When you find yourself in trouble, when you find yourself facing the darkness, facing disease, does your mind drift to the new heavens and new earth and the beauty that awaits you? The glory that awaits you? Looking in anticipation and looking in faith? The Kingdom of Darkness Sometimes, if we feel discouraged, if we lack confidence because we see some areas where it may appear that the kingdom of darkness is advancing, it's because we have forgotten, as Peter says, that according to God's promise, we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. Earlier this year, thousands of Christians gathered in Orlando, Florida, for Ligonier's 2023 National Conference. Our conference theme was Stand Firm, and we sought to encourage God's people to live courageously and without compromise in turbulent times. Yesterday, Stephen Nichols encouraged us by reminding us of Jesus' promise that he will build his church. Today, Derek Thomas reminds us of another promise, that there will come a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
I so appreciated this reminder from Derek Thomas. Here's his message, the end in sight. My assigned text today is 2 Peter 3, 8 through 13, but I'm going to pick it up right at the opening verse of chapter 3 for some context. So, 2 Peter chapter 3 and verse 1.
This is now the second letter that I'm writing to you, beloved. In both of them, I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through our apostles. Knowing this, first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
They will say, where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. For they deliberately overlook this fact that the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God. And that by means of these, the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word, the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But 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. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burnt up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn? But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Well, so far God's holy and inerrant Word, and may he add his blessing to the reading of it.
Now, this is my assigned text today, which has been entitled, The End is Insight. And that pretty much sums up how Christians ought to live their lives, not focusing on the things of this world, but on the things that are to come on the end, and in the language of Peter reflecting language from the prophet Isaiah, the new heavens and the new earth. Now, Peter is writing, we won't go into detail here, but Peter is writing before AD 68. We know that he was martyred in AD 68, roughly at the same time as the apostle Paul in the city of Rome. And therefore, this epistle probably comes a year or so before that in AD 67 say.
We are a generation and then some after the death and resurrection of Jesus. And only now are New Testament epistles being written, inspired, breathed out by God, and profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction and instruction in the way of righteousness, that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. So this period between the ascension of Jesus and the appearing of the first New Testament letters and gospels, roughly in the late 50s, early 60s, was a period of great strife and difficulty and temptation for the church. They still had the apostles, of course. And it was a period rife with false apostles, false teachers. And evidently, Peter is writing to churches in Asia Minor, principally, and false teachers have come pouring scorn on Christian belief in a literal second coming of the Lord Jesus. Even Christians were confused by it because many of them, I think, initially believed that they would still be alive when Jesus came. It was understandable that they would believe that Jesus had not been clear as to the time of His second coming, and therefore, early Christians hoped and longed that He would come quickly and come within their lifetime, within a span of 25 or 30 years, but He hasn't come. And so there are those who are saying that the day of the Lord has not come.
And scoffers, false teachers, were fanning the flames of this problem. And Peter would recall Jesus himself in the so-called Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25. Keep watch, because you do not know when the day of the Lord will come. But understand this, if the owner of the house had known what time of night the thief was coming, he'd have kept watch and wouldn't have had his house broken into, so you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect it. He's talking to Christians, and Christians perhaps who will grow weary of waiting for the second coming, grow slack and leave their doors open and windows open so that thieves can break in and seal. But you must keep vigilant, because you do not know the day or hour when I shall return. Both John and the Apostle Paul refer to this text in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Peter and John and Paul no doubt had on one occasion or another talked about it. A coming day, an apocalyptic day that will change everything, associated as it is with the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
A day of judgment, the ushering in of new heavens and new earth in which righteousness will dwell. But there's a delay, and that's the problem. Why the delay? How long will this delay be? As I've said, Peter was martyred in AD 68, so there's been at least 35 years of delay.
That's a pretty long time. And some were doubting now the literal interpretation of the second coming and the conflagration that would accompany it, and some of them perhaps were now beginning to think that Jesus only meant this in some kind of quasi-spiritual sense. Jesus is addressing that spirit of unbelief and neglect and thoughtlessness where you leave the door open. I lived at a time in my early days when you could leave the front door open for a week and you'd still be safe.
And you could park your car in the local village and never bother to lock it, and you'd still be safe. We're not in that day now. We're going to go deep.
