If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. We’re going to be in 2 Peter, chapter 3. We’re going to simply continue on with our Advent series here the last weekend of 2014. For the last four weeks, what we have covered is really the person and work of Jesus Christ. What we did is we said that for Christmas to be all Christmas should be for us, we needed to do a couple of things.
We needed to look back and marvel at the incarnation. When we say marvelat the incarnation, what I meant and what I tried to unpack is, although we celebrate Jesus’ kind of birthday on December 25, the reality is he is coeternal with the Father. He has always been. He is the active agent in all of creation, and so the incarnation was God putting on flesh, the Creator putting on his creation and dwelling among us. That’s why he was called Immanuel. It means God with us.
We marveled at his coming, but we didn’t want to just look back at baby Jesus, we wanted to consider really the implications of the coming of Jesus for our lives. We looked at attributes of God and the application of those attributes to our everyday life. We started Advent by saying that God is a deliverer.
Not only was that true in the coming of Jesus Christ and before Christ, but in our lives today, the power of Christ made manifest in the gospel delivers us from sin and death and addiction and bondage and all sorts of other things. Christ’s coming was a sign of the delivering power of God, and yet his power made available to us today continues to deliver us from dozens if not hundreds of different backgrounds and different bondages.
From there, we said God is compassionate. We said the coming of Christ showed his compassion, and that compassion is still made available to us on this day. Then we said God is glorious and how that glory works itself out today. God is worthy, and he is still worthy today. What we said was necessary as we walked through Advent is that we needed to look back at Jesus. We needed to marvel at what’s made available to us in Christ today.
Then here and there I just dropped that we also needed to look toward the return of Christ a second time, this time not as a baby but rather as the Ruling King of the universe. We don’t just look back at baby Jesus and we don’t just consider his power made available today, but we also consider that he is coming again, and that return is imminent. If you have all three of those pieces, then you can grow deep roots. Really the little shadow of Christmas morning actually comes true upon the return of Christ.
I tried to frame up Christmas the way I think it will be helpful for you. Christmas morning has a lot of promises tied to it, right? Family is going to be together, and there’s going to be Christmas cheer. You’re going to get what you want, and all your dreams are going to come true. There’s going to be this holly, jolly thing that happens. In reality, if there’s any of that, it’s only for a few moments. Then it gives way. It’s a shadow of something that is coming but is not here yet.
I thought this last Sunday of the year together what we could do is we could consider the day all of that comes true and Christ returns, this time not 6 pounds and 8 ounces but rather something altogether different. I just thought we would spend our time thinking about the return of Christ as king.
With that said, I’m going to read Revelation 19 to you. You can stay camped out there in 2 Peter 3. That’s when I really want to dive into what these things mean. But I think when we think about Jesus in our head, we think of Jesus as he is born, as he lives, as he dies, as he is resurrected, as he ascends, but few of us have created space in our minds for what Jesus looks like upon his return.
What he looks like upon his return jostles us a bit in a way that thinking about him as a baby or thinking about him healing diseases and rebuking storms and telling Lazarus that he is not allowed to be dead anymore or the Jesus on the cross or even the resurrected Jesus who eats a meal with his disciples and is touched… We know he is not a ghost. Then even ascension Jesus, right? If you know your Bible well, Jesus ascends in his resurrected body.
The disciples are left looking up into heaven when an angel goes, “What are you guys looking at? Do you not know that this Jesus will return the same way he has just left?” We don’t really create space in our minds for the ferocity of the return of Christ and what Jesus looks like when this little area of time you and I are in, where I’m saying, “Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. Come to the table…”
You cannot over-preach that ever. If I did nothing but talked about the forgiveness of Christ and the grace on your life regardless of background, regardless of struggle, regardless of how you’ve limped in here today, I could not over-preach it. It should never grow routine to our ears. The reason it shouldn’t grow routine to our ears is we’re still all struggling. We’re still all wrestling with our flesh. We’re still all fighting thoughts, actions, deeds, desires of the heart that have to be laid before the Lord.
To be reminded of the gospel is the very food for the soul of the believer. You can’t out-preach it. With that being our theme, with that being what we hit on every week, to now look forward to the return of Christ or the time in which grace, mercy, and forgiveness has been offered is over, and Christ steps into the world now to judge the world. That’s a scary version of Jesus most of us like to block out. It’s one we don’t like to think of.
