2nd Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
2 Peter 3:8-14
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
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. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 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 3:8-14
“Face the Facts: Christ is Coming Quickly”
Dear Saints, preparing for Christmas while waiting for Christ to come again,
Look behind today’s headlines: Do terrorist attacks in multiple countries raise fear in our heart? Are North Korean nuclear missiles designed to reach our capitol a sign God is lifting his trumpet to his lips to signal our world’s last day? Jesus reassures us, in advance, ‘When you hear of wars & rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.’ Our Lord adds, ‘There will be earthquakes & famines in various places…the beginning of birth pains.’ Do natural disasters feel like labor pains telling us Christ is coming…like labor pains Mary must feel as she & Joseph step into a stable in Bethlehem where Jesus is to be born?
Do society’s signs also show an archangel warming his voice to announce Jesus’ return as Judge of the living & dead? ‘In the last days,’ inspired apostle Paul predicts, ‘People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self‑control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God ‑‑ having a form of godliness but denying its power.’ Is Paul’s “last days” picture being developed? Even a blind man might think Paul is a current commentator rather than looking thousands of years into the future, writing, ‘Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men & impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving & being deceived… (in the last days) men will not put up with sound doctrine…to suit their own desires, men will gather a great number of teachers to say what itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth & turn aside to myths.’[2 TM 3/4]
Are world-ending labor pains intensifying? Is Jesus coming quickly? Not able to circle a day or a year on our calendar — as Adam, Abraham, David could not identify the exact day or year God’s promised Savior would arrive… until angel Gabriel announces Jesus’ birth to Mary (in 9 months) — we cannot know Jesus will return during our earthly lifetime, but Scripture’s signs assure us God’s trumpet call, an archangel’s shout announcing Judge Jesus’ return is closer today than it was yesterday. Am I ready, watching; waiting for Jesus? Are we personally prepared for Christ’s second coming as we again get ready to celebrate Jesus our Savior first entering our world at Christmas? Responding to skeptics who still say our ascended Savior will never return, Peter encourages us believers to face the undeniable facts. Peter encourages faithful souls to live a “Christ-is-coming” life of patience, repentance; righteousness as saints eagerly anticipate the day Jesus will move us from earth into heaven.
Peter’s skeptics laugh at Jesus’ precious promise, ‘I am going to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you…if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come back & take you to be with me.’ [JN 14] Can we hear them? “Peter, it is forty years since Jesus supposedly ascended. Your Savior apparently forgot what he said, or he lied. Will our world really end? Another generation is born; our world still revolves as it always has; always will. Peter, you are an incurable dreamer if you are still expecting Christ to come back!” Two thousand years later, skeptics have increasing ammunition for this theory that, if Jesus has not already returned, Christ never will come back; our earthly world will never end.
We must ask, ‘Did Jesus forget? Has God changed his plans to take us to heaven?’ Are we left on our own? No, never! Skeptics are actually a predicted sign of “the last days.” Impatient critics, Peter points out, do not understand our Lord’s patience; our Lord’s eternal time-frame. Recall the day God announces a flood. Souls are allowed another 120 years to repent as Noah builds an ark. Despite people’s mocking laughter, when floodwaters finally fall as promised, Noah’s disbelieving neighbors are unable to swim to safety. Do skeptical peers think forty years is too long for Peter to wait for Jesus to fulfill his promise? Recall the day God first promises Adam & Eve a Savior. ‘When the time has fully come (4,000 years later), God sends his Son (Jesus) to be born of Mary’ to free sinners from eternal death our sins deserve by fully obeying God’s law as our Substitute before freely sacrificing his innocent life as a guilt-removing, God-acceptable payment for my sins.[GAL 4] Today, less than 2,000 years after Jesus ascends, promising to return — even if time seems to fly faster — it is only half as long as the interval between God promising a Savior in Eden & God sending a Savior in Bethlehem. God has certainly not forgotten! Face the facts: our world will come to an end.
