“The Christian’s Endgame”
(2 Peter 3:14-18)
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).
This morning we conclude our study of 2 Peter as we are reading the final words of Peter’s in this letter. Final words are often the most memorable words spoken or written. Final words are usually rather short, but sometimes they may be rather long.
Steven Wright, the quirky comedian of the 80s and 90s, a comedian who was also a very deep thinker, shared what he believed would be the coolest and longest quote ever spoken. He said that he wished that the first word he had ever uttered was the word, “Quote,” so that just before he died, he could say, “Unquote,” and then he would have been the one who had spoken the longest and most profound quote any person had ever uttered!
Well, Peter concludes this short letter with fewer words than that and yet the words are powerful as they speak to Christians about how to live in light of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things [the things concerning the end of time], be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
15 and consider that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
The title of our study this morning is, “The Christian’s Endgame.” Those of you who play chess know that the endgame is the stage of a chess game when there are just a few pieces left on the board. The game is soon to end.
More generally, endgame is a term that refers to the final stage of some action or process. This is how we understand the term here in these last five verses because Peter has been writing about the final stage of God’s action and plan for all humankind. We have been studying about the approaching end of time, the time when Christ returns and ushers-in the final judgment.
The question answered in the passage this morning is how Christians are to live given that we are in the last days. And you will remember that we have said before that the time in which we are living is the time referred to in Scripture as the last days. This is not because we have read some popular book on eschatology or because some popular preacher of prophecy tells us about signs of the coming Battle of Armageddon, and so forth. But ever since Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father we have been in the last days. The period between Christ’s first and second coming is the period of the last days.
So when I’m asked, “Pastor, do you think the church is in the last days,” I say that I believe the New Testament teaches we’ve been in the last days since Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. We are in the last days because God has accomplished redemption for man through Christ’s death on the cross and the last thing left, the final chapter of God’s great plan, is Christ’s return and the coming judgment. So the period between Christ’s first coming and second coming is the period known as the last days. Endgame.
So what is the Christian’s action in this endgame? In other words, how are Christians to live during this final stage or process, how are Christians to live while they await Christ’s return? In his last words, Peter gives three main actions for us to take. Number one, he teaches that Christians are to:
I. Keep Looking for Christ (14)
That is, keep looking forward to His return. See that in verse 14:
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things,”
To what things? Well remember whenever you see in Scripture the word, “therefore,” ask, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” The answer will always be found in what precedes the ‘therefore.’ So we look back to the preceding verses and we recall from our study last time that when Christ returns He will judge all the earth and then will create a–verse 13–“new heavens and a new earth.”
We talked about that last time, that one of the blessings of true Christian happiness is the blessing of the Christian’s future, final state. Remember the four main periods of history? Good, bad, new, perfect. God created everything and called it good. Then, Genesis 3, sin enters the world–bad. God comes to us in the Person of Christ to that old things may be passed away and all things may become new. But while things are new, they are not yet perfect. We await perfection. Our best life is not now, it is future. Good, bad, new, perfect.
So Peter says in verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things,” comma, you see the comma there? In other words, this phrase is an assumption. Peter is like, “Since you are looking forward to these things,” or, “I am assuming every Christian is looking forward to these things,” looking forward to Christ’t return and the final state of a new heaven and a new earth.
Hey, Christian! I have a question for you, “Are you looking forward to these things?” Do you get up each day saying something like, “Come, Lord Jesus?” Whether we are really looking for Christ may indicate whether we are really living for Christ.
Whether we are really looking for Christ may indicate whether we are really living for Christ. Remember last time we spoke of the caution of saying something like, “Well, I’m ready to go and be with the Lord, but not on the next boatload.” A statement like that may indicate that we are far more in love with this fallen world than we realize.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
More recently, Peter has said in the preceding paragraph that all the “stuff” of the world will be burned up with fire (2 Peter 3:10-11). All of our “stuff” will be gone. Only things like our holiness and the fruit of the Spirit will last. Treasures on earth will be gone: toys, jobs, cars, money, land, trinkets, collections, stuff, will be gone. What will remain? Treasures in heaven: holiness, love, joy, peace, and so forth.
So Peter says in verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” Those are things that will last forever: peace, holiness, and blamelessness.
So while you and I await Christ’s return, keep looking for Christ. This is the Christian’s endgame strategy. Every day we awake looking for Christ. To the degree we faithfully look for Christ, we will faithfully live for Christ. Try that out this week.
