His Longsuffering

Between Christ’s ascension and his return, God has granted humanity the opportunity to repent before that day arrives

New Creation - Photo by lucas wesney on Unsplash
In his second epistle, Peter explained the apparent “delay” in the “
arrival” of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” In doing so, he linked that day with the final judgment and the new creation. And he argued that the conduct of the church may very well “hasten” that day along. But there is no actual “delay” for God is merciful and has no desire for anyone to perish - [Photo by lucas wesney on Unsplash].

What the letter does demonstrate is that Peter was no fatalist. The relationship of men and women with God is dynamic and not static, and He eagerly responds to repentance. Peter was reacting to lies being disseminated about the return of Jesus, claiming either that his “coming” was delayed or might never come. The hope of his return was a fervent expectation in the early church, but as time progressed, the surrounding world remained the same.

Wars, earthquakes, and other disasters continued to occur, but the earth remained intact. Rome did not fall, and the stars and planets continued in their respective courses. Thus, it was easy to assume Christ’s return had been delayed, and apparently, false teachers were claiming exactly that.

In defending his position, Peter provided the theological explanation for why Jesus had not yet returned. Rather than “delay,” the apparent “postponement” of that day was due to the mercy of God, His desire for all men to repent and receive salvation.
  • (2 Peter 2:1-2) - “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of.”
In contrast to the “cleverly devised myths” of the false teachers, Peter was an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus, an event he linked with the “arrival” or parousia of Jesus, and one confirmed by God Himself on the “holy mount.” His display of glory foreshadowed the fuller grandeur that will be seen at his “arrival from heaven.”

Peter’s readers had received a “more firm prophetic word” based on Scripture and the apostolic teachings, and not on the myths or conceits of the deceivers. The two issues he addressed were their false claims about the “coming” of Jesus, and their deviations from the traditions handed down by the Apostles.

These false teachers were of the same ilk as the “false prophets” described in the Hebrew scriptures. They had deceived “many,” thus defaming the “way of truth.” Regardless of how things appeared, their “sentence” to destruction “is not idle.”  Just as God judged the rebellious angels, the world of Noah’s day, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, so the false teachers were being “kept for the day of judgment to be punished.”
  • This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write to you, and in both of them, I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance that you should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation?” - (2 Peter 3:1-4).
Christians must heed the warnings delivered by the Apostles and Jesus himself.  In the “last days,” deceivers will propagate false information about his “coming.” The accuracy of that earlier prediction was evidenced by the very presence of the false teachers among Peter’s congregations - (Mark 13:21-22, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 3:1).

The “last days” is an era that commenced with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, his statement is not a prophecy concerning events yet to unfold, but ones well underway in his day. The presence of deceivers in the church is irrefutable evidence that the “last days” have arrived.
  • (2 Peter 3:5-7) – “For this, they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of the water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Deceivers “scoffed” at the notion of the return of Jesus that would bring judgment on the disobedient. They pointed to the normalcy of everyday life, the routines of human society that continued day-by-day, solid evidence that God would not judge the world.  Had not the apostles promised the Lord would return soon, a claim presumably falsified by the passage of time and history?

Earth Artistic - Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

But the deceivers “
willfully forgot” that God once judged and destroyed the world “by His word.”  Rather than prove that life simply continues as before, history demonstrated the opposite. Not only had natural and manmade catastrophes occurred throughout history, on more than one occasion, but God had also intervened to bring destruction to sinful society. And by that same “word of God,” the universe was being kept for the “day of judgment and destruction.”
  • (2 Peter 3:8-10) – “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Peter cited the ninetieth Psalm to demonstrate that what men considered “delay” was no such thing. God does not account for the passage of time in the same way that men do, and He is not subject to the timetables and expectations of humanity - (Psalm 90:4).

The non-arrival of Jesus was not due to delay, but instead, to the mercy of God. Peter gives the reason for the present situation - God’s desire that all men be saved. In the end, His “delay” will mean the salvation of many men and women.

Nevertheless, men must not deceive themselves and take advantage of His patience.  The “Day of the Lord” will arrive at the appointed time, and “just like a thief in the night.” This simile is borrowed from a saying of Jesus that stresses the inability of men to know when the Lord will arrive - (Matthew 24:42-43Luke 12:391 Thessalonians 5:1-3Revelation 2:216:15).

Peter linked the parousia of Jesus to the “Day of the Lord,” a belief found elsewhere in the New Testament. When that day does “arrive,” the heavens and earth will “pass away and be dissolved” to make way for the New Creation in which “righteousness is to dwell.”

Thus, the “Day of the Lord” will mean the destruction of the disobedient, but also the vindication of the obedient.  Considering this, “what manner of persons ought you all to be in the interim in holy ways of behavior and acts of godliness?
  • (2 Peter 3:11-14) – “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.
Not only should Christians live holy lives in expectation of his coming, doing so may very well “hasten” its arrival. “Hasten” translates the Greek verb speudō - (Strong’s - G4692), here, a present-tense participle. Used transitively, speudō means to “urge on, hurry along, quicken, cause to happen soon, act quickly; to accelerate.” The present tense stresses an ongoing process, “hastening” the object of the verb.

The implications of Peter’s statement are profound but easily overlooked. Not only does he state why Jesus has not yet come, he indicates that Christian action can advance that day’s arrival. On the other hand, wrong action or even inaction may cause its delay.

Finally, Peter linked the destruction of the old order and the inauguration of the New Creation to the “coming” of Jesus. This leaves little if any room for any “interim” period between his arrival and the commencement of the New Creation.

The return of Jesus on the appointed day is certain. There has been no “delay.”  Things have not continued as they did in the past, and normalcy has not characterized human history. Instead, it has been punctuated by disasters, catastrophes, destruction, and Divine judgments. That record ought to caution us not to assume that things will continue as they always have.

Peter has introduced a revolutionary idea that must change how we live. Christian action, misdeeds, or inaction can impact the timing of the Lord’s coming. Our conduct can hasten or delay it. Similarly, Jesus linked “the end” to the completion of the gospel mission, and the church’s failure to complete that mission very likely goes to the heart of why Jesus has not yet appeared “on the clouds.”



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