Monday, May 23, 2011

Where is the Promise of Christ's Coming?

One of the key passages regarding the second coming of Christ is found in 2 Peter 3:1-18 (the entirety of chapter 3 of 2 Peter). First, let me provide you with the text of the chapter, and then my commentary on it.

2 Peter 3:1-18
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,
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.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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.

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. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
First, notice that chapter is directed to the beloved - to those who are believers - to those who are already familiar with the promises of God by the prophets and the commandments of the apostles (both Old and New Testaments, one might say today).

Second, notice that Peter prophesies scoffers who will arise and mock the idea of Christ's second coming. There are such men now. We saw many mocking Mr. Camping's prediction of May 21, 2011. Some mocked it because of its absurd claim to be based on the Bible. Others, however, mocked it because they mock the whole idea of Christ coming again. This latter group is the group of scoffers that Peter's prophecy applies to.

Third, notice what else characterizes these scoffers. These scoffers think that the world just goes on and on as it always has. What they are voluntarily ignorant about is the great flood of Noah's day. In that flood, God wiped out all mankind throughout the world, except for eight souls who were left on the ark.

The point that Peter makes in discussing Noah's flood is to point out that God has already judged the world once. God will judge it again. Those who think that life will continue on Earth endlessly should pay attention to the warning that the flood provided.

Fourth, notice the two-fold reason given for the delay in bringing judgment on the Earth again. God does not care about time - that's what the "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" means. It does not mean that God embedded a secret day = one thousand years code in the Bible as Mr. Camping and others before him have thought. Instead, it means simply that God is indifferent to time as such. God doesn't feel rushed to accomplish in a day what men might take a thousand years to do, and God doesn't feel impatient about accomplishing in a thousand years what men might wish were accomplished in a day.

The second part of the reason for the delay is that God is gathering in the elect now. God is longsuffering to us, not willing that any (of us) should perish, but that all (of us) should come to repentance. If God were to have destroyed the world on May 21, 2011, some of the elect would (we must assume) never have been born, or never would have come to repentance and faith. God is indifferent to time, but we live in time. Thus, God uses time itself to His own purpose in the salvation of the elect.

Fifth, notice that the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Herein lies the utter absurdity of Mr. Camping's prediction: a thief wouldn't advertize his robbery in advance on billboards and radio waves around the globe. No, a thief comes without warning, when he is least expected.

Moreover, observe that this "thief in the night" characterization is not simply with respect to the scoffers, but with respect to the beloved as well. While scoffers had been addressed earlier in the chapter, now the beloved are being addressed and are being told that Christ's return will surprise them too.

Sixth, notice that the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment. When Christ returns, it will not be to set up an earthly kingdom. No, the heavens will be destroyed with a loud noise, and the Earth will be destroyed with fire.

Seventh, notice the lesson to be taken from the fact that the world will be destroyed. The lesson Peter draws is that we ought to live holy lives. We ought to be less concerned with this world and its glories (all of which will be destroyed) than with the new heavens and new earth that will come after it. We should be longing for the coming of the Lord, and yet we should understand that God in his mercy is showing longsuffering, as also Paul wrote (see Romans 2:4 and 9:22).

Eighth, notice that Peter identifies Paul's epistle to the Romans and his other epistles as Scripture. This is an important point to take note of, since it demonstrates that the canon of Scripture was known to include the Pauline epistles even during the apostolic era. It was not later generations who came up with this.

Ninth, notice that Peter warns us to be careful. We should not follow the example of men who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. It is hard not to apply these words specifically to Mr. Camping at this time, but nevertheless we ought to realize that there were wicked men wresting the words of the apostles in their own days, the Reformers had to contend with those of Rome wresting Scripture in even more destructive ways, and if the Lord tarries we will see many more wicked men do the same.

Tenth, and finally, notice that the way to avoid the error of the wicked is not to run away from learning and knowledge. Instead, the way to avoid the error of the wicked is to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The antidote to Camping's mishandling of Scripture is to pray for God's favor and to seek knowledge of God in the Scriptures - Scriptures that guarantee that the Lord will return, but also guarantee that no one will know the day or the hour.

- TurretinFan

11 comments:

Jacob said...

I was with you up until point #6.
There is too much Biblical evidence that cannot be allegorized away that speaks of a literal kingdom reign of Christ on earth for 1,000 years, followed by the renewal of all things via destruction by fire.
i..e, there appears to be a period of time between Christ's return at which time He specifically judges the antichrist and the unbelievers at that time, and the final judgment which comes after the millenial reign of Christ.

Turretinfan said...

Jacob:

Yes, I realize a lot of people might have trouble with point 6. Still, I think it is the straightforward sense of the passage, which equates the coming of the Lord and the destruction of the world.

-TurretinFan

Ken said...

Sixth, notice that the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment. When Christ returns, it will not be to set up an earthly kingdom. No, the heavens will be destroyed with a loud noise, and the Earth will be destroyed with fire.

While I cannot be dogmatic either way, it is interesting that Peter does not mention any kind of Millennial reign; he writes straight from the second coming to the new heavens and new earth; he is silent on any kind of 1,000 earthly rule. Maybe Rev. 20:1-7 is a symbolic round number of "many years" to denote the time between the first coming of Christ and second coming.