See what happens when you begin each day with, “Come, Lord Jesus. I believe Lord you may well return today. God help me live in such a way that when you come I may be found faithful.” See if that doesn’t just put things in perspective for you. Don’t do it because I say so, do it because the Bible says so: “Looking forward to these things.” Keep looking for Christ. Secondly:
II. Keep Sharing about Christ (15-16)
Peter writes in verse 15, “And consider that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation–” Or, “the patience of our Lord is salvation–” This is Peter’s way of reminding us that in these last days, we are living in a time of salvation. The patience of our Lord–and you will remember from verse 9, the patience of our Lord refers to His patiently awaiting our repentance. It is a patient delaying of judgment to give time for men and women to repent. The Lord is not slow as some count slowness. He is long-suffering, patient, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. So Peter calls this time between Christ’s first and second coming a time of salvation.
The time between the first and second comings is a time of salvation, a time to share the Good News about Christ. This is the church’s commission (Matthew 28:19-20). This is what we are to be doing until Christ returns (Acts 1:7-8).
Historians divide history into major periods or epochs. There is the Mesopotamian time, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and so forth. But Peter marks off the time between Christ’s first and second comings as the time of salvation. He says in verse 15, “the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation.” It is a time that from our perspective is roughly 2,000 years yet from God’s perspective–verse 8–just a couple days. God acts according to His own clock, not counting slowness the way man counts slowness.
So Peter re-iterates here that “the long-suffering (or the patience) of our Lord is salvation.” And he adds in verse 15 that the Apostle Paul also teaches this. Perhaps he had in mind Romans 2:4, where Paul writes about God’s, “goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering,” adding that, “the goodness of God leads (one) to repentance.” Or maybe he had in mind 2 Corinthians 6:2, “…Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
And Peter shows that there is agreement among the apostles that we are living in these last days when God graciously delays His judgment to give people an opportunity to repent from sin and turn to Christ. He says that the Apostle Paul also teaches this fact. He says in verse 15, “Consider that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him has also written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things.”
And Peter goes on to say that the things about which Paul wrote included “some things hard to understand,” things “which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”
Now, before we move on let’s bracket for a moment our discussion of the day of salvation. I want to call attention to something very significant that Peter does here in passing. You will remember Peter wrote in chapter 2, 2 Peter 1:20-21, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
You’ll remember we said that God is the originator of the Scripture. The prophecies of the Old Testament–and thus the entirety of the Old Testament–is true precisely because God is the originator. God guided the writers to record what He intended be written down.
And so, unlike the false teachers of chapter 2, who came up with their own ideas, Scripture is true because it is God’s idea. God is the originator of Scripture.
Where Peter refers to “the rest of the Scriptures” in verse 16, he is placing Paul’s letters; “all his epistles” he says in verse 16, Peter is placing Paul’s letters in the same category as the Old Testament. Peter considers Paul’s writings as originating with God. So Peter regards Paul’s writings then, as equally inspired and equally authoritative as the writings of the Old Testament.
The reason I say this is very significant is because it helps us see that from a very early point in Christian history, namely from the beginning of the church 2,000 years ago, Christians noted a particular harmony and symmetry in the books considered divinely inspired writings. We see here how the early church began to recognize what would eventually be regarded as the Christian canon, the books recognized to be the true Word of God, namely the 39 books of the Old Testament and now the 27 books of the New Testament.
Now, I love the phrase Peter uses in verse 16 where he refer’s to Paul’s writings, as containing, “some things hard to understand.” You read Paul’s epistle to the Romans, for example, and you find yourself reading, “some things hard to understand.” More than one seminary student changed his favorite Bible verse to verse 16, finding great comfort that he or she was not the only one finding the intellectual rigors of seminary studies as the study of “some things hard to understand!”
It’s a frank and honest admission of Peter’s and we may find ourselves responding, “Peter, you find Paul’s writings containing things hard to understand? What about your writings?!” I mean, Peter gave us that stuff in his first letter about the “spirits in prison” and the Gospel being “preached to those who are dead.”
It is good for Christians to study the hard things of Scripture. The writer of Hebrews calls out the spiritual immaturity of Christians in Hebrews 5. You’ll remember he says, “You folks have been Christians long enough now that you yourselves out to be teachers of others, but the problem is that you hardly know the basics because you haven’t studied the meat of the Word of God. So he says in Hebrews 5:13, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”
So think of the implications of studying–verse 16–“some things hard to understand.” One of the reasons we all go through books of the Bible here at Henderson’s First Baptist, 11 years now of verse-by-verse expositional preaching and teaching, is so that we–including the preacher–are forced to study, “some things hard to understand.”
If preachers deliver only the milk of God’s Word, they deliver only the “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” stuff. You know: “God is love. God loves you. Pray to Him and He will give to you,” and so forth. These things are true, but preaching only these things results in a Christian who never really studies the deep things of God’s Word, never really scratches his head in wonder at just who this God is, and having never really thought deeply about God consequently lives a dangerously superficial life. To quote again the writer of Hebrews, this person is, “unskilled in the Word…a baby (Hebrews 5:13).”
