How then should we live? Study 6 (2 Peter 3:11-18)
The Day of the Lord will come as surely as the sun will rise. Everything on this earth including every institution and government that man has established will be shaken and demolished by the power of the living word coming out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes again! On that day the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man shall hide in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. In that day they will call to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand!” Everything that the Lord has not established will be shaken and burned up. All of the glory and the splendour of man will melt in the fervent heat. In the light of these catastrophic events soon to overtake this crooked and perverse generation how should we live? What kind of lifestyle should we be living as believers? In the New Testament most of the admonitions to live holy lives are given in the light of the Second Coming of Christ.
(Vs 11) “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?”
It is obvious that the Lord expects us to be living in such a way that it would be unjust of Him not to take us at the rapture and resurrection of the faithful Church. He plainly tells us what kind of people we should be and how we should be speaking and acting in this fallen world.
“You ought to live holy and godly lives…”
Holiness has to do with the thoughts and intents of our hearts. They must be pure and upright before Him. In His first letter Peter tells us, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
The world is constantly trying to squeeze us into its mould. Everyday we are faced with the temptation to live for ourselves and to satisfy our own carnal and natural appetites. If we would be holy as God Himself is holy then this means that we must purge ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. It means that we must learn to say no to temptation! God has given us the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to resist and to overcome everything the devil sends our way. We always have a choice!
As the scripture says, “For the grace (undeserved favour and strength) of God that brings salvation had appeared to all men (in the person of Jesus Christ) It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us to redeem us from (and not in) all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).
The indestructible life of the Lord Jesus Christ lives in every one of us who has been born again and made new creations in Him. We have a choice not to sin. Before we were born again we had no choice because by nature and birth we were sinners and could not help sinning. John tells us in his letter that whoever is born of God does not continue in sin and wickedness. Unless there is a deep change in our hearts through the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ we will never see God. As the scripture says, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord!”
There is a lot of preaching in churches now about strategies for evangelism, Alpha courses, about gifts, prosperity, being happy and enjoying our lives down here in this life but very few are preaching about holiness and righteousness and the coming wrath upon this crooked and perverse generation. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify us to be used by Him to do what is good by the standards of God Himself. Through His Holy Spirit we have been given the power to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires that are at war with the Spirit in us.
Today the media is bombarding us with images and lifestyles that pander to the fleshly desires and appetites of our fallen human nature. The mindless pastimes of Ancient Rome with its endless pleasures and pursuits after fame, wealth, success and beauty are rampant in our contemporary society and culture today.
Walk down any mall in a shopping centre and see the advertisements and posters bombarding our senses and appealing to the lusts of our flesh with its seductive advertising. See millions of people around the world conforming to the lifestyles and attitudes coming through the television, movies, and magazines and through DVD’S. See young people slaves to violent video games and people mad about sports. See the rapid rise of interfaith and ecumenism on a global scale! The ways of Ancient Rome are with us again!
The believers in Peter’s time were facing the same kinds of things we face today. If it was important for them to live holy lives what kind of lives should we be living today! They could shut the system of the world out of their houses at least but today through the television and especially through the internet the world is coming into our homes programming us to follow its appetites, desires and ambitions! Holiness of heart and soul will bring about godly living. Holiness of heart and godliness of lifestyle are two sides of the same coin. The root is holiness and the branch that springs from it is Godliness!
The Lord Jesus Christ living within us is all we need to live holy and Godly lives in this present evil age. If we are holy then it is His Holiness dwelling in us. If we are Godly then it is His Godliness in us giving us the power to live in the way that pleases God our Heavenly Father! God has given us all we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge or inner experience of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the object of our faith and obedience! He is everything we need! He is all we will ever need to make us fit for heaven. The scripture says, “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We can never boast in ourselves but we can boast about Him and what He has done for our souls! Peter continues…
(Vs 12) “…as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire and the elements will melt in the heat.”
