By Andrew E. Courtis
“I shall return”. They were the words of General Douglas MacArthur. This American general was assigned to the Philippines. Then, on 11 March 1942, with the invasion of the opposing forces Macarthur was ordered by the US President to leave. MacArthur then arrived in Australia. On 20 March 1942 he uttered the famous words, “I shall return”. This was a promise of deliverance and redemption. 2 ½ years latter, after a series of military campaigns in the Pacific, MacArthur came good on that promise and returned. After landing on Filipino soil he said, “People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil”. For the people of God, we have an even greater promise than that. We are awaiting the return of the King. Jesus made this promise,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3)
JC Ryle wrote,
“A true Christian has a good hope when he looks ahead: the worldly man has none. A true Christian sees light in the distance: the worldly man sees nothing but darkness. And what is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this, – that Jesus Christ is coming again, coming without sin, – coming with all His people, – coming to wipe away every tear, – coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave, – coming to gather together all His family, that they may be for ever with Him. Why is a believer patient? Because he looks for the coming of the Lord. He can bear hard things without murmuring. He knows the time is short. He waits quietly for the King” (Holiness)
What will happen when the Lord returns? This section of Peter’s second letter tells us about two things that will happen: The Lord will come in judgment and He will establish a new heaven and new earth in which righteousness will dwell. This is what we anticipate as the people of God. Our life here now has meaning and significance, but we are a people who are passing through waiting for the eternal and glorious coming kingdom. As Peter begins to brings this letter to a close, he reminds his readers as to why he is writing,
“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” (2 Peter 3:1-2)
After giving this reminder, Peter now provides the reason for the reminder, “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (3:3). The reality of scoffers and mockers of Biblical truth can be discouraging. But Peter reminds his readers that their presence in fact confirms the validity of Scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote,
“Now to me that is a matter of comfort and consolation. It works in this way – the greater the scepticism today with regard to these things, the greater in a sense is the proof of the fact that the biblical teaching is a revelation from God. Men today by scoffing at this doctrine are simply confirming the biblical prophecy”. (Expository Sermons on 2 Peter pp. 169-170)
As we continue to face those who oppose and reject what Scripture says, in this passage we will consider two facts that confirm the certainty of the return of the King. The two facts are the power of God’s Word (3:5-7) and the patience of God’s Word (3:8-10). These two facts are designed to strengthen our faith so that we will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD (3:5-7)
In these verses Peter provides three examples of the power of God’s Word (creation, the flood, and future fiery judgment). The purpose of these examples is to show that God has acted in this world with the power of His Word and therefore will follow through with His promise of future judgment. We can be certain that Christ will come again because of His powerful Word. God has not stood idle, but He has displayed intervention in the world.
“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” (3:7)
Peter’s point is that God has acted with serious Divine interventions in the past, and He will also do so in the future. This was also spoken of in the Old Testament.
“For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many” (Isaiah 66:15-16)
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1)
2. THE PATIENCE OF GOD’S WORD (3:8-9)
Though there have been and will be many who will not believe that the Lord will return are overlooking the fact of His patience. Around two thousand years have passed since our Lord ascended to Heaven. Now this long duration ought not to discourage us and cause us to think that He is not coming. Instead, we are to know that this reveals His great patience. In His great patience, He has allowed many things to transpire over the course of history. In this time, many souls have come to the saving knowledge of Christ.
Peter reminds us, “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” (3:8). Dick Lucas calls their mockery “wilful amnesia” (p. 136). They are overlooking the fact that God views times very differently to us. Here Peter is quoting Psalm 90:4. Interestingly, Peter appears to be using this entire Psalm as the basis for what he has written in this passage. Creation (90:1-2), the Flood (90:5-6), and Future Judgment (90:7-9).
“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” (3:9)
The apparent delay is not occurring due to any lack of God’s abilities; instead, it is happening because of His Divine purpose. Throughout history, God has been saving sinners. Jesus spoke of what must happen before He returns,
“this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14)
God has been, and will continue to do His sovereign work of saving sinners. When the fullness of His elect has come to salvation in Christ, then the end will come. This is truly an amazing thought. To think that God in His grace and compassion is withholding judgment so that sinners can find forgiveness in Him.
The certainty of Christ’s Second Coming helps the believers grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Power of God’s Word and the Patience of God’s Word remind us that God is actively at work. It is preparing the way for the return of our King.