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2 PETER 3:1-13
Series:  I'll Fly Away - Part Seven

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 24, 2008

Last Wednesday night - remember what was going on with the moon?  How many of you saw the lunar eclipse?

I was watching that and thinking that not so many centuries ago people would look a lunar eclipse and think that it was some kind of cosmic warning that the world was coming to an end.

Last week Athens, Greece had a heavy snow fall.  4 to 6 inches of snow.  Temperature went down to minus 5 Fahrenheit.  They closed schools - canceled flights.  The place was a mess.  Unusual weather. 

Last Monday USA TODAY reported that the city of Keene, New Hampshire joined a growing number of cities trying to anticipate how higher temperatures - less snow and more rain - is going to effect them.  Global warming - major climate change.

Where will residents work if the sugar maple, skiing and tourism industries disappear because of warmer weather?
 What if increasingly intense spring and fall storms overwhelm the city's culverts and wastewater treatment plant?  What if hotter days fuel the growth of algae that harms water quality?  What if roofs collapse under the weight of heavy snow and ice?  What if severe weather cuts off transportation routes? (1)

Do you remember the movie The Day After Tomorrow?  Huge floods - as the polar ice caps melt - New York gets flooded.  Then there’s a new ice age caused by global warming.

These are huge questions - for some.  Are we on the verge of the end of life on planet earth as we know it?

There is - of course - Larson’s version of all this.  “Oooooooooooo.”

Please turn with me to 2 Peter - chapter 3 - starting at verse 1.  This morning we’re going to look at the end of the world.

As we’ve been going through 2 Peter - Peter has been writing about the incredibleness of having a relationship with God - living life with God - in which God supplies
all that we need to live that life - supplying even the basis of that life - the salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ.  Peter’s been writing about how to live that life in the day-to-day stuff of our lives.

Chapter three takes that life to the next level - the end of the world and beyond.  Put simply:  
What it means for us - who know what’s coming - to live today with God.

2 Peter 3 - starting at verse 1:  
This is now, beloved, the second letter - First Peter - now second Peter - I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind - that is - your minds that aren’t polluted by the crud and sin of this world - which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

Let’s pause here.

What Peter writes here is his purpose for writing this letter.  His purpose is to remind the followers of Jesus of what they already know.  To stir the grey matter.  To bring up to the surface - to the forefront of their thinking what they needed to remember in order to live life with God in the days in which they were living.

Peter writes that they should remember two things.  First:  The words spoken beforehand by the Holy prophets
.  Prophets of the Old Testament - through whom God had spoken.

Remember we looked at this back in chapter 1 - verse 21: 
“No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  God making Himself known to man - giving to us what we need to understand - making all that known to us through His prophets.

Specifically, what Peter has in mind here are those prophecies which focus on the coming of the Messiah.  What Isaiah and Joel and Ezekiel and Daniel and Malachi had to say about the Messiah’s coming - the first and second comings of Jesus - were not something they made up - “cleverly devised tales” - but revelation from God.

Two examples - of  many - Isaiah 66:15 says, 
“For behold, the Lord will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire.”

Malachi 4:1 to 3: 
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff, and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.  You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

Peter writes that they should remember the command of the Lord spoken by our apostles.

Jesus taught His disciples about what would happen as the world drew to an end.  He spoke of famines and earthquakes and wars.  An increase in lawlessness.  An absence of true love.  Great tribulation.

Matthew records Jesus’ words - one example - Matthew 25 starting at verse 29: 
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds from one end of the sky to another.”  (Matthew 24:290-31)

Just as He did in the Old Testament God speaks to His people in the New Testament.  That prophetic word comes to us through the apostles - who recorded Jesus’ words and deeds.  And, who give to us our understanding of God’s plan and purposes - as God - the Holy Spirit has revealed it through them.

Peter’s purpose is to stir up our minds to remember what we know about what God has said about Jesus and what's coming.

Verse 3: 
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.”

Let’s pause there.

Scripture defines the last days as the time between Jesus’ birth and when He comes back again.  We’re all living in the last days.  As long as there have been last days there’ve been mockers - scoffers - people who make jokes about the things of God - who ridicule anyone for believing such nonsense.  There were mockers in Peter’s day.  There are mockers today.  Agreed?