As in other parts of the scriptures the incentive for holy and godly living is always in anticipation of the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The reality is if we want to be taken out of this mess down here then we need to make ourselves ready for his coming. We can be wise virgins or foolish ones! Not only that but we can speed His coming? We can do this by preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed as a witness to all nations and then the end shall come!” In eternity the Lord knows when this work will be done but in our time frame the Lord Jesus cannot come back until the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in every nation in the world.
In a very real sense He is waiting on us to fulfil the Great Commission to the nations. In eternity it is fixed but down here in time it is variable. It is not that we are waiting on the Lord to come as much as it is that He is waiting on us to be ready for Him when He comes. Multitudes are still without Christ today! He is not willing that any should perish! The door to the ark of salvation is still open! However, the day will come and is rapidly approaching when God himself will seal the door of salvation shut and after that the wrath will come! As scripture says; “Flee from the wrath to come!” and again it says; “Flee from Babylon!”
Paul the apostle said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” Today most of what people call gospel preaching is not the gospel at all but in fact another gospel. This we have dealt with in other studies on this website. However in the light of what Peter is telling us we need to be on active duty telling people not only to repent and to believe on Him who shed His blood for them but to save themselves from this crooked and perverse generation and to flee from the wrath to come! The New Testament knows nothing of so called “seeker sensitive” services! Or “Alpha courses” or “Purpose Driven” marketing strategies for church growth! Most Gospel preaching today obscures the weightier matters of the law such as the cross, righteousness and holiness and the coming judgments of God. Notice that Peter tells us that the very elements themselves “will melt in the fervent heat”.
Now Peter was a first century fisherman who knew nothing about splitting the atom to create a nuclear explosion yet the word he uses for “elements” is the word we use today for splitting the atom. When he says, “the elements will be destroyed by fire” or that they “will melt in the fervent heat” he is describing something like a huge nuclear explosion that will devastate the earth at His Second Coming!
Tragically there are many today in the Church telling us that the Church is going to take Kingdom dominion over the nations of this world and present them to Jesus at His coming. These people who are promoting this concept are plainly ignoring the Word of God. In fact Satan is using them to set God’s people up for the persecution of the Antichrist. When the Antichrist starts to persecute the Church many who have been taught the Kingdom now and dominion theology and faith prosperity doctrines will fall away in wholesale lots. Why? Because they were told that there would be no Antichrist or global persecution of Christians and that God wanted them to be rich and successful in this world. In one foul swoop the dragon (Satan working through the Antichrist) will sweep a third of the stars (professing Christians) out of the sky and fling them to the earth. The apostasy of the Church will bring the Antichrist to power and a third of the professing Christian Church will turn away from their faith to follow him. “Dear heavenly Father have mercy on us all! If the righteous are scarcely saved where will the sinners and the ungodly appear?”
We can be like Abraham who dwelt in tents and was a stranger in this world who looked forward to the city whose foundation and builder is God. Or we can be like Lot who though righteous had to be dragged out of Sodom before it was completely destroyed by fire. The only reason God had mercy upon him was because “the compassion of the Lord was upon Lot.” Really it was for Abraham’s sake that Lot was rescued and it will be for Jesus sake alone that we will be rescued from the wrath of God. Just before Jesus returns things will be so bad that it will be a miracle if any of us make it out of here. The one redeeming feature about Lot was that he remained righteous in his heart yet he had no testimony in the world because he was living just like everyone else was living. When the Lord Jesus returns He will only take those who have been longing for His appearing and have been keeping themselves unspotted from the world.
Remember Lot’s wife. She was also escaping with her life but she looked back and was consumed by the flames. Her heart was really in this world. Maybe she began to remember the fashion boutiques in Sodom and the parties and lifestyle she enjoyed in that city. Maybe she missed the social life, after all she was Lot’s wife and he was a prominent man in that city. May be she had investments, jewellery, money, fame and fortune and she could not bear the thought of leaving it all behind! Her heart was attached to this world and to the things of this world and in the end she perished in the flames! She was not living a holy and godly life in this world. So then all of us who take the Lord’s name on our lips must depart from iniquity and wickedness if we would escape the flaming vengeance that will consume the adversaries of God.
