“Our Mighty and Merciful God”
(2 Peter 3:1-9)
Series: You’d Better Know the Truth (2 Peter)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
- Take your Bibles and join me in 2 Peter, chapter 3 (page 818; YouVersion).
We left off with Peter’s writing to us about dogs and pigs. The metaphors remain etched into our memories as Peter concludes chapter 2 by writing about a person who seems to be on the right track spiritually but is then led astray by false teaching. Consequently, this person returns to the old lifestyle as a dog returns to is vomit and a recently washed pig returns to the mud. And Peter says the condition of this person, then, is worse than if he had never heard the Gospel to begin with. Here is a person who had heard Christian truth and had begun a spiritual journey but, in the end, proves there was no change to his nature. He had not been regenerated. He had not been converted.
And that thought should cause us to sit a little taller in our seats this morning as we understand the danger of listening to Gospel preaching and teaching but failing to give ourselves wholly to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
This theme of a coming judgment and a day of reckoning is continued now into chapter 3 and we’re going to be looking at verses 1-9.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Holy Word.
1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),
2 that you 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 Savior,
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
4 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 creation.”
5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
There are occasions when preaching through a book of the Bible brings us to a passage of Scripture that yields so much treasured information about the character of God that its helpful just to ask, “What may I learn of God here in this passage?” This is one of those passages.
As Peter moves into chapter 3 now into a section of Scripture where he writes of the coming judgment of God, Peter gives to us a number of reasons why God is worthy of our praise and worship this morning.
So this morning we’ll take a few minutes to ponder each of these reasons. First:
I. Consider God’s Promise (1-4)
When Peter uses the word “promise” in these opening verses in chapter 3 he is referring to God’s promise of a coming judgment, the end of this present age, a time that is marked by the return of Jesus Christ. Note the word in verse 4 where Peter refers to, “The promise of His coming.”
Throughout the Old Testament God has promised that there will be a day of reckoning, a Judgment Day that will come when God will right every wrong and judge the ungodly for their ungodly ways.
And what Peter does in these opening verses in chapter 3 is to remind his readers that this is so. The day of final judgment will begin with Christ’s return. This is what Peter refers to as–verse 4–the “promise of His coming.”
So as we back up now and look at verse 1 Peter says, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle,” probably a reference to his having written 1 Peter, the first epistle, and then he says in verse 1, “(in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),”
That is, I have written to you about things you already know. I’m just wanting to remind you of them, verse 2, “that you 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 Savior,”–that’s probably better translated, “the commandment of the Lord and Savior that comes through us.”
Here’s the point: Peter says the promise of a coming day of judgment is nothing new. It is a truth–verse 2– “spoken before by the holy prophets.” And if we wished, we could take time to go throughout the Old Testament and read many prophecies about the day of judgment. In fact, the Old Testament concludes in the Book of Malachi with the prophet saying, “Behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up (Malachi 4:1).” So Peter is saying that the Old Testament prophets have long promised a coming day of judgment.
Having said this, however, many students of the Old Testament failed to see how the Messiah’s coming coincided with the day of judgment, specifically failing to understand that the Messiah would actually come twice, coming the first time to suffer and die for our sins and coming a second time to judge and rule. So the coming day of judgment coincides with Christ’s second coming.
But Peter says that these false teachers we’ve been reading about doubted Christ’s second coming and consequently doubted that they should take seriously any notion of judgment for their own sin. So Peter reminds his readers about the promise of Christ’s coming. Verse 3, “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,”–verse 4– “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 creation.’”
So the false teachers are denying Christ’s second coming. The way they are asking the question in verse 4 is like, “How can you say He is coming again?! I mean, where IS the promise of His coming?! Are you kidding me?!” They scoffed. Note that in verse 3, “Scoffers will come in the last days.”
Now, remember that phrase, “the last days,” is a reference to the time between Christ’s first and second comings. Once Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, was buried, rose from the grave, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father–once that great work was accomplished–the world entered into the time period known as “the last days,” the days awaiting Christ’s second coming that will usher in a time of cosmic, cataclysmic judgment, a time when Jesus says, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven (Matthew 24:29).”
