Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness. (NLT)
Peter keeps talking about the destruction of the world. This isn’t some flimsy theology based on a couple of obscure passages in the Bible. This is something that each Christian must fully embrace and understand. The earth is temporary. God will completely destroy it and start over with a heaven and earth that will last forever. When we get our minds and hearts around this truth, we can finally live the way He wants us to live. When we are focused on this world and the things of this world, we are ineffective and unproductive in our Christian walk and testimony to the rest of the world.
Paul knew this and it was one of the things that kept him going. After explaining some of the pressures of his ministry, he gave this explanation. 2 Cor 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV) The new heaven and earth are eternal. We don’t see them now but by faith, we know that they are coming. If we set our eyes on what is happening in this world we can get worked up and frustrated when it appears that our plans or even God’s plans are not being accomplished. Either way, rather than obsess with the things of the world, we have to remember that these things are temporary.
Don’t get me wrong, however, this doesn’t mean we completely ignore the earth or the things in it. In Gen 2:15 God put Adam in charge of the Garden of Eden to care for it. In Ps 8:6-8, it says that God has made mankind ruler of all that He has made. He does expect us to take good care of the things that He has made. In fact, the Bible says that God’s wrath is coming on those who destroy the earth. Rev 11:18 … Your wrath has come … for destroying those who destroy the earth. (NIV)
The point of Peter and Paul is also emphasized by John. 1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever. (RSV) When John talks about loving the world, he explains that he isn’t only talking about the physical things of nature, but also the sinfulness of mankind. This love of the world puts these things above our love of God or of other people. Too much attention to the things of the world violates the greatest commands in the Bible. Matt 22:37-40 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (RSV) God is a jealous God. He wants us to love Him first, people second, and things last. Loving anything more than Him is idolatry.
This is what Peter is trying to get us to understand when he asks what kind of people we ought to be. He says we must live holy and godly lives. The only way to live holy and godly lives is to put God first. To love Him above all things and to love people next. If we do love God first then He gives us the power to love other and live a godly life.
How does this speed the day of His coming? That must be tied up in the fact that God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4.) Is it possible that when the last person whom God has called to salvation actually turns to God, that at that time, He will set in motion the events that lead up to the final day of the Lord? If so then living godly lives and sharing the good news of our salvation through Jesus will hasten the day. If we are lax and don’t do our part, then that person may take longer to come to Jesus.
Peter puts a little self-check at the end of this passage. Are you looking forward to this new heaven and earth? Are you looking forward to a world filled with God’s righteousness? If not, then why not? Are the goals and desire of this world a higher priority and you don’t want to see them destroyed? Do you have goals to get married, see grandchildren grow up, finish college, retire, or any other things that you want more than seeing a world without sin and evil? Many of these goals may be very noble and good, but they can’t be more important than seeing the new heaven and earth with God’s righteousness filling it.
If you don’t want to see Jesus come back because you want any of the things of the world, then your heart is not in the right place. If you truly love Jesus more than any other then you will want to see Him coming back today. You will also understand that this event will far out shadow anything you might have missed. You will understand that He will take care of all our concerns for other, even those who have not yet made a decision to follow Him.
2 Tim 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)