Trinity 26 2021
2 Peter 3:3-14
November 14, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
St. Peter wrote his letter about 30 years after our Lord’s ascension. The first generation of Christians were dying out, and still the world did not come to an end. There were still some disciples alive who heard Jesus’ promise to return, yet there was no indication that the end was any nearer. There was a concern among some that the delay would lead to complacency and apathy among the believers, or worse yet, to people falling away from the Christian faith because of their impatience.
So while we wait and wonder why Jesus is taking His sweet time in returning, He does not share our impatience, nor is He slow to fulfill His promises as some count slowness. Scoffers are going to scoff, so they mock, “Why is Your God taking so long?” The answer is that, “He’s not.” But also that God has determined the exact moment in the history of His creation, and from His perspective there is no delay in the return of Jesus.
To address this issue, St. Peter reminds us that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day” (2 Peter 3:8). Peter is not saying that 1000 years and a day are the same. God doesn’t see time from one to the other, but He sees both the beginning and the end simultaneously. He is not bound by the created element of time. He speaks from the viewpoint of eternity, where there is no time, no day, no year. Since God is eternal, what seems to us to be a long time is not to Him. As God’s Word created and preserves creation, as God’s Word declared judgment upon the world by means of the Flood, by that same Word, the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly will come, and the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promises.
And so as we ought to be patient for His coming, He is even more patient toward you. His motives are His love and long suffering, so that, for He wishes that all would reach repentance. God’s timing of that day is arraigned to give people time and opportunity to turn to him in faith. Why is He waiting? Why doesn’t He hurry up and fix all the pain and suffering and evil? Because He wants you, your family member, your friend, your neighbor, to hear the Gospel, and by means of hearing the Word, come to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. There are people who still must be saved, and this world remains for the one purpose of the salvation of all who would believe. While the scoffers say that the delay is slowness, or just made up altogether, you who believe count it as salvation.
The day of the Lord will come as a surprise, without special warning, like a thief in the night, without a different announcement than what we already have in Scripture. Everyone, believers and non-believers alike, will be surprised. Upon the sudden return of Jesus, the heavens will pass away with a roar, the heavenly bodies burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. No secret rapture, no “Left Behind” heretical nonsense, no end of the world movie scene. But the sudden return of Christ, the fire of God’s judgment of the living and the dead, which will refine and purify creation to the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, paradise regained, and the bodily resurrection of believers to enteral life and unbelievers to eternal damnation.
Many people today comment that the end must be near because of the unrest in our country and some other places in the world. Christians have been saying ever since Jesus ascended. We already know that the end is coming. We have been living in the last days since Jesus’ ascension. It should be of no surprise that creation falls apart because of sin, when our lives fall apart because of sin, but there is also no need for panic or fear.
For us, the bigger question isn’t “if” Jesus is returning, nor “when” Jesus is returning, but rather what do we do while we wait? What sort of persons ought we be? Certainly not fearful of the end of all things, nor the end of our earthly life! The believer has nothing to fear! But rather, you are called to be people in lives of holiness and godliness, eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus, the great and awesome day of the Lord. Since you know that everything must pass away, both heaven and earth, consider how you must be prepared with a saintly and a godly life and conduct to meet this day (Luther, AE 30:197).
By virtue of your baptism, you have been prepared for that great and mighty day, given what you need, set apart for God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Since Jesus is holy, God declares us holy through faith in Him. Your function in this world flows from this identity as part of God’s holy people. Holiness is the separation from the service of sin and evil, from the godless world. That means you are called to lives lives that reflect this reality, lives of godliness. Godliness is the service of God, the reflecting of Christ in our own lives. You’re not to live like the unbelievers. You’re not to buy into the contradictory information of the secular world and believe in that more than you believe in God’s Word, taking care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (2 Peter 3:17); you’re not to act as if God doesn’t matter or as if He isn’t involved in your life; you’re not to panic or fear in suffering or hardship, for the Christian life is one of bearing the cross; you’re not to lazily sit on your duff and let the world to go to hell when you have the only answer that eternally matters, the only comfort that lasts beyond this life, the only true hope for a future. You are to hasten the coming of the Day of God’s judgment and salvation by sharing the good news of Jesus. This life of suffering and sorrow, of struggle with temptation, of strife and heartache and conflict and unfairness, you live this life under the cross with the certainty that you shall meet our Savior in the new creation of righteousness and shall feast with him in His eternal kingdom!
In light of these words, we receive the Lord’s Supper today. Through the worthiness of repentance and faith, this foretaste of the feast to come equips you in this life, strengthen you to stand firm in the true faith, and testifies to the return of the Son of God in glory In this holy meal, Christ comes to you, and as St. Paul explains in 1 Cor 11, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood is how you proclaim the Cross until Jesus makes Himself visible to the world at His coming. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is evangelistic, and as often as you receive this gift of God, you bear witness to Christ’s work in your life here and now and in confident faith of future at His coming.
Be diligent to be found in Christ, counting the patience of God as your salvation, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.