Interpreting the Times - 2 Peter 3:1-10 (Sermon)
Good morning! I am pastor Rob, and it is a joy to explore with you God’s Word.
Could I have a volunteer? What time is it? _AM. Is it? Why do you think it is _AM? Is that what the time is? That is what the clock says. How do you know the time? The little hand is the hour and the small hand is the minute hand. [You can be seated] It could say _AM because of daylight savings time. Next week we fall back an hour. Perhaps it is because this clock came from Michigan City? Even though we are less than twenty miles away, that is a different time zone. Maybe the battery needs to be replaced? We could keep on going trying to understand why the time is what it is. But it would be helpful to know it’s history and owner.
In the same way, how do we understand our days? How do we make sense of the times? Knowing the Author of time helps us understand the times. Today, we will hear two different interpretations of the times. One is correct, and one is definitely not. We are continuing our series in 2 Peter with one more lesson to go. Peter, near the end of his life, repeated the importance of remembering what is true about God. He gave specifics about false teaching and why it was wrong and encourages us to not overlook the facts. Let’s read what he said.
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Peter, chapter 3. We will be reading the first ten verses of the chapter. I have asked B&K T. to read for us. We have a tradition of standing in honor of God’s word. If you can, would you please stand with me now?
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.” 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. 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. 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 3:1–10)
Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear God. I need you. We need you. Help us to hear you speak today through your Word. Protect and guide and lead us. In Jesus’ great name. Amen. You may be seated.
Peter has taught us that “God’s promises empower godly living in a world of ungodliness and false teaching.” We just read about these ungodly false teachers and what they overlooked.
Let’s go back to the text and work through it. It begins, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you” (2 Peter 3:1). These words indicate a letter preceded it. What were the letters about? What was Peter writing about? Both letters he tells us had similar purposes.
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. (2 Peter 3:1–2)
The purpose of both letters was to inspire the church through reiterating fundamental spiritual truths. Peter wanted to stir them up. He was reminding them of what they already learned about God, themselves, life, and the world.
He reminded them of how the prophets spoke of Jesus. He also reminded them of Jesus’ commandment. The word “commandment” is odd to me. What commandment was he referring to? Peter used that word a few verses before. Look back at chapter 2, verse 21. He was teaching about false teachers. Peter wrote,
For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)
What Commandment was he referring to? We have the top ten, the Ten Commandments. Was that what he meant? He used the word in the singular form, so that doesn’t make complete sense to me. Jesus summed all of the Old Testament commandments into one primary commandment and a second subsidiary one: love God. Under that command was to love one another. Is that what Peter meant? If you viewed Pastor Mike’s Sunday school class on Youtube, he brought up the command to live holy lives. In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he called them to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. That is a holy calling. Is that the commandment of the Lord? This commandment Peter said Jesus gave to the apostles. What command did he give to the apostles? Was it the great commission? That would be a good answer too. Regardless, this command is not one we should forget and one we definitely should obey. The reality is, with a reminder like this, we may or may have forgotten and disobeyed. Our inability to perfectly fulfill the law of God is why God the Son had to come and die in our place. God forgives our law-breaking when we repent and trust in him. We are to strive to confirm our election to live worthy lives. This endeavor is not one without hope. Peter reminded us in the beginning of this letter God gave us everything we need for life and godliness. God is gracious. He cares for us, helps us, and calls us to follow his commands, including whatever one he is referring to here.
THE FALSE TEACHING
Yet, the scoffers overlooked the facts about God. Peter used the word “Overlook” twice in these ten verses. This word breaks our text into two sections. If you are taking notes, which I encourage you to do. The first section is The scoffers’ problem and the second section is the Christians’ perspective. Let me repeat that, the scoffers’ problem and the Christians’ perspective. The point Peter makes is that God, the author of time, is patiently waiting for more people to repent before he brings his judgment. This is the perspective that scoffer’s ultimately overlook in their utter disregard for God.
Let me show you. Please look at verse 3, will you? “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:3). To scoff is to mock. You hear their mocking in verse 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’” (2 Peter 3:4). Their mockery is the same kind Satan used in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. He said to Eve, our ancestor, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan, the Father of lies, is the deceiver. And Peter has told the church that in these days false teachers will arise among them. They take the truth and twist it to their own ends. In this case, the scoffers made mention that Jesus said he was coming again. They mentioned the forefathers of the faith. Likely, referring to Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. They mentioned creation, possibly acknowledging God created. However, their meanings were very different. They looked at the world and interpreted it wrongly. Why? Look back at verse 3. They were following their sinful desires. Last week we read about how they were “slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19). Lust and greed overcame these scoffers. They didn't want to follow God. I would wager deep down or maybe not deep down they didn't believe in our God.
How do they get to where they are? Look at verse 5. “For they deliberately overlook this fact” (2 Peter 3:5). There is willful deception or, at best, neglect in play shaping how they view the world. In previous verses, Peter talked about them secretly and deceptively working to draw an audience and following. They undermined truth for their own personal gain.
What specifically did they overlook? Keep reading,
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 3:5–7)
Peter described three things overlooked: two in the past and one to come. First, they overlooked that God formed the world from the water. God spoke all of creation into existence. Second, God judged the world with water in the great flood. He predicted and orchestrated a cataclysmic worldwide event to restart humanity because of their utter disregard for him and his ways. Third, they overlooked that God would judge the world one day. The scoffers deliberately overlook the facts. They scoffed. They mocked. God’s Word.
How do we not join them? We need to know the Bible. We need to believe in the Bible. We need to obey the Bible. We have been hammering home the importance of being in the Bible. We need to know the truth. Truth is on our side. Truth is real. Truth exists. This book is true. God spoke and speaks today through it. His Word is powerful. God says the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord, this Bible, will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is a hammer that breaks the stony heart to pieces. It is a light to guide the way in the darkness when all seems lost. It is a living and active sharper than any scalpel helping cut through the heart's complexities. These scoffers deliberately overlooked God’s Word. We must not. And Peter knew this and brought that message back home to his readers.
GOD’S PEOPLE PROMISES
So here is my second point—the Christian perspective. We have seen the scoffers’ problem. Now let’s look at the Christian perspective. Look at verse 8. We don’t just want to tear down what is false; we want to embrace what is true. What are the facts we need to know? How do we understand the times? Verse 8, “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” (2 Peter 3:8). Peter likely drew this thought from Psalm chapter 90 verse 4 in response to the scoffers’ argument.
“For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.”
God doesn’t operate on our agenda or schedule. He is not our lackey. Instead, we are his servants. God can change water into wine instantly, raise the dead in a flash, and come to judge like a thief.
Look at this slide.
We are about here on it. Where would you put God on this timeline?
C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, wrote,
“If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.”
God is beyond time. God invented it. He is eternal. He has always existed and will always exist. There has never been, nor will ever be, a time he did not exist. When the Bible says the last days, those days include today and however long it takes till Jesus comes back. We don’t know when Jesus will return, but he will. Only the Father knows when. We don’t. But we do know he will come again, and justice will move like the mighty Mississippi. You won’t be able to stop God’s justice. So when the scoffers attack the character of God’s promises and our God, we can know God is on the throne and will do what he says. His timing is different.
WHY GOD TARRIES
Peter went on to tell us why God has waited and continues to wait. Look at verse 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. (2 Peter 3:9)
This is my favorite verse of the ten. It speaks of God’s character and his reason for waiting. What does this verse tell us about God? God is caring and kind, and patient. He keeps his promises. He is faithful. Faithful to do what? Why does he wait? What is taking him so long? The verse tells us. He waits so that more might repent and be saved. It is a good thing he waits. God is good.
Imagine if God came back before you repented and put your faith in him? Where would you be? What would happen? The Bible says it is appointed for man to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). What would happen if you had not trusted in him and repented of your sin and passed away? What would happen in that heavenly court? Could you stand before a perfect God? The Bible says we can’t on our own. God says that none are righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). And the wage or cost of our neglect, disregard, and rebellion is death. It is a spiritual, everlasting death, the opposite of eternal life. (Romans 6:23, John 3:16–17).
Look to the cross if we need further evidence of our offense. Look back in time and see what it took to satisfy God. That is how much our sin needed to be remedied, but that is also how much God loves us. That is the extent to which he runs after you to save you. He is passionate about you and saving souls from eternal death.
God the Son died to forgive us all our unrighteousness, not part, but all. He did it. And rose from the grave. And we are now adopted into his family by faith. He sees us are righteous, holy, and perfect because of Jesus’ perfections. We now have Christ’s righteousness. That is extraordinary. And true for all of us and those we love who are falling away if they repent and believe.
To be honest with you, part of me wants Christ to come back right now because I am sick of sin. It hurts. But another part of me wants God to wait because there are those I desperately love who are walking their own way. They don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah. They don’t think they need God to save them. They are living in sin. They call good evil and evil good. They are blind and headed to destruction. I want the Holy Spirit to convict them and change them. He can come back after that.
Peter went on to remind them,
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 3:10)
HOW NOW SHOULD WE LIVE?
If we believe that? How should we live? Come back next week. Jeff is going to tie this all up. In the meantime, take a look at this bumper sticker.
It says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That is a lie. “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 3:10)? Do you think the toys will last? They won’t. What are you living for? What are you investing in?
How do we interpret the times? God is going to come when we don’t expect. He is coming back. Don’t listen to the scoffers. Judgment will happen. God is faithful. He will keep his promises. Justice will be executed. Are you ready for that day? One day all your secrets will be exposed. Your thoughts, words, and deeds will be on trial. You and I can’t hide from God. He sees it all. And our only hope is to cling to this cross, to claim Christ’s righteousness. Wherever you are spiritually, let us ready ourselves today. Repent of sin and trust in Christ again for forgiveness and a fresh start. It is not too late. If you do for the first time or in a new way, please, let us know. You can chat on our video, email us, or stick around and pray with an elder. Matt and Bethany Hunt will be here to pray with you.
Be encouraged. God is faithful; he will keep his promises. God is the author of time, and his timing is impeccable.
Be encouraged. God is just. He will bring justice once and for all. You who long for justice, judgment is coming on the unrighteous. God is just.
Be encouraged. God is patient. He has saved you in his patience and is waiting for more. His timing is kindness. Therefore, if you haven’t repented, do so today.