It is sad when people run from one prophetic speculation to another. They battle each other over prophetic interpretation more than perhaps any other subject and yet not living their lives to the glory of God. All true Christians believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. They may differ in their views of when certain promised events will occur, but they all agree that He is returning as He promised.
Furthermore all Christians agree that this faith in future glory should motivate the church. This does not mean that we should stop studying prophecy or that every opposing viewpoint is correct, which is an impossibility. It does mean however that whatever views we do hold should make a difference in our lives.
The purpose of prophetic truth is not speculation but motivation. It motivates us to diligently pursue God's truth and the Kingdom of God. So Peter concluded his second letter with the kind of practical admonitions that all of us must take note of. “Be diligent,” is the admonition that best summarizes what Peter wrote in the closing paragraphs of II Peter 3. In II Peter 1 he says:
II Peter 1:5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge.
II Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.
II Peter 1:15 Moreover I will be careful [same root word as diligent] to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
If we are going to be successful Christians we must learn to be diligent. It is such a simple statement but I think that it is one of the greatest tendencies of members of God’s church to be lacking in.
Peter gave three admonitions to encourage us in Christian diligence in the light of Christ’s return. The first admonition from Peter is to be diligent to live godly lives. Living godly lives seems obvious to all of us as Christians but the diligence part is the part that we commonly fail in. To be diligent requires action, because faith without works is a dead faith.
II Peter 3:11-14 Therefore, since all these [earthly] things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 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? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
We must live righteous lives 24/7. That takes a lot of diligence to accomplish and we cannot do it without God's Holy Spirit.
The key word in this paragraph here is “look.” It means to await eagerly; to be expectant. It describes an attitude of excitement and expectation, not just in anticipation as we wait for Christ’s return. You will find this also in Luke 3 and Acts 3, where it says:
Luke 3:15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.
Acts 3:5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
Now because we realize that the world and its works will be dissolved and that even the very elements will be disintegrated, we fix our hope, not on anything in this world, but only on God, His Son, and His Kingdom.
Since we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, obviously we must be constantly ready. The neglectful Christian who starts to doubt that Christ will return will gradually develop a cold heart, a worldly attitude, and unfaithful life. He will become a scoffer, as I mentioned in my last sermon.
In Matthew 24, Jesus instructs His disciples to diligently watch and be ready for Christ return.
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.
Now you might say that it is at least three and a half years away, which is true, but what if you died tomorrow? You would only have a few hours left then. Something to think about.
What is so important about watching? Watching points directly to the necessity of being ready for Jesus Christ’s return in power and glory to judge the nations. It also includes patiently waiting, as is seen in Matthew 25:1-13, where the virgins must wait for the bridegroom. Now if the servants prove worthy, by being watchful and ready, their master will personally care for them.
Matthew 24:45-51 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming’ [which is part of the scoffers attitude], and begins to beat his fellow servants [representing the mistreatment of the fellow brethren], and to eat and drink with the drunkards [representing worldliness], the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The narrower sense of this parable is that of preparedness for the second coming of Jesus Christ. All who are members of the household of faith must be found serving God and one another with regard to things of the Kingdom.
The wider sense of this parable refers to the time when God calls us, it is a call at a call to prepare to meet our God. Both senses express the overall theme of this parable which is preparedness and watchfulness.
Not one person will be saved simply by being close to or even related to another person who is a Christian. Salvation is not a hereditary matter. On the contrary, you must personally believe in the name of the Son of God by living God's way of life every day. Jesus shows us how to do this in both the Old and New Testaments. One of Jesus' illustrations repeatedly mentioned in Scripture is that of a thief breaking into a house.
Matthew 24:43 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.
This parable teaches the sudden and unpredictable coming of the Lord and is used this way in four other New Testament passages. Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5, speaking to the church:
I Thessalonians 5:2-4 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they [the leaders, media, etc.] say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
Then Peter said,
II Peter 3:10 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.
