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Delay and not Denial (2 Peter 3:8-10)

Delay and not Denial (2 Peter 3:8-10)
By Dr. Andy Woods

Welcome to Sugar Land Bible Church. Take your Bibles and locate 2 Peter 3 as we continue our verse by verse study through this little three chapter book called 2 Peter. Second Peter, you’ll recall, is a book written by the Apostle Peter for the purpose of warning his audience—a believing Jewish audience in north central Turkey (Asia Minor area, essentially)—about coming false teaching. The false teaching hadn’t hit yet, but it was coming.

Second Peter has a very easy outline to remember; each part of the outline is contained in a different chapter. Part one is in chapter 1, the call to maturity. Part two, chapter 2, is the characteristics of false teachers. Part three, chapter 3, is a prophetic description of the false doctrine that the false teachers would introduce.

You’ll remember that Peter calls his audience to grow up. That’s the easiest way to summarize chapter 1: it’s a call to maturity. It’s everything you’d want to know concerning the resources for growth, spiritually speaking—how to grow, what spiritual growth looks like in the life of a Christian. In other words, when a Christian is reaching greater and greater maturity, what does it look like? So that’s what you have in chapter 1.

At first glance, chapter 1 seems a tad misplaced because it’s really not directly dealing with false teaching. But it certainly is dealing with it indirectly because a growing Christian is very difficult to deceive. The Christians that are easy to deceive are the Christians who are regressing in the middle tense of their salvation (called progressive sanctification).

Then from there we moved into chapter 2, which describes the generic characteristics of false teachers that you could apply, really, to any age as Peter describes these false teachers that are coming. In chapter 2 we worked through an outline of what false teachers are like.

That moved us into part three of the book, which is chapter 3. Now Peter has moved us away from a generic description of false teachers to focusing in on their doctrine (or their teaching). What specific false teaching are they going to introduce into that Hebrew Christian audience in Asia Minor? What we have in chapter 3 is really a chapter that I like to call the “Relevance of the Future.”

It’s one of the most tremendous chapters you could ever give yourself to to understand why God has disclosed the future to us and why He wants us to understand the future. And it’s the future that these false teachers are going to attack. You’ll notice here an overview of 2 Peter 2:3. In verses 3-4, Peter gives us the heresy of the false teachers.

What specific heresy will they introduce? They will be Gnostics, as we have talked about. Gnostics thought that the physical world was evil: “If the physical world is in fact evil, then how could Jesus be coming back to this world? Specifically, how could He be coming back in a body?” So, they are going to lay attack against the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ.

They are going to use scoffing! And their attack hadn’t started yet when Peter wrote this in AD 64, but it would soon come to fruition.

Also in verses 3-4, Peter doesn’t just answer the “what” question, but he answers the “why” question. Why is it that these false teachers are going to try to tear down the doctrine of the bodily return of Jesus Christ? You see, if someone does not believe in the bodily return of Jesus Christ, they’re not even an Orthodox Christian. Now, we differ in terms of our eschatological beliefs, but all of Christendom has always historically affirmed that at some point Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth for purposes of judgment. So, if someone is going to deny that, then they’re completely outside the great ecumenical creeds of Christianity—and they’re not even an Orthodox Christian!

Despite that, the false teachers are going to attack this doctrine of the Second Coming. Peter has revealed to us their motives. They are living in lusts. They are living for the sin nature. He talks about that in verse 3, “following after their own lusts.” And when a person is living in their own lusts—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the sin nature—the last doctrine they want to contemplate is the Second Advent because the Second Advent implies accountability.

Also part of their motive, they are going to teach a doctrine called uniformitarianism. I believe that Peter is speaking to not only the first century situation that’s about to elapse there in north-central Turkey. But I think the Holy Spirit is also giving him insight to a doctrine that would capture the hearts and minds of the entire world—perhaps as no false teaching has ever done—called uniformitarianism, beginning in the 19th century, the 20th century, the 21st century.

You see the description of uniformitarianism in verse 4 where Peter says that these false teachers are going to say, “‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” In other words, you evaluate what happened in the past—and you evaluate what will happen in the future—by a slow, gradual process that you can see in the present. When you buy into that and you elevate your five senses to what you can see—and you pretend that what you can see has always been and will always be—then you push out of the equation the miraculous hand of God that has intervened in history and will intervene in history yet again.

