Please read 2 Peter 3:8-10 in your Bible. I’ve used the NIV to prepare these remarks.
In a message entitled “Timing is Everything” Rev. Bruce Goettsche wrote, “You have probably heard the phrase many times, ‘timing is everything’. There is a great deal of truth in that statement.
“The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing. An appropriate pause makes a joke . . . an inappropriate pause can kill the same joke.
“Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try to correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry.
“Timing is important in cooking. The juicy hamburger on the grill is raw meat if cooked for too little time and a clump of charcoal if it is cooked too long.
“Timing is important in your spiritual life as well. Jesus was very conscious of timing. He lived His life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for His life. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus,
- John 2:4 ‘My time has not yet come’
- John 7:6 ‘The right time for me has not yet come’
- John 7:30; 8:20 ‘His time had not yet come’
“Peter tells us that the second coming of the Christ is a matter of timing. God has not sent Christ back to earth yet because ‘he wants everyone to come to repentance’. God is waiting until everyone who will come to Christ, does.”
- We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).
- God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).
God is eternal; we are stuck in the present (8). This is one of Peter’s rebuttals of the SCOFFERS – a theological one – God relates to time differently than we do. All discussions of timing – including the arrival of the Second Coming of Jesus – need to account for this. Peter is referenced Psalms 90:4, which says, FOR A THOUSAND YEARS ARE LIKE A DAY THAT HAS GONE BY, OR LIKE A WATCH IN T NIGHT.
The word “eternal” does not mean an unlimited amount of time; it is not exactly a synonym for the word “forever.” Instead, “eternal” means timeless. God is eternal in that He transcends time; He is not affected by the passage of time nor limited to any one time.
In a sense, God is always in the present moment; He exists in all times simultaneously. We say that God is present in all places simultaneously (“omnipresence”) and we can also say God is present at all times simultaneously (“omnitemporal…?”).
Back to verse eight. Peter is saying, “These SCOFFERS who accuse God of being late don’t know God. He is never late because he is always present.” That’s why Peter urged his readers DO NOT FORGET this important truth. Because God is who He is, no one can accuse Him of lateness. So the gap between the promise of the Second Coming and its fulfillment cannot be explained as some failing in God or something lacking in our faith. Peter offers the true explanation in verse nine.
God is patient; we want it done yesterday (9). God is neither late nor slow; instead He is PATIENT. God is neither unwilling nor unable; instead He is giving people opportunity to repent so the Second Coming will be a day of life, not death. The fact that the Second Coming has not yet happened is not to be misinterpreted as the SCOFFERS have done (AS SOME UNDERSTAND SLOWNESS). Instead, it is a demonstration of God’s patience. There is a lot of biblical evidence for the patience of God; see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 13:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22 as examples.
The reason God shows patience is bound up in His desire to see all people repent and be saved. The will of God is made clear in this verse; God’s will is for all people to be saved.
However, God is not going to save anyone against their own will. He has delegated authority to us in the form of free will. We decide for ourselves whether or not we accept His gracious gift of salvation. I explain it this way: Salvation is 99% God’s action and 1% our reaction. However, our 1% is the deciding factor. With our one percent we either accept God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and have eternal life or we reject it and suffer eternal death.
This means that God cannot be accused of sending anyone to hell; people send themselves by the choice they make. If God had His way all of us would be saved. But then that free will thing is toast.
The Lord is coming; the world is ending (10). Peter issued two warnings to the SCOFFERS. One, Jesus’ second appearing will be something they won’t see coming while in their present frame of mind: it will surprise them LIKE A THIEF in the night. Two, it will have a deadly outcome where they are concerned; they will be destroyed with FIRE.
While the Second Coming is something we are to anticipate every day, when it happens it will be without any obvious warning.
We install locks and security systems to guard against thieves, but they don’t call ahead to schedule their appearance at our homes. Similarly, the SCOFFERS will be surprised at Jesus’ sudden reappearance. Their decision not to have faith will mean that they did not see this coming. The expression AS A THIEF is one Peter borrowed from Jesus’ own teaching on this subject (see Luke 12:30, 41).
The phrase DAY OF THE LORD tells us that the Second Coming is a single event that unfolds a series of consequences. For example, the DAY OF THE LORD is the same event as Judgment Day, as judgment being one of the reasons Jesus will reappear in this way. Judgment Day is implied in the phrase EVERYTHING DONE IN IT WILL BE LAID BARE.
The other part of this that is hard for the SCOFFERS to wrap their heads around is that reality as we have known it will come to an end. What is bound by time will be replaced with what is eternal.
THE HEAVENS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH A ROAR is another way of describing the suddenness with which the Second Coming will occur. Both heaven and earth will come to an end on that day; Peter makes it clear everything will be destroyed by FIRE: THE ELEMENTS WILL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE. THE ELEMENTS are what we call “atoms” and “molecules,” the basic building blocks of reality.
– In the Bible, FIRE is a symbol of three things.
One, it is a symbol of purification. Like gold, which is purified by fire, our faith and moral nature are purified by trials and tests (see 1 Peter 1:7).
Two, as the Apostle Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, FIRE is a symbol of judgment. What is not of God does not survive the fire, revealing its true nature. On Judgment Day, each person’s life will be LAID BARE, the truth of our decision exposed in the way we have lived our lives. All that survives the fire will survive in the new, eternal heaven and earth. What is burned up is destroyed.
Three, fire is a biblical symbol of destruction (see verse eleven).
In a message entitled, “Don’t Blame The Judge,” Tim Smith wrote, “God has done everything He possibly can to keep you out of Hell and still leave you as a person with free will. Some Christians argue otherwise that it is in fact God who sends people to hell. But when a criminal is sent to jail, we don’t blame the judge, do we? We blame the criminal. The judge isn’t responsible because he’s just following the law. It was the criminal who broke the law and that’s why they were sent to jail. Likewise, God is bound by who he is, a holy, loving, righteous and just God and by His decision to give us free will and then not violate it by keeping us from making bad decisions. So it’s not God who sends us to hell but our decisions and the repercussions that we must live with.”
God’s timing is not ours. Unless we step into Scripture and see things from God’s perspective, we see everything through this very limiting lens of time. We must understand that things are NOT going to continue forever the way they have been. Understanding this motivates us to appreciate the urgency of preparing today for an event that will happen tomorrow. Preparation begins with deciding to accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.