THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
2 Peter 3:1-13
[Read 2 Peter 3:1-13]
When Is The Lord Coming Back? Is He Coming Back?
- Peter has warned the churches of the dangerous teaching of the false teachers (2 Peter 2). They live a life dominated by their lusts, because they believe the outcome doesnt matter. When asked about the return of Christ, these teachers scoff. (Scoffing is more than doubt it is denial and cynicism. An arrogant rejection of a position they believe absurd).
- They say, "Christ is overdue. The apostles misunderstood. He is not coming back. He never was." And their evidence is the world around them. Nothing has ever changed, they say. The world has been the same since the time of our ancestors.
- And in our own time, this has been one of the chief criticisms against belief in God. The supposed historical record of the earth that demonstrates long drawn out, slow change was for decades considered foundational to scientific explanations of the origin of earth and life. The constancy of the earth and its resistance to change was regarded as core. (Epicureans believed that the atom was constant and indestructible now we know that is untrue).
- Many of our contemporary cynics and scoffers are able to conceive of time and history in terms of billions and billions of years, yet Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov said that if Christ is coming back hes 1900 years overdue. Thats ironic what is 1900 years compared to ten million?
- Obviously, these people were wrong. Jesus did not return for his disciples, nor at anytime since. We can therefore only assume that Jesus made a false prophecy, and he will not be returning for his Church at any time. Web site author (Former Baptist, now atheist).
- The view that the earth is unchanging and constant is falling out of favor. Of course Peter knew this centuries ago ...
- The End of the Unchanging World (3:5-6)
God is sovereign and his word shapes reality. That is sovereignty. Sovereign is defined as having supreme power and potency. [When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen When God speaks, it becomes reality.]
- - In the beginning the earth was formless and void. And by the word of God, it became good and vibrant teeming with life. Thats change!
- - Things were going along just peachy in the days of Noah (or so everyone thought) and this man Noah was saying it is going to rain. No one had seen rain, no one could imagine rain, so everyone believed this was outrageous. They were knocking on the door of the ark when "the sky began to fall."
"By the same word, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment."
Things do not remain constant simply because nothing is happening, They remain this way because God wills it by the same word that issued change and destruction, preservation and keeping are maintained.
The Impatience of Humanity
- The continuance of the world "as we know it" depends on God, just as "the end of the world as we know it" is by Gods will. His word creates, destroys (he holds back the chaos waters), and re-creates. The stability of the world and the permanence of the world cannot be taken for granted.
- By his word and will God created heaven and earth
- By his word and will God destroyed heaven and earth in the flood
- By his word and will God restored the heaven and earth after the flood
- By his word and will God sustains the heaven and earth until it will be burned with fire
- Since God is creator and sustainer, God does not intend for things to remain as they are. He intends to eliminate evil from the world. He intends to purify it and renew it. So, why does he keep things as they are? Two reasons given:
- Gods perception of time differs from human perspective, thus the Psalm 90:4 statement (this is a reminder of the prophets words).
- God is slow to anger and patient (see Joel 2:12-13, Exodus 34:6; Jonah 4:2). God is holding off giving everyone a chance to change and be prepared to welcome the return of Christ. [This should erase any notion that God is waiting to catch us at our worst like the high school principal. When we are at our worst, God is most merciful but we dare not ignore the forbearance of God. This should inspire everyone to make ready for something wonderful the home of righteousness!]
- God keeps his promises. Whether it takes a thousand years or a day, he keeps his promise he does not forget, he does not get tired, he is not impatient. In fact, he is extremely patient with us. He does not want anyone to perish.
- The Cecropia Moths May of 1999, caterpillars/June 1999 they wove cocoons/April 2000 I was trimming the bushes and cleaning out our overgrown flower beds and I thought, what shall I do with the cocoons. I spoke to Karen and said, "They might be dead." I thought that with all the pesticide and mosquito fogging that these bugs were lost. Karen said, give them a month, and then we can remove their branches. The very next day, I stepped out onto the front walk early to see two beautiful moths. They stayed for a few days and then they were gone.
- What a shame if I had taken down their cocoons. I would have missed a miracle. My children would have missed the miracle. They would have missed the story. We still talk about the moths.
