noah. This is the first recorded sermon in Scripture. And it’s about the Second Coming of Christ. What’s this guy doing preaching about Jesus’ Second Coming - an event that’s thousands of years in his future?

  • Moses preaches about Jesus’ coming in Deut 32. It’s not a pretty picture.
  • I would submit that Joshua conquering the land of Canaan is intended to be a picture of Jesus when He comes to purge the world of wickedness.
  • A number of Psalms warn us about the Lord’s Second Coming: Psalms 2; Ps 50; Ps 110 (one of the most frequently quoted passages by NT authors); Ps 149;
  • Even the Wisdom Books talk about it: Ecc 12:14;
  • The prophets spoke about it at length: Isaiah 63; Isaiah 66; Malachi 4
  • John the Baptist’s preached about it
  • Throughout the Gospels, a large number of Jesus’ parables were about world-wide judgment (Matt 22; Matt 25 come to mind)
  • Paul’s was no stranger to the Lord’s Second Coming: Acts 17, Romans 2, 1 Cor 6, 1 Cor 15, 2 Thess 1

These references are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens and dozens more. Not all of them speak of the wrath of God, but many of them do. And if we treasure the Word of God, we will speak this way too. For those that hate the Word of God will distort and deny these things.

Methodology

In v5, Peter tells us that these scoffers have willfully and deliberately forgotten certain things:

  1. That long ago, God formed the earth out of water and through water by His Word
  2. That with these same waters and Word, God deluged the earth with water causing all life to perish (except Noah and his family)

I find it rather interesting that these scoffers pick these two things to “deliberately forget.” To be sure, they also pick other Biblical facts to deny, but they put up a huge fight over these two. And there’s a method to their madness.

We all instinctively know that if you own something, you can do whatever you want with that thing, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. And if you make something, well of course, you own it. If a carpenter takes some wood to make some furniture, it’s his wood; his furniture; he can design the furniture whatever way he wants, and no one gets to tell him how he should make his stuff. And when he’s done with it, he can dispose of it in whatever way he chooses. It’s his! He has complete a uthority over it.

Anti-Creation: The same is true for God: if He makes a universe, even if He creates people to inhabit that universe, He -and He alone- gets to decide when that universe will start, how that universe will look, what rules will govern it (and its people), when it will end, and how he’ll dispose of it when He’s through. The created doesn’t get to tell the Creator how to do His business with something He owns. Scoffers, driven by their self-serving godless lusts and evil desires, want to throw God off His throne as Creator and owner of this universe.

Anti-Flood: These scoffers do the same with Noah’s flood in Gen 7-9. The Bible tells us that the flood is an action of judgment whereby God exerts His authority over the whole world, passing world-wide judgment on everyone committed to ungodly thoughts and actions. But if we can get God off the the throne as a righteous judge of all the earth, that frees us up to follow our lusts, doesn’t it? If there’s no God, we don’t have to be accountable to an objective holy standard of how we should think and how we should conduct ourselves. No judge, no judgment: we can follow every impulse of our heart without concerning ourselves about a judgment to come.

That’s why scoffers attack Creation (according to the word of God) and the Flood (according to the word of God).

But what does Peter do? He calls our attention to the Word of God. And he does it in a particular way that I find quite interesting.

When Peter sets forth the notion that the godless will deny their Creator, he doesn’t just use a general description to say “God is all powerful and created the world and scoffers deny Him”. He uses a specific phrase to communicate the notion of God as Creator. Take a look at how he describes God’s work as Creator in verse 5: “ the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God”. Where did Peter get that idea? He didn’t get it from a modern day science textbook. And he didn’t get it from a YouTube video. I went and watched! NASA has a video out there on how the earth was formed. They say 4.5 Billion years ago {decimal}, a vast cloud of dust and gas was impacted by some explosion that caused the dust and gas to coalesce into a ball and form the planets of the solar system, and over the next few billions of years, some of the meteors that hit the earth probably contained water and life. {By the way - that video NASA has out there wasn’t recorded on an iPhone or surveillance video. The whole thing is computer generated! I call ‘fake video’}.

So let me back up and ask that question again: where did Peter get that idea of the earth being formed out of water and through water by the word of God?

He got it from Moses! From the sure Scriptures!
Take a look at Genesis chapter 1. That’s page 1 in the pew Bible.

