Ready for His Appearing
Robert Wurtz II
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:9–14 NKJV).
One of the most mysterious things of the last 100 years is how the enemy has managed to stigmatize teachings and sermons that could be derived from our passage above as “gloom and doom” or some other cynical description. No minister today wants to be labeled a “hell-fire and brimstone” preacher. Yet, Peter warns us earlier in the passage that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation”(2 Peter 3:3–4 ESV). This means that this very blog post is apt to be scoffed at by someone who reads it. It also means that someone will be faithful to declare the warning of the coming of Christ and judgment until the end of the age. Otherwise, who and what would the scoffers be scoffing at?
Scoffing is an ancient reaction to warnings about God’s judgment. You will recall the story of Sodom when God was about to rain fire and brimstone upon them, And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law (Genesis 19:14 KJV). One translation renders the text, “…but he seemed to his sons in laws to be jesting.” I can almost see Lot’s wicked sons in laws rolling on the ground laughing at the prospect that God was going to judge that city. Truly, “Fools make a mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor (Proverbs 14:9 KJV). They paid for their folly with a baptism of fire on the earth that swept them into the eternal fires of hell. That is the sobering reality of what happened that day. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9 NKJV). The sons in laws of Lot are still in hell awaiting judgment. All the while Lot escaped from the people who were living in error (2 Peter 2:6-8).
The Example of Noah
Peter is trying to “stir up our sober minds” by reminding us that we should keep the warnings of the Old Testament prophets in mind. These warnings inform us that God is going to eventually destroy this earth with a fire so hot that it will change the physical characteristics of this planet. They are going to “melt with fervent heat.” He also tells us that people are “willingly ignorant” of the fact that God has already destroyed this planet with water once before. His bow (rainbow) is in the cloud as a reminder that He will not use water for this purpose again.
What happened in Noah’s day? He preached to the people and warned them of a coming flood. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37–39 NKJV). Although Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), was warning them that judgment was coming — even backing up his claims by building a giant ark right before their eyes — they continued on living “business as usual.” Whether they scoffed and mocked is not known. Nevertheless, their flagrant disregard of the warning was bad enough. In time God will also flood this world with fire in a way our minds cannot now imagine. Hollywood is inept at capturing what God means when He says, But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7 NKJV)
As Peter reminds us of these things with a view to keeping them before us — he asks a pointed question, Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness? I have to admit that I am sorely vexed by the way many professed Christians have “Christianized” all kinds of things that were once considered sin. The old cliche “you can hardly tell the church from the world” has never been more accurate. Obviously, this is not referring to the true Church, but the visible church as Augustine referred to it. We have never been closer to the judgment that Peter warns us about and we have never had a more worldly version of Christianity. We are drifting towards all the trappings of Romanism mixed with the paganism and wickedness of ancient Sodom. Church denominations (so-called) are ordaining homosexuals and welcoming same-sex couples into their assemblies. Every preacher worth their salt all the way back to the book of Acts must be rolling over in their graves right now.
I find it shocking that one of the most evil generations in world history also laud God’s mercy and love more than the rest. As a student of Church History I can say categorically that no generation has been as unbalanced towards God’s love and grace as is this generation. There has never been a time when people needed to hear the word of repentance like they do today, and yet all we hear is love, love, love and more love. If it’s not love, it’s grace. If it’s not grace, it’s the health and wealth Gospel. So much preaching today is only contributing to the delinquency of sinners. Ministers have made a habit so as to preach each week without converting anybody.
I believe that an average liberal preacher from the 1800s would blast this generation. Peter exhorts us to remember what the ancient prophets have said. What would Elijah say? What about Ezekiel or John the Baptist say? What about Jeremiah? He asked concerning his generation, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 6:15 KJV) Sound like today?
We can’t control what the masses are doing, but we can make our own calling and election sure. We can give heed to the words of Peter, Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. Is Peter suggesting that we should be without spot and blameless? Most preachers today would rebuke Peter for preaching a works based righteousness. Why? The Reformation, though necessary to restore vital truths to the historic Christian faith, has now morphed into a deformation. Repentance is optional today. Holy living is optional. People have so twisted Paul’s teachings that deal with God’s mercy and grace that they live however they wish and still believe they are saved. Sola Fide and Sola Gratia have become the prime elements of a wholesale license to sin in our times. To challenge these practitioners is to invite anathema.
Nevertheless, we have these faithful words from Peter, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17–18 NKJV) Don’t believe wicked teachers who tickle the ears with promises based on twisted verses. Beware of those who label teachings such as this blog as “works based righteousness” or “gloom and doom preaching.” They are designed of the enemy to stumble you from your own steadfastness. And rather than viewing grace as a modern version of a Catholic indulgence, view it as God’s unmerited enabling to be everything you need to be in order to be ready for His appearing.