The return of the Lord Jesus is the blessed hope of the believer. Yet, the timing of the Lord’s return has been a difficult faith-stretching aspect of the Scriptures for me. The writers of the Bible were certain that it would be soon, yet here we are 2000 years later. Seeing the evil on the face of the earth, even terrorist attacks in our own community, I wonder why he hasn’t returned sooner, to judge sin and set up his peaceful reign on earth. The Apostle Peter reminds me that it is God’s patience and yearning for all to reach repentance that causes him to wait.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8–9 ESV).
When God eradicates evil, not only will the terrorist go down, but people who are trying to be good, but have missed that eternal life is in knowing and following Jesus Christ. The crazy thing is that God loves both equally. His compassion is what causes him to wait. God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) So what will bring about this turning to the Lord that he desires? And shouldn’t his desire be ours also?
The proclamation of the gospel through the witness of the church is what will cause people to “reach repentance.” That seems to be the intent of the last instructions Peter gives in his letter. He asks an important question, “… what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, …” (2 Peter 3:11–12 ESV)?
What sort of people ought we to be while we wait? Full of peace rather than fear. Full of grace rather than judgement. Full of righteousness and holiness (light) rather than sinfulness (darkness). Diligently working rather than lazy. Full of wisdom rather than foolishness. Making the most of our time rather than wasting time. Full of the Holy Spirit who enables all of the above. Living lives of holiness and godliness will hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for [the new heavens and new earth], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation,” (2 Peter 3:14–15 ESV).
What will make the church rise up, hastening the coming of our Lord? A comfortable church is not a reaching church. A church where Christ’s love is not being lived out is a poor witness. A church where the truth of God’s Word is not leading the way is powerless to bring about salvation. God uses his disciples to reach the world with his good news of Jesus Christ but too easily we lose that focus and would rather be served by the church than be the church serving the world. Perhaps God’s patience is toward us who believe as much as it is toward those who have yet to believe through our witness.
Let’s be the people that God has redeemed us to be, walking as children of light, growing in patience and compassion like our Lord who does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. After all, he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. While we wait with that message on our lips, let’s count the patience of the Lord as salvation, one soul at a time.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)
[I wrote down some of these thoughts after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino a year ago today, December 2, 2015. I’m praying this week for all who were directly impacted by this evil act of violence in our community and especially for those who lost loved ones.]