(A Godly People – Series in II Peter)
Westgate Chapel 7/8/01 2 Peter 3:1-9
PROPOSITION: Peter wants every Christian to have unmixed thinking concerning what the Word says about judgment, what history shows us about judgment, and what God’s timetable is concerning judgment.
- WHY would the apostle Peter take the last few months of his life on this earth, awaiting his execution at the hands of emperor Nero in Rome, to write two epistles to some small churches in Asia Minor?
- WHY all of the effort to write the letters, get them to the churches by special courier, risk their interception by the authorities?
- WHY would we take the last ten months of our lives together to study every word of what he wrote?
- THE apostle Peter answers that question himself in 2 Peter 3:1..and it forms the theme of the first nine verses of the chapter,
“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.”
- THE Greek word translated “stimulate” can also be translated “stir up.”
- WHAT was it that the apostle wanted to stir up?
- THE thinking of the believers
- BUT it is not just any kind of thinking. The Greek word that the NIV translates “wholesome” can also be translated “unmixed.”
- SPECIFICALLY it is thinking that is not polluted or influenced by fleshly desires or self-interests.
- IN his paraphrase translation of the New Testament called, The Message, Eugene Peterson translates 2 Peter 3:1,
“My dear friends, this is now the second time I’ve written to you, both letters a reminder to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention.”
- THE thinking of Christians is clearly the theme of the first nine verses of 2 Peter 3.
* In verse 1 Peter uses the words, “reminders” and “unmixed thinking.”
* In verse 2, speaking of the O.T. prophets, he writes, “I want you to recall the words spoken.”
* In verse 3, he writes about the last days and says, “First of all you must understand…”
* In verse 5, speaking of the false Christians’ and their thoughts about God’s judgments in times past, he writes that they, “deliberately forgot…”
* And then, lastly in verse 8 Peter writes, “Do not forget this one thing…” as he talks about God’s relationship to earthly time.
- PETER is concerned with what they are thinking, understanding, remembering, recalling, because it matters for eternity what you think in this life.
- BECAUSE what you think….will eventually come out in the way you live (Proverbs 23:7).
- THAT was certainly true for the false Christians who were in these churches to whom Peter is writing. What they thought about the Christian life was coming out in their lives.
- THEY were …
* …distorting and twisting Scriptures (1:20; 3:16).
* …living shameful lifestyles (2:2).
* … motivated by greed (2:3).
* …eyes full of adultery (2:14).
* …treating holy things flippantly (2:12).
* …arrogant and self-willed (2:10).
* …mouthing boastful words (2:18).
* …rejecting all authority (2:10).
- AND the bottom line was that these people believed that there would be no final accounting for how they lived….no judgment!
- THEY believed that all this talk about Jesus coming back, and judgment on the earth, and God keeping score…was all bogus.
- THEY said that a God of love would not hold people accountable.
- THAT judgment was simply the ranting of some O.T. prophets….not consistent with the nature of God.
- THAT Jesus was not coming back, in reality, since He really was not God in earthly form.
- THAT life as they knew it would go on forever, just as it always had.
- THAT time would go on uninterrupted, just as it always had.
- SO the apostle Peter challenges the churches to some unmixed thinking concerning God’s judgment.
II. what the word says about judgment
- AND the first arena the apostle goes to, to correct their thinking is God’s Word.
- IN 2 Peter 3:2a, the apostle writes,
“I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets…”
- THINK about the words of the prophets concerning the Day of the Lord.
“See, the day of the LORD is coming-- a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.”
“For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near-- a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.”
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”
- THOSE are some of the words from the prophets that Peter wanted them to recall….to think hard about.
- BUT then Peter adds to the subject the commands of the Lord given through the apostles in 2 Peter 3:2b,
“I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophet…and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.”
- A SIGNIFICANT percentage of the teaching Jesus Himself is about the “end of the age.”
- FOR example, Matthew 25:32 Jesus says concerning the end time,
“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (34) Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world……’(41) Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
- AND in each passage or parable a separation takes place between those who love the Lord, obey Him, and enter His reward….and those who reject His love, disobey Him, and are cast into everlasting judgment.
- PETER is also very much aware of the words of the New Testament writers on coming judgment.
- THE prophets and apostles were in total agreement.
