Teaching series from 2 Peter

The End of the World

2 Peter 3:3-12

Teaching t07769

Introduction

The last section of 2 Peter is about the Second Coming of Christ, which is also the end of the world as we know it. Read 3:3-4. Not much has changed in this area over the last 2000 years!

Since Jesus hadn't returned within the last 30 years, people were ready to mock his promise as a pipe-dream.

Now that almost 2000 years has elapsed, and countless people have mistakenly predicted the date of his return, most people think that to believe in and live your life based on this promise is foolishness that deserves to be mocked.

It has been mocked in drama—from cartoons like "Peanuts" ("THE GREAT PUMPKIN") to philosophical plays like Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."

It has been mocked by pseudo-Christian theologians like John A. T. Robinson: "(Some) people really suppose that the church teaches that one afternoon—this year, next year, sometime—(a satellite) will pick up a picture of Christ, descending from the skies with thousands of angels in train, returning to earth to judge the world. But I certainly do not believe that. Nor does any intelligent Christian I know. For the second coming is not something that can be seen on a screen. It's not a truth like that at all. It stands for the conviction that—however long it takes—Christ must come into everything. There's no part of life from which he can or will be left out."[1]

Is it foolish to believe this?

First of all, realize that Jesus, although he was adamant about his return, was equally adamant that no one but the Father knew exactly when this would take place (read Matt. 24:35-36; Acts 1:6,7). So whenever you hear people claiming to know the date of the Rapture or the Second Coming, you already know that they don’t speak for Jesus.

He also implied in several places that he would not return until long after the death of his disciples (Matt. 25 parables; Lk. 21:24).

Secondly, the objection "Since it hasn't happened yet, it won't happen" is flawed logic. This is sort of like saying "Since I haven't died yet, I won't die."

"Yes, but we can point that person to the fact that other people are dying every day." In other words, we don't simply ask him to take our word for it; we show him evidence for the trustworthiness of our word.

In the same way, God doesn’t ask us to just take his word for it on this issue. He knows this is a big promise for us to swallow, so has supplied sufficient lines of evidence for us to trust this promise.

Peter reminds his audience of one such line of evidence (read 3:5-6). As a matter of fact, God has already intervened dramatically in the world—once to bring it into existence, and once to judge the human race when it had terminally corrupted itself (the Noahic Flood). If you think these are unsubstantiated myths, you must be unfamiliar with the increasing evidence that the universe burst into being in a way that is best explained by a Creator ("BIG BANG"), and that there are over 270 accounts from ancient peoples all over the world that a flood that wiped all but one family who was rescued by a boat.[2]

Peter's point about the flood also introduces another key line of evidence. God predicted the flood before it came, and he continued to predict historical events—preserving them in writing so they could be verified or falsified. Its record of accuracy is amazing—which gives us a solid basis for trusting its predictions that have not yet been fulfilled. I don't have time this morning to do more than summarize this record, but you can go into it in more detail by getting a copy of Christianity: The Faith That Makes Sense. (If you're here as our guest for the first time, we will give it to you for free.)

Consider the 300+ messianic predictions Jesus fulfilled during his first coming, including his LINEAGE, TIME, BIRTHPLACE, & MANNER OF DEATH.

Consider also the convergence of certain signs the Bible predicts near the end of the age. Here are four of them:

Israel will be dispersed by Roman armies, but then regathered as a nation after many years (Lk. 21:24, referring to Dan. 9:26-27). This has never happened to any other dispersed people, and it was fulfilled against all odds in 1948 and 1967.

Warfare technology will have the capacity to annihilate the entire human race (Matt. 24:21-22). Although it is still a matter of debate whether we can do this, the array of nuclear, biological, etc. weapons makes this very feasible for the first time in human history.

Someone will be able to control individual commerce all over the world (Rev. 13:16-17). This was inconceivable in the world of the first century, yet today we take it for granted as we move increasingly into a world of virtual currency in cyberspace. (The Euro-dollar will not be available as hard currency until next year, but it has been used as virtual currency for the last year or so.)

