Series: 1 & 2 Peter, by Rosie Moore.
…Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4)
At last we’ve inched our way to the final page of Peter’s letters. You’ve probably wondered if the end of the world might come before the end of our series in Peter!
A scoffer’s profile.
Peter’s original readers really needed to know the final destination on their road of suffering. Many hoped that Jesus would return within their lifetimes to vindicate them. And so the scoffer’s question, “Where is the promise of his coming?” may have left them wondering if Jesus would keep his promise (2 Peter 3:3-5).
“What’s taking your precious Jesus so long to come back for you?” jokes the scoffer. “Maybe he’s got himself lost on the way from heaven.”
Two thousand years on, and Christ still hasn’t returned. Mockers continue to scoff at our belief in Christ’s return and a restored Creation under his perfect rule. Sometimes we may even feel as if it’s all too good to be true.
Scoffers have always ridiculed God’s involvement with the earth. They poke fun at the supernatural, yet are seldom willing to investigate the historical evidence of Jesus Christ for themselves. That’s because their problem is not only an intellectual problem with God and his Word. It’s a moral problem, as they refuse to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives. They prefer to remain autonomous.
Proverbs says that the scoffer resents correction, is proud and arrogant, and prefers his own simple ways to God’s wisdom (Prov 1:22; 9:8; 14:6; 15:12; 21:24). Most offensive of all to the scoffer is the idea that God will judge the world and hold each person accountable for their own sin.
“How can you be so naïve to believe in a final day of reckoning? It’s the environmental crisis that will bring an end to this world, not your Jesus! I’ve never answered to anyone in my life, so I’ll go out on my own terms thank you! How can a good God judge people?”
But Peter reminds us that God has been involved in His world from the beginning. He spoke the world into existence. Then He came in judgment, flooding the world in the days of Noah. Scoffers are dead wrong when they say that nothing ever changes:
“…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” (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Peter says that we don’t have to worry about justice being done. “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of Judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). God created the world with his word, and by that same word, the world as we know it will come to an end.
A scoffer’s willful ignorance.
Peter reminds us that history isn’t just the same year after year. Surely the crisis of 2020/1 has proved that point. But Peter also calls out the willful ignorance of scoffers who “deliberately overlook” the clear evidence of God’s handiwork in creation and His judgment of the world in human history (2 Peter 3:3; 5; 2 Peter 2:4-9).
Willful ignorance mirrors Paul’s description of sin in Romans 1: In our natural state, we all “suppress the truth” in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18-32). Left to ourselves, we refuse to give God the thanks and honour due to Him as the Creator. Instead, we make ourselves the judge of what is right and wrong and worship the creation. That’s the heart of sin that bubbles out of every human heart (Mark 7:20-23).
So, by nature we are all willfully ignorant. Like scoffers, we follow our own sinful desires and rightfully fall under God’s wrath and judgment (Rom 1:18). Unless God does a miraculous heart transformation to wake us up to the reality of who He is and who we are, we will always ‘deliberately overlook’ the truth right in front of our eyes. We will remain blind to the truth (Matt 13:16-17).
Not slow, just patient.
But Peter also helps us understand God’s purposes in ‘delaying’ the second coming. From God’s perspective, there’s no delay in His return. It’s just that God isn’t limited by time or geography, but motivated by compassion and patience. He has a kind heart for everyone He has made, even the willfully ignorant scoffer. Even you and me. Peter writes,
“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” (2 Peter 3:8-10).
God’s patience is extended to allow as many people as possible to repent and be part of His righteous kingdom. Just think for a moment of how, even today, the Lord is faithfully stirring human hearts around the world, bringing hundreds of people to repentance and faith in Christ. In the last century in Africa alone, the Christian population has grown from ten million Christians at the beginning of the twentieth century (about 10% of the population), to close to five hundred million professing believers today. In fact, we owe our salvation to this ‘delay.’ (Click here)
Soul by soul, God is patiently growing his mustard seed kingdom into a magnificent tree, “so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matt 13:31-32). Many, many more ‘birds’ are making their home in God’s kingdom because of His ‘delayed’ return. We tend to forget that God sees time with the perspective we lack (2 Peter 3:8).
Like an artist painting a gigantic mural, God is sovereign over all human history and the cosmos. And like a seamstress stitching delicate beadwork on a wedding dress, God is also attentive and involved in the minute details of a single human life.
If you are a Christian, you can rest assured that Christ will return for his Bride, even if “the bridegroom is a long time in coming” (Matt 25:5). Jesus himself told us that there would be a delay in His coming. God is not slow, just patient in extending mercy to mankind:
“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek 33:11). That was Christ’s kind heart for the Jews of his day too (Matt 23:37).
But time is running out. The day will come for each of us to die, or for Christ to return. The time for repentance will then be over, for “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:27-28).
There will be no extensions or postponements of the court date that the Judge has scheduled.
A microcosm of final judgment.
And a few years ago, I personally glimpsed a small preview of the Final Day on a history tour in Europe. After spending two days at Auschwitz concentration camp, I went to Nuremberg, the town where former Nazi leaders were tried as war criminals for the murder of six million Jews, along with 4-6 million non-Jewish people. The Nuremberg tribunals became a useful model for future trials of war criminals in the Yugoslavian and Rwandan genocides. As I listened to the transcripts and viewed the films, I felt sick to the stomach. I’ve never been able to forget the horrific evidence presented at those trials.