Jesus told the church Sardis,
Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Revelation 16:15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
Each of these verses emphasizes the suddenness Christ’s return, especially for the person who is not diligent. The image of a thief adds two additional factors here. First, it adds the matter of value since a thief comes to steal what is worthwhile. Almost everyone values his/her possessions and that is why we lock things up.
Now let me ask a rhetorical question. If we are so concerned about these physical things that will all be lost to us or that will decay over time, should we not be even more concerned about the things that effect us eternally? Concerning this, Jesus said, on an earlier occasion in Matthew 16:
Matthew 16:26-27 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
We, as members of God’s church, have a tendency to lack in diligence sometimes and it is important for us to emphasize that this is exactly what we should be aware and conscious of and something to work on. Obviously the things of this world are of little or no value compared with the abundance of spiritual blessings that we are promised.
The second additional factor is that the picture of the thief emphasizes the need to be ready. Each of these pictures is similar in stressing the sudden nature and unpredictably of Christ’s return, but each also adds its own unique elements.
The picture the flood in Matthew 24:37-39 reminds us of is that a tremendous number of sinners will be lost, there will be massive death. Without God's Holy Spirit, a person would literally fall apart, mentally and physically, from such stress.
The picture of two men working in the field and in the two women grinding at the mill, points to a radical separation and reminds us that we are not saved by knowing or being close to another member of God’s church. The picture the thief reminds us of is that our spiritual reward is valuable and that we need to use wisdom and carefulness to be ready.
The next picture, the prepared faithful servant and the scoffing evil servant, provides an explanation of what being ready means. Being ready means loving, trusting, and waiting for the Father to send Jesus Christ at the right moment. In its simplest definition, being ready means living God's way of life every day.
The faithful servant is faithful because he is expecting his Lord’ss return and he is showing his faith by his actions, by his application of Scripture in his own life every single day. It also has to do with faithful service, that is continuing to carry out what Jesus has left us in this world to do.
We find this idea in two of the parables in Matthew 25. In Matthew 25:14-30, faithfulness is demonstrated by the wise use of the talents Christ has given. In the other parable, in Matthew 25:31-46, it is seen in selfless service to those who were hungry, thirsty, or have other pressing needs.
Now how are we to evaluate the service of these two men in that parable? Not much is said about the good serving, only that he gave the other servants their food at the proper time. Jesus may be thinking of spiritual food and of the service of teachers of God's truth.
On the other hand a great deal is said about the bad servant, the scoffer. His service is marked by three vices. The first vice is carelessness. Verse 48 of Matthew 24 tells us why he neglects his work.
Matthew 24:48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming.’
This reminds us of the scoffer mentioned in II Peter 3, who said:
II Peter 3:4 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.”
It always seems like that with unbelievers. We in God’s church have to be careful that we do not fall into the same trap.
Jesus has not returned yet, so they are careless about their future, but Peter says, “they deliberately forget” that God judged the world in ancient times by water and that He has promised to do so again by fire that the final day.
With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. Now what seems delayed to us is not a delay to Him. Peter says in II Peter 3
II Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness [or diligence], being led away with the error of the wicked.
In other words, be on your guard so that you do not get carried away by the error and enticement of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
The second vice that the bad servant had is cruelty. This vice of the wicked servant involves both physical and verbal abuse. Often both types of abuses involve alcohol, as mentioned in Matthew 24:49. Sometimes men are mean drunks, treating their wife and children harshly, provoking their children to wrath.
This is similar to the Pharisees who were drunk with power and whom Jesus said would persecute, pursue, beat, kill, and crucify His servants. Here though it is not merely the apostles and missionaries who were beaten, the underservants and family members are beaten physically or browbeaten verbally, and the one doing the beating is a person who claims to be a serving of the Lord.
