Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Anticipating His Coming - December 7, 2014 - Second Sun. in Advent - Text: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Today brings us to the second week of advent and it is fitting that we look at Peter’s epistle. As Peter encourages the people of his day, so today I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you so that you might be strengthened in your faith and in your belief that Christ will return. And as a “by-product” of your faith and encouragement I want to stimulate your anticipation of the celebration of His first coming at Bethlehem in the manger as we look forward to that celebration on Christmas morning. Again, I encourage you, do not celebrate Christmas yet. We celebrate Christmas for twelve days beginning with Christmas.
Back in the book of Genesis, before God created the Sun, He created time. God, who is outside of time, created time for us, His creatures. On the first day of creation God created light and set time in motion. It was not until the fourth day that God created the sun and when He created the sun He set it in motion to help mark time for us, in other words, at the time He created the sun He also set the sun in the heavens to conform to His creation of a twenty-four hour day. All through Scripture, the reference of a “day” is a reference to a twenty-four hour period, please keep this in mind. Indeed God lives outside of time. God lives in the eternal present. For God there is no yesterday, nor is there a tomorrow, there is only the eternal now. God created time for us.
So, Peter says, “. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (8b). Peter’s statement here is not meant to be confusing. He is not saying, nor is he implying any reference to creation and the length of a day at the time of creation as some people would have you believe. Peter’s statement is meant to help the reader to understand that God’s time is not our time. God does not see time or live in time as we humans do. Again, to God there are no yesterdays and no tomorrows. God lives in what we might call the eternal present, in the eternal now. God created time for us human beings in order that we might be able to have a frame of reference in which to live. Because He lives in the eternal now, for God a day may be no shorter than many years and many years may be no longer than a day. Since time is purely relative, for God, He can sit and watch patiently as we humans live impatiently.
Thus, the Lord’s timing is such that He is giving enough time for all mankind to be saved. In his letter to Timothy Paul says, “3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). As I have said before of Paul, Peter as well as all the disciples believed that Christ’s return would be very soon after His ascension. This is true for people throughout history. We all believe that Christ’s return will be very soon. We read our Bibles and every day we believe we see the signs of the end times and expect Christ to return. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. We hear of earthquakes, hurricanes, and natural disasters and rumors of earthquakes, hurricanes and natural disasters and we believe that He will be here soon. Who knows, He may wait another 2000 years before He comes again. But be assured, that He will come and He will come when He knows that He has given enough time for everyone, or as many people as possible to come to repentance.
And when He comes, He will come as a thief in the night. Just as a thief will not come when the owner expects him, so Christ will not return at our expectation. Peter’s imagery is interesting because I wonder if he was not saying something about our human character when he uses the term thief. As a thief comes at night so as to not be seen, so we often do our best sinning in what we think is secret so as to not be seen by others. But God sees our sins, whether we sin in the open or in secret. God’s coming will be as a thief in the night, when we least expect it, and maybe even when we are in the middle of our own thievery and sin.
At the Lord’s coming, “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (v. 10b). We know that fire is a purifying agent. Precious metals like gold and silver are purified by fire. Milk and other foods are purified, or pasteurized by fire. In the beginning God created a prefect world. Man spoiled God’s prefect world and infected it with sin. The world that the people from Adam to Noah knew was destroyed, or purified by water. At Christ’s second coming fire will burn up the old heaven and earth, purifying them into one new heaven and earth, a perfect heaven and earth.
Although we do not know when the Lord will return, as in Paul’s day, as in Peter’s day, we know the time will be soon. How do we know it will be soon? We have waited some 2000 years already, so certainly we are 2000 years closer to the Lord’s return than in Paul’s and Peter’s day. And as I have said before, each day we live brings us one day closer to the Lord’s return.
How then are we to live in order to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming? First and foremost we are to prepare our lives by being given the gifts our Lord has to given and being given them through the means He has of giving them, in other words by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. Then, we are to prepare ourselves by living holy and Godly lives. We do this by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, by our daily remembering of our baptism. We daily repent and are given forgiveness. We have daily devotions, Scripture reading, and prayers. We prepare ourselves by attending worship, the Lord’s Supper, Bible studies, and Adult Bible class. We prepare ourselves by living our lives according to God’s good and gracious will, knowing that, as I said earlier, His coming will be as a thief in the night, when we least expect it. So, with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we live our lives daily according to His good and gracious will.
We prepare ourselves by expecting a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Christ has promised to return and to take us with Himself to live with Him forever. Because of His long delay in coming, do not think that He is not coming. We may be reminded of the people of Noah’s day who laughed at his building the ark and telling them that the flood would come. We remember that at His first coming, at His birth, the Jewish nation had been waiting many thousands of years and many who were not ready really did miss His coming. We are reminded of those of Jesus day who would not believe He was the Messiah. Each year at this time we begin anew, looking forward to celebrating His birth on Christmas morning. Today we have many skeptics who each year add another notch in their belt of skepticism and the idea that He is not coming. But just as His patience convinces some that He is not coming, so it convinces us even more that His coming will be soon and each year we draw that much closer to His return.
We prepare ourselves by having Him find us without spot or blemish and at peace with one another. Actually for us to be completely without spot and blemish is impossible, but it is something we work for in our sanctified life, that is with God’s help. Peter’s imagery here reminds us of Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, who without spot or blemish allowed Himself to be the perfect sacrifice for us, in our place, so that we can be at peace with Him and with one another. Because we are made right with God through faith in Jesus, He makes us right, He makes us without spot or blemish. Now with His help we try to live in peace with one another. We do this in preparation for His second coming.
What Does This Mean? First and foremost we constantly remind ourselves that our time on this earth is limited. Certainly, while we are alive in this world, and especially as little children, we might think our hundred years of life, if we should live that long, is a long time, but compared to eternity, our lives are but a blink of an eye. Because time is relative for us, and remember how it was as a child, it seemed like Christmas took so long to get here, but as we have grown older and have added so many responsibilities and things to our lives it seems as if we just celebrated Christmas about a month ago. As we grow older we tend to think more in terms of our mortality, whereas, if we look at the obituaries in the paper we notice that death is no respecter of persons, that is that people die at any age, from the age of the moment of conception to even a hundred years. Thus it is important that we focus on what is important, our spiritual well being, our faith and our forgiveness.
Remember, God’s desire is that all people are saved. God does not want anyone to perish and so He is patient and waiting patiently for as many people as possible to be given faith before He returns to judge the world. Certainly this implies our responsibility to be living lives of faith, sharing our faith through our actions as well as through our words, through inviting others to worship to hear the message of salvation as well.
God has taken care of everything. He has created us and continues to take care of us, providing us with all that we need (and we talked about that on Thanksgiving Eve). God has taken care of our sins, by sending Jesus, even Himself in flesh in order to pay the price for our sins. And yes, even as we continue to daily sin much and need forgiveness, Jesus’ death has taken care of all those sins as well. And now our Lord continues to be a part of our lives in that He helps us to live our lives as lives of faith looking forward to heaven.
This is the second week in Advent. The second candle, the Bethlehem Candle, is lit. As I told the children earlier, this second candle reminds us that the promised Savior would be born in Bethlehem. As we daily prepare for Christ’s second coming, even so as we are in this season of Advent, we prepare for our celebration of His first birth in Bethlehem. May the Lord continue to work faith and strengthening of faith in your heart during this Advent season, so that when He does return He will find you ready to receive Him and to go to be with Him in heaven forever. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.