“Where is his promised coming?”

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 1:229:814:615:1221:24). 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. 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.” 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, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 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 3:352 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. 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.

Jesus and Peter saw the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah as microcosms of the Final Judgment (Luke 17:26-302 Peter 3:6-72 Peter 2:6-8).

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 21:4Acts 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?”

Dear Reader,

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!

A Mother’s song

Mother’s Day devotional, by Rosie Moore.

I’ve always smiled at Bilbo Baggin’s description of himself as “thin, sort of stretched…like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” It sounds pretty much like being a mom!

This morning I read an article about a woman from Mali who gave birth to nine babies! I couldn’t help but wonder how her body managed to carry, nourish and birth so many little bodies. An even more terrifying prospect is how she’s going to feed, clean and raise all those children until they’re self-supporting adults. This mother represents a hyperbole of motherhood in general:

Mothers are bound for life to their children– emotionally, financially and physically. Motherhood is indeed a great privilege and blessing, but being a good mother invariably comes at a high cost and sacrifice. When we become mothers, we trade our preferred future for a risky, uncertain one. But if God, in his providence, has given you children, you can be assured that He has called you to it. For a Christian, motherhood is not a weak call, but a lifelong vocation that requires great courage, trust and surrender to God’s will. In my opinion, no one embraced the painful privilege of motherhood more than Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

If you think about it, Mary was the only human being present at Jesus’s birth who also witnessed his death on a cross. As a teenager, she saw Jesus arrive as her precious baby son, and later, watched him die as her Saviour. It was just as the old priest, Simeon had said, directing his prophecy towards Mary, “And a sword will pierce your soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).

Have you ever thought of the risk that Mary took when she replied to the angel’s message:  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?

Mary’s story is worth pondering. Mary risked everything in her willingness to surrender her body, her reputation and her preferred future. She risked everything by entrusting herself fully to God’s care and mercy. Let’s stand in her shoes for a moment:

Mary was a poor teenage girl whose one hope to a future was Joseph, a good Jewish boy to whom she was engaged. Before she saw God’s provision, she was required to walk through the door of obedience, to trade her hopeful, promising future for what must have seemed a disastrous outcome.

In first century Jewish communities, pregnancy outside of marriage was a scandal that we can only begin to imagine today. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry a pregnant woman, she would probably remain unmarried for the rest of her life. If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into prostitution or begging to earn a living. Add to that Mary’s bizarre story about being a virgin and pregnant with the Holy Spirit. This teenage girl risked being labelled as an immoral liar and a delusional, crazy woman. Her reputation and standing in the community would have instantly been blown to bits. Remember that Mary didn’t know any more than what the angel told her:

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God…  38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Did you notice that the angel Gabriel doesn’t rebuke Mary for her honest, humble, practical questions (Luke 1:29-3034-35)? But neither does the angel give her a step-by-step guide on how to step into her unique role as mother of God’s promised Messiah. In spite of her own fears and reputational loss, Mary glorifies God in song for what He is going to do for the world through her. She boldly embraces God’s call to use her for his redemptive purposes.

Here is part of her song, known as the Magnificat, spoken after her cousin Elizabeth confirmed the angel’s message:

Mary’s song.

“My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name….

In Mary’s song of praise and worship, we see the centrality of motherhood in the story of salvation. It’s the beginning of the fulfillment of the earliest gospel announcement in the Bible:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15).

A costly obedience.

Mary shows us what obedience to God looks like.  Her song is full of humility, strength and gospel exuberance. Mary is totally at God’s disposal, a nobody for the Lord. She is willing to accept all the vulnerabilities; weaknesses and the disgrace of her pregnancy and ‘bastard’ son. The role of carrying, nurturing and raising this Messiah child was a painful privilege that Mary gladly embraced.

Picture Mary as a teenage mother raising the perfect son of God in her little home in Nazareth. Jesus was an ordinary child and adolescent with younger brothers and sisters. Amidst the normal routines of daily life, watching Jesus working in his father’s workshop, Mary must have often been reminded that her son was far from ordinary. “The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Mary had plenty to “treasure in her heart” as she raised the Christ child (Luke 2:51-52).

And then, 33 years after the stable in Bethlehem, Mary watched her boy being rejected, humiliated, beaten and finally crucified as a criminal, on a hill in Jerusalem.

Yet, even as his own life ebbed away on the cross, Jesus was concerned for his mother watching nearby (John 19:25-27). As the eldest son, Jesus entrusted Mary to John, the only friend who stayed with him at the cross. Jesus’s attitude of care towards his mother shows us the honour and support that we should give our own mothers right to the end of their lives.

Every Christian mother’s song.

In a small way, Mary’s song is every Christian mother’s song. Lydia Brownback says it well:

“If we trust in Jesus and follow the way he has marked out for us in his word, we will know personally the blessing of every promise he ever made.”

Of course, Mary is a unique mother with a unique song of praise and surrender. She was, after all, the only virgin to have conceived; the only mother who birthed and raised God’s Son; the only teenager to be visited by an angel (Luke 1:26). God chose to use Mary to deliver on his great redemptive promise, so she is ‘highly favoured’ in a unique way. But Mary was also an ordinary mother who stood at a cruel cross and watched the death of her own child. Her heart must have shattered into a million tiny pieces as she saw the costly sacrifice of her son, the Saviour (John 19:25).

And in a profound way, motherhood mimics the cross, as it’s the great leveler of women. It really doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved in your life or what amazing gifts you were born with, being a mother brings vulnerabilities, struggles and pain. But for a Christian mother, it is at the cross that we lay down our fears and weaknesses about shepherding our own children. It is at the cross that we share the heavy load of motherhood with the Lord Jesus, so that we are not crushed by its weight. It is by watching Christ laying down his life for us on the cross, that we too can learn to lay down our lives for our children.

Mary knew that God was good and could be trusted. Her obedience and bold surrender to God’s costly call, is an example to every Christian mother. It is God himself who assigns value to our position and role in life. It is God who tells us who we are, even if our culture tells us something different. It is because of God’s providence that we are Christian mothers and will be sustained through every season of our lives, no matter how vulnerable we feel. And because we know God’s extraordinary goodness to us, we too can give the future generations a taste of this goodness.

Mary’s song reminds us that it is God who lifts the humble and uses ordinary, willing people to make his glory known. God uses the common, the mundane, the seemingly insignificant homely jobs mothers do, to have a great impact on families, communities and the advance of the gospel in the world.  God sees us in the unseen moments of our ordinary days, and the work mothers do has great value in God’s eyes. No, we cannot save our children. Nor could Mary save her son. But Jesus saves, and he has called us to be his ambassadors in our own families and communities.

Just as God cared for Mary in her vulnerable condition, sending her to stay with Elizabeth and Zechariah during her pregnancy; preparing Joseph to stand by Mary when he could have abandoned her; sending Mary’s little family to Egypt when Herod tried to kill her baby boy; providing the Apostle John to care for Mary as a widow… so too, God gives us mercy in the difficult and vulnerable places, in every season of life. He gives us all the help we need when we are terrified, helpless and hopeless. If only we’d look up and praise God for the great things He is doing for, in and through us. This is our song,

“for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.”

 (Luke 1:49- 50)

Listen to A Mother’s Prayer, by Kristyn Getty.