It’s why we like cuddly baby Jesus. You know, the one who has flames shooting out of his eye and a sword in his mouth we don’t even like to think about that Jesus because he is not sweet. He is not as nice, and we like nice Jesus. We don’t like ferocious Jesus. The reality is you can’t separate love and wrath. You just can’t do it. To love something deeply is to have the possibility of wrath. All the parents said, “Amen.” Yeah!
The first time I held Audrey, I had the thought, “I could physically kill someone.” I’d never had that thought before. I was holding her. I was thinking, “If someone tried to harm this baby girl, I would straight Moses with my bare hands.” I didn’t know that was in me until I had a child. To love deeply means the flipside of that love can move you toward wrath.
That’s what we see in the Lord. So much love is in him for the glory of his name, for the exaltation of his worth in the hearts of men that the back edge of that blade is God’s right, just wrath. We see Jesus in Revelation 19 not wrapped in swaddling clothes but wearing a robe dipped in blood. Let me read it to you. I’ll put it on the screens so you know I’m not making it up. Revelation 19, starting in verse 11.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
This is a long way away from baby Jesus, is it not? This is a long way away from the picture in our minds when we think about Christ. When we think about forgiveness, we think about grace, we don’t really create space for this, and this is how he will return. In fact, so terrifying is his presence at the second advent that the Bible says those who are outside of the kingdom will flee to the mountains, but the mountains will flee before the coming of the Lord. If the mountains are afraid…
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the mountains, but I got to hike the Inca Trail several years ago, three or four days in the mountains hiking the trail. There are parts of the Andes where there was just mountain on this side, and nothing but a long drop on that side. You felt small, and I felt nervous. I felt like just a good gust of wind sends me home to glory. Really when you’re up there and now you’re past where helicopters can get to you, man, you’re just at the mercy of nature.
If the mountains are like, “Here he comes! Run for it!” then what are we who are outside the kingdom of God going to do? This invitation is constant: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This, “Repent. Believe. Come to the table.” This thing we do at the end of every service where we grab the bread and the cup, and we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death absorbing our sins. His life imputing to us righteousness. His resurrection meaning the bill has been paid in full.
Our constant pleading for you to come and walk across this bridge that has been laid out of wrath and into mercy, there’s a day where that invitation is closed. At the second advent, at the return of Christ, the plea of God to the world to repent and believe and find forgiveness and wholeness and life is over. Now there’s a sword coming out of his mouth by which he will judge the nations. His eyes are filled with fire, and he has come (according to the text) to tread the winepress of the wrath of God Almighty.
Memorize that one! We don’t like to memorize that verse, do we? We’re like, “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ’Plans to prosper and give you a future.’” Nobody memorizes, “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” because we like to block out of our minds that God is wrathful without thinking through the implications of what that actually does to his love.
In light of the return of Christ, how are we to think? How are we to live? What should we consider in light of the fact that the return of Christ in the second advent will look very different than the first advent of the coming of Christ? The incarnation is very different than the second coming. First of all, baby Jesus is tiny, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. King Jesus shows up with a tattoo on his thigh and a sword, riding a horse, in a robe dipped with blood. Those are about as far from one another as you can get, right?
I mean, I don’t know what you add to the returning King of Kings and Lord of Lords that is not present in baby Jesus in the first incarnation, the majesty of God fully revealed upon the return of Christ. The majesty of God is somewhat veiled in the first advent, because God takes on flesh and dwells among us. There will be no veiling at the second coming.
In fact, if you read this text with your imagination, the Bible says he steps in through heaven. Don’t think, “Oh, he is just going to appear in the sky.” Like, “Oh, is that a plane? Is that a bird? Oh no! It’s a white horse and a guy in a robe dipped in blood.” That’s not how… He will literally tear open the reality you and I know and step into it. He will invade the universe in such a way that the full magnitude of the glory of God is made visible.
Everything you and I see now is a reflector of the glory of God. On this day, they will no longer need to reflect, because his presence will be there unimpeded, not needing reflection any longer but fully present. That’s the day that is coming. In light of that, let’s look at 2 Peter, chapter 3, starting in verse 1. There are five things to consider out of this text. We’ll read the whole text, and then we’ll get into the five.
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ’Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these [these waters] the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” A few more verses here. Look at verse 11.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” In light of the second coming of Christ, here are five things out of this text.
