The Promised Coming
June 16th, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
2 Peter 3:1-4
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:1-4
6-16-74 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 The Promised Coming. We have these days been preaching through 2 Peter, and our reading is the first four verses of the third chapter, 2 Peter chapter 3, the first four verses:
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior:
Knowing this first, that 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 3:1-4]
I do not think in the Word of God there could be a more pertinent passage describing our generation and our world than this text: "In the last days there shall come scoffers saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the generations before us, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" [2 Peter 3:3-4].
The promised coming [2 Peter 3:4]; an unusual word that the inspired Scriptures will employ to describe the second coming of our Lord. You will never see that in the Bible, "the second coming." The phrase is not used. Only parousia; para, parallelogram, para parallel, para, alongside; ousia, being. Literally the word means "being alongside." The word means presence, translated "coming." "Where is the promise of His parousia?" [2 Peter 3:4]. Literally, His "being alongside," translated in the Greek, the Greek word, "presence." Where is the actual being of the Lord, that glorified body? Where is it? He promised that He was going to be here with us. But we don’t see Him, and we don’t think we are going to see Him, scoffers in the last day saying, "Where is the promise of His parousia, His presence, His coming?" [2 Peter 3:4]. We are going to look at that real carefully, as long as these few minutes will permit.
First: there is no doubt, there is no doubt but that New Testament Christianity is built around the coming of our Lord. The whole fabric of the New Testament faith is that. We haven’t done, says the Bible. There is no end to the Book yet, says the Scriptures. There is something over and beside and beyond, says the Word of God.
The reason why there is no phrase "the second coming" in the New Testament is because the coming of the Lord is so vast, significant, all-inclusive, all important, that everything else pales into insignificance compared to that great, mighty event. So the Bible will never use the word "second coming"; always, "the coming." Take parousia, the presence of the Lord, and the whole fabric of the Christian faith is woven around that promise.
In the teachings of our Savior it was constantly upon His lips. Just read for example His apocalyptic discourses in Matthew 24 and 25, in Luke 21, and in Mark 13; He spake of His coming in great detail. Or just look at the mighty parables of our Lord. He will tell the story of the wicked servant who, because the lord delayed His coming, began to be violent and vile and iniquitous, to be drunken and to beat his fellow servants, because the lord delayed his coming [Matthew 24:45-51]. He will tell the story of the wise virgins, or bridesmaids, and the foolish bridesmaids, who because the bridegroom delayed his coming let their lamps go out and no oil for them [Matthew 25:1-13]. He will tell the story of the talents. To us a talent is a gift. Actually a talent is a money weight like a shekel. And He will tell the story of the talents, how the men employed their time and gifts until Jesus comes [Matthew 25:14-30]. Or the story of the pounds, which is the same kind of a story, our stewardship, at which time we give an accounting to the Lord when He comes [Luke 19:11-27; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. Or He will tell the story of the sheep and the goats; as a shepherd divides them, so at the coming of the Lord in His glory God will divide us, the sheep from the goats, the lost from the saved [Matthew 25:31-46]. These words were constantly from the lips of our Savior.
Look again at His words of encouragement and hope. He will tell us to pray, pray, "Thy kingdom come" [Matthew 6:9-10]. There is no kingdom without a King. You couldn’t have a kingdom without a king. Pray the coming of the King. Or the comfort of John 14, "If I go away I will come again" [John 14:3]. Or His Lord’s commemorative Supper, "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death, achri hou elthē, "till He come, till He come" [1 Corinthians 11:26]; constantly on the lips of our Lord.
Nor do we find any difference to that in the faith preached by the apostles. Luke begins the Book of Acts with this story. As He walked with His disciples up the brow of Olivet, the Lord was asked by the apostles, "Master, at this time will You restore the kingdom?" "The kingdom, when are You going to give it to Israel?" And the Lord said, "You are not to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath kept in His own hands" [Acts 1:6-7]. And while they looked at Him, He was separated from them and arose up into heaven [Acts 1:9]. And as they gazed steadfastly, transfixed, as the cloud, the shekinah, received Him out of their sight; in the same way that He left, the shekinah glory of God took Him away, the shekinah glory of God will bring Him back [Acts 1:10-11]. The Book says so.
