Date: 18 Sep 2016
Text: 2 Peter 3:10
All that Peter has been talking about earlier in this Epistle and particularly in 3:1-9, leads up to what he wants to emphasise in 3:10-18, especially 3:10. It is when we get to 3:10 that we come to a truly powerful verse that contains, in just a few words, a lot of important, and yet possibly disturbing, truths. So in order for us to consider what Peter is telling us I want to split 3:10 into four parts.
Firstly, Peter identifies that everything leads up to the Day of the Lord; the day when Jesus will return to earth to claim His kingdom, an event that many know as the second coming. This will be the most important event in the Christian world and it is an event that has been eagerly awaited ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven 2000 years ago. That day will be a day of extreme joy for those who have faith in Jesus and know Him as their Lord and Saviour, although it will be a day of fear, trembling and despair for those who denied Him and didn’t accept Him as their Saviour. It will be a day of glory when “...the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). There will be a loud command from Heaven and a loud trumpet call “And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30b). For those who have not accepted Jesus as Lord it will be a dreadful day, a day when they will be judged for their sins and then thrown “into the fiery lake of burning sulphur” (Revelation 19:20). All those who scoffed at the thought that someone actually died on a cross and then rose again from the grave just to pay the price for their sins will be shown to have been wrong; they will pay the ultimate price for those sins and for their refusal to accept the glorious free gift of eternal life that God offered them. On the other hand those who did accept Jesus and came to faith in Him will see the culmination of God’s great plan, a plan that will see them join Jesus in paradise for all eternity.
For the second part of this verse I have identified just two words, “will come”. Just think back to those scoffers who mocked the very thought that Jesus would return. Just consider what effect they may have had on the faith of Christians within their church. Their negative attitude may well have caused a great number of those with a weaker faith to question that faith and actually wonder if Jesus would in fact ever return. In just two words Peter disavows those who may have thought that the whole story of Jesus returning was a hoax or a great big confidence trick. Those two words are positive and say that Jesus will return; no ifs, no buts and no maybes; it is a definite statement of intent. Just think about those scoffers and ask yourselves what they may have thought upon hearing Peter’s confident words. Think too of those Christians who may have wavered in the onslaught of doubt engendered by these scoffers. And then think about those who always remained faithful and never doubted what Jesus Himself had promised. They would all have viewed these words from a different perspective and sat in awe and wonder at what they actually meant, not just in general but in their own lives and wellbeing.
OK, so Peter has just confirmed the glorious news that Jesus will come again but, the next question is: when? I suspect that there are millions of Christians the world over and not just here in Marston Green who would like to know the answer to that question. It is a question that has been asked, and not answered truthfully, ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven. The date and time is unknown, even to Jesus. His return though, will be swift, sudden, unexpected and at a time that we all least expect. Peter uses the phrase “like a thief in the night”. A burglar tends to come at night, in the darkness and he never announces his coming; unless he is totally incompetent that is! The Apostle Paul had similar thoughts when he told the Thessalonian believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “the Day of the Lord He will come like a thief in the night”. It will be so sudden that, as Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:40-42 that, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” The Canadian Christian singer/songwriter, Larry Norman, who passed away in 2008, wrote a great song titled I Wish We’d All Been Ready. The song has the sub-title of Thief in the Night and speaks of the suddenness of Jesus’ return and how we all need to be ready. A couple of verses in that song really stand out; firstly, “A man and wife asleep in bed, She hears a noise and, Turns her head, he's gone”; and then, “Two men walking up a hill, One disappears and, One's left standing still”. That’s how suddenly it will all happen; no further warning; no announcement; no advertising; He will come when we least expect Him. There will be no further announcements, no further warnings; it will just happen. It will be so sudden and unexpected that we will be taken totally by surprise at what is happening. So sudden will it be that Jesus warned His followers, “... keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42-44). The incredible thing is that it will be an unwelcome shock to all those who thought that it had either been postponed indefinitely or wouldn’t happen anyway. So sudden will it be that there will be nowhere to hide even if hiding would help!