Rome would ultimately burn and it did when the Visigoths sacked Rome a few centuries later. Every ancient civilization was eventually destroyed. You name them, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome they all perished along with their pomp and splendour and so will the kingdom of the Antichrist be destroyed and this world burn in the fervent heat of God’s judgment. “Babylon the Great” will be overthrown at the glorious appearing of our Great God and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ! Even so come Lord Jesus! Now Peter continues…
(Vs 13) “But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
In this uncertain and unstable world we have hope as believers. Biblical hope is not “I hope so” but a radiant certainty that what God has said in His Word will surely come to pass. (Hebrews 11:1) Our home is not in this world but we are strangers and aliens here. If we live for the Lord Jesus and His Word then the world will hate us. Not only that but many false brethren will also hate us and betray us in the end. Where is our hope? Are we longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling or do we still have attachments to this world? If we are living holy and Godly lives then we will be looking for the new heaven and earth the home of righteousness.
Only those who have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in Him will be able to enter God’s eternal city. As the scripture says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:14-15).
(Vs 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.”
The faithful Christians in Peter’s time were facing persecution and hostility from false brethren and from the secular power under the mad emperor Nero. Persecution was already happening but it would escalate. Being a Christian was a capital offence throughout the entire Roman Empire just like it will be during the reign of the Antichrist of whom Nero was a type.
The one thing Peter was saying to faithful believers was not to hope in this world but to look for the world to come. If we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ then we have a blessed hope. We will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air when He comes for us! According to what Peter tells us we have to make every effort not to fall short of the grace of God. But how do we do this? Well Peter tells us. “We must make every effort to be found spotless” i.e., remain free from the pollution of sin. To be “blameless” is to be living lives that are holy and Godly and to be “at peace with Him.”
If we are living according to the standards of the New Testament then we will not only be at peace with God but also have the peace of God even if we are facing tests, trials and persecutions. God’s peace, “shalom” is not the kind of peace the world gives. We can be in the biggest conflict of our lives and yet have the peace of God that passes all human understanding. In the days ahead the faithful Church globally will experience in its last days what the Lord Jesus experienced in His last days. Yet even in persecution we can have our hope set on the world that is to come. Paul said, “We fix our eyes, not on what is seen but what is unseen, because what is seen is perishable (temporal and changeable) but what is unseen is eternal (It never changes).”
(Vs 15-17) “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Peter has already mentioned that the reason God delays judgment is to give people time to repent and to return to their creator and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul the Apostle also recognized this fact when he said, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” However there will come a time when God’s kindness will end and because of the stubbornness and unrepentant condition of people’s hearts the axe of judgment will fall. There is a day fixed (in heaven) when God will judge the world by the man He has appointed Christ Jesus our Lord! Peter also recognizes the fact that Paul in all his letters wrote about the same things that Peter himself was writing about. Like Peter Paul also wrote about the last days, persecution and suffering for Christ, false prophets and teachers and the Second Coming of Christ and our blessed hope of the resurrection!
Peter also acknowledges the fact that Paul wrote about some things that were hard to understand. Even the great apostle did not understand everything that was written in God’s Word. All of us are the same way. There are things that are absolutely clear to us from scripture that cannot be interpreted in any other way other than what the plain text says, but there are other things the apostles write that are hard to understand.
For example there are truths about election and free will that we do not fully comprehend. There are things about the prophecy that are still being revealed to us. There are the revealed things that God shows us that we can pass on to our children but there are the secret things that God in His wisdom chooses to retain at His will. Even in Peter’s time there were people who distorted God’s Word claiming to be knowledgeable when in fact they were ignorant. The word “distort” in the Greek means, “to put to the rack” “to torture” “to overstretch and dislocate limbs.”
Today there is no shortage in the Church of these kinds of people who are distorting the Word of God especially among the Kingdom Now and hyper-faith people and the hyper- Charismatics. Peter says that there are two kinds of people that do this. Firstly, there are those who are ignorant of the fundamental and basic truths of scripture and secondly, the unstable who are usually young converts who because of their inexperience in spiritual matters and because of their limited understanding of God’s Word are easily led astray by those who should know better. In fact usually