I've given this passage the headline 'Remember God will one day bring this present world to an end.'
You know, I guess, at this time of the year we do a lot of thinking about the future, especially what this year will hold. It's mentioned in sermons, a topic of the media, conversations with friends. We anticipate dates and events like special birthdays, exams, weddings, moving house, children, grandchildren, moving school, retirement. And we even take a moment to weigh ourselves. How are we? Lonely, unhappy, confused, settled, ambitious, happy? Are there relationships we're worried about? Particular concerns in our lives?
And it's vital, vital when we engage in such thoughts about ourselves and what we will be doing that we Remember God will one day bring this present world to an end. It's vital that we allow that to shape and govern our thinking about ourselves and our decision making for the future.
Of course most people in our society would say 'Don't be so daft!' There is no 'end of the world' like you're describing. Many scoff at the idea that 'the end of the world is nigh'. And if were not careful we can buy into this way of thinking. We can live, speak and act as though this year is an absolute certainty, as though life will go on indefinitely. And that can fundamentally influence how we view our lives and the decisions that we make.
That's what Peter is turning to speak about in our passage this evening. He wants his readers to remember that God will one day bring this present world to an end - and to live in the light it.
And he does that by saying …
First, REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS SAID
In fact this has been one of Peter's headlines throughout his letter, and he returns to it again here. Look at verse one -
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.
Peter wants his readers to think through matters of life and godliness by remembering and applying God's word. That's been the purpose of his letters. He wants them to recall the words of the living God through the prophets, who pointed to the coming of His Son Jesus Christ - which was witnessed by the apostles.
In other words he wants them to know and live by the good news of Jesus Christ. That he is God's Son who came and lived as a man and died on the cross for us, rebels against God. That he rose again three days later and will return to this world to end it and judge it.
Peter is re-grounding them in these truths. Because they are to shape how we look at the past are in the present and how we consider the future.
You know, the metallurgist, when checking a forged piece of metal for flaws, has to calibrate his equipment and method, by a specification, a manual, a book. Everything that he does must be governed and in accordance with a book. And it's the same here - everything we are and do must be governed by the Bible, the Gospel. It is the Gospel that should govern how we are planning to invest our time this year. It is the Gospel that should lie at the centre of all our relationships. It is the Gospel that shows us who we are.
It is the Gospel that moulds the aims and plans we have for our loved ones for our children. It is the Gospel that decides what is the highest priority in our lives. It is the Gospel that moulds decisions about moving job or house.
Especially, says Peter, in the light that the Gospel makes plain, one day God will bring this present world to an end. Peter is especially concerned with the end point of the Gospel, that is the second coming of Jesus, the end of this world, the judgement of everyone.
Because, says Peter, many will jeer and mock this reality. Look at verse three:
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say; "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."
Here are the people who make out that there's no end to the creation, which of course implies that there was not really a point to the beginning of creation. Things just 'go on' as they always have. Of course that's clever, because if you lop off a purposeful planned creation and a purposeful planned end to creation, you can live as you want to. There's no point to life, so you can 'follow your own evil desires'. The Gospel ceases to be. But Peter says, "No! Remember what God has said," for …
Secondly, REMEMBER THAT JUST AS GOD STARTED THIS PRESENT WORLD, HE WILL END IT
Look at verse five:
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.
You see this is what the scoffers deliberately forget. I used to do that with my clarinet in junior school. If I hadn't practised during the week, I used to deliberately forget to take it to school with me. I knew what I was supposed to do but I chose not to. That's what the Bible says about people who ignore what God has said about the beginning and end of creation. They deliberately forget.
We do know how this world started. This is all the work of the creator God.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
is how the Bible begins. Peter speaks more specifically of the creative process when he says 'the earth was formed out of water and by water'in verse five. He's reminding us of Genesis one verse nine where we read
And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let the dry ground appear." And it was so.
This doctrine of creation is the bedrock to the gospel. That's why it comes under such attack. We are not the product of chance. This universe has not always existed, no matter what 'science', or intelligent people with twenty letters after their name, may say. This world was made is owned, is governed by God. And that immediately makes us accountable doesn't it? Which is why by nature we try to run a million miles away from admitting it. If we are accountable to God, then there is a right way to live and a wrong way.
As children, going to visit the grandparents was always fun. But because of who they were, because it was their house you were visiting, you were often told to 'behave'. There was a way to live in their house - quietly.
And because of who God is, because this is his world, there is a way to live here - with him as rightful ruler.