1. We must work to remember. Look at verse 1 here. “This is now the second letter…” Second Peter. “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” Why? “In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles…”
“I am writing you again a second letter to remind you, to help you remember what the holy prophets said and what the Lord told you through the apostles.” We must work to remember. Let’s have just an honest conversation with one another. Our default is not remembering and worship and praise. Our default is not remembering and feeling entitled. This is just universally true.
You did not wake up this morning and go, “I woke up again. Praise his name!” As you ate breakfast or drank coffee (whatever you do with breakfast), as you did that this morning, my guess is your heart wasn’t overflowing with God’s goodness and grace toward you in making available these things. No! You worked for them. You deserve it. You bought it.
Then as you started your car, you weren’t like, “Praise God!” Then at some point today, it’s not going to occur to you, “Hey, I’m physically healthy. I feel strong,” because you’re not aware that you’re physically healthy until you’re not. Then all of a sudden you realize what a gift it is. As the day progresses, you will not find your heart more and more and more and more glad at all of God’s goodness to you.
We’re not wired that way. We don’t drift that way. No, we drift the other way. “Of course I woke up this morning. Of course I ate breakfast. It was in the fridge. Of course my car started. It’s an ’08 Honda. It will always start.” Right? “Of course I feel physically strong. Of course!” We feel entitled. We forget the things God has pulled us through. We forget how faithful he has been. We forget, and so he is saying (this is really brilliant here), “I’m writing to you.”
One of the purposes of Scripture is to remind us of the faithfulness of God and to tune our hearts into the reality that Christ is coming again. You know the entire Bible…all 66 books…tell one story. You know that, right? It’s just one story. It’s not 66 different stories. The Bible walks in an amazing unity. From Genesis to Revelation, it tells one story: God redeeming mankind from the brokenness of sin and death through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
As we read the Scriptures with detail for detail and with our imagination… I always just want to fight with you about that. I want you to read the Bible with your imagination. Put yourself in the text. Try to smell it, is how I usually teach it. Try to smell the text. When I’m teaching, I’m trying to show you how to read your Bible like this.
When we talked last week and we read the story about the father bringing his son to Jesus, one of the things I wanted to just kind of show you as I read that is, what I’m doing is I’m trying to imagine me with my son Reid. What would I be feeling if he had a disease that couldn’t be cured? What would I be feeling if there was no hope? How desperate would I be for Christ to heal him if no one else could and his life was at stake?
I want to get in the text. I want to smell it. I want to feel the weight of it. I’m not talking about conjecture, because what I did multiple times… When I’m in conjecture, I’ll step over here. I’ll be like, “Bible over here; I’m over here. This is what I think.” If I’m standing over here, I’m saying, “This is what the Bible says.” We’re not talking about use your imagination and go into some crazy land, but read it with your imagination and read it for detail.
What would it be like for you on that day where he tears open the sky? What’s that day going to be like? We remember. We remember he has been faithful. We remember a Messiah was promised, and a Messiah was given. We remember there was going to be an atoning death, and there was an atoning death. We remember there was a resurrection promised, and there was a resurrection given.
We remember the gospel was going to spread throughout the whole world, and we’re watching the gospel spread throughout the whole world. We’re in Dallas worshiping Jesus. Let that settle in on you. We were promised a return and the consummation of all things, and we will get a return. We read and remember, but it will be a fight. Hear me. One day turns into the next, doesn’t it? One day just melts into the next, doesn’t it?
I mean, if you will remember, we were just going, “Oh my gosh! Is it already Christmas?” Let me tell you what’s next. “Oh my gosh! Is it already summer?” Do you know what’s next after that? “Is it really time to start back up for school? Oh my gosh! It’s Christmas! How did this happen? Is it really already spring break? Are we at summer again?”
Right? It’s just that until you die. The day melts into the next day, melts into the next day, melts into the next day. We need help remembering, and so we’ve been given the Word of God that helps bolster our remembrance. There are other things we’re given too, but this is the primary one. We begin to work at remembering that he is returning.
2. It’s important to really remember he is returning. Because we see picking up in verse 3 that there will be animosity toward those of us who believe in his imminent return. “…knowing this first of all, that scoffers…” To scoff is to mock or to ridicule. “…will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ’Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these [these waters] the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
So remember. Remember the promises of God. Remember how faithful he has been in those promises. Remember one of those promises is his imminent return. That’s important because there will be plenty of scoffers, plenty of mockers and those who belittle and mock what we believe. This is easy to see everywhere.
