Jesus Is Coming Again
March 27th, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
JESUS IS COMING AGAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3: 1-7
3-27-83 7:30 p.m.
This will be the last sermon from the three-month series delivered each evening on the epistles of Simon Peter. And fittingly and appropriately, Simon Peter closes his second epistle and the last chapter with an exhortation to us concerning the return of our Lord. And we are going to read out loud together the first six verses—the first seven verses of the third chapter of 2 Peter [2 Peter 3:1-7]. And we invite the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio to turn in your Bible to this passage and read it out loud with us. The first seven verses of the third chapter of 2 Peter, now all of us out loud together:
The second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
That you 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.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens that were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men
[2 Peter 3:1-7].
This is an introduction to the exposition tonight of the whole passage of 2 Peter chapter 2 and chapter 3 [2 Peter 1-3:18]. The second chapter of 2 Peter is an accounting of the acts of the apostates [2 Peter 2:1-22]. In the fourth verse of 2 Peter, chapter 2, “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” [2 Peter 2:4]. [The] ninth verse, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver . . . the unjust to be punished” [2 Peter 2:9]. The tenth verse, “Them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness” [2 Peter 2:10]. In the twelfth verse, “As natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed” [2 Peter 2:12]. In the thirteenth verse, “Spots are they and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings” [2 Peter 2:13]. The fourteenth verse, “That cannot cease from sinning” [2 Peter 2:14]. The fifteenth verse, “Which have forsaken the right way and are gone astray” [2 Peter 2:15]. The seventeenth verse, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever” [2 Peter 2:17]. Just reading at random in the second chapter of 2 Peter, the acts of the apostates—you would think that he was speaking of America today.
The Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, does thirty billion dollars worth of business a year in America in dope, usury, extortion, and murder for hire. In our United States government, fifty-four judges have been investigated—federal judges—in the last few years. Gambling in America is a fifty billion dollar business involving ninety million Americans. Pornography runs a half billion dollars each year, with children being its victims in many, many instances. One and one-half million abortions are performed in America each year; ninety-six thousand a year are performed in our city of Dallas.
Swingers are meeting in groups of from five to thirty couples to exchange wives. Participation is performed in front of one’s own mate without embarrassment. The University of Berkeley, the University of California in Berkeley, has one thousand couples living together promiscuously. Schools are dropping regulations to allow the girls to stay overnight in the men’s dormitories, and eighty-five percent of the teenagers think that is fine. Venereal disease therefore is doubling and tripling across America; and herpes is an epidemic for which there is no known cure.
Drugs are being taken like food—LSD, marijuana, heroin—and seventy-five percent of the middle-aged Americans are on tranquilizers. There is a burglary every twenty seconds, a larceny every thirty seconds, a car theft every forty-eight seconds, an assault every ninety seconds, a rape every nineteen minutes and a murder every forty-three minutes. When you look at 2 Peter chapter 2, you are reading a description of modern America. And if there is a God who lives, our nation faces an inevitable and inexorable and a certain judgment.
Now in the face of that, the apostle speaks of the coming day of judgment and of the return of our Lord. But when he speaks of it, when he introduces it in the third chapter of his brief epistle, he speaks of it like this:
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]
All of these that engage in rampant and flagrant sin look up to the sky and say, “I see no storm.” They look out over the present history of our nation and say, “I see no certain and coming judgment.” And when they listen to a message from the Word of God that announces the coming of our Lord, they avow, “I think such trash is unbelievable and only the simple would ever be persuaded of any such development in history.”
There are three ways by which differing people respond to the promise of the coming of Christ, three different ways. One: the saints of God, the children of our Lord— those who believe in our Savior—every promise in the Bible that speaks of the return of our Savior to them is precious, exceedingly precious. The Bible closes like that. In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Apocalypse, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely, I come quickly.” And the answering cry of the sainted apostle John in Revelation 22:20, “Amen,” affirmation and confirmation, “Amen. Even so, come, blessed Jesus.” He is the answer to all of the problems and hurts and sorrows and sin and death in the world. To the saint, the coming of our Lord is exceedingly precious.
There is a second response to the announcement of the return of Jesus: it is on the part of the unbeliever who listens to the prospect with unimaginable and indescribable terror. In the opening of the sixth seal in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, John says that he saw “the sun turn black as sackcloth…and the moon turn to blood; and the stars fall out of the sky like a fig tree shaken by a mighty wind…cast her figs to the ground” [Revelation 6:12-13]. And he sees the great men and the mighty men of the earth seeking to hide themselves in the dens and caves of the mountains [Revelation 6:15]. And they cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them “for to hide them from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the face of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath has come: and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:16-17].
As Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians, closing his first chapter; “When the Lord comes with His angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on all them that obey not the gospel of Christ” [2 Thessalonians 1:7-8]. In terror, in horror, these who are unbelieving and unprepared face the inevitable coming and judgment of Almighty God [2 Thessalonians 1:9].
But there is a third response to the announcement of the return of Christ. The saints, with rejoicing and expectation and anticipation; the unbelieving, with terror and horror; then there is a third group—these scoffers. “Such a figment of the imagination, such an attempt to scare us, such a thing could never be, will never be. Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, as far back as the generations go, everything continues as it is” [2 Peter 3:4]. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Winter comes, spring comes, summer comes; we live, we die—everything goes on as it was, and where is any promise of His coming?
Now this is a response of someone who wishes to hide his face from the reality of the coming of our Lord. But listen, listen: you who scoff, you to whom the promise of the Lord is a thing heard by those who speak and listen to promises from the Bible that will never come to pass, never materialize, never reach reality; let me ask you something. Do you believe you will live forever? Do you? Let me ask you, do you believe that you will never die? Let me ask you, do you believe that as you face death and the grave, that there is no judgment day before Almighty God? Do you really believe that? You are like a man who steps out into the desert—the illimitable Sahara, with a cup of water in your hand. You are like a man, who in a little row boat, seeks to cross the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean. You are like a man who goes to sleep at night in the presence of an awesome storm.
I have read many times in history of these who went to bed in Galveston, Texas, in 1900. And the United States government, its weather bureau had sent message after message after message to the citizens of [Galveston] saying, “A great storm is headed your way. Get out! Get out!” And the citizens of the people of Galveston had never seen a storm like that. And they scoffed at the warning of the weather bureau in Washington, D.C.
At that time, there was an iron bridge connecting the island to the mainland. In the middle of the night, a wife awakened her husband saying, “Husband, maybe you better close the window, the rain and the wind are beginning to fall.” And before the night was over, a great tidal wave washed over that entire island. That iron bridge was snapped asunder as though it were a match stick, and they counted their dead by the thousands. I remember the pastor: I remember reading the pastor of this church, Dr. Truett, went down to Galveston to help bury the dead in that awesome and tragic disaster.
Scoffers, walking after their own lusts saying, “Since the world began, everything continues just as it is and it will continue thus, there is no second coming of the Lord” [2 Peter 3:3-4]. To that, the apostle Simon Peter addresses himself, and he says:
Beloved, be not without knowledge of this one thing, that a 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.
[2 Peter 3:8, 9]
We account that the longsuffering of God is our salvation. There are two things that the apostle Simon Peter says about the delay of the Lord, why He does not come. Number one: he says God’s time is not our time. We are in a framework of creation that is finite and limited and we live in that limitation. God’s clock is not our clock, time is a creation of God itself, and we live in that time slot; time is nothing with God. Why, even the things we read in scientific literature; this last week, I was reading about an astronomer who said of certain stars, they are ten billion light-years away from the earth. The light that we now see from that star started ten billion light-years ago and is just now reaching us. We are just now seeing it. A light year is the distance that light travels at 182,000 miles a second in a year; in ten billion years? Time is nothing to God, nothing! And it is just apparent to us alone that the Lord delays His coming. If in this text a thousand years is a day [2 Peter 3:8], the Lord has not been gone quite two days, maybe He will return on the third. The first thing the apostle avows is that we not ought to be self-deceived by what we think of as the passing of a long time. It is no such thing with God. There is no time with the Lord, nor will there be time with us when we die. We enter a timeless eternity.
The second thing he avows here is that the reason the Lord does not come immediately is because of His “longsuffering toward us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all of us might come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9], and be saved. That is a remarkable thing about God, the lengths to which God goes to persuade men to turn and be saved—it is a remarkable characteristic, a fundamental virtue in the heart of God Himself.
It is all through the Word, all through the Bible. Before the day of the Flood, the judgment of God on the whole earth, the Lord sent Noah who preached one hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3, 5-8; 2 Peter 2:5]. Think of that, warning the people one hundred twenty years of the coming of the destruction and judgment upon the world by God, one hundred twenty years. Can you imagine a man preaching one hundred twenty years without a convert? Not one, not one, not one [Genesis 7:13, 23]. That’s God—one hundred twenty years preaching to the people, pleading with the people that they turn and be saved. That’s God.
