Lest Any Perish
July 14th, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
2 Peter 3:9
LEST ANY PERISH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:3-4
7-14-74 8:15 a.m.
On the radio we welcome you to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Lest Any Perish. It will be the last sermon that is delivered in 2 Peter. The chapter begins almost at the first like this, 2 Peter 3, beginning at verse 3:
There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
And saying, Where, where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
[2 Peter 3:3-4]
We do not see any heavens rolled back like a scroll. And we do not see any shekinah glory of God, much less the Son and Prince of heaven coming down in those clouds. All we see is everything continuing as it has from the beginning of the creation. Now that would be a legitimate question to ask. “Where is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4]. For we do not see any coming. Then the answer by inspiration, through this holy apostle:
For this they willingly, they gladly acquiesced in their ignorance—
then continuing down—
For we are not without knowledge of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come.
[2 Peter 3:5, 8-10]
And then he describes it [2 Peter 3:10]. Why doesn’t it come now? Why has the Lord delayed His return so long? “Where is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4]. I say it is a legitimate question to ask. For the New Testament, you could not read it without seeing plainly that the generation who lived in the days of this Bible expected the return of the Lord in their time, in their day. They fully expected to see Christ descend on clouds of glory from heaven [2 Thessalonians 2:2]. You have the feeling when you read the New Testament that the generation that lived in that day looked with bated breath upon the soon return of the Lord.
The Lord Himself taught them like that. Always the imminency, i-m-m, always the imminency of the return of the Savior. For example, the Lord, when He finished His apocalyptic discourse in Matthew 24, the Lord said, “Watch, watch: for you know not the day nor the hour in which your Lord cometh” [Matthew 24:42]. And what I say unto you I say unto all. Watch” [Mark 13:37]. Be prepared. Be ready. For the Lord is coming.” When the Savior was taken up into glory, the men stood there transfixed as the Lord ascended upward and the shekinah took Him out of their sight. And they just stood riveted, gazing, transfixed. And an angel came and tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Do not stand here gazing into heaven. This same Lord that is taken from you shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11].
The apostle Paul wrote in thirteenth chapter of Romans, he said, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” [Romans 13:12]. All of us remember the last words in the Bible. Yesterday I buried one of our finest members. At the gravesite there is a passage of Scripture I always read before pronouncing the benediction. It is this:
I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and the Morning Star.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life freely.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly.
And the answering benedictory prayer:
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
[Revelation 22:16-17, 20]
I repeat, you cannot read the New Testament without sensing that imminency of the return of our Lord. He is coming. He is coming quickly. He is coming soon. Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour” [Matthew 25:13].
Well, it is a legitimate question that the scoffers ask. Since the world was created we don’t see anything changing; it just continues on through the eons and the millennia and the centuries. “For since the fathers fell asleep, the things continue as they have from the beginning. Where then, is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4].
The apostle answers in two ways, by inspiration. Number one: he says that God’s clock is not like our clock. God’s time is not like our time. And that was the sermon that I preached before. A thousand years with God is as a day, and a day as a thousand years [2 Peter 3:8]. On God’s clock our Savior has been gone just not quite two days. A thousand years as a day, and our Savior has been gone something like nineteen hundred years. It isn’t quite two days. Maybe He comes at the third. God’s clock is not like ours, and God’s time is not like our time. That was the first answer that the apostle replied.
The second answer is the sermon this morning. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness,” but the reason for His delay is “He is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. And that gave rise to the topic, the theme, the subject of the sermon, Lest Any Perish. Why doesn’t the Lord come, come soon, come immediately? Because He is waiting in longsuffering for us to repent [2 Peter 3:9].
Isn’t it a shame and a sadness that men take advantage of the kindness and mercy of God to do evil? For example in the eighth chapter of Ecclesiastes, the eleventh verse, there is an unusual word. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil” [Ecclesiastes 8:11]. Because God does not immediately bring judgment down upon those who do wrong, therefore they plan and purpose to do evil because of the kindness and goodness and mercy of God.
Why does the Lord delay His coming? Because “He is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9].
We have an insight here then into the heart of God. God does not rejoice in the cries of the lost and the damned. When you look in your Bible for the Ten Commandments you will find them in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 20:1-17]. You will also find them repeated by Moses in Deuteronomy, the second law, the giving of the law a second time, a repetition of what God had done before [Exodus 20:1-17]. And that chapter is number 5. You will find the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy chapter 5 [Deuteronomy 5:7-21].
And how does it end? When the Lord has given His laws, how does it end? It ends with a cry and an appeal on the part of the great lawgiver, and this is it: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear the Lord, and keep His commandments, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29] Look again in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: O, turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11]. God does not rejoice in the cries of the lost and of the damned.
What is God like? God is like a tenderhearted father who pleads with a prodigal son or a prodigal daughter to come back home.