The arrogance of the evil servant is in defiance of the command to be ready and his severe treatment of the other servants is also similar to the description of false teachers who ravaged the congregation mentioned in Acts 20. It says there:
Acts 20:29-30 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
The third vice is carousing. In Matthew 24:49, Christ denounces the wicked servant for his eating and drinking with drunkards. He is behaving like those living in the days of Noah, who were eating and drinking and knew nothing about what would happen until the Flood came and took them all away.
The story as a whole, not the individual characters in it, provide the comparison.
The unwise servant makes two attitudinal mistakes. First he says, “I will do whatever I want while my master is away,” forgetting that the day of judgment must come. Sometimes we remember that God is present and at other times we may not think of Him at all. Life is full of distractions and it is a dangerous thing to push God aside while we follow our own desires. We must not allow our desires to override our duty to our Creator.
The second attitudinal mistake is the evil servant saying, “I have plenty of time to put things right before the master comes.” Nothing may be more harmful than to assume that we have more time. Like I said earlier, what if we died tonight or tomorrow, how much time do we have? Taking note of Jesus’ example recorded in John 9, He says:
John 9:4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
None of us can afford to delay caring out a righteous service to God, our family, and our brethren. We have a great responsibility for those placed under our care, but we have an even greater responsibility to respond positively to our Masters command.
Matthew 24:50-51 The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The dramatic portrayal of the servant’s punishment in verse 51, stresses the seriousness of his shirking of his responsibilities. The original statement in the Aramaic was similar to, “he was cut off,” which has two implications: to be executed; to be exiled for sin.
With respect to the church, it means that the blatant sinner is disfellowshipped from worshipping and socializing with church members because of his flagrant sin of omission, his sin of disobedience.
Now we are also judged according to what we understand. The scoffing evil servant fails in his responsibility because he is not looking faithfully to Christ and forward to God's Kingdom. The penalty tells us that Jesus is speaking about Christians who are not ready either because they ignore their calling and because they neglect to produce fruit worthy of repentance.
Faithless professing Christians will be judged more strictly than those who, though wicked, do not understand about the coming of the Son of Man. Professing Christians with knowledge of God's revelation will have to answer for their lack of response to God's truth.
Their punishment seems severe until we realize that the servant who knew his master’s will represents those who sin arrogantly and presumptuously.
Psalm 19:12-13 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Presumptuous sins are great sins and we must avoid them. A presumptuous sin is one where you take liberty and go ahead and do something you know is sin. Even though the servant, who was ignorant of his master’s will, may sin unwittingly, it was his duty to know his master’s will.
In either case each person has to take personal responsibility for his actions and therefore comes under judgment. Everyone has some knowledge of God, accepted or denied, therefore God judges according to the individual level of knowledge and responsibility.
Knowledge and privilege always bring responsibility. Each and every one of us in God’s church have a tremendous duty and responsibility, not only to be diligent and obedient, but to serve one another. Sin is doubly sin to the one who knows better. We, who know better, would like God to find us with our work completed upon His return and be able to say with Jesus, as is recorded in John 17:
John 17:4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
It would be wonderful for God to find us glorifying Him and at peace with our brethren when Christ comes.
The passage in Matthew 24 says of the good servant, only that it will be good for him when his master returns. The anticipation of Jesus’ return must be one of the strongest influences behind our efforts, to assist one another in glorifying God in our daily lives. We expect to meet Jesus face to face and so we must watch for Him and be ready for our Master to come.
Now an expectant attitude is useless if it does not make a difference in our daily personal lives and conduct.
II Peter 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.
The word translated “manner” literally means exotic; out of this world; foreign. Since God has put a hedge around us so that we may escape the corruption that is in the world, we must live differently from the people of the world. To them we should behave like foreigners. Why? Because we are to be unique from them.
Because this world is not our home, we are strangers and pilgrims headed for a better world, the eternal city of God. Christians should be different, not odd. When you are different you attract people, when you are odd you repel them. Our conduct should be characterized by sanctification and righteousness. We are to be holy, set apart, and separate.
I Peter 1:15-16 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
The word “holy” means to separate; to cut off. Israel was a holy nation because God called the Israelites out from among the Gentiles and kept separate from them. Christians are called out from the godless world around them and are set the set apart for God alone.