I'm sorry. It's that kind of passage because this passage raises some theological tensions that are peculiar to Ligonier. I think Peter had Ligonier in mind when he wrote this passage. Because there are issues here about the predestination of God and yet a desire in God that seems to be completely at odds with it.
And we need to interpret it carefully. And so the first thing I want us to think about this afternoon is the timing of God, the timing of God. God is never late.
Didn't Gandalf say something like that? God is never late. Now, He appears late to us when you've been praying something for years and years and years, maybe for the conversion of a prodigal son or daughter, maybe for a cure for an illness and months and years and decades go by and you think to yourself, God is late. Something has held Him up.
He is slow. And what is the reason for this long gap of thirty-five years or so since the ascension of Jesus and His non-return? And it's even worse for us, of course, because two thousand years have passed. And Peter says it is the patience of God, the patience of God, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Now, we'll come to what all means in a second. We ask, don't we, where is God? It's at the heart of the book of Job, when Job is dealing with his suffering, his innocent suffering as he viewed it, that he was the unjust victim of circumstances. And where was God? Why wasn't God answering his prayers? Why was he silent? Why wasn't He doing something? In our society, if you listen to ten minutes of Fox News, it would drive you crazy, and that's your limit for every day. Why isn't He doing something?
Aren't you asking that as you read your headlines from your news feeds, one headline after another? Where is God? Why isn't He coming down? Why doesn't He rend the heavens and come down?
We ask about that from time to time. Why do the wicked prosper? It's a question the psalmist asks in Psalm 78. It was as perplexing to him as it is to us. Why do the wicked prosper?
All those people who live in California and Florida. And the answer is, of course, that we can never know the mind of God. You can never know the mind of God. Who are you to reply against God?
Isn't that the question put to Job? Who are you to reply against God? God is incomprehensible. You cannot fathom infinity. You cannot fathom omniscience. You cannot fathom omnipotence. His ways are not ours.
His thoughts are not our thoughts. His timing is not ours. He is never late.
He is always on time. What we do know is this, that He has a plan. It is a plan that is certain. It is a plan that cannot be broken. Isn't that the bubble in which we find tranquility and peace? When there's a storm all around us and we're inside that bubble of the plan of God and there's calm and there's peace and there's harmony and there's hope and there's certainty.
But outside of it, there is chaos and uncertainty. Part of that plan is to bring the present world order to an end and to renew His creation. That's a part of His plan. It's an eternal plan. And God isn't forever trying to fix that plan. There are theologies that so elevate the absolute liberty of the will of man that God is forever trying to fix the plan.
Every millisecond He's trying to put in course corrections because the plan is going off target all the time. There is a promise, a promise that was put together in the councils of eternity by the triune God when the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit decreed to create and decreed to permit the fall and decreed to send a mediator and decreed to elect and pass by the reprobate. And that decree is inviolable.
It cannot be broken. Isn't that what we believe? Isn't that what brings us together here today? A belief in the total sovereignty of God that nothing happens without Him willing it to happen and without Him willing it to happen before it happens and without Him willing it to happen in the way that it happens? This delay because it looks like that to us. It looks as though there's a delay from our human perspective, from our finite perspective. And Peter says it is God's long suffering.
That's totally amazing. How can God be long suffering? How can He be patient?
How can He be delaying, looking as though He's late? And Peter says it's because He doesn't want anybody to perish. He wants everyone to come to repentance.
How is that compatible with the plan? Hasn't God planned everything? Can the number of the elect be increased? Can the number of the non-elect be increased? The answer is no. Hasn't God chosen from the very foundation of the world those who are the elect and who will inevitably, inviolably, inexorably be saved?
And others that He has passed by and consigned to eternal perdition. Is God's plan flexible? You know there are flexible plans. I'm not into insurance much but, and if there are insurance agents here, I do not need to talk to you.
But I'm told there are flexible plans that you can sell back the plan and get some money for it. I'll talk to you if you're prepared to do that. But in a way that is compatible, in a way that is compatible with God's fixed plan, He enters the world of space and time. He enters into the world where you and I live, of finite things. And He prattles to us, as Calvin says.
He speaks to us in baby language. I am long suffering, He says. And I don't wish for anyone to perish and I'm giving you time to repent. And you say, well I don't understand.
And I say to you, take a number. Because that is precisely what Scripture seems to be revealing. It is telling us of God's inexorable plan, the doctrine of predestination.