I read one time of a professor of homiletics, a professor of preaching. And to the young students in his class he asked them to read the third chapter of Genesis, which is the story of Adam and Eve hiding themselves because they were naked [Genesis 3:8-10]. And when the Lord comes in the cool of the day, they hear the voice of the Lord and are afraid, and thus hide themselves from the presence of God. And as the Lord walks through the garden, He lifts up His voice and says, “Adam, Adam, Adam, where art thou, Adam?” [Genesis 3:9].
So the professor had the young men read the passage. And one young man read the passage and read the question as though God were a policeman. Another read it and he read it as though God were curious. Another read it and read it as though God were indifferent and unconcerned. And one of the young ministers, reading the passage, read it as though God were a brokenhearted father. “Adam, Adam, Adam, where art thou Adam?” [Genesis 3:9] And the professor turned to the young man and said, “Young man, you will be a great preacher and a great evangelist and a great soulwinner.”
What is God like? Is God cruel, and hard of heart, and indifferent, and harsh? And does God rejoice in the cries of the lost and of the damned?
God is like Jesus. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. And what is Jesus like? The people who saw Him said, “He is like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet” [Matthew 16:14]. And when the Lord came to the brow of the hill on Olivet and saw the city spread before Him, He burst into tears [Luke 19:41]. That is God!
In my preparing for the sermon, I read an unusual thing about the wife of a manager of a silver mine in Silver City, Nevada, back yonder a hundred years ago, in the days of the gold fever when so many rushed to the western states seeking silver and gold. This woman had given her life to be a missionary but somehow was kept from the foreign field, married this man who was the manager of a mining operation, in Nevada.
There was there in that place called Silver City, there was an old prospector, an old miner, who was dying. He was so filthy in life, and so vile in speech that other miners just came and left food there, leaving him alone to die. This wife of the manager of the mine heard about him and went to see him. And he cursed her as he cursed everyone else. And in her kindness, trying to find some way into the heart of the man, she spoke to him about his mother and he cursed his mother, a vile loathsome woman, his mother. She asked him about his wife. He cursed his wife; equally as vile and as loathsome, his wife.
As she went back and went back, always with that same evil, volative temper with oaths and with cursings. She knelt down with her children one night and didn’t pray for him.
And her little boy said, “Mommy, you didn’t pray for the bad man.”
“No,” said the mother, “I didn’t pray for him.”
“Mommy, have you given him up?”
“Yes,” said the mother, “I have given him up.”
The little boy asked, “Mommy, has God given him up?”
She was conscience-stricken. “No, God hasn’t given him up.” So she prayed and she prayed and she prayed. And on her way to see that vile, bad man again, a neighbor woman with a little girl said, “I’ll accompany you.”
So they went to the place, the mud hut, the adobe where that miner was dying. She went in and was greeted by the same oaths and the same curses. He didn’t want anybody around, much less one who was kind to him. And while he was cursing, the little girl of the neighbor woman laughed, something in gladness. And it rang like the note of a bell. It sounded like the song of a bird in that vile and loathsome place. And the man paused. For the first time a light of kindness came upon his face.
“What was that? What was that?”
The manager’s wife said, “That was the laughter of a little girl who is just outside.”
“Ah,” said the man, “A little girl? Bring her in. Let me see her.”
And the miner’s wife went out, brought in the little girl. She had in her fist, she had a little bouquet of sagebrush, purple flowers. And when the little girl was brought to the loathsome man, she drew back. But the manager’s wife said, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, this man is very sick and he wanted to see you.”
So she walked over and held out her hand to give him the little bouquet. And the man extended his long, bony hand and touched the hand of the little child. “What’s your name?”
“Mamie, Mamie, I had a little girl named Mamie, but she died.” And he cursed God as the little girl drew away and went outside.
But the manager’s wife had found the key. “Your little girl died?”
“Yes,” and he cursed God.
And the manager’s wife said, “You curse your mother. You say she was a vile and loathsome woman. And you curse your wife. You say she was a vile and loathsome woman. Did you ever think that had your little girl lived, brought up by those two, she also would have been equally as vile?”
He said, “No. I never thought of it.”
The manager’s wife said, “Did you ever think that maybe God took your little girl to keep her sweet and pure for you?”
“No,” he said, “I never thought about that.”
“And did you know that in the love and mercy of God that you can have your little girl back again in heaven? Did you know that?”
“No,” he said. “I never thought of it.”
“It is the goodness of God, Paul writes, it is the goodness of God that leadeth thee to repentance” [Romans 2:4].
And she told that vile and wicked miner how the goodness of God had taken his little girl, and how that in Christ all of our sins can be washed away [Revelation 1:5], and God can give us back these whom we have loved and lost for just awhile.
The old miner found Jesus in cleansing power [1 John 1:7, 9], in saving grace [Ephesians 2:8]. And as the days continued and he talked to the manager’s wife, he said, “I have never been to church in my life. Oh, I wish I could go to the meeting one time.”
