I have never forgotten a statement from Dr. Dan Holcomb, my Christian history professor at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. “When the church possessed a strong expectancy of the second coming of Jesus, the church has been strong. When the church downplayed the doctrine of the second coming, the church has been weak.” The truth of the second coming motivates believers to godly lifestyles. Peter, therefore, sought to awaken believers to assist them to remember “what sort of people you should be” in light of the second advent (3:1, 2, 11).
In chapter three, Peter answered the skepticism of scoffers regarding the second coming. His answer provides encouragement and challenge to contemporary believers.
First, Peter encouraged his readers to remember the importance of correct Christian thinking (2 Pet. 3:1-2). According to the Scripture, the human mind serves a vital function in Christian maturity. Paul affirmed that Christians experience a transformation as their minds are renewed (Rom. 12:1-2). Peter encourages Christians to develop “pure understanding” (literally “to turn things over in the mind and make judgments in the light of sunshine”). Notice the connection between “pure understanding” and the Word of God. God’s Word shapes our thought patterns. The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles proclaimed the same message. A denial of the second coming, therefore, is a denial of the entirety of the Word of God.
Second, Peter highlighted the motivation of the scoffers that deny the second coming (3:4). As a result of some foolishly naming a specific date on which Christ would come again, scoffing the concept of the return of Christ has increased. Lusts motivate these scoffers. The concept of the second coming impinges upon their lifestyles. The second coming entails judgment and accountability.
Third, Peter emphasized the long history of the scoffers of God (3:4-7). In essence, these false teachers claimed that God had not intervened in the past, and consequently, God would not intervene in the future. All things, they said, continue the same throughout history. To the false teachers, uniform natural laws explained all causal relationships. This type of naturalistic thought operates in the church today. God intervened to judge the world through the flood. The historic flood, then, teaches that moral principles operate in the universe. God’s activity as judge cannot be locked into the historic past; a future judgment of fire awaits the inhabitants of the earth.
Fourth, Peter explained the delay of the second advent of Christ (3:8-9). He provided a twofold rationale for the delay, one scriptural and one practical. First, from God’s perspective there is no delay of the promised coming. God’s perspective on time is different from our understanding (Ps. 90:4). As the Creator and Lord of time, time does not restrict God. In the light of the Eternal One, humanity’s impatience is insignificant and irrelevant. Second, the delay of the second coming reveals God’s patience, not His inability or powerlessness to keep His promises. God’s patience gives humans an opportunity for repentance. God’s forbearance gives believers an opportunity to proclaim the work of salvation (3:15).
Fifth, Peter warns that the second coming will occur suddenly, like an unheralded thief (3:10, see also, Matt. 24:42-43; Rev. 16:15). Paul also reminded believers that the day of the Lord does not come like a thief to believers because believers have made spiritual preparations (1 Thess. 5:4). The suddenness of the day of the Lord indicates that a time approaches when one cannot make preparations.
Sixth, Peter encouraged Christians to live with a sense of expectancy about the second coming (3:12). The early church prayed, “Maranatha,” (Lord Come!). Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom of God to come (Matt. 6:10). Believer, are you praying for the Lord’s return?
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