The word godliness could be translated as faithfulness. It is the same word in II Peter 1:6-7 that says, “to worship well.” It describes a person whose life is devoted to pleasing God and we must enjoy a living for God personally and individually.
Other New Testament writers also teach that an eager expectancy of Christ’s return should motivate us to live pure lives. However it is not simply just knowing the doctrine intellectually that motivates our life, rather it is having it in the heart, valuing God's Word and loving it. What do we do with something we love? We focus on it, we care for it, we keep it close to our heart.
II Timothy 4:8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Not only should this expectant attitude make a difference in our conduct, but it should also make a difference in our witness. Peter affirms that it is possible for us to hasten the return of Jesus Christ by working with God who molds us in the image of His Son. Getting back to II Peter 3, we find a very intriguing phrase, “hastening the coming of the day of God.”
II Peter 3:12 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?
Let me again carefully distinguish three days mentioned in the Bible, as I did in my first sermon. The Day the Lord is the year of judgment that climaxes with the return of Christ of the earth—the day of Christ relates to the coming of Christ for His church. The day of God, here in II Peter 3:12, is the period when God's people enjoy the new heavens and the new earth, when all evil has been judged.
Now can we really hasten the coming of the day of God? The Greek word translated “hastening” means to urge on diligently or earnestly, by implication, to wait eagerly. Peter speaks of the Christian as, not only eagerly waiting the coming of Christ, but is actually hastening it on. Peter seems to say, “We can hasten the coming of the day of God by not moaning at its apparent slowness, but living in its light.”
It is interesting that the speed of light is the fastest thing known to man and if God is delaying His coming by our sin, as II Peter 3:8-9 seems to imply, then we encourage Him to come by our obedience, by living in the light.
When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are asking God to intervene in that final climactic way, but we are also committing ourselves to live as His subjects. The prayer for Christ’s return was an early one and it is a courageous one because, only those who are striving after holiness would dare to want the coming of the Day of Lord or the Day of God. Those who are not striving after holiness are going to be judged harshly, or as they deserve, I should say.
We have to be careful though. We should not desire the calamity of people in the world because of an attitude of vengeance.
Proverbs 17:5 He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
We also hasten the day by our verbal witness of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
There must be a witnessing to the world about the coming Kingdom of God before Christ will return. Not only has this been ongoing, but at the end this is the work and responsibility of the two witnesses, as inspired by God. Peter preached this message in Jerusalem here in Acts 3.
Acts 3:19-21 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
So the world has had a constant reminder, a constant witnessing of the return of Christ and God’s judgment since the world began. God has made sure of that. Jesus taught that it is God’s prerogative, either to shorten or to lengthen that period, as His sovereignty wills.
We know that it is the Christian destiny to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world because of our calls by evil desires, and that we are to look forward to a rich welcome from Jesus Christ. We know also that, against the background of judgment on sin, God rescued Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and Lot, a righteous man, and we are greatly encouraged to know what God pulled them out of.
Getting back to the word “hastening,” there are five other places the word is used in the New Testament.
Luke 2:16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Jesus told Zacchaeus to make haste and come down.
Luke 19:5-6 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
Paul hastened to be at Jerusalem in Acts 20.
Acts 20:16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.
And the Lord told Paul to make a haste and get out of Jerusalem which we find in Acts 22.
Acts 22:18 And saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’
Since “hasten” is a synonym for eager anticipation or eager expectation, Peter repeats himself with the synonyms in II Peter 3:12. The word “looking” has a similar meaning: anticipate; await; expect; looking for; and hastening. Peter is emphasizing the urgency and the diligence that is needed and involved in that.
There are two extremes in ministry that we must avoid. One is the attitude that we are locked into God’s sovereign plan in such a way that nothing we do will make any difference. The other extreme is to think that God cannot get anything done unless we do it.