What these mockers question is not a new question.

The patriarchs - Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - they’re all dead.  Those that lived before us - our ancestors - our fathers - they’re all dead.  Generations come and go.  Each day the sun comes up and the sun goes down.  Nothing changes.  So why should it?

“Where is Jesus’ promised coming?  Hasn’t happened.  How can any rational thinking person actually believe that someone who lived and died and was buried 2,000 years ago is actually going to show up flying around in the sky with a bunch of angels playing harps?  How can anyone believe that some loving God is going to wipe out good people and only let some special born again nuts into His happy place.  Let’s get real.”

The reason they mock - writes Peter - is because they’re
“following after their own lusts.”

Aldous Huxley - the philosopher and atheist - wrote this, “The philosopher who finds no meaning for this world is not concerned exclusively with the problem of pure metaphysics:  he is concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to…  For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” (2)

At least he’s honest.  Deny the existence of God - or at least our accountability to God - and we can follow the desires of our hearts anywhere.  You are free to sin.  You are your own authority over your life.

Does that familiar?  In our enlightened post-modern humanist world?  There is no such thing as absolute truth.  Everything is permissible as long as I don’t harm anyone else.  And if I do something harmful - blame the other guy.  What matters is self.  Everything else is a matter of perspective.  God is who I create Him or her or it to be.  Reflective perhaps of my need to explore my own spirituality.

Coming to verse 5 - Given the mocking world we live in - t
here are two reasons why it is important for us to remember what God has said.  The first reason we need to remember what God has said is because God - not man - is the authority.  Say that with me, “God - not man - is the authority.”

Verse 5: 
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,

There are four fatal flaws in the reasoning of those who are mockers

Fatal Flaw #1:  They weren’t there
.  Say that with me, “They weren’t there.”

Where is baseball mentioned in the Bible?  In the “big inning.”  Old joke.

Genesis 1:1 says, 
In the beginning God create the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

God goes on - speaking things into existence by the authority of His word:  day and night, dry land, clouds, seas, oceans, plants, stars, the sun, the moon, birds, fish, animals.  It isn’t until the sixth day of creation that God finally gets around to creating man.

There’s a lesson in humility here.  Whatever understanding we may have of natural law is limited to the perspective of a creation not the creator.  We can speculate all we want about how all this came into being - even the method God may have used to bring all this into being.  But, ultimately we don’t know.  But, God does.  Because God was there and we weren’t.

Verse 6 - fatal flaw #2 -
through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

Fatal Flaw #2:  Things have changed
.  Say that with me, “Things have changed.”

People continually can talk about cataclysmic global change - floods and new ice ages - earthquakes and plate tectonics - basically the earth rearranging itself - meteors crashing into the planet and destroying huge numbers of life form.

Hollywood cranks this stuff out endlessly - The Day After Tomorrow - Waterworld - Earthquake - I Am Legend - Dr. Strangelove - Independence Day - Transformers.  If the planet doesn’t self-destruct or we don’t wipe ourselves out then some race from space will.

What’s amazing is that people see a lot of this as credible - in the realm of possibility.  But as soon as we mention a cataclysmic world altering flood and that a few people are divinely preserved - suddenly people think we’re a nut case.

The mockers argue that nothing changes.  But the only do so because they refuse to acknowledge - what? God’s authority over their lives.  Which was the was same issue back in the days of Noah.  People eating and drinking and giving in marriage - doing the stuff of life - not listening to God and His warnings about how they’re living in defiance of Him.  (Matthew 24:27-39)

God has judged the world - man living in sin.  There was a cataclysmic flood.  The evidence is there in the geological record if one chooses to admit it.  God has altered geologic and human history.  

Going on - verse 7: 
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Fatal Flaw #3:  Judgment is coming
.  Say that with me, “Judgment is coming.”

Anyone ever buy something using a lay away plan?  Where they store hold something for you while you make payments.  When you’ve paid for the item then they give it to you.

The word here in verse 7 for “reserved” is the Greek word “thesaurizo” which means “laid up” - “stored up.”  Payments are being made.  We don’t see the reality of it yet.  But one day - what’s been paid for is going to be given to those who’ve earned it.