Look again at the heart of God. When the Lord announced to Abraham the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham stood before the Lord and said, “Lord, if there are fifty in the city that are righteous, would You spare the city for the fifty’s sake?” And the Lord God said, “For the fifty’s sake, I will spare it. “Forty-five—lacking five just lacking five—would You destroy the city for the lack of five?” And God said, “I will save the city if forty-five can be found.” “Lord” said Abraham, “I have taken upon myself to plead with Thee. Listen to Thy servant. If forty can be found, if thirty can be found, if twenty can be found, if ten can be found,” and Abraham stopped at ten because, surely Lot and his wife and family had been able to win at least ten in the city of Sodom to the Lord. “If there are ten that can be found, I will spare the city” [Genesis 18:22-32]. The heart of God is always open in loving remonstrance, an appeal that we be saved, always.
You find the story again in the life of Jonah. “Yet forty days, and God will destroy this wicked city” [Jonah 3:4]. And when the king and the people turned in repentance, “God did it not” [Jonah 3:5-10]. And Jonah, petulant, spoiled, embarrassed—here he had been preaching the destruction of the city, and God is not going to do it at all. And the Lord said to him, “Jonah, you have pity upon this gourd vine that has been destroyed by a worm. Why should I not be moved with compassion over a great city with thousands of little children?” [Jonah 4:10-11]. That is the heart of the God.
Take just once again in the Revelation, in the seventh chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse, God says to the angels at the four corners of the earth who hold the winds of judgment, God says to them, “Stay, stay until I seal these who have placed their trust in Me” [Revelation 7:3]. Let me put that with Romans 11:25, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Until the plērōma, until the full number of the Gentiles be come in, and then shall the end come. The Lord God says to the angels, “Stay, those four winds of awesome judgment upon the earth until I seal all of these who are to be saved” [Revelation 7:1-3]. The reason for the delay of the coming of our Lord, the apostle says is there are some yet that are going to be saved. And as long as there are those being saved, the Lord is longsuffering, and the judgment doesn’t fall [2 Peter 3:9].
You know there is a pathos, there is a pathetic-ness, there is a trauma in the heart of God over sinful men. You see it all through the Bible; in the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy are listed once again the Ten Commandments of the Lord [Deuteronomy 5:7-21]. And after the Lord has said His ten commandments, do you remember His plaintive pathos?
O that there was such a heart in them, that they would obey My word and keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them, and their children for ever.
Do you remember the cry of the Lord as His people were judged and sent into the Babylonian captivity? 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 would turn from his evil way and live: O turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?
There is not a more moving song that is written in Christendom, than that pathetic appeal:
Why will ye die?
When the crimson cross is so nearby?
Why will ye die?
[“The Sheltering Rock.” William Penn]
That’s the heart of God.
May I just point out one other? The most scathing of all of the denunciations in literature, in literature, is the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the Lord denounces the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees [Matthew 23:13-36]. Do you remember how it ends? Do you remember how it ends? It ends with a sob; it ends with a cry:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, as the hen gathered her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
That’s the Lord. Never does God see a man fall into depredation, and into sin, and into iniquity, and into wickedness, and into unbelief, and finally into judgment and damnation and hell—never does God see a man fall into such judgment without bleeding and weeping in His heart. That’s the heart of God, and that’s what He avows here. The reason the Lord delays, He is waiting that we might repent and might be saved [2 Peter 3:8-9].
Now he says, But the day is coming, inevitably coming, when “the Lord will come as a thief in the night” [2 Peter 3:10]—without announcement, suddenly. Then he says, “These old heavens and the old earth shall pass away . . . they shall melt with fervent heat” [2 Peter 3:10]. Then he says, “In the stead of this old world with its sin and iniquity and these old heavens with their fallen stars,” he says, “there will be a new earth and a new heaven, wherein dwelleth righteousness” [2 Peter 3:10-13]. That’s like his best friend and closest companion and fishing partner, the sainted apostle John, wrote:
I beheld a new heaven, and a new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away . . . And I John saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of the heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
[Revelation 21:1, 2]
God on the throne says, “Behold, look, behold, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5]. We shall have a new home; we shall have a new city; we shall have a new body; we shall have a new life—that is what God has promised us. Then on the basis of that new creation, the apostle makes his appeal: “Seeing that these things shall come to pass, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness” [2 Peter 3:11]. And again, “Be diligent that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” [2 Peter 3:14]. On the basis of the inevitable and certain coming of our Lord, and the judgment of Christ upon this unbelieving world, and in the face of a new creation, he pleads with us to be holy in life, in character, in prayer, in vision, in service, in every area of our lives.
