************ Sermon on 2 Peter 3:1-4 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 3, 2021

2 Peter 3:1-4
"The Day of the Lord (1)"

What is going to happen in 2021? One of the magazines I get made 21 predictions. Let me read some of them:
-you won't go back to the office
-you won't sit shoulder-to-shoulder in an opera house or movie theater
-you will be invited as a virtual guest to a wedding
-you will discover your house has a kitchen
-you will get closer to loved ones
-it will be hard to find the perfect pandemic puppy
-your face mask will become a fashion statement
-your doctor will make house calls
-you will exercise more
-a kiss is no longer just a kiss

You know what was not mentioned? That Christ will return in 2021. Is this at the top of your hopes and prayers for 2021? I say this because we can never underestimate the importance of Christ's return. The hope of Christ's return is probably the greatest motivator for the Christian's joy, service, and holiness. After all, Christ returns to gather and reward His redeemed people, to destroy Satan and all the wicked, and to establish His Kingdom in all its glory.

As a reminder, Peter writes to Christians who are facing false teachers. Peter tells them the way to resist false teachers is to know four things: one, know your salvation and your Savior; two, know Scripture; three, know Satan and his false teachers; four, know the sanctified life. Four things that start with the same letter: Savior, Scripture, Satan, Sanctification.

Today, this first Sunday of 2021, we continue looking at what we must know about Satan and his false teachers.

I Wholesome Thinking Instead of Damning Heresy
A To counteract the efforts of Satan and his false teachers, Peter has written two letters (cf 2 Pet 3:1). What Peter teaches -- did you catch this -- what Peter teaches is "wholesome thinking" (2 Pet 3:1). This is the only time we come across this phrase in the Bible. "Wholesome thinking" -- that's what Peter wants us to have. That is, pure thinking, solid thinking, straightforward thinking, thinking that doesn't stray from the truth. Do you remember the phrase Paul uses that means the same thing? Paul uses the phrase "sound doctrine" (2 Tim 4:3). "Sound doctrine" and "wholesome thinking" are both based upon the truth of God's Word and not upon the desires of itching ears. They aren't myth and fairytales. They are truth you can depend upon, truth you can believe.

Peter tells us in our text that "wholesome thinking" believes Jesus will someday return. Wholesome thinking believes in the coming Day of the Lord.

In contrast to wholesome thinking is the damning heresy of Satan and his false teachers. Satan knows how important the return of Christ is as a motivator for the church. Satan knows so what does he do? Through scoffers he works to deny the Second Coming, to cast doubt on the Second Coming.

"You must understand," writes Peter, "that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing ..." A scoffer is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously. The people in Noah's day were scoffers -- they scoffed at the idea of judgment. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were scoffers -- they scoffed at the possibility of fire and brimstone destroying their sinful city. If you have tried at all to witness for Jesus, you probably have met people who scoff at the idea of hell or a future day of judgment.

B Peter says those with wholesome thinking "recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles" (2 Pet 3:2). Do you hear what Peter is saying? What Peter says about the Day of the Lord was not his invention. The prophets taught it (Isa 2:10-22; 13:6-16; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Joel; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph; Zech 12:1-14:3), Jesus taught it (Mt 24-25), and so did the apostles (1 Thess 5; 2 Thess 1-2, Jude 14-15). When the scoffers deny "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:16), they are denying the truth of the prophetic books, the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels, and the writings of the Apostles!

C The scoffers know the Second Coming, the Day of the Lord, is in the Bible. They know what Scripture says. They are familiar with the sayings of Jesus. After all, they are in the church. So what do they do? They deny the writings of the prophets. They deny the teachings of Jesus. They deny the letters of the apostles. They deny the Second Coming. They are antagonistic towards the idea of the Second Coming. They -- here is maybe a new word for some of you -- they demythologize the Bible. They call the second coming a myth and take it out of Scripture. They explain it away.

Those who follow this damning heresy of Satan and his false teachers exist today too. We shouldn't be surprised or shocked by this. Peter warns us: "In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing ..." "The last days" is a technical phrase in the Bible. It is a technical phrase that stands for the whole time between the first Christmas and the return of Christ; it is a technical phrase that stands for the whole time between the two coming of Jesus.