The Christian faith will become a world-wide movement (Matt. 24:14). What an bold prediction! Jesus was a soon-to-be-executed rabbi with a small, politically powerless following. This is not yet fulfilled, but today there are true followers of Jesus in every political nation of the world, and Christianity is growing most rapidly in the non-white, non-western world.

So when you dismiss the kooks and look at the evidence, believing in Jesus' return and the end of the world is not foolish at all. Maybe there are other reasons why people dismiss it . . . 

The judgment of God

The return of Christ will not only bring an end to the world as we know it. It will also bring the judgment of God (read 3:7). This is yet another issue that many people have problems with—the God of the Bible is a judging God. How can a loving God judge?

No one should find this idea to be fun or exciting, but have you considered that there are more problems with a God who never judges than with One who does ultimately judge? If God never brings someone like Stalin (who slaughtered as many as 50 million of his own people and on his death-bed raised his fist in defiance of God) to judgment, what kind of God is this? How loving is a God who has no concern for justice? What kind of heaven would this be if we share it with an unrepentant Hitler, or Coucescieu, or Milasovic? Heaven becomes more like hell!

No, God's judgment does not call his love into question. What calls God's love into question is why he has waited so long to intervene in judgment. How can a loving God wait so long to judge? To have the power to stop evil and suffering, but to refuse to use it seems more typical of a sadist than a loving God! But Peter interprets it very differently. Read 3:8-9.

You should not interpret his "slowness" as proof that he will never judge. You should not interpret his "slowness" to mean that he is indifferent about human misery. You should interpret his delay as evidence of his amazing patience toward you. God delays his judgment to give us an opportunity to repent, so he won't have to judge us (read Ezek. 18:32).

Here's the deal. We deserve God's judgment for our rebellion against him. Every time we break his law, we deserve to be arrested and punished. If God gave us what we deserve, we'd have been gone long ago. But God is so merciful that he voluntarily came in the Person of his Son to take the rap for you. But he cannot apply this payment to you unless you repent. Just as you have made the conscious, deliberate choice to rebel against him, you've got to make the conscious, deliberate decision to turn to him, admit your guilt, and ask for his mercy through Christ. If you do this, he will permanently exempt you from his judgment and pour out his love into your heart. But unless you do this, you are pushing God's only offer away, and he has no alternative but to judge you for your sins. What is your response?

Christians can "hasten" the coming of this day!

What about those of us who have already repented? How should we respond to God's promise about the end of the world? Read 3:11-12. Not only should we pursue godly character because God's kingdom will be righteous. We actually have the ability to hasten its coming!! How in the world do we do this?

Not by military conquest, political dominance, etc. Not by obsessing on the "signs of the times!" But by doing our part to spread the news of Christ's offer to people who don't know about it. God is delaying his judgment until everyone gets the opportunity to repent—and he has commissioned us to take this message to them (Matt. 24:14). So the sooner we do our part to take his offer to those who don't know about it, the sooner he will return.

Some of you think it's offensive for us Christians to try to bring others to Christ. But look at it from my perspective. I find out that God is incredibly loving and forgiving. I receive his forgiveness and experience his love. What am I supposed to do—keep it to myself? No way! I want to share this with others! How can you blame me for doing that?

We have an incredible opportunity today to "hasten his coming." Over half of the people who have ever existed are alive right now. What an opportunity! To that end, every one of us should be:

LOCALLY: By showing God's love to people and sharing Christ's offer to people we know. If you want help in doing this more effectively, get involved in a home group. There is nothing more exciting!

GLOBALLY: By helping to spread the news of Christ's offer to people-groups who have never heard it before.

Footnotes

[1] John A. T. Robinson, But I Can't Believe That! (London: Collins Fontana Books, 1967), cited by William Green, End-Time: The Doomsday Catalogue (New York: Collier Books, 1979), p. 58.

[2] Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), pp. 209,210.