It’s the philosophical basis upon which Darwinian evolution is based; without uniformitarianism, you can’t have Darwinian evolution. So, whether people understand this or not—or whether they have read what Peter has to say about it or not—they’re being sucked into not science, but a philosophy masquerading as science, which tells them that you can evaluate the past and the future by slow processes that you can see in the present.

We’ve described that philosophy in depth in our past two lessons together, and I would encourage you to go back and review those. If you haven’t had chance to watch them, go back and take a look at our prior two lessons describing uniformitarianism. This may sound sort of academic on the surface, but you’ve been hit with it if you went through public school—or even if you watch the History Channel. Your children have been hit with it—and probably are being hit with it—and your grandchildren are being hit with it as well. It’s essentially the only view that’s taught anymore in the public school system, and yet it’s a view that didn’t even come about until the 19th century.

As we move into verses 5-10, after describing the coming of the false teachers, the motive of the false teachers, the heresy of the false teachers, the doctrine of the false teachers, Peter gives us a four point rebuttal. He is teaching us how to refute uniformitarianism before it even shows up. He has a historical argument (verses 5-7), the scriptural argument (verse 8), an argument from God’s character (verse 9), and an argument from divine promise (verse 10).

Now, we’ve already taken a look at the historical argument. We saw that last week and a little bit in the week before (verses 5-7) where Peter says, “The first thing to understand about uniformitarianism is it’s a false belief. You can’t evaluate the past and the future by what you can see in the present because of two events where God intervened and did something abnormal.” And those two events are Creation, a miraculous event, and then the global Flood, which was also a miraculous event. The latter being a judgment. This is what the false teachers have pushed out of their minds to make their uniformitarian belief system work.

So, the first thing he’s done is he’s given us historical argument. Go back to the last two presentations we did; we worked carefully through verses 5-7. We spent a lot of time on it because of the need of the hour. So many people are pulled in by uniformitarianism; they have to learn how to think about it correctly as a Christian. And Peter has refuted it in verses 5-7 by appealing to biblical history.

Now, you’ll notice that Peter was not just a guy who believed in intelligent design. “Intelligent Design” is the big thing today that all the Christian intellects and academics are buying into: “There’s a Designer out there.” And what I see happening in the body of Christ is people are buying into “intelligent design” (which they should). But what God is calling us to understand is not just intelligent design, but biblical creationism based on a literal, grammatical, historical reading of Genesis 1-11.

Simply believing in Intelligent Design—that there is a Designer out there—is not enough from God’s perspective to refute uniformitarianism. You know why? Because New Agers believe in Intelligent Design too. And Muslims believe in Intelligent Design. The Bible has a lot more to say than Intelligent Design!

Intelligent Design is very important. Intelligent Design, of course, is the idea that where you have a complex design, there must be a Designer. The complexity of our world certainly reveals that. I walk into my house and I see a card house that my wife and daughter have been working on; you can take cards and build a small house with those cards. I don’t say, “Isn’t it interesting how the wind blew through here and pushed these cards into the right orbit so that they would land correctly and build this design?” There’s an obvious design—so there must be a designer! “My wife and my daughter must’ve been at work on this card house.”

So, apply that to Creation. You look at how complex our world is—no two personalities are the same, no two fingerprints are exactly the same, no two snowflakes when examined under a microscope are exactly the same. Look at the complexities of the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the DNA molecule. You look, for example, at how in our heliocentric solar system the earth revolves around the sun at just the right orbit to sustain life! Not too close to the sun that we burn to death, not too far away from the sun that we freeze to death, but exactly the right length from the sun to sustain life. And you have to really commit intellectual suicide to say, “All of this came into existence by accident.”

So, Intelligent Design is a potent, powerful argument. Peter certainly believe that, but he believed in more than Intelligent Design. He believed in biblical creationism where God, EX NIHILO, brought this world into existence, probably about 6000 years ago, through His spoken Word. And then, over the course of time, God spoke again when creation became sinful to the point where God regretted that He had made man, and He spoke a second time and brought a judgment through the Flood on the whole world!

So, when you’re looking for a doctrinally sound pastor, one of the questions you should ask that pastor is not just, “Do you believe in Intelligent Design?” That’s a minimum threshold requirement. A New Ager and a Muslim would believe that. But ask, “Do you believe in biblical creationism?”

Peter was a believer in biblical creationism, and that’s what he is looking back at historically to refute uniformitarianism. You can’t evaluate what happened in the past and what’s going to happen in the future by what you can see in the present because there are two times in history where God did something radical and miraculous that’s not necessarily happening right now before our five senses.

