The Promised Coming
June 16th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 3:1-4
THE PROMISED COMING
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
2 Peter 3:1-4
6-16-74 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the church bringing the morning message entitled The Promised Coming. In our preaching through the second letter of Simon Peter, we have come to chapter 3, and I read the text. I would like to read the whole chapter. All of it is about the return of our living Lord, but I have not time so we will just read the text:
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]
Simon Peter died, was martyred about thirty to thirty-five years after Jesus. And if he thought there were scoffers in his day saying, “Where is the promise of His coming” [2 Peter 3:4], what would he say today after two thousand years? “Everything continues,” these scoffers say, “as it was from the beginning of the creation [2 Peter 3:4]. I do not see any heavens rolled back like a scroll, and I do not see any Jesus coming down out of the sky. Where is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4].
Now to begin with, there is not anything so constantly, victoriously, triumphantly presented in the Christian faith comparable to the tremendous promise of the return of our Lord. That is so much true that you will not find in the pages of the Holy Scriptures any such term as the “second coming.” It isn’t in the Bible. Always it is the parousia, hē parousia, “the presence.” Para, like “parallel, parallelogram, alongside,” para–ousia, “being,” “the being alongside,” translated “coming.” Actually the word means the “presence,” the presence of the Lord, the coming of the Lord [2 Peter 3:4]. No such term as the “second coming,” because this event was so significantly vast and tremendous, earthshaking, heaven-rending, that it is called the parousia, “the presence,” the coming of the Lord. There is no event comparable to it in all time and tide. And this doctrine, this teaching, this presentation of the second coming of Christ, the return of our Savior is inwoven in the very warp and woof of the Christian faith.
When you look at it, its texture, when you feel of it, when you see it, when you handle it that is it. At the very soul and center of it you find that in the teachings of our Lord. In great detail will our Lord present the time and the circumstance of His return in His apocalyptic discourses in Matthew 24 and 25 [Matthew 24:1-25:46], and in Mark 13 [Mark 13:1-37], and in Luke 21 [Luke 21:5-38].
You will find it also in our Lord’s tremendous parables. His story of the wicked servant who, because the lord delayed his coming, began to be drunken and riotous and to beat his fellow servants because the lord delayed his coming [Matthew 24:45-51]; in His story, in the Lord’s story of the foolish virgins, bridesmaids, and the wise bridesmaids, the lord delayed his coming, and they let their lamps run out and their oil run dry [Matthew 25:1-13]. You find it in His story of the parable of the talents. To us a talent is a gift. In the Scriptures, a talent is a weight. It is a money weight like a shekel is a money weight. And how the man used his stewardship until the lord returned [Matthew 25:14-30]. The same in the parable of the pounds, a weight of money and an oikonomia, “a stewardship” [Luke 19:11-27]. The man has to be used for God until He comes, when we give a reckoning for all that we have and all that we do before the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And then in His parable of the sheep and the goats, this is a story of the return of Jesus when He divides those that are saved from those who are lost [Matthew 25:32-46].
Right now, the wheat and the tares go together, but not for ever [Matthew 13:24-30]. There is a great consummation when Christ returns and we stand before the judgment bar of Almighty God and the Lord divides us as the sheep from the goats [Matthew 25:31-46]. All of this is the teaching of our Savior concerning His return. You find it in His words of strength and comfort. He says to us, “Pray, Thy kingdom come” [Matthew 6:9-10]. There is no kingdom without a king. It is a prayer for the return of our Savior. Lord, Lord, come quickly, “Thy kingdom come” [Matthew 6:10]. Or in His words of comfort, “If I go away,” He speaks in John 14, “I will come again” [John 14:3]. Or in the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, “As often as you eat the bread, and drink the cup, ye do show forth, you present, you dramatize the death of our Savior,achri ou elthē, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26].
Now you no less find that in the vigorous faith and preaching of the apostles. Luke—the beloved physician and amanuensis of Paul—Luke starts off the story of the apostles with these words: And as the Lord talked to them on the way to the Mount of Olives, to the brow of the hill, they said to Him, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He replied, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Lord hath kept in His own hands” [Acts 1:6-7]. “But,” then He gave them the great assignment [Acts 1:8], and while they were talking to the Lord Jesus He just was raised upward and upward out of their sight and the shekinah glory of God hid Him away. It is translated in the Bible “a cloud” [Acts 1:9], but that is not mist, that is not rain, a cloud of vapor. This is the garment of God, the raiment of the Almighty, the shekinah glory of God in heaven. And as those men were steadfastly transfixed, looking up to where Jesus was caught away into glory [Acts 1:10], an angel tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Why do you stand there transfixed? this same Jesus shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11], in the same shekinah glory. Is not the text of the Apocalypse, Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds?” That’s not vapor, that’s not water, that’s not rain. “Behold, He cometh with clouds” [Revelation 1:7]. He cometh in the shekinah of God, the raiment, the iridescent garments of the Almighty. He is coming back just as He left [Acts 1:11]. That is the way the story of the Acts of the Apostles begins.
