But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
II Peter 3:10-13
Since the year 1979 has become history that is recorded in the annuls of God to be reviewed in the day of Christ’s coming, what manner of person ought we to be! Another year has swept by and has carried us along, even hastening us toward our death, the grave, and the great Day of the Lord.
For a fleeting moment we paused on new year’s eve to take a hasty glance upon the past year. We thought of the world happenings, the visit of the pope to our country, the unrest in the nations, the constant threats of war which could also affect us, the world-wide economic instability that threatens disaster for the all of us, and the universal, anxious cry for a leader who can deliver us from our dilemma. With all this we enter into the new year. We consider for a moment that this is an. election year in our country, a year that will likely bring many changes, possibly even the end of our present life style. We look at the more intimate life in our homes and in our churches. No one can deny that there is a certain dangerous complacency in our churches and a steady disintegration of the family life in our homes, with heresy and worldly-mindedness creeping in among us from every side. Each of us individually has experienced joys and sorrows, pleasures mixed with unpleasantries, and undergoing a bit of dying every day.
So we find ourselves in a new year, in another phase of our lives as God has planned our way in sovereign wisdom and measures off our days one by one. The end is not yet. How soon that will be for any one of us we do not know, but that our end is approaching is certain. What manner of persons have we been in the past year? What kind of persons are we now? What should we be?
The answer is given in this text. We should be engaged in holiness and in a godly conversation, looking for and hastening the coming of God’s great and eternal Day.
The Day of the Lord is coming.
Mockers there are who scornfully ask: When will that day arrive when Jesus will return? They argue that, since the dawn of history, day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest have succeeded each other uninterruptedly. Today these scoffers will tell us that the earth is billions of years old, and that therefore our present civilization is still only in its infancy. As long as the sun does not burn out, our commodities like gas and oil hold out, and we control the population growth we have nothing to fear for a million or more years to come. There are also those within the church who expect a universal reign of Christ upon the earth before the final consummation of all things takes place. The complaint that the Lord tarries long in His coming is really quite foreign to any of us. All things seem to carry on with amazing regularity. The church grows complacent. The virgins doze and sleep; their vigil lamps burn out.
Scripture reminds us that the events of history have not actually carried on through the centuries without interruption. Our attention is called to the fact that this world has undergone one massive upheaval, one judgment day already, silencing those who scoffed at the idea of a universal flood. The inhabitants of the earth were surrounded by water, waters above and waters below and all around, yet they mocked at the thought that God could open the windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep to inundate the whole world. Today we are surrounded by fire, evidenced in lightnings, electricity, and atomic and hydrogen energies, yet unbelief still smiles at the teaching of Scripture that God will demolish this present world with fire. Let God’s church take note, for as far as these scoffers are concerned our Lord will come when they least expect it, as a thief in the night.
In verse 12 this day is referred to as “the day of God.” It is the day when God will vindicate His Name upon the blasphemers in their proud rebellion. The world which will have imagined that it had done away with God and His Christ will see God in Christ appearing with the clouds of heaven. In that day He will justify His elect before the eyes of the whole world. He will establish His kingdom in the heavens, take its citizens unto Himself and unite them under one Head, Christ Jesus, in a new creation to show forth the glorious praises of His matchless Name.
This is also the day of the Lord Jesus. It is the culmination of Christ’s work as exalted Lord at the Father’s right hand. Every eye will see the crucified, yet exalted Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings exercising all the power of God in heaven and on earth. Nations may rage and peoples may imagine vain things, but God has already exalted Christ as Head of His church and Lord over all. The judgment throne will be set up to pass a just judgment upon the wicked for all their evil deeds and to assign them to their own places in torment. In that day of the Lord the chosen of God will be justified before their own consciences and before the whole world on the merit of Christ’s cross, and will be given their appointed places in His kingdom. Every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
“The heavens shall pass away. . . .”