While God’s sovereign decrees must never become an excuse for laziness, neither should our plans and activities try to take their place. Whatever we do and whatever efforts we make must be done according to God's will and the only way that we can understand what God's will is or know whether we are doing God's will is to pray and ask God.
Perhaps two illustrations from Old Testament history will help us better understand the relationship between God's plans and man’s service. God delivered Israel from Egypt and told the people He wanted to put them into their inheritance—the land of Canaan—but at Kadesh-Barnea, all except Moses, Joshua, and Caleb rebelled against God and refused to enter the land.
Did God force them to go in? No, instead he had them wander in the wilderness for the next forty years while the older generation died off. He adjusted His planned to their response. When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh his message was clear, “yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
It was God's plan to destroy the wicked city but when the people repented, from the king on down, God adjusted His plan and spared the city. Neither God nor His basic principles changed, but His application of those principles changed and God responds when people repent.
How then can we, as Christians, hasten the coming of the Day of God? For one thing we can pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
It would appear from Revelation 5:8 and in Revelation 8:3-4, that the prayers of God's people are related in some way to the pouring out of God's wrath on the nations. If God's work today is calling out a people for His name, then the sooner the church is completed the sooner Jesus Christ will return in one sense. There is a suggestion of this truth in Acts 3.
Acts 3:19-21 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
While Matthew 24:14 relates it primarily to the tribulation, the principle is the same. God’s ministry of men cooperates with God's program so that promised events can take place.
Now there are mysteries here that our minds cannot fully explain or understand, but the basic lesson is clear. The same God who ordains the end also ordains the means to the end. We are a part of that means, our task is not to speculate but to serve. It is not necessarily wrong to speculate, it just should not be our emphasis.
We have seen many times over the decades, many people have been so obsessed with prophecy that is all they have studied, and I do not know if there is a case where those people did not eventually drag himself out of God’s church, or at least hurt themselves very seriously, spiritually.
In II Peter 3, Peter tells us we are going to have a new home, a home of righteousness, and we are to be looking forward to this brand new heaven and earth and to begin to live a life now that shows how much we are getting ready for it.
II Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
God made a good world, but placed it under curse of judgment because of human sin. He promised that creation would be renewed and restored and so even today creation eagerly awaits that moment when God's people will rule the world God's way.
The English word “new” in verse 13, is from the Greek word kainos, which emphasizes both the radical change that creation will have to go undergo and its continuation.
Peter is not teaching the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of the universe, which though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one.
Although both the Greek words kainos and neos basically mean “new,” I want to look at the way each of these words is used in Scripture to help us better understand the meaning.
The word neos means new in time or origin. The word kainos, used here in verse 13, means new in nature or in quality. Kainos indicates something which is unaccustomed or unused; not new in time. It represents something in existence but its newness relates to its form or quality; it is of a different nature from what the old version was.
Take for example, “the new tongues” mentioned in Mark 16:17. Is the word kainos. These languages were new and different to those speaking them, not in the sense that they had never been heard before. They were also not new to the hearers who understood them. They were new languages to the speakers but different from those they were used to speaking.
Here are some more examples from Scripture. The new things that our calling and election provide are these: a new covenant (Matthew 26:28); a new commandment (John 13:34); a new creative act (Galatians 6:15); a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17); a new man, that is, a new character of a spiritual and moral nature after the pattern of Christ (Ephesians 4:24).
Now notice a few things that relate to the Kingdom of God. We receive a new name, this is found in Revelation 2:17 and also in Revelation 3:12. A new song will be sung, found in Revelation 5:9. God will create a new heaven and a new earth, found in Revelation 21:1. He will create the New Jerusalem, found in Revelation 3:12; 21:2, and it says in Revelation 21:5
Revelation 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Peter links God's promise of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells with holy conduct and godliness. The cosmic re-creation actually involves individual creations and this hope of the new heavens and the new earth is inspiring and motivates us to carry on, it helps us to be diligent.
