September 2, 2014.
It has been some 2,000 years since our Lord walked the earth. Some 2,000 years since the kingdom was established as prophesied by Daniel. 2,000 years since the New Testament writers penned what would become our reference of God’s word. Does that concern you? I mean, that was a long time ago. Does a couple of millennia weaken the promises of God in context of their fulfillment? I was reading through II Peter today and the last chapter prompted me to think about this topic. Why does 2,000 years not seem to bother devout Christians as they await the final day when our Lord shall return? I think Peter addresses this problem before it ever became a problem.
Scoffers in the last days.
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 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.”
(II Peter 3:1-4)
At this point in Peter’s life, he says that the Lord has revealed his departure of this world to him and he is writing to Christians so that they might have a written copy of his words to refer to whenever they needed it (ref. II Pet. 1:12-15). Peter and the rest of the apostles seemed to know that their time on this earth was fleeting and that the Lord was not going to return before they departed, at least in some cases. Thus they wrote instruction and it has been providentially preserved so that we can still today read the inspirited writings of the New Testament and understand God’s plan and procedure of reconciliation. This fact alone is enough to give much credence to the bible being the actual word of God. What other writings from this time period have been preserved so well? If you do a search, you will be hard pressed to find any that compare. But still, 2,000 years is a long time, right?
Peter understands that there will be a lengthy time between his departure and the second coming of our Lord. He prophesies that in the last days there will be scoffers that come asking when is the promise of his coming? They might say “It’s been so long, and nothing has happened! Where is he? He said he was going to come, after all. But we’ve been waiting a long time…” or even “You Christians are delusional. You say your savior is going to come, yet he hasn’t in 2,000 years. What’s up with that?” I’m sure there have already been scoffers, as it would seem to be an easy criticism of the text. But Peter seems to nip this problem even before the bud. He tells us that these people will come, thus when they do, they are but fulfilling a prophecy made some 2,000 years ago. And they certainly will come, whether it takes another 2,000 years or He comes back tonight.
God’s concept of time.
A while ago I wrote a post titled “God and time, part one.” where I tried to explain how I think God works in and out of time. How long is 2,000 years to God? Does he experience time in the same way we do? I think the answer to that is quite obvious, as an omnipotent God who created time would not be bound by its constructs, just as He is not bound by the laws of physics that he created. He created them. From nothing. With that power, it is easy to conceive how he could just as easily destroy them. But do we always realize this? Peter wanted to make it clear to those he was writing to:
“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. 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.”
(II Peter 3:5-8)
Peter calls on the Old Testament teachings to describe how God’s timeframe does not alway match with man’s time frame. In fact, I would go so far as to it seldom ever does. When God told King Nebuchadnezzar that he was going to go crazy, that wasn’t fulfilled until a year later. When God told Abraham that his descendants would enter the promised land, it was not his direct descendants, but many, many generations afterwards. When Malachi proclaimed that the Elijah would come first to prepare the way for the Messiah, there were 400 years of silence before the Christ came. I think you get the point, and if the Christians that Peter was writing to didn’t, he made it even more abundantly clear that 1,000 years is but a day in the sight of the God, and a day as a thousand years. It is clear that God does not experience time as we do.
So, is 2,000 years a long time in the sight of God? Let me ask you this. Is 2 days a long time is your eyes?
Why are we here?
Now that we have established that 2,000 years is really not that long of a time period in the sight of God, especially when you compare it to eternity, I suppose a fair and logical question would follow. “But why?” Not why does God experience time differently, because that is something that I don’t think we can even comprehend fully as we are now, but why wait 2,000+ years before the Lord’s return? 2,000 years might not be that long to God, but it certainly is to us. So why wait this long on our time frame? Peter anticipates this question and answers it in the next verse:
“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.”
(II Peter 3:9)
Why? Because God wants to give man the best chance through his patience. What is the worst thing that can happen to someone caught in sin? The arrival of the judgment day. What can God do to spare some souls who are willing to repent, eventually? Give them time. Contrary to some belief, God is not just sitting up in heaven waiting to zap us when we mess up. He doesn’t want any to perish, but all to come to repentance! What marvelous implications arise from this verse. It is not the will of God that we perish. This is one of my main passages to point to to affirm free will. If we did not have free will, then that would imply that God independently choose either our salvation or our destruction, and there is really nothing we can do about it. Any that’s fine, really, because God is God and he reserves the power to do whatever he wants. We are but jars of clay. But here in this verse He reveals what he wants for us: that none should perish. If the will of God is that none perish, yet we know that there are many who will indeed perish (straight is the gate, and narrow the way), then it is logical to conclude that we have the choice. The choice to accept or reject salvation. This is both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. This is but the surface of the free will/predestination discussion, but I will leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that God’s patience is given to benefit us, so that we might have ample opportunity to come to repentance.
How should we wait?
“Oh great, I have plenty of time to do whatever I want! I’ll just indulge in the pleasures of sin now and repent later!” Again, Peter seems to anticipate this response as he writes this letter to his fellow Christians.
“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.”
(II Peter 3:10)
The fact of the matter is, we don’t know when our Lord is returning. It could be tomorrow or in the year 2340. Peter reminded those he was writing to what Jesus had said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (ref. Matt. 24:36). If the disciples in Peter’s day were to be on their guard and waiting for the Lord, how much more should we do so, 2,000 years removed? Yes, 2,000 years isn’t that long to God, but if a day can be like a 1,000 years, perhaps it has been and extremely long time. The point is, we don’t know. So we should be ready, with out garments washed.
The very notion of “do bad now and repent later” goes against what should be out attitude in Christ anyways. Christianity is not just a checklist of things we do or don’t do in order to reap a reward of eternal life. It is not simply a means of great gain, though our inheritance is indeed eternal. Christianity is a new world view. When we are baptized into Christ, we die to our old lives and raise as a new creation ready to serve our Lord (ref. Rom. 6:1-11, Col. 2:8-3:17). We are then ever striving to make our calling and election sure, as Peter mentions at the beginning of his letter. We are waiting for our Lord’s return because we love him and stand on his promises.
“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
(II Peter 3:14)
The land of promise awaits.
So what are we waiting for?
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
(II Peter 3:13)
Ah yes, our glorious inheritance and new home with Christ, to dwell in the presence of God forever. I have talked about this new home many times in passing, and perhaps one day I will devote a full post to it. But know this, the promises are grand and on that day we will cease from sin, death and pain to a new life, eternal in nature and glorious in practice. So, we look forward to these promises so that we might stand before our Lord indefinitely.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Until he come, we are here to carry out his will. His will is that none should perish, but all come to repentance. Are you furthering his will?
Suggested Daily Reading: II Peter 1-3, Revelation 21.
Grace and peace.