What was most surprising to me was the scoffing of the accused SS commanders. They stubbornly pleaded “Nicht Schuldig” (Not guilty), swaggering around the courtroom and joking amongst themselves. They mocked the legal process and the prosecutor’s mispronunciation of their names. They sniggered and scoffed… Even after hearing the gut wrenching testimonies of holocaust survivors; even after viewing films showing piles of corpses and roomfuls of human hair, belongings and photos of obliterated families; even after being presented with their own written reports documenting their killings.
Even after full exposure, one SS doctor who had conducted medical experiments on inmates argued that he was doing the world a favour by eliminating his Jewish patients. Hermann Göring laughed throughout the trials, yawning and making sarcastic remarks to his friends. He dismissed hard evidence as propaganda. But as the day of sentencing approached, Göring grew more and more nervous, and laughed less and less. For all his scoffing, he took an arsenic tablet the night before he was due to be executed.
The scoffing of the accused was just a human fig leaf, a grasping for self justification, a way to suppress the truth of their own guilt.
However, when the truth was finally told, the International Tribunal found almost all the accused guilty of mass murder. The guilty were sentenced to death or given prison sentences from 10 years to life. Some were tried decades later, most notably Adolf Eichman, the architect of ‘The Final Solution’ against the Jews. When arrested in 1960, he said, “I had nothing to do with killing Jews.” Many Nazis evaded justice by taking on new identities elsewhere in the world and committing suicide.
At Nuremberg I saw that at best, our attempts at human justice are flawed. In democracies, we try to follow Biblical principles of due process to ensure fair verdicts, but we all know that human justice is often perverted in society. Often, the guilty go free and cases go cold. The truth is hidden forever. Corrupt people flourish while good people suffer.
But this will not be the case on the Day of Judgment. No one will be scoffing in the presence of the Lord Jesus, who will judge with perfect justice and righteousness (Psalm 2). No one will be able to lie or escape, as there’s no place to hide from the final film reel of our lives. Never again will a criminal walk free. Never again will Satan accuse, deceive or persecute God’s people.
This is why each of us must repent of our sin and take refuge in Jesus (Rev 21:4; Acts 17:30-31). He is the one and only safe place to hide on the day that “the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10). Christ’s death is the sacrifice that turned away the wrath of God for those who believe in Him (1 John 2:2).
And God puts his mark on his children, so they will be distinguished from those on whom judgment is to fall (Rev 7:1-3). Even now, this mark of ownership is the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us (Eph 1:13-14). With God’s seal of ownership, we are safe from the coming judgment!
Scoffers are dead wrong.
The line separating good and evil.
But Jesus didn’t allow me to walk away from Nuremberg feeling pleased with myself and better than ‘those other men’ on trial. In my natural state, I know that Solzhenitsyn was dead right when he said,
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” (The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956)
Given the same brainwashing and war conditions, I may have walked in the Nazis’ footsteps at Auschwitz. I may have bayed for Christ’s blood at his trial too. My heart is no better than theirs.
If you’ve lived your life with you in control, running it your own way, never giving much thought to Christ as your Lord and Master, loving nature but never loving the God who created it, you have set yourself up as God’s enemy. You may believe that death is the end, but it isn’t the end. There will be a second death much worse than the first. Here are three questions to ask ourselves:
Why would God welcome a rebel into his kingdom where every citizen worships Christ as King?
Why would God welcome into his perfect home an unrepentant sinner who has scoffed at his Son and despised his offer of righteousness? (2 Peter 3:13)
Why would a good God not judge wickedness and evil in the world?
But when the thief on the cross saw himself as the sinner he was, he didn’t scoff like his partner in crime. Instead, he threw himself on the mercy of Jesus (Luke 23:42). And Christ responded in mercy, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Not just in paradise, but with Jesus, forever, in paradise!
So, as wonderful as it is to look forward to a completely restored Creation, without tears, death, mourning or pain (Rev 21:1-5), there is a reason why Jesus died for our sin on the cross. There is also a reason for us to turn away from our sin and live for Christ. The gospel is for those who want to meet Christ as their friend and Advocate, not as their enemy and Judge. The gospel is for those who long for a ‘forever home’, where Christ rules with perfect righteousness and justice. That home can never be swallowed by a sinkhole, flood, fire, or anything else for that matter (1 Peter 1:4).
Peter ends his letter by reminding Christians not to be fooled by false teaching but to remain steadfast in the gospel, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to do good wherever God has placed us. That is how we prepare to move into our forever home that Christ is preparing for us right now:
“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 (2 Peter 3:1-18).
In his song The Great Reckoning, Andrew Peterson expresses the wistfulness that God’s people have for Christ’s return, when justice will finally be done and God’s kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven.
How long until this curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?
And the wicked roam the cities and the streets tonight
But when the God of love and thunder speaks tonight
I believe You will come
Your justice be done, but how long?”
Thank for your patience in bearing with me on this ten-week journey through 1 and 2 Peter! When trials come to refine our faith, I pray that we will always be inspired by Peter and his earliest readers. If we’ve been counted worthy to suffer for Christ, may the Holy Spirit help us to rejoice and give thanks in everything. Let’s treasure the precious faith that we’ve received from the Lord Jesus! And let’s remember that He is very near to each of his children, even as He gathers His people from every corner of planet earth. Let’s keep living as if we’re permanent residents of the home that He’s preparing for us!