So as a baby this person doesn’t know how to bring the Scriptures to bear upon the hard things of life. How does he understand the Scripture’s teaching about the character of God when faced with sudden tragedy–the untimely death of a loved one, the unforeseen job loss, or the tragic tornado that kills hundreds of people? Is there an answer from Scripture? Yes. And the answer is most often found among the hard things of Scripture.
So preachers must preach the hard things of the Word. It is arguably sinful not to do so. Preachers should aim to deliver what Paul called, “The whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).” Verse-by-verse exposition, studying the easy and the difficult, gives Christians a balanced diet of spiritual nutrition, easy and fun foods like John 3:16, “God so loved the world” as well as meaty and and hard-to-digest foods like Isaiah 46:10, “God has declared the end from the beginning.” Preaching that sometimes hurts your head to think. This kind of preaching is far more likely to grow Christians who understand the deep things of God.
Now back to Peter’s main point here in verses 15 and 16: during the endgame, during this time of salvation, Christians are to “Keep Sharing about Christ.” That is the natural application of these verses. That is what we are to do during this time of God’s long-suffering, during God’s patiently awaiting the repentance of humankind.
The church’s role is to keep sharing about Christ. This is how we are to busy our time, fulfilling the commission our Lord has given us. Remember: every Christian is a missionary. Every Christian is involved in our Lord’s call to pray, give, or go to the nations with the Gospel. Not just to America, but to the ends of the earth.
Remember Spencer’s quote from last Sunday evening? If we say we just have a heart for the people of America, then we have only 5% of God’s heart because only 5% of the world’s population lives in America. Revelation 5, God is redeeming a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Our job is to share the Gospel across the street and across the seas, from our community to the continents.
This is the Christian’s endgame. Keep looking for Christ, keep sharing about Christ. Thirdly:
- Keep Growing in Christ (17-18)
This point comes primarily from verse 18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Note, however, the connection with what precedes that statement. Peter writes in verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.”
That caution of Peter’s follows what Peter wrote about the false teachers in verse 16. He said these guys are “untaught and unstable people” who take the writings of the Apostle Paul and “twist (them) to their own destruction.” They incorrectly interpret and apply the Scriptures. So Peter says in verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand,” that is, “Since I am telling you that there will be false teachers who malign the Scriptures,” you–verse 17–“Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.”
So Peter comes back to the main theme of 2 Peter, the title of our series, “You’d better know the truth.” Beware of false teachings. There were false teachers in Peter’s day, there are false teachers in our day. Know the truth.
And note this: In verse 17, Peter cautions Christians. He writes, “Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness or your own stability.” How does the Christian take care not to lose strength and stability? The answer is found in verse 18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The way to keep from losing strength is to grow. That’s true for the physical body, right? If we don’t exercise as we age, our muscles atrophy, wither, and shrink. We’ve got to go on strengthening our body. The same is true for the spiritual body. If we don’t exercise our minds and hearts, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we spiritually atrophy and weaken. We shrivel up.
So the way to keep from losing strength as a Christian is to grow. In fact, Peter doesn’t say, “Beware lest you fall from your steadfastness AND grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” It‘s not an, “AND,” as though growth were something you added on to your Christianity. Rather, Peter says in verse 18, “BUT grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” In other words, growth is the only way to keep from falling over. Growth is the only way we will move forward.
The Christian life is like riding a bicycle. If you get on the bike and just pull your feet up and someone says, “Beware lest you fall,” that’s not very helpful. If, however, you get on the bicycle and you pull your feet up and someone says, “Now, peddle and you will move forward,” then you won’t fall. So Christian, you are either moving forward spiritually or you will fall.
That’s what Peter is saying here in the last two verses: either you grow or you fall. What a great last word! Grow! You grow by learning. Growing comes by knowing. So Peter ends the letter much as he begins the letter. Back in Chapter 1 and verse 2, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Growing comes by knowing. “To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
- Stand for prayer.
How do you grow physically? You’ve got to eat nutritious food. You can’t eat junk food and be healthy. How do you grow spiritually? Same way. You’ve got to eat nutritious food. You need regular intake of the wholesome and nutrias Word of God. Do you read it every day? Do you chew on it slowly? Do you digest it carefully? If you do, you will grow.
You may not always see growth right away. Like our children, we don’t even notice they are growing up and one day we look at an old picture and we say, “My, my, how they’ve grown.” The same is true spiritually. Be encouraged: regular feasting upon the Word of God will grow every Christian into the likeness of Christ. Let’s pray to Him and ask for help as we grow.
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