The End Is Near
2 Peter 3:1-13
September 4, 1994
J. David Hoke
This past Thursday, I picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer to discover a front page article with this headline: “They say the world ends this month – End-timers say Bible tells them so.” Now remember, this is not the National Enquirer, that rag masquerading as journalism, but the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the nation’s leading newspapers.
The story highlighted the predictions of Harold Camping, who is the head of Family Radio out of Oakland, California, and who has predicted that Jesus will return in September, 1994. I think the date range is between September 6 and September 23. Many are convinced that it will be on the 6th, which is the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashana. The paper pointed out one Philadelphia man, Reggie Wiggins, who is so sure that Jesus is returning on September 6 that he has quit his job in order to prepare. The paper also reported that a few days ago “at a conference in the placid hillside community of Mount Bethel, in Northampton County, Wiggins and 1,000 other Bible-cluthing end-timers continued their countdown to God’s final judgement.”
Now, people have been predicting the end of the world and the return of Christ for years. In fact, there has been a prediction that the Lord would return on Rosh Hashana for the last several years. In 1988, I recieved a book from one of these predictors, which was mailed to every pastor in the country, and was entitled “Eighty-Eight Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988” He didn’t. The current fervor has been generated by the book Camping published in September 1992 which was called 1994?. They do not suggest that Jesus might come in 1994, they are unequivocal that He will come in September 1994. What do you think?
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know exactly when Jesus will return, and this kind of date setting does not thrill me. It can be a distraction and a negative witness, especially when the date comes and goes with no return of Christ. It gives the world an opportunity to mock all Christians.
The thing that I do know for certain, and the thing that all of this has reminded me of, is that Jesus could come at any time. Let me ask you a very pertinent question: What if this were the last Sunday before the Rapture? What if Jesus were to come back this week? According to all I can understand about the date of His return, it is possible for Him to come at any moment. Let me ask you: Are you ready for His return? Or have you become complacent? Are there things in your life that you need to change and would change today if you knew for certain Jesus would come back this week?
We need to be reminded of Jesus’ return and of the immanency of His return. Perhaps a good look at our text this morning will remind us to always be ready for Him to come back, at any time.
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in 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. (vv. 1-2)
The great apostle Peter says that he is “stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.” In other words, there are some things which are so important that we need to be reminded of them. Memories serve to give us perspective. And that’s what Peter wanted to do here. Occasionally, we do lose perspective. And that is so true in regard to the Second Coming. It’s so easy to think that Jesus may come, but probably will not come any time soon. Peter says that we should remember what the Word of God says concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In it we find sufficient warning to keep us on our toes, watching and looking for His coming.
The Presumption Of Prideful Thinking
Look with me a moment at what I call the presumption of prideful thinking. One of the signs of the times is that people will think that all this talk about Jesus’ return is really puff. People will appear who, in their own prideful thinking, scoff at those things we hold to be holy and those doctrines we hold to be true. Prideful thinking is man relying upon his own intellect, his own judgement. 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.” (vv.3-4)
We see here that prideful thinking exalts the intellect. Because of man’s reliance upon reason alone, he dismisses all of this talk about the supernatural. He scoffs at the concept of all history, as we know it, coming to an end, and the God of the Universe intervening in the course of human events. Our text calls them “mockers.” We have always had these pseudo-intellectuals who think they have a corner on truth, and dismiss, with a wave of the hand, any reference to God or to the supernatural. There have always been those who would scoff.
When the intellect is exalted, man sets himself up as the center of all things. He sees his own feeble powers of reason to be the final test of true reality, but he does so to his own destruction.
Notice that these mockers are mocking the Second Coming. They are saying, “You Christians just think Jesus is coming back. He hasn’t returned in 2000 years. Why should He return now? I think it’s just a myth.” Also notice that they say in our text, “All continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” Here is the modern scientific doctrine of Uniformitarianism. It says that things have proceeded in the same way, and have been acted on by the same physical principles, from the beginning of time. It is a closed-system model of the universe which does not have room for divine intervention in the space-time continuum. It is the result of the prideful thinking of man without God. It has no room for a creation, for supernatural or miraculous occurrences, or for a Second Coming and judgment which brings history, as we know it, to a close. Prideful thinking exalts the intellect.
Next we need to see that prideful thinking makes judgments without all the facts. 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. (vv. 5-7)
It has always amazed me how evolutionists seem to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to certain facts. It is as if, in their attempt to rule God out of history, they have willfully ignored certain scientific knowledge which would contradict their theory. Although I am not a scientist, I have read enough to know that there is a good body of scientific evidence which would lead us to far different conclusions than the conclusion that man evolved from lower life forms. Whatever your view of the origin of the universe, to be intellectually honest, you must take into consideration all of the facts. Prideful thinking does not. It makes judgments without all the known facts.
Peter says that the truth of past history escapes these mockers. He points to recorded history that tells how God created this world, how He judged it through a world-wide flood, and how He is currently preserving it until that great and final day of judgement. He said that we need to consider all the facts, that none of them should escape our notice.
Prideful thinking leads us into error. This is implied in our passage of Scripture. These who come mocking, questioning the reality of Christ’s return, have fallen into serious error. We need wisdom from above. We need spiritual discernment. What we do not need is the presumption of prideful thinking. Could Jesus come at any moment? Beware before you say that we’ve got plenty of time. Could Jesus come today? The answer is yes, He could.