Moses starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth”, and in the very next verse, we see a formless earth and the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep waters. Water is there! This is before light is created on Day1, before the sun and stars are created on Day4. Now look at what Moses says happens on Day2. This starts in v6:

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.  

That’s the language Peter is using! As far as Peter is concerned, this is how God formed the earth: in the midst of the waters He separated the waters from the waters by His Word. And mind you, this is before the sun and the stars were formed. May I remind us that this is what the scoffers are “willfully forgetting”?

Objections

“But Tim - you’re being too literal! Too wooden!”

Tell that to Peter. He’s the one telling us to prioritize the word of God and this is how he reads it. If I’m reading Moses the same way Peter reads Moses, I figure I’m in good company.

“But Tim - what about the evidence!?”

I have no problem with evidence. What’s on the table here is interpretation of that evidence. I have no problem with acknowledging that there are “Two Books of Revelation: Scripture and Nature”. Like Abbot Antinius in the 3rd century, and others after him like Basil the Great and Augustine, I also believe that when rightly interpreted, these two books do not contradict. But I would call us to read the fine print: only one of these Books claims to be Inspired, Inerrant and Infallible. Only one of these books calls us to prioritize IT (that would be Scripture) above all else. So while there are indeed two books, they are not on equal footing.

“But Tim - are you saying nature lies??”

I’m saying if we refuse to interpret nature through the lens of Scripture, we will make nature out to be a liar. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

Let’s say you’re walking into the Temple to do your worship thing and as you’re concentrating on your sacrifice of prayer, you hear some guy hootin’ and hollerin’ dancing a jig and praising God. You look at him and some guy rushes out of nowhere saying “Hey just a sec! I know who you are! Not 5 minutes ago, you were outside begging, pretending you were lame. I had pity on you and gave you alms. You LIAR! Give me my money back!”

“Oh, no, no!” he would say. “I WAS lame. I was lame from birth!”

Well a sophisticated and educated scientist would know how to settle the discussion, right? He’d tell the ex-lame man “Sir - hike up your robe and let’s examine your legs. If you were lame and useless from birth, they’d be all shriveled up and atrophied.”

I’ve seen people in Africa who were crippled from birth, begging on the streets. Trust me - their legs are so shriveled up, they’re good for nothing, and certainly not any good for dancing and leaping.

And when my mom fell and broke her hip a few years ago, some very educated doctors did some surgery on her hip, replaced some broken bone with space-age metals, sowed her back up and she was good to go! ..to go to rehab and learn how to walk. And sure enough, after a few weeks of therapy, she was with her walker, scooting and shuffling and praising God!

But with Peter and John in Acts 3, it was instant, wasn’t it. And this ex-lame man didn’t need rehab, did he? And if we laid aside the word of God’s Apostles and relied only on the best and brightest scientific minds to examine a supernatural event, we’d conclude a lie, wouldn’t we? But because we believe the word of God, we believe a supernatural event took place, don’t we? We don’t try to reinterpret the Scriptures so it lines up with what the best and brightest scientific minds might have to say about it.

There’s an outside chance that the man had spindly wobbly legs for the rest of his life yet could miracoulously dance and leap on them after he was healed by Peter. But I don’t think so. Here’s why:

In John 2, we read of Jesus turning water into wine. That wine was sampled after this supernatural event took place, it was deemed to be excellent wine, and the clueless bridegroom was praised by the Master of Ceremonies for having provided excellent wine. Unbeknownst to him, the master of the feast believed a lie, didn’t he? By the way - did you note that Jesus didn’t correct him of that error?

When we read that a supernatural event took place, we don’t go in and reinterpret the text so that it comports with what the best and brightest scientific minds would have to say about how wine is made, do we?

We don’t say

  • . but there’s a time gap. In v3, Mary said “They’re out of wine, Jesus”, and Jesus replied “My time has not yet come.” See! There’s a gap of time! There could be all sorts of time in that time gap! So we don’t have to take this passage literally and woodenly. During that gap of time, the disciples just went to the local market in Cana and bought some wine.