Here’s what’s interesting to note about how the Bible unpacks those who would mock our faith. It says two things about them. The first thing it says about them is they mock because they want to pursue their own sinfulness. They get a hint of the lordship of God. They get a hint of the path of life as the Bible unpacks it. All the commands of God are meant to lead us into the fullest life possible. God is most glorified in our gladness in him.
When they catch a whiff of that, they catch a whiff of a God who says, “This is the way to life,” and think, “I don’t believe that’s the way to life. I think my way is the path of life.” They will then mock and scoff at the Lord and find any excuse they can to not believe. See, there are two fundamental postures when it comes to the Word of God. There are probably more than that, but here are the two I come across most frequently.
I work really hard to get myself around lost people. I don’t work with any, and so I have to kind of fight for that. I want to have dialogue, want to learn what they’re thinking. Not even the kind of religious, like, “Oh, I want to consider it. I’m in a tragedy right now. I’m kind of thinking about the Lord.” I just want the guy who is not even interested. I want to pick his brain. I want to sit down and have a good cup of coffee or something else and just talk about life. That’s always intriguing to me.
Here’s what I’ve found. Scoffers and mockers, their fundamental posture toward the Word of God is one of, “Let me show you why it’s wrong. Let me prove to you. Let me read it with eyes trying to find error.” They have a fundamental posture to not have any doubts about what they believe and will never put the same scrutiny on their own system as they do the Word of God. That’s their fundamental posture. “Let me find something that’s wrong.”
When they find it, they honestly… If you’re like this, I’m not trying to offend you. I promise you I’ll sit down and get a drink with you. I’m not trying to offend you, but you don’t even try to understand. You’re not intellectually consistent or honest. For all your appeal to intellect, you honestly are not being intellectual. You’re honestly being the fool you’re trying to paint us Bible believers as.
It’s like, “Oh, see? Look at the rising of the sun.” “Are you serious? The sun doesn’t rise! We’re orbiting around. If this is the inerrant Word…” Okay, you’re reading poetry. See? You’re not even considering the genre you are reading. You’re reading poetry. Nobody reads Poe and says, “A raven? Are you serious? Poe is an idiot. A raven was rap-tap-tapping? Ravens don’t speak.” No, it’s poetry. He is making a point with poetry.
That’s what the Psalms are. Its genre still has to be taken into consideration. You have history. You have poetry. You have prophecy. You have narrative. All of those are parts of the Word of God. A skeptic, a scoffer, is going to approach the Bible. “Let me show you where it’s wrong.” The posture of the believer is, “I don’t know that I can make sense of it, but I’m going to believe this is right, and I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to dive in. I’m going to dig around. I’m going to wrestle. I’m going to lay hold of the text.”
In fact, Luther in the Reformation reading the book of Romans said he laid hold of Paul and beat him till he submitted. That’s how you read the Bible. He was like, “I don’t get it so I’m just going to dig in here. I’m going to study. I’m going to work, and I’m going to figure it out.” Scoffers don’t do that. The fundamental posture of the scoffer is, “Oh, that’s not true.” Then they just regurgitate nonsense that’s in disproof, forever trying to sound intellectual.
We remember because we’ll oftentimes be surrounded by scoffers. Then listen. Let’s just set scoffing over here and just have a chat. Again, I’m walking over here. Can you feel it in you sometimes? Sometimes I’m going, “Gosh! It’s been 2,000 years. Are we fools? I mean, if he was coming quickly 2,000 years ago, we have different definitions of quickly. I don’t feel like I’m lacking patience here when you’re talking first century, and here we are not in the sixteenth century or the seventeenth century. We’re a long way away from the first century.”
My confession is I feel like my days melt from one to the next. I feel like I’m not dialed in to this return like I should be dialed in to this return. In fact, Jesus says in his own teachings that when he came, it would look like another day we know about (if you have a background in church or go see epic films about the Bible that aren’t really about the Bible).
Matthew 24, starting in verse 37: “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” What does he mean by that? Verse 38: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
How is the second coming going to occur? It’s going to occur like the days of Noah. It’s just going to be every day, any day, and he is going to show up. Here would be a great kind of modern-day illustration of how to think about the return of Christ. How many of you know exactly what you were doing on September 11, 2001? Okay.