- When the caterpillars were roaming around eating the trees, it was always a challenge to see whether they were still there where were they hiding? Had a bird gotten them? But after the cocoon, there was no drama. We knew that one day they would emerge, but it became tedious to wait. And looking at the dead lifelessness of the cocoon, it was hard to believe that they might be alive.
- Believers are not unaffected by the delay. We sort of think that life will go on as it always has. We dont wait with anticipation. We dont pray "Maranatha" as we should.
- In our fast-paced world, we have become truly impatient. We await change. We want something to happen. And when it doesnt, we assume it will never change. We give up. We are visionless. And thats is very dangerous because: 1) we accept that the world we see is all there is and 2) we forget some very important promises.
The End of the Unrighteous World (3:7-10)
- There is current not only the view of a random creation (evolution), but also a random or accidental destruction (extinction event, biological/ecological/nuclear disaster). If the final end of the world is impersonal and senseless, then morals dont really matter. Examples of impersonal, non-judgmental destruction: meteor extinction event, nuclear accident/war, ecological or biological disaster. The only moral imperative we can sustain is an impulse to avoid the destruction or to escape it somehow and preserve the continuation of the species or civilization.
- If creation and destruction are impersonal and without judgments, then we assume that we are free to live as we like. But the beginning and end of the world, as well as every moment in between have meaning and purpose! The destruction is a creation the end of unrighteousness and the beginning of the home of righteousness ...
- All things will be judged and only righteousness will prevail ...
- The destruction/breaking down of the elements is the pre-condition for the new heaven and new earth (see Rev. 21:1-22:5). It is like the refiners fire that melts gold and burns out the impurity the destruction of the ore creates something beautiful.
- Righteousness is worth maintaining even now because it is the final state of things. It is the reality that will prevail. It is the destination of the godly path and the fulfillment of the divine promise the sharing in the divine nature.
- On Jan 1, 2002 the 12 countries of the European Union switched to a new currency the euro. The preparation for the currency change had taken years. For six weeks after Jan 1, the two currencies were in circulation together, but after the grace period all other currency would be worthless. Some governments planned to use the old currency as fuel in government building heating systems, some had plans to shred the old currency and use it as confetti in a carnival. Others planned to use the old money as compost material. Whatever they planned, for six weeks the two currencies operated together, but after the grace period only the Euro had value.
- The world as we know it in which evil and unrighteousness sometimes seem to prevail, is ending.
- The home of righteousness is the only feature of the world to come that Peter cares to mention. All other features are set aside. This is the only detail that really matters especially for the now! Debates about the details of judgment and the end of time miss the point. Whether the earth is burned up or burned over or whether there is a tribulation or rapture are ancillary concerns. They are possibilities debatable issues.
- The focus ought to be on Gods will being set into motion and prevailing. By his word he created, and by his word he will dissolve it. He will judge and test all things. He will recreate and transform. He will fashion a new heaven and new earth. Gods will prevails this gives us hope! And that shapes the way we live ...
The End of the Hopeless World (3:11-13)
- We have made a mockery of the return of Christ. We have reduced it to a boogeyman tale to scare sinners and frighten children at Bible camp. In reaction to such a fantastic view or to the millennial controversies of past and present some leave the subject aside entirely. Thats also to our shame because the return of Christ and the meaningful, purposeful end of this age by Gods sovereign action is rooted in the gospel. It gives us hope of sharing in his resurrection wonder and the ultimate beauty of the world to come. Thats a greater motivation than avoiding punishment.
- The Iraqi Olympians Because Uday Hussein is dead, this is the first Olympics in which they are motivated to win the prize rather than avoid punishment.
- The hope of Christs return and Gods will to establish the home of righteousness orders the way we live even now. Theres where we need to focus our energy and our attention!
- One day in 1789, the sky of Hartford, Conn. Darkened suddenly and ominously. Some of the representatives in the State Congress left their seats to glance out of the window fearing the end of the world was at hand. There was a clamor for immediate adjournment so that the representatives could leave and see to their personal affairs. The speaker of the House, Col. Davenport, rose up and said, "The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause to adjourn. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought."
- The Christian outlook should be one of hopefulness not fear and worry. We are not the people who fear the end and the return of Christ, we are those who welcome it and who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- This is the idea in the Lords Prayer that Gods will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thats not a maybe - that is an eventual reality and we as the pilgrims on the divine path ought to be inviting that reality to come soon!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 29 August 2004
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