 Pay attention to the “days” in John 2. V1 says the wedding is on the third day, and in the next story, John writes how Jesus says “destroy this Temple and I will raise it on the third day”. The days are symbolic of some greater truth that John is getting at. And look at the water pots: six water pots! See - John isn’t being scientific! He’s just laying out some sort of framework so that he can communicate how Jesus is great and can supply all our needs. No need to read him literally and woodenly.

But we don’t read these passages this way, do we? And we would frown on anyone that did try to insist they were to be read these ways. The same is true for every single supernatural event in the Bible - and there are many! We don’t read these passages exclusively through the lens of the latest and greatest that godless scientists have to offer. We understand and affirm that these are supernatural events and are - by definition - beyond the ability of science to analyze and interpret. I love science as much as the next guy - my livelihood depends on it. But science can only analyze and interpret the natural. It is completely powerless to analyze and interpret the supernatural. When it comes to properly analyzing and interpreting a supernatural event, the world’s best telescopes, microscopes and oscilloscopes are absolutely powerless to render a correct interpretation. Using these tools without the guidance of God’s word is as smart as trying to use a stethoscope to examine the evil and wicked desires of a man’s heart.

I would put forward the notion that Peter is indeed reading Genesis 1 literally and “woodenly” because that’s the right way to read Moses. No, Moses is not trying to be scientific, but so what?! There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and not one of them tries to be scientific. Are we sure we want to dismiss one chapter because it’s not scientific? What about all the other dozens and dozens chapters that present supernatural events in non-scientific terms? The Gospel’s accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are not presented in any kind of scientific format, but we believe them. Why? Because the authors are not writing to be scientific -they’re writing to be factual.

Moses summarizes Genesis 1 later in Exodus 20:11 by saying “ in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”. And again in Exodus 31:17, Moses repeats that they are to work six days and rest on the seventh as a sign to all Israel that God Himself created the heavens and earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Like Peter, Moses seems to be taking Gen 1 rather literally. There are many other places in the Scriptures where the people of God place a high priority on the literal words of God. Jesus in Matt 19 says that God created male and female at the Beginning, not 4 or 14 billion years after the beginning.

This idea of reading Moses literally is not new - just as the idea of scoffers rejecting Moses is not new to Church history. There are many others in Church history who take Moses literally and “woodenly”. This month Christendom celebrates the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis on the Wittenburg Door, thus launching the Protestent Reformation into full swing. Would you like to hear what Luther said about Creation according to Genesis 1?

Martin Luther (AD 1483-1546)

"We know from Moses that the world was not in existence before 6,000 years ago. But on this, no philosopher can be persuaded; because, according to Aristotle, the first and last man cannot in any way be determined." - Commentary on Genesis, p40

"He [Moses] calls ‘a spade a spade,’ i.e., he employs the terms ‘day’ and ‘evening’ without Allegory, just as we customarily do. We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit.” - Lecutres in Genesis Chapters 1-5, vol 1

John Calvin (1509-1564)

[Some believed the universe was created in an instant, and he was writing to correct that thinking]

"Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God Himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating His works to the capacity of men." - Genesis, 1554

"An obstinate person would be no less insolently puffed up on hearing that within the essence of God there are three Persons than if he were told that God foresaw what would happen to man when he created him. And they will not refrain from guffaws when they are informed that but little more than five thousands years have passed since the creation of the universe, for they ask why God's power was idle and asleep for so long. Nothing, in short, can be brought forth that they do not assail with their mockery. Should we, to silence these blasphemies, forebear to speak of the deity of Son and Spirit? Must we pass over in silence the creation of the universe? No! God's truth is so powerful, both in this respect and in every other, that it has nothing to fear from the evilspeaking of wicked men." - Institutes Chapter 21, section 4

Basil the Great 329-379 AD

"Avoid the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog; who say that they have been formerly themselves women, shrubs, fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know; but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish.” (Homily VIII:2 - on Creation and living things reproducing after their own kind)

"It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written." (Homily IX:1 - on Creation)

The distortions, deceptions and denials of the atheistic scoffers takes on different forms, but at the heart of their denials it is always the dismantling of the Word of God so they can run an endgame around the Judgment of God. Compare their version of how this world came to be with Moses’ version, elaborated on by Paul and Peter:

2017-10-15_sermon_graphic

If we didn’t know better, it’s as if Moses is writing a prophetic preemptive polemic directly against the scoffers of this wicked and perverse generation.

