Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
The Lord’s Coming Judgment
2 Peter 3:7-14
Turn to 2 Peter 3. One of the amazing truths of the Bible is both the transcendence of God and the nearness or immanence of God. The transcendence of God means that God is distinct from His creation. This is why we are forbidden to worship anything but God Himself. Moses was instructed to remove his sandals for he stood on holy ground. No one was able to see God without perishing. This is an attribute of God that has been deemphasized today. The nearness of God or the immanence of God is God’s presence with His creation, which of course includes mankind. And because of God’s creating, His creation is totally dependent upon God and cannot exist without God, for this is part of God’s involvement with His creation. For everything that exists depends upon God, whether a person calls himself a believer or not. It is immaterial, for without the ongoing work of God, we would all immediately die. Even the universe itself has not only been created by God, but it is also sustained by God. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ Himself upholds the universe. Colossians 1:17 states that Christ holds all things together. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says:
“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
1 Cor 8:6 (LSB)
And in our text this morning in 2 Peter 3:7:
“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
2 Pet 3:7 (LSB)
In other words, the earth is being reserved for fire. Reserved or held onto, until a certain time. Our passage this morning will touch on both of these attributes. So, listen for them as we read our text this morning. Verse 7, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” The transcendence of God, as His Word is outside of us. In other words, God did not consult with us in regards to His sustaining the world or His decision to destroy mankind. He didn’t ask Noah if or when was a good time to bring the flood. No, He just told Noah that a day was coming.
“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.”
2 Pet 3:8 (LSB)
Again, the transcendence of God. What is God outside of here? Time. Remember time is just an element that started at creation when the Lord created such things as day and night, the earth’s rotation. God is outside all of this.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness.”
2 Pet 3:9a (LSB)
Again, we see the transcendence of God, for He has made a promise that is not dependent upon man, and the answer to His promise is going to come when God chooses to fulfill it. We cannot manipulate God, as these truths show us that God is so far outside of you and I. Even Nebuchadnezzar said that no one can strike against His hand or no one can even question what God has done.
“but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Pet 3:9b (LSB)
Ah, but what do we see here? The nearness, the immanence of God. He is patient, for He is not willing that any would perish. In a passage we read that God is transcendent, yet He reveals His nearness to us.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which 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 found out.”
2 Pet 3:10 (LSB)
Here again, is his transcendence. For He will come unawares, at the surprise of mankind, no advanced warning.
“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way [God’s transcendence], what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness [a concern here of how God’s people should act, i.e. God’s nearness to His people, as He cares for how they live], looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens burning will be destroyed, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH, in which righteousness dwells.”
2 Pet 3:11-13 (LSB)
Let’s pray. Lord, we come before You again on another Sunday to be challenged, instructed, and directed by Your Holy Word. So, give us attentive minds and soft hearts toward Your desire for us, amen.
Now this passage that we have read this morning is outside of the thoughts of the average Canadian who may even give some kind of acknowledgment of God. Today it is not that God is entirely vacated the thought process of men and women, for God still shows up in poems and maybe some country songs. God still shows up at funerals. Or God might be remembered when someone wants to win the World Series, or to help them get a good grade on their exam. Or Lord, I need help with my finances or my marriage. In other words, He is available for people to help them to accomplish matters in their own personal lives. But where God is vacant is the God that is described in this passage, where God is described as all-powerful, where God is in charge of man’s destiny, the earth’s destiny, and even the destiny of the heavens, the universe.
