Watching for the Lord's Coming

February 27, 2022 Series: The Book of 2 Peter Scripture: 2 Peter 3:14-17 by Chris Strevel

Be Diligent to Be Found in Him (v. 14)

Since We Watch for the Lord’s Coming

The Lord constantly exhorts us to watch for his coming and be ready for all that will transpire when he returns: the resurrection of the body, the judgment of the nations, the burning up the present heavens and earth and the fulfillment of God’s promise (Isa. 65:17) of a new heavens and earth. His disciples are marked by this watching – not a lazy, wistful longing to get out of our scrapes and sorrows, but a desire for him, to know and be with him forever. A Christian must not live even one day without thinking of Jesus Christ and asking to know him better. He is precious to us (1 Pet. 2:7), for the Father has set him forth as our righteousness and propitiation (Rom. 3:25-26). Through faith in his blood we are justified – cleansed and forgiven. Whatever our differing views about the historical timing of these events, it is love for Christ and desire to be with him that unite all believers. It is something we look for and expect and hope happens today, for we want nothing as much as to be with the Lord forever in joy, love, and holiness. Are you waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus? Do you long for his appearing?

Make Certain Your Salvation in Christ

Waiting for Christ is marked by diligence – a diligence that needs encouragement. Sinful responses to our troubles in this world obscure the glory of the return of Christ behind the clouds of our worries and sorrows. If you know an important guest is coming to your home, you make preparations. We know the Lord Jesus is returning, and it is necessary to prepare for his coming. How will he find us? What will matter most when he comes is that we know him, are at peace with him. We must make sure our interest in Christ now, that he is our Savior and represents us as our Mediator before the throne of God. When the King returns, is he coming to redeem or judge me? Is he returning to bring me to heaven or send me to hell? Thus, to be diligent to be found in him means to make sure of our interest in Christ. It is another way of saying what Peter has already written: “give diligence to make our calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). We must be sure that we know him, that we have a share in his saving work by faith. Is he coming as my Savior or as my Judge, to reward or to condemn? 

Live in Quiet Holiness

“In peace” suggests that we must be at peace with the returning Savior. He is the King and the Judge. To be at peace with him is described as “without spot and blame.” Spotless means cleansed; blameless means nothing of which to accuse. These precious gospel blessings are highlighted by the reality that Jesus Christ is coming to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30). We cannot make peace with the Judge when he comes. Or, if you die before he comes, you cannot make peace with him when you stand before him. You have nothing of which to make that peace. Your sins scream for judgment. But he offers us cleansing now, and one way we watch for him is to come to him now for cleansing. Lord, cleanse my spots; forgive my sins; purge my dead works by your precious blood. And then, help me to live blameless before you, without giving you any offense. Holiness has been one of Peter’s main concerns in this letter. The false teachers were undermining holiness on two fronts – cheap grace and no return of Christ. The true gospel proclaims cleansing and God’s grace unto holiness. God’s promise of the return of Christ motivates blameless living. When you see his bombs of judgment fall, repent. When the tower falls on sinners (Luke 13:3,5), repent. Cleansing and holiness is the way we live at peace with the reigning Lamb and the main way we watch for his return. Thus, a real expectation of the return of Jesus Christ powerfully transforms daily living in your zip code – from indifference to zeal, from laziness to a valuable and contributing member of society to those around you – because you live as one who will soon give an account before the Lord of glory.

Reject Scripture Twisters (vv. 15-16)

Know the Reason for the Delay: Salvation

Peter had to write this letter because the believers were not watching for Christ’s return as they should have been. They were being influenced by the false teachers. Never think that the church is as she should be on earth or that there have been golden ages in the past that were so much better than today. All ages have their strengths and weaknesses, but all ages of the church struggle with being too “right now oriented,” too obsessed with what is happening in the “big things” that we forget the main reason for the apparent “delay” in the return of Christ (Ps. 131:1-2). The Lord is giving us time to repent. His longsuffering is our salvation. The delay tends to put us to sleep, but it should actually have the opposite effect. Do you have another day of health and mental clarity? Are you hearing this sermon, and what will you do with it? Will there be another generation on earth before the end of all things? How will you work tomorrow because Jesus Christ is coming to judge the world? The Lord is giving us time to repent. He is withholding the final wrath, the wrath of the Lamb, the opening of the books, the throwing of sinners and Satan and sin into the lake of fire that burns forever. It is mercy, therefore, that our Father is offering to us this morning – not sleepy worldliness or go about your life after this service in the same way you were before. No, think seriously that many will die this afternoon and have no more mercy, no more opportunity to repent. You have sins in your life that require your diligent attention, priorities that need serious adjustment. Jesus Christ delays his coming to give you opportunity to repent and bring his grace to bear upon all these things.

“The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” is such a precious sentence. It hearkens back to v. 9 – the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” We are quick to call down fire and judgment, but the Lord is looking to show mercy to sinners. He wants every one of his sheep to be brought into his fold. I hope we have not forgotten how much we need the longsuffering of the Lord, his patience. We provoke him in so many ways, and our age, I am sure, gives its own provocation against his majesty. We waste many opportunities to speak his truth and allow temporal, political divisions to deceive us into lining up the goats now. But we do not know who they are, or will be. We must not judge the present by the final and the eternal, for God’s mercy is operative and changes many who look like goats into his lambs. I encourage us all to consider how much we need the Lord’s patience – this will shape the way we talk to others and about others. Consider also how much you have personally provoked him, but he has not sent lightning down from heaven to smoke you. And you would have his anger smoke against those who do not know as much as you, have not received mercy like you have? You want souls to go to hell, when there is still time for them to repent. If the church is humbled by the Lord’s longsuffering, it will alter her perception of the world, of her mission in the world, and her self-perception. Nothing for us, no good in us, no wisdom in us – all in Christ. Blessed be the Lord who has shown such mercy – let me be patient with my husband, my wife, my parents, my children, church members who irritate me. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Our Beloved Paul Wrote the Same Things to You

With the painful encounter between Peter and Paul in Antioch, it may seem strange for Peter to bring forward Paul’s witness to support his teaching. It is not strange at all, unless you are a critical student of Scripture and history who cannot imagine there is any such thing as reconciliation. Even godly men make mistakes and give way to fear, which Peter temporarily did (Gal. 2:12). The apostles were unified and respected one another’s specific callings and spheres (Gal. 2:9-10), but this respect did not prevent confrontation, which Peter received. Nor did their apostolic office and authority prevent practical errors and personal sins. They were weak and sinful men, as Paul so pitifully attests (Rom. 7:14-25), and as such struggled to understand and apply the glorious gospel. They needed one another and had to submit to one another in the Lord. 

Peter references one of Paul’s letters written specifically to these believers. Given that the subject matter is the second coming of the Lord and even more specifically “looking for the new heavens and earth,” we might think of the Thessalonian letters. I think Hebrews might be in mind. Both 1-2 Peter and Hebrews have Jewish recipients primarily in view. Hebrews may be anonymous exactly because Paul wrote as a Jewish believer to Jewish believers, thus somewhat out of his “bounds” as the apostle to the Gentiles. His authorship would explain the detailed understanding of the Jewish system that marks that letter. As it includes, Paul speaks of Abraham “looking for the heavenly country,” and the final warnings in the letter are prompted by our present sufferings and need to look unto Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 11:16; 13:14), thus tying the letter to the themes of 2 Peter.

But we do not know for sure to which of Paul’s letters Peter refers. Many views have been suggested and debated. The certain points are, first, that Peter and Paul give a unified witness to our Lord’s coming and our duty to live watching. Second, Peter speaks of the wisdom the Lord gave Paul, which is one apostle certifying another! Third, Peter references an already known corpus of Pauline letters, of which the specific letter is but a part, and he calls those letters “Scripture.” This is vital for our understanding of the “canon,” as we call it, the rule or standard of our faith. In the years before Peter and Paul passed off the scene, and remember that Peter is the “apostle to the circumcision” and Paul to the Gentiles, their writings are already considered “Scripture.” The whole set of inspired writings were not known everywhere or all at once, for they were hand copied, but when they were known as coming from an apostle, they were “Scripture” on par with the rest of Scripture, the Old Testament. The church since Moses has never been without a written Scripture to guide her, which truth is taught by Scripture itself and completely opposed to false teachers, past and present!

Unstable Men Twist Scripture to Support Error

To warn us against being led astray by false teachers is the reason Peter speaks of some of Paul’s letters as being hard to understand. It is not that all believers have equal clarity of understanding of Scripture. Nor are we to think that because a sincere believer misinterprets a passage of Scripture that he is therefore a false teacher. False teachers who are unlearned and unstable twist Scripture, particularly the more difficult portions, to sustain their false doctrines. The sovereignty of God’s grace, for example, of which Paul wrote, when it is not understood correctly and used by false teachers, might actually be twisted to support fatalism on the one hand, or cheap grace on the other (Rom. 3:8). The reality of the “heavenly country” we are to seek might be used by Gnostics to dismiss any concern with what happens on earth or to the body, which led to the errors of the Nicolaitans in Pergamum and the hyper-spiritualists in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:13-20). But these doctrines are not found in Scripture. False teachers look for support for them in Scripture by twisting Scripture. “Unlearned” means an untrained and undisciplined mind, which does not look at God’s word to restrain our lusts but for justification to encourage them. “Unstable” means morally unstable, which stresses the connection between personal holiness and being able to rightly interpret and humbly submit to God’s word.

Beware of Being Led Astray (v. 17)

Believers know these things – the coming of the Lord and the duty to live watching and waiting in the light of his coming – but we must guard against being led astray. “Error of the wicked” is strong and pointed, especially since it refers not to pagan philosophers but would-be Christian teachers. How can we not be led away with their errors to destruction? We must steadfastly hold to Scripture. Notice that Peter supported his own Scriptures by referring to Paul’s Scriptures. He did not say, “Consult your feelings about these things.” Or, what do you think? No, Scripture. He did not tell them to follow popes or decrees of councils, but Scripture. Hold fast to them. False doctrine and sinful living, which were the stock and trade of the false teachers, are personally and eternally destructive. It matters what we believe about Jesus Christ, the doctrines we profess, for they control the way we live, either carefully and humbly or flagrantly and lustfully. If we are the Lord’s, he gives us the “love of the truth that we may be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). And especially when we know God’s word we must hold fast to it as a great treasure and not be moved away from it one inch.

Grow in the Grace of our Lord and Savior (v. 18)

The Surest Way to Avoid Falling Away (2 Pet. 1:10)

I pray we learn to take our faith this seriously. The realization and conviction grows upon believers the longer they live that any half-hearted approach to Christian discipleship, any non-serious, non-consecrated pursuit of holiness, dooms you to worldliness and defeat. It truly is Christ or the world, light or darkness, Christ or Satan (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). And thus, Peter concludes his letter by encouraging us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. This is the only sure way to avoid falling away and being led into the errors of the army of false teachers that Satan has unleashed into the church. We must keep growing in him, abiding in his word, and calling to him for healing. The way we grow in grace is to live in his true grace – denying ungodly lusts, denying self and what we want, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Tit. 2:11-12). He came to deliver us from this present evil world (Gal. 1:4), and if we abide in him, we shall bear much fruit. We will grow, for he is raised, reigning, and living at the Father’s right hand, present by his Spirit with believers, and supplies from his fullness all we need.

 

 

Know Jesus Christ More and More (Phil. 3:8-14)

Grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Being his disciple, or follower, a Christian never tires of learning of Christ. This knowledge is practical and transformative, for it is learning of him as my Lord. How does he want me using my time? Ask yourself this moment: is he pleased with the way you are treating your husband or wife? Are you doing his will in the use of the time he has given to you? The way you spend money, or your expectations about money? Are your life and career choices driven by your personal feelings and desires or by allegiance to him? Knowing Jesus as Lord and growing unto submission to him. “Why do you call me Lord, and do not the things I say” (Luke 6:46)? And knowing him as Savior must also be a growing reality – that I need your cleansing blood each day, that coming to you as my Savior before the throne of grace is the way I “wash my hands in innocency” (Ps. 26:6), that you are the only name by which I may approach the Father with confidence and acceptance. And each disciple must grow in the knowledge that we are complete in Christ – that he is our righteousness, that we are raised with him and even reigning with him (Eph. 2:5-6). The best and only way to avoid being led astray by the hosts of errors that surround us is to keep growing in knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Never in this life feel you have attained (Phil. 3:13), arrived at the finish line, that there is nothing else to know of him, that your obedience is complete, your devotion to him its highest, that you are giving your utmost to him.

All Glory to Christ Forever

To Christ be glory forever! This is not merely a closing ascription of praise. It is a declaration of life, the meaning of our lives, the meaning and aim of history, the outcome of God’s grace and the purpose of Christ’s return – that he may be glorified! That all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). Personally, the glory of Christ motivates our pursuit of holiness, resistance to false teachers, and patience in waiting for his coming. If there is one thing that should characterize and unify every believer is that we are desiring, seeking, and living for the glory of Jesus Christ. “So shall Christ be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Phil. 1:20). Whose glory are we pursuing? Do those closest to you think that the glorifying of God in Christ means anything to you? Drives you? Do they hear you talking about his glory, making decisions and denying yourself so that you can glorify him? This is where God’s saving grace always leads – the glorifying of Jesus Christ in the church, over all ages and generations of saints, with increasing clarity and desire, come, Lord Jesus, so that we may behold your glory, give you glory, be glorified with you, and God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all in all, our joy and praise forever.