The text of the Apocalypse is Revelation 1:7, "Behold, He cometh with clouds." That’s not vapor. That’s the shekinah garments of God, the glistening, iridescent raiment of the Almighty. And that’s the way He went away. And as they steadfastly looked and saw the shekinah of God take Him away, an angel tapped them on the shoulder and said, "You are not to stay here. There is work to do. Just remember, this same Jesus that is taken away from you will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go" [Acts 1:11].
It starts that way. It is in the preaching and writing of the apostles. For example, Simon Peter in his sermons and in this text, the whole passage – and I didn’t have time to read it, we will preach on it again following next Sunday – the whole third chapter is on this of 2 Peter [2 Peter 3:1-18].
And what could I say of the apostle Paul? I haven’t time. For example, First and Second Thessalonians, every chapter has to do with the return of our Lord, and every chapter ends with something about the coming of Jesus.
There are many great biblical scholars who will avow that the high watermark of all revelation is the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. And that chapter concerns the resurrection of the dead at the consummation of the age when Jesus comes again [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. It is constantly in the forefront of the thinking and preaching of the apostles. I haven’t time – I preached two years on it here in this pulpit – I haven’t time to speak of John and the Revelation. The whole Revelation is that, the unveiling of the glory of God in the coming of Christ [Revelation 1:1-3].
Just this: these New Testament men, these apostles and preachers are men with their backs to the world and their faces toward the parousia, the presence of the Lord. Because He is coming they exhort us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. Because He is coming they exhort us to be patient in affliction and tribulation [Romans 8:18]. Because He is coming we are to live soberly and godly in this present world [Titus 2:12-13]. Because He is coming we are not to sorrow as others who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. This is the Christian faith: when a man preaches the coming of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16], he is preaching Jesus in all of His glory. Just like when a man preaches Jesus on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], he is preaching Jesus in all of His atoning grace and love.
Now, this has fallen upon evil days. "There shall come in the last days scoffers saying, Where is the promise of His coming?" [2 Peter 3:3-4]. So skeptical rationalization takes it away, the whole fabric of it. You just look at this. I would say that this epistle was written in, say, 60 AD, 60. If even in that day, say, thirty years after Jesus, even in that day within thirty-five years after the death of our Lord, if there were scoffers saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" you just think of what scoffers walk up and down the face of the earth today, "Where is the promise of His coming? There is no such thing." And it is rationalized away, the personal return of our Lord, that we will ever see it, that this dull, stolid world will ever lift up its eyes and see the coming Prince in His glory. It is rationalized away.
For example, for example, they say that is nothing but the imagery that you find in the heart of man, a hope that never dies, that someday there will be a better tomorrow. Such a thing as you find in Plato’s Republic. Such a thing as you find in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. It is such a thing as you find in John Hilton’s book, The Lost Horizon, the land of Shangri-La. Now they say this hope in the New Testament is but a reflection of that same thing that has always been in the heart of man, that somehow, someday there will be a glorious and perfect tomorrow. That is this. No coming of Jesus, just a reflection of that same hope you find in Plato and More and Hilton.
And that rationalization has been greatly furthered by the acceptance of the whole academic world of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Just give us time, give us time and we will breed out of the human race the ape and the tiger. Give us time and all evil will disappear. Sin is nothing. Wrong and violence is nothing but the drag of our animal ancestors. And just give us time, and someday we will breed ourselves, we will evolve ourselves into angels and maybe archangels. And that is the background of the entire modern academic world. They rationalize the coming of our Lord.
And it has entered our theologians. For example, I quote from one of the greatest theologians of this century. Listen to him, quote:
To bring Jesus into the control of human affairs is the real coming of the kingdom of God upon earth. This is what the pictures and the apocalyptic symbols used by the early Christians really meant. This is the real coming of Christ.
[from "The Scripture and the Second Coming," Prof Shailer Mathews, University of Chicago, in The Congregationalist and Advance, Aug15, 1918, p186]
Now I am going to quote from one of the greatest preachers of this century, one of the incomparably great preachers of this century, quote:
When they say Christ is coming, they mean that, slowly it may be but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and in human institutions.
in Christian Work , June 10, 1922, p716-22]
There is no personal appearing of our Lord. It is just the good influences of Jesus being worked out in human story and human history.
