The day of the Lord. 3:8-13
Chapter 3 of this second letter of Peter, deals with the issue of the day of the Lord - "This coming", v4, the "day of God", v12, "that day", v13. In verse 7 Peter describes this coming day as a day when (i) the heavens and the earth will be consumed in fire, (ii) judgment undertaken, and (iii) the ungodly destroyed. In our passage for study Peter deals with the issue the seeming delay in the day of judgment and asks what sort of people we should be as we await the day of Christ's coming.
v8-9. The early church expected the return of Christ within the lifetime of the apostles. cf. Jn.21:22-23. As the apostles began to die off, some believers started to take the view that a cataclysmic last-days judgment of the world was more myth than reality. The delay in Christ's return seemed to support this idea. Peter makes two points: First, to talk about a delay in the day of judgment is to speak in human terms. God is not bound by created time; he is outside time. Second, to speak of delay, as though God is indifferent, is to fail to see the great benefit of such a delay. God's kindly patience gives additional opportunities for the salvation of the lost.
v10. With regard the final great day of God's coming in judgment, Peter makes two points: First, the coming day is unexpected. All such comings are unexpected and this one will be no exception. It will come like a thief in the night - a picture used by Jesus, cf. Matt.24:43, Lk.12:39, 1Thes.5:2. Some manuscripts actually make it "during the night", but this is probably not original. The point is simple enough, the day will come upon us unexpectedly, so be alert. Second, this day will be a day of cosmic dissolution: i] the "heavens", the sky, the space about the earth, the cosmos, will disappear with the whizzing sound of a storm; ii] the "elements", the heavenly bodies, will be burned up and melt in the heat; iii] and the earth will be laid bare, probably with the sense burned up, destroyed. Nothing evil in that day will remain hidden. The point is that this last day will be a day of cosmic battle which will end in a mighty victory over evil.
v11-13. Since this great day of judgment is coming, what should we be like in our holy living and in our piety? That is, what should be the direction of our Christian lives, in our active lives (holy living) and in our reflective lives (godly fear)? Our reflective lives, says Peter in verse 12, should exhibit pious expectation; a constant looking forward to the one who comes. Our active lives should exhibit holy living, a constant striving toward the coming day. Given that the coming day is a day of judgment, a day when we don't want to be caught napping, a day of wonder and power, a day we don't want to miss out on, our conduct should be one that conforms to God's holiness, a life devoted to God.
Strive toward the coming day
Peter identifies holy living as a significant work that should be undertaken by believers as they strive toward the coming day. He seems to concentrate on our personal worthiness to stand before the Lord in that day - that we be without spot or wrinkle and at peace with the Lord, holy. He calls on us to stand as a righteous and faithful people worthy of our admittance into the kingdom.
The best way to understand Peter's exhortation is to remind ourselves of the purpose of our Christian walk. The purpose of our discipleship is to prepare us for our reign with Christ in eternity. Through the work of the indwelling Spirit we begin to live "holy and Godly lives" and are therefore daily moulded into the image of Christ, made holy. So, we strive toward the day by living as disciples of Christ and in that striving we are prepared for the day.
Discipleship expresses itself in three particular ways: We strive toward the day as we seek to walk uprightly in the presence of the Lord - to touch him in prayer, devotion and worship, to live by faith rather than sight. We strive toward the day as we seek to build up the Christian fellowship - equipping and encouraging. We strive toward the day as we reach out into the world, seeking the lost in the power of the gospel, both in word and sign.
Of course, we need to remind ourselves that the worth of our work comes not in our own effort. If we get the idea that we can do anything worthy in the sight of God, anything in our own effort that secures our standing in the coming day, then we are fools. It is only as we trust in the indwelling Christ to work his sanctifying renewing-work within our beings that we are changed into the image of Christ. So, although we stride toward the coming day living "holy and godly lives", we know that in the end being "found spotless, blameless and at peace with" God is a gift of grace appropriated through faith.
1. Why does there seem to be a delay in the return of Christ to usher in the day of judgment?
2. What does this passage tell you about the Day of the Lord? Ref. also v7.
3. How should you live as you await this coming day?
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