We have the individual responsibility to make every effort to be ready for our new home and this does not mean spending all daydreaming about it or trying to plot its arrival, but rather being ready in terms of righteous Christian living. This expectant attitude will make a difference when we meet Jesus Christ.
II Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
It means that He will greet us in peace and have no charges against us so that we are ashamed before Him at His coming. The judgment seat of Christ will be a serious event as we give an account of our service to Him. It is better to meet Him in peace than for Him to fight against us with His Word. Jesus Christ is a lamb without blemish and without spot and we should be careful to follow His example, we are to be like Him in every way.
Peter warns us against the defilement that the false teachers bring, they are spots and blemishes. The separated Christian will not allow himself to be spotted and blemished by them, he wants to meet Christ wearing pure garments.
Now how do we maintain this eager expectancy that leads to holy living? By keeping His promise in the forefront of our hearts and minds. The promise of His coming is the light that shines in this dark world because we joyfully anticipate His appearing.
In summary, here are three ways we can actively look forward to these things. First is very simply, by doing the work of God.
I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
The second way of actively looking forward to these things is by making yourself ready.
Revelation 19:7-8 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The third active way to look forward to these things is by praying for God's Kingdom to come.
Matthew 6:9-10 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
II Peter 3:15 ties in with verse 9, where Peter explains why Christ had delayed in filling His promise. God had every reason long ago to judge the world and burn up its works, but in His mercy, He is longsuffering with us, not willing that any should perish but all that all should come to repentance. This is a day of salvation, not the Day of Judgment.
II Peter 3:15-16 And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 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.
Peter made reference to Paul’s writings because it is Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, who explained God's plan for mankind during this present age, especially in Romans and Ephesians. Paul explained the relationship between Israel and the church.
He pointed out that God used the nation of Israel to prepare the way for the coming of the Savior but Judah rejected its King and demanded to have Him crucified. Did this destroy God's plan? Of course it did not.
Paul made it clear that both Jews and Gentiles stand condemned before God and that both must be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ saved Jews and Gentiles belong to the one body, the church, and the church is a mystery that was hidden in God's councils, later revealed to Jesus Christ and the apostles.
Now untaught and unstable people have a difficult time understanding Paul’s teachings, even some educated and stable people who have spiritual discernment can find themselves struggling with spiritually deep passages. Since mainstream Christianity will do anything to preserve their non-biblical religious traditions, they twist the scriptures to try to make them teach what is really not there.
In II Peter 3:16, the Greek word strblo, translated as “twist,” in the New King James and “wrest” in the King James, means to wrench, meaning specifically to torture on the rack, but only figuratively; to distort and pervert.
Even in Paul’s day there were those who twisted his words to defend their ignorance. They accused Paul of teaching that since we are saved by grace, it makes no difference how we live. It was slanderously reported that Paul taught, “let us continue in sin that grace may abound and let us do evil that good may come.” There are always those that twist the words that Christ inspired in Scripture or that God's ministers preach.
On the other hand others accused Paul of being against the law because he taught the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church and their liberty in Christ. Most heresies are the perversion of some fundamental doctrine of the Bible. False teachers take verses out of context and twist the scriptures and manufacture doctrines that are contrary to the Word of God, all under the influence of Satan.
This twisting of the scriptures is like putting a man on the rack and after he has been wrenched apart, forcing him to say what we want him to say. Torture will extract the confession but often not the truth.
In the infamous Spanish inquisition, the Catholic Church first tortured the Holy Scriptures this way and then literally tortured men and women who refused to follow their perversions. The Jesuit Vatican assassins spearheaded that persecution and now the present pope is the first Jesuit pope. Where do you think that will lead today? The pope is a scoffer and an antichrist, no good can come from him.
Peter classified Paul’s letters as Scripture, that is the inspired written Word of God. Not only did the teaching of the apostles agree with that of the prophets and Jesus Christ, but the apostles also agreed with each other. The world scoffs at this, pointing out all of the “discrepancies in the Bible.”