If you skip down to verse 10 - Peter writes about the day of the Lord.   Which is the way Scripture describes the end time.  It’s the time when Jesus returns.  When judgment happens.  When the world as we know it comes to an end.

Peter says the day of the Lord is coming like a thief.  Jesus said,
“Of that day and hour no one knows.” (Matthew 24:36).  Someone said that if you say, “Today Jesus is coming back.”  Then He won’t.  Because we’re expecting Him.

That’s not the point.  The point is that His coming will happen quickly - suddenly - unexpectedly.  Because people are going to be smug - caught up in their own sense of false security.  Thinking about themselves and not God.  His return will catch them by surprise.  The effects of His return won’t be felt until after its too late to prepare for it.

The word “destroyed” in Greek has the idea of being dissolved - vaporized - poof - no more.  The basic elements - which were to the Greeks:  earth, air, fire, water - poof.  Today we might talk about the basic stuff that’s the fabric of matter.  It all goes bye bye in ball of roaring fire.

\Nothing escapes what’s coming.  Revelation 20 - verses 7 to 15 - are very clear that the end coming to the ungodly - those who die without trusting Jesus as their Savior - the end is a lake not made of water - but fire - eternal fire and brimstone - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - a place of eternal burning and choking - unending weeping - sorrow - gnashing of teeth - forever separation from God.  Not very pleasant.  But, very real. 

Peter writes,
“By God’s word - not the word of the mockers - by God’s word the present heavens and earth are being reserved.”  God is holding back judgment.  The mockers are making payments with their unrepentant arrogant sin.  One day - when God says “Enough.”  By God’s word, judgment will come.

Going on - verse 8: 
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

Fatal Flaw #4:  The wrong temporal perspective
.  Say that with me, “The wrong temporal perspective.”

Twin brothers live on Earth.  One brother takes a trip to a distant star traveling at a high percentage of the speed of light.  When the twin returns he’ll be younger than his brother who stayed on earth because for the twin traveling near the speed of light time slowed down during the trip.

That effect is called “time dilation.”  It helps explain why the speed of light is the same no matter how fast you are going.  As a traveler accelerates time slows down for him. This, in turn, affects his measurements.

The passage of time is relative to our own perspective of passing events.

Put differently.  Have you noticed that anticipating event you’re really looking forward to - like a vacation - the anticipation usually takes longer than the actual event - which generally blows by pretty quickly?

When it comes to the passing of time relative to the unfolding of God’s plan for creation the only perspective that ultimately matters is God’s.

1 day equals 1,000 years and 1,000 years equaling 1 day probably isn’t an exact formula.  The point is that God transcends time.  He created it.  Time is a tool in His hands to be used as He chooses.

So, Peter writes in verse 9
- The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness... 

There are
a number of examples in Scripture of God keeping His promises to individuals - even though he appeared to be slow in doing so.

God promised Abraham a land for his inheritance, but that promise
wouldn’t be fulfilled until 400 years after it was made.  The Ammorites  were living in the land that was promised to Abraham.  They were given all those years to repent.  Probably they thought God hadn’t done anything about their sin and probably wouldn’t.  But the promise made to Abraham was fulfilled 400 years later when Joshua and the other descendants of Abraham wiped out the Amorites.

At the age of 75 - God promised Abraham a son - an heir - and 25 years later Isaac was born.  God promised Moses and David a Savior - but Jesus didn
t appear on the scene for 2,000 years following the death of Moses.

God keeps His promises regardless of the time interval involved.  And, God uses intervals of time for His purposes. 

goes on in verse 9 - “The Lord....is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

God is long-suffering toward rebellious mankind.  The Bible says,
“There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10)  Men are “dead in their trespasses and sins.”  (Ephesians 2:1)  Everyone deserves hell and eternal separation from God. (Romans 6:23)  And when Jesus returns - that’s it.  Judgment and Hell and eternal separation for those without Jesus.

But, God is patient toward us that we might be saved.  God loves our family members and friends - our co-workers - who have not trusted Jesus.  He is patient - perhaps working through us - to share the Gospel and bring them to salvation.

To accuse God of being tardy - of not operating within our time parameters just proves that our perspective of time is fatally flawed.

