Anytime a person begins to talk about the end of the world as we know it, they risk being dismissed as a lunatic. With that realization I tell you that this morning we are going to talk about the end of the world. We are going to try to avoid the “lunatic fringe”. Our goal this morning is not to be sensational but to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture; We are not seeking headlines, but growth.
Peter has already told us that we should not misunderstand the seeming delay in the return of the Lord. We must remember that all God has to do is say the word, and the end will be upon us. He also reminded us that the seeming delay should be seen as an act of mercy, giving people more opportunity to come to Him.
Having said this He wants us to understand what is to come and what the implications of these truths should be for the way we live our lives.
What We Know About What is Coming
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
It will be Unexpected. No one ever expects their house to catch on fire (unless they are doing something criminal), or have their home destroyed by a tornado. You can’t anticipate being mugged or robbed. Even though we know all these things could happen, when they actually do happen we are always caught by surprise.
Peter says this is what it will be like with the return of Christ and the final judgment. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 24. Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour. People will be eating and drinking and living life like they always did and then suddenly the end will come. Jesus said anyone can appear ready if they know what is going to happen. The person who is truly faithful is the one who is ready for the coming of the Lord whenever it takes place.
It will Be Devastating. Throughout the Bible there are references to the Heavens disappearing, the moon and stars being darkened and much more.
Jesus had said,
“Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’” (Matthew 24:29).
The prophets also had spoken of a future cosmic destruction:
“The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:10–11).
“All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4).
“The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine” (Joel 3:15).
“The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope” (Micah 1:4).
It is natural and appropriate to wonder whether these writers are speaking literally or figuratively. Is God going to destroy all of creation and then start over or is it merely going to feel like everything is being destroyed?
If Peter is using a figure of speech it does not lessen the impact of what he says. Figures of speech are just a way to try to draw a picture with words. We use figures of speech all the time:
- We complain: “I was up all night” (meaning we had trouble falling asleep)
- We report: The fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife (meaning visibility was poor)
- We might say to a child, “You’re just a little monkey aren’t you?” (We aren’t making a comment about evolution nor do we think the child really is not human…we just mean they are very active).
The question I would ask is: Does it really matter whether it is literal or figurative? The point is this: when the “Day of the Lord” comes the Judgment will be devastating. All of creation will be purged of the remnants of evil and it will be a major event.
The end of verse 10 is a little tough to understand. The last phrase “and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” is translated differently in different versions. The ESV (a more literal translation) has: “and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” The issue is this: is Peter telling us that the earth will be stripped or that the earth, its inhabitants, and their sin will all be exposed? In other words there will no longer be any place to hide. The pretending will be over. The truth will come out. Again, either option is devastating.
There will be two different Responses. The first response is one of terror. Isaiah tells the story in Isaiah 6 of seeing a grand vision of God. Isaiah’s response was not to say, “Cool!” No, he said, “Woe is me for I am undone”. Perhaps we would say, “I am a dead man.”
To stand before God with our sin fully exposed will convince us of how deserving we are of Judgment.
- All our secret sin will be exposed.
- All our pious excuses and rationalizations will be shown for what they are: as an unwillingness to obey the Lord.
- Our half truths will be seen as lies which twist the truth.
- Our distractions will be seen clearly as the worship of false gods (idolatry).
- Our self absorption and indifference to others will be seen clearly as a lack of justice and mercy.
As we noted last week, this reality calls us to repent of our sin and to share the gospel with others. If we really care about the people we claim to care about, we will encourage them in the area of genuine discipleship NOW. This starts in our own families. We want our children to learn how to work hard, study well, and make wise decisions. We teach them about teamwork; what to look for in someone to date; we even work with them on hygiene and diet. These are all good things. However, the vital question is: what are you doing to prepare your children for this Day of Judgment? The longer we wait to train our children in godliness, the less likely they will embrace the way of Christ. If we don’t have the right balance we will raise nice, polite, and talented children who will spend eternity in Hell!
On December 7, 1941 Amercian forces at Pearl Harbor were caught off guard. An army radar operator saw blips on the screen and reported them but an officer said, “It’s probably just a pigeon with a metal band around its leg.” This was when the attacking planes were still 50 minutes away (plenty of time to prepare for the attack). Because the advance warning was ignored eight battleships, three light cruisers were sunk, 220 planes were destroyed or severely damaged, and most importantly 2,300 men were killed
Peter is giving us the advance warning we need to get ready. The real question is: will we heed the warning or will we dismiss it as “nothing to worry about” and be caught surprised and vulnerable?
There will be one other response to this day of Judgment: Rejoicing. Peter says, “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” For the believer who has lived in a state of readiness this day of final Judgment is not a day of terror but a day of joy. This will be the day that our faith becomes sight.
- We will be cleansed finally and fully from our sin
- The world will be purged of all that is evil and destructive
- The Devil and his army will be cast into the pit of Hell forever
- We will be reunited with our loved ones who have died in Christ
- We will get to meet and worship the Son of God in person.
- We will receive our resurrected bodies and be set free to live the life that God created us to live.
