Today we come to the end of our series on 2 Peter but we will not leave the letter as next week I intend to use it as the basis of our thoughts on Discipleship - reading the Bible.
The letter as we have seen calls us to progress in Christian character. Peter then goes on to speak of the truth of the good news. Granville lead us very ably through chapter 2 with its solemn warnings about those who lead us astray. Today we come to a passages that speaks of the last days of this earth.
But what is the essence of this letter?
Peter is clearly tackling a problem of his day. Jesus had said he would come back so naturally they were expecting him. But as the church grew older and people died of old age, an insidious doubt crept into the church. Some were outspoken “Where is this coming he promised? Satan will always seek to undermine faith. He always has. Did God really say.. is how he started in the garden. Time and again we are faced with the same stark choice. Does God really answer prayer? Can he really transform my life? As we get older in the faith, the temptation is still there? Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? One hymn writer put it. Satan will keep on at you and sometimes it feels like God is remarkable slow to respond. We cannot feel his presence. Prayers remain unanswered and his return seems to be a vague hope rather than a certainty.
Today we have arguments like the world is cyclic. Seasons come and go. Reincarnation says we live eternally by repeating life in another form. Steven Hawking suggests the universe itself is cyclic with maybe big bang followed by big collapse of the universe and then another big bang and so on.
We live in an age of relativism. Absolutes smack of extremism and lead to terrorism. You have your religion and I have mine and somehow we can get on swimmingly in a pool of confusion.
We live in an age that cannot believe that the world will end. Somehow we will solve the climate change problem. The Americans will solve the asteroid problem. Something will turn up that makes it all better!
Against this sort of rubbish because rubbish it is. Even a cool scientific head will tell you that these ideas are recipes for disaster. Against this Peter has some solid answers.
First God is in control. Second God is outside of time.
to demonstrate the first one he looks back at history. History is not cyclic, God created the world. Actually Peter’s description is simplified to earth and water, linking back to Genesis one but speaking to his current culture. Notice that he goes on to speak of fire. Th greeks believed that the elements, which are referred to here were earth, water fire and wind. Peter says God created them. They are under God’s control. Science is not outside, independent of God and able to be critical. God is in Science. What is observed is what God is doing. But there is more. Peter speaks of Noah. Noah is about moral absolutes. God is concerned about the world’s moral behaviour and in Noah’s day he called a halt and destroyed the world with a flood. It was a one off flood not part of the cycle of nature as we saw this week in Mexico. Noah’s flood was different. Mainly because it called a halt to the immorality of the day.
And that is the point Peter is working to. God has moral absolutes and he will step in and call a halt to the world. Scientifically we have a number of possibilities. An asteroid here could send the earth tumbling into the sun. A cataclysmic erusption of the sun could wipe us out. The earth itself could erupt in a huge way as graphically described in recent films like ‘super volcano’
We don’t actually know much about the future but in reality we do know that this world is a fragile ecosystem and is quite likely to self destruct. Or maybe God has plans beyond the understanding of science. The revelation of Jesus Christ is that the earth is not your future home, heaven is.
Secondly 7 in verses 8-10 he tells us that God is outside the space/time continuum. He refers to Psalm 90 which I want to read because is underlines that the revelation of God in scripture is consistent. This is a psalm of Moses. That makes it early and this is what it says:
In the middle of this Psalm is a very modern understanding of time which Peter quotes.
It has two aspects
First perspective. God being outside of time can see the whole of creation in one glance. He sees the centrality of the cross and puts our present into the context of the age of grace.
Secondly Intensity. Like our modern computers that can do billions of things a second, God can see the nanosecond, he can take in 24 hours as if it were a lifetime and he can be with everyone, everywhere and every moment.
His answer to the cynics with there “Where is the promised coming” is quite simple. Slowness is a product of grace. God does not seek the destruction o mankind but its salvation. So the time that we have on this planet is opportunity for repentance and faith.
However it is not a never ending story. One day this world will end. Jesus has promised to return before then and take those who have trusted in him to be with him in eternity. But history in not cyclic. The universe has an end point. The escape module is Jesus. Make sure you are on board!
So with such heavy grim thinking how are we to respond? Peter is quite clear. We should live holy and godly lives. That is how this letter started in 1:3-11.
Secondly not to live in fear of the future but to look forward to it. Death and the end of the world are good news for the Christian because they are entry points to our eternal future with Jesus in heaven. So thirdly look beyond the World’s End to the promises of Jesus. Peter describes heaven as a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
In the mean time while we are waiting and looking forward we are to make every effort to be spotless and unblemished. Fit for the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. Andpeace with God. Peter may have known the letter to the Romans when he wrote this and may have been thinking about Romans 5:1-5 page 1132. In fact this letter is very similar in content and style. Righteousness is about our relationship with God. So having the right relationship with God brings true peace. What Peter was referring to in Paul’s letter wa probably holy, godly lives in the light of persecution so he may mean Roamns 2:4 or Romans 9:22 or Romans 11:22. We will consider the further significance of this next week. For now I want to pick up finally on three key words at the end of this letter.
Know – remember what you know
Guard what you know.
Grow – God is wanting us to move on in our Christian lives, not stand still, not be satisfied with the past experiences but to develop further. And what does God want us to know, guard and grow? grace and knowledge of Jesus. The letter returns to its key point His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. We have great and precious promises that enable us to escape this decaying, dead end world. We must live as those who are on our way to a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells rather than become steeped in the decay and rottenness around us.