Lest Any Perish
July 14th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 3:9
LEST ANY PERISH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:9
7-14-74 10:50 a.m.
At the sepulcher of Sir Christopher Wren who built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, at his sepulcher, in Latin, above the sarcophagus are these words, lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice, “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.” And I feel that way about God’s grace. My brother, if you would like to behold monuments and miracles of God’s goodness, look around you, just look around you. See what God is doing.
And that is the sermon today that I pray God will bless to us in the sanctuary and to you who listen to this First Baptist Church service on radio and on television. The title of the message is Lest Any Perish. And it is an exposition of a passage in 2 Peter, chapter 3. This is the last and concluding message in the series on 1 and 2 Peter. Looking at chapter 3, beginning at verse 3—”there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, 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. We do not see any kind of shekinah glory of God in the sky. Much less do we see the personal appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Where is the promise of His coming? All things continue as they were in the millennia and the centuries past.” “But, beloved,” writes the inspired apostle, “be 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. For the Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:8-9]. And that gave rise to the title of the message Lest Any Perish. “God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]—all of us saved. That is God’s prayer and pleading will for us—without loss of one, lest any perish, that we all might be saved.
Well, it is a good question that these infidels ask. Where is the promise of His coming? You say the Lord is coming back to this earth. Well, it has been a long, long time, and we do not see any such development. There is no doubt, I don’t think there is any doubt at all but that the Christians who lived in this first generation expected, confidently awaited the coming of the Lord in their day and in their generation. They were taught that the conclusion of the great apocalyptic discourse of our Savior in Matthew 24 is this: “Watch, watch, be ready, for ye know not the day or the hour that your Lord cometh. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, watch” [Matthew 24:42; 25:13, Mark 13:37]. The Lord taught us, prepared us, for the imminent return of our Christ.
When the Lord was taken up into heaven and the shekinah glory received Him out of their sight, the disciples stood transfixed, steadfastly looking up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And the angels came and said to them, “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. They were to expect the return of the Lord. And they were taught the imminency—I-M-M—the imminency of His coming. It is at hand. The apostle Paul wrote in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, “The night is far spent, the day of His coming is at hand” [Romans 13:12]. The conclusion of the Bible—the last verses of the Apocalypse are verses that I always read at a graveside service. Yesterday, we laid to rest one of the fine men of our church. And there at the open grave I read these words:
I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the 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 take the water of life freely . . .
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely,surely, surely, I come quickly…
And the answering prayer of the sainted apostle John, Amen, Lord. Even so, come”
[Revelation 22:16-17, 20]
That’s the way we are to live, in expectancy of the soon return of our Savior.
So, I say the infidel has a right; these scoffers and unbelievers have cause to ask the question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4]. We do not see any sign of it. There are none of those developments that are recorded in the Holy Bible that we see around us that portend His soon return. Where is the promise of His coming? For since the ages past, everything just continues on as it was. The sun rises and sets, people marry and they die. Children are born and are reared, and the whole thing continues unabated, unchanged. Where is the promise of His coming? They have a right to ask the question, for the Lord delays His return. Well, why, by inspiration, this apostle Simon Peter answers in two ways. There are two reasons why the Lord Christ delays His return. The first reason is one that I preached on the last time. “Beloved, be not without knowledge of this one thing, that a day with God is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day” [2 Peter 3:8]. And the title of the sermon, you remember, was The Time on God’s Clock.
God’s clock is not like our clock, and God’s time is not like our time. And when you look at God’s clock and God’s time, it is altogether different from ours. We think the time is long and the Lord delays, when actually He is coming immediately. By God’s clock, a thousand years is a day. Our Savior has not been gone yet two days—not two days. Summoning like nineteen hundred years, and if a thousand years is a day, on God’s clock, our Savior has not gone away not quite two days. And He may come the third day. That was the sermon before.
Now, the second answer that the apostle by divine inspiration gives for the delay of our Christ is the sermon this morning: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise,” He has not forgotten; He will come back, “but, He is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. Before the Lord comes and visits this earth in judgment, it is His prayer and His waiting and His longing that all of us might be saved. Isn’t it a tragedy that men take advantage of the longsuffering and gracious, merciful goodness of God in order to do evil? For example, in Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, verse 11, the wisest man in all the world wrote: “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]. If God struck a man the immediate moment that he did wrong, it would be an altogether different world. Well, why doesn’t God strike then or strike in paralysis or strike with leprosy men who do wrong? The reason is His longsuffering—hoping, praying, waiting, desiring that the man will repent and do right before judgment falls upon him [2 Peter 3:9].