Now, I want us honestly, honestly – let’s all be realists for a moment – I want us honestly to look at those rationalizations that there is not going to be any personal return of our Lord, that these things are just what you find of the good influences of Christ worked out in human life and in human history. I want us to look at that just for a minute.
Number one: that kind of a rationalization has led us into our modern cynical despair. In philosophy it is called existentialism. There is not any hope. There is not any way out. Everything that the mind can see and the heart can project is black and dark. Now that is modern cynical despair. And here is why it arises. No matter what problem you deal with, and how its amelioration, and how our achievement is always followed by something worse – look, there was a time when pirates were the scourge of the sea. There aren’t any pirates on the sea anymore. What you have is something worse. Down underneath those waters you have submarines with atomic warheads; missiles that can be blown out of the water and fall upon any city in America any minute!
And our Congress that would like to give itself to peace, and these billions and billions of dollars that they would like to channel into the helping of our people, they stand in the United States Senate and speak of the awesome atomic increasing nuclear capability of communism, of Russia. And our people live in constant fear and jeopardy of life. We traded the pirate on the sea for the awesome submarine underneath.
Or take anything you will name. Let’s take slavery. For the great extent we have brushed and pushed and legislated slavery from the face of the earth. But racial violence and hatred is more regnant today that it ever was. In my goings around this earth, wherever there is more than one race, where there are two or more races, there is tension and violence anywhere, everywhere in the earth. You think you have it in the United States? We don’t have anything here as they do in other lands, other places.
Just take anything, take poverty. We are going to work and legislate and have welfare programs, and we are going to make men secure and we are going to abolish poverty from our people. And what do you have? You have hippies taking dope all day and all night. They are the product of an affluent society. That’s where they come from.
Or take woman’s liberation. She is no longer tied down, they say, to a house and a home and a husband. She is liberated. And what do you have instead? You have a scourge of these children that are orphaned and these homes that are broken, and these lower standards that are absolutely dissolving the moral life of the nation.
Take anything. Take the closeness of our people together. You can get in a jet and in time be there. Our people are like a whispering gallery. All of us are together. And how? In constant fear and trepidation. Because all it would take would be a guided missile from a silo exploded here, bombing out an old civilization over there. Your goal of perfection is never reached. It gets further and further and further away from us.
Let’s take another thing, because we must hasten. Let’s take another thing about this doctrine of inevitable progress. There is no coming of the Lord. All that the coming of the Lord means is just that we are getting better and better, and that we are legislating all of these evils out of the earth.
All right, let’s take one other thing. What are you going to do if we had a perfect man, if finally he involved in this inexorable progress to the place where he is perfect? What are you going to do with that perfect man in this imperfect world? What are you going to do with the things over which no power under God can change or help? What are you going to do with an earthquake such as Nicaragua? What are you going to do with it?
Or let’s take the Sahara desert now. Every year the Sahara desert is moving thirty miles south, thirty miles south from a band from the Atlantic Ocean clear to India. That awesome desert is moving thirty miles south, inexorably, terribly, tragically, horribly. And unless there is some change in that, within the next while, twenty-five million people will starve to death. There is not enough food in the world to take care of them. What are you going to do with that? What does evolution and a perfection, so-called, of mankind, do with these things over which man has no control?
Take again, what are you going to do about death? Are we going to inexorably progress where there is no more death? And if you did, what about my mother and my father? I left them in the care of a cemetery keeper in Forest Lawn, in the San Fernando Valley in California. Does inexorable and inevitable progress minister to them? We leave our dead with the embalmer and with the cemetery custodian. And is that forever? Is that the end? Is that it? And will any evolutionary progress that is imaginable bring any of us to the place where we don’t face that grim monster? If they so gave me vitamin pills and medical advice and everything else to keep me alive until I was two hundred years old, somewhere, someday that same grim monster will cut me down too. Is that the end and the meaning of life?
But above all, has God lied to us? Are we false witnesses of a vain hope? Where is the promise of His coming? There is not any coming. God lied to us. God lied to us. God deceived us. It was God who misled us! And there is no resurrection, and there is no better tomorrow, and there is no heaven, and there is no hope, and there is no anything except despair, and the night of the grave, and the destruction and waste of death.