We’ve looked at Creation (verse 5) and Flood (verses 6-7). Now we move into Peter’s second argument. This is his second argument necessary to refute uniformitarianism, and now he is appealing to Scripture. Notice what he says there in verse 8, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved [he is obviously speaking to believers through that reference], that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” Now, most people believe that what the Apostle Peter is doing here is he is not quoting Psalm 90:4. It’s not a direct quote, but it’s certainly an allusion back to Psalm 90:4.

Psalm 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.” He’s referring to Psalm 90. You might not know this, but Psalm 90 is the oldest (or earliest) Psalm in the whole Psalter. Five books in the Psalter; 150 Psalms total; Psalm 90 would be the oldest one. And it was probably the only one that we know of that was written by Moses himself—all the way back roughly 1500 years before the time of Christ.

A lot of people will quote Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 to argue against a 24 hour interpretation of the Creation days in Genesis 1. They’ll say, “Why would you take those days literally? Because, after all, 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4 say, with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’” Well, the fact of the matter is Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 don’t have anything to do with the Creation days! Peter is not making a statement about the days of Creation.

The days of Creation (Genesis 1) are obviously literal 24 hour days because it says YOM, which is the Hebrew word for “day.” Not only is that word used, but it’s attached to two qualifiers: first day, second day, third day; and if that weren’t enough, it’s attached to the phrase “evening and morning.” So, “evening and morning” is a reference to an ordinary cycle or Earth rotation.

So, there’s no doubt that the days in Genesis 1 are literal days. Because when you track how the word YOM is used, when it’s used with a number—first day, second day, third day, etc.—it’s always literal all the way through Hebrew Bible. And if that weren’t powerful enough of an argument, Moses, in Genesis 1, also qualifies each day by evening and morning.

And if that weren’t enough, Moses (the same author) in Exodus 20:8-11 and Exodus 31:15-17 analogizes the Jewish work week to the work God did in Creation. Just as God worked six days and rested on the seventh, that’s with the nation of Israel is to do. So, as the Israelis throughout history have worked six literal days and rested on the seventh, obviously, that’s what God Himself patterned for them all the way back in Genesis 1. So, there’s no excuse for not taking Genesis 1 as literal 24-hour Creation days.

So, Peter here is making no reference to the Creation days. In fact, to get Peter to speak to the Creation days, you have to completely read that into the context. What Peter—and Moses—are actually saying is, “…with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day…” is that God is outside of time. God’s timing is not our timing.

We have a slide on that: God’s timing (verse 8) is not our time. God doesn’t reckon time, or see time, exactly like we do. Now, I’ll use this example because it’s helped me. When you go and watch the Rose Parade… And I’ve done that a few times—actually camped out and sat there on Colorado Boulevard in the Pasadena California and watch the floats in the parade go by one by one. As I am watching those floats pass by, that’s the perspective of man. I think it’s always smarter to stay home and actually watch it on television.

But when you actually watch it on television, the helicopter will many times give you the aerial shot where you can see the beginning of the parade and the end of the parade; you can see the whole thing. Now that’s time from God’s perspective! So from man’s perspective, by way of analogy, it looks like these floats are moving by slowly, but it doesn’t look that way from God’s perspective because God is the aerial shot. God is outside of time.

The only point Peter is making here: God does not reckon time the way man reckons time. That’s why so many of the verses in the Bible puzzle us, because they seem to have a strange timeframe. For example, over in Romans 8:29-30 which says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

It traces, here, the various phases of our salvation: God foreknew us; God predestined us; He justified us. All in the past tense. And notice what else it says at the end: He also glorified us. So how can my glory be in the past tense when it’s yet future? It makes sense that all the other aspects of my salvation are in the past tense (Romans 8:29-30), but why is my glorification described in the past tense as well, when it hasn’t been accomplished yet? Well, because God is speaking from His vantage point.

From my vantage point it hasn’t happened yet—but that’s my time-bound, limited perspective where I’m watching the floats go by in the parade, one by one. God is looking at the whole thing from the helicopter. He sees the end from the beginning—and the beginning from the end! He’s outside of time. “…with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day…” And God can look at it as if it’s already been accomplished.

Let me give you another example. Notice of the Book of Jude. There is only one chapter in the Book of Jude. Verse 14 is describing the Second Advent of Christ. It says, “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’”

This is a reference to a prophecy Enoch had, all the way back in the Book of Genesis, describing the Second Advent of Jesus. It’s a tremendous description of that future event! But did you catch the verb? “‘Behold, the Lord came…’” It doesn’t say, “the Lord will come”; it says, “the Lord came.” God described this to Enoch, and Jude is picking up on that statement—all the way back to the time of Enoch and then the time of Jude (1st century). Jude is the Lord’s half-brother.