And yet in the world of space and time, He calls and He woos and He draws. John Murray, the late, great John Murray, former professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in the 40s and 50s and early 60s. He once wrote that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards which he has not been pleased to decree.
I hope you took that down. It's an amazing statement coming from a Calvinist. There is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards which he has not been pleased to decree. God reveals Himself to us as one who genuinely desires the salvation of the lost. And He doesn't make a distinction here that He only desires the salvation of the elect. That's not what Peter says. There is a love in the heart of Almighty God, even for those who may never be saved.
A love that says to you and to me, we must have a similar love because we don't know who the elect and non-elect are. So we must take the gospel not to the elect. That's hyper-Calvinism.
That will get you locked in a prison that you can never get out. But you must take the gospel to every creature, to every tribe and every tongue and every nation. He takes no delight in the death of the ungodly. He gives room to repent. This is our God. He calls upon sinners to come to Him and to hold His hand and He restrains His actions and He waits. Do you think the world today deserves to be judged? That a great judgment would come down on Washington D.C. or San Francisco or Namier City.
Yes, they deserve to be judged. They are living in complete violation of the commandments of God and putting Him to an open shame on a daily basis. Would God be just to ignite the world in one huge conflagration? Yes, but He is patient and He calls you one more time. He says to the reprobate, Come, come unto me, all ye that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. God's time is different. He is in one sense outside of time and yet imminently He is in time and space so that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day, citing from Psalm 90 and verse 4. So in the first place, we're looking together at what we called the timing of God. And now I want us to look in the second place at the plan of God.
We've already mentioned it, but we need to look at it a little more carefully. The plan of God. History is not cyclical, as in say, Hinduism. But history has a goal. History has an end point.
Scientists talk about the second law of thermodynamics, that the world is like an old-fashioned clock as you wind up and it's now ticking down and at some point it's going to stop when the sun's combustion will cease and it's unable to sustain life on earth and everything will die. And that's a worldview without God. God is in charge of history.
He's in charge of the past, He's in charge of the present, and He's in charge of the future. We are living, you and I, in the last days. That's what Peter said on the day of Pentecost, that with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as was promised, the last days began.
The author of Hebrews in the first chapter speaks of living in the last days. And there is a plan for the last days. And Jesus only has one plan. I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. That's the plan He revealed to Peter at Caesarea Philippi in Matthew chapter 16.
And here He reveals the plan that according to His promise, we look for what? A new heavens and a new earth. Now, we talk about heaven and we sometimes confuse heaven with the new heavens and new earth.
Christians do it a lot, I think. What happens five seconds after you die? I choose five seconds at random. You close your eyes in this world and you open them in heaven. You are with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. You are with the presence of angels and archangels and the church triumphant. You will be greeted by those who have gone before you in faith and union with the Lord Jesus. It is an intermediate state of which the Bible doesn't say a great deal. Today, Jesus said to the dying thief, you will be with me in paradise.
Using the same word that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 12 of the third heaven, that he was caught up into the third heaven. What happens when you die as a believer? Well, you'll still be conscious.
That's your soul-ish part. You'll still know who you are. You'll still have self-awareness.
You'll have self-awareness and awareness of your surroundings. And if the parable of Jesus and the rich man and Lazarus is anything to go by, you'll be aware at least to some extent of what's going on down here. But that's not what's in view here in 2 Peter 3. That's a precious thing. That's a beautiful thing. To be by the side of someone that you love or someone that you have pastored and hold their hands as they pass from this world to the next and know with an absolute certainty that they are with Jesus, that's a wonderful thing to know. That's a wonderful hope. And every Christian has that hope.
Every Christian has that hope and certainty. But what Peter is talking about here is the day of the Lord. He's talking about the end time. He's talking about the second coming of the Lord Jesus and what will happen subsequent to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. And I know, I know, I know we don't all agree. And there are different eschatological views in here.
I'm almost certain, but I'm going to tell you the biblical one. That at the second coming of the Lord Jesus, the new heavens and new earth will be ushered in. The world is longing for it, groaning for it. Climate change. Goodness, I can't even go there, but even if there's a modicum of truth about it, it is evidence that this world is groaning and travailing in birth, waiting for the renewal of all things.
It's crying out to you that this is not your home and this cannot last forever. Christians have always known that. We look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn. But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.