Encouraging patience, Peter reminds us God’s timeless eternity is not able to be measured by earthly time-keepers – ‘Do not forget: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years; a thousand years are like a day.’ Note how slowly minutes creep past while we wait for Christmas, wait to open presents. Notice how fast these same minutes fly by while we cook, clean, decorate; try to finish shopping before Christmas comes. Note how slowly a clock moves as students wait for their school-day to end. Notice how quickly this same clock moves as teachers try to cram every class in before the school-day ends. Multiplying this discrepancy by millions, humans bound by time cannot grasp God’s timeless eternity. Be reassured, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,” but, as Peter explains, “The Lord is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Exercising patience, our Lord allows every soul time to repent. Our Lord lovingly allows me time to repent of my anger, adultery, my lies, laziness, my swearing, stealing… Our list of sins could go on forever, but I do not have forever. Patience (waiting for Jesus to return) must never be replaced by procrastination (acting as if Jesus will never return) because Jesus is coming to judge every soul, dead or alive. There can be no question: ‘The day of the Lord will come – suddenly — like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire; our earth & everything in it will be laid bare.’
Face the facts: Christ is coming! No doubt, no question – only the time is unknown – Christ is coming! Knowing Christ is coming, faithful followers of Jesus will patiently, not procrastinating – not skeptical souls who wait too long, wait until it is too late to repent, as at the time of the flood – not procrastinating, faithful followers of Jesus will patiently, repeatedly repent of our sins & rejoice in Jesus’ forgiveness. Patiently awaiting Jesus’ return, we focus on the coming Christ, we live our Lord’s love; we fill our lives with Jesus’ righteous words & works. Peter asks, rhetorically, ‘Since Jesus will return, since the heavens will be destroyed by fire & the elements will melt in the heat, what kind of people are we to be?’ The obvious answer, ‘We are to live holy & godly lives as we wait eagerly for the day of God to come.’
I pray we understand, ‘God has set a day when he will judge the world by Jesus.’[ACTS 16] If today is the day, if our world ends this afternoon, it will be best for us believers because, as Paul explains, we will be “with our Lord,” we will be in heaven. If our world does not end this afternoon, it will be better for our unbelieving friends, relatives & acquaintances because, as Peter urges us to import Jesus’ righteous words & works into our own life, if God who ‘does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,’ patiently extends our time of grace on earth, Christians will have a little more time to show our friends their sins; a little more time to call acquaintances to repentance; a little more time to reassure repenting relatives ‘Jesus Christ, the righteous one, is the atoning sacrifice who won forgiveness for our sins, for your sins; for the sins of the whole world.’[1 JN 2]
What an opportunity! Addressing people’s sins, especially talking about our Savior Jesus, you & I are permitted to prepare repenting, forgiven souls to rejoice with us when Jesus returns to publicly judge us ‘forgiven’ as he returns to take us ‘home’ — to move us out of this wicked world into a ‘new heaven & new earth’ God promises to prepare for every faithful follower of Jesus he has declared ‘righteous in Christ.’ Today, tomorrow — patiently waiting one more day or waiting another 1,000 years while wars & rumors of war swirl around us – patiently, personally repenting; regularly rejoicing in Jesus’ forgiveness while earthquakes & famines appear in various places – patiently, persistently applying Jesus’ righteous instructions in our individual lives while selfish social disruption & religious rebellion keep rising around us, we saints will, I pray, see the signs of the times, signs our earth is ending. Defying Satan’s procrastination temptation, I pray we believers will patiently yet quickly share Jesus’ good news of forgiveness with souls around us, as our ascending Savior promises we will be his witnesses ‘to the ends of the earth.’ Preparing to celebrate Christmas at least one more time while we are waiting for Christ to come again, I pray we individually invite & personally promise someone, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus; you will be saved.’[ACTS 16] I pray we with Peter repeats our Lord’s promise: Jesus, who already came to save us from our sins, will be coming again to take us home to heaven!