Anticipating Our Lord's Return
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
By Dr. Charles Stanley
One day, this earth will be destroyed. Does that fact fill you with hope and joy, or sadness and dread? The good news is that believers don’t need to fear the world’s end. In fact, remembering the temporary nature of this life can inspire us to live righteously and reassure us when circumstances become difficult.
Peter’s Encouragement to Believers
The apostle Peter wrote two letters to believers scattered throughout the world. At that time, the Roman Empire had not yet banned Christianity. However, the church suffered persecution as its members sought to live godly lives in a hostile pagan society. They endured slander, riots, police action on a local level, and social ostracism. With this in mind, Peter wrote about the return of Jesus and its significance for daily life. Read 2 Peter 3:1-18.
What did the apostle hope to accomplish by writing this letter (vv. 1-2)?
What adversity do you face, either because life is sometimes difficult or because you try to live righteously in an ungodly culture?
In verse 4, Peter says that mockers say things such as, “All continues just as it was from the beginning.” Most modern scientists also make the assumption that the natural processes we see today have always been in place and will continue in the future. They deny that God made the world and don’t foresee its supernatural end.
What specifically did the skeptics of Peter’s day doubt (v. 4)?
In verse 6, the apostle refers to the catastrophic flood of Noah in Genesis 7. Some modern scientists, fearing climate change will cause the ice caps to melt, believe that we are in danger of another worldwide, life-destroying flood.
According to the Bible, how will the earth be destroyed (v. 7)?
“With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (v. 8) means that God is beyond time. Although He understands it from our perspective, He does not view time as we do. Peter wasn’t providing a formula for interpreting the word “day” in Scripture.
What is the reason for the apparent delay in Christ’s return (v. 9)?
In what way will Jesus’ second coming be like a thief breaking in at night (v. 10)? (See Matthew 24:42-44.)
Note: End times events include: the rapture, the tribulation and judgment of believers (Rom. 14:12), the millennial reign of Christ, the great white throne judgment, the destruction of the earth, and the creation of a new earth.
In verse 10, Peter writes, “The elements will be destroyed with intense heat.” To the Greek mind, “the elements” were earth, water, air, and fire--the basic components of the universe. In other words, the entire world will be destroyed.
Knowing that this earth is temporary, how should believers live (vv. 11-12)?
How can knowing the ultimate destiny of our world influence the way you spend time and energy?
After this planet and its atmosphere are destroyed, God will create “a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (v. 13). All of creation will be free from the curse of humanity’s fallen state. Revelation 21:3-4 says, “God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.” We will live in an Eden-like paradise, serving and worshipping the Lord forever.
Second Peter 3:14 in the New International Version says, “Since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
What does “this” refer to?
What does your life look like when you are at peace with God (v. 14)?
What do you think it means to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (v. 15)? (See 1 Timothy 2:4 if needed.)
At the time this letter was written, the Bible wasn’t yet compiled. From verse 16, tell how Peter viewed the letters of Paul.
Give an example of how people distort the Scriptures today (v. 16).
How are believers today “carried away by the error of unprincipled men” (v. 17)? In other words, how does unbiblical teaching mislead people?
What is the difference between growing in the grace of the Lord and growing in knowledge of Him (v. 18)?
What practical step could you take this week to live out the truths in 2 Peter 3:1-18?
Closing: We live in a society that scoffs at the claims of Christ, including His promise to return for His followers one day. But don’t let a worldly perspective dampen your passion for the Lord. In looking forward to His return, you will find significance in life, regardless of circumstances.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the Scriptures, which encourage me to keep eternal values in mind. Show me how to experience peace and joy despite the trials I face. I want to live a holy life, at peace with You. Amen.