And what we have seen is a God who has become weaker in the eyes of society. And because of this, we notice the rise in problems in our nation, as people push God, who desires to be near to us, as they push Him further away. Yet what strikes me in this passage is that in a few short verses, there is such a weightiness on God and so little weightiness placed upon man. And as our nation continues to push God away, this passage actually demands that man must respond to God. For we will see in our passage that God has declared this is what He is going to do, and therefore mankind, this is what you must do in response. And though we see the truth of the transcendence of God, we also see God’s desire to reach out to mankind, an almost unexplainable love and care for His creation. And God as the righteous, loving heavenly Father has already determined what He will do, and therefore, our response must be in response to God. Do you understand this? That my life today, my actions today must be in response with what God has said, in line with God’s program or purposes. Yes, God listens to us, He listens to our pray. Psalm 77:1, “My voice rises to God, and I must cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.” Yes, God listens, yet I must be ready to respond to whatever God has chosen and whatever God has decided. This also means that my days must be filled with thinking about God, considering everything that He is doing and everything that he has promised He will do. Think, if God was not patient with us, we would cease to exist, as we are dependent upon God, He is not dependent upon us. Charles Spurgeon said:
“He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who plods around this narrow globe. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnifies the soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”
Now the overarching theme in this text is God’s judgment. That God has determined what He will do. His sovereign control as he brings about that judgment
- The Timing of His Judgment (vs 8, 10)
“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.”
2 Pet 3:8 (LSB)
The first thing we could say is that the timing of God’s judgment is unknown, for God’s timetable is not our timetable. I thought Dads this would be a great thing to try out with your kids. That when they ask you when you are going to take them camping or out for pizza or to buy that special thing you had promised them. And they ask you about it and you respond that with your Dad one day is like weeks and months, and weeks and months are like one day. If you had teens in your house they would soon click in that you were not going to tell them when. And the statement that Peter makes here regarding God’s timing indicates that it could be sooner or it could be later, but we have absolutely no idea. Why? Well because verse 10 also tells us that it will come as a thief. In other words, it could be while you are sleeping or at work or doing anything when least expected, the judgment of God will come at a time unexpected.
- The Extent of His Judgment (vs 9-10, 12)
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which 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 found out … looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens burning will be destroyed, and the elements will melt with intense heat!”
2 Pet 3:9-10, 12 (LSB)
How far will God’s judgment extend? It will include the earth and the entire universe. Verse 10, the heavens will pass away with a roar and the earth. Verse 12, the heavens will be destroyed and the elements will melt. And (vs 9) alludes to people perishing. Something that Peter has already addressed in chapter 2, as he warned of those men and women who will perish. And his examples were those at the time of the flood and those at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. So, the extent of this judgment will include the earth, the heavens, and every element of the universe, and every man and woman who does not call out to Jesus Christ and serve Him as their Saviour and Lord. Peter made this clear in Acts 4:12:
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 (LSB)
And this is a warning to anyone here this morning who has not been forgiven by God. Anyone here this morning who has not called on Christ to save you, to therefore follow Him as your Saviour and Lord. And without Him, the result is that you will perish. There is no exception to this promise, as the extent, to everyone outside of Christ and everything else. So, this demands a response from us, doesn’t it? For God is saying, I am going to do this, so we must respond. The writer James gives the proper response for the unbeliever. Turn to James 4. Some may consider this passage for the Christian, but I would suggest it is to the sinner, the one who has not yet been forgiven.
“Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and cry. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
Jas 4:7-10 (LSB)
This is the only response to what God has declared. Now some may consider themselves too bad for God to forgive them. Most would consider themselves too good to make such a prayer. Adrian Rogers said, “No one is too bad that they cannot be saved and no one is too good that they need not be saved.” The time of His judgment, at a time unexpected. The extent of His judgment, all people, and everything.
- The Reason for the Delay of His Judgment (vs 9)
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Pet 3:9 (LSB)
It says here that the Lord is not slow about His promise. He is not “slow” or King James “slack.” The teaching here is that the promise does not have a time placed upon it from our perspective. The time is predetermined by God, but no time has been given to us. Therefore, the fact that it has not happened yet does not weaken or erase the promise, it is 100% certain. But here is the reason for the apparent delay, it tells us, “God is patient.” In other words, God does not destroy those who sin against Him immediately. For if He did, you and I would have never had the opportunity to come to Him. And then it says that God is not willing that any should perish, and that God is willing that all come to repentance.