She said, “I’ll bring the miners here.” And she gathered all the men who worked in the mine and all the prospectors round about, and they had church.
And the rough, old dying man said to his friends, “Men, get down on your knees, get down on your knees as she tells us the story about Jesus and His love for us” [John 15:9]. The old man died.
Is God cruel to us ever, when God takes by death someone whom we love, a child, someone dear to your heart? Is that the cruelty of God? No. God is always gracious, merciful, pitiful, anxiously awaiting our turning and our repentance.
“He is not slack in His promise, as men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. The providences of life that overwhelm us are in God’s sovereign grace; purpose to lead us in faith to our blessed Lord [James 1:3].
I have more time this morning to preach than I can ever remember. I would like, if I had further time, to take an hour just to summarize the reluctance of God in bringing judgment upon those who do not believe in Him.
In the days of Noah, one hundred twenty years did God stay His hand [Genesis 6:3]. And Noah preached one hundred twenty years. Think of that. One hundred twenty years without a convert, without a man turning, without a man accepting, without a man going down an aisle, without a man taking Noah by the hand and saying, “I turn. I repent” [Genesis 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:5]. God stayed His hand one hundred twenty years as Noah preached.
Think of Abraham when the announcement was made to him by the angels of the Lord. “I am going down,” said the angel, “to see if it is with Sodom and Gomorrah as it has come up to God in heaven” [Genesis 18:21].
Abraham stood before the Lord and said, “Lord, if there be fifty righteous in the city, fifty righteous, would You slay the righteous with the wicked?”
“No,” said God, “I will spare the city for fifty” [Genesis 18:23-26].
And Abraham said, “Lord, if it lacks five. Would you slay the righteous with the wicked for the lack of five?”
And God says, “If there are forty-five, I will spare it” [Genesis 18:28].
And Abraham said, “Lo, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord I who am but dust and ashes [Genesis 18:27]. If there be but forty, if there be but thirty, if there be but twenty [Genesis 18:29-31]. And finally Lord, if there are ten righteous in the city would You spare the city for ten?” [Genesis 29:32].
You know what? Abraham thought Lot by that time would surely have won ten, his own family if none other, ten.
God says, “If there are ten in the city that believe in Me, I will spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten” [Genesis 18:32]—the reluctance of God to bring judgment upon the wicked.
I haven’t time to speak of David, when the prophet came before him and said, “The judgment of God falls upon the nation. You have a choice of three: seven years famine, three months to flee before your enemies, or three days of pestilence [2 Samuel 24:13]. Choose.”
And David says, “Let me cast myself upon the mercies of God. Let it be three days’ pestilence” [2 Samuel 24:14-15].
When the Lord’s angels stood within an outstretched hand over the holy city of Jerusalem, the Book says God repented of the judgment and stayed the hand of the angel [2 Samuel 24:16]. That’s God. That’s the Lord.
It is always with reluctance. If I could say that God is in Christ Jesus, it is always with tears that God brings judgment upon our evil heads. It is the merciful heart, the gracious goodness of God that always pleads with us. And that is why the Lord delays. Somebody give himself to be saved by the Christ; somebody to accept the Lord as his Savior; somebody to give himself in repentance and in gift to the blessed Jesus—that’s why the Lord delays His coming [2 Peter 3:9].
In a moment now we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, giving himself to the Lord, coming into the fellowship of the church, “Today, pastor, I have given my heart to Jesus. I accept Him as my Savior and I am coming.” Make the decision now in your heart. In the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front, “Today I take Christ as my Savior and I am coming” [Romans 10:8-13]. “Or the Lord has put it into my heart to put my life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Jesus has spoken to me and I feel it in my soul. I am coming today.” And on the first note of the first stanza, when we stand to sing, stand coming. God bless you in the way as you reply, as you respond with your life. “Here I am, pastor, here I come. I make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
2 Peter 3:3-4,
I. The passage written in explanation for
the Lord’s delay in His coming
bated breath of expectancy in the New Testament(Matthew
24:42, Acts 1:11, Romans 13:12, Revelation 22:16-20)
reasons for the delay
time is not like our time(2 Peter 3:8)
He is desiring that all of us be saved(2 Peter
3:9, Ecclesiastes 8:11)
a. What a sadness to
take advantage of God’s goodness
II. An insight into the true heart of God
does not rejoice in the cries of the lost and damned(Deuteronomy 5:29, Ezekiel 33:11, Jeremiah 8:20, 9:1)
with compassion, even to those that damn and curse His name(Genesis 3:9, John 14:9, Matthew 16:13-14, Luke 19:41)
The miner’s wife
III. The reluctance of God to punish the
pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah(Genesis
pleading mercy (2 Samuel 24:12-25)