And then it continues in the preaching and the writing of these emissaries from heaven. In the writings and the preaching of Simon Peter, I said I did not have time to read the whole third chapter here, all of it is about the consummation of the age and the coming the Lord and the new heaven and the new earth [2 Peter 3:1-18]. And in the apostle Paul you find it no less, for example, in his first and second letter to the church at Thessalonica, that is all that he talks about, everything in view of the return of our Lord. And every chapter ends describing that second advent [1 Thessalonians 1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3].
There are many scholars, many of them who say the high watermark of all Christian revelation is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. What is that about? That is the great resurrection chapter, when the Lord shall come and the saved shall be raptured up to God in heaven, and when the dead shall be called from the dust of the ground, and all of God’s saints shall be changed, immortalized in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].
This is the faith. This is the religion. This is the doctrine. This is the gospel. This is the teaching. And I haven’t time even to refer to the Apocalypse, to the Revelation. In this very pulpit for two years, every Sunday I preached from Revelation, all of which is about the second coming of our Christ, the return of our Lord.
These men who, under God, by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21], wrote these sacred pages called the New Testament; these are men who stand with their backs to the world and their faces toward the glorious appearing, the parousia of the Son of God. And when they write, they say because of His coming we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. Because of His coming, they say we ought to live soberly and godly in this present life [Titus 2:12-13]. Because of His coming we are not to quail under affliction and persecution [Romans 8:18]. And because of His coming, we are not to sorrow as others who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. The whole fabric of the Christian faith is held together by that incomparable promise: the return of our blessed and living Lord [John 14:6; Acts 1:11].
There shall come scoffers; there shall come scoffers saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? [2 Peter 3:3-4]. For since the forefathers lived, clear back to the beginning of the creation everything continues just as it is, and shall continue. There is to be no coming” [2 Peer 3:3-4]. Well, we shall look at that for a moment: what the scoffers say in their skeptical criticism and rationalization. They say there is no hope of any such day as that. There is no return of our Lord actually to be realized. It doesn’t exist. And, when they do try to accept somewhat the promise of the return of our Lord, they spiritualize it; they rationalize it. There is no actual coming. You are never going to see Jesus, and this world will never be renovated, rejuvenated, made new. They spiritualize it, rationalize it. For example, they will say, these scoffers concerning the return of our Lord, they will say, “Always in the heart of man, there has been that hope of a new day and a better tomorrow. And this is nothing but an image and a reflection and a repercussion of that hope that never dies in the human heart, for something better some other day that is yet to come.”
It is the same kind of a thing as Plato wrote in his Republic, as Sir Thomas More wrote in his Utopia, and as John Hilton wrote in his Lost Horizons, in the land of Shangri-La. There is no Shangri-La; it is just a dream. There’s no Utopia; it is just imagination. And there’s no perfect Platonic republic; it is a metaphysician and a philosophical dream. And they say this is the same thing; this is nothing but a reflection of what men hope for in their hearts, but never realize.
And then that is substantiated by a doctrine that came to be universally accepted in the academic world called Darwinian evolution, inexorable progress. We are evolving and evolving and evolving, and getting better and better and better, and upward and upward and upward and upward. And that they say is the only Utopia, only heaven, only second coming of Christ that we will ever know: the progress of the human of the human race. So are these modern academicians given to Darwinian evolution, that they believe and say that the time is coming when the tiger and the ape will be bred out of us, when evil will disappear from amongst us. And they say that sin is nothing but the drag of our animal ancestry, and give us time and we shall evolve. We shall progress into angels and maybe some of us into archangels. That is a doctrine that is universally accepted and believed in the academic world: Darwinian evolution, inexorable progress.
And these men of the cloth, these ecclesiastics, these theologians and preachers in this modern day who scoff at the return of the Lord saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” [2 Peter 3:4]. This is what they write. One of the great theologians of this century, I quote from him, I write verbatim what he wrote, 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: the control of human affairs by the spirit of Jesus.
