Monday, 28 December 2015 15:01

A Heavenly Perspective

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With today’s last Banner of Truth gospel broadcast of 2015, we will be considering God’s word to us as given in II Peter 3:1-13. This is one of a series of messages on II Peter. In this second letter the apostle in love addresses believers scattered all over, urging them to know, as we saw so far, the foundation of the Christian faith and to live the Christian life of faith, and to always be on guard for false teachers. Now in the first 13 verses of his last chapter, Peter is urging his readers always also to hold fast to a heavenly perspective in life, that is, to a Christian worldview end time perspective. This heavenly perspective that, as the Bible teaches us, maintains Christ Jesus will return to this earth one day as triumphant Saviour and King of kings. When He comes again for His second and final coming, this earth and universe will collapse and be burned, and the last judgment day will take place where all will be judged and go either to heaven or hell depending on their faith relationship with Christ, yea or nay. In that day too, God will make a new creation for His people, the new heavens and earth, while all the unsaved will be cast into hell. Peter urges here that we must hold on to this heavenly perspective and Christian end time worldview. Let me first read to you the apostle’s Holy Spirit inspired text as we consider this subject now more, holding fast to a heavenly perspective. This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. From this Scripture, dear friends, will you learn with me four points that Peter brings out with the calling to hold to a Christian end time heavenly perspective and worldview? Peter teaches that holding fast with a heavenly perspective is a Christian calling that is most solemn, gracious, urgent, and promising. What makes it a solemn calling always to keep in mind a heavenly perspective, a Biblical end time perspective in life here and now? For one, as Peter makes clear in the first two verses, we can easily forget about it. In the busyness of life we can lose sight of it, and hardly think of it. We can live from week to week and year to year, unmindful of the end time realities as the Bible teaches us. How often have you this past week during this holiday season thought about Jesus’ second and final coming? Throughout this second letter the apostle stresses remembering and not forgetting. “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” he says in vs.1. We can be sure Peter doesn’t stress this for no good reason at all. Peter himself knew from experience we can so easily forget what we should remember. In this regard how truthful what someone has said: It is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed. Let us not ignore this reality, not just for ourselves but for our families and those around us too. You and I need to be humble enough to accept that we need constant reminders of what is all important shall we live rightly and fruitfully in the way of the Lord. Do you humbly accept this for yourself? The calling to have and keep a heavenly perspective about the end times is solemn too because, as Peter clearly brings out in vs.3, “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” Literally the text says, in the last days there will be scoffers scoffing, or mockers mocking. Yes, people who scorn and ridicule and shrug off and laugh off the Bible’s teaching about a sudden end to this present world and a final judgment day and eternal world to come in one of two places. Notably, Peter adds these people are walking after their own lusts. People living in sin always hate any idea of having to be accountable for their sins one day. Therefore people scorn and discount both the Bible’s beginning and end time teaching for in this way they can dull their consciences and live on in their evil ways, deceptively convincing themselves that it doesn’t matter anyways how you live or die. As one said, Anthropocentric hedonism [self-serving ungodly, pleasure-seeking mankind] always mocks at the idea of ultimate standards and a final division between saved and lost. What a convicting word describing our modern world today, isn’t it true, most sadly? When Peter speaks of these scoffers in the last days, we know he and all the New Testament means with the last days, the whole period of time between the first and second coming of Christ. However, the same Scriptures do suggest that as we approach nearer to that final day there will be more and more scoffers and mockers. How many there are in our day, isn’t it true? These scoffers and mockers follow the false teachers of the day but we must not listen to them. We must not listen either to false teachers and misguided preachers who, against Jesus’ own warning try to give the actual date of Jesus’ return and also attempt to map out in detail how and when it will surely go. There is no shortage of wild and wacky ideas about the future on offer today, as one put it, which sadly just adds to all the skepticism and ridicule out there. Yet teaches Peter in our text passage, true and faithful Christians always keep in mind Christ’s return and last judgment day. How often doesn’t Jesus also call us to watch and be ready when suddenly He shall return? It is a solemn calling. Are you taking it seriously? Peter explains the reasoning of the scoffers why they scorn the facts of Jesus’ return one day and the end of this world and the final judgment. The scoffers say, “Look how the world is continuing as it always has….surely all ‘doomsday-sayers’ are just religious quacks of one kind or another.” But Peter rightly responds to this false statement showing how in the history of the world God has intervened and by His word brought on cataclysmic events. Peter mentions then God’s act in the creation of this world when He separated the waters from above and below and then drew in the waters to form the land. All this is recorded in Genesis 1. The apostle further mentions the terrible judgment of God on wicked mankind with the worldwide flood where only Noah and his family were spared in the ark God had him build. That history is told us in Genesis 6 and following. It is clear Peter treats the Old Testament, including the opening chapters of the Bible, as historical truth and not as