I have a book in my office called, The Discrepancies of the Bible, and what this book does is try to refute the discrepancies that these intellectuals have come up with to try to disprove the Bible.
What happens to people who twist the Scriptures? They do it to their own destruction. Peter was not writing about Christians who have a difficult time interpreting the Word of God, because nobody understands all of the Bible perfectly. He was describing the false teachers who torture the Word of God in order to prove their false doctrines and to gain something for themselves.
The word “destruction” is repeated often in this letter, in the King James Version it is translated: damnable; pernicious; perdition, as well as destruction. It means the rejection of eternal life which results in eternal death.
We must be diligent to do all we can to declare to the world the return of Jesus Christ to establish God's government on this earth, however we do not know how long God will be longsuffering toward this evil world.
False teachers are multiplying in their pernicious doctrines are trying to infect the greater churches of God, and God needs separated men and women who will resist them, live godly lives, and bear true witness of God's true way of life. That takes diligence and requires God's Holy Spirit and the mind of God in us to carry out.
The third admonition from Peter to encourage us in Christian diligence in the light of Christ’s return is to be diligent to grow spiritually. The New Testament emphasizes this time and time again and the reason is because repetition is one of the best ways we learn. That is why I often cover the subject of diligence and applying ourselves to God’s way of life. Now continuing on here in II Peter 3.
II Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness [or diligence], being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
There are four “beloved” statements summarize what Peter wanted to get across as he brought his second letter to a close. I will give you the verses here:
II Peter 3:1-2 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 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.
II Peter 3:8 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.
II Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
II Peter 3:17 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.
The word translated “beware” in verse 17 means to be constantly guarding yourself. Even though we know the truth, Peter is warning us that knowledge alone is not sufficient protection. We have to be on our guard, we have to be alert. It is easy for people who have a knowledge of the Bible to grow overconfident and to forget the warning. Paul warns us in I Corinthians 10.
I Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
What special danger did Peter see? That, if possible, the true believers could be led away together with the error of the wicked. He is warning us against breaking down the walls of separation that must stand between true believers and the false teachers. There can be no communication between truth and error. The apostates live in error while true believers live in the sphere of the truth.
I cannot understand why so many people over the years, members of God’s church even, that have sat there and watched the Sunday morning preachers. This is the type of thing that it is talking about.
“The wicked” mentioned in II Peter 3:17, means the lawless. In Peter’s description of the apostates in II Peter 2, he reveals how lawless they are, they even speak evil of the authorities that seek to enforce God's law in this world.
II Peter 2:10-11 And especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
These presumptuous, self-willed scoffers promise their converts freedom but that freedom turns out to be lawlessness. That is exactly what we are seeing in the physical sense in this nation today, that these leaders are bringing the lawlessness to this land. This can be carried over in a spiritual sense into the church if we are not on our guard.
II Peter 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
So the followers of these false teachers are in bondage to that false teacher and to Satan. True Christians can fall from their own steadfastness, but what is this steadfastness? Being established in the present truth, as it says in II Peter 1.
The stability of the Christian comes from his faith in the Word of God, his knowledge of that Word, and his ability to use that Word in the practical decisions of life. The right application of that knowledge is wisdom from above.
The false teachers prey on young believers who have recently escaped from the ways of their error.
II Peter 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
New believers need to be taught the basic doctrines of the Word of God otherwise they will be in danger of being led away with the error of the lawless.
How can we, as believers, maintain this steadfastness and avoid being among the unstable who are easily enticed and led astray? By growing spiritually. It is a simple statement but a lot of work and a lot of diligence is involved. To be constantly growing is the literal translation there. We should not grow in spurts but in a constant experience of development.
II Peter 3:18 tells us that we must grow in the grace of Jesus Christ. The apostles use this word grace to indicate unearned and or unmerited favor, it always has the idea of something completely undeserved, something that we could never have achieved by ourselves. Grace denotes God’s benevolence, it is the giving of Himself in some way to bring about our salvation.