[ [from “The Scripture and the Second Coming,” Prof Shailer Mathews,
University of Chicago, in The Congregationalist and Advance, Aug15, 1918, p186]
All right, I quote second from one of the great preachers of all time who lived in this generation, in this century, this great preacher, world famous, 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.” You are never going to see Jesus. There is never a personal return. There is just, in the promise of His coming, there is just this referred to: that in human life and institutions, in government and all relationships, there will just be the spirit of Jesus worked out among human kind. That is the coming of Christ.
I want us to look at that for just a moment, just to look at it. It is that kind of doctrine that has given birth to the cynical despair called “existentialism” that has plunged this modern intellectual world into abysmal, indescribable hopelessness and grief. They don’t see any way out. And there’s not any hope. There is no light beyond the grave, not to the modern philosophers.
For example, just look, just look. Whatever it is where men think they have won achievement and advancement, wherever they think that they have done good, just in that very place they are falling into the worst. They will face one human problem and solve it only to find that a worse problem confronts them inexorably. Just name it, name anything you want to, a problem that mankind has faced. And as we have tried to solve it, just see if there is not in its place a problem more vile and more vicious and more terrible. Name anything. What would you like to name?
Let us name pirates on the sea. There was a time when the pirates on the sea scourged the traffic on the sea of the world and we have rid the seas of pirates. I never heard in my generation of a ship of merchandise crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Indian Ocean or any other ocean and being captured by pirates. I have not heard that. We have rid the seas of pirates. But what do we have instead? What we have instead in those same seas underneath the water, there lurk submarines with atomic missiles that can bomb and blast and destroy the cities of the world. And they are right off the Atlantic and they are right off of the Pacific every day of our lives. And all it takes is for the Kremlin to push a button and, if they can achieve surprise, they will destroy us. We have changed the pirate for that lurking submarine in the sea.
Well, name something else. Just name anything. Let us say slavery, slavery. We have pretty well rid the world of slavery. But instead, we have racial tensions that are violent! I have been around this world, up and down it I do not know how many times. I have never been in a country or in a place yet where more than one race lives that there is not violent tensions. You say we have them in the United States, between black and white or white and brown. We haven’t got in the United States anything as they have in these racial tensions in other nations of the world.
Well, just name anything. What would you like to name? Well let us say poverty, poverty. Poverty was the scourge of so much of the earth, and still is: poverty. So we attack it, and we build us a welfare state called Sweden, or a welfare state pretty much called America, and we are going to get rid of poverty. Then what? What you have in Sweden, and what you have in America, and what you have in the other affluent nations like us, you have got the hippy on dope! Where did he come from? He is a product of affluence. He does not have to work. He does not have to get a job. He can live off of the dole. He can live off of the public and smoke marijuana and swallow LSD or take other things in his veins. It is viler than to be poor, a thousand times so. And it is a mark of an affluent culture and civilization.
Name anything you want to, just name it. Let us name woman’s liberation, woman’s liberation. She is free. She is not bound to any house or any husband or any home. She is free! Wonderful, she is free! And what has happened to your house and to your home and to your husband? There never was such divorce in the earth. There never have been such orphaned children since the time God made us. And there never has been such a lowering of moral standards as threaten the very existence of our society, for your woman is out there now in the bar, and she is out there in the world. She is not at home. She is not raising kids any more. She is free.
Name anything you want to, just name it. And the thing that we have tackled and the thing that we have seized and the thing that we have solved we think; only gives place for something worse. There’s no such thing, actually, as moral progress. It doesn’t exist, period.
Let us look at it again: no coming of Christ. This is just a picture, a repercussion of the hope of the progress of the human race and the inevitable advancement and onwardness of human life. All right, let’s look at it again. Just exactly what is inexorable, inevitable, evolutionary progress going to do with this imperfect world in which we live? If you finally evolve a perfect man, where are you going to put him? Because you don’t have any place except the planet on which we are walking, and what kind of a planet is this? It is a planet that is stricken in woe and in agony. God says so, and I see it with my own eyes.
Just exactly what would evolutionary progress of the human race do to ameliorate the hurt and heart and suffering of an earthquake like at Nicaragua? And tell me this, what are you going to do in evolutionary progress to heal what is happening in the great Sahara in Africa, and to India in that latitude? For every year, thirty miles the Sahara is moving southward, thirty miles a year, thirty miles a year, the devastation of that terrible desert. And it is impossible for us to feed and to care for the twenty-five millions of people who lie in the path of that inexorable desert. And they are dying now by the hundreds of thousands. Their cattle are dead. Their animals are dead. Their children are dying and they are starving to death this minute. Now you tell me, all of you evolutionists who believe we are coming into a Utopian Shangri-La by inevitable, inexorable progress and evolution, just exactly what are you going to do about that? And I use that as typical of all the rest of this hurt and damaged world, crying before God.