How could those two men look at the Second Advent of Christ as if it’s already happened? The answer to that is: they’re not looking at it that way; they have a time-bound perspective. God is looking at it that way because it’s already transpired! The only thing we can see is the floats going by in the parade, but we cannot see the aerial shot.

So, when Peter says (quoting Psalm 90), “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day…” is he simply saying, “Don’t confuse a delay for a denial”? That’s why I’ve titled this lesson, “Delay is not a Denial.”

Don’t confuse a delay with a denial. Don’t say, “I’m looking around and the Second Coming isn’t happening right before my eyes (like uniformitarians say) and, therefore, it will never take place!” Because you’re only looking at it from a locked, finite, time-bound perspective as a mere creature. From God’s vantage point (Who is outside of time) the Second Coming has already happened, because with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day.

So things seem, from our perspective, as if they are taking an awful long time to occur. But from God’s perspective it doesn’t seem that way. In fact, God can announce things before they happen for the simple reason that He is not bound by time and we are. That’s one of the reasons we know that the Bible has to be true, because it reveals history in advance. If the Bible were merely the product of human innovation, it would have no ability to predict the future with such accuracy because people would be writing it from a creature, finite, time-bound perspective. But God looks at it from a timeless perspective, and, to God, tomorrow is today…and today is tomorrow. So, God can forthrightly announce things which have never happened yet from the human perspective.

That’s Peter’s only point here in verse 8 as he is quoting Psalm 90:4, “Don’t be wrapped up in uniformitarianism.” Don’t think that what you see today is always going to be and has always been. You’re looking at it from a very locked, finite, time-bound perspective. Things seem like they’re being held up, and yet, from God’s timeless perspective, today is tomorrow and tomorrow is today, etc.

So, when you’re wrapped up in uniformitarianism, you’re wrapped up in a philosophy that’s completely man-centered. You’re ruling out of the equation God, Who not only is omniscient but is outside of time itself. Remember, God is the One Who created time. And God created time on Day Four in the Creation week.

You’ll see in Genesis 1:14 a reference to months, years, days, etc. And God did that without the help of man. Man didn’t even come about until Day Six. God created time; as the Creator of time, He himself is outside of time. So, don’t be fooled by your five senses; don’t think that what you see in front of you has always been and will always be.

Now Peter moves to his third argument to refute uniformitarianism, and here he begins to appeal to God’s character. Notice what he says there in verse 9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Rather than just looking at history, rather than just looking at God’s timeless point of view, now Peter refutes uniformitarianism by looking at God’s character and explaining how a delay is not a denial. There’s a reason why God holds everything up—and that reason has to do with His patience.

You see, God is holy. Creation is sinful. So, God has two options. He can either destroy creation instantaneously or, through the provision of His Son, He can wait a long time for creation to repent. And God, in His benevolent nature (Praise the Lord for this!) has chosen to do the latter. He’s purposely holding everything up—to give as many people as possible the opportunity to repent.

Now, I’m sure glad Jesus did not come back before 1983! You say, “What’s so special about 1983?” 1983 was the year that I trusted Christ as my Savior! So God held everything up until 1983—just for me. And He held up everything until the day you got saved—just for you. Because that’s God’s nature; that’s God’s character.

In fact, this fits with everything we know about God as revealed elsewhere in the Bible. According to Genesis 15:13, God waited 400 years before He sent in the Israelites under Joshua to eradicate the Canaanites. Genesis 15:16 says, “‘Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.’”

In Genesis 15:13 God said to Abram, “‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.’”  In other words, what God is saying there is, “I’m giving the Canaanites—in this case the Amorite—400 years to get their act together.” Or 400 years for their wickedness to be made full. Now, 400 years is a long time. The United States of America has been in existence roughly 240 years. We’re dealing with a length of time—roughly 2 times the length of the United States of America—where God, with the Canaanites, just waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.

See, a lot of people have a big moral problem with Joshua in the Book of Joshua going into the land of Canaan under God’s directions and told to exterminate all of them. “Kill the animals. Kill the women. Kill the children. Tear down the high places.” People have a big moral problem with that, and they forget the fact that God waited 400 years for the Canaanites to get their act together.

