Awaiting “The End”
2 Peter 3:1-9
1This 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, 2that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They 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.” 5For 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, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7But 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. 8But 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. 9The 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.
In the previous chapter, Peter’s sharp warning against false teachers sounded harsh in our ears. But now he carries on with the logical next step of those who choose to lead God’s people astray. (And really, it’s more than astray, it’s actually away from God.) Those same false teachers used the fact that Jesus had not yet returned as an excuse for their apostacy. For them, the Father’s delay in sending Jesus back was proof that He wasn’t actually coming back at all. As such, they were free to do whatever they wanted. Peter’s words of warning continue as he calls these false teacher “scoffers” or literally, mockers.
I find this passage an intriguing reminder and instructive at the same time. Peter acts as a pastor to the whole Church as he points a warning finger at those who would mock God and His promises because He hasn’t returned on their timetable. Peter reframes that time in a new way, so that we see God for who He is.
Here it is his [Peter’s] purpose to arouse the people, to remind them, and to urge and impel them not to neglect their faith and to remain in their sincere mind and in this understanding of what a true Christian life is. For, as we have often said, the office of preachers is not confined to teaching. In addition to this, they must always exhort and urge. For since our flesh and blood always clings to us, the Word of God must be awake in us, lest we give way to the flesh instead of fighting against it and being more than a match for it.
Luther, Martin. AE 30:192.
When we look at God and shake our head at His timing, we are forgetting that He is completely merciful. Every moment that He withholds the return of Jesus and the destruction of all things, more people have the opportunity to come to know Jesus as their Savior. I often ask the Lord to come quickly. It would be okay with me if He chose to return this afternoon. But that desire flies in the face of His gracious mercy. He is purposefully allowing that extra “grace-time” for us all. The “mockers” of Peter’s day remain with us still, but we can turn a deaf ear to their taunting complaints if we remember that God is mercifully giving them time to come to understand His great love for them.
And then there’s the whole time thing. God lives outside of time. That’s is difficult for us to imagine as we are trapped by the march of time. We cannot step out of the 24-hour day or the 365-day year. But God designed the earth in this orderly fashion and we must be grateful for that. But He is not bound by time and so Peter uses that to explain why God can delay. For Him, there is no delay, for a delay means you are bound by time. God is bound by nothing. So we must assume that when Jesus returns, it will be the perfect moment. All will have been fulfilled.
So, the scoffers will scoff, and they need to be ignored. All of God’s promises have been kept so far and we will wait patiently for this last one, as we look to the clouds and Savior’s return, for it will happen.