“The Coming Day of the Lord”
(2 Peter 3:10-13)
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 are reading this morning about the coming “Day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord is synonymous with the Day of God’s Judgment on earth, a future day of reckoning. This is a day when God will right every wrong, reverse every injustice, fix what is broken, and heal every hurt. As I understand the Scripture that day is ushered-in by the return of Jesus Christ. There is an initial judgment when Christ returns and defeats the Antichrist in the Battle of Armageddon and then a final judgment, a final day of reckoning, that occurs at the end of the millennial reign.
Now, if the millennium is understood in a non-literal sense–which does not seem to be the case to me, but many hold to this, that the millennium is a spiritual reign not to be understood as a literal one-thousand years but as a spiritual reign occurring right now–if this is so, then Christ’s return is the one and only day of reckoning, the one and only day of judgment.
I don’t mind saying that I may be wrong on my interpretation of the future, final day of judgment whether Christ returns before a literal millennium or after a so-called spiritual reign that is not to be understood as a literal one-thousand years. I think it’s helpful for us to admit we may be wrong on our interpretation of the specifics of eschatology–the study of the end times. It think it’s helpful to admit we may be wrong because, for one reason, God’s people misunderstood the Lord’s first coming. Right? They were looking for a conquering king and Jesus came as a suffering lamb. They were expecting His coming from some royal palace in Jerusalem and instead He came as a common carpenter’s son out of the obscure town of Nazareth. So given that many misunderstood Christ’s first coming, it’s probably helpful to acknowledge that we may be wrong on the details of His second coming.
One thing we do know for certain: Christ is coming again and there will be a Judgment Day. About this the Scripture is clear. We may not know all the intricate details of the how and when, but we most certainly do know the what: Jesus Christ is coming and there will be a Day of Judgment.
Last time we studied 2 Peter we were made aware of those who “scoffed” at the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:3-4). And just as there were scoffers in Peter’s day so there remain scoffers in our day, those who say that the idea of Christ’s return is nonsense, this talk of the burning up of the elements, the earth and the heavens dissolving–just superstitious and foolish talk. Well, let’s listen to the Scriptures this morning. All in favor?
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
I’m finding it increasingly helpful to get a handle on the whole Bible by thinking in terms of four main periods: the good, the bad, the new, and the perfect. Maybe this will help some of you grasp the bigger picture of the Bible. The good, the bad, the new, the perfect.
First, the good. Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” The good.
Then, the bad. Genesis 3:1-24, Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden bringing sin into the world and through his one act of disobedience “death spread to all, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).” The bad.
Then, the new. 1 Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” And, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).” The new.
Question: If everything is new is everything perfect? No. We still hurt, we still cry, we still die.
So finally, the perfect. One day, “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4-5).” New heavens, new earth in the future, final state. The perfect.
The good, the bad, the new, the perfect. This really is the greater picture of the Bible.
And so this is helpful as we talk with our neighbors, our friends and our co-workers this week. We agree with their assessment of the world condition. Yesterday’s tragic airplane crash at the San Francisco’s International Airport is a reminder that we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. It is a world that is imperfect. It is a world while in many ways new to those who are in Christ, is still imperfect and will not be perfect till Christ returns.
In the four verses of our text this morning, Peter writes about Christ’s return and each of these four verses yields an action we are to take in light of the coming day of the Lord. Let’s look at these four verses and look at these four actions. Number one:
- Be Ready (10)
Verse 10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
That last phrase in the New King James, last part of verse 10 that reads, “will be burned up” is probably better translated as it is by other versions. The idea is that all the earth will be found deserving of judgment.
When the day of the Lord comes, when Christ returns, the Bible says there in verse 10, the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.” The “elements” refers to the “stuff” from which all physical things are made. Roughly speaking the earth, air, fire, and water.
Peter will come back to this again in a couple verses, writing again about the burning up of the earth and the elements. The main teaching point here is to “be ready.”
Look again at the first part of verse 10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” How does a thief come? He comes suddenly and unexpectedly. And that’s how the Lord will come; suddenly and unexpectedly.