And if you want to know what the Canaanites were doing for 400 years, read the Book of Leviticus, chapter 18 and chapter 20. This is where God tells His people to not imitate the inhabitants of the land and their morality. And you’ll see some of the most gross, disgusting sexual practices described anywhere in the Bible described in Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20.

In fact, what we know of archaeology from that time period all relates to gods and goddesses of human sexuality and sexual perversion. We’re not even talking about adultery; we’re not even talking about homosexuality; we’re talking about bestiality, pedophilia. These are all described in those two chapters. And God waits 400 years before bringing judgment. That’s the forbearance and the long-suffering of God.

How about the Flood? How long did God wait before the Flood? Genesis 6:3 tells us that He waited 120 years. Now, that’s about half the length of the United States of America. This is what Peter means when he says in 1 Peter 3:20, “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”

Notice that word that we have underlined: patience. How patient was God? You see it in Genesis 6:3. He waited 120 years! And you know what was going on in the pre-flood world; you can read all about it in Genesis 6—the same type of perversion, violence, corruption. And God put up with it for 120 years, hoping that people would repent. See, this is the nature of God.

In Ezekiel 18:23 God says, “‘Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord God, ‘rather than that he should turn from his ways and live.’” In Ezekiel 18:32 God says, “‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Therefore, repent and live.’” Sometimes a famous anti-God person in the culture will die, and you look at all of the Christians making comments on Facebook who are “glad he’s dead” and “he’s going to get what’s coming to him!” And God doesn’t think that way! God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. He doesn’t even take pleasure in the death of the wicked because it’s always God’s hope that the wicked would see the light and consequently repent.

First Timothy 2:4, a parallel passage, says of God that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Even the Canaanites, even the pre-Flood generation, even the anti-God person that died in the culture? Yes, God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

So, Peter is making an appeal to God’s character and he’s basically saying, “There’s a reason God is holding up everything. It’s not because the end time events will never happen. They will happen! But He’s holding things up for the purpose of giving people as much time as possible to repent.”

Now, notice—this is very important—that God wants all to be saved. That’s not what you find in the teachings of John Calvin. Notice what Calvin says in his Institutes, “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.”

Calvinism teaches that there are certain people that are born for the specific purpose of going to hell. In fact, they’re like a stone or like a rock: they’re insensate; it’s impossible for them to respond to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. And the only reason some people are saved is God regenerates some people so they can believe beforehand. And whoever gets regenerated happens to be fortunate enough to be one of the elect. But if you’re not one of the elect, your whole purpose is to go into hell—with no choice in the matter whatsoever.

Calvin goes on and he says, “We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction.”

He goes on and says, “I say with Augustine…” Notice where Calvin is getting his theology from. He was about 26 or 27 years old when he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion, and a lot of his thinking came from a fourth century theologian named Augustine, who I believe is the most influential theologian in church history—not for the positive, but for the negative.

Calvin says, “I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknow, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask [you can’t even second guess this in Calvinism], as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice.”

Calvin goes on and says, “Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.” In other words, “As these people go into hell and the flames embrace them, and as the smoke of their torment rises up to God, God is pleased in this and God is glorified in this.” And there are countless Christians that march to the drum of Calvinism. This is a doctrine called double predestination.

Now, let me just ask you a question. How does any of that square with what we just read in verse 9? “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God wants everyone saved!

So, if God wants everyone saved, how can you buy into a theology which says, “God creates certain people with no hope of redemption, no ability even to respond to redemption, and their whole purpose is to going to hell so God can be glorified”? So, we at Sugar Land Bible Church reject Calvinism in that sense. We believe that God has provided for all and God desires all people to be saved, and He postpones judgment for an awful long time to give as many people an opportunity to be saved as possible.

Now, does that mean that everyone will be saved? That’s another doctrine called “universalism.” We reject universalism also, because we know that there will be many who will not be saved. Jesus said that in Matthew 7:13-14, “‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’”

Matthew 13:40-42 says, “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It doesn’t sound like in the end everybody’s going to be saved—although God wants everyone saved!

Matthew 13:49-50, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:46, “These [the goats] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Revelation 20:15, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” So, don’t confuse Peter’s statement here that God wants all people to be saved with the idea that in the end everyone will be saved; that would be a doctrine called universalism.

But here is the difference between us and those following the teachings of John Calvin. When people find themselves in hell, you know who they have to blame? They have to blame themselves because they never trusted—even though they had ample opportunity to receive Christ as their Savior.