Irony of Predictability

Before we leave this section, I want to mention a peculiar irony.

Science prides itself empirical data. But the gold standard of good science is predictability. If your theory can accurately predict, by george, you’re on to something.

So it’s just a bit ironic to me that Peter predicts the following: scoffers will come in the last day denying Creation according to Genesis and the Flood according to Genesis. He was spot on, wasn’t he?

The Patience of God for Salvation

But these scoffers almost have a leg to stand on: where is this promised coming? Enoch was almost 5,000 years ago! How long must God’s people suffer? Where is this coming? Has God forgotten?

Peter comforts his audience by telling them that no, God has not forgotten. His plans are right on schedule. We may feel like those thousands of years are too long of a period of time, but to God, it might as well be a day. Some people would look at this reference of “day is as a thousand years” and think that Peter is trying to make some statement to help us understand the days of Creation. But this kind of language is common among ancient Jews. They’re all looking at Moses’ writings, but this time from Ps 90. It was not uncommon for ancient Jewish commentators to try to make some future guesstimates about when the Messiah would come. Peter is doing the same thing here, using Moses’ writings to let us know that God is on schedule, that His plans have not changed, and that the length of time - although worrisome to us - is not a cause of alarm for Him.

For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by Your anger; by Your wrath we are dismayed. (Ps 90:4-7)

In this Psalm, Moses is talking about the eternal nature of God compared to the fleeting time that man is on earth - even if it’s 70 or 80 long years. Man’s time on earth is like the grass which springs up in the morning, but is gone by the evening. God brings man’s time on earth to an end, and Moses goes on to write about how judgment awaits man. Well, that’s exactly what Peter is talking about. God’s time table is not to be rushed, and we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking He’s forgotten His plan just because it’s taking longer than we have patience for. Peter is telling us that we can take this one to the bank: God will fulfill His promises. The point of this long span of time is that God is waiting for all His beloved people to reach repentance. He’s not going to let any of His beloved people perish; He’s going to wait for all of them to reach repentance.

Cosmic Dissolution at Christ’s Coming

After all His beloved people have reached repentance, then the Lord will come when the world least expects it. Just like in the days of Noah. Take a look at verse 10.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2Pet 3:10)

I’d love to know exactly what’s going on here. It’s not written scientifically, but it’s certainly written factually. Remember - just a few verses earlier, Peter told us that a flood wiped out the whole earth in judgment. Isaiah, Jesus, the author of Hebrews and Peter all treated Noah and his flood as factual events, despite scoffers denying this. In the same verse that references the flood (7), Peter also says that the next world-wide judgment would be -not water, but fire. This coming fire judgment will be just as literal as the water judgment of the past. And now, here, in v10, we’re seeing fire burning up the the heavenly bodies.

What heavenly bodies? Is Peter talking about the billions and billions of stars in the cosmos, or some raging fire in our atmosphere - something like a nuclear holocaust? I think he’s talking about something in the cosmos. Here’s why:

  • There are about a half-dozen different OT authors who describe the work of God in creation as event where God “stretched out the heavens”. Most of these passages are presented in poetic form, but a couple of them are not. Are they describing a literal event where God stretched out the heavens? I read 4 commentaries and found 5 different opinions, but here’s something I observed: these passages are from authors in 4 different cultural settings, in probably 3 different languages, spread out across a 1500 yr span of time. And they’re all using the same phrase. It could be a metaphor, but metaphors don’t tend to have that kind of staying power.
  • Keep that in your mind as we look at some passages where this age is brought to an end. We’ll start with one of Peter’s own sermons:
    [+] And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. (Acts 2:19-20 -> Joel 2)
    [+] And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end." (Heb 1:10-12 -> Ps 102:25-27, Is 51:6).
    Part of this passage is metaphorical: “Like a robe”; “like a garment”. But what action or event is like the robe/garment? The heavens being rolled up. That’s the literal part.
    [+] All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. (Isa 34:4)
    [+] The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (Rev 6:14)

There are a number of other passages that describe the coming of the Lord as a time of major celestial upheaval. I’m not 100% convinced that these verses intend to describe literal events in every detail. But what seems very sure to me is that there will indeed be some cataclysmic events in the cosmos. Some world-wide fire that’s just as literal as the flood.

The Final Question

Should that future judgment have some kind of influence on how we ought to live our lives today? Absolutely!

