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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Don't be fooled: the Lord is coming!
Text:2 Peter 3:1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)


2014 Book of Praise

Psalm 33:1,2

Psalm 33:6

Psalm 90:1,2,6

Hymn 67:6,7

Psalm 73:8,9

Read:  2 Peter 3

Text:  2 Peter 3:1-9

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every time we recite the Apostles’ Creed we say the words,

“From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Every time we recite the Apostles’ Creed we confess that although our Lord Jesus Christ is currently in heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, one day He will be coming back.  And He will be coming back as a judge.

But is that really true?  Is the Lord Jesus really going to come back?  And is He coming back as a judge?

Yes, of course it is true: the Bible says it and we believe it. We believe and confess that the same Lord Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, with great glory and majesty and He will declare Himself Judge of the living and the dead.  That’s what the Bible teaches, and therefore that’s what we confess in article 37 of our Belgic Confession.

  But if this is true and if you confess it to be true, do you live it?  Is the return of Christ a central part of your understanding of the gospel?  And does the promise of Christ’s return affect the way you live for God today?

When the apostle Peter wrote his second letter, not everyone believed that the Lord is coming to judge the living and the dead.  In 2 Peter 3:3,4 the Bible says that

“scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Those scoffers were already there in Peter’s days.  And those scoffers are still with us today.  Some of them will openly mock the very thought that they will be held accountable for their godless behavior.  But others will quietly and conveniently forget that there will be a Day of Judgment, they will ignore the fact that the Lord is coming.

  But you may not, and you cannot forget, nor can you ignore it.  Do not be fooled: the Lord is coming.  And when He comes, then all people, men, women, and children, who ever lived, from the beginning of the world to the end, will appear in person before this great Judge.

And so I preach to you this message:

Don’t be fooled:  the Lord is coming!

  1. What scoffers forget.
  2. What you need to remember.

1. What scoffers forget.

How important is the return of Christ when it comes to what you believe about the gospel and how you are to live your life with God?  How much do you think about the fact that the Day of Judgment is coming, and what impact does that have on what you do and what you say?  How does the fact that Christ will return affect the way that you live?

The Bible tells us not to be surprised to learn that that there are people who call themselves Christians, but who live as though they are not.  The Bible tells us that there will be those who, instead of living as one who has been redeemed from the world, turn back to the world, living a sin-filled life, a life of lust and sexual sin and engaging in all sorts of ungodly behavior – but at the same time insisting that they are still Christians, that God loves them, and that there is nothing wrong with the way that they live.

  The Bible tells us not to be surprised at that, and to an extent we are not surprised, because many of us have witnessed this to one extent or another.  And some of you have, to one extent or another, even lived like that yourselves: in Church on Sunday but living in the ways of the world on Saturday. 

  But you can only do this, the second letter of Peter says, you can only live like this if you either twist the Scriptures to say things that they were never intended to say, and that which you can’t twist, you need to ignore.

And one of the things that is quickly ignored and even rejected is the justice of God and the coming day of judgment.  This was the case when the apostle Peter wrote his second letter, and this is still the case today.  Many Christians teachers and preachers have a lot to say about love and tolerance and even forgiveness, but they don’t speak about God’s justice.  And not only do they not speak about it, but they ignore those parts of the Bible that write about it.  Because it is not just the occasional text in the Bible that says that “man is destined to die once and after that face judgment”, although there are many such texts in the Bible, but the Bible describes God’s anger against sin, it speaks about His justice and it tells us how He punished people for their sin.  But the Bible passages that describe these things are not read, or if they are read they are glossed over, or if they cannot be glossed over, they are re-interpreted so that their warning for us is not so strong. 

  And that’s why we need to be careful about false teachers.  The problem with false teachers is not just what they teach, but also what they don’t teach, what they deny, what they ignore and what they forget.  False teachers do not truly submit to the Word of God, but they place themselves above the Word of God, taking the parts that they like and agree with and rejecting and twisting the rest.  And the ultimate consequence of this is that they end up denying the gospel itself.  And it is in this context that the apostle Peter writes what he does in 2 Peter 3.  In 2 Peter 3:1,2 he writes,

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. . .”