I wish we had time to look at all the verses tonight: John 3:18; John 5:40. Jesus holds the unbelievers responsible for their own unbelief. In John 3:18 He says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” They are unbelievers because they want to be unbelievers! It’s not that they don’t have the ability to believe. It’s not that God right now isn’t wooing them through His convicting ministry to believe.

In the John 5:40 Jesus says to unbelievers, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” “The problem is not Me. The problem is not a lack of provision. The problem is not a lack of a conviction. The problem is not a lack of ability! The problem is that you don’t want anything to do with this provision.” So, we shouldn’t confuse the desire that God has for all to be saved with the prospect that in the end everyone will be saved; we know that is not true.

The point I just want to make here is that all of humanity is savable right now! Now, people aren’t saved until they trust in the Savior—but everyone is savable. And when you share the gospel with a lost person, you should categorically tell them that, “Jesus died for you!” Because that’s true. And you shouldn’t treat them as if they don’t have an ability to understand or they don’t have an ability to believe. They have all of that through conviction—able to do it whenever they want. People can do it right now even as I’m speaking. But there are many, many people that will going to hell because they want to go into hell. They just reject the provision.

One other quick point here is this word “repentance.” I like an article that one of my friends wrote. The title of it is “Repenting of our use of Repentance,” or “repenting of how we have mistaught the doctrine of repentance. A lot of people think “repentance” is some sort of condition beyond believing. So, they say, “To get saved, you’ve got to believe and repent.” And then they use that word “repent” to read into it a bunch of human works—like sorrow, or submission, or contrition, or something like that.

So, believing isn’t enough—you also have to have contrition. You’ve got to believe—and you’ve got to repent. So, people misunderstand that word “repentance.” And this is why am grateful for the teachings of Lewis Sperry Chafer. I’m the president of Chafer Seminary. We’re trying to inculcate his beliefs on this topic. And Lewis Sperry Chafer, in one of his volumes on systematic theology, correctly points out that the word repentance means “a change of mind.” That’s all it means.

So, when a person hears the gospel and trusts in the gospel… In other words, they are no longer trusting in themself, but they are trusting exclusively in the finished work of Jesus Christ for their salvation. What has already happened in their life and in their mind is: their mind has been changed. When you truly “believe,” which means to trust in Christ, your mind automatically changes. The word repentance comes from the Greek verb METANOEO. You recognize META, as in change, metamorphosis. Or, if you’re a cancer victim, they will sadly tell you sometimes that your cancer has metastasized—changed—from one part of your body to another.

It’s connected: META with NOEO. It’s a compound word—two words, making it one word. From NOEO we get the word “notion” (idea, or concept), which comes from the mind. So, METANOEO simply means “to change your mind.”

So, you hear the gospel. You no longer trust in your human works for salvation, you no longer trust in your own religiosity for salvation, but you trust exclusively in the good work that Jesus did for you—on your behalf—2000 years ago. And when you place your trust in Christ for your eternity, your mind automatically changed! So, these are what we call synonyms—same meaning, different word.

Notice what Chafer says. He says, “This vital newness of mind is a part of believing, after all, and therefore it may be and is used as a synonym for believing at times (cf. Acts 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance nevertheless cannot be added to believing as a condition of salvation, because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31).” So, what’s necessary for a person to be justified before God is a single condition of faith. And faith—which is trusting in Christ and Christ alone for the safekeeping of one soul—automatically entails a change of mind.

So, when you got saved, did you “believe” or did you “repent”? Or did you “repent” or did you “believe”? The answer would be, “Yes”; both happened simultaneously. And every time in the Bible when repentance is used in a justification context (in other words, inviting lost people to be saved), that’s what it means: it’s a synonym for believing.

When Paul says in Acts 17:30 in his famous Mars Hill speech, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent [metanoeō], because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” When Paul says, “All people everywhere by God’s command should repent,” what he saying is, “They should change their mind about Jesus,” which is another way of saying, “They should believe in Jesus Christ.”

You’ll notice that God is now declaring that “all people everywhere”—not just an elite group that have been regenerated so that they can believe—but “all people everywhere should repent  (synonym for believe the gospel) because Jesus is coming back when He comes back a second time.” Paul says in verse 31 that He is not coming back as our Savior; He’s coming back as our judge, and so it’s very important that we would repent (synonym for believe or trust) right now. I trust in Christ and my mind automatically changed.