We gain, therefore, an insight into the heart of God; what God is like. He does not rejoice in the damnation and the cries of agony of those who are lost. Two times in the Bible will you find the Ten Commandments written. One is in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, when God gave them to Moses [Exodus 20:1-17]. The other you will find in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy—Deutero, deutero, second; nomos, law—Deuteronomy, the second giving of the law, when the great man of God, Moses, repeats what God has done [Deuteronomy 5:7-21].
Do you remember how the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy closes? After Moses names again the Ten Commandments, and describes the hour when he gave them to the people? Do you remember how it closes? It closes with an appeal of pathos on the part of the great lawgiver. 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 forever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. As Ezekiel 33:11 describes, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: oh, turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” That is God; the longsuffering, merciful kindness of our heavenly Father, rejoicing not in condemnation and damnation and the agony of those who are lost, but praying, pleading, waiting, hoping that the lost man will turn and be saved. Oh the longsuffering of God!
Jeremiah pled with his people, “Repent ye, repent ye. Get right with God” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And the bitter and cruel and merciless Chaldean came under Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC and carried away Daniel and some of the flower of the royal household [Daniel 1:1-6]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice in the name of God and cried, “Repent, repent. Get right with God” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And in their sin and iniquity, the people turned their hearts away from God’s prophet, and the bitter Chaldean came under Nebuchadnezzar the second time in 598 BC and carried away Ezekiel and some of the flower of the priesthood and of the land [2 Kings 24:11-14]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice again and pled and prayed and preached, saying, “Repent ye, repent ye. Get right with God!” And the people hardened their hearts and continued in their perverseness and incorrigible iniquity. And the bitter, and hasty, and cruel, and merciless Chaldean came the third time in 587 BC, and they didn’t have to come any more, for the sanctuary was burned with fire, and the Holy City was plowed up as with a plow, and the people were carried away into captivity [2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:1-30]. And Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, lifted up his voice and cried saying, “The harvest is past, and the summer is ended, and we are not saved” [Jeremiah 8:20]. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the loss of the daughter of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1].
God never, just like that, damns a man; and just like that, visits judgment upon a man, or a nation, or a people. But He waits, and He waits, and He waits, and He waits. The years multiply, and He still waits. He “is not slack concerning His promise . . . but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. You gain an insight, I say, into the heart of God in this revelation. He has no joy in the death of the wicked [Ezekiel 33:11]. And not only that, but He is filled with compassionate goodness, even to those that damn and curse in His name. And even to those that disobey His commandments, God is tender and merciful, like a father pleading with a prodigal boy or a prodigal daughter. That’s God.
Look, I read in my preparation for this message, I read of a professor of homiletics in the seminary, a teacher of preaching to young men. And he had his new class, and he asked each one of the young theologs to read the third chapter of the Book of Genesis. That’s the story of the fall [Genesis 3:1-6], and how Adam and Eve hid themselves in the garden when they heard the voice of the Lord coming in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:8]. And the Lord lifted up His voice when He could not find the man and his wife. They were naked and ashamed, and they hid themselves. And when the Lord could not find them, He lifted up His voice and said, “Adam, Adam, Adam, where art thou, Adam?” [Genesis 3:9]. The professor had the young men to read that passage, and so one young man stood up, and He read the passage, and he read it as though God were a policeman. And then another young fellow read it, and he read it as though God were a condemnatory judge passing sentence. And another one read it, and he read it as though the Lord were indifferent. Another one read it. He read it as though the Lord were just curious. And there was one young man who stood up, and he read it as though God were a broken-hearted father. “O Adam, Adam, Adam, where art thou?” [Genesis 3:9] And when he had finished reading it, the professor turned to that young fellow and said, “Young man, you will be a great preacher. You will be a great evangelist. You will be a great soulwinner.” He had caught the true heart of our heavenly Father; always one of longsuffering and great mercy. Would you like to know what God is like? Our Savior said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. If you would like to know what God is like, look at Jesus. What is Jesus like? When He asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” [Matthew 16:13], the disciples said, “There are many of them who say that You are Jeremiah, the weeping prophet” [Matthew 16:14], for He was oft in tears. As He came to the brow of Olivet and looked out over the Holy City spread before Him, the Scriptures say that seeing the city, He burst into tears [Luke 19:41]. That is the heart of God, waiting, longsuffering. And every providence is a goodness of our God to lead us and to bring us to repentance [2 Peter 3:9].