Tell me, if you knew, if the whole world knew, if you knew that you knew that before this present week is passed, this pre-Easter week, if you knew that Jesus was coming within this week, what kind of a world would we have? And what kind of a church would we be? And what kind of disciples and believers in Christ would we evidence? What do you think? Tell me, am I not correct when I say, when I suppose if the whole world knew that Jesus was coming this week, wouldn’t the church be filled with worshippers and prayers and intercessiors? Wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t the people be here by the thousands, looking unto God? Wouldn’t they?” Tell me, if we knew that the Lord was coming this week, wouldn’t we love one another in a new and a deeper way? Wouldn’t we seek personal cleansing and forgiveness in our lives? Wouldn’t our church treasury be flooded with gifts of those who were behind, and forgotten, and had spent selfishly their tithes and their offerings? Wouldn’t our whole communion be flooded with men and women and young people saying, “I want to do something for Jesus”? Wouldn’t our lives be filled with holiness and expectation? “The Lord is coming this week!” Tell me, wouldn’t there be infidel, liberal, unbelieving preachers by the thousands that would be burning up their sermons and begging God for mercy for the failure to preach the truth of God in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? Tell me, if we knew Jesus was coming this week, wouldn’t there be a new spirit, and a new dedication, and a new love, and a new life in all of our souls? Tell me! Wouldn’t it be heaven on earth if we knew Jesus was coming this week?
That’s what the Bible says, “He is coming.” And He is coming in an hour that we think not; He is coming as a thief [2 Peter 3:10] with unsandled feet, quietly, clandestinely, furtively. He may come before we reach home tonight. He may come before the dawn. He may come before the tomorrow. He may come any time, any moment. And the apostle says, “What kind of people should we be—waiting for, hastening unto, the coming of our dear Lord?” [2 Peter 3:11]. Oh, my heart replies with all of the loving passion of my soul, “Lord, Lord, help me to walk in the way of the Lord; in faith, in love, in service, in devotion, in consecration.” And if the Lord comes any day, any time, any moment, let my heart cry be that of the apostle John, “Amen. Even so, come, blessed Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. If I know my heart, I’m ready. This moment, next moment, this day, any day, come, blessed, blessed Jesus. May we stand together?
Our Lord, when we open God’s Holy Book and read of these great revelations the Lord gave the apostles, O Master, how our hearts are moved by the truth of what God has revealed to us. And our Lord, wherein we fail, and falter, and fall short may there be forgiveness in God’s merciful heart. And then Lord in a renewed dedication may we serve Thee. May the Lord find us when He comes, busy at our tasks and in our appointed assignments. And without loss of one, O God may we all be saved, and especially, and particularly, and unusually, movingly so do I pray for these who have heard this message from Simon Peter tonight; thousands on the radio and thousands here in this sanctuary. And our Lord make this a night of salvation. “I have heard the Word of God and my heart is open heavenward and Christ-ward and tonight, this night, is the night of decision for me and my soul” [Ephesians 2:8].
And while our people pray and wait just for you, when we sing our invitation hymn, down one those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is my family. We are all coming tonight.” Or just a couple, or just a somebody you, a single, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. “Pastor, this is God’s time for me, and here I stand.” Do it. It will be the most meaningful decision you will ever make. And when we sing the first note of that first stanza, take that first step, and God will see you through. Angels will attend you in the way. Do it, and God bless you as you answer with your life [Romans 10:8-13]. And our Lord, thank Thee from the deep of our souls for the sweet harvest You give us this blessed evening. Waiting for, hastening unto the coming of our Lord whom we welcome; come blessed Jesus. “Come now in to my heart, and home, and life, and work, vision and prayers, come Lord Jesus. And someday, maybe soon, come in the clouds of heaven, and let me be among those that stand to receive Thee in loving anticipation.” O Lord, do it tonight. In Thy saving name, amen. While we sing our appeal, this is God’s time, welcome, while we sing.