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” “Beloved”, he calls them.  “My loved ones in Christ: I’m writing to you again – a second time to remind you of what you have been taught, of what the Bible says. I want to stir up your pure minds in this.  I want to direct you away from the lewdness and the emptiness of those false teachers.  I want you to reject everything that takes your mind away from the clear teaching of God in His Word and to set your mind on what is pure and what is wholesome.  But to do that you need to go back to the Word of God.  You need to be mindful of the words which God has spoken.  And you need to be mindful of all the words that God has spoken.”

And then Peter goes on in 2 Peter 3:3,4 and he writes,

 “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

These false teachers in Peter’s day went so far as to deny that Day of Judgment was ever going to come.  These false teachers who had left “the way of righteousness” and were now trying to drag others down with them on their pathway to destruction, went so far as to laugh at the idea that there would be a coming day of reckoning, a day of judgment.  What these false teachers were saying, therefore, was that not only would they continue in their ungodliness, but that they would get away with it.  “The sun will shine tomorrow, just as it did yesterday and today” they said.  “Nothing has really changed until now and we see no evidence that things will change in the future.  A future Day of Judgment?  We know that this is what Peter and the other apostles have been saying, but we don’t see evidence of it.  No, my friends, what you do in the body stays in the body.  We will not be judged for the things we have done in the body.”

 But the Bible tells us something very different.  And so telling his readers not to be fooled but to know that the Lord is coming, he pointed out what these false teachers “willfully forget.”  And what they willfully forget is what the Bible says about God, about His anger against sin and about His judgment on sin.  And so Peter goes on to refer to what the Bible says.  And it is interesting:  Peter could have referred to the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, where He said that He would be coming in His glory to judge the whole earth.  Peter could also have referred back to what he experienced, what he saw and heard when the Lord ascended into heaven and when the angels said in Acts 1:11 that

“This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

But in this case the apostle Peter did not do that.  Instead, he pointed back to the Scriptures, back to what these false teachers should have known in order to demonstrate how wrong they were.  These false teachers had mocked the idea that the Lord would come to judge the living and the dead. 

“Where is the promise of His coming?”

they asked. 

“For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”   (2 Peter 3:4)

But they were wrong.  Things have not simply continued since the beginning of creation.  The Lord had intervened as judge before, and He would do so again.  2 Peter 3:5-7,

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

 “They deliberately overlook this fact”, Peter wrote.  They have ignored it.  They have blinded themselves from what God has done in history.  When God has said something in the past, he always did what he said.  He spoke, and the world was created.  This world did not always exist, nor has it somehow evolved out of nothing.  Rather, the LORD has created all this by His Word. In the beginning, Genesis 1:2 says,

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

But then God spoke.  He created light, He made the firmament, He divided the waters, He gathered the waters under the heavens into one place, and so He created the earth and the seas.  God did this, alone, by the power of His Word.  But that’s not all, the apostle Peter went on to say.  Rather, the world, once created by God’s Word was later destroyed by that same Word when the LORD sent a flood to cover the earth.  And why did God send the Flood?  Because, Genesis 6:5 says,

“the LORD say that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

And so the LORD said in Genesis 6:7,

“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land.”

But the LORD did not do so right away.  Instead, He called Noah to build an ark.  And for as long as Noah lived and for as long as he built the ark, he was a herald, or a preacher, of righteousness, as Peter already noted in 2 Peter 2:5, calling the people to repent.  But they would not repent.  And then one day the rains came, the waters came up from the deep like fountains and all of life outside of the ark was destroyed.  And Peter points to that in his letter to demonstrate what these scoffers had forgotten.  Because if God could do this before, then surely he would do so again.  It is not true to say that the world just keeps on turning as it did before, that the sun comes up and the sun goes down and that nothing changes.  Rather, we are moving on to the last day, to the Day of Judgment.  One day the heavens and the earth, which God is now preserving by His Word will face the fire of His judgment and all people who remain in their ungodliness will face destruction.  And when that day comes, then we will all know it and there will be nowhere to hide.

Let us never forget that.  Let us never think or act as though the justice of God and His judgment against sin is not real.  Because today too, men can scoff.  Today too, there are those who either ignore or even deny the fact that the Lord is coming to judge the living and the dead.  But don’t be fooled:  the Lord is coming, and he is coming to judge the living and the dead.

