I love a good joke. It is great therapy to laugh. At work, we laugh all the time, mostly to make the best out of our job situation and to pass the time. Sometimes, we even find ourselves laughing at things that really aren’t that funny. But one thing that isn’t funny is the promise of the return of Jesus Christ. That my friends is no laughing matter at all!
The apostle Peter brings this to our attention in his second epistle to us. He says this:
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”” 2 Peter 3:3-4 (NASB95)
Peter warns us that in these last days (the time between the first coming of Christ and His second coming), that one mark of the age is a group of people he calls mockers. He tells us that they are literally mocking mockers. Have you ever been around one of those exotic tropical birds that are able to talk? They have this amazing ability to mimic sounds that they hear and even sometimes to mimic and mock human voices. This is what I picture when I read this verse, someone who has learned to mimic the negative voice of the world and produces mockings concerning the kingdom. What they are doing is ridiculing and scoffing at the things of God. Specifically, in this verse, we find that these mocking mockers are ridiculing and scoffing at the promise of the return of Jesus. They ask the question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Their argument is that if He said He was coming back and if He really is a God who doesn’t lie and keeps His promises, then where is He? They reinforce their argument by saying that things seem to be carrying on just as they have for centuries with no change. The fathers are still asleep (a reference to death) and everything continues just as it has since the day of creation! So where is He? Of course, Peter also points out that this skepticism is fueled by their passion for their own sinful lusts.
What do we have to say about this? I mean, this is a good argument. I have days like this…don’t you? God where are you? You said you were coming back, and today would be a really really great day for that to happen!
Peter goes on to make a solid defense of the faith by pointing out a couple of things concerning our Lord’s return. Let me touch on a couple of those.
By His Word…
“For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:5-7 (NASB95)
First of all, in vs. 5-7, He relates the second coming of Christ with a day of great destruction comparing it to the flood of Noah’s day. Only this time, instead of the world being destroyed by water it is going to be destroyed with fire. In vs. 10, we get a few more details concerning the intensity of this fire, explaining that, “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” That’s one mean fire that is able to burn so hot as to destroy the very basic fundamental elements that constitute the structures of the current earth and universe!
He further explains that it is by God’s word that this present world is being reserved for this cataclysmic fire. Just as it was His word that carried great power and authority to form the heavens and the earth in the beginning, it is the same word that causes them to exist and continue today, and it will be that same word that will hold true for the future day of judgment and fire as well. Furthermore, this day of fire will coincide with the destruction of the ungodly.
The Lord is not slow…
“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. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NASB95)
Next, he goes on to plead with the mockers, as well as remind the believers reading this, to not let the fact of God’s patience escape our notice. Peter reminds us that time is not an issue to the Lord. God transcends time; He dwells outside of its restrictions and limitations. So when we begin to wonder why God has been waiting so long to fulfill His promise to return, Peter points out that God is not anxiously motivated by time restraints. Keeping a day planner does not cause Him fits of worry like it does for me because it isn’t necessary for Him to own one.
Scripture goes on to further develop this thought by pointing out the benefit of the Lord’s transcendence of time saying it enables Him to exercise great patience towards us. What we might impatiently mistake for slowness, scripture points out that it is actually the Lord’s patience, because He is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
I am so thankful for this truth. There was a time when I was so far from God and His Son. If He would have chosen to return and visit this earth with His fiery judgment pre-October 1999, I would have been toast. Even worse than toast, I would have been condemned to an eternity in hell, where Jesus says the fire of their torment will never be quenched and the worm of destruction never dies. But because He was patient and long-suffering (KJV) towards me, I have an extremely bright eternity ahead of me!
Also as I consider this, I am thankful in another way. As I ponder future generations that aren’t born yet, such as family members that haven’t entered into existence, I really want to meet this future family someday in eternity. I mean, I wonder if I will have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and so on that I will not get to meet in this lifetime. If the Lord were to return today, the possibility of any future descendants is terminated (unless of course you are of the dispensational camp of thought that believes we will still have children during a future earthly millenium). I mean, how big could our family eventually be centuries down the road? So, on the one hand, I pray God decides to return soon but on the other hand, I hope God continues in His great patience so that I may have the opportunity to meet those future generations of descendants of Chad and Emily Cummings that will fill heaven someday. That’s a fun thought.
What Sort of People…
“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” 2 Peter 3:11-12 (NASB95)
Skipping down to vs. 11, after Peter has reminded us of a few things, He poses a serious question that demands an answer by saying in essence, since you know these things, what kind of people should you be? Knowing that God is going to visit the ungodly in fire and judgment, how should you be in holy conduct and godliness? What kind of people should you be in looking for the day of God? Well, if your ungodly and a mocking mocker, you definitely shouldn’t be questioning the integrity of God’s promised return because you could just find yourself face to face with a fiery answer with eternal consequences.
But for those of us who take the promise of the Lord’s return seriously, no joking involved, and who look for and love His appearing, this section of scripture concludes with an exciting statement:
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13 (NASB95)
Some, to be sure, mock God’s promises. But to those of us who have been gifted with faith in Christ, we stand on His promise. A promise that is founded in the integrity of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, that says after the present earth and heavens are destroyed, a new heaven and earth will be reborn as a place where righteousness dwells. It is this solid rock promise upon which we can boldly stand with hope filled hearts in the face of dark adversity and proclaim, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus! But if you choose to delay your coming out of patience for the ungodly, then by your strength I will endure until the end.”