God is using time according to the purposes for which He created it.  While mockers may point to the socio-geologic constancy of the present age as an indication of the absence of God - and a justification for their own godless behavior - we need to be reminded that the socio-geologic constancy of the present age really is an act of God’s grace towards mankind and a demonstration of His sovereignty over the affairs of His creation.

Bottom line:  
We live in a society which chooses to doubt the existence and working of a personal God - because to admit His existence would mean that we would have to be accountable to Him.  It is easier to mock than to be accountable.

Given the mocking world we live in - reason number one - why we need to remember what God has said - is because God - not man living in sin under God’s judgment - with his finite - flawed perspective of what God is doing - God - not man - is the authority.

The second reason why its important for us to remember what God has said is that we live under God’s authority
.  Say that with me, “We live under God’s authority.” 

Verse 10: 
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 

As we’re seeking to live with holy conduct and in godliness - people through whom the character of God is demonstrated in this world.  As we’re seeking to live as people who are actually being used by God - to hasten - literally - as people desiring to bring about His purposes on this world - knowing that this place is going to be toast - we are to live this way…

Verse 13:  
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

We - who are followers of Jesus Christ - who - through Jesus - have given our lives to God - because we live under the authority of His word - we have a whole different perspective on life and what’s coming.  It’s a perspective of great hope - great anticipation.

1 Thessalonians 4 - starting at verse 13 - Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica - verse 13 -
But we do not want you to uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

When someone we love goes to sleep we don’t immediately call an ambulance.  We know that they’re resting and that they’ll wake up and we’ll go on with our lives together.  That’s the way the New Testament regards the death of believers - they’re asleep.
  We have hope.

Verse 14: 
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again - and we do -  even so God - who raised Jesus from death - will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord - this isn’t something we dreamed up - we say this to you by the authority of God who made it so - we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

If you’re in a cemetery - stand back!

Verse 17: 
Then we who are alive and remain - those who haven’t died - who are around on the day of the Lord - we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Hard to wrap our minds around.  Isn’t it?  But won’t that be awesome?  What a reunion!  What a hope we share!

There are people I’ve never met who I know will be there.  I am so looking forward to being with them.  There are people that I really miss and I am so looking forward to seeing them again.  Will you say amen to that?

Revelation 21 - starting at verse 1 - the Apostle John writes,
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away”   Same place Peter is describing.  Same place we get caught up to when Jesus comes back.

John writes that in that new heaven and new earth we’re going to live where God lives.  That’s better than any place on this earth.  More beautiful - more awesome - a place of great joy - peace.

There’s a river that runs through that dwelling - the river of life - refreshing - renewing water - the purist crystal clear water - coming right from the throne of God.  We’ll be able to see God - right there on His throne and drink from that river.  God’s presence - God’s glory - will shine so there’s no night - no darkness - no sin.

All the crud of this world will have been wiped away.  The baggage of sin that pulls us down each of our lives - that entangles us - that works against us - sin will be no more.  Our relationships will be free of the struggles we have now.

There’ll be no more death.  When we get to heaven we’re going to get new bodies.  Bodies that aren’t subject to disease - that don’t wear out and break down.  Amen?

God Himself will wipe away our tears.  Wipe them away for good.  No more mourning - no crying - no pain - all the physical stuff that drags us down - all the those things will have died with this world.

Revelation 21:5 - God speaking - God says,
“Behold, I am making all things new.  Write - write down these words - for these words are faithful and true.”  This isn’t something John - or the apostles - Peter - dreamed up.  It is the authoritative word of God. 

Are you looking forward to being there?  Amen?  God has us here today for a purpose.  But, I have to confess - more and more each day I’m looking forward to being there.

If you ever start getting nervous that we’re all going to die in some kind of global warming catastrophe.  Or, maybe you find yourself getting caught up in the philosophy and attitudes of our society - this perishing decaying world.  Which is easy to get caught up in.  We’re surrounded by it.  Bombarded by it.

Remember what Peter writes.  God - not man - is the authority.  We live on God’s authority.  Which gives us great certain hope.

1. USA TODAY 2.18.08
2. Quoted by Ron Ritchie, Sermon 2 Peter 3:1-7  "How Should We Answer The Mockers?"

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.