For me, it was any other day. I was preaching that night down… Then I got up in my hotel room. I got in the car very early on the way trying to get home to Lauren. The taxicab had on the radio, and I heard that a plane had flown into the tower. I immediately thought, “Some guy in a single engine Cessna had a heart attack and probably crashed his plane into the tower.” I thought to myself, “Why do they let planes fly around a city like that? It’s crazy!”
Then I got to the airport and the next thing I knew, we were landing in Houston, not in Dallas. They were making us hide in a hallway. I had no idea what was going on. I was trying to use my cell phone to call my wife. That was when cell phones were like that. You know, it had like an antenna. I was trying to call Lauren to see what was going on. I was trying to figure out how to get back to Abilene. That’s where I lived back in ’01.
Here we are. It was just any other day. No one saw that coming, not lay folk. I mean, maybe some people in government thought it was a possibility, but nobody here did. Yet out of nowhere, a day was written into our history, the history of the world, the history of our nation, that we’re to the point now where every September 11, we’re to that place we’re like, “Man, has it really been that long ago? Gosh! That’s crazy.”
For the rest of our lives, we’ll go, “Do you remember that?” Our kids and grandkids will be like, “What were you doing that day?” like my generation was around Pearl Harbor, things like that. You’re like, “So did you go to war? Were you in Vietnam? Were you in?” Those are our kinds of questions. Our kids are going to be like, “What about September 11? What were you doing on September 11?” Who knows what event is coming this year that might even supplant that?
Here’s the thing. As in the days of Noah, people will be eating and drinking. They’ll be getting married. They’ll be going on honeymoons. They’ll be set for vacation. Christ will tear open the skies and enter in all the majesty of God. Here’s the third thing.
3. What we see in this text is the nature of God and the plan of God. Let’s look in verse 8. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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.”
There are a couple of things. The first thing we need to talk about (there are two in this section of text) is going to bend our minds a little bit, all right? It might even make you cramp up a little bit in your brain. What this text just said is that to the Lord, a day is a thousand years, and a thousand years is a day.
You and I are finite. We are inside of time, which means we can hardly have a conversation without reference to time. “What time did you get up this morning? What time are we having lunch today? What time are you coming over? What time does the game kick off? When are you going?” Right? All these are questions about time, because you and I very much are defined by time.
That is not true about God. God is outside of time so that the present and the future aren’t just things he knows about. They are places he is. So past, present, and future are definitions for you and me. For God, it’s just a place he is. The text says he is not slow as some count slowness. You count it as slow here 2,000 years later because you’re finite, and you see time in a way that’s different than the way God sees and understands time.
Then on top of that, he says, “Let me tell you why God has restrained the second coming. God has restrained that wrath that will be poured out on the earth because he is patient and he longs for all to come to repentance.” Listen. I’m praising his name that he didn’t return when I was 16. I’d be on the wrong side of things. Even now with some people I deeply love who I so desperately want them to come to faith… We’re talking about Christ, and a couple of them feel so close. “I’m all right.” “Just be patient, Lord.”
He is not being slow. He has a plan to rescue and ransom men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth. His wrath is being held back as his glory spreads. His wrath is being held back while all of those purchased by the blood of Christ are gathered. This is why I continually say to you that Jesus did not die on the cross for people who might believe. He died on the cross for those who will.
He is saving all over the world right now. He is rescuing. He is ransoming. He is calling people to himself. For those of you who are jostled by this idea of the return of Christ and the wrath of God being unleashed on humanity, you think that’s ridiculous, and you think that’s not fair, I’m telling you the reason it’s been so long is God is patiently holding it back as he calls men and women to repent, as he calls men and women unto himself.
There’s this unbelievable invitation on the table to you to repent of your sins, to escape this great wrath, and to fall in to a love and a depth of life that transcends what we think and how we understand the universe to operate. That’s what’s on the table. God is not cruel. He is merciful. Look how long he has been holding out. Here’s what I’ve found. If I’m dialed too much in to the suffering of this world, I get overwhelmed. When I consider what’s going on all over the world…
I have a dear friend who does… I keep trying to bring him in to preach to us. He had done some mission work up in the mountains of Nepal. What they discovered when they were up there is those little villages in the mountains are so poor that what’s happened is really deplorable, wicked men come to these families in these little villages where there’s extreme poverty, and they sell the parents of little girls on this promise of a new life down in towns. Then they take those little girls, sometimes as young as 6 and 7 years old, and they sell them off into sex slavery.