So there are these scoffers in verse 4 who are like, “Surely you can’t be serious! The sun and moon darkening, stars falling from the sky, come on!” Verse 4, “All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” Ever since “the fathers fell asleep,” ever since the days of old, things have been rocking right along. There’s no indication that today is going to be any different than yesterday.
Their argument was that God created everything and stepped back to allow us to live on this lovely planet. And until the day our physical bodies die, it’s “sunrise and sunset.” You can set your clock by it. Things just continue on as they have ever since creation.
But Peter reminds his readers that God has promised to judge the world and the promise of His coming will be fulfilled. The day will come when Christ returns. He came the first time to suffer and die, He will come the second time to rule and reign.
God is faithful to keep His promises. How many times does God have to promise a thing for it to be so? Just once. And think of the many promises of Scripture, God’s promise to never leave us nor forsake us, His promise to be with us always, His promise to meet our every need, His promise to care for us, His promise to protect us, to deliver us, to save us, to forgive us, to love us no matter what, to adopt us, to bring us to a final state of glorification. Consider God’s promise. Secondly:
II. Consider God’s Power (5-7)
Verse 5, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,”
Peter calls attention to the majestic power of God. He is the God who spoke the world into existence. He says there in verse 5 that these scoffers have forgotten that “by the word of God the heavens were”–again, that God spoke the world into existence.
The Psalmist teaches the same thing in Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
And Peter writes that these scoffers, verse 5, “willfully forget this.” They “willfully forget.” They consciously turn their back upon God’s Word. They ignore what it says. By the way, you do that, too, when you sin. You willfully, consciously forget God’s Word. So they willfully forget that our mighty God acted by creating all things. He spoke everything into existence.
Remember Day 1 from our prayer study? Wednesday a week ago in our intergenerational study, “Lord, Teach us to Pray.” The next day, Day 1, your family studied Isaiah 40. Remember where the prophet asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand? (Isaiah 40:6)”
God created all things. He spoke all things into existence. And then, God acted again, intervening again in His creation when He destroyed what He had created by the worldwide flood. Peter is writing of God’s creating the land and the waters and then says–verse 6–“by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”
The mighty and powerful God created all things–including water–and then flooded the earth with that same water when He judged mankind for their ungodliness.
We must not think of God as the God of Deism, a God merely based upon human reason, a God who created everything and abandoned it, a God who assumes no control over what He has created, exerting no influence upon His creation, nor providing supernatural revelation. This is not the God of the Bible.
God sustains His creation, regularly intervening at will. So the Christian need not fear things such as so-called “global warming” or “climate change” as though it were something that God somehow failed to consider in His might and mastery over all that He has created. God creates and God preserves His creation by His mighty and powerful word.
So God judged His creation once before, back in Genesis 6-9, through a worldwide flood. Peter then teaches that God will judge His creation a second time, when He judges the world not by flood, but by fire. Verse 7, “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
As God judged His creation once before so will He judge a second time when Christ returns and the day of judgment begins. A day of reckoning is approaching for every scoffer. History will not just go on forever. Judgment Day will arrive.
But as we’ll see in a moment, God’s judgment will be according to His own clock. So again, the idea that man has some sort of power over the earth that eclipses the power of a sovereign God is wholly unbiblical, if not laughable. The idea that the activity of man can lead to the planet’s destruction, or that it falls to man to “save the planet,” fails to account for a God who–Hebrews 1:3, “upholds all things by the word of His power.”
And yet, what do we read when we go to the hotel, these little signs that tell us we can “save the planet” by hanging up our towels rather than having them laundered every day.
O, to be free from so much man-made fear about who is in control of the earth. Let us be good stewards of God’s creation, yes. That is our responsibility from Genesis chapter 1. But let us also rid ourselves of any notion that God somehow is shackled by man’s behavior on this planet as though His sovereignty were zipped up in a straight jacket, preventing Him from exerting His influence upon the planet.
Recycling is good, but man’s recycling will not “save the planet.” Colossians 1:16-17, “for by Him all things were created…all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things consist.” He holds the whole world in His hands. He sustains the very creation He has created.
Consider God’s Promise. Consider God’s Power. Thirdly, let us:
III. Consider God’s Perspective (8)
In Verse 8, Peter teaches God’s perspective on time. He writes, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
This is another way of saying that God acts according to His own clock. His perspective on time is markedly different than our perspective. It is popular to say that God exists outside of time. But it is probably better to say that while God is eternal and infinite, He acts and intervenes in His creation so that He experiences time differently than you and I.