But it is not just because of the Flood that we know that this is true.  “Beloved” as Peter calls us in 2 Peter 3, you who are loved by God, there is also another reason to know that the Lord will come to judge the living and the dead.  And that is that God has already shown us his judgment upon sin.  He showed that by pouring out his wrath against sin upon his own Son, Jesus Christ.  If you ever need to be reminded of how great God’s anger against sin really is, you need to look no further than what happened to our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  If sin did not matter, then Christ should never have been crucified.  But all sin must be punished.  And that’s the reason not just for the Flood, but that’s the reason for the cross.  And the gospel concerning the cross of Christ is that when the Lord Jesus suffered, he did not suffer for his own sin but for he suffered for ours.  And when we truly believe in the Lord Jesus, when we turn to him and when we belong to Him, then we may know that our sin has already been judged.  And not only has it been judged, but it has been paid for.  And for us, then, the Day of the Lord is not to be feared but a day to look forward to.

2. What you need to remember.

What Peter has said concerning the return of Christ, that is, that He will come as Judge just as the Scriptures teach us and in keeping with God’s truth and justice, is enough.  We do not need a further word from God, we should be content to accept what He has said.  But the Lord is gracious, and He understands why we ask the question “How long?”  For some the question of “Where is the promise of His coming” is a question of unbelief but for others it may be a question that is bordering on to despair.  Why is it taking so long?  Why hasn’t our Lord Jesus come back yet?  How much longer do we have to wait?  And so the Lord gives us a further answer in 2 Peter 3:8,9.  2 Peter 3:8 says,

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Our God is the eternal God and His perception of time is not the same as ours.  When Peter wrote that for the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day, he was referring to what is says in the Old Testament, in Psalm 90:4,

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

We can become impatient very quickly and if things don’t happen according to our schedule we tend to think that they will never happen.  And Satan will use this to mess with our minds.  Satan will do what he can to get you to think that Christ will not return, that there is no Judgment to come.  But the Lord is not like us.  He is different, and His timing is different.  In other words, if we think Christ’s return is taking too long, the problem is with us and not with God.  He will come in His time and that time will be right.  But He will come on His own schedule and not on ours.

That does not mean, however, that God is tardy, that he does not care about the time it is taking for our Lord to return.  Verse 9,

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some count slowness.”

He is not slack, he is not slow.  He is determined to come, and He will come at exactly the right time.

But the reason why we are still waiting is not because God’s promises have failed but because of the Lord’s mercy.  Verse 9 again,

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, but he is patient.  Patient with us.  Determined to ensure that every last child of his might come to repentance.  The Lord will come, and he will judge.  But the Lord is not only righteous: he is also merciful.  Christ has not come yet because God is gracious.  He seeks the salvation of his people, and he calls them to repentance. 

  This does not mean that everyone will be saved: we know that many will not.  We also need to distinguish between what God desires and what he decrees.  He desires that all men might be saved and every time the gospel is preached, the call to repentance is both real and genuine.  But we also know that according to his eternal decree not all will repent and be saved.  But the point that 2 Peter 3:9 is getting across here is that the delay to Christ’s return is not for our harm but for our salvation.  The fact that the Lord has not yet returned is not because he has abandoned us but because he cares for us.  Right now, the call goes out to all, without discrimination, and the call is this:  repent and believe the gospel of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For now is the time of God’s favor, now is the time of salvation.

And therefore, Peter goes on to say in verse 11,12

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”

Don’t be fooled: the Lord is coming!  Be ready, be holy, be godly!  And not only that, but hasten his coming.  Pray for Christ’s return.  Pray that his kingdom might come.  And go out and tell people about the gospel, tell them about the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ.

If the Lord was not going to return and if there was no judgment day, it would not matter so much how you live since outside of this life there would be no day of reckoning.  And if the Lord was not going to return as he has promised, there would be no urgency to tell people about him, to want everyone to know that man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment, nor would there be an urgency to tell them about being saved from eternal punishment through our Lord Jesus Christ.  But because these things are true and because our Lord will return, be diligent.  2 Peter 3:14-15a

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

Every time we recite the Apostles’ Creed we say the words,

“From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

And it is true: the Lord is coming, and he comes to judge the living and the dead.  Do not forget that but be mindful of God’s Word, believing what God has revealed.  For then you may look forward to his return with a great longing, for you will enjoy the promises of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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