It is in the second half of the verse, and the fourth part that I want to consider, that we come to the truly scary stuff. Having confirmed in no uncertain terms that the “Day of the Lord will come”, Peter moves on to explain what will happen on that momentous day and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading for those who don’t believe. Just look at what Peter says and think about how horrendous the events will be: “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” I don’t know about you but I don’t find that to be a happy prospect. God created the heavens and yet they will disappear with a mighty roar. There is a suggestion that this roar to which Peter refers may have come from God Himself. The Psalmist David writes in Psalm 18:13-15, “The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.” On the other hand there may be another meaning. The Greek word that is used only occurs here in the New Testament even though it was commonly used elsewhere. It is a word that implies noise; noise such as arrows whizzing through the air; the rustling of a bird’s wings; the rushing of a stream in full flow or even the crackling of an open fire. All sound plausible although I suspect that the noise will be far louder than that and will be totally deafening! In such a way “the heavens will disappear”. We next see that “the elements will be destroyed by fire”. What elements is Peter referring to? It is doubtful that he means the chemical elements that appear in the periodic table and it probably doesn’t mean the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. It seems more likely that it means the stars, the planets and the galaxies, anything that is a component of the universe. Isaiah suggested in Isaiah 34:4 that, “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig-tree.”
So, after the heavens and the elements have been sorted out we then see that “the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare”; I don’t know about you but I find that bit even more frightening. Just think about that for a moment; the earth and everything done in it. I read that as meaning all the flowers, the trees, the plants of various types, the animals, the insects and anything else that occupies the earth. You can include in that destruction everything that man has created down the centuries. You only need to think of some of the amazing pieces of architecture and art that mankind has produced over the centuries for that idea to make you think deeply about what is going to happen. It was always rumoured that the Great Wall of China was the only mad-made object that could be seen from space; that will also be destroyed. Nothing on the face of the earth will escape this destruction; nothing, absolutely nothing. That is quite some destruction but it is the destruction that will come on this incredible Day of the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews had this to say in Hebrews 1:10-12, “He [that is God] also says, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’ “
Some of this may come as a surprise although for anyone who reads and knows Scripture, it should not be unexpected. The prophets Joel, Micah and Isaiah all prophesied some of these events, and I make no apologies for quoting them: “The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.” (Joel 3:15) “The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.” (Micah 1:4) “The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is violently shaken.” (Isaiah 24:19)
The bulk of 3:10 applies to those who are non-believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. These are the people who ignored God, probably even going so far as to deny His existence. They carried on living their lives, their way, doing their own thing. Some of them may have even tried to impress God by doing “good deeds”, helping charities and being “good people”. Those things are all well and good but unless people accept that Jesus died on the cross of Calvary to pay the price, once and for all, for their sins, they will be subject to the horrors that will occur on the Day of the Lord. All such people will be destroyed as being of no consequence. Once again that may be hard to accept but for those of us living in the first world, we have no excuse; the good news of Jesus Christ has been preached loudly and clearly for many centuries. Sadly not enough people listened and gave their hearts to Jesus; and for that reason they will perish on the Day of the Lord.
All that Peter has talked of in this single verse will happen in the blink of God’s eye whilst to us it will last for a very long time; far longer than what we understand a day to be. Jesus will return at a time that we least expect; there won’t be any further warning nor any further announcement. God will eventually say, “There will be no more delay!” (Revelation 10:6) and we will see Jesus returning to earth riding on the clouds coming to claim His kingdom.
All those who scoffed at the very idea; all those who ever doubted that Jesus would ever return; all those who refused to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour will get the biggest shock imaginable when they see Jesus returning. That will only be the beginning because from then on God will implement His plan for His universe.
The Bible begins in Genesis with God creating the heavens and the earth and it ends in Revelation with God creating the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus will reign from then on joined by all those who know Him and love Him as their Lord and Saviour. I hope you will all be there!