We live in a wonder-filled time in redemptive history that is sometimes described as “the already, but also not yet.” There are several Biblical descriptions of this time as well, such as the year or time of the Lord’s favor or the times of the Gentiles. Simply stated, we live in a time during the redemptive career of Jesus that lies between His resurrection/ascension and His sure return.
At the time of Christ’s incarnation, the Jews were not aware of this intervening time in redemptive history. Their expectations were that Christ would come, vanquish all foes and set up His kingdom.
Jesus, himself, announced this intervening time in Luke 4:16-21 in which He read in the synagogue fromIsaiah 61: 1-2a. The “year of the Lord’s favor” which Jesus proclaimed was a reference to the year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25. The principles of forgiveness of debt, release from prison and restoration were to be applied spiritually in a time of God’s favor or grace. It was an announcement of good news, the promise of a giant do-over to those who would believe.
The Jews mistakenly assumed this favor was only for them. But in verses 24-27 of the Luke 4 passage, Jesus foreshadows that this time of favor would apply to us, the Gentiles.
Knowing that we are living now in the favorable time, the day of salvation, per 2 Corinthians 6:2, and knowing the sure return of Christ, how should we live, and for what should we long? Peter answers in 2 Peter 3. He reminds us that the Lord will return, the earth will be purged and the heavens and earth made new as promised. Peter exhorts us to live lives of holiness and godliness as we both wait for and hasten the coming of the Lord.
The discussion of “the already, but also not yet” is not primarily an eschatological discussion. The larger questions are not “When is He coming?” or “What is the sequence of events of His return?” The larger questions, rather, are “What do we do while we wait?” and “How do I hasten his coming?”
Do I really wait expectantly and long for His return? I recently went on a mission trip with a Village team to southern Sudan. As the week went on, even though the accommodations and the food were quite adequate, I began to think about those things back home for which I longed—a hot shower, a full-sized bed without mosquito netting, air conditioning, ice in my drink glass, roads without pot holes, a cheeseburger…
How often do you think about and long for the return of Christ? In fact, when is a reasonable time for His return? Perhaps this week is not good. You may have behind-home-plate tickets to the Rangers’ game Friday including a parking pass, dinner plans for Saturday, vacation plans for next week. You think perhaps some time in August might work. You think, I’ll check my calendar, Lord, and get back to you. Those believers in war-ravaged southern Sudan and other places around the world where there is uncertainty, extreme poverty, orphans and darkness are longing for His return any time, like the believers to whom John wrote in Revelation.
Hastening His Return
And how do I hasten the coming of the Lord? I believe the answer is found within the context of the chapter. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.” And consider the first part of verse 15, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…” In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” And Peter says in Acts 3:19-21, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
Peter says the Lord is patient with us as believers. Could it be that through expectant, godly living and the urgent preaching of the gospel, we might hasten the Lord’s return? Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’”… and verse 22, “He who testifies to these things (Jesus) says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’”
Let us, with John, say “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Help us, Lord, to live godly lives and preach the gospel as we wait expectantly and longingly for Your sure return.