LAST WORDS ABOUT THE LAST DAYS
2 Peter 3:1-18
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 1, 2013
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. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 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! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
-- 2 Peter 3:1-18, ESV
I don’t know when I’ll preach my last sermon, and I doubt I will know it is my last one when the time comes. Almost none of us will know when we have our last visit with family or friends. This is one reason, among many, that we should make every day, every moment, every conversation count.
We are about to study the last words of the Apostle Simon Peter, at least his last words enshrined as Holy Scripture. I think he knew his days were numbered (ref. 2 Peter1:14). I think he knew this letter would be his last. So he chose his words carefully and, carried along by the Holy Spirit (ref. 2 Peter 1:20-21), Peter preaches his last words about the last days.
Last Words About the Last Days
In vs. 1-7, Simon Peter acknowledges that he is closing out his second, and last, epistle to the church. His aim is to counter the false prophets (ref. 2:1ff) and “scoffers” (ref. 3:3), whose messages essentially teach people to live for the pleasures of today and ignore the prophecies about tomorrow. To tell the truth about tomorrow, that last days will come, that the earth as we know it will end, Peter points to two witnesses: the Bible and history.
Rather than listen to the false prophets and the non-prophets, we would do much better to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (ref. 3:2). “Predictions” literally means prologue, or what came before. The Old Testament came before the New Testament, which contains the word of the Lord through apostolic witness. Therefore, Peter is simply admonishing Christians to read their Bibles, all of it, all the time, and grasp the great story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.
Then, drawing from the very same Bible, he makes the case for a coming apocalypse by point out that one has actually, already taken place. Narrow-minded Bible thumper that he is, Peter lectures briefly on the history of the great deluge, the cataclysmic rainstorm that wiped out the residents of planet Earth, save Noah’s family and the livestock. Yes, it happened, as even pages from pagan history books verify. And, yes, it is going to happen again along the same lines, only with a different cast of characters and a different kind of cataclysm. God’s patience with sinful man will run out, a remnant of true believers will be lifted up, and fiery judgment will fall down to purge the planet and make way for a new heaven and new earth.
Most of us would like a little more detail. False prophets have named dates and, of course, been proven wrong. The true prophet Daniel did reveal that before the kingdom of God is consummated, the earthly kingdoms of the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks, and Romans must take their stand and fall. I think we watch Rome (or Babylon, or Western Civilization) fall every evening on the nightly news. The Apostle John’s Apocalypse probably does not give us as many clues as people think, but it does tell that, at the end, the church of Jesus Christ rises as the wrath of God falls. But when, oh when, will these things be? Simon Peter tell us!
When the Last Days Will Come
Simon Peter tell us in vs. 8-10 exactly when the end of time will come. It will come exactly when God is ready for it to come. Not one day sooner, nor one day late. But the day of the Lord is known precisely only by the Lord (ref. Matthew 24:36). The not-so-veiled reference to Psalm 90:4 speaks of the total inability of man, even of our best prophets, to fathom the factoring of time in the mind of our eternal God. Two clues further prove this point.
The last days will come when all of the elect are saved in the arms of God. Any and all times you read “any” and “all” in Scripture, you must look for a precedent. The key word that precedes these words in vs. 9 is “you,” a pronoun used to describe the Apostles intended audience, which in his first epistle are called the “elect” (ref. 1 Peter 1:1) and in this second epistle are “those who obtained a faith” (ref. 2 Peter 1:1), in other words, true believers who have truly repented and trusted in Jesus Christ because they have been truly chosen by God before God created the world. Our sovereign God planned the end from the beginning, to save a people for Himself and for His glory, and the end won’t begin to end until the last prodigal son or daughter comes home to the Father.
The only problem with this scenario is that it still does not give us the kind of clue we would like to have concerning dates and times. We do not know who the elect are, only God does. This is why we pray for and share the gospel with all the people of all the world. But when that last lost soul reaches repentance and finds faith, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (ref. vs. 10).
A common refrain in Scripture, this analogy of the end times is unsatisfying if you insist on a closer clue regarding time. There won’t be any clue, any warning, any real reason to expect that this is the last day other than the bedrock belief that the last day is going to come.
And when it does come, most things that most people hold dear will be “burned up and dissolved” and the condition of every person’s heart “will be exposed” (ref. vs. 10). So, in light of this new, or old, information, to quote Francis Shaeffer, “How Should We Then Live?”
Living in the Last Days
The main point of all prophecy is purity (ref. 1 John 3:3). The point of all purity is to have a life that is pleasing and glorying to God, and useful and redemptive toward others. And the point of living a life that glorifies God and leads others to eternal life is so that last soul can be saved and the end will come.
In vs. 11-18, Simon Peter uses his final words in his final epistle to finally remind us how we ought to live in the light of the last days on earth, in negative and positive terms. Don’t hold on to the material, he says, and cling with all your might to the spiritual. Not as ascetics, weirdos, nor holy rollers, but as true children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.
We don’t strive and cling to material things, because “all these things are thus to be dissolved” (ref. vs. 11). Instead, our lives and lifestyles are to be described by a litany of literary words like “holiness … godliness … diligent … peace … stability …” in order to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of our Lord Jesus Christ and to give Him “glory both now and to the day of eternity” (ref. vs. 11-18).
Are you living a life of “holiness?” If by the power of the Holy Spirit your heart has been regenerated with faith and repentance, doubly imputing the gracious gift of salvation, then you stand separate, useful, holy in the hands of God. The Holy Spirit lives within you and guides you to live your life according to holy Scripture. A simple life of sincere love and obedience is true holiness.
Are you given to a life of “godliness?” This means God-centered in your priorities, attitudes, and actions. God, by His Spirit and word, leads you to follow His Son in respects to all the decisions and endeavors of your life. If God, God’s will, and God’s word prioritize your life, your life is godly.
Are you “diligent” in your holy and godly life? This means you steadfastly live the way God wants you to live, even when it is not convenient on earth. And, it seldom is. Plus, it gets harder to live this way the closer we get to the end of time. Diligence describes dedicated believers whose lives are built on holiness, not happiness and on conviction, not convenience.
Are you a person of “peace?” Is there more or less harmony in your church, your family, your workplace, your community because of you? You cannot have peace that pleases God by sacrificing God’s word and standards on matters. But you can have peace when you sacrifice pride and personal agendas that are not compatible with these standards. Peaceful people are positive unless there is an outstanding, biblical reason to be negative. Peaceful people pull people together, not apart. And most of all, peaceful people bring people to Christ and His church.
Are you looked upon in your group as a person of “stability?” Do you worship when others won’t, give when others don’t, and serve the Lord even when other people or circumstances seem to stand in your way? Are you active in your devotion to the Lord now, and will be still be active in a year, ten years, to the end of time?
In regard to all of these character traits, are they “growing” in your life? Christians come in all sizes, shapes, and spiritual giftedness. But one thing we have in common is that we should all be growing in receiving and giving grace, in understanding and applying God’s word to our lives, in closeness in relationships with God and others. Every Christian cannot do every thing, but every one of us has room to grow in our understanding and effectiveness as a Christians.
And now, for the bottom line of basic Christianity, does your life bring “glory” to our God and Savior Jesus Christ? It can, it should, it must, from “now to the day of eternity.” And as a matter of fact, how you are living now makes a statement about where you will live in eternity. Life is short for us all. Glorify God and let God take care of everything else.
There is a true principle preached in Peter’s last words, or whenever God’s word teaches us about living in the last days. Notice how the emphasis is always on living. The end of time will take care of itself. So make sure your life is given to Christ, and make sure you are living for Him, and you will be ready when He comes again.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org