God has the ability to see everything at once. Speaking through the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’”
God experiences time differently than His creation. What seems to us like a thousand years is to God just a day.
Now remember the reason Peter is drawing attention to God’s perspective is because scoffers of the final judgment are like, “Hey, things just keep going on as though God were doing nothing about it.” And what Peter says in verse 8, about a day being as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day is simply a way of saying, “Don’t question God’s timing. He is operating according to His own clock.” And if that were true for a people who lived within just a hundred years after Christ’s first coming, how much more important is it for our consideration 2,000 years later? God operates according to His own clock. The Lord is in the heavens. He does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3).
Wisdom comes in trying to see things from God’s perspective. If we truly appreciate the fact that our lives are not so much about a sequence of chronological days lived on earth, but a life lived for eternity, then our priorities will change. Life will not be so much about us as it will be about God. We will live for Him as we were created. And so we will ask for the same wisdom for which the psalmist asks when he says in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days rightly that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Parents, do you want your children to have a heart of wisdom? Then teach them to number their days rightly. We were not created to live for ourselves. We were not created merely to get an education, make a lot of money, and retire and die. Our lives will be over in the snap of a finger. We were created to live for God and so to live a life of eternal praise to the One True God.
Consider God’s Promise, God’s Power, God’s Perspective, and:
- Consider God’s Patience (9)
Verse 9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Peter highlights the patience of God. He is “long-suffering.” It means He is patient.
We don’t usually use that word “slack” in this sense. Most of the translations have the word “slow.” So verse 9 reads, “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness.”
That better conveys the contrast between God’s patience and our impatience. The Lord is not slow concerning His promise. He doesn’t experience time the way we experience time. He is not slow…as some count slowness, as we count slowness.
How do we count slowness? We’re like, “Come on, hurry up! One, two, three.”
It’s like Friday evening before our Vacation Bible School Family Night, I was driving around making a few home visits. I was stopped on Watson Lane at the intersection of 41. And the light turned green and there was a van ahead of me with its right signal on. So the light is green and I’m waiting for this van to turn right onto 41 so I can cross. And the van just sits there. And so I am “counting slowness.” You know, “Come on, how long are we going to wait?!” And you know, I’m not wanting to honk the horn, but at the same time I’m not wanting to sit through another cycle of the stop light. So I try to gently honk at the van and I honk and the van just sits there still. Now I’m getting a little angry. And about the time I’m doing one of these gestures we all know (hands in the air), I see why the van wasn’t moving. I see a woman crossing this way, walking across 41. I couldn’t see her before because the van was in the way. The person in the van was long-suffering. And I was impatiently counting slowness.
The Lord is not like that. Peter says, the Lord is “Long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
So Peter says, “Here’s the reason for Christ’s delay. It is because of His mercy. Once Judgement Day begins it is all over. The lost will remain lost. And God is delaying His judgment because He loves people and He is allowing more time for people to repent and be saved.”
God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Unfortunately, not all come to repentance. There is an element of mystery here. We see throughout Scripture both God’s will of desire and God’s will of decree. God desires that all be saved–that’s His will of desire–but we also see that not all are saved–and this is part of God’s mysterious will of decree, that which He has decreed or permitted for reasons known only to Him. For reasons known only to God, many people remain lost and separated from Him, remaining in their sins, unenlightened and unsaved.
We sang earlier from “Amazing Grace,” “‘twas grace that taught my heart to fear,” and I feel sometimes like asking, “God, why MY heart? Why did you give grace to me that taught MY heart to fear? Why not the person next to me?” See? There’s no room for boasting with respect to God’s will of decree.
If we are saved we should regularly praise God for His patience. We should regularly thank God for saving us. Think of it like this, Christian: If the final Judgement had come say, just 40 years ago, many of us would not have been included in the Kingdom of God. Thank God that He delayed His judgment. There is no guarantee that He will delay another 40 years, or another 4 days. He may delay, He may not delay.
Don’t presume upon the grace and mercy and patience of God. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:15).” Listen to Him. Turn to Him. Follow Him.
- Stand for prayer.
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