This is very important understand. Because if you don’t understand this meaning, what you’ll do is you’ll see the word “repentance” and you won’t understand what it means in Greek. You’ll read a bunch of human works into that—and God doesn’t save people based on their works! He doesn’t save people based on contrition, or sincerity, or willingness to surrender all. I mean, God will deal with people once the Holy Spirit is inside of them—but that doesn’t get the Holy Spirit inside of them—and that doesn’t justify anybody.

We teach here the three tenses of salvation: justification, sanctification, glorification. Justification—past tense of salvation. Sanctification—present tense of salvation. Glorification—future tense of salvation.

Justification—freedom from sin’s penalty in a moment. Sanctification—being gradually delivered from sin’s power as a believer walks with God and yields to His resources moment by moment. And glorification—freedom from sin’s presence at the point of the Rapture or death, whichever comes first. We have been saved; we are being saved; we will be saved.

And to be justified—that first tense—there is only one thing that is necessary, which is to “believe” or “trust.” And if a person believes, or trusts, in Christ, their mind automatically changed; they automatically repented. So Peter here is just using repentance as a synonym for faith.

Since it’s Earth Day, let’s at least get to verse 10. Amen? What’s going to happen to this earth? And Peter now argues from divine promise. Notice what he says here in verse 10. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Despite God’s delay, He will fulfill His promise.

Uniformitarians are wrong; they think God will never intervene in history. And they confuse the delay for a denial. They are confused by the fact that God has intervened in the past (verses 5-7), they are confused by the fact that God is timeless and so tomorrow is already today, and they are confused as to the reason why God does delay. He withholds His hand for a long time to give as many people as possible the opportunity to believe (which is a synonym for repentance).

But don’t confuse the delay for a denial because the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, and the heavens and the earth will be dissolved with intense heat. In fact, here in the New American Standard Bible it says “will”—God will—at least four times! So, despite God’s delay, His promise will be fulfilled.

That’s why I like to say, 2 Peter 3:10, true global warming is indeed coming to planet Earth! And, you know, the poor evolutionist has it all backwards. They think everything started off hot with a Big Bang and that everything is gradually cooling off. The Bible says the exact opposite: everything started off cold and in darkness before God said, “Let there be light.” And everything is going to end in intense heat. Evolutionists have the whole thing backwards! But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, and the heavens and the earth will be destroyed with intense heat.

You know, we spoke earlier of how God waited 120 years in the days of Noah, Genesis 6:3, and those folks probably thought, during that 120 year window, “The Flood will never come.” But eventually they got to year 121. So you can’t evaluate what happens after the end of the 120 years by the delay in judgment that was taking place during that 120 years!

God was holding His hand back to give people an opportunity. But don’t confuse a delay for a denial; eventually the floodwaters came. And that’s what Peter is saying here, “Eventually the judgment of God is going to come. Yes, God is patient and He waits a long, long time. But one of these days the patience of God will be over, and God will bring a miraculous termination to this universe just the same way He miraculously started everything.”

This destruction of the earth is promised in many, many passages in the Bible. Isaiah 65:17, God says, “‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.’” Matthew 5:18, God says [Jesus says], “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” So, the heavens and earth will pass away.

Matthew 24:35, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away…” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:31, “…for the form of this world is passing away.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.’”

First John 2:17, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts [“lusts,” of course, would be the very things that the false teachers are wrapped up in—those are all passing away]; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Revelation 21:1, John says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Now, a lot of people today are teaching, “Well, this earth won’t pass away. God’s just going to renovate it.” The problem is Revelation 21:4 says, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away [apérchomai].

Notice in the slide that the exact same Greek verb, APÉRCHOMAI, “passed away” that is used to describe the passing away of this present earth is also used to describe the passing away of sin and all of its consequences! I mean, is sin going to just be rehabilitated and renovated? No—it’s going to be gone! So John, by using the exact same verb just a few verses earlier, says this earth that we are in is going to be completely dissolved by fire and replaced by a new heavens and a new earth.

Which raises a problem. Because there’s a lot of Bible teachers out there that will tell you that this world is not going to pass away, and they get that from verses like Psalm 78:69. The late Jack Van Impe, who taught prophecy for many years, taught this very doctrine. He said this earth will never pass away. Psalm 78:69 says, “And He built His sanctuary like the heights, Like the earth which He has founded forever.”

And people say, “Well, that’s the Greek word OLAM (forever), and that’s the same word used to describe God in Psalm 90:2, “…Even from everlasting [OLAM] to everlasting [OLAM], You are God.” That’s OLAM twice. So, if this earth has been founded forever, then what is Peter speaking of when he’s talking about this earth being destroyed by fire?