He's quoting from Isaiah 65 and 66. Now, there was a debate in the 16th century between Calvinists and Lutherans. The Lutherans thought that this cosmos would be entirely destroyed and a new one created out of nothing. But the Calvinists said there is nothing sinful about creation in itself.
And so the Calvinists argued that this universe will be restored rather than totally remade. It's an interesting debate. But far more interesting is what will it look like? You know I'm going there, don't you? Will there be dogs there? I'm not asking the question for a minute, will there be dogs in heaven, which is what people normally ask.
That's the intermediate state. I'm asking, will there be dogs in the new heavens and new earth? And don't be thinking sentimentally or emotionally.
I know that's hard for you because you love your dogs as I do. But think theologically. What kind of new heavens and new earth will God restore? Everything that's in this world is the answer.
Everything that God created in Genesis 1 that He said was good and good and good and good and good and good and very good. I fully expect to see my beautiful dogs in the new heavens and new earth. And I think I can argue it from a Calvinistic, restorative view of the new heavens and new earth. It'll be a place of immeasurable beauty. There'll be no pain or sorrow or fears or death. Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit and he will never trouble you again. What should we make of all of this, this timing of God and this plan of God? And Peter says in verses 13 and 14, he says, you should look for it.
Look at what he goes on to say. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace. You should be looking for it. Are you looking for it?
Are you waiting for it? Can you see it in your mind's eye? When you find yourself in trouble, when you find yourself facing the darkness, facing disease, does your mind drift to the new heavens and new earth and the beauty that awaits you, the glory that awaits you, looking in anticipation and looking in faith? Wouldn't it be wonderful if Jesus came back in our lifetime? I often think about it with better hurry because I'm 70, that you wouldn't have to experience the wrenching apart of body and soul in death. I don't believe that Jesus can come back in the next five seconds.
And again, you may disagree with me. I think there's unfulfilled prophecy. The gospel must first be preached in all the world and there are, depending on which missiologists you talk to, there are somewhere between 8,000 and 17,000 people groups that have never heard the gospel.
But all of that could be done within our lifetime if we gave effort to it. Are you looking for it? Are you preparing for it? And how do you prepare in holiness and godliness, Peter says? By living your lives out and out as Christians. Live in preparation for the world to come. This world is not my home.
Yes, I can improve it. I can exercise dominion over it. I can be a good citizen and Christians should be the very best of citizens, as Tertullian wrote to an empire that was trying to kill Christians in the second century. And he says, you're shooting yourself in the foot because the best citizens you have in the empire are Christians. Prepare for it. And then he says in verse 12, waiting and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord.
And there it is again, that tension. Hasn't God got a plan? Isn't that plan inviolable? Can that plan be broken?
No, it cannot be broken. But from our perspective, we can hasten. How can you hasten the coming of the Lord? He'll come when all his elect are gathered in. So you must preach and evangelize and never stop. And give glory to God and pray with earnestness when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more and the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair.
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there. That's a wonderful assurance, isn't it? Sinclair Ferguson and I worked together for two years in 2011 to 2013.
I was his lackey. It was the greatest two years of ministry in my life. And I heard him say on numerous occasions at the end of a sermon, what a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian. What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian. I'm not sure that we think like that every day. Sometimes we think being a Christian is burdensome, a trial. We think of the pain, we think of the sorrow, all that self-denial, all that cross-bearing, all that mortification. But it's all worth it.
In the end it is worth it no matter what you deny yourself. There's a new heavens and a new earth coming, and eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those that love him. The best is yet to come.
Or, I'm not sure who said this, you ain't seen nothing yet. Let's pray together. Father, we thank you. Thank you for this passage full of wonderful conundrums, and yet so full of hope, so full of promise. And fill us with it, we pray, until we burst. For Jesus' sake, amen. That's the truth that we all need to be reminded of, especially in these turbulent times.
The best is yet to come. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was Derek Thomas' message from Ligonier's Stand Firm conference held earlier this year in Orlando, Florida. As you seek to stand firm for the truth, we are making the hardcover edition of R.C. Sproul's commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith available for a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Line by line, Dr. Sproul walks through this skillfully written summary of the faith that has served the church for centuries. Request your copy, add it to your library, or give it to a friend when you visit renewingyourmind.org, or call us at 800-435-4343. Jesus is building his church. So what exactly is the church? Find out tomorrow as we hear a message from Ligonier's chairman, W. Robert Godfrey, here on Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
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