In 2nd Peter, chapter 3, Peter speaks prophetically about the "last days." His concern is that just before the long awaited return of Jesus to this earth, there would be individuals who would no longer believe in his coming.
It is true that the majority of the people in this world have never really believed in Jesus and that his 2nd coming is nothing more than a proverbial expression that refers to things that never actually happen.
Peter is not talking about the world in general. He is referring to individuals who were faithful believers, who have lost their faith. Peter's prophecy provides many clues that reveal the identity of the scoffers.
Consider the language of 2 Peter 3, verse 4: "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."
This expression is very revealing. Being familiar with the term "fathers" implies that these words were spoken by a person who was very familiar with the "hope of the promises made unto the fathers." ( see Acts 26:6 )
This hope is the "hope of Israel", a hope that was based on certain promises that were made to the "fathers", who were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The other clue in this expression is the words that were used to describe the current state of these "fathers".
They are said to be asleep. Sleep is the only accurate definition that can be used to describe those such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who died in the hope of the resurrection.
Jesus said concerning the resurrection that the God of Abraham is not a God of the dead but of the living. Abraham is sleeping in the dust of the ground, but to God, he is still alive and he will surely be raised again. (see Luke 20: 37-38)
Peter also referred to the flood in his prophesy. ( 2 Peter 3:5-6) He reminds these scoffers that they knew about the story of Noah and the great judgment of that day, but they chose not to heed the lesson.
His hope was that they would wake up. If God destroyed that world by water, He certainly would judge the world again, and this time by fire.
The scoffers had known and understood all of the lessons from God's word. They were once strong believers in the coming of the Lord to establish his Kingdom on this earth.
But something had happened to their faith.
Peter said that they were "walking after their own lust." They had been overcome by the desires of the flesh and it had choked out the words of God. They found temporary comfort in ridiculing those who still believed.
Unfortunately for them. They are wrong. Christ will come, and they may find themselves without excuse for turning away in the final hours.
Over the years many of the servants of God have looked forward to the near return of their Master. Each generation has felt that the signs of his coming were present and that they would live to witness the coming of Christ.
This promised advent has been almost too long expected, and it is for this reason that some of the servants of God in this generation, have lost their faith in the return of the Lord. They ask in a mocking way,
"Where is the promise of his coming?" ( as discussed in our lead article on the cover page of this issue ).
Many of the signs of his coming are expressed in general terms. Wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, famines, a great time of trouble, etc.
These kinds of events have always occurred, although not with the intensity that currently exists. Are such signs reliable indicators of the return of Christ?
These signs are only significant when they are coupled with all of the major signs of the Master's coming, all happening in the same time period, even as they are today.
The two signs that add the most credibility to the near return of Christ in this generation are signs that have not existed in every age.
The first significant sign in modern history is the restoration of the nation of Israel to her ancient territory. Jesus spoke of this sign as the budding of the fig tree.
The rebirth of Israel is a present day miracle that was prophesied thousands of years ago by the Hebrew prophets. The current controversy over the future of the city of Jerusalem was proclaimed by the prophet Zechariah, who said: " In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people:" ( Zech 12:3)
The other sign that is unique to this generation is the end of 6000 years of history. God labored for 6 days at the creation and then rested on the seventh day. Peter teaches us that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." ( 2 Pet 3:8)
There are many reasons to believe that God has established his timetable for the return of Christ based on the creation week, and that after 6000 years of man's struggles in the flesh, there will be a 1000 year Kingdom rest for the people of God. ( See Hebrews 4:4-9 and Rev 20: 4)
Today, we live in the age when both the fig tree nation of Israel is in their own land, and the 6000 years is ending. These are powerful indicators that the Lord's return is near, especially when we consider that we are also living in "perilous times." ( 2 Tim 3: 1-7) And the times are also like the days of Noah and Lot. ( Luke 17: 26-30)
As servants of God, let us always remember that God's promises are sure, and that we can depend on the return of Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom on this earth.
We must not be led away from our hope by the lust of our flesh, listening to those who now scoff at the promises of God.
Let us "watch and pray" waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord.
Jesus himself has promised: "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be".- - - "Even so come Lord Jesus." ( Rev 22: 12-20 )
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
The Promise that the Lord Jesus will return to this earth was spoken plainly to his disciples, at the time of his ascension to Heaven. They were not left without hope. His purpose was to return and to "restore again the Kingdom to Israel." ( note their question in verse 6 of Acts 1)
This promise was not a single event. The promise of his coming back to this earth is woven throughout the gospel message.
Jesus himself, spoke often in his teachings about his return. For example, in his famous Matthew 24 prophecy, his coming is referred to in at least 5 different verses. Consider how each of these verses relate to that day:
Verse 3 The disciples ask: What will be the sign of his coming? (There were many signs given to help identify the time when he would return.)
Verse 27 His coming will be seen by all. It will be sudden and powerful, like the lightning.
Verse 30 His coming will be with the clouds, with power and glory.
Verse 37 It will be a time just like the days of Noah. (Wickedness and corruption will fill the earth)
Verse 39 His coming will be unexpected. Many will not be aware that the time is at hand.
Verse 48 Some of his servants may think that his coming has been delayed.
Verse 50 He will come when they are no longer looking for him, and their judgment will be severe.
The promise of his coming is found 5 times in one chapter, and it is referred to more than 200 times in the New Testament alone.
The coming of Christ is a fundamental teaching of the truth of the Bible. If we believe in Christ at all, we must believe that he plainly taught that he will come again.
No true Christian would ever deny that his hope is in the return of Christ to this earth. The signs that he gave tell us that his coming will be soon.
Even so come, Lord Jesus.
"There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." (Luke 21)
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." (1 Cor. 15:22-23)
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. ( 1 John 2:28)
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. ( Matt 24:27)
Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thess 2:8)
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.( 1 Thess 5:23)
To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. ( 1 Thess 3:13)
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" ( 1 Thess 2: 19)
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. ( Matt 24:38-39
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. ( Matt 25:13)
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. ( Mark 8:38)