Be On Your Guard
2 Peter 3:10-18
Key Verse 3:13
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
Peter tells us that the false teachers scorn the authority of scripture and undermine the lordship of Christ Jesus. Especially they scorn the promises of God in the Scripture— those great and precious promises God. But of all the promises, they scorn the most the second coming of Jesus. If you’ve read your Bible I don’t have to tell you how many times the Bible talks about the second coming of our Lord Jesus. Every New Testament Book speaks of his return. But Peter tells us that the false teachers scoff at this saying: “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” (4) They’ve been talking about it forever, but it hasn’t happened. The world just goes on and on. The world is getting better not worse. So where is this coming he promised? That’s the voice of false prophesy— the voice of worldly reason— the voice that numbs the conscience of men and kills their souls— the voice that keeps them chained in darkness unable to see the light of God’s truth and be saved. There are all kinds of false prophets in this world, teaching anything and everything that contradicts the Bible. Some teachings blatantly contradict everything in the Bible making the Bible out to be a myth. Some teachings agree with most of the Bible but contradict one or two issues. Whatever it may be— all or one contradiction— it is still scorn and scoff— designed to keep men’s souls chained to this world and unable to see the world to come and to long for a way out of this world— in other words, unable to long for salvation.
Salvation is what God wants to give all of us. But he will not give us what we do not want or what we do not ask for. We will have to see what we are wanting to be saved from. We will have to know what we are wanting to be delivered from. We will have to know the devastation that sin has wrought on our souls— what it has done to us— how it has mangled our souls. How it has turned us into something un-human. We will have to know how sin has damaged the fabric of our very lives, and made us selfish and intolerable. We will have to know how sin has literally kept us apart from God, such that we can not even open our mouth to pray. We will also have to know what we are giving up in asking God for salvation. We are giving up the world. We will have to know why we are giving up the world, and all that the world represents. Salvation is what God wants to give us, and he gives us salvation in Christ Jesus. But we have to know what salvation means, and salvation from what and to what. The promise of salvation is not only a salvation from sin, but a salvation from this decrepit world to the kingdom of God, a world where God has prepared for his children. A new world, another world, a world so different from this world that every Christian should know and long for. If he does not, then something is terribly wrong with his faith— with his relationship with God— with his understanding of salvation.
When Peter wrote these Christians (including us Christians) he was writing to people who have given up everything, their sins, their sinful desires, their hopes and dreams, including the world in exchange for the salvation which they received from the Lord Jesus. They did not give the world up as a payment for their salvation. They gave it up because they understood what this world stands for. This world is darkness, and the false teachers understand that if they pervert the Bible, they keep people chained in darkness unable to see the world to come . So Peter focused on the promise of Jesus’ second coming. In this last section Peter talks about the guarantee of the second coming— the destruction of this world they so much put their hope in— and what God’s children should do while they await the Lord’s return.
Let’s read verse 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 done in it will be laid bare.” Actually it was our Lord Jesus himself who lumped these two terms together: the day of the Lord and the picture of the thief. It was Jesus who first said: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” (Matthew 24:42-43) Later on Paul also said: “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4) So when we listen to these words we hear basically several things regarding the “day of the Lord”. We hear first that the day of the Lord is in fact the coming of the Lord Jesus himself. We also hear that his coming will be swift— unexpected— causing destruction for those who are not of Christ— like the coming of a thief in the night. We also hear that the day of the Lord will bring about deliverance and salvation for those who are in Christ, for those who are expecting it and serving his purpose.
But Peter adds another touch to the day of the Lord— to the coming of Christ. He talks about the destruction of the present world by fire. Look at verse 10 again. “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 done in it will be laid bare.” Look at verse 12 as well. “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.” In the Bible, the second coming of Christ is described through many remarkable events that bring about the end of this age and ushers in the age of the Lord. But Peter does not mention them. Rather he skips to the end, and explains to his readers what will happen to this world and to everything in it. In verse 10, in the New NIV the translation is a little more accurate. The words towards the end read more like “and everything done in it will be laid bare.” In describing the destruction of the world, Peter describes the destruction completely. All that is in it and of it, and all that is done in it will be destroyed. All the achievements of men— all that man is so proud of having achieved throughout his lifetime, through out the generations, all that has caused him to rise up against God and to declare himself to be god, all that he has discovered which he thought was his own invention, for which he has received credit when credit was due only God, all that he boasted in intellect, in accomplishment, in conquest, all of it will be destroyed in the split second, it will consumed by fire and will be no more. Peter assures us that when the day of the Lord comes like a thief— and it will come— it will be sudden and devastating and will completely wipe out the world as we know it.
When Peter spoke of the day of the Lord he was not saying anything knew. God has been telling humanity for centuries about the coming of the day of the Lord— the day when he will finally purge this wicked world which ungodly and godless people idolize so much. But God does not speak of destruction alone. The whole point is not destruction but restoration. God speaks of restoration— a new heavens and a new earth. Read verse 13. “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” This is what God wants to do. This is the promise. This is what the whole point of restoration is all about. This is what God wants us to believe. And this is what we hold in our hearts when we turn from our sins and put out trust in Jesus and give up the world for. For those who are regenerated by the blood of Christ, there is nothing more urgent and precious than for Christ to rule once again not only our hearts but the hearts of all men, and the whole world. We long that he rules because he alone rules in righteousness. In this world we can find no righteousness. We find only deceit and corruption, wickedness and injustice. We find betrayal, and hatred. Even as we live our Christian lives, we must suffer the world around us and eat the bitter fruit that this world gives. But there is a place promised us the kingdom of God. In it righteousness rules. That place is the place we long for. It will come with the coming of the Lord. So Peter tells us we look forward to it. We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth. There are those who are trying to make this world a better place. They are fighting for justice and righteousness. They are getting medals and recognition and applause. But we know that this world cannot get better, because this world is ruled not by Christ but by another. We pray for it. We love its people. But we long for the coming of Christ our Lord.