For the true follower of Christ His Second Coming will be the realization of our hope. It will be better than Christmas morning as a child, the joy of holding your new baby in your arms, or the excitement of your wedding day. That day will be the day when “faith becomes sight” and it will be the greatest joy we can imagine. The Lord will be celebrated as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we will finally and fully be free from sin and we will discover what life was created to be.
How Should We Prepare?
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.
Pursue Holiness and Godliness. The first way this information should change the way we live is to spur us to holiness and godliness. What does it mean to be holy? It means to be set apart for the service of God. It means we are devoted to Him; we are His to use as He sees fit. To be godly means to reflect the character of God in your life. It is to represent God in the world. Peter tells us that those who live this way help achieve God’s purposes in the world and therefore speed His coming.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul was talking about the importance of living faithfully before the Lord. He writes,
29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Do you understand that this is just the opposite approach that many people take? When people recognize that life is short they often try to indulge themselves as much as possible. They spend all their money, seek to experience every pleasure, try to “grab all the gusto” and “have some fun while they can”. But in this mad dash for sensual pleasures they are really squandering the opportunity they have to serve the Lord and to lay up for themselves treasures in Heaven.
Let’s do a little exercise (not the kind that makes you sweat). Imagine that in the next moment the Lord called an end to everything. Time is up. The Judgment is about to begin. Let’s imagine you are standing in a line waiting for your moment before the King of the Universe. Ask yourself some questions:
- What stuff would you like to hide or erase from your record?
- What do you wish you had done and not put off?
- Who will you wish you had told about the Lord Jesus?
- What favorite excuses are now going to sound empty and foolish? What activities are going to appear to have been a foolish waste of time?
This is not just a fun exercise. There is coming a day when this is really going to happen. We are wise to prepare for that day now.
Live Pure and Peaceful Lives (14)
Peter follows this up saying.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
I am intrigued by the words “spotless” and “blameless”. I don’t know about you but I think I live too much of my life trying to be “good enough” or trying to be “better than those around me”. I tend to live like the athlete who plays to the level of his/her competition rather than working hard to be the best I can be.
In the Old Testament the sacrifices brought to God by the people had to be spotless and without blemish. God was to get the best! It was only a perfect sacrifice that can pay for sin. Paul says we are now “living sacrifices”. We are to present ourselves to God and no longer conform to the evil ways of the world around us. (Romans 12)
The Marines have a saying, “the more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in battle”. There is a corollary to this in the Christian faith: the more diligently you follow Christ now, the less regret you will have then.
Peter also tells us to pursue peace with God. How do we do that?
- We come to Him for salvation and new life. We come humbly acknowledging that we do not and cannot earn His favor. We put our hope and our trust in the work of Jesus on our behalf.
- We spend much time with Him in prayer and in reflecting on His Word.
- We learn to rest in His wisdom and trust in His promises.
God’s peace is available to us; we must learn to live in that peace.
It is an amazing thing to read the stories of those who have been to war. They endure great hardship, they go without sleep, and they see horrible things. Yet they keep going. They keep moving forward because they believe the battle is worth fighting. And even when they don’t know for sure why they are fighting they believe in those who lead the way. They believe in their country. They believe that when the war is over they will have done some good.
Do you see how we need that same kind of attitude? This spiritual battle is being fought every day of our lives. There is coming a day when this world as we know it will come to a close. But that is not the end of the story . . . in so many ways, it is only the beginning. Peter calls us to fight, to persevere, to keep going now because in the end we will have been used by God to make a difference.
Peter doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about signs of the Lord’s coming. His approach to the Second Coming of the Lord is not academic, it is intensely practical. He states the truth of Scripture and then asks the question we should all ask: In light of this truth, how then should I live?
I want to challenge you to take some time to think about these things. Ask that hard question: What if today is the day He gives the command? Remind yourself that He said it would be sudden and unexpected. Instead of putting such thoughts off to the end of your life . . . think about it NOW. Please, think about it now.
For some of you, you have been putting off beginning a real relationship with Christ because, quite frankly, you wanted to have a little “fun” first. Yet, what you call fun, God calls a foolish delusion. Sin is pleasant for a season but holiness, contentment, joy, and peace are eternal.
Have you seen the commercial about the importance of teaching your child about money management? Dad realizes his son needs training when his son comes home and informs his dad that he traded his new bicycle for a giant popsicle. Sadly, many people are leading their lives in this way. They think they are choosing the better and “more exciting option”; they are making a “good trade”, but in truth they are trading the life of peace and joy from walking with God for a handful of sand.
Most people who die look back wishing they had used their time better. The only way to avoid that in our own lives is to take action NOW!
For those of us who have trusted Christ for forgiveness and new life this text is a reminder to keep kicking! It is so easy for the “novelty” of faith to wear off. But following Christ is not like the other amusements of our lives. Discipleship is not a sprint, but a distance run.
Our challenge is to keep training; and keep building up our spiritual stamina. There is a battle to be fought and a war to be won. There are some bad things on the horizon. However, those who follow faithfully now will not be afraid when this time arrives . . . instead, we will look forward with joyful anticipation.