Psalm 50:10 is a good illustration of that, God certainly owns the cattle on the 1001th hill. So, there is good evidence that it may be a symbol of just a large number. But it is best, IMO, to not be dogmatic on that issue.

Ken said...

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation . . .

2 Peter 3:15

That is one of the most neglected aspects of this passage - that Peter is saying he is patient toward "you" in verse 9 (the church, his audience, the believers, beloved, 3:1, 1:1-4, etc. - he seems to indicate that God is patient toward the church to get on with Biblical evangelism and discipleship and missions, so that all the elect will be brought in from all the nations - some from every people, nation, tribe, and tongue. (Revelation 5:9)

2 Timothy 2:10
"therefore, I endure all things for the elect, in order that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and with it, eternal glory."

The elect must hear the gospel (Romans 10:13-15) and repent and believe. Many nations and peoples have not heard yet still.

That is the reason why time goes on, according to Peter.

Instead of saying "God doesn't care about time" in regard to verse 8, it seems to be saying that God is above and outside of time.

This comment is very good -
"God doesn't feel rushed to accomplish in a day what men might take a thousand years to do, and God doesn't feel impatient about accomplishing in a thousand years what men might wish were accomplished in a day."

r_c321 said...

Hello TF,

I have a question about one of your points that really confused me. I will qoute you :

"Moreover, observe that this "thief in the night" characterization is not simply with respect to the scoffers, but with respect to the beloved as well. While scoffers had been addressed earlier in the chapter, now the beloved are being addressed and are being told that Christ's return will surprise them too."

In 1st Thessalonians 5 : 1-5 paul says "

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.
2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
3 While they are saying, " Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;
5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day We are not of night nor of darkness;

Can you please Comment on that passage?

and how can we harmonize them?

By the way thanks for all the work you did refuting Harold Camping it was of great help.

God bless.

Richard

Ken said...

TF may have other thoughts on your question,

I venture an answer, and I also thought about that passage in I Thess. 5 when I read TF article today.

The coming of Christ will surprise us also; but since believers are "in Christ" it will not overtake us in judgment or suffering in hell, but it will be a joyous and positive thing in taking us to heaven. We know it will happen someday, we just don't know when.

We will be "pleasantly surprised" because we are in Christ. I John 3:1-3; I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-58

Fardawg said...

"There is too much Biblical evidence that cannot be allegorized away that speaks of a literal kingdom reign of Christ on earth for 1,000 years"

There is only one reference to a "1,000 year reign". A close look at the other passages used to back it up shows that it is a stretch at best to make them fit. Isaiah 65:18-25 is often used, but verse 17 says, "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth".

I disagree about the "thief in the night" meaning Christians will not know when the 2nd coming is about to happen. 1 Thess. 5 seems to be saying that we will see it coming. Also, Rev 20:7-10 indicates a massive attack on Christians right before the end. That doesn't give us the right to date set however.

natamllc said...

TF,

first,

the Reformers had to content with those of Rome wresting Scripture in even more destructive ways,

Should content be contend?

Second,

I liken those words from Peter to what was taught us from the Old Testament and the demeanor of the Children of Israel when they were on the wall with a tool in one hand and a sword in another. When they got focused the wall was built in 52 days! When the enemies heard what the Children had done, they trembled!!

It is as though the Lord is saying to us in our day, that not until He is done gathering out of this creation every last one of His Elect will He come back and end this present heavens and earth, with a purpose! He has time on his hands, all the time in the world to complete the task at hand!

In the meantime, we ought to learn what this means from the writings of Paul the Apostle when we read what he wrote to the Ephesian Church, "this":

Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Eph 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Eph 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Eph 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
Eph 3:13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.


And, as for that part about how we should live the rest of today and the days that follow today,

2Pe 3:11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,


we ought to have our focus on the sanctification work of the Spirit as Peter opened his first epistle:

1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

It seems Peter and Paul were on par and like minded because we see Paul write to the Roman Church, this:

Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Rom 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Rom 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

...

Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.


For me anyway, that is the rub. Once the revelation of Truth comes upon our spirit, the rest of our life is one of fellowship through Christ by one Spirit to the Father who sent Christ to become flesh and blood so that He then gets to name us one by one with a name that is bestowed upon us by that Voice that only the Sheep "hear" and "know" to be the voice of the Good Shepherd!

We like sheep have all gone astray!

Now, Faith comes by hearing and hearing by that "Voice" spoken from the mouth of babes and men!

Amen!!!!

r_c321 said...

Ken I like your answer but I don't agree with it.
let's not read things into the text. I think if we just take a
plain reading of the text we can avoid mistakes. Peter says we should be looking for these things and be ready which is exactly what the lord said. If you are saved you will be doing exactly that without having to set dates. I think paul's words are clear and straight forward. Also, if these will happen at the blink of an eye how then can it be a surprise? However, I will let TF clear things up. Maybe I am mistaken.

Turretinfan said...

NatAmLLC:

Thanks for the correction as well as for the additional Scriptures.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

TF,

you are welcome! Glad to bring you correction anytime! :)