The Promise of Providential Timing
It’s true that Jesus may come at any time. But we must understand that it is in His time that He comes. We have, in Scripture, the promise of providential timing. And we need to see is that providential timing transcends human timetables. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (v. 8)
What does it mean that “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day?” Some have taken that to mean that one day equals a thousand years. But from the context I don’t see how they can prove that. No, I believe that what he is saying here is that time, as we know it, is not of first consideration to God. You see, God transcends time. He does not live in time. He lives outside of time. He, as it were, looks down upon time, and sees the beginning and the end together. Providential timing transcends human timetables. That is why I am very hesitant to put very much stock in human timetables for Jesus’ return. While He must return sometime, the Scripture plainly teaches that He shall come at a day and hour which no man knows.
Next, we need to see that providential timing is based on His redemptive love. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (v. 9)
Why has Jesus waited so long? Why has He delayed His coming? It is because of His redemptive love. The Lord Jesus Christ has delayed His coming because He desires for every individual to come to a place of repentance and faith in Him. Jesus does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance. What has held Jesus back is His love. Thank God He didn’t return 25 years ago. I wouldn’t have been a Christian. Some of you sitting here today weren’t Christians 20 years ago, or 15, or 10, or 5. Some of you weren’t Christians last year. Thank God He didn’t come then. Because of His delay, you have had the privilege to come into the kingdom, and now, your eternal destiny is secure. Your home is Heaven. And whenever He comes, He comes to take you there. I’m thankful, aren’t you, that Jesus didn’t come before we became Christians. Providential timing is based on His redemptive love.
Next, we see that providential timing is certain because it is God’s promise. 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. (v. 10)
In verse 9, we are told that Christ’s return is God’s promise. Here, we see in verse 10 a prophetic word concerning the Second Coming of Christ and the events that will follow it. We are told that His coming will be like a thief. In other words, many people will be surprised at His coming. I daresay, many in the church will be surprised. Let me ask you: If He came before this Tuesday night, would you be surprised? Would you be ready? He may not come in our lifetime, but then again, He may come today. Although He will come in His time, His coming is certain. One thing we can say for sure: His coming is closer than it’s ever been. It’s like the old farmer who heard his grandfather clock chime at midnight 13 times. He punched his wife and said, “Get up, honey, it’s later than it’s ever been.”
I want you to know that I personally believe that it’s later than it’s ever been. We need to wake up as Christians. His coming may be closer than we realize. While the Scripture says that He will come as a thief, it also indicates that we should be aware of the signs of the times. As a matter of fact, it indicates that we can actually be in the position where we’re not caught off guard. Look at what 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 says: Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief.
What would you do if this were the last Sunday before the Rapture? How should you respond in light of His soon Second Coming? Are you ready for Him to come any day? We must ask ourselves the same question that Frances Schaeffer asked when he said, “How shall we then live?” The reality of His immanent Second Coming is a call to all Christians. It is a call to be a certain kind of people. It is a call to be a people who have and are a powerful testimony.
The Practice Of Powerful Testimony
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness. (v. 11)
A powerful testimony is a call to right living. Our text asks the question of what kind of people we ought to be in light of His coming, when it talks about people who are of “holy conduct and godliness.” If we as Christians are to have a powerful testimony before the world, we have to take seriously the call to right living. We must take seriously the call to be holy in our conduct and to be godly in our attitudes. Perhaps if you really believed Jesus were coming this week, you would go out and make certain things right. Perhaps you would change your conduct. Perhaps your attitudes would change. Perhaps your devotion to Bible reading and to prayer and to witnessing would increase. But these are all things we ought to be doing now. We do not have the luxury of knowing the exact day, so we must be ready any day. That is the point!
A powerful testimony is also a testimony to the future. Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (v.12)
Here it says that we are “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Our testimony is a testimony to the future, to its certainty and to its reality. As believers, we are to be constantly looking for the day of God. We are told to “watch and pray.” We are told to be ready, to be on our guard. By constantly looking for His appearing we give testimony to the world of the reality of His soon coming again.
But how do we hasten His coming? I believe that with every soul won to Jesus Christ, we hasten His coming again. At some point, all of those who will receive Jesus will have done so. I believe that is the only thing which delays His coming. At some point in time and in history, that last soul will come into the kingdom. We don’t know when that will be. It may be today. I believe at that point Jesus Christ will come again. The future is sure. His coming is certain.
A powerful testimony is also a preparation for the future. But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwell. (v.13)
By living right and keeping our priorities in His order, we prepare for that day when we leave this earth behind and dwell with Him in glory. The Bible teaches that one day Jesus shall return and that in the twinkling of an eye our bodies shall be changed. We shall ascend to meet the Lord in the air and we shall ever be with the Lord. Saints, its coming! It’s coming! It could be today! It could be tomorrow! Are you prepared for the future? We must be ready. And if we are not ready, we must get ready. We cannot afford to put off for one day our preparation for the future. What if this were the last Sunday before the Rapture? Are you ready? He may not come this Tuesday, He may not come any Tuesday. But what I’m trying to say is that He WILL come. You’re here now, but you may not be tomorrow. Are you ready?
In Revelation 22:17 and 20, we find an interesting account. There it states that the Spirit says, “Come!” Then it declares that the bride says, “Come!” As we read on, Jesus says, “I am coming quickly!” And finally, we who are His Church say, “Amen! – Come Lord Jesus!”
Let me ask you: Is that the kind of declaration you can make today? Jesus is saying, “I am coming quickly!” Can you say, “Amen! – Come TODAY Lord Jesus!”
Copyright © 1997 J. David Hoke. This data file is the sole property of the copyright holder and may be copied only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.
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