Friday, July 16, 2010

Will Jesus Return? – 2 Peter 3:3-7

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (NASB)

Peter believed that is very important for us to remember that people will always mock Christianity. One of the seemingly easy points to mock is the promise of Jesus’ return. As each year passes, it outwardly seems that they are right. How many generations have passed on since Jesus was taken up into heaven? I’ve even heard Christians who are very devout doubt that His return could be very soon. Some even think that only spiritually immature Christians look for His return each day. Human logic tells us that if He has waited this long, then His return is not likely to be today. Is this not mocking His promise? Spiritual logic tells us to look at all the promises and keep watching, it could be today.

Perhaps one of the reason that we doubt Jesus’ return could be eminent is that He made it clear we can’t predict when He will return. Acts 1:7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (NIV) I think He has kept us from knowing when He will return for a very good reason. We would all become lazy and irresponsible if we knew the exact date. If it were two months and three days from now, how many of us would continue our work, get our paychecks, and calculate when we could quit work but still provide for the last few days. Some may even take on debt knowing that they wouldn’t have to repay it. Jesus addressed this attitude in a parable. Matt 24:45-46 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” (NIV ) He put it in a positive light that it will be good for us to continue to be good witness and do what He expects right up to the moment He returns.

On the other hand, the philosophy that He will not return right away produces another kind of abuse that is more in line with the mocker’s attitude. Matt 24:48-50 “But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” (NIV) While this servant obviously was doing evil things, are we any different when we become negligent in our Christian duties because we don’t think He is coming back immediately? Do we lose the desire to witness to others because we think we may have plenty of time? Do we not share our wealth generously to help the poor and spread the Gospel because we are concerned that He won’t come back soon and we need to save it all for our retirement?

When people deny that Jesus’ return isn’t going to happen or even that it couldn’t happen today, they are calling God a liar. Peter addresses the basis of this lie in the denial of creation. Sure, everyone believes that something happened to cause everything to come together in what we call the universe. However, they deny that it was God. The NASB says that it escapes their notice. The NIV says that they deliberately forget. The Greek says that they were willingly ignorant. What this means is that they choose to ignore what is before them. Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV) Creation points people to God and He is evident in creation unless someone doesn’t want to be accountable to God.

In Genesis 1:3-31 a phrase is repeated six times. He says there was an evening and a morning, a day (first, second and on.) The word for day can be translated as a literal day or figuratively as any space of time. However, when used figuratively, there is a different form of the word or adverb to clarify the length of time. This is not the case in Genesis 1:3-31. The word has no modifiers and we see the phrase “evening and morning.” There can be only one interpretation for this. Each day of creation was one day or 24 hours. Genesis has long been the focal point of scoffers when they try to disprove the Bible. They know that if they can get you to doubt the very beginning of what God has said, that you will also question other parts. The result is a faith the picks and chooses what it wants to believe. That kind of faith allows many people to call themselves Christians without surrendering themselves to Jesus. (Not really saved.) It also produces weak Christians who can rationalize sinful behavior.

Sinful behavior is what also causes us to ignore the fact that the earth was once destroyed by water. Even though the physics of erosion point to a massive flood and release of those waters, people still believe that the earth is very old and that the mountains and valleys were created by eons of erosion. They don’t want to accept that God caused the distruction of the earth because of man’s sinfulness. If they did admit that, then they would have to admit they, too, are sinners and justifiably condemned without Jesus.

Finally we need to understand that this earth isn’t all there is. It is temporary and not where we should focus our lives. Yes, we need to live here but if our ultimate goals are here, then we will be sorely disappointed. We were made for eternity, a new heaven, and a new earth. Peter reminds us that ultimately, the earth will be destroyed in fire. The only thing keeping it together is God’s word. We need to store up our best treasures for the real future, not the one that will be destroyed.

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