This is a revised version of the question found in 2 Peter 3, where the “mockers” statement is recorded: “where is the promise of His coming?” And while Peter recorded this question over 1900 years ago, the question, in varying forms, still is being asked today. But we should also note that sometimes it is not being asked because some see the whole question as irrelevant.
But for those who really wonder why the Lord has not yet brought about end time events, this is a matter of real concern that often troubles them. We wonder how long God will put up with the open rebellion against Him and His standards, and the continual evil of mankind. This has been an ongoing concern for God’s people over the millennia. But we do well to remember some points, including those key points made by Peter in 2 Peter 3. Peter said to his readers that he was “stirring up your pure minds by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1; 1:13). So let us allow our minds to be stirred up on some essential points.
(1) Those questioning the reality and imminence of the Lord’s coming are unbiblical in their thinking and living. Peter identifies these detractors as “mockers”. Such a person has a willful contempt for God and His truth. They ridicule things that are sacred and of great importance. The Lord’s coming is a clear reminder that Jesus is the returning King of kings and that He will dramatically change the world when He returns. This goes against the self-indulgent thinking and living of these mockers who “walk after their own lusts.” These have an emphasis on a one world viewpoint which focuses on living for self, wealth and pleasure in this life. But this kind of life would be ended by Christ’s coming which is why it is a topic they mock. Pastors who will not teach their people about the Lord’s return may not exactly fit the “mocker” but they clearly are promoting a one world view, which is an unbiblical world view. They may not be with the mockers, but they are living next door.
(2) All that is necessary for the end time events to begin are in place today. As we look carefully at the details about the end of times given by the OT prophets and the NT apostles, we find nothing of major import that needs to take place. The stage is set. The issue is simply about when the curtain is going to come up and the “play” begins. Only the Lord God knows when (not if) that will occur.
(3) God is always “on time” and so the end times will not come too late nor will they arrive too soon. One of the important truths that we can learn about Jesus first coming to the earth was that it took place at exactly the right moment. So says the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4 when he informed us that “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” We have to believe that Jesus’ birth was not off by a couple of decades. God’s timing is always impeccable. So it will be with the imminent rapture, tribulation and Second Coming. Exactly on time.
Peter states that God is sovereign over time. God made time for mankind and for the earth, but He is not bound by it (2 Peter 3:8-9). God may use a thousand years to do what we think He might do in a day, and vice versa. God cannot be charged with “slowness/slackness”, as if He is just “hanging out” with no real purpose in His actions. What appears to us as God being a little slow in these matters is really an issue of patience. As we view some of God’s past judgment activities, we observe that He pronounced judgment (e.g., on Nineveh) and then “delayed” that judgment giving people a chance to repent and turn to Him; the One who delights in mercy rather than judgment.
(4) It is God’s mercy towards unbelievers which is factored in. The seeming “delaying” by God is indeed because He is patient towards unbelievers and desires that they turn to Him. (3:9). Peter had used an example of the Flood of Noah (1 Peter 3:20) to illustrate the patience of God towards the godless. But it was sad that during those 120 years no one took advantage of the offer to avoid judgment. These did not turn to the Lord God and experience His temporal salvation in the Ark, nor His eternal salvation which is given to those who trust in Him.But nevertheless, God does patiently seek the salvation of people and this is what accounts for the “delay”.
(5) His return is something that He gave His word would take place. He did “promise” (3:4, 13) that He would come again and make all things right. Peter emphasizes that the Day of the Lord “will come” (3:10). For the believer, there is no doubt that these events will take place. The Day of the Lord (that time of special Divine intervention in this world) is going to be fulfilled to the very letter. The question has always been “when” it will take place. We need to remind ourselves that we simply do not know enough to declare that right now is the perfect time for His coming. There are so many factors involved that we just don’t know about.
(6) We are to use this time prior to His return to be actively engaged in living for Him. This really is Peter’s emphasis in 3:11-14. When Peter says in 3:11, “what sort of people” we should be; he is not really asking a question. It is really an explanation of how we are to live. We are not to be just marking time waiting for Jesus to come. Our lives are to be characterized by many realities (3:11). First, we are to be characterized by HOLY LIVING. Our lives are to be increasingly separated from sin and separated unto the Lord. We are to work at staying away from spiritual contaminants and work at daily “abiding” in Christ (John 15). Second, our lives are to be involved in SERVING GOD. We are to approach each day with the dominating thought of how can I honor and serve Christ today. It is not a matter of being famous or doing great things. It is all about being faithful to Him as we go about our daily living. Third, we are to be LOOKING FOR His return, which has the idea of intently focusing on and being earnestly desiring something. We should be looking for Jesus, which is our desire to see Him, not just to be delivered out of the mess this world is in.
Adding to all this, the Apostle states (3:12, 14) we are to diligently work at (1) living in PEACE. This has to do with our being in harmonious relationships with Christ and with others. (2) WITHOUT SPOT and BLAMELESS is his reminder that we need to keep short accounts with God on the matter of sin in our lives; taking hold of 1 John 1:9. These things are important for life today but also are critical for that time when we appear before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:14, “be found in Him”).
Very interesting is Peter’s statement that by living in faithful obedience to the Lord we can “hasten” the coming of the Lord (3:12). He indicates that if we are so concerned about the Lord coming soon, we can “move along” His coming. How? Isn’t the future under God’s total control? Indeed the future is totally under God’s control. But God’s sovereign choice apparently includes what we do or don’t do. In some way our obedient service for Him has been factored in to the events of the end times. This seems to be something like our prayers. In ways unknown to us, the Sovereign God factors in our prayers in what He does or does not do. And so, Peter informs us that our godly, obedient lives in some way “moves along” the Lord’s return. That is something worth thinking about!
So while it is vital to look towards the heavens and long for the Lord’s return, it is so important to daily be living holy lives and obediently serving Him; whether it be by our praying, peacefully living with family, friends and folks in our church, or maybe seeking to venture out into new areas to share the truth of God’s great love through Jesus Christ. We have many things that we can do, and maybe, little time to do it in.