Should I Really Care About Judgment Day?
December 10, 2023

Should I Really Care About Judgment Day?

Passage: 2 Peter 3:1-13

Introduction: A Concern for the Church's Future

Throughout this letter of 2 Peter, Peter shows his concern for the Church’s future. He wants to make sure that Christians will continue to have a fruitful, growing faith in Christ for years to come, in all sorts of circumstances. He wants to guard the Church against false teachers, as we saw last week, so that our roots will grow deeper into the fertile soil of divine truth – so that our lives will produce virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love. And in our text tonight, we’ll again see Peter urging the Church to trust God’s Word over and against man’s Word, and to lead fruitful lives of faith.

So please turn with me [if you haven’t already] to 2 Peter 3. And together we’ll read 2 Peter 3, verses 1 through 13. But before we do, please pray with me:

[PRAYER AND READING OF TEXT]

A Denial of God’s Promised Judgment

If someone came up to you, and told you, “Make sure you don’t stop breathing!” Or “Remember to keep your heart beating,” these reminders would be pointless. This is because there’s really no risk that you’ll forget to breathe. You’re not in danger of neglecting to palpitate your heart. But when we give people real reminders – reminders that actually mean something – it’s because something’s at stake. It’s because remembering matters. Because forgetting will have consequences.

And in verse 1, Peter tells us that he’s giving a reminder to the church. He says, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…” And what does he want the Churches to remember? He wants them to be reminded of “…the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.”

Peter places the message of Jesus’s New Testament apostles on the same level as the inspired prophets of the Old Testament and says we need to remember what we’ve heard from them. And in the verses that follow, Peter specifically urges the Church to remember what they’ve said concerning the coming Day of the Lord – the Day of Final Judgment. Christians need to remember that there’s a day coming when evildoers are condemned and those who trust in Christ are vindicated.

But why is it so important for us to be reminded of this? What’s at stake?

Peter tells us we need to remember these things because of what verse 3 tells us. “…Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires, following their own sinful desires.” Kids, do you know what it means to scoff? What does it mean to be a scoffer? If you’re a scoffer, that means that you make fun of things. Peter says scoffers will come. And what will these scoffers be making fun of? Peter tells us in verse 4. “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming (that is, Jesus’s coming)? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

In other words, these scoffers don’t believe that Jesus will come again in judgment. They’ll point to human history and say, “If there’s a God out there who’s really bothered by evil, why hasn’t he done anything about it? Why haven’t nations that worship other gods been destroyed? If God is so good, how can he stand by while the world is still filled with oppression and violence? Instead – the scoffers say – all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. There has been no intervention from God (so they claim) and thus there never will be.

We need to be prepared for these objections. Because you’ll find scoffers like this out there. In fact, most of you probably know some. If you aren’t grounded in what the Bible teaches about God, humanity, sin, judgment, and salvation – those scoffers are going to sound a lot more convincing than they should.

But before you fall for the scoffers’ arguments, I want to make sure you realize – the scoffers have problems of their own. They raise all sorts of doubts and objections against the Christian faith. They’re eager to point out the warts and pimples of the Christian Church. But if you turn the conversation, and start to press them about what they believe, you’ll find that they don’t have two legs to stand on.

In contrast, as Peter shows us in the text, Christianity can stand up under the objections of these scoffers.

A Defense of God’s Promised Judgment

In verses 5-10, Peter gives a five-part defense affirming the reliability of God’s Promised Judgment. First, in verses 5-7, Peter insists that all things have not continued as they were from the beginning of creation. After God created the heavens and the earth, he intervened in human history in the days of Noah to bring judgment against ungodliness – “the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” The flood that happened in the days of Noah was a real, historical event. God has intervened in human history to display his righteous judgment against the wickedness of mankind. And he will do it again.

Second – also in verses 5-7 – Peter rebukes the scoffers over their low regard for God’s Word. Peter says, “They deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and through water – HOW? by the Word of God. And then note verse 7 – “by the SAME Word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire.” In other words, God’s Word is powerful. When God speaks, the thing that He says comes to pass. The same Word that created the earth, that made us, and that is preserving the universe at this very moment – it’s the same word that has promised judgment is coming. So if the world came into existence, which it did – and if the world continues to exist, which it does – then Peter’s saying here we need to take the promise of Final Judgment seriously. Because the same divine Word is responsible for it all.

In verse 8, Peter gives a third objection against the scoffers. These scoffers claim that hundreds – thousands of years even – have passed without God’s judgment day coming, and they think that this makes it doubtful that his judgment will ever come. But Peter points out that God isn’t constrained by time like we are. Rather, God is the one who invented time. He is above and beyond time, which is why Peter says, “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” – then verse 9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness…” In other words, we can’t charge God with being slow, just because God feels slow to us. God has his own standard of timeliness – and His standard will determine when He fulfills his promises. Not our standard.

We see the fourth part of Peter’s response to the scoffers in verse 9. He explains why God hasn’t brought swift, immediate judgment against all the wrongdoings of humanity yet. It’s because God… “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” So do you see why God’s judgment hasn’t come yet? It’s not because God is indifferent about the evils of this world, or about the sufferings that we experience. He’s waiting because He does care. He wants the full number of His children to escape from their evil, self-obsessed desires AND to escape from the suffering and destruction that will result from it. For every day that God waits, it’s another day that He’s at work to regenerate those who are spiritually dead, to ransom those who are hostages to sin, and to rescue those who are in danger of Hell. This so-called “delay” in God’s judgment isn’t reason for us to rage against Him, but should actually give us all the more reason to receive Him, and his saving mercy.

But fifth and finally, Peter responds to the scoffers again in verse 10. The scoffers have been saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” They’re saying, “if God were really going to judge the earth, we expect he would have done it by now.” But the problem with all this is that God isn’t constrained by our expectations. Peter corrects them – “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” – it won’t happen when we assume it should happen, but at an unexpected time. “And then 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.”

Implications of God’s Promised Judgment

And since this is the case, Peter urges us to live a life that’s informed by the certainty of God’s promised judgment. In the remaining part of our text – verses 11 through 13, Peter wants us to reflect on whether or not we’re really living in light of that final day.

Because here’s the reality that Peter is trying to remind us of – Humanity is wickedly self-centered and has refused to honor God as #1. And this rebellion against God has brought a curse of death and destruction, not only on us, but even on the heavens and earth we were created to inhabit. Because of our sin, the current heavens and earth aren’t a holy, set-apart place where righteousness dwells. Instead, we have defiled them, and they’re being stored up for fire. And if that’s the nature of our sin – if it’s that offensive and scandalous and vile in the eyes of God – then it should be vile in our eyes, too.

We should yearn for something better – not a world filled with jealous brats and pompous fools – but a world filled with God-honoring love, trust, humility, happiness, and peace.

And in God’s kindness, a day is coming when all things will be made new. The Day of God’s judgment won’t just be a day of punishing the wicked. It will also be a day of crowning the righteous with glory and honor. Those who have been made righteous through faith in Jesus, as a gift of God’s grace, will rise to live forever in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells, spoken of in verse 13.

So Peter urges us – put away the destructive, defiled habits of sin, and start to live as a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. The promise is reliable – it’s real. And so our preparation for that kingdom should be just as real.

So let’s yearn for that day to come. Let’s confidently trust in the power and certainty of God’s Word. And let’s embrace right now the holiness and righteousness that will characterize the new heavens and earth.

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