Well, you have to be very careful with that word OLAM. Generally, that word does mean “eternally forever”; but it doesn’t always mean that. It can mean a long period of time that’s finite. For example, Exodus 21:2 (NKJV) says, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.” Exodus 21: 5-6 (NKJV) says, “But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”

Now, does that mean that after this servant’s been liberated, goes back under the authority of his master, and has signified it by an ear piercing, that he is going to be in that condition forever—throughout eternity? The same word OLAM is use there also. There OLAM doesn’t mean “eternal”; it means “a long but extended period of time.”

And when Psalm 78:69 says, “…the earth which He has founded forever.” It’s that word OLAM, which is tricky. Sometimes it means “eternal,” but sometimes it means “a long but definite period of time.” And that’s obviously the way the word OLAM is used in Psalm 78:69, because Peter talks about this world—the heavens and the earth—being dissolved by fire, as does the Apostle John in Revelation 21:1.

So, the reality of the situation is that this earth is passing away. The things that look permanent are, in fact, not. The things that are unseen are permanent. Second Corinthians 4:18 says, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I hope we’re not living for this world, because the whole thing is going to be destroyed by fire and is going to be replaced by a new heavens and new earth.

Romans 8 describes the whole world (Romans 8:19-23), the whole creation, in a state of groaning because of original sin. That situation cannot be rehabilitated or renovated; it has to be completely eradicated and annihilated and replaced not just with someone slapping a fresh coat of paint over it—but was something brand-new. And this is what Peter is talking about here. And it’s what John is talking about in Revelation 21 and 22.

Very fast, I want to bring this to your attention. It says, verse 10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…” (2 Peter 3:10, NKJV) For years and years and years I thought the “thief in the night” was the Rapture. After all, my wife and myself, in our youth group, were raised on a video series called A Thief in the Night, which was all about the Rapture: “The Rapture is coming as a thief in the night.”

Let me ask you a question. Is the Rapture a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a good thing! It’s the blessed hope! (Titus 2:13) This is why Paul says, when he describes the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

The Rapture is a good thing! The Rapture is a happy thing! When a thief breaks into your home in the middle of the night, is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s a bad thing! That’s a negative thing that takes someone off guard. So, when the Bible uses “thief in the night” language, it’s not speaking of the Rapture. What it speaking of is the judgment of God coming quickly upon unsaved people.

And because those unsaved people are so wrapped up in uniformitarian thinking—evaluating the past and evaluating the future by a slow process they can see in front of them—when the hand of God miraculously moves, they are going to be completely and totally caught off guard by it! So, to them it comes as a thief in the night. The Rapture is never described as coming that way. “Thief in the night” language is used in the Bible describing judgment coming fast upon unprepared unbelievers.

To sum up Peter’s points here in verses 5-10, he’s described the uniformitarianism of the last days, and he’s given a four-point refutation to that doctrine.

  1. He’s reasoned from history, showing that God does intervene miraculously in the past. Therefore, you can’t evaluate the past by what you can see in the present.
  2. He’s reasoned from Scripture, showing that God is outside of time. God is not time-bound. From man’s perspective it seems like everything is taking a long time, but it doesn’t seem that way from God’s helicopter angle.
  3. He’s reasoned from God’s character. There’s a reason why God delays His coming—to give as many people as possible an opportunity to repent.
  4. Finally, he’s reason from the divine promise: God is going to keep His Word! The Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night—whether unbelievers are prepared for it or not.

When we regather next time, we’ll be getting into the application which is, “So what? What does all this mean to me?” Look at verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be…” In other words, “How does this knowledge change our lifestyle and choices and priorities in the present?” Peter is going to give us an ear full on that next time.

But since we’ve spoken pretty heavily this evening about the coming judgment of God, the forbearance of God, and the patience of God, we want to briefly remind people that the most important question you could ever ask in your life is what the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” We’re not trusting in our own good works; we’re trusting in the good work that Jesus did for us 2000 years ago.

He did all the work through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension! He asks us—and convicts us—to place our trust in Him, not ourselves. And you can do that as I’m speaking. You can trust in Christ. “Believe” and “trust” are synonyms. And once you do that, your mind just changed—you repented. We would exhort you to do that right now even as you’re listening to this—watching the live feed or the archived video. And if it’s something you need more help with, please send us an email or put a comment on Facebook. We would love to talk to you about the freeness of the gospel.

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