Remember that Peter has just addressed the unbelieving scoffers in the preceding verses. These false teachers were saying, “Hey, man. Christ isn’t really going to come again and all this talk about the earth being dissolved is a bunch of nonsense. Christ hasn’t come yet and there’s no indication he’s going to come any time soon.” So Peter answers that criticism by saying God operates according to His own clock. We talked about that last week. And now Peter underscores that teaching by saying, “You’d better be ready when He comes because,”–verse 10– “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”
Peter didn’t come up with this notion himself. He had heard Jesus teach it in Matthew 24:42-44, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
I’ve shared before with a number of you a time when I was a Senior in High School in the Atlanta area. My mother had traveled several hundred miles west to Nebraska where she was visiting her ailing parents. She left and told me when she was going to return. My older sister was away at college and my younger sister was staying at a friend’s house so I had the entire house to myself for many days.
One evening I had a few friends over to the house and we enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed our freedom. My mother wasn’t expected to return for yet a few more days so I didn’t even worry about cleaning up. So the kitchen was a mess but I wasn’t concerned. And particularly memorable to my mind was the pyramid of empty cans that I had erected on the kitchen counter, a proud and tall display of aluminum wonder.
And sometime after I fell asleep later that evening, my mother returned. She had come as a thief in the night! She came suddenly and unexpectedly. Was I ready for her to return? No, I was not. In fact, I was ashamed. So her return was not a day of joy, but rather a day of judgment, a day of reckoning.
For the unbeliever the coming day of the Lord is a day of judgment, a day of reckoning. Ultimately, it means destruction and devastation to those outside of Christ, those like the false teachers and the scoffers Peter has been addressing.
But there is also a warning to those who are believers when Christ returns. Peter writes in verse 11, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” So if verse 10 teaches to “Be Ready,” verse 11 teaches to:
- Be Holy (11)
See Peter answers the question of how we should live in light of His coming. He doesn’t say we should become infatuated with end-time teachings, reading every book there is on the subject of eschatology, hanging upon our walls so many colored charts and diagrams plotting the events and exact time that someone says the end will come.
Rather, Peter says we should be holy. Eschatology calls for ethics. Truth about the future calls for holiness in the now.
Again, verse 11, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
What person am I to be? A person of holy conduct and godliness. This truth picks up again later in verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” Be holy. Truth about the future calls for holiness in the now.
So here’s a question: what will our Lord catch us doing when He returns suddenly and unexpectedly? Will we be living holy lives at His return?
And remember the context. Peter is addressing folks who are living for themselves in a fallen world, a world that is going to be burned up. He’s addressing these false teachers who–back in verse 3–are, “walking according to their own lusts,”–verse 4–scoffing at the promise of His coming. So they are living for themselves as they are living for the world.
And it’s like Peter is saying, “You are so in love with the world and you don’t even realize this world is burning up.”
Does that apply to you? It’s like selling everything you have to purchase a brightly colored helium balloon. And you’re like, “This balloon is great! I’m going to enjoy this thing forever!” But it won’t last. In time, diffusion takes place as helium slowly escapes from the balloon and the latex gets old and the balloon simply falls and fades away.
Remember Jesus’ parable of the wealthy farmer with the barns full of grain? He says to himself, “Hey, you’ve got stuff stored for years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? (Luke 12:16-20).”
One day all of our stuff will be gone. It won’t last. It will be burned up.
That’s what Jesus says will happen one day to your treasured stamp collection or your beloved china, or your brand new car. Some people build monuments to themselves, or build an investment portfolio they trust will protect their material assets, but at some point everything will be destroyed by fire.
Do you know what can’t be destroyed by fire? Holiness. The fruit of the Spirit can’t be burned up, either: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness. The fruit of the Spirit never spoils. It never burns. It keeps bearing.
So be ready. Be holy. And thirdly:
- Be Busy (12)
Verse 12 continues Peter’s teaching from verse 11 about how we are to live in light of Christ’s return. We are to be a people of holy conduct and godliness, continuing now in verse 12: “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat”
So in light of the fact that the earth will be burned up and the heavens dissolved we are to be busy–be busy doing what? First part of verse 12, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
We look for the coming of Christ. That is, we live for it, we look for it. We arrange our lives so that they are God-centered rather than man-centered. And Peter also says in verse 12 that we are to be busy “hastening the coming of the day of God.”
