I know a few Christians who don’t even know what the Apostle Peter taught about the Lord’s return to earth, and some who couldn’t care less.
It may be one thing for a new Christian to be ignorant (but there is no excuse for it), but it is entirely another thing to be careless on the issues that Jesus revealed to His apostles were important enough to be written for posterity.
We learn a lot about Peter and his later growth in the faith by reading about his impulsive nature in the gospels. Then, later, when he conveyed to Mark the truths he had learnt about Jesus the Son of God, we find in Mark’s gospel how much he had learnt.
In the acts of the Apostles we also see how long it took him to learn about God’s concern for the gentiles as well as Jews.
Finally, in Peter’s two letters, I believe we are to understand some very important things which eventually came from the pen of this godly man.
This issue focuses on his second letter, chapter 3, where he talks about Jesus’ return. These issues are as fresh today as they were when they were written almost two thousand years ago. We would be absolutely stupid to ignore them.
The Scoffers (2 Peter 3:3)
It seems to me that, since Peter wrote his second letter to Christians, he is warning about the scoffers who would come forward from WITHIN THE CHURCH.
Peter was writing in the late 60’s AD and a lot of people were starting to question whether Jesus would fulfill His promise to return to earth, since He had been gone for over 30 years.
People were mocking His coming again and were living self-indulgent lives.
I see a close parallel to today, with the ‘Christian’ mockers taking two forms:
1. The outward mockers – those authors and preachers and others whose words make it clear they don’t believe that Jesus’ return is likely soon, or at least not until we take over the world completely for Christ first. Many of these are dominionists who can be found in most of the megachurches in Australia today. Their emphasis is on the outward happiness and material prosperity of themselves and their church followers. They despise prophecy and selectively quote from Scripture.
2. The silent mockers. These include the preachers who never teach about Jesus’ return, never attempt to confront adultery or homosexuality in the Church from the pulpit for fear of offending anyone. I believe these silent mockers are just as much to blame as the outward ones. They promote a relativistic interpretation of God’s Word to their ultimate detriment.
All Things Continue (2 Peter 3:4)
I was first introduced to the doctrine of uniformitarianism in my introductory studies in geology in the 1960’s.
This teaching is exactly the same as how Peter described it: everything goes on as it always has, the past is the key to the future, and so on.
It made sense to me then but later I saw it couldn’t account for obvious catastrophic events, major floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and the like, with their rapid changes.
In the Church many people question the supernatural and suggest that the physical return of Jesus is just a simplistic pipedream held by unsophisticated literal believers. But Peter goes on to say in verses 5-6 that these people wilfully forget that God once judged the world by a catastrophic flood. Just because God’s final judgment when Jesus returns hasn’t yet happened doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all.
If Christians accept that God, by His Word, created everything, then destroyed the world with a flood, what is to stop Him from fulfilling His promise that Jesus is returning soon? Obviously nothing.
The Day of the Lord
But despite the merciful patience of God, the Day of the Lord will come! Having just been reminded that with the Lord “one day is as a thousand years” (v. 8), it is clearly possible to think of that Day as covering a lengthy period of time, and not a few brief days.
Here Peter telescopes together events that other scriptures indicate cover 1000 years (ie, the millennium), as he does also in Acts. 2:14-21.
The coming as a ‘thief in the night’ is used by both Jesus and Paul to refer to the Rapture – the initial appearance of the Lord to take the Church to be with Himself (see Matthew 24:36-43, 1 Thess. 4:13-5:5, Revelation 3:3).
As a thief removes treasures from a house without the knowledge of its inhabitants, so the Lord will remove his people secretly and unexpectedly to be with Him.
His presence then continues (but not physically on earth) behind the scenes of tribulation and judgment until his unveiling in power and great glory, when every eye will see him (Matthew 24:29-30, Revelation 1:7).
During that time the terrible predictions of the prophets concerning the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars, will be fulfilled first. After this, the Kingdom is revealed with Christ reigning.
This is followed by a thousand years of the righteous rule of Christ over the earth (judging evil with a ‘rod of iron’), and then occurs the event which Peter now describes—the destruction of heavens and earth, by fire.
The structure of the universe will melt and the present civilisation of humans will disappear. This will complete the predictions of the prophets concerning the Day of the Lord.
Peter then returns to his encouragement to godly living, set against this background of the Day of the Lord. Holy behaviour toward others and genuine worship toward God are the two qualities that will survive and be honoured beyond the constraints of time.
This is how we should be living right now.