In my reading, I found a story of the wife of the manager of a silver mine in Silver City, Nevada back over a hundred years ago, in the days of the gold rush and of the silver rush to the western states. This dear young woman had given her life to be a missionary, and in the providences of God was not able to go. She married this man, and he was the manager of the mine at Silver City in Nevada. In that place, in an adobe hut, in a mud house, there was an old prospector who was dying. He was a vile and loathsome and filthy bad man. He was so evil and cursed so constantly, even those that tried to befriend him—that his fellow prospectors and miners just brought food and left it there by the bed and went away—a vile, loathsome man. She heard about him, the wife of this manager of the mine. She went to that filthy place and looked on the face of that dying prospector. He cursed her. And seeking to befriend him, she said, “Did you not have a mother who loved you?”
He cursed his mother, “She was a vile and filthy and loathsome woman.”
The manager’s wife said, “But did you not have a dear wife?”
He cursed his wife, her memory, “Filthy and dirty, she was a woman of the streets.”
Whatever she said was met with an oath and a curse. She went away, came back with food the next day; met those same curses; came back every day with those same curses. Kneeling before bedtime with her children; the little boy said, “Mommy, you didn’t pray for the bad man.”
“No,” said the mother. “No, I didn’t pray for him.” The little boy said, “Mommy, have you given him up?”
She said, “Yes, son, I guess I have given him up.”
And the little boy said, “But, Mommy, has God given him up? Has God given him up?”
She said, “No, son. I guess God hasn’t given him up.” So she prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and prepared herself to go back.
On her way to that filthy, dirty, mud place where that prospector—more awful and dirty in his heart than the place in which he lived—on her way, a neighbor and the mother of a little girl said, “We’ll go with you.” So the three of them went, and the manager’s wife went inside with her food, and she was cursed again. But while she was there trying to find some entrance into the heart of that evil man, the little girl outside laughed. Some little thing—the little girl laughed. And the man said, “What is that? What is that? It sounded like the ringing of a bell. It sounded like the song of a bird”—the little girl laughing.
And the manager’s wife said, “That is the little girl of my neighbor.”
“Oh,” he said, “could I see her?”
The manager’s wife went outside and brought in the little girl. She had in her hand a bouquet of purple flowers from the sagebrush. The little girl, seeing the man, drew back; but the manager’s wife brought her forward and said, “This, this is the man who wanted to see you.” And the little girl held out the little bouquet of flowers.
And the bad man reached forth his bony hand and didn’t touch the flowers. He touched the little dimpled hand of that child and said, “What’s your name?”
And the little child replied, “My name is Mamie.”
He said, “Mamie, Mamie. I had a little child, a little girl named Mamie, and she died.” And he reverted back into that loathsome life and cursed God for taking his little girl.
And the little child shrank back and ran away, but the manager’s wife saw the key. She said, “You had a little girl named Mamie?”
“Yes,” said the miner, and he cursed God for taking her life.
The manager’s wife said, “You say your mother was a vile woman.” And he cursed her again. “And you say that your wife was a loathsome and vile woman.” And he cursed her again. And the manager’s wife said, “But sir, it could have been that had your little Mamie been reared by that mother and that wife that you cursed, it could have been that she would have grown up to be like them.”
“Oh,” said that vile man, “I never thought of that. I never thought of that.”
The manager’s wife said, “Maybe it is that God took your little Mamie that He might keep her pure and fresh for you.”
“I never thought of that,” said that bad man.
“And it could be,” said the manager’s wife, “that if you’d give your heart to Jesus and let Jesus save you, that someday, in heaven, you could see that darling little girl again.”
“Oh,” said the miner. “Could it be? Could it be?”
“Yes,” said the manager’s wife. “Yes, He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], that He might wash us clean [1 John 1:7, 9]. And He is in heaven waiting for those who love Him [John 14:1-3]. And by His side is a little girl named Mamie—your little girl, and she waits for you.”
“Oh,” said the bad man. “Could Christ forgive someone like me?”
“Yes,” said the manager’s wife. “Yes. It is the longsuffering and goodness of God that brings us to faith and to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9].
He gave his heart to Jesus and said to the manager’s wife, “I’ve never been to a meetin’,” he called it, “I’ve never been to church. Oh, that I could go just one time!”
