In our text, Peter began by emphasizing a key difference between humans and God: humans are creatures dependent on time, and God is not. Humans have a beginning and an end. They celebrate their beginnings (birthdays) and dread their physical ends (deaths). Everything in their physical world they know has a beginning and an end. Everything physical is temporary. The "time" between beginning and end may vary, but everything physical has a beginning and an end. This is such a common reality in physical existence that it is difficult for humans to think of anything in terms of not having a beginning or end.
The one reality humans know that has no beginning or end is God. God is very different from humans in comparison of the divine to humanity because time is without significance to God. God is not subject to time. One of God's greatest promises to us humans is the promise to give us an existence that is not dependent on time.
While we humans use time to measure the reality of promises, God does not. "Quickly" and "soon" have significance to humans because they are concepts concerned with time. While they are terms concerned with the human measurement of time, they are not terms that are significant to God.
To humans, especially to us American humans, we want occurrences we regard as significant to take place in our lifetimes. Whereas God is patient, we tend not to be patient. With God, purpose (instead of time) is the key consideration. The issue with God is never, "Is this taking too long?" The issue with God is, "Has My purpose happened?"
We humans should be happy God is unconcerned with time. Who knows for certain "how long" it took for God to find Abraham? For us humans, the important thing is that the patient God waited until such a man existed. It took generations to produce the nation of Israel. It took about 2000 years to produce the Christ from Abraham and Israel. Life with God after our deaths will not be a timed event.
While God is not a God constrained by time, He is a God who is extremely patient as He pursues His purposes. After He invested enormously in our salvation (read Romans 5:6-11), He is not about to abandon His purposes. If a portion of humanity chooses not to live at peace with God, it will not be God's fault. He patiently pursues peace with all people. If there is no peace with God, it will be the choice of those who reject His peace!
Consider the flow of Peter's argument. (1) Time is not a consideration to God. Therefore, humans should not use time to gauge God's commitment to His promises. God's promises always spring forth from God's commitments. God's greatest commitment in the God to human relationship is to human redemption/salvation. God does not succeed in His purpose when people perish. God succeeds when people repent. God is patient to allow maximum human repentance. He is not hesitant to keep His promise. It is not a matter of time. It is a matter of divine commitment to divine purpose. (2) When God's judgment does come, it will be sudden and unexpected. It will be totally unexpected--no human will predict it. It will be noisy and inescapable. [The concepts associated with the end of the physical as humans know it is not Peter's primary point. Is Peter affirming something they do not know? Is he referring to a commonly held concept? Is he merely capitalizing on a widely held view in the Christian community? Two facts must be understood: (a) this is a difficult passage to translate; (b) the nature of the coming of the end is not Peter's basic point.]
Peter was not denying the fact that the unexpected judgment will come. He is affirming the end of the physical as humans know it is certain to come. That certainty underscores his point: since the judgment will happen, what kind of people should we be? The certainty of the judgment must encourage a Christian's commitment to a holy lifestyle founded on godly conduct.
Christians do not feel threatened by the end of the physical as they know it. The end of the physical means the coming of a world in which they belong. This physical world constantly reminded the Christians to whom Peter wrote that they did not belong to (fit in) this world of physical habitation. Their values and priorities were in such contrast with people who did not know God (the majority) that Christians were obviously misfits in a world that neither respected nor wanted them. The world that existed after the judgment would be a world designed for the righteous. [The new world would be what God designed this world to be when He made it.] People who are committed to righteousness in this world in which they do not belong would "fit in" or "belong to" the world to come. The righteous in this world will be proper inhabitants for the world of righteousness that is to come.
The objective is NOT to make Christianity incorporate the values and priorities of a godless existence as was the situation discussed in chapter 2. The objective IS to encourage Christians to be true to righteous values and priorities. These are the values and priorities that will make the world of righteousness their world.
The emphasis on the importance of people to God is seen in God's commitment to our redemption (verse 9). Christians are not committed to God because they are terrified of Him. They are committed to God because He is on their side! [See Paul's encouragement in Romans 8:31.] God takes no delight in people perishing. God takes delight in people repenting. Christians belong to the God who wants to save, not destroy. He knows how to rescue! He knows how to give the righteous a world in which they belong!
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 13
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