Well, just look at another thing. What about death? If by pills and vitamins and scientific advancement, someday some of us might live to be two hundred years old, we still face that grim enemy of death. And what would I hope for in inevitable progress and evolutionary achievement what could I hope for…for these who have already died? What is that going to do for my dear mother and father who lie in a grave in the San Fernando Valley at Forest Lawn in California? What about our beloved dead? We leave them with the embalmer and with the cemetery keeper. Do we leave them forever there! Is that it? Is that it? That’s it. That’s the story for all of us are evolving and progressing out here. But these we leave to the undertaker and to the dust and to the worm and to the clod. Is that God? Does God sound like that? That the least of His saints who looked in trust to Him, He forgets and despises. Because God’s not coming and triumph is to be found in the evolutionary progress of the human race.
Is that God? Is this God? Does He lie? Does He lie? He says He is coming back [John 14:2-3]. He promises so much to those who look in faith to Him. Can God lie? Did God lie? Does God lie? Are these promises worthless, not even worth the paper that we could burn up with a little match? Is that God? Has God deceived us? Has God misled us? Has God lied to us? Is that God?
My brother, my sister, this is the Christian faith: that the Lord is faithful [1 Corinthians 1:9], and He will keep His promises. No word that He has ever said to us by His Son shall ever fall to the ground. But “the promises of God in Jesus the Christ are everlastingly Yea and Amen” [2 Corinthians 1:20]. And when it says He is coming, be ready. When it says He is coming, dry your tears. When it says He is coming, do not live with a broken heart. When it says He is coming, victory is in His hands. Lift up your heads; lift up your faces, dry your tears. Be ready, ready for the shout [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], ready for the rapture, ready for the glory, ready for the presence, ready for the parousia. He is coming again [John 14:3]. That means a new heaven and a new earth: one wherein dwelleth righteousness [2 Peter 3:13]. There will be no violence and there will be no hurt and there will be no fear. “Every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree; and there will be none to make them afraid” [Micah 4:4] in all God’s holy mountain. He says so, He says so.
And we shall not have death any more. It will be abolished. There shall be no more death [Revelation 21:4]. “He shall reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” [1 Corinthians 15:25-26], that horrible enemy and interloper. God never intended it. God never intended for His people to be sick. God never intended for His people to get old. God never intended for His people to be senile.
Yesterday I made a visit in a nursing home, a big one here in Dallas. And as I walked down the halls, and as I looked at those people—so many of them in beds and they cannot get up, and so many of them stooped and they cannot stand up, and so many of them hurt and invalid, aged—and as I look at them, I thought, O God, is this the purpose of the Lord in human life? Is this it? Is this is it? I just looked at one of them and smiled, and you would have thought the sun had risen just because I stopped and looked and smiled. I suppose she has had no visitor and no one to smile at her in years. Is that the purpose of God? Is that the consummation of all of the dreams of our souls, to be alone in age and soon die?
Death is an interloper. He is an intruder. God never meant it! He never intended it. Someday Christ shall come and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death [1 Corinthians 15:25-26]. And there will be the promises: “no more sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for these they things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4]. They will not be digging graves on the hillsides of glory. And they will not be hanging funeral wreaths on the mansions in the sky [John 14:2-3]. And there will be no procession following funeral cars down those golden streets [Revelation 21:21]. It will be a new day, a new heaven, and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. And Satan, our archenemy, will be bound. The accuser of our brethren shall be cast with chains into the bottomless pit [Revelation 20:1-3], and finally into the lake of fire, he and all of his angels [Revelation 20:10-15]. There will be no one to hurt us, and to try us, and to tempt us, and to sore beleaguer and beset us any more. This is the promise of God. Wherefore the Lord says, “Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh” [Luke 21:28]. He is on His way. I can hear the trumpets sounding [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Seems as though I can almost see His face. He is coming [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
Our time is spent and past. We stand in a moment to sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have made up my mind and my heart. I have decided and here I come.” “Pastor, we are all coming today, my wife, my children, all of us.” There is time and to spare, if you are seated in the balcony, on the lower floor, into an aisle down to the front. At this 8:15 service this morning there were some of the most marvelous things I ever heard, conversions and commitments [Romans 10:8-13]. Does God say something to you? If He does, if He does, answer with your life. Come now. Do it now. Make it now, on the first note of this first stanza, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.