That is why modern skeptical existentialism; they have lost hope. There is nothing left but philosophical, metaphysical, academic, intellectual despair. That is why the blessed Jesus, He came to do something for us that no one else could do. The philosopher couldn’t do it. The scientist cannot do it. The metaphysician cannot do it. The academician cannot do it. The intellectual cannot do it. Legislators cannot do it. The judiciary cannot do it. Learning cannot do it. He came to do something for us that nobody else could do. Lost sinners, dying humanity: He came to win a victory for us over sin and death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], and to prepare for us a place in heaven [John14:2-3].
That is why He is coming. He is going to have, in His day and in His time and in His parousia, He is going to build for us a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, holiness, godliness [2 Peter 3:13]. We won’t be afraid anymore. Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and there will be none to make him afraid [Micah 4:4]. He won’t be afraid of cancer. There is not any more cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis; there’s not any more rheumatoid arthritis. He is not going to be afraid of leukemia or emphysema. He is not going to be afraid. He is not going to be afraid of violent attack. He’s not going to be afraid of anything in all God’s holy mount. We are going to have a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness [2 Peter 3:13].
There is not going to be any more death. "He shall reign, till He has put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" [1 Corinthians 15:25-26]. Death. There’s not going to be any more death [Revelation 21:4]. And God is going to raise us from the dust of the ground, and the heart of the earth, and the depths of the sea, and we shall live in His sight [1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]. God shall bring to us a resurrection [1 Corinthians 6:14].
And Satan shall be bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit [Revelation 20:1-3], and finally cast into the lake of fire, the devil and all of his angels [Revelation 20:10-15]. And he won’t deceive the nations anymore. And he won’t hurt God’s children anymore. And he won’t accuse the brethren anymore. And we shall live in peace and in happiness forever and ever. God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more sorrow, nor death, nor crying, for these things are all passed away [Revelation 21:4].
Lift up your heart, my brother. Dry your weeping eyes, my sweet sister in Jesus. Come with me, my young people. Let’s face, as the apostles did, let’s face the rising sun. Let us behold the glory of God. Let us rejoice in Christ, our Savior [Philippians 4:4]. Let us prepare for the marvelous, wonderful new world God hath in store for us who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. That is the Christian faith. This is the Book I hold in my hand. This is the gospel God hath given us to preach.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing that invitation, a family, a couple, or just that one somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, to open your soul heavenward and God-ward, to come into the fellowship of this wonderful church, to walk with us in the love of the Lord, if God has spoken to you, would you answer with your life? "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now. Here I am. I am coming now." In the balcony round, there is time and to spare. Make the decision now in your heart and come. On this lower floor, into that aisle, and here to the front, "Pastor, I am coming now. Watch me walk down that aisle for Jesus. Into His love and arms, into His care and keeping I am coming." Do it now. Make it now; while we stand and while we sing.
THE PROMISED COMING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:1-4
A. Nothing so constantly, victoriously presented in the Christian faith comparable to the promise of the return of Christ
B. Term "second coming" not in the Bible; it is he parousia, "the presence"
C. Return of our Savior woven into every part of Christian faith
II. The place the coming held in New Testament Christianity
A. Teachings of Jesus
1. Apocalyptic discourses (Matthew 24, 25, Mark 13, Luke 21)
2. The tremendous parables
3. His words of strength, comfort(Matthew 6:10, John 14:3, 1 Corinthians 11:26)
B. Vigorous faith of the apostles
1. Luke writing the story of the apostles (Luke 1:6-7, 10-11, Revelation 1:7)
2. Writings and preaching of Simon Peter
3. Paul’s Thessalonian letters written in view of the return of our Lord; the great resurrection chapter 1 Corinthians 15
4. John’s Apocalypse
C. These men of New Testament stand with faces toward the parousia of the Son of God(Hebrews 10:25, Titus 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
III. Skeptical criticism and rationalization
A. Skepticism – the question then; how much more now (2 Peter 3:4)
1. The undying hope of man
2. Furthered by Darwinian evolution
3. The coming identified with inevitable progress
IV. Observations about this doctrine of inevitable progress
A. Increasingly has given way to cynical despair
1. Achievements of human race give way to worse evils
B. If you finally evolve a perfect man, where to put him?
C. What about death and those who have already died?
D. What of the promises of God?(2 Corinthians 1:20)
V. The Christian hope
A. New heaven, new earth(Micah 4:4)
B. Death abolished (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, Revelation 21:4)