We can really limit its application in the Bible if we think of it only as the unearned pardon of sin, but it is much more than that. Here in II Peter 3:18 it has to do with character traits, the very things that Peter wrote about in II Peter 1:5-7, and that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:22, where we find the fruit of the Spirit.
We were saved by grace, but grace does not end there, we must also be strengthened by grace. God’s grace can enable us to endure suffering. His grace also helps us to give when giving is difficult. Our God is the God of all grace who gives grace to the humble.
As we study His Word we learn about the various aspects of grace that are available to us as children of God. We are stewards of the manifold grace of God, there is grace for every situation and every challenge of life. Growing in grace often means experiencing trials and even suffering. We experience the grace of God when we are at the end of our resources.
To grow in grace means to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ, through whom the grace that we need is given.
John 1:16-17 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
In addition to that, in the context there in John 1, we were introduced to the concept of grace upon grace, or in more modern English it is, “grace to meet every need.” In other words it is grace piled on top of grace and each layer of grace is given for different purposes, every single one of them unearned and unmerited, but all coming from the same source.
II Peter 3:18 tells us that we must also grow and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. How easy it is to grow in knowledge, but not in grace. All of us know far more of the Bible than we really live. Knowledge without grace is a terrible weapon and grace without knowledge can be very shallow. But when we combine grace and knowledge we have a wonderful tool for building our lives and for building the church.
Note that we are challenged to grow, not just in knowledge of the Bible, as good as that is, but in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is one thing to know the Bible and quite another thing to know the Son of God, the central theme of the Bible.
The better we know Christ through the Word, the more we grow in grace, the more we grow in grace the better we understand the Word of God. These things cannot be separated. God’s way of life is always a unity.
So the sanctified Christian must constantly be guarding himself lest he be led away into error. He also must be constantly growing in grace and knowledge. This requires diligence, it demands discipline, and a setting of priorities.
Nobody automatically drifts into spiritual growth and stability but anybody can drift out of dedication and growth.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
We grow from the inside out, like newborn babies, as Peter illustrated it in I Peter 2:2. The child of God is born with everything he needs for growth and service, all he needs is the spiritual food and exercise that will enable him to develop. And he needs to keep clean. We grow by nutrition, not by addition.
We grow best in a loving family and this is where the local church comes in. A baby needs a family for protection, provision, and affection. Test proves that babies who are raised alone without special love tend to develop physical and emotional problems very early.
The church is Gods nursery, in a sense, for the care and feeding of Christians, it is a God-ordained environment that encourages them to grow. Just as the human body grows in a balanced way with the various limbs working together, likewise the spiritual body must grow in a balanced way.
We must grow in grace and knowledge keeping a balance between worship and service, between faith and works. A balanced diet of the whole Word of God helps us to maintain a balanced life. This is why obsessing over prophecy can be so detrimental.
It is the Holy Spirit of God which empowers and enables us to keep things in balance, and before Peter was filled with the Spirit, he was repeatedly going to extremes. He would bear witness to Christ one minute and then try to argue with Jesus the next. He refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet and then wanted to be washed all over.
He promised to defend the Lord and even die with him, yet he cowardly disowned Christ. But when he was filled with the Spirit Peter began to live a balanced life that avoided impulsive extremes. It is a great way that the Holy Spirit works within us to keep us balanced if we work with it.
What is a result of spiritual growth? Simply, it is glory to God. It glorifies Jesus Christ when we keep separated from sin and error. It glorifies Him when we grow in grace and knowledge and then we become more like Him. In His life and even in His death Peter glorified God.
As you review this important second epistle of Peter, you cannot help but be struck by the urgency of the message. The apostates are here and they are busy seducing immature Christians, therefore we must guard the truth and our own calling, grow in grace and knowledge and glorifying God in the way we live making the most of every opportunity to be strengthened against scoffers.
This takes a tremendous amount of diligence and effort on our part, but God has not given us any duty, any responsibility that He has not also given us the power to perform.