Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st and 2nd Peter. Day 28, The Day Of The Lord, Part Two

Peter concludes his second letter and the second half of his discussion on "the day of the Lord".

Yesterday we studied only one verse, a verse in which Peter says that the day of the Lord (the day of judgment) will come like a thief (suddenly and unexpectedly when life is just going along as usual). This is how the flood came in the days of Noah. Noah preached for 120 years and converted no one. The people didn't believe him. But then suddenly one day the rain began to fall. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was just as sudden. The people there lived in outright hostility toward God and toward the idea of lawful living. They didn't believe anything would ever change. They thought tomorrow was going to be just like today. But then fire began to fall from heaven. Peter wants unbelievers to realize that just because today is like yesterday and the day before, this doesn't mean God is going to allow wickedness to reign on the earth indefinitely. There comes a tipping point when the cup of wrath is so full that it overflows and will be poured out.

Because believers know this to be true, Peter reminds his readers not to drift away from the Lord. They want to be recipients of grace, not recipients of wrath. "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (2 Peter 3:11-12a)

In what way will everything be destroyed? By fire, as Peter informed us yesterday. This means the world and the things in it are temporary. We must not value the world or the things in it more than we value being right with a holy God. We are tempted every day to put temporary things before eternal things, so before his martyrdom takes place Peter wants us to understand that the world has it backwards. Eternal things should come before temporary things. Peter is saying to the believers of the ancient world and to us today: "Keep your priorities in line! Your souls are of far more value than anything this world offers. The souls of those around you are more precious than anything on the earth. Don't do anything that puts distance between you and God or that keeps others from finding their way to Him. As Jesus said, 'What does it profit a main to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'" (Mark 8:36)

We must never compromise our values or sin against the Lord and against our own souls in order to grab hold of temporary pleasures, for, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat." (2 Peter 3:12b) If we have put all our energy into obtaining temporary pleasures, we will suffer the loss of all these things because they are going to be destroyed. We will have spent ourselves for nothing.

But Peter is speaking to the Gentile churches in this letter, and he is trusting them to put the eternal things of God first in their lives, so he assures them they are not to live in fear of the coming judgment of the world. They are to live in anticipation of the new creation which Christ will rule over as King and in which those who have trusted in Him will reign with Him. "But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him." (2 Peter 3-14)

Peter now makes mention of the Apostle Paul whose teachings line up with his own. "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16) I always grin when I read verse 16 and find Peter saying that Paul's words are sometimes hard to understand. Peter only had a fisherman's scant education when he became a disciple of the Lord Jesus. It is likely his family had been engaged in the fishing business for many generations. It was expected he would continue on in the business along with his brother Andrew. There would have been no need for him to go to college since all he needed to be successful at was casting nets from a boat. He would have been given the usual spiritual instruction that was provided to a Jewish male and he would have been taught the basics (what we call "reading, writing, and arithmetic"), but his education probably wouldn't begin to compare with even that of today's high school graduates, much less with that of a college graduate. Peter is in many ways a self-educated man. After coming to know the Lord Jesus, he became an avid student of the Scriptures. He has learned how to be a public speaker. He has learned how to write more effectively so he can clearly share the message of salvation.

Paul, on the other hand, was highly educated. Paul not only learned the Old Testament inside and out in his zeal to become a Pharisee, but he also received the type of education that wealthy Greek and Roman males received. He was schooled in culture and philosophy. He was taught to speak and to read and write in several languages. So naturally the former fisherman Peter can say of the scholarly Paul, "Some things he writes are hard to understand." But instead of people concluding that Paul is talking high-brow philosophy and being deliberately vague, they should find their interest piqued by the parts they can't easily understand. They should look into the subject further, not twist Paul's words and claim he said things he didn't say.

In tomorrow's study we are going to pick back up with the Apostle Paul and study his letter to the Galatians. I believe we will be able, through the help of the Holy Spirit, to understand clearly what Paul is saying. The main reason people cannot understand clearly what he is saying is not because they aren't as well educated as Paul but because they are unspiritual and want to remain unspiritual. Peter says an attitude like that is ignorant and that it reveals an unstable character. He warns us that maintaining such an attitude toward the Scriptures leads people to their own destruction.

"Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen!" (2 Peter 3:17-18) Peter previously told us in this second letter that the time is at hand for him to give his life for the gospel. Knowing this, he has concluded that the best thing he can do is warn the churches against listening to false prophets and falling for false doctrine. He has decided that he must prepare the churches for the coming judgment of the world, for he doesn't know whether this will take place soon after his death or thousands of years later. His message is to be on guard and be ready. This is a timely message for us here in 2018. I don't know when Christ is going to call the church out of the world. I don't know when the final seven years of the end times, known as the Great Tribulation, will begin. Since I can't tell you when the judgment of the world will begin, I can't tell you what year the Second Coming of Christ will occur when He will assume the throne of David and rule over a restored earth in righteousness forever. But I can tell you this: these things are closer now than they were yesterday. Be on guard. Be ready.

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