The fact that we don't, means that God will judge us for our rebellion, as this world has already seen 'in miniature' if you like. Peter refers to the time in history when God caused a great flood to come over the whole earth when he says, in verse six
By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
God has already shown in history what he will do at the end of history. He has spoken in creation and the Bible says he will speak again in destruction - verse seven
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.
You know when you slap something in the microwave, and shut the door, you then set a time on the clock which begins the cooking process and which also determines when it will end.
So God has started this world and determined a time when it will end. He has placed a big 'reserved for fire' sign on this whole universe. Which helps us get perspective on life and priorities, doesn't it?
This helps us to see what is important and unimportant in God's sight. How we plan to invest our time this year means we do so with the day of judgement first and foremost in mind. An opportunity to spend time with those who don't know Jesus will rank higher than spending a night in. What of the aims and plans we have for our children - say their education. Well, we see that above attending school (which is so important) it's that they attend Sunday School that matters much more. A decision to move job, or move house is governed by whether such a move increases opportunity to witness for Jesus or decreases it. How we spend our money on the rain shelters we call home is influenced enormously by the fact that one day it will melt away.
But a question that springs to mind in all this is 'So what's God up to then, why is he taking so long to fulfil all this? And that's why Peter says …
Thirdly, REMEMBER WHY GOD WAITS
Look down with me at verse eight:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousands years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
For one thing, Peter says, remember that God is eternal. He doesn't wear a wrist-watch. To an eternal God, the last four thousand years are but four days, or the last four days are as four thousand years. God is not restrained or contained by time. He is eternal. And yet this world does remain, things still go on, for what purpose? Well look at the second half of verse nine again:
God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The creator God who we have rebelled against has worked for us, to rescue us from his judgement, which will come at the end of the world. He has made it possible for us to turn away from a life of rebellion against him and find forgiveness and new life through his Son the Lord Jesus. And God desires that for all people. For everyone in this world, for everyone in this building. He does not want anyone to face his judgement and the hell of an eternity without him. So he is patient. He waits and waits and waits.
And for those of us here who have trusted in Jesus to make us right with God, that picture of a waiting God, desiring not the death of the rebel, doesn't that shape and focus what life for us should look like. If our God so waits, if he wants none to perish, shouldn't that be our heart too? What do you really think of your work colleagues, of your friends, you family in the light of that? Is it our daily desire, out daily prayer to speak with them, witness before them in such a way that the gospel is made known?
And I have to say, perhaps there are some here who are living in rebellion against God. Let me tell you, that God is being patient with you, he is waiting for you. He does not want you to perish, to face the hell of an eternity under his judgement. Turn to him and trust in what he has done for you through Jesus' death on the cross, which brings forgiveness. Because this opportunity will not last for ever, death awaits us all. And the end of the world will come.
You see just because God is patient, it doesn't mean he is careless. He is Sovereign over everything. He will bring about all that he intends, the end will come. Look at verse ten:
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.
All this will be as sudden and unexpected as the arrival of a thief we're told. No-one knows when a thief will appear. If we did then it would make the occupation pretty hazardous and the work of the police a lot easier. The end of the world will come as unexpectedly as the arrival of a thief. That it will happen, Peter has reminded us again and again;
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement (v7) ... the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire (v10) ... that day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heart... (v12)
It's like the drumbeat of the passage. It reminds us how temporary this world is. This building that we are sitting in will one day disappear, the monument down in the city will one day no longer stand. St James Park will one day cease to be. It will melt away. Which makes us think …
Fourthly, HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
Which is my last point, and which is exactly the question that our passage asks. Look at verse eleven:
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
All who trust in Jesus are to live as set apart, God fearing people who are preparing now for what will happen then. Our lives should reflect the fact that we know God to be the creator and rightful ruler of this world who will one day bring it to an end. Our lives should be distinct in every way, not just in the areas we choose.
And our lives should reflect an eager anticipation of the time when all this will pass away and God shall bring a conclusion to history. And again the challenge to all who believe is for these truths to be worked out in every area of our lives in 2002. Because the lifestyle of God's people should be radically different to that of their neighbours who live next door as they 'live holy and godly lives and look forward to the day of God and speed it's coming'. And if it doesn't something is very wrong.
And you know because this world is not our home, we are not to sit back, take it easy and live for the moment. We are to make it our greatest aim to take with us as many as we can to the new home that we are heading to, as we plead with people to trust in Jesus. A place where everything is perfect, all rebellion against God is brought to an end, where we can enjoy God for ever. That's what Peter is saying in verse thirteen:
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Dearest friends, let us remember as we start a new year, what God has said and that just as he started this world he will end it. Let us remember that the reason why he waits is because he desires the repentance of all people. And let us live in the light of that, for Jesus sake.