Living In the Present In View of the Future
1 Peter 3:11-18
Mark Twain once said, “most people are bothered by those passages which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always notice that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand”. The passage of scripture that should be easy to understand and easy to take are those dealing with the promises of Christ’s return. No Christian should be troubled by this fact. However, the fact of his return should make and impact on our lives. It should motive us into action.
Peter began his second epistle showing God’s great generosity in providing all things for our faith through the knowledge of Christ. Because of what God as done, the saint must do his part in perfectly supplying his faith. In order to secure his salvation in Christ he must not only supply these things but also remember these things and all that has been supplied to him from eyewitness accounts and the prophecies found in the Holy Spirit inspired Scripture. His faith must be protected from false teachers, that is, from their greed, licentious lifestyle, and lies. In particular their scoffing at the idea that Christ will return. Since this will become a reality one day, the saints need to change their outlook on this life.
If Christ is not going to come back and judge the world and reward the saints, why bother with your faith? One might as well be like the false teachers who have turned away from the way of righteousness and be greedy for material things and fulfill the desires of the flesh openly.
On the other hand, if the world in which we live is going to be burned up, then why bother stockpiling material goods in a place that can be dissolved at any moment. This “Day of God” is the “Day of the Lord” previously mentioned. Peter says it will certainly come. The “day of the Lord” is called by Paul “the coming of the Lord” (1 Th. 4:13-5:4).
Because the Lord is Coming Back Any Moment Christians Ought to…
▸ Be Citizens with Holy Conduct and Godliness
A “holy conduct” refers to that which regulates our performance. “Godliness” refers to righteous attitudes toward God and others. Both of these terms are plural. Thus they are to encompass all one’s life. These stand in stark contrast to the attitudes of the false teachers and their shameless behavior.
▸ Be Expecting the Second Coming
The term for “looking” is to look with the sense of expectation. The term “hastening” adds the idea of eager desire. Thus we have desire plus expectation which is a perfect definition for the hope of the Christian. Perhaps, we could call it the look of hope. We look for a city whose builder and maker is God, a city not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
The early Christians were known to use the term “Maranatha” meaning “O Lord Come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). This expresses a heart felt desire to see the Lord return. It is not like many of those who are in love with this world and the things they have accumulated in it. We want to see the person who promised to return: Christ.
A little girl heard her mother and another lady talking about the return of the Lord. Later in the day the mother went upstairs to the girl’s room and found her standing by the window. The little one said, “Mother, I heard you say that Jesus was coming back. I am looking for Him for I want to be first to see Him. So I took a bath and put on my clean clothes so I am ready.”
However, Peter reminds them that when He does return it will not be just about reward. The universe as we know it will cease to exist. Everything God created and everything man has made will become nothing.
▸ Be Anticipating Heaven
The old world will be gone for good and the saints should expectantly desire the “new heavens and the new earth.” A spiritual realm not filled with corruptions of the old. An old plaque reads, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last” Christians should focus their desire on those treasures which will last which can be laid up in heaven (Mt. 6:19,20). These are the only ones designed to survive the fires of the Second Coming.
Some believe that God will remake the earth and the heavens. It will still be like the physical world we live in now just given a complete make-over so that it is like the creation was intended to before sin corrupted it. The word “new” is translated from the word kainos, it means new in quality. It is not in reference to chronology of time. It is not just the new order of things, but a better quality of a different thing. It is an absolutely new creation (Is. 55:17).
In Revelation John said he, “saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Rev. 21:1,4,5a). It is a place where “righteousness dwells.” Only the faithful will live in the new heavens and new earth. John went on to say, “but the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
▸ Be Diligent in Peace
Again he uses a term of endearment to express his close concern for their future. They need to put forth diligent or strenuous effort. It takes a great deal of effort to be at peace in God because “friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The kind of peace which God offers is the one which will allow a Christian to know that at any moment this could all be over and he would still be free of anxiety and apprehension. The Second Coming is when all his hopes will be realized. A common epitaph on the graves of the ancient Greeks was “no hope.” After Christ came and promised to return the epitaph “in peace” was often inscribed on the graves of the sleeping saints.
To please Him we need to be found by God “without spot and blameless.” This is in contrast to the false teachers which Peter called “stains and blemishes.” One must practice pure religion to keep himself spotless and without blame in this world (Js. 1:27), Giving every effort to keep a clean character in a corrupt and filthy world. Christians must also put forth every effort to be blameless. This is not a requirement to be sinless. All Christians sin (1 Jn. 1:8-10). Yet a blameless Christian is like Teflon. No accusations of sin will stick to him because as soon as it is discovered he repents and confesses his sins. He has no hidden skeletons in his closet.
Be Mindful That God’s Longsuffering Equals Salvation
God waited in the days of Noah to save just eight souls while one hundred and twenty years had past. The term “longsuffering” is from the Greek makrothumia. “This word comes for two Greek words: makros, meaning ‘large,’ and thymos, meaning ‘intense anger, burning wrath, explosive rage.’ Together these words refer to he act of holding back one’s intense anger” (Swindoll 310). Christ has not returned, but He is by no means a lazy slacker. He is continuing to hold back his wrathful, vengeful sentence of Judgment upon the wicked in order to bring others the opportunity of salvation.
Every day God delays Christ’s return is another “day of salvation” as Paul said (2 Cor. 6:1,2). Another day for souls to obey the Gospel. Another day for erring Christian to come to repentance.
▸ Be Aware of False Teachers
Difficult passages to understand can be found throughout the Bible. False teachers love to manipulate these in support of their pet doctrines. The writings of Paul offer a playground for them. The phrase “hard to understand” was used in Peter’s day of the rambling, meaningless oration of pagan priests. Many have distorted Paul’s teachings in his letter to the Romans to teach Calvinism, especially the idea of salvation by “faith only.”
In his text, Peter points out that he regarded Paul’s writings to be on an equal plane with all the other inspired Scriptures.
Peter claims that it doesn’t take much learning or a sound mind to twist someone’s words to mean something you want them to. However, the end result is always the same: spiritual ruin. The misinterpretation of scripture can lead to destruction. Four times Peter uses the word “destruction,” and all four times it refer to false teacher and those who follow them. To stand firm on the true and accurate interrelations of God’s Word will keep one from falling for false teaching. To recognize error when compared to trust will keep one from following false teachers. “To be forewarned to be forearmed.”
▸ Be Growing in Grace and Knowledge
The opposite of falling for false teaching and following false teachers is growth “in the grace and knowledge” of Christ. A tree which does not grow and so loses its stability in the earth is blown over by a strong wind. A tree which keeps its roots planted will continue to stand fast. A Christian who does not continue to grow will fall over when faced with the windy words of false teaching. A Christian who grows in both the knowledge of Christ and God’s grace will remain steadfast. This requires one to meditate on God’s Law day and night.
▸ Be Glorifying Christ
Peter aptly concludes his second epistle with a doxology: “to Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” Glory be to God for giving us everything we need for the development or our faith especially the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures. Thanks be to God for rescuing us from the trials and punishment of the false teachers. Praise God for his longsuffering and for His promise of sending his Son back at the right time.
– Daniel R. Vess