Come, O Long-Expected Jesus!
Lord God, may we live our lives in joyous expectation of the return of Your dear Son. Lead us to genuine repentance over sin and instill within our hearts a love for You and Your Word. Bless us as we worship this day. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Isaiah here foretells both the ministry of John the Baptizer and the coming of the promised Savior. John would prepare the Savior's way, while the Savior would come as a Shepherd to care for His sheep.
Mark reports on the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. John the Baptizer came "preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."
Text: 2 Peter 3:8-14
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
In Christ Jesus, who will come again—you can count on it, dear fellow redeemed:
Can you imagine? Peter wrote his epistle not more than thirty years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and already at that time people were challenging Christians and questioning whether or not Jesus would return as He promised. No wonder most people today ignore Jesus’ words, since almost two thousand years have now passed. Will Jesus return as He promised to judge both the living and the dead? Yes, He will! It is not wise now, nor has it ever been wise to question the sincerity or truth of God and His Word. What God says, He will most certainly do, but at His own time and in His own way. Wise men and women listen carefully and act accordingly!
Yet, the temptation for us Christians today is to allow the world’s unbelief to influence our faith and life. This is always dangerous. Consequently, let us review Peter’s response to the skepticism of his day. He writes, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” It should not surprise us that Jesus has delayed His return as long as He has. God made His initial promise of a Savior shortly after creation, yet did not fulfill that promise for four thousand years. With God time is relative—a thousand years like a day, or a day like a thousand years. God fulfilled His promise, Paul tells us, “when the fullness of time had come,” (Galatians 4:4) that is, at just the right time when everything God had planned was in place. Even so, Jesus will return when everything is ready and all of God’s elect have been brought to faith. Peter explains it this way, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God is both just and merciful. He will with justice send Jesus to judge both the living and the dead at His appointed time. In the meantime, He is in mercy actively reaching out to the lost through us with His gospel invitation of life.
Dear friends, may we never be deceived by the skepticism of our present world. Rather may our prayers ever be that of the hymn we have just sung—COME, O LONG-EXPECTED JESUS! Replace this wicked world with a new world of righteousness! Lead us to live lives of genuine repentance and godliness in peace!
Now, what does God tell us through Peter will happen when Jesus returns at the end of time? Peter writes, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” There was a time long ago that God destroyed the world as it then stood with a great flood. The world Noah entered after leaving the ark was very different from the world he left behind, yet it was still fundamentally the same world. Its geography and topography were dramatically changed, but the elemental matter remained in altered form. When Jesus comes at the end of time, and we do not know when he will come, just as we do not know when a thief plans to come to rob us, this present world will be destroyed completely. This physical world, in which so many people put so much stock and about which so much time and effort is spent, will be “burned up” along with all of its wickedness. There will be no escape to another planet, as depicted at times in movies. There will be no second chances quickly to convert and become good. The end of time will be the end of this physical universe and the end of all opportunities to become right with God.
If that thought is frightening, and it is to the unconverted of this world, it should be! The Bible tells us very clearly through the apostle Paul, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Yet, modern man mocks God continuously! He foolishly denies the existence of God (cf. Psalm 14:1), or presumptuously claims that he himself can define the nature of God! He despises the gift of life in the name of reproductive rights and death with dignity. He elevates gross immorality to the level of godliness, claiming the right to privacy and that any action undertaken by two consenting adults is wholly acceptable and beyond the reproach of either man or God. Would that all who believe such nonsense would listen to the prophet Amos, who wrote to the unbelievers of his day, “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers” (1:2). On the last day more than “Carmel” will wither when “the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.”
What, on the other hand, lies ahead for the believing child of God? Peter tells us, “Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” God, having destroyed our present wicked world plans to replace it with a new world—a “new heavens and a new earth.” Heaven is not going to involve sitting around on a bunch of clouds floating about in a sea of nothingness! No, Peter suggests that heaven would perhaps be better described as the Garden of Eden all over again. Imagine the beauty we will behold. If those scenes we cherish most in this world—the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, the massiveness of the Grand Canyon, the solitude of the Painted Desert—were in fact the result of God’s destructive power at the time of the flood, how much more grand will not God’s new world be as the result solely of His creative powers? My dear friends, let us pray—COME, O LONG-EXPECTED JESUS! Replace this wicked world with a new world of righteousness!
Lead us to live lives of genuine repentance and godliness in peace!Seeing that Jesus will return at the end of time and that He could return at any time, Peter asks the only logical question: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Peter commented earlier that the reason God has not yet sent Jesus is because of His “longsuffering.” God sincerely desires that none “should perish, but all should come to repentance.” My dear friends, any parent among us can tell you that at times their children try their patience, and I would imagine there may be children, who would claim the same of their parents. Let us not try the patience of our longsuffering God. He is not a doddering old fool, who smiles at sin and laughs at wickedness. He is just and holy, righteous and jealous of His role and reputation. He hates sin and has promised to judge the sinner. To defy Him is the height of foolishness. Rather, let us bend the knee before our God in humble submission to His will. Let us confess our sins fully and regularly, rejoicing in the fact that our God is not only just, but gracious and merciful. He has promised to forgive us and uplift us, claiming us as His own dear children and heirs by grace through faith in Jesus!
Those facts ought lead us to strive with the Spirit’s help and guidance to live lives of genuine godliness. What is "godliness"? It is simply living our lives in accordance with God’s will in love for one another. The apostle Paul writes, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Dear friends, living in godliness means that we strive to put the best construction on our neighbor’s words and actions, that we measure our words to see that they build others up rather than tear them down, and that everything we do should have the goal of helping rather than hurting others. Genuine godliness is not doing things that are spectacular, but fulfilling our everyday, normal responsibilities in a loving way!
In summary, Peter states, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” Peter urges us, in view of Jesus’ coming return, to strive to live “in peace.” When God announced the birth of His Son to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, he had the angels proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14) The angels were not speaking of a make-believe peace, or a potential peace that might take effect someday in the distant future. No, they were speaking of the peace that we believers have in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus, God’s Son, came to take our place and deliver us from our sin’s deserved judgment. Being at peace with God, we are now to strive to live in peace with one another. How difficult that can be at times, for Satan in league with our sinful flesh can seemingly cause an infinite number of problems to destroy the love and closeness we are to share in Christ. As we, however, with hearts and minds focused on God’s love for us in Christ and the peace that love yields, strive to live together in peace, we can and will enjoy the blessed fruits of such relationships—joy, encouragement, strength, contentment, confidence!
My dear friends, when will Jesus come? We do not know! Will Jesus come? He most certainly will! May we ever be ready, as we pray—COME, O LONG-EXPECTED JESUS! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting