Posted: 21 May 2011 12:00 AM PDT
PETER URGES HIS READERS TO "wholesome thinking" (2 Peter 3, especially v. 1), in particular about the Lord's return. This presupposes that unwholesome thinking about the Lord's return was circulating. Today even more forms of unwholesome thinking about this event exist than in the first century. Peter stresses that:
(1) In every generation there will be scoffers who sneer at the notion of Christ's return (2 Pet. 3:3). Sometimes this scoffing will be grounded in a profoundly anti-Christian worldview. In our own day, philosophical naturalism obviously has no place for the ultimate supernatural visit to Planet Earth, nor even for an end of history brought about by God himself. The stance may be tied to some uniformitarian perspective (2 Pet. 3:4). Never should we forget that such perspectives often have moral dimensions to them. It is so much more convenient, for those who cherish their own moral autonomy, to deny that there is a final accounting (2 Pet. 3:3).
(2) We should never overlook the fact that God has not left himself without witness in this regard. Not only has he imposed massive judgments on powerful nations and empires (often by "natural" means), but two events in the record of the earth's existence testify to God's cataclysmic intervention: Creation, and the destruction of the Deluge (2 Pet. 3:5–7). Here our society suppresses, for example, the extremely articulate forms of the argument from design: we "deliberately forget" what God has done. Our evaluation of these matters is tied to our moral and spiritual alienation from God our Maker.
(3) The delay before Christ's return reflects not only God's very different view of the pace of events (2 Pet. 3:8), but his matchless forbearance: "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Paul says something similar: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).
(4) When Christ does return at the end, however, his return will be sudden, unmistakable, and cataclysmic (2 Pet. 3:10). It will mark the end of the universe as we know it. During the 1950s, when residents of North America were sometimes asked to build nuclear bomb shelters to shield themselves from the holocaust that threatened, I asked my dad if we should build one. He quietly replied, "Why? When Jesus comes, the very elements will be destroyed [cf. 2 Pet. 3:10, 12]. Be ready for him, and fear nothing else."
(5) And that is the point. In light of all this, "what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (2 Pet. 3:11–12). The test of eschatology is ethics.
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