That’s one little part of the world. One little part! That’s not talking about all the depravity and wickedness all over the world. God alone knows all of it. God alone sees all of it. God alone sees every little deplorable, despicable, wicked act of man, and still he holds back the treading of the winepress of the wrath of God Almighty.
Still he holds it back as men and women are heralded the good news. Still he holds it back as his people are beheaded in the Middle East. Still he holds it back as we prefer pornography to full-on commitment to our spouses. Still he holds it back as we, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus” him. Still he holds it back as there are wars and rumors of wars. Still he holds it back as there’s injustice all over the world. Still he holds it back.
No, no, no. Our God is merciful and patient and long-suffering. As much as you want to shake your fist at the heavens, a fiery-eye, sword-coming-out-of-the-mouth Jesus… Hear me. God has been holding it back for millennia so you might hear and believe. Why would you count God cruel when you’re here today to hear this? Why would you count him to be cruel? I’m telling you… I’m pleading with you. I plead with you every weekend to come to this Table, to sit at this Table, and enjoy what the Bible calls the choicest fruits.
See, this should create an urgency in us. His patience, his imminent return, should create an urgency in us. See, this should affect our pursuit of holiness. Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest minds in American history, had some issues, but God used him profoundly. Praise God for guys with issues who God uses profoundly! Amen! Let’s praise God he uses dudes with issues and women with issues.
Edwards wrote a series of resolution statements. One of his resolutions… This doesn’t have to do with the return of Christ, but it was Edwards’ understanding that he was finite. He said something like, “I will never do anything that I would be ashamed to do if it were the last hour of my life.” What a great resolution! “I will never do anything that I would be ashamed of doing if it were the last hour of my life.”
See, an understanding that at any moment the Lord could invade and the fact that the Lord sees everything and is returning, that should create a sense of urgency. Those of you who come in here and you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I hear what you’re saying…” You kind of come in, and you catch this little just a whiff of the things of God. You just smell it.
“Yeah, that sounds good. I need to get around to that. What time is the game?” Then you just check out. This should create an urgency in you to consider the things of God. It should create a seriousness in you to dig around in the claims of Christ and not just go, “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go get some chips and queso.” It should dial you in and create urgency.
4. There is a day coming when all things will be made new. Look at verse 10. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Look at verse 13: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
I want to just say this to you repeatedly. Any end-time theology that turns Jesus into Luke Skywalker and an X-wing starfighter dropping torpedoes down into the earth to destroy it so God can create something new over here is not faithful to the Bible. You’re like, “How can you say that? Because this text talked about fire and dissolving and things melting away.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. That’s all coming.
The fire of the Lord is coming, but when the Bible uses the word new here, it’s talking more about refinement, a total refinement, a burning away of what is wicked so that all that is left is pure. If you think about how you get impurities out of gold or silver, you melt them. You heat them up to ridiculous temperatures so the impurities might be removed. That’s what’s coming. The great and glorious day of the Lord is about a melting away of all that is unrighteous.
Isaiah 35 tells us the desert shall bloom with roses. Amos 9:13 says the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and mountains shall produce sweet wine. Isaiah 65 says there will be no more sounds of weeping heard on the earth, and the day of God’s people shall be like the days of the trees. On the earth, the lion and the lamb shall lie down together.
In Isaiah 11, no one will hurt or destroy anything in all of God’s holy mountain because evil and wickedness will be vanquished into the lake of fire. Habakkuk 2:14 says the earth will be filled with a knowledge of the glory of God like the waters cover the seas. This is what is coming at the return of Christ: a remade heaven and earth where there’s no longer any sound of weeping, where there’s no longer any death or disease.
There is no longer any of these things. We look forward to this day. One of the ways we remember is, as we do life in a broken world, the brokenness reminds us of this day to come. When we hear the weeping of friends and loved ones, we’re reminded there’s a day coming where weeping is going to be gone. When we see loved ones or friends agonizing in disease or over hardships, we’re reminded there’s a day coming that this won’t be like this anymore.