The reference here is to the starry heavens. Elsewhere Scripture informs us that the firmament will be folded up as one folds a coat and lays it aside. The stars will fall from their places, the sun will be darkened and the moon will be like blood. In this passage we are told that the heavenly bodies will pass away with a deafening roar, and the elements of which they are composed will melt under intense heat. This present generation has learned to fear the unleashing of the powers of the atom bomb, its resulting mushroom cloud, and its total devastation. What clearer evidence do we need that Almighty God is able to consume all the millions of heavenly bodies by fire in a matter of minutes?
Immediately following, the earth and the works that are on the earth will likewise be melted away in the furnace of God’s judgment. The waters of the sea will be swallowed up in a seething caldron, the rocks and the mountains will melt like wax. Even more significant than that, the works of men’s hands, the product of centuries of toil, discovery, invention, and progress will disappear as in a moment. The towering sky scrapers that stood as monuments of man’s greatness, the huge factories that poured out the products of man’s skill, the many business houses that spoke of man’s success, the complicated electronic devices that worked faster and more accurately than the human mind, even all the wonders of antichrist that gave him the proud boast of almighty power, omniscience and omnipresence, before which the nations of the earth bowed in awesome wonder, will be exposed for what they actually are: mere vanity. The Man of sin had stood for a moment at the height of his power as if he had attained the ambitions of the ages and was completely self-sufficient as lord of the universe. He had boasted of his majesty and basked in the adoration of his worshippers who looked to him to be cared for by his hand. For a short time the whole world had reveled in a false prosperity, built upon the vain promises and hopes of mere men. God in heaven had given them over to their own foolishness, and caused their vanity to bring about their own destruction. They corrupted God’s soil, polluted His air and His streams and oceans, exhausted His resources in mad waste in striving for success. The vials of God’s wrath were poured out upon them until they found themselves headed along a dead-end road. In final desperation they witnessed the sign of the Son of man in the clouds, which filled them with terror for the living God, Who alone is God. They saw Him Whom they crucified and cast out, and they cried to the rocks to cover them and to the mountains to hide them from the face of the living God.
What manner of persons ought we to be!
We have God’s sure promises spread out on the pages of the holy scriptures from Genesis to Revelation that He will surely remember His covenant and deliver His people from all their afflictions. These promises cannot fail. Confidently we await the coming of the day of the Lord and the glory that is laid away for us.
This is our confession. This should also be evident in our lives. We should be living in eager anticipation. When a relative or friend is expected home after a long absence we live in expectation of his coming every day. Our life is focused upon the moment of his arrival, our plans are arranged accordingly, our thoughts and speech reveal our eagerness. As the time approaches we make the necessary preparations for a hearty welcome. We count the weeks, the days, the hours. We grow impatient, wondering why time moves so slowly. We find ourselves looking out and peering down the road, as in our eagerness we try to hasten the glad moment of reunion.
Our text speaks of “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” The margin tells us that a more literal translation would be, “looking for andhasting the coming of that day.” Not as if we can actually hasten the day of the Lord, since the times and the seasons are in the hands of the Almighty, but we can hasten the day as far as we are concerned by busily engaging ourselves in preparation for Christ’s coming. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto those good works which God has before ordained that we should carry out toward the coming of His kingdom. We are called to labor as faithful stewards in God’s House in anticipation of His “well done.” Fighting the good fight, keeping the faith we reach out for the goal of eternal life that lies before us.
That hastening is characterized, first of all, by holiness. Negatively, we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming by a daily crucifying of the flesh, suppressing the sin that wars in our members. Positively, we consecrate ourselves to the things of God’s kingdom as priests before the face of our God. The second characteristic of watchful waiting is godliness, or God-likeness. Now we are children of God, His imitators, not knowing exactly what we shall be, but this we know that when He appears we shall be fully like Him in His glory. In that confidence we experience that we are held by God’s hand, are guided by His counsel, and are being led into His eternal Home. .Holiness and godliness serve to increase our longing and cause us to pray ever more fervently, “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen.”