Society of Fellows
It did not happen. Those who said that it would were simply wrong. Books were published, tapes were recorded, articles were published, web-sites were constructed, and sermons were preached; but it did not happen. The dawning of a new millennium came on January 1, 2000, and we are still here. The world did not end, World War III did not begin, Jerusalem was not destroyed, and Jesus delayed His second coming.
In spite of all the attention given to the Y2K phenomena and the disappointment and embarrassment of those who thought they knew what the new year would bring, the Bible clearly teaches that one day, some day Jesus will come back. Acts 1:11 says, "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." The truth is: Jesus is coming back, but only God knows when (see Mark 13: 32).
So, what should we do while we wait for His return? How can we be ready whenever Jesus comes? 2 Peter 3:10-18 is one place in scripture that tells us how to live "Until He Comes." The New International Version says:
In these verses, Peter tells us that while we wait for the return of Jesus we should live in expectation, in purification, in maturity and in preparation.
Peter uses the phrases "look forward" and "looking forward" in verses 12, 13 and 14 implying that his readers should be living in the expectation that something is going to happen. He speaks specifically about the coming "day of the Lord" and the appearance of a "new heaven and a new earth." Both of these phrases relate to events surrounding the second coming of Jesus. The idea then is that believers, having been told beforehand, should live with a sense of expectancy that Jesus could return at any time.
The Charlotte Observer recently ran an article about the Ball City Baptist Church in Luck, North Carolina. This church has basically been closed for years, most of its members having died or moved away. There is no pastor and no services are conducted, but this church still has one member, seventy-four-year-old Florence Hayes. This lady arranges to have the church yard maintained and the building cleaned and every Sunday she shows up. She opens the doors, turns on the lights and the heat, puts flowers on the pulpit, and then she sits. Florence Hayes does all this just in case somebody comes to Ball City Baptist Church besides her. She comes to that church fully expecting someone to come.
Do we have this same kind of expectation about the coming of Jesus? Are we living our lives in ways that reflect a sense of expectancy? Peter reminds us to be "looking forward," and to be expecting the promised return of the Lord.
Peter also says that we should live in purification. Verses 11 and 14 are calls to holy living. While we wait, our lives should be lived in ways that honor Christ and reflect his holiness. Simply stated, the life of the Christian should look like the Savior and not the culture.
A pastor friend of mine was invited to pray for the Tennessee legislature. This invitation also included a photo-op with the governor. My friend put on his best suit and expensive new tie and prepared to meet the Tennessee state executive. However, during lunch before his meeting with the governor, he dropped a glob of salad dressing on his new tie! Despite his best efforts to clean it and make it presentable, the tie was ruined. He didnít want to meet the governor wearing a stained and ruined tie, so he did the next best thing. He found a "five and dime" store and bought another one. But the only tie he could find was a hideous looking clip-on. Needless to say, he was totally embarrassed.
Someday, we all will meet someone who is far greater than the governor of Tennessee. When the King of Kings comes back will you be embarrassed because of where you are , who you are with, or what you are doing? The call to believers is to be found "spotless, blameless, and at peace with him" when he comes.
This passage also calls Christians to live in maturity. Verse 18 says we are to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior...." The expected process in the life of the believer is growth in Christ-likeness.
When growth does not occur, spiritually or physically, it is a tragedy. When I pastored in Arkansas, our neighbors were also church members. I had assumed that they only had one son. He was the only one I had met until one day I learned of their other son at home. The parents invited me into their home to met their other son and I gladly excepted. I was not prepared, however, for what I experienced. Their other son was a twenty seven year old infant! He wore diapers, slept in a baby bed, and drank from a bottle, yet the calendar said he should have long ago outgrown these baby things. But, when he was about eighteen months old something had gone wrong in the natural and normal growth process. He would remain an infant for the rest of his life.
From my perspective, a lack of growth is all too common among Christians. These baby believers donít pray, hardly ever read or study the Bible, and seldom share their faith or their possessions. They should have grown to the place of maturity in their faith where they are giving to the cause of Christ, but because of a lack of spiritual growth, they are still spiritual infants only wanting to have their own needs met. Peterís call to growth and maturity is a necessary one if we are to be ready when the Lord appears.
Finally, Peter reminds us that our time spent in waiting is an opportunity for preparation. In the verses immediately preceding the text (3:8-9), and in verse 15, the patience of the Lord is prominently mentioned. This is, in part, a response to those who anticipated the Lordís return, yet were perplexed at his delay in returning. The delay in Christís second coming has at least two purposes. First, while waiting for his return there is time to declare the truth of his coming again. Secondly, the time of waiting allows as many people as possible to hear and to respond to the gospel. These truths reinforce the idea that the Lord is patient and does not want anyone to perish. What great grace is given by the Father!
When Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi gulf coast, it was one of the worst storms ever with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour that produced a 28 foot storm surge. At the Richelieu Apartments in Pass Christian, only 250 feet from the gulf, a group of twenty people ignored the storm warnings and stayed to hold a "hurricane party." Despite the pleading of Police Chief Jerry Peralta, they laughed and continued their party. The next day, nothing was left of the Richelieu Apartments and no bodies were ever found.
As verse 10 declares, one day the Lord will come and then it will be too late. Now is the time to make preparation. Now is the time to trust Christ. Jesus has delayed his coming so that as many as will can come to repentance and eternal life. Are you ready?
In his sermon "The Face of Christ," Dr. R. G. Lee tells of a conversation he had with his mother when he was just a little boy. He asked her what was the happiest day of her life, and was surprised when she didnít say the day of his birth. Instead she told him of an experience she had when she herself was a small child. She told about the disappearance of her own father as he served as a soldier in the Civil War. Word was sent to the family that he was missing and presumed dead. Long after the war was over as the soldiers slowly made their way back home, Elizabeth, Leeís mother, was sitting on the porch with her mother as these young soldiers came down the road in front of their house. They helped as many as they could with a little food or a drink of water. All at once, Dr. Leeís grandmother said, "Elizabeth, see that man with only one arm coming down the road? He reminds me of your father." As the man grew closer, she said, "He even walks like your father." Suddenly, the woman jumped to her feet and began to run as fast as she could down the road toward the one armed man. As she ran, she began to shout to her daughter, "Elizabeth, itís your father! Itís your father." And it was. The report of his death had been erroneous, and now he had come home. That day became the happiest day in his motherís life.
One day, some day, maybe today, we will look up and behold the coming of the Lord. For some it will be the happiest day of their life. For others, it will be too late. The choice is yours. What will you do until he comes?
Written by: Dr. Jerry Winfield, Pastor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Jerry Winfield has been pastor of the Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee since 1993. He received the bachelor of arts degree from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; the master of divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and the doctor of ministry degree from Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his wife Jane are the parents of Julie, a May 2000 graduate of Union University, and Jake, a junior at Samford University.