The manager’s wife said, “Why, we will bring the church here.”
She gathered up those old, rough prospectors and those old, rough miners, and they filled that little place. And when she stood up, the old, bad man said, “Men, get down on your knees. She is going to tell us the story of how we can see God someday. Get on your knees. Get on your knees!” That is God.
“Oh, but pastor, you don’t understand. The providences that have happened to me have crushed me. They have killed me.” No, whatever the providence, it’s the goodness of God to teach us in faith, in repentance, in drawing nigh to look to Him. “Oh, but pastor, you don’t understand. I loved that little child with all my soul, and for God to take the child, crushed me.” No, it’s the goodness of God. It’s in a divine purpose. He is leading us to lean on His kind arm. He is keeping for us these whom we’ve loved and lost for just a while. That’s God. There is nothing ever vicious or vile in what God does! Always it is full of pity and tender mercy—that God might lead us to trust in Him and to look in faith to Him.
Let me summarize the remainder of my message. It is always with reluctance and with delay that God ever brings sentence of judgment upon a man, or upon a home, or upon a family, or upon a state, or upon a nation, or upon this world. Always it is with reluctance. It is with delay. In the days of Noah, God said, “It shall be yet a hundred twenty years” [Genesis 6:3]. And Noah preached for one hundred twenty years. Can you think of that? Without a convert—not a man turned, not a man was saved, not a man believed, not a man repented! But God waited, and Noah preached one hundred twenty years [Genesis 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:5].
It is with reluctance that God brings judgment upon the earth. Look again, when God announced to Abraham, “Sodom and Gomorrah, I am going down to see if it is as the grievous sin of those cities has come up unto Me” [Genesis 18:20-21]. And Abraham stood before the Lord and said, “O God. O God, suppose there be fifty righteous in the city of Sodom; would the Lord destroy the righteous with the wicked for the sake of fifty? Would God spare the city?” And the Lord says, “Abraham, if there are fifty, for the sake of fifty, I will spare the city” [Genesis 18:22-26]. And Abraham stood yet before the Lord and said, “Lord, for the lack of five, for the lack of five, if there were just forty and five, would You destroy the city for the lack of five?” And God says, “If there are forty-five, I will spare the city” [Genesis 18:27-28]. And Abraham said, “Behold, I take it upon myself to speak unto the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. O God, if there were just forty, if there were just thirty; if there were just twenty; if there were just ten?” And in every instance, God says, “If I can find ten righteous in the city, I will spare the city for the sake of the ten” [Genesis 18:29-32]. You know why Abraham quit at ten? For the simple reason he knew—he thought he knew—that Lot had won at least ten: Lot and his family, Lot and his sons-in-law—ten, just ten. And God says, “If I can find ten, I will spare the city” [Genesis 18:32]. That’s God—with reluctance, bringing judgment upon us sinners [2 Peter 3:9].
In the days of David, God said because of the sins of the nation, choose three things: “seven years famine, three months to flee before your enemies, three days of pestilence” [2 Samuel 24:13]. And David in such a trial said, “I cast myself upon the mercies of God. It should be three days of pestilence” [2 Samuel 24:14-15]. And when the angel stood above Jerusalem and stretched out his arm, the Book says God saw it and repented of the evil that He thought to visit upon the people; stayed the hand of the angel [2 Samuel 24:16]. That’s God.
It is with reluctance that God visits punishment and evil and judgment upon us. And it is thus with us, Lord, why am I not crushed in judgment? Because God is merciful to me. Why does not God visit us in damnation? It is because the Lord is pitiful and longsuffering. I have never been able to understand how a man could say, “I choose death rather than life.” I’d rather go on in iniquity than to turn and receive the sweet mercies of God. Are you that way? Tell me in your deepest soul, a thousand times hadn’t you rather be saved than to be lost?—to be blessed, than to be damned?—to turn to Jesus and find life everlasting, than to turn away from Him into darkness and despair?
That is the good news, the gospel—that in Christ all our sins are washed away [Revelation 1:5]. In Him, hope for heaven, now and in the world that is to come [John 14:1-3]. Answer Him with your life. Yes, Lord, yes. Do it now. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down one of these stairways. Stand up walking down one of these aisles. “Pastor, I have made the decision now. I choose now. I’m coming now. Look, pastor, I’m on the way.” When you stand up, stand up responding with your life. To accept Him as Savior, to put your life in the church, to answer God’s call, however the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.