blind myth or outdated unscientific fairy tale. Peter, in the name of God, declares that the scoffers in his day and for all time are willfully ignorant of the truths of God’s word, including of creation and the flood in Noah’s day and even of the last judgment day to come. Listen! How wicked not only but most foolish to live willfully ignorant of the truth of God’s word! Scoffers hold to a fairy tale view of the Bible along with unscientifically based and unproven evolutionary thinking because, you see, it fits with their whole sinful and ungodly worldview, not wanting to have anything to do with a sovereign God to whom we are all accountable. But, says Peter now, if we have ears to hear, it is our solemn calling to have and maintain a Biblical worldview. A Biblical worldview takes seriously all the teaching of God’s word and holds to this world being created by God, but then become a fallen cursed world with Adam’s fall into sin and now headed to eternal judgment, and that Jesus is the only Saviour of sinners. By His word God created the world, and by His word as revealed in Christ, the word made flesh, God brings salvation for sinners like us. And by His word the Lord will usher in the final judgment suddenly one day. It is not a matter of maybe this will happen one day, no, but it most certainly will happen one day. Jesus Himself has told us in Matthew 24:37-39, speaking of His sudden return and the last judgment of all people, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” There is nothing more certain and sure than this reality. So says God’s word. How sad when people turn away from this Biblical viewpoint and consider it all nonsense, going their own ways instead. What a rude awakening millions and billions of people will have one day, even as we steadily come closer and closer to the final judgment day. So you see Peter brings out it is our solemn Christian calling to have and to keep and to reflect a heavenly perspective and Biblical end-time viewpoint. Notice next the apostle also shows us this is a gracious calling we have. We learn this in Peter making clear in answer to the skeptics that the delay in Jesus’ return and the end of this world is not because the whole idea is fabricated or God will never do it. No, but as Peter teaches us in vs.8, God’s timetable is different than ours, and on top of that, God is most longsuffering towards us [vs.9]. God is not out quickly to destroy this earth for He is a merciful God, and judgment is His strange work and salvation is His main work. The one true God, the God of the Bible, is not eagerly waiting to cast all unbelievers to hell. No, He is eagerly working that all His elect seed be brought to salvation before the final and last judgment day comes. So by means of the gospel tidings the Lord will yet have sinners around the world be told of Jesus and come to repentance of sin and faith in Christ before the final and last day comes. The Biblical teaching of God’s sovereign election of sinners to salvation never is to be understood as God not being most gracious towards sinners for it proves the exact opposite truth. He is not willing that any of His own should be left unsaved. In other words, Peter is teaching us here, rather than seeing Jesus’ delay in His return as reason to question it altogether we should instead see it as a demonstration of God’s undeserved lovingkindness and mercy still for this fallen world, calling more sinners to Himself while it is yet the day of grace. God is not willing that any of His chosen ones from eternity should perish with the unbelieving and ungodly scoffing people of this world, and so the gospel yet goes out. Not till all the elect from eternity have been born and born again, saved by Christ’s blood through faith in Him, will the end come. This whole season and time of delay, this whole time period of the last days, however many thousands of years it may last, is a season of grace. Whoever repents of sin and believes in Christ shall be saved, while the rest will perish forever in their willful ignorance and defiance of God as God of creation and God of providence and God of salvation. How relevant in this regard is this statement from theologian, J.I. Packer, when he states: Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. At the same time we know all who are saved in the end, all the elect, are all sinners saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. How we should not be lax and indifferent then in this time but by God’s grace and Spirit as God gives us opportunity, our calling, as confessing Christians, is to be a gospel light and witness in this world of sin and evil. Our gracious calling with a Biblical end time worldview is to be calling sinners to come to Jesus while it is yet the day of grace. Let all confessing Christians always be convicted of this calling and pray and work to be a light and gospel witness in word and deed as God yet gives us opportunity. God will bring in His elect however He pleases, but His revealed will is that He does so most often also through the Christian witness and testimony of His people in this sin-cursed, fallen, doomsday world. It could be even now with this radio message you are someone listening who is not yet truly converted to God, not trusting and following Jesus Christ as only Saviour and Lord. Oh, won’t you listen to the gospel call coming to you even now? Only through Jesus Christ and faith in Him can sinners be reconciled to God and be spared in the last and final judgment day. When Noah preached in his day, the people just mocked on and trifled with the gospel word he brought. You won’t do the same, will you? No, but come into the ark of salvation while the door is yet open! For soon, who knows how soon now, it will forever shut and the judgment will come. Do you and I live holding fast with heavenly perspective the Bible’s end time teaching? Let us see this as our solemn calling and our gracious calling, and also our urgent calling. Why urgent? It is urgent because, as Peter also makes so very clear, this world will suddenly be brought to a fiery end and certain destruction under the righteous judgment of God. So says Peter in vs.10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise [a crackling roar, literally], and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” It is not not going to happen, but