We should not lose sight of the fact that Peter is here addressing the believing church, who are pilgrims and strangers in the earth; they are those who have ordained the like precious faith with Peter in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Such Peter is addressing! He stirs up their pure minds by bringing to remembrance that which was spoken by the holy Prophets, and by the reiteration of the commandments of the Apostles of our Lord and Savior.
In so doing Peter singles out the bold and erroneous contention of certain evil men of these last days; mockers these are, who would laugh to scorn the hope of the righteous, the final and visible return of Christ upon the clouds of heaven, ever to remain with His people. However, Peter points out the astounding and awesome reality that this contention of these mockers lacks all solid ground. Their contention that all things remain the same from the beginning, since the fathers fell asleep, is contrary to fact. There is the incontrovertible fact of the judgment of God in theFlood! This has made a great difference between the “heavens and the earth” before the Flood, and the “heavens and the earth” after the Flood. The former was upheld by the Word of God so that its element was water, while in the layer the element is fire. This present world, heaven and earth, are reserved as a treasure unto the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men!
This is a fact which these wicked mockers willfully ignore and attempt to forget!
As the children of God, we do well to remember, when listening to this blasphemous mockery of unbelieving scoffers, that we cannot measure the tempo of God’s footsteps by our human measuring-rod. For the eternal God is far exalted above our earthly and creaturely standards of measuring what is fast or slow, early or late. One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. The Lord is not to be viewed under the aspect of our time, but rather under the aspect of his motive of being longsuffering. He wills to bring the entire church to glory! And to do this each one has a place in history where the longsuffering of God operates, so as to bring them infallibly to salvation.
Such is briefly the line of thought which we have pursued in the former essays in this current series on II Peter 3.
The burden of this present essay will be to show that Peter does not simply relate here what God did in the Flood for the basis of a mere scientific study, the explanation of geological data, so as to convince a few evolutionists of the errors of their “theories,” but that his purpose; is to give a solid motivation for the godly to walk in the living hope unto which they have been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Unbelievers will not believe though the dead should rise! Peter is not attempting to convince the mockers, but he is stirring up the pure mind (dianoia) of the beloved in Christ Jesus, who must be prevented from falling from their own steadfastness. Peter’s apologetics is a strong polemic on the solid basis of the “like precious faith” which is ours in Christ Jesus. II Peter 3:1, 2; II Peter 1:1; I Peter 1:3, 4.
The solid motivation for a godly walk Peter casts into the following language in verses 10 and 11a: “But the day of the Lord win come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall he dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved . . .”
When God shall destroy the entire world by fire that will not simply be a terrible accident, an unforeseen contingency, so that the world just destroyed itself by its own native potentiality. It will not be some self-destruction. It will be most emphatically a judgment of God. In this judgment will be the vindication of the righteous who waited for the Lord and the condemnation of the scoffers who mocked with the promise of God’s Parousia!
Under the aspect of either faith or unbelief the coming of the day of the Lord is viewed here by Peter, and thus presented. Peter has stated that the mockers discredit the promise of the Lord’s coming, and that the believers account this seeming tarrying as an integral part of their salvation. Now he will indicate the time when this Day of the Lord will come. It ought to be observed that Peter does not give a calendar date! He abides by the Word of Christ in Matt. 24:36: “But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only,” and by the directive which Christ gave His disciples (Peter included) before His ascension into heaven, “. . . . it is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath set (appointed) within His own authority.” Since no calendar date is possible by God’s appointment and decree the only reference point we have is certain signs of His coming, which signs are either seen in faith or ignored in unbelief. The idea of the Day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night is true for unbelievers, and not for believers who observe the “signs of the times.”
It may be well that we underscore just a bit and elucidate.
When Christ was upon earth there were two kinds of people under His ministry. It should be borne in mind that “signs are not for believers but for unbelievers.” The unbelieving Jews seek signs. I Cor. 1:22, 14:22. Now on a certain occasion the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus to tempt Him “asking him to show them a sign from heaven.” He then proceeded to show them how they could discern the face of the heaven, fair weather or foul weather, but that they could not discern the “signs of the times.” They cannot ( ou dunasthe) discern. The great seasons of God concerning the old and new dispensation of God, concerning promise and fulfillment of God, concerning the first and the last coming of Christ, and the meaning of Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh and Christ’s death and resurrection and glorious ascension and His final return, unbelief cannot discern. They cannot see the Kingdom of heaven, for they are not born again. Only the reborn church understands and discerns. And only this reborn church, when watchful, will hot experience that the day of the Lord will come upon them unawares.
When Peter says that the Day of the Lord will “come as a thief” (vs. 10), this must refer to this day in reference to the wicked unbelievers and scoffers. Sudden destruction shall fall upon them. Notwithstanding their mockery and scoffing, yea, by very reason of their mockery and scoffing, this Day of the Lord shall come upon them as a thief in the night. Thus it was with the wicked in the days of Noah. Even though Noah was a preacher of righteousness for a hundred and twenty years, while he was building the Ark, the Flood came upon the wicked as a sudden destruction. The fault bf this was not in the preaching (Noah was free from their blood!), but was in the spiritual inability of the wicked to discern the signs of the times. And thus it is ever. The evidences of the very Flood engraved upon the stones may cry out; it may be pointed out in ever such clear and lucid testimony; it is ever the righteous that give heed, the elect of God, illumined by the Spirit of Christ. But the wicked unbelievers never give heed. They cannot! They do not have a sincere mind, which may be stirred up by the word of the holy Prophets, nor can they give heed to the commands of Christ by the Apostles. Both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures are a closed Book to them. Fact is, that the testimonies of God in the things made, are only so many words of God to us, who believe the Scriptures. And, therefore, the Day of the Lord will come upon them as a thief. It will be sudden destruction. Those who desire signs and evidences apart from the more sure prophetic Word must needs walk on in darkness. II Peter 1:19.
This observation of us concerning the distinction of the righteous and the wicked relative to the coming of the Day of the Lord is underscored and taught by the holy Apostle Paul in I Thess. 5:1-11. This is cast into such beautiful language, clear and perspicuous, that we shall quote it here in full. It reads:
“But concerning the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, Peace and safety, destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape.”
Let us pause here just a bit, to consider and reflect. Not the righteous shall be saying “peace and safety” but the wicked shall be saying this. Life and “business as usual” will be the motto. Full speed ahead! No cloud as a man’s hand will they see, although the very heavens are red and lowering. Says Jesus, “And as it came to pass in the days of Noah, even so also shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the Ark, and the Flood came, and destroyed them all . . . .” Luke 17:26-30. For the wicked the day came as a thief in the night and not for Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and who, being forewarned, prepared an Ark for the saving of his house. Heb. 11:7. Those who, like Noah, are “moved with godly fear” shall not see this day having come as a thief, but shall be Watchful unto prayer, and have lift up their heads in earnest expectation. Luke 21:28. It will be the day of redemption, the day of their final redemption in Christ, who from God has become unto us wisdom, righteousness, and complete redemption. Then shall be manifested that having been saved by Christ’s death we shall much more be saved through his life.Rom. 5:10.
In view of the foregoing observation, what Paul further writes in I Thess. 5:4-11, ought to be crystal clear:
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of the light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as ye also do.”
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The Day of the Lord is not a day of terror for the righteous, but is looked for in glad hope and earnest expectation.
We know perfectly that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night for the wicked.
What manner of men ought we to be in all godliness and holy conversation in hope?!!
(to be continued)