Now God knows specifically when that day will be. Paul preached in Acts 17:31 that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.” God knows the exact moment Christ will return.
We do not know the exact moment. So we are to be busy living for the kingdom of God and building the kingdom of God all for the glory of God. And God will use the means of the church–He will use you and me–to “hasten” His coming. He will use us to speed or hurry along His coming. So in one sense, the sooner we get busy, the sooner He comes.
If we will be busy being the church and doing the church’s work of making disciples of the nations from the community to the continents, the day of the Lord will come. The end will come (see also Romans 11:25).
This truth falls on the heels of what we studied last week. The Lord is long-suffering, He is patient, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. So let’s get busy sharing the Gospel, a Gospel which calls for repentance, so that more can be saved and enter into the Kingdom.
And let’s pray for the coming of the day of the Lord, let’s pray for the coming of His kingdom, praying as our Lord taught us in Matthew 6:9-10, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your–(what?)–kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And when that day comes, when Christ returns, it will usher in a renewal of the world. That which is new will be replaced with that which is perfect.
Remember the four periods? The good, the bad, the new, the perfect.
While most of us are “in Christ” and “new creations,” we still live in an imperfect world. We look forward to the day when “that which is perfect will come (1 Corinthians 13:10).”
And when Christ returns we will ultimately enter into a state of glorification, enjoying glorified bodies like unto the Lord’s body. But not only will we have perfect bodies, we will ultimately live in a perfect world. The earth and heavens will be purged and fashioned into a new heavens and a new earth.
This is Paul’s teaching about the earth in Romans 8. Remember he says, “The creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs (Romans 8:21-22),”
So the day will come when Christ returns and ultimately the old heavens and the old earth are purged and fashioned into a new heaven and a new earth. And Christians will enter into a blessed state of eternal happiness. That’s the fourth action from the final verse of our text, verse 13. Peter says be ready, be holy, be busy, and finally:
- Be Happy (13)
When I first wrote that word in my notes I thought, “That sounds kind of superficial” because often happiness is considered only at the surface level. But true Christian happiness takes into account a much deeper truth, that wider scope of the biblical narrative about which we have spoken: the good, the bad, the new, the perfect.
One reason Christians can really and truly be happy is because we look forward to the perfect, we “look for new heavens and a new earth (cf Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21:1-22:5).” That’s what Peter says in verse 13:
13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
So the coming of the day of the Lord is not just about final judgment for the unbeliever, but it is also about final salvation for the believer. The coming day of the Lord is not just ruin for the lost, but renewal for the saved. A new world will be created. Think of it!
The first world, a world full of man’s unrighteousness, will be replaced with a new world, a world “in which righteousness dwells.” In other words, the bad guys like false teachers are excluded from the new world.
It will be a place where, “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” And John writes, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new (Revelation 21:4-5).’”
That’s the kingdom for which we live.
Listen to one Christian writer’s illustration of living for the wrong kingdom. Writing about the Metrodome sports stadium in Minneapolis Minnesota, he writes:
When the main doors are opened at the Metrodome, you get blown out with a tremendous gust of wind because of the air pressure inside. Picture a person at the first Metrodome tropical bird show who spends all day collecting bird feathers in the dome. And then with the biggest and best collection of bird feathers in his arms (of which he is very proud), he comes to the door of the dome. The door opens, and his feathers are blown all over 5th Street and Chicago Avenue. Ridiculous? Yes. But it is a flattering picture of the person who tries to build meaning for his life with money or professional reputation or art or hobbies. It’s all going to be blown away, and he will stand before Christ utterly shamed. The lesson is this: put your life under the spotlight of eternity; assess it from God’s vantage point. And devote yourself to what will last (John Piper, “What Sort of Persons Ought You to Be?”).
Be ready, be holy, be busy, and–in light of His coming Christian–be happy.
- Let’s pray.
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