it surely will come to pass one day. All the things of this earth shall be dissolved and brought to a sudden end by the Lord God Almighty. How exactly He will have this world burn up and disintegrate to nothing and from out of the same bring about the new heavens and earth is not something we can figure out or need to figure out. But that it will certainly happen as foretold, let us be ever so sure of that! The text in vs.10 and again vs.12, both speaking of a fiery end to this world coming under fervent heat, may be literally understood as well as spiritually. This fallen cursed world will come to an end under the righteous flames of God’s holy wrath upon sin and evil and everything that exists here and now on this earth will one day no longer exist at all. Peter is teaching us we need to believe this with all our mind, soul, and heart, and let it have impact on how we live and what we live for while it is yet the day of grace. The whole time period between Christ’s first and second coming is an urgent last time period. In our various callings and stations of life, we need to keep this in view and ever be preoccupied in truly and steadfastly and zealously seeking and serving the Lord in all that we think, say, or do. The fact that all this world will one day be burned up doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be faithful and diligent and positive in our earthly callings in life. But let us not live as fools in our callings, unmindful of God and His word, but as the wise, by God’s grace, always remembering and keeping in view the teaching of God’s word as given us also in II Peter 3. Ironically, those who most keep this Scripture in mind and heart have also throughout history proven to be of most earthly good and usefulness and blessing in all kinds of ways in their generation and beyond. The apostle would stir up his audience by these reminders of all important truths and end time realities. He aimed to urge them daily to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and to have their priorities right in all their life, living by God and His word above all, by God’s grace, and trusting the Lord in every need till journey’s end. Isn’t this the one thing most needful always, for all people, considering what Peter all teaches and reminds us of in this final chapter of his Holy Spirit-inspired writings? Are you one of God’s people, a true Christian, living by and out of God’s word, ever looking to Jesus? There is a fourth reason so to hold fast with a heavenly perspective and Biblical end time outlook. Peter shows us this Christian calling is not only a solemn calling and a gracious calling and an urgent calling, but it is surely a promising calling. Doesn’t the apostle definitely state this when he writes what the end of this world will mean for God’s people, the truly saved? Even as this old earth is burned up under God’s wrath, we may know God’s promise is that He will bring about a new creation from out of the old. A brand new world, like unto the old, but so different too, new in quality and splendor beyond our wildest imagination. In that new world too, the new heavens and earth, all the redeemed from all of world history will forever dwell with the Lord in eternal glory and joy and peace. There sin and disease and death and Satan will never come to spoil anything or corrupt anyone or ruin something ever again. No, but then after the last judgment day God’s people will forever be in the presence of God Triune and the holy angels. There they will be rejoicing in the Lord and all His perfect salvation and boundless provision for His people in body and soul, in and through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, the Lamb that was slain for the redemption of His people. So Peter says, doesn’t he, in vs.13 of our text passage in great comfort and encouragement to all God’s people, however fearful and dreadful the end times might prove to be, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwell righteousness.” Living in this present evil world wherein dwells so much unrighteousness as we see all around us and even still can be found in our own hearts by nature as confessing Christians, doesn’t it make you long sometimes for that final glorious day to come for all God’s people? Listen, this too is not a myth or hopeless wish, heaven and its eternal glories and endless joys. No, but it is the sure promise of the gospel for all who are in Christ Jesus, who live and die trusting and following after Him and His gospel word. Let us not forget this when now in the last days and approaching closer to the perilous last times of the last days, you and I may at times find ourselves under much affliction in one way or another. Someone has said on the basis of Scripture, This world is the best thing the wicked will ever know; this world is the worst thing the righteous will ever know. How true this really is! And isn’t Peter passionately reminding God’s people in his day and now in our day never to forget this reality or to lose sight of it? In coming to a close now about holding to a heavenly perspective and Biblical end time worldview as Peter also brings that out in our text, let me, in Jesus’ name, ask and press home to each of you this question: Will you be sure II Peter 3:1-13 is your understanding and perspective on life too as you live life’s brief earthly pilgrimage here and now? You and I ignore the solemn and gracious and urgent and promising calling Peter so emphasizes to our earthly loss miserably and to our eternal woe endlessly so. There is no need for any second guessing about any of this teaching for it is the sure word of God to us and for us, in all our generations. So when Jesus returns as a thief in the night, meaning so suddenly and unexpectedly one day, you won’t be caught off guard and found unprepared, will you? No, God forbid! That is Peter’s care and concern surely with all his writing in God’s name, also of II Peter 3. That none of us, not you or me, be most alarmed and crushed in despair when Jesus returns, but instead that we each and all be so amazed and joyful, that finally the day of the Lord has come! Even so, in the words of Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy [including II Peter 3], and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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