So in the last days -- today, in other words -- there will be scoffers scoffing. In America today, most seminaries, professors, students, and pastors are scoffers. They follow the writings of liberal theologians like Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, Adolf Von Harnack, and C.H. Dodd. Do you know what these theologians all have in common? They all deny a literal Second Coming of Jesus. Peter calls them scoffers.

D Have we fallen for this heresy? Most of you, I am sure, would say you continue to hold to the words of the Apostles' Creed that Jesus "will come to judge the living and the dead." But now let me ask, if we haven't fallen for this heresy, how come the return of Christ plays no role in our lives and thoughts and prayers? Going back to the opening of this sermon, how many of us hope and pray that Christ will return in 2021?

Do you realize that in the early church, they believed Jesus was coming back very soon? For instance, when the disciples met with Jesus at His ascension, they asked, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). They thought, they hoped, it was going to happen right then and there. Or, the words of Paul to the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NIV84) — 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Hear that? Paul expected himself and some of his audience to still be alive when Jesus comes. They expected Jesus to come back in their lifetime. Their hearts were filled with expectation, anticipation, suspense, even excitement about the Lord's return.

We, on the other hand, some two thousand years later, don't seem to think it will happen for a long time yet.

II The Arguments of the Scoffers
A Scoffers, whether they be long ago or recent, make three different arguments to support their scoffing.

Listen to the first argument of the scoffers according to Peter in verses 3 & 4:
2 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV84) — 3 First of all, you must understand that in the last day scoffers will come, scoffing ... 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”
Scoffers will come with their scoffing. Mockers will come with their mocking. Do you hear the scoffing, mocking, sarcasm, ridicule? "Where is this 'coming'?"

Scoffer and mockers love to use this approach even today. "You don't take the Bible literally, do you? Are you one of those right-wing, Bible thumping conservatives? Are you so old fashioned as to actually believe this?" Or, what someone said to me once: "I can't believe someone as smart as you actually believes this." Ouch. Argument by ridicule.

Peter's response? "Understand that in the last day scoffers will come, scoffing ..." Dear people, know this is what scoffers do. They will mock your faith, your belief, in the return of Christ.

B That brings us to the second argument. It is not an argument that the scoffers make. It is an argument that Peter makes for them.
2 Peter 3:3 (NIV84) — 3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing [AND WHAT?] and following their own evil desires.
"Following" is another word for walking or living. The mockers make fun of the Day of the Lord, they deny the return and judgment, because they want to follow their evil thoughts. They want to follow their passions and sexual desires.

We already met these scoffers back in chapter 2. There, Peter says they "follow their shameful ways" (2 Pet 2:2) and "the corrupt desire of the sinful nature" (2 Pet 2:10). "They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures (2 Pet 2:13). "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable" (2 Pet 2:14). They appeal "to the lustful desires of sinful human nature" (2 Pet 2:18).

Why do they mock and deny the Second Coming? It is obvious, isn't it?! They don't want to be punished for their sin. They don't want to be held accountable. They want to sin without any consequences. That is only possible if there is no Judgment Day, no Second Coming, no Day of the Lord.

If you believe in the Second Coming, if you believe the Lord is coming back to judge the living and the dead, if you believe some day you will be asked to account for every thought and word and deed, what will you do? Verse 14:
2 Peter 3:14 (NIV84) — 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Whoever hopes for Christ's return, lives a pure and holy life. That's the bottom line. If you want to live a life of sin you have to deny that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.

C The third argument: "Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (2 Pet 3:4).

Who are the fathers? The fathers are the Old Testament patriarchs. So what are the scoffers saying? They are saying nothing has changed since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Same old thing. Same old thing. Same old thing. There is no change. There is no judgment. Everything goes on today exactly the same way as it has gone on in the past.

Do you know what the mockers and scoffers are doing? They are revising history. They are conveniently ignoring what the Bible teaches. If things never change, then God did not create the heavens and the earth out of nothing in the beginning. If things never change, then the Flood and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has to be denied. If things never change, then the drowning of the Egyptians at the Red Sea did not happen, nor did the walls of Jericho fall down. If things never change, then the sun never stood still for Joshua and the sundial did not go backwards for Hezekiah.

What is going to happen in 2021? We have many hopes and many prayers for the coming year. Do any of them include the return of the Lord? Do you hold to the damning heresy of the scoffers and mockers or do you cling to wholesome thinking?
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