Now I have some strong views on this passage. But I do not want to just state these to you, this is what I believe and therefore this is the truth that you should hold to it. Know that I am not inerrant. In other words, I can be wrong, but God’s Word can never be wrong. So, what I want to do here is to give you my understanding, and why I believe that this must be what the passage is saying. The word translated “willing” here is the Greek word “boulomai,” which is where Peter writes that God is “not willing [boulomai] for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” This is translated in some of your Bibles as “wishing” (’95 NASB), “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Or translated “wanting” (NIV), “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Yet in most other common translations the stronger term “willing” is used. Admittedly, this is not an easy word to translate. It can have the little more of that feeling-oriented meaning of “wishing or wanting.” Or it can have a firmer meaning which would mean “purposing.” In other words, God would not “purpose” that any would perish. Now the word “boulomai” is used in the New Testament with more of that desire, wishful feeling. Philippians 1:12, Paul “boulomai” wishes that the Philippians believers would understand. Or he says, I “boulomai” want you to know. 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul uses it in the same sense again and he writes that he “boulomai” wants men to pray everywhere. In other words, this is Paul’s desire or wish. In fact, the word is used in this sense almost exclusively in the New Testament, sort of that heartfelt desire or wish. And this understanding of the word helps us to understand verse 9, as any tension is quickly removed:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing [or desiring or wishing] for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Pet 3:9 (LSB)
So, we can walk away from this passage, feeling good by the fact that yes, not everyone, in the end, will be saved, but that was not the Lord’s desire, or that was not what God wanted. And this is important as we in our hearts want our spouse to be saved someday, or my child, or the neighbour I love. And when we read this verse it knits our heart to God’s heart, we feel better.
However, there is a problem with this understanding. And I am not coming from a Calvinist stance over an Arminian position, as I will rarely use those terms, but just honestly desire to understand what God is saying to us here, as this is so vital when we are talking about the destiny of the human soul. Here is the problem. The word “boulomai” being used as wish or desire is never used this way about God. The examples we have looked at are connected with man, saying such things as this is what I desire of you, or this is what I want for you. Turn to James 1:18:
“In the exercise of His will [boulomai] He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
Jas 1:18 (LSB)
When this word is used in connection with God, we get here more than just a desire. We get the will of God, more than just the desire of God, to bring forth, by His truth, salvation to His people. Do you see the force behind the word? Not just a desire, but I will do this. Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:11:
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He [God] wills [boulomai].”
1 Cor 12:11 (LSB)
Is God doing something here that he desires. I think we could say “yes.” But is it stronger than that? It would seem so. In other words, this is God doing as God wills. For He is distributing to each one individually as He determines. Again, the stronger form here as it is connected with God. Finally, for the last use of this word connected with God. Turn to Matthew 11:27, Jesus said:
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills [boulomai] to reveal Him.
Matt 11:27 (LSB)
Again, could we say anyone to whom the Son desires. Yes. But does it indicate a stronger sense of the word here that what the Son wills, will happen? Yes, it does. Look what the verse says, that nobody knows the Father except to whom the Son wills, or chooses to reveal Him. Now back to 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing [the stronger determined will of God] for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
- Pet 3:9 (LSB)
Now some have tried to use this verse to support universalism, the belief that in the end everyone will be saved. Simply that if God is not willing for any to perish, result, no one will perish. I trust we can dismiss that quite quickly, as the Bible does not support that view anywhere. So, firstly, in 2 Peter 3:9, the word here is used in connection with God. And to be consistent with its other use in the New Testament it is used with greater force than just a desire or wish. It is speaking of His determined will, of what He is going to do. Secondly, I want you to notice that phrase in the context (vs 9), “but is patient towards ‘you.’” God is patient towards His people, those who will be saved. And He is not willing [determined] that any of them will perish, but that they all will come to repentance.
Understand that this is an eternal letter, which has been written to believers. It was written (1:1) to those who have received the same kind of faith as ours. Now, you might argue that this then includes some who are not yet Christians, and I would respond, yes it does. For do we not believe that this letter was even written to us? Yes. Yet we are 2,000 years beyond this letter. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away. So that even in eternity we will be able to look at Peter’s words and rejoice that God was not willing that any of us would perish, but that all of us would come to repentance. So, this means that those who belong to Christ will not perish. No one can pluck them from My hand. None will perish. Now, does this mean that God does not desire or wish that the non-Christian would get saved? No. Ezekiel 33:11:
“I take no pleasure [Hebrew word for delight or desire] in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die.”