Paul in Romans 2:1,
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
The writer of Hebrews 10:27,
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, (27) but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
- THE same Holy Spirit wrote both testaments and their testimony regarding the coming judgment has to be the basis of our thinking on the subject, not what we think or feel about what is fair or just.
- PETER says that we must recall these words, think hard about them….let them season our lives and impact our decisions and lifestyle.
III. what history teaches us about judgment
- AND the second arena the apostle goes to, to correct their thinking is history.
- THE false teachers were ignoring history, scoffing at any notion of a global judgment that would interrupt life as we know it.
- AND to this argument Peter answers in verse 3,
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”
- SCOFFING is “an expression of derision, doubt, or scorn.”
- LOOK, if you are determined to live like the devil, you are going to do whatever it takes to block out any thought about a final accounting and coming judgment.
- VERSE 4 says, concerning the scoffers,
“They will say, ‘Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”
- THIS universe is so stable. For as far back as we know, everything has been going on as it is now.
- THERE is no reason to expect an interruption in life as we know it…..certainly not by anything like world-wide judgment of God.
- LISTEN to Peter’s answer in verses 5-7,
“But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. (6) By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. (7) By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
- THEY are working hard to dismiss from their minds that….
* At creation God formed dry land up out of the waters that covered the deep.
* By water the land is sustained in life.
* And by the same waters God destroyed the earth in Noah’s day in the flood….which was the interruption of life as we know it by a global judgment of God for sin.
* That the same “word” that created the earth and the heavens has set them apart for the fires of judgment.
* Malachi 4:1 says,
“’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. (2) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.’”
- THE flood is a vivid historical example of the fact that this is a moral universe, and sin will not go unpunished.
- THESE false believers were working hard at forgetting all of these things.
- BY God’s word there was one global catastrophe. By His word there will be another….and final destruction of all evil.
IV. what god’s timetable is for judgment
- AND the third arena the apostle goes to, to correct their thinking, is God’s timetable.
- THE false teachers were counting on that fact that the judgment that the prophets foretold hadn’t happened yet….so there was a good chance it never would come to pass.
- LISTEN to Peter’s answer to them in verse 8,
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
- YOU are forgetting God’s perspective on time. His estimate of things is so different from our puny human assessment that there is no way we can compare His ways to our way of measuring time.
- AND besides, much of what God has done in the last 6,000 years has had an element of “suddenly.”
- NOT entirely unexpected….but when He acted it was suddenly,
* The flood in Genesis 6.
• Noah preached it while he built an ark that took him 120 years.
• Then suddenly one day God told Noah, take your family and get in the ark.
* In Psalm 73 the writer wrestles with the apparent successes of the wicked, but in verse 19 he concludes that,
“…suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!”
* The prophet Malachi writes concerning the final judgment in 3:1,
“’See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty. (2) But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire...”
* In Mark 13:35-36 Jesus says the very same thing about God’s timing in the coming judgment,
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. (36) If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”
* In I Thessalonians 5:1-3 Paul writes,
“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, (2) for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (3) While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
- WELL, if it is going to be suddenly, why is God waiting so long. It seems like He is playing right into the hands of His critics.
- FIRST, I don’t think His critics bother Him any.
- AND second, in verse 9 Peter tells us exactly why He is waiting. It is the same reason he waited 120 years for Noah’s neighbors to get the message.
- VERSE 9 says,
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
- PETER says to think about these things, remember them, recall them, understand them.
1. God’s Word, Old and New Testaments, warn us clearly of God’s final judgment.
2. History teaches us in the flood that God did it once, He can and will do it again.
3. God’s timetable may seem off to us, but when He acts He acts suddenly.
- THINK about these things without any of the pollution of the world’s skepticism, or your doubts.
- AND if you did exactly as he suggests concerning your thinking about judgment, what difference would it make in your life?
- IF the Word of God in the Old Testament and New Testament about the coming judgment of God on all sin and rebellion is true….and you spent time thinking about it, what would you do differently?
- IF the fact of Noah’s flood destroying life on a global scale, demonstrates that God can and will do it again….and you spent time thinking about that, how differently would you live in the day-to-day of your life?
- IF God’s slowness to bring all of this about is indeed His kindness, wanting everyone to have every opportunity to repent….and you spent time thinking about that, what would you do this morning concerning your eternal future?