For two reasons:

  1. We’re to watch and wait. We don’t know when that day of judgment will come. We don’t get a 5-minute warning bell. A wise man will hear the words of God and will begin preparing immediately. A recurring theme of Jesus’ teachings and parables was to be prepared for His return, and to watch and wait.
  2. Not only do we not know the day and hour of His coming, but we also don’t know when we’ll die and be ushered into His presence. If we’re struck with a terminal disease, we might see that as a gracious warning bell and get our lives in order. But a prudent person would get his life in order now without needing to wait for an alarm telling him to prepare.

For those that have put their trust in Christ, we have duties to fulfill, and we need to be busy going about that work for which we have been ordained (Eph 2:10). Several points can be made here for practical application:

1. We must increase our knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

Peter opens his letter with this charge, praying that we would grow in our knowledge of our Lord:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2Pet 1:2-4)

If your day-to-day living doesn’t include regularly immersing yourself in His Word, you are not allowing your mind to be transformed by renewing it according to His His Word. So don’t be content with your current knowledge of God, of God’s word. Strive to improve these things.

2. We must tend to our sanctification and holy living.

Peter phrases it as “being diligent to be found without spot or blemish.” Peter expounds on this point earlier in his letter when he tells us to add to our faith:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pet 1:5-11)

So don’t be content with your current disposition towards God and God’s people. Strive to supplement your faith in this fashion and increase your practice of these qualities.

3. We must seek out the lost.

We must reach out to those who are still enemies of God, children of wrath - just like we ourselves once were. God is delaying His judgment for now so that all His people will come to repentance; It follows naturally that we should be busy seeking them out and bringing them to repentance. Jude phrases it as “snatching them out of the fire.” Yes, the Bible frequently speaks in scathing language of the enemies of God as a But if you read closely, you’ll see that -consistently- the people of God, nonetheless, constantly try to reach individuals within that group and bring them to a saving knowledge of our Lord.
We walk a fine line in this regard: We are not to be ignorant of the schemes of satan, or naive and gullible when dealing with those whom satan has enslaved to do his will. We call it out for what it is, but we do not stand in judgment over them either. It’s God’s place to judge; not ours. And He has promised that He will indeed judge: “’Vengeance is Mine. I will repay’ says the Lord”. That’s Moses speaking in Deut 32, quoted several times in the NT.
We recognize that it is most assuredly by God’s grace alone that He has not turned us over to that condemnation which we rightfully deserve. And our passionate prayer is that He will use us to save even more souls. Spiritually speaking, we’re to be like Joshua: attacking Jericho while looking for the Rahabs. To that end, we have a duty - an obligation - to go out into this wicked and perverse generation, declaring the unapologetic truth of His Word, prioritizing His Word above all else, declaring to everyone the Person, Work and Name of Jesus Christ - the only Name under heaven by which we must be saved. Because if we are not saved, we will most assuredly be condemned. And we don’t wish that on anyone. We pray that He will bring those souls in.

[Lessons learned from Peter’s own life]

4. Keep your eyes on Christ.

Jude calls these antagonizers of the Body “wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame” (v13). Don’t let the winds and waves distract your eyes from Christ. If you do, you’ll start to sink.

5. When you’re surrounded by scoffers, don’t downplay or deny your association with Christ.

Or as Paul would say, don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. It’s the power of God for salvation! Yes, the scoffers will laugh at us. Yes, they will mock and attack us. But stand on the Word and stand your ground! Don’t let those speaking on behalf of the “wisdom of this world” make you shrink back from the truth.

We stand as a body of believers, anxiously looking forward to His Day. A day when He will come and vanquish His enemies and save us, ushering us into a new heaven and a new earth. A promised place of peace where righteousness dwells. A place where He will lavish on us glories unimaginable ..and undeserved. This is the promise that awaits those of us who believe and are faithful till the end.

For those of you who have not put your trust in Christ to save you from the wrath to come, let me plead with you: do not delay. You have no assurance that you won’t die as you walk out to the parking lot in a few minutes. If you’re unsure of your standing with Christ, speak to me or any of our elders or members, and we will be honored to share with you more details about what Christ has done that you might have eternal life with Him and be spared from the Judgment to come.

Peter closes his letter with this:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.