People ask how can I become a Christian? It’s not an easy question to answer. Stop loving the world. The world is killing you. It will drag you down. It numbs you. It will kill your conscience. Stop defending it and enjoying its fruits, and feeding off of its pleasures. Put the world aside for a moment and begin to feed off of the Christ who loves you and has given his life to redeem you. Ask him to redeem you. Ask him to forgive you. Ask him to open your eyes to show you there is another world beside this one, a world that is worth giving up everything in this world for. Ask him to make you a son and a daughter, so that you can be welcome in the new heaven and the new earth when this world gets burned up on the day of the Lord.
Read verse 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.” It is so interesting when Peter exhorts the church by saying: Since all this is going to burn up this way, what kind of people ought you to be? He says this because the false teachers were sexually liberal in their theology and behavior. They were teaching the weak and unstable members in the church to just give in to their natural sinful desires. So Peter tells us that all things will burn up, everything will be judged and destroyed — but that the only thing that will survive the purging fires of God is the holy and godly life. That is what he has been teaching us from the beginning. God called us to live godly lives. God has given us everything we need to live the godly life. Believe his promises, and stand on his grace, and you will be empowered to live the godly life from day to day.
Read verse 14. “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” Peter tells the church one of the secrets of living the godly life. Looking forward to the promise of Christ’s return, to the new heaven and the new earth. “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” When our faith is in Christ, in the coming of the kingdom of God, we are spotless and blameless and at peace with God. No one is spotless or blameless before God, only those who humbly stand in his grace. And we cannot be at peace with God unless our hope is the same as his hope. God wants us to live with the hope of Christ’s return on our hearts. He wants to bring about his kingdom. Jesus told us so in the Lord’s prayer. “Your Kingdom come.” If we live with worldly hopes on our hearts we find ourselves not at peace with God, but struggling with him. People, even Christians sometimes wonder why they are so anxious all the time, why so restless, why they cannot have simple joy in anything they do. But the question is what is the hope that you hold in your heart! Do you hope for a better life— a better job— a better wife— a better pay— a better grade— better house. These things may be important in the world, but there is no hope greater or more urgent in our hearts than the hope for God’s kingdom, for Christ’s return. That is the essential element of being at peace with God. Sometimes we find ourselves resisting God’s hope for us. We find ourselves at odds with what God wants to do in our lives, how he wants to use us. It is all related to what hope we have for ourselves verses what hope God has for us. Hope is as important as love as important as faith in our lives. God wants us to be reflections of Christ in this world— and in turn to reflect the hope of the kingdom. What we do and say must reflect our hope in the kingdom— not anything here in this decadent passing world.
Now Peter ends his letter in an intriguing way. Read verses 15-16. “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Bear in mind— or remember he says again— that God’s patience means salvation. For most people life is such a struggle that history becomes nothing but a struggle for survival— just keeping afloat from day to day— and nothing else matters. But there are some who struggle to know truth. And they search for God, and God helps them find truth in Christ Jesus. This has been happening over the past two millennia. During that time, God has patiently waited for people to return to him. So you can say that we are actually living in the time of salvation— that great time of opportunity where salvation is still possible for men’s souls— where a person can actually discover his or her terrible need for God’s mercy, find out how much God loves them, find out what God has done in that awesome love for them, bow their head and ask for that love to invade their heart. What more can a man ask for than the salvation of his soul! Jesus said so. The soul is the most precious possession we have. If we lose that, we lose everything, and yet men everyday barter their souls for something as cheap as — fill in the blank. On the day of the Lord, it will be miserable when men realize that they had sold their soul out for something in this world that is worthless. Peter tells us to endure, because God’s patience is salvation.
Peter also tells us something remarkable about the writing of Paul. He confirms that Paul’s letters are inspired by God, and speak of the same things. He also tells us that there are those who distort and misinterpret and misuse and misrepresent Paul’s words— to their own destruction. We talked about this a few weeks ago. The Bible may not be easy to understand, but we should not misinterpret it. False teachers abuse the word of God to achieve their own gains and purposes. But Peter says that they do that to their own destruction. “Therefore dear friends, since you already know this” he says in verse 17, “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” He exhorts us to be on our guard. Since we already know this. What do we know? We, Christians know the life giving word of God, and his promises— the promise of Christ’s return, the coming kingdom, the patience of the Lord to rescue the perishing. We Christians know there are those who distort the Scriptures and twist them to mean something else, to undermine their authority and the lordship of Christ. We Christians have the knowledge of Christ who paid the price for our salvation and who by the power of his resurrection gave us everything we need for life and godliness. We know that God wants us to live a godly life. And we know that we can do so when we hold to the promise and hope of heaven in our hearts. We also know how urgent it is for us to be on guard always. Why? Because we want to remain in our secure position. And that position is in Christ. In his grace. In his election and calling. In our faith in him. And rooted and grounded in his grace.
And there is one more thing to we ought to do as we live in the hope of his return and of heaven. Read verse 18. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” Let’s make it our prayer to continue growing in his grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. In our life, there is nothing more blessed to have than the grace of our Lord. It is the knowledge that Jesus loves us in spite of our sins and weaknesses, that he picks us up when we fall, that he wipes our tears away, that he covers our shame, shares our sorrows, rejoices with us, comforts us, disciplines us as his children, and carries us in his bosom until we can know him perfectly in his kingdom when he comes.