When I do funerals, I’m reminded there’s coming a day I don’t have to do funerals anymore. There’s coming a day I don’t have to do hospital visits anymore. There’s coming a day I don’t have to cry with you in your living room over this or over that. There’s coming a day where all that is broken becomes unbroken. We hold fast to that day. Then lastly…
5. In light of all these things, what sort of people should we be? Look at verse 11. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
Okay, when the Bible talks about the great and glorious day of the Lord, the second coming of Christ, there are really kind of two sentences that are always there. One is, “Stay awake,” and the other is, “Be alert.” It is a weaving into our lives a remembering and a fighting for being awake to the fact that he is coming. In fact, even in this text, he is coming like a thief.
If you know a thief is coming to your house in the middle of the night, you’re awake for that, right? If you know he is coming at 2:00, you’re not snuggled up with your body pillow at 2:00. We’re in Texas. You’ve already picked your weapon. You’ve probably moved the kids around so that .300 Win Mag that blows through walls doesn’t kill anybody else. You have your night scope on. You’re ready! You’re awake. You’re alert. You’re ready to roll.
What is happening in this text is, at the coming of Christ, knowing he is coming, we are alert. We are staying awake. We have not fallen asleep. We have not forgotten. There’s a seriousness about holiness. There’s a seriousness about leaning into his grace. There is a type of thinking in our day-in and day-out life that we’ve disciplined ourselves to walk in that he is coming again.
Then a very simple command here is found in Hebrews 10:24 through 25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Considering the day is drawing near, we’re closer than we’ve ever been, let us consider how we might stir one another up to…what? To love.
Don’t put good deeds first, because good deeds are an action based on love. See, love isn’t static. Love always moves us. How do we encourage, stir up love in the hearts of people? We speak life into them. He even says it. We encourage. We speak love. We become experts in the strengths of others. We encourage with our mouth. We applaud with our lives.
Then it goes on to say, “Don’t neglect getting together.” What a great command! Don’t neglect gathering together like there’s something… I keep saying it. There is something profoundly spiritual that occurs when the people of God get together and we let the Word of God remind us and we sing to and about the Lord. There’s something formative that occurs.
Let me just end with this. A couple of weeks ago, one of the young women who started coming to the church when she was a high schooler got married. She asked me to do her wedding. I said yes. I’m just going to be straight with you. The wedding was pretty epic. It was like over the top ridiculous, not in a bad way, but if I had the flow, I probably would have done mine like that. I did the ceremony.
The reception was just bananas. We ate at a table… We had good friends there and some people we didn’t know. We just laughed and ate great food and drank good wine (nothing in a box). It was just a great night. Then after all that was over, they opened up a dance floor. They had a live band, and Lauren and I got out… I mean, my suit was wet from sweat when I got home. It was a party Jesus would have loved. It was!
If you don’t think of Jesus that way, you have a weird picture of Jesus in your mind. I thought heartfull, happy, sticky from sweat, belly full on my way home that the most consistent picture given to us as children of God about the return of Christ is the wedding supper of the Lamb. The Bridegroom comes for his bride.
There are those of us who are outside of the kingdom who will flee to the mountains as the mountains flee from him. There are others of us, those who believe in Christ, those who by faith in the grace of God have repented and trust in him for their salvation, and that day will not be filled with terror but rather relief. I don’t know about you, but some days, man, I just get tired of fighting my flesh. I can’t wait to not do that anymore.
After 20-something years, although he has sanctified me, I still have these pulls in my heart that I have to fight, these thoughts I have to guard, these concerns… I have to protect my own soul that I might worship him and him alone, that I not be bought, that I not need your attention or affection but rather just want to please the Lord. I have to wrestle with those things. There’s a day coming I don’t have to wrestle with that at all anymore.
When my faith becomes sight, I won’t need to be disciplined anymore. How great is that going to be? If you’re “Type A,” you’re like, “That sounds terrible!” It won’t be terrible. It will be amazing just to breathe, just to rest, just to get caught up in his love, to rule and reign with him forever. Believer, be encouraged, and let’s expect his return. Unbeliever, please, please, please what unbelievable patience God is showing. Let’s pray.
Father, we love you. Where we don’t, help us. Where one day is melting into another day, melting into another day, will you jostle us a bit? Father, if the thought of your return creates fear or trepidation in us, Father, I pray we would do some work in that and try to get to the bottom of what that is. Do we trust fully in your grace, or do we not?
Father, for those with no sense of urgency around spiritual matters, God, I pray you would haunt them. I pray today would turn into a long day and tonight would be a sleepless night and that you would woo minds and hearts toward yourself for the good of people and the glory of your name. We need you, Father. Help us. Amen.