Ezek 33:11 (LSB)
Because this word in 2 Peter means the determined will of God, and not as it gets translated sometimes as desire or wish, does not all of a sudden mean that God wishes people to be eternally damned. But all I am stating is that this verse is not teaching God’s desire for people to come to Him, though this is taught elsewhere in God’s Word. In other words, because this verse in 2 Peter 3:9 is teaching that God has willed that His chosen will never perish, does not negate His heart, His care, and His compassion for His creation. And this verse does not negate the call that has been given to the world, to come to Christ, repent of your sins, and follow Him as your Saviour and Lord. Finally, the context here in this passage is that there will be false teachers within the church. And the promise here is that God is waiting patiently for all His people to come to repentance, for God is faithful. And even in the midst of persecution and trial, God will save His own.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you [His people], not willing [the stronger determined will of God] for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Pet 3:9 (LSB)
- The Christian’s Character and Heart (vs 11-13)
Peter will close out this section with three instructions to the believers. And we cannot dismiss these as hopeful things, and have the kind of attitude that can be so prevalent among evangelicals. Sort of that, oh well, we all sin, but we are forgiven. Though I suppose we could say there is some truth in that statement as we all will live with our old sin nature until the day we are glorified. But this is never the attitude or heart of the Christian. An aspect of the true believer is his desire to strive and persevere and contend for the faith, all we have to do to get that message is to read our Bibles. Paul’s desire was to win the race set before him and this also must be our goal, as we are not running to lose, but we are running the Christian life to win. So, look with me at verse 11:
“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
2 Pet 3:11 (LSB)
- A Life of Holiness (vs 11)
This is the striving for the Christian. An attitude that sin must be put to death. And therefore the things that are part of my life that cause me to sin must go. This is not sinless perfection, this is a race we are running and therefore we may make a wrong turn, we may stumble, but the heart of the Christian is to persevere and run a life of holiness. And this is lacking, in fact, this is not taught today as it should. Someday God will make us holy like Christ, but our desire must be to live that way today. A life of holiness.
“looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
2 Pet 3:12a (LSB)
- A Life of Faith (vs 12a)
We are not different people only because we live differently. But we are also different people because we believe in the coming day of the Lord. In other words, we are a people of faith. I don’t know about you, but this is a great challenge. I mean we can be seen as people who go to church, who love God’s people, who love our families, who work hard, and who are generous and kind. But Lord, to be known as a people of faith. Boy does my Dad have great faith! Wow, does my Mom have great faith! That Christian I work with, wow, do they have such faith in their God. As Paul was able to say about Timothy, Timothy, I am reminded of your sincere faith. And this becomes so apparent during days like today, during times of struggle and disappointment. That in spite of life’s setbacks, our faith shines! Finally:
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
2 Pet 3:13 (LSB)
- A Life of Hope (vs 13)
We are saddened by our culture. And we are moved to hurt and desire to pull back the culture. Some things are crazy! Almost berserk! The demonic fall-out of some of the decisions being made today in schools and government are yet to be determined, concerning to even think about. Yet listen brothers and sisters, we can still live with a great hope as believers, because this is not our “best-life-now.” As our eternity, the new heavens, the new kingdom ruled by Christ will be far superior. And however that looks, as Peter describes here as new heavens and the new earth will be an eternal kingdom in which “righteousness dwells.” And not a rejoicing only by the fact that the world will be different, that government will be just and fair, that God’s desire and perfect will, will be fulfilled. But that I will be changed. My heart will be perfect. My motives will be right.
“Therefore, beloved, since you are looking for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”
2 Pet 3:14 (LSB)
Be found in Him in peace, spotless, and blameless. This is the Christian’s heart. This is what we strive after. And all God’s people said, amen.