Eschatological Perspective for Life Today
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 3:11-13
(Read vv. 10–13) How many of you have ever found yourself way too emotionally invested in something that really doesn’t matter? We all do that, right? You are playing a board game with your family. That competitive streak begins to kick in as you are losing. You get angry, and tension begins to build. Finally, it hits you, “It’s just a game. Why am I so upset about something so silly?”
Or maybe you are working on a home project, and you are determined to get it just right. You are obsessing over some small detail that no one will ever notice, except you. But you are so focused on that detail that you can’t see how silly you are being. We’ve all had those moments. We get so focused on one thing that we lose perspective (illustrate by staring at the pulpit and moving closer and closer until we can’t see anything else).
Sadly, this tendency is especially detrimental to our struggle for godliness. We lock in on some ambition or pleasure or worldly care. Over time, it increasingly dominates our vision until we lose sight of the Lord and his promises and of our Christian duties. And it never leads to more joy; instead, we are left frustrated and unfruitful.
Therefore, we need passages like today’s text. In fact, v. 11 would be worth framing on a wall and quoting every day. It’s so good, because in a few simple words, it provides such an important perspective regarding how we should look at life and establish our goals. Specifically, it challenges us to view all of life from an eternal perspective. This is because you will never rightly see life today and how I should be investing my life, unless I am able to step back and see it through the grid of eternity. So, we can all benefit from this text.
I’d like to build our study around 2 simple questions. First, what is God going to do at the end of time? Second, how should I respond today?
I. What is God going to do at the end of time?
It’s important that we remember why Peter is concerned about the end times. Specifically, the false teachers claimed that the universe always has been and always will be governed solely by natural laws (v. 4). Therefore, they were sure that Jesus will never return and radically intervene in his creation or judge the world. As a result, we are free to “walk according to (our) own lusts” in rebellion against God without any fear of judgment.
Therefore, Peter clearly affirms the certainty of Christ’s 2nd coming and its radical consequences (vv. 7, 10). In contrast to the false teachers’ naturalism, Peter declares that Jesus will come again with unimaginable power, overthrowing all that we know of this world.
Our passage for today repeats this refrain two more times in vv. 11a, 12b. And it adds that not only will Christ destroy this world; he will replace it with a far better one. Let’s talk first about the fact that…
God will destroy his first creation. Again, Peter has already talked in detail about this destruction in vv. 7, 10, though I didn’t spend much time the last 2 weeks talking about what it will be like. Therefore, I’d like to spend a little more time on this fact today.
First, we need to understand that vv. 7, 10, 11, and 12 are all referring to events at the tail end of the eschatological “Day of the Lord.” As I said last week, the “Day of the Lord” will begin with the rapture of the church. Then Christ will begin the 7-year Tribulation, in which he will pour out his wrath on an evil generation. Afterwards, Christ will return in glory, defeat Antichrist, and establish the Millennial Kingdom.
He will reign in righteousness for 1,000 years, and then he will allow Satan to lead a rebellion among the unregenerate in the Kingdom. However, Christ will crush the rebellion. Afterwards, Revelation 20:11–15 teach that he will resurrect and judge every unbeliever at the Great White Throne Judgment.
After all of that, just before God establishes the eternal state, he will destroy his first creation. Revelation 21:1 simply states, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
And 2 Peter 3 fills in a lot of gaps about what will happen in that day. Specifically, Peter repeatedly states that God will use intense fire and heat to destroy his first creation. Verse 7 says creation is “reserved for fire.” Verse 10 says, “The elements will melt with fervent heat,” and again v. 12 says, “The elements will melt with fervent heat.”
So, while God used water to judge the world in Noah’s day, he will use intense fire, maybe even nuclear explosions to bring about a far more severe judgment at the end of time. It’s going to an unimaginably powerful display unlike anything that has ever happened before.
Now I must say that since the days of the ancient church fathers there has been a debate over what Peter intends by the verb “dissolved” in vv. 11, 12. The same verb is also translated as “will melt” in v. 10. The verb is luo, and it means, “to loosen, to destroy.”
The debate is whether Peter is saying that the universe is going to go the way of the Death Star and be utterly blown to pieces and annihilated? Or is Peter saying God will use fire to purify and renew his original creation?
I don’t know that it makes a big difference which position you take, but as of today, I probably lean 60-40 toward the second view that Peter is describing the renewal of the original creation.
I say this, because Romans 8:21 states, “Creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” As a result, v. 22 states, “creation groans and labors with birth pangs” as it looks forward to the redemption of creation. If creation will simply be destroyed, not renewed, then it makes no sense for it to long for that day.
Regardless, Peter’s basic point still stands. Very often, we get so wrapped up in this world. We are consumed with worldly tasks, ambitions, pleasures, and dreams. We have to build that retirement fund or get this new toy. We have to win this election. I must get recognized at work and get a promotion. I can’t live without making the honor roll and getting this scholarship.
The world would add that we MUST preserve every little piece of nature, and we MUST fix every little injustice in society.
Of course, most of these things have a rightful place within God’s purpose. But we also need to back up and remember that all of this is going to burn. No matter how much worldly success you achieve, all of it will one day “be dissolved.” It will “melt with fervent heat.”
In that day anything that wasn’t rooted in God’s eternal glory of God will be lost. This is invaluable perspective as you reflect on your life, your passions, and your ambitions. We’ll talk more about that later on. So, don’t forget that God will destroy his first creation. The 2nd work that God is going to do at the end of time is…
God will create a new heavens and earth (v. 13). This verse reminds us that the day of the Lord will not just be a day of judgment and destruction. Rather, it will fundamentally be a day of renewal, restoration, and blessing. Peter reminds us that God will replace this broken, sin-cursed world with “new heavens and a new earth.”
I think it’s worth our time, and it will encourage our hearts to reread how Revelation 21:1–8, 22–27 describe this new creation, and the New Jerusalem at the center of it all. There are so many wonderful aspects of this text. Verse 4 has encouraged many Christians as we suffer in this world.
And vv. 6–7 describe the perfect conditions we will enjoy. But the best part of it all will be what John describes in vv. 22–23. There will be no temple, because God will enjoy perfect, unhindered fellowship with his people. We will enjoy the most wonderful blessing possible, which is the glorious presence of our Lord.
I particularly want to highlight 2 ideas that Peter mentions. First, the new heavens and earth will be a place, “in which righteousness dwells.” I like how Doug Moo paraphrases this as “the home of righteousness.”
The point is that sin, perversion, and hatred will have no part in the New Jerusalem. There won’t be any conflict in my heart between good and evil; rather, my every passion and thought will be entirely pure. And I won’t have to endure the sins of other people either. We will all treat each other with perfect love, compassion, and purity. It’s going to be awesome.
And we have to recognize that in light of the vile perversion that the false teachers were pushing, this statement has an obvious apologetic undertone. Specifically, the false teachers boasted in their lawless pursuit of temporal passions. Like so many modern advertising campaigns, they claimed that indulgence is the key to happiness.
But Peter reminds us that perfect joy is not found in lawlessness but in righteousness. Friday morning, I prayed through Psalm 19, and I was struck by v. 8, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” God’s law brings joy, not oppression. Similarly, the obvious implication of v. 13 is that if I will find perfect joy throughout eternity in the home of righteousness, then why in the world would I run the other way today, chasing my sinful lusts? It makes no sense. Again, we’ll think about this more later.
The other idea about the new heavens and earth that v. 13 highlights is that all of this is certain. Peter doesn’t say that we look for the new heavens and earth like we look for rain in the desert. We hope it comes but it probably won’t. Instead, Peter reminds us, “according to His promise, (we) look…”
The Scriptures are everywhere clear that the glories we read about in Revelation 21–22 are not a pipe dream. No, God WILL do these things. They are more certain than tomorrow’s sunrise. Therefore, the 2nd major question we must answer is…
II. How should I respond to God’s promise?
I began today by mentioning that one of our big struggles as fallen sinners is that we so easily lose perspective resulting in distorted values and foolish choices. So, we need constant reminders of the perspective we have just discussed.
Jesus is coming again to destroy everything around us and to establish a new heavens and earth where righteousness dwells. This is massively important perspective, and Peter says that it should radically alter my life in 3 ways.
Live a godly life. Verse 11 makes a powerful point that deserves serious reflection (read). I want to encourage you to step back and consider what consumes your thoughts and captures your passions.
We worry about our health, our safety, our retirement funds, and many other things. We press with all our might to have fun, enjoy this pleasure, and get this thing. All of it seems so important. But God promises, “All these things will be dissolved.” They are all temporary and fading.
Therefore, instead of wasting my life chasing them, “What manner of persons…” It’s worth noting that the adjective translated “what manner of” doesn’t so much express a question as it does an exclamation of wonder. Peter is in awe of how our eschatology should transform our lives.
Specifically, it should drive us to “holy conduct and godliness.” This exhortation fits perfectly with our theme for the year. It reminds us that our home is not in this world. I’m a stranger and a pilgrim in this world.
Therefore, my conduct must be holy. In other words, I shouldn’t live my life straining to hold onto as much of the world as possible and trying to fit in to an evil generation doomed for judgment. No, I should run to Christ and by his grace I should pursue the perfect holiness of God.
I should want every part of my life, my appearance, my entertainment choices, my conversation, and everything else to be as close to Jesus as possible. I should spend less time justifying what I want and more time abiding in Christ and striving to become like him.
Folks, there’s lots of voices out there, including supposedly Christian ones, that will help you justify all sorts of worldliness. A lot of Christians are embarrassed by the concept of holiness. It’s tragic, because God’s holiness is good, and Peter reminds us that it is of eternal value. So, pursue holiness.
Second, Peter exhorts us to pursue godliness. The idea is not all that different from holiness. Holiness focuses on our separation from the world to God; whereas, godliness focuses on a godward orientation to all of life. In other words, God’s glory and character must dominate my perspective and choices. I must see all of life as an act of worship, and I must do all things for God’s glory and pleasure, not my own.
Christian, you are going to spend all eternity basking in the glow of God’s glory, so spend your days today, pursuing that same glory, not the cheap replicas this world tries to sell.
In sum, the fact that this world will one day be dissolved and replaced with a righteous world means that by God’s grace, I must pursue a radically different set of values that translates into holiness and godliness. The return of Christ changes everything. 2nd, I must respond to God’s promise by…
Look expectantly for Christ’s return. Verse 12 begins by commanding us to “look for…the coming of the day of God.” And notice that Peter repeats the same verb in v. 13. “(We) look for new heavens and a new earth.” And he repeats it again in v. 14. We should be “looking forward to these things.”
In other words, the return of Christ is not just a useless theological concept that we must learn, but then you can mostly put it out of your mind, like you did with algebra after you survived the class.
No, Peter says that every day of my life, I should be looking expectantly for the “day of the Lord” to begin. I should wake up every morning thinking that the trumpet could sound today and hoping that it will.
It’s so important that we discipline ourselves to keep this perspective, especially when life tries to consume our focus. I appreciate the fact that so many of our hymns end with an eschatological focus. “It Is Well with My Soul,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Jesus Paid It All,” “Complete in Thee,” “Hallelujah! What a Savior,” and many others anchor their various themes in the hope of eternity. Use them and follow their pattern.
Jesus is coming again. He’s going to rescue us from this world and from the perversion of our flesh. He’s going to fix all that is broken and bring us into a perfect existence. So, look expectantly for his soon return. The 3rd way I must respond to God’s promise is that I must…
Hasten Christ’s return. Verse 12 says that not only must we “look for” the coming of the Lord; we must also “hasten the coming of the day of God.” This is an idea that we probably don’t think about all that often. The verb means to take action that speeds forward a desired end; therefore Peter is telling us to take actions that will in some sense move forward the “day of God.”
This probably strikes us as odd, because the timing of all these things is already determined in the mind of God, right? Yes, Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 that the Father knows precisely when every end time event will take place. So, how is it possible that I could “hasten” the return of Christ?
The answer is that like many other aspects of God’s sovereign will, our actions factor into God’s purpose. For example, the Bible is clear that my prayers effect the salvation of the lost, even as God is sovereign. God uses my prayers to accomplish his purpose. We’ll never fully comprehend how this works, but we know it’s true, and the Bible teachers that we should respond by eagerly and aggressively praying for the lost.
Similarly, Peter teaches that in some sense my actions affect when Christ will return. If I’m lazy, he will come later; whereas, if I serve eagerly, I “hasten” the return of Christ. Now you’re probably thinking, “I’d like Jesus to come soon. So, how can I hasten the return of Christ?” The Bible gives 3 answers.
Pray: Think about the fact that one of the prayer requests Jesus included in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). So, Jesus said I should pray that Christ will return soon and establish his kingdom.
Share the Gospel: Last week, we saw in v. 9 that one reason why Christ has not returned is because God is not done saving people. Notice as well what Peter says in v. 15. So, when we share the gospel with the lost, we are actually participating in God’s purpose of saving the people he has chosen to be saved before he returns.
And Jesus confirmed that this is so, when he said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). So, do you want Christ to come back? Don’t sit at home and gripe about the world; take the gospel to the world.
Live a holy a life. The Scriptures aren’t as clear about this one, but I think it’s fair to assume that v. 11 factors into v. 12. This is because in the Greek, “looking for” and hastening” modify the command to holiness in v. 11. So living a holy life is vitally connected to preparing for Christ’s return.
In sum, Peter states very firmly, in keeping with the consistent testimony of Scripture, that Jesus is coming with radical, truly earth-shattering power. He will destroy this world, and replace it with the home of righteousness. Therefore, the only way that you will think rightly about this life is if you see it in light of this reality.
This means first of all that you need to be saved. Maybe you’ve never wanted to get saved, because there’s something in this world that you value too highly. You don’t want to be embarrassed or you don’t want to give up control. Please see that whatever it, it’s going to be dissolved. There is no excuse worth rejecting Christ. So please do not leave today without knowing that you are ready to meet the Lord.
And if you are saved, be renewed in your focus on the return of Christ. Make sure that you view all of life in light of the radical change that is coming. And then make sure that it translates into action. Remember today and every day, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”