The Coming Day of the Lord
by Richard Mansel
In an age of uncertainty, hope is the most desirable destination. We need to know that someone is in charge and has answers. As the government and experts flail away, hopeless as to what to do, God stands quietly competent. Man’s failures and foibles are as stark a contrast against God’s backdrop of perfection, as can be imagined.
God is the answer, the peace, the prosperity and the promise. However, it cannot be purchased. Man is helpless to obtain it by legal or clandestine means. It lies only in Christ and is found within the pages of Scripture (Romans 10:17). Moreover, the answers we crave come to fruition in the afterlife, where negotiations, schemes, bribery, class order and position cease to exist.
The Lord will be on the throne, we will stand before him, craving his mercy (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, the decision will have been made in the quiet moments in our daily lives.
The second coming is certain, and our choice must be made today.
Simon Peter is a complex man who comes to 2 Peter with the wisdom of time and experience. His epistles are reminiscent of Ecclesiastes as the aged man shares his scars and the lessons he gained from them. Accordingly, readers, who study his life, are able to find a cornucopia of lessons.
A study of Peter’s journey allows us to see behind the Scriptures and gain insight into his words. Peter’s failings are legendary in Scripture. His impetuousness led him to a host of reprimands from the Lord.
His love for Jesus exceeded his wisdom and understanding, and he unwittingly stood in the way of the Savior he passionately loved.
First, Jesus taught his disciples about the reality of his death and Peter scolded the Christ.”Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matt. 16:22). Jesus chastised him for doing the work of Satan by trying to intervene in His heavenly mission (Matt. 16:23).
Second, Peter swore that he would die with the Lord (John 13:37). Nevertheless, Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times (John 13:38). When the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter once again stood in the way (John 18:10). Jesus told Peter that His mission was to do the will of the Father (John 18:11).
After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he knew Jesus, just as prophesied (Luke 22:54-62). The rooster crowed.
“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Luke 22:61).
Peter undoubtedly wondered if it was all over for him. If Jesus was dead, then he might never be forgiven. Apparently he feared the death of Jesus because he might never get Jesus back again. He would be lost forever without his Savior.
Later, Jesus visited with Peter and let him know that he would still do great things in the kingdom (John 21).
The failures of Peter’s life are still on his mind as he writes his epistles. After the greeting in 1 Peter, he immediately turns to something dear to his heart.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3) (All quotations will be from the King James Version).
Peter understood all too well the necessity of mercy and the resurrection of Jesus. He desperately needed the mercy and grace of Jesus after his sins. Moreover, he was one of the first ones to the empty tomb of Jesus (John 20:1-10).
Not surprisingly, the first words out of his mouth in these epistles are about the promise of heaven. When he writes to the persecuted saints in these epistles, he speaks with authority and experience, having spent a good bit of time incarcerated for his faith (Acts 4:3; 5:17-18; 12:3-19). Advanced in age, he longed to find the rest of heaven (Matthew 11:28-29).
ENCOURAGING AND WARNING
Peter’s urgency is obvious as he begins the final chapter of his two epistles with an explanation of why he is writing about something familiar to his readers.
We should never have the idea that we only need to hear something once. Some complain if the preacher preaches on something they already know. This is naive and selfish. We need to be reminded of God’s teachings and we are not the only ones in the audience. Moreover, we gain a better understanding of fundamentals, so we can teach it to others.
“The things which Peter would have them recall were the principles, the prophecy, the truth, and the doctrine which the apostles and prophets had taught them.” (Woods, 180).
First principles are extremely important, and the matters under discussion carry even more weight. Amidst persecutions, nothing was more important than the affirmation that Christ would be faithful until the end (Revelation 2:10).
Peter’s love for his readers is clear as he calls them “beloved,” which “contrasts with the vehement pronouncements against the false teachers and mockers” in previous verses (Coffman). (2 Peter 3:1,14,17).
Peter has just been attacking the enemies of the cross in anger. His tone changes as he addresses the faithful Christians whom he loves. Because of his gentleness, he feels the need to return to the subject close to his heart. His final days are undoubtedly heavy on his heart.
Peter knew that the persecution against the Lord’s Church would claim his own life, so it was his passion to remain vigilant and vocal in his encouragement to the saints.
Jesus told Peter:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not” (John 21:18).
In times of respite and calm, the intricacies of a storm are unimportant. However, when the wind scatters our picnic, we are suddenly alert.
Facing the persecutions of the day, Peter’s audience was undoubtedly interested in Peter’s topic at hand. He was in the same place they were – under threat by Satan and his agents.
Peter had keen insight into the Man of Darkness (1 John 1:5). Peter had seen his handy work.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
As a result, Peter must warn his brethren and encourage them to cling to the Savior. Peter wanted them to be reminded of Satan and his agents as he continues through the chapter. Scoffers served Satan well in Peter’s day as they did to Israel when they were trying to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 4:1-5; Nehemiah 4:1-3).
The scoffers would claim:
“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:4).
“Far from being any intelligent and well-reasoned objection, the mockery of the scoffers was merely a loud and arrogant denial. This is a perfect example of the enmity of the carnal mind against God” (Coffman).
“Cynicism is as old as the human race. It is the particular affliction of those who demand no law and no restraints.” (Warden, 414).
“The motivating factor of the mockers is stressed-they walk after their own lusts. The warning is not new, for from the prophets through the apostles of the Lord, the warning has been issued and the action of the mockers condemned” (Gospel Advocate, 350).
“Years had passed, generations had died, and still the Lord had not returned. The false teachers exploited a disappointed hope that had been long in the making.” (Warden, 415).
Nothing has changed today. Nearly two thousand years have passed, and Christ has not returned. Accordingly, people become cynical. Jesus endured mocking and persecution and so shall we (John 15:18-19).
The Christians must ignore their mocking and return to the only undeniable thing they possessed. God’s Word will never let them down (Hebrews 13:5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Peter directed them back to the Scriptures and the inspired Words of the Lord.
“Peter appeals to the apostles and prophets and their teachings since the Scriptures had not been completed” (Woods, 180).
Today, we have the completed canon and can confidently proclaim the promises of God, contained in Scripture, knowing they will come to pass (Psalm 111:7-8).
God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), promised that the Lord would return and Peter wanted to build the confidence of the persecuted saints, so their faith would endure to the end.
COMING DAY OF THE LORD
Peter appeals to creation and the flood, displaying the power and glory of God (2 Peter 3:5-6). If God could accomplish creating the universe with a thought, He could certainly finish the job in the end. Scripture is very clear that there will be a judgment. Trying to avoid this certainty is foolishness.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
“The false teachers failed to understand that the appearance of the Lord Jesus for judgment was no afterthought of Christian doctrine. That Jesus will return is a bold declaration that human history is going somewhere” (Warden, 416).
John even described the judgment scene where we will all stand before the throne of Christ to be judged by our works (Revelation 20:11-15). We will be judged by the words of Christ, not men (John 12:48). Accordingly, the only one we should be listening to is Christ (John 14:1-3).
Augustine said, “God is patient because he is eternal.” (Coffman). The Word will come true. Yet, since we do not know when, we must always be ready (Hebrews 9:27).
God does not exist in time, as we know it. It is not the framework around which He operates. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).
“It is unbecoming for God’s creation to attempt to force on Him the fleeting conception of time to which humankind is bound” (Warden, 421).
For God, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The Psalmist writes, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
We cannot count on extra time thinking God is too busy or unconcerned about His Son’s return. God’s will is moving forward and we have no idea when it will culminate. The end is certain and it can happen today or in a thousand years.
Even though we do not know when the judgment will arrive, we do know when ours will come. When we die, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins. There is nothing we can do. Therefore, when we die, it is our judgment day. So, in one respect, the day of the judgment is superfluous. We must all be ready for our death and that may come at any time.
God does not want any of us to be lost but we have freewill and can choose to follow Christ or ignore Him. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9; cf. Romans 2:4).
“Here the writer of this epistle enables us to view the summit of the Christian faith, and to rise to a magnificent conception of God” (Coffman). God is consummate goodness. However, He has given us a choice and must abide by it. Heaven and hell are both eternal and real (Matthew 25:46).
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).
Everything that we know in our universe will be destroyed, which is beyond the imagination of humanity. We simply cannot conceive of it with our own senses. Only faith can save us (Hebrews 11:1,6).
“For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains” (Deuteronomy 32:22).
“The word for noise is a powerful word used for, ‘the swish of an arrow through the air, the rumbling of thunder, the crackle of flames, the scream of the lash as it descends, the rushing of mighty waters, or the hissing of a serpent.'” (Coffman).
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world” (Matt. 13:40).
“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17).
Nothing will remain of humanity’s feeble accomplishments. The moment will dwarf the laughable Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Man’s absurdity will be exposed as God incinerates the universe.
All that remains will be the Godhead and the spiritual aspects of humanity. Everything that humans use to divide will be gone. We will stand helpless before God to be judged according to our deeds (Romans 2:6; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 2:23).
The terror of that day, in the mind of the unfaithful, scoffers and atheists, will be unprecedented. Nothing can prepare us for what will happen if we are outside of Christ. How do we avoid the eternal nightmare from which we cannot awaken?
HOW CAN WE BE SAVED?
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11).
“The great ethical purpose of Christianity is clear in this. Christ came to save people from their sins, not in their sins; and the recognition of the ultimate fate of all created things, to say nothing of the immediate fate of all mortals, should have but one issue, that of godliness and holy living.” (Coffman).
Salvation is only found in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
We cannot hope to be saved outside of Christ. We will be as helpless as those outside of the Ark (Gen. 8:15-22).
We must be immersed into Christ for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27). It is the only path of salvation available to us (John 14:6; 1 Peter 3:21).
The final fire will burn off the dross and leave the golden and precious. The soul is all that matters and it is often the last thing man considers.
“Whatever wealth one accumulates will be left behind. Whatever one builds will wear out and fail. Even if we were to have no faith in God, it would be foolish to order one’s life as if it were no end to it. For the unbeliever, there appears to be only a sorry, hopeless faith that human life means no more than the life of a salamander or a sow bug. One lives for whatever sensual pleasures he can enjoy and then dies” (Warden, 426).
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Will we be ready when the end comes? Will we be ready to face the final judge when our lives end? If not, make them right today!
Coffman, Burton, E-Sword.
King James Version http://www.olivetree.com/
N/A (1982-1983), Gospel Advocate Companion Annual Lesson Commentary on Uniform Bible Lessons (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).
Warden, Duane (2009), 1 & 2 Peter and Jude in the Truth for Today Commentary Series. General Editor, Eddie Cloer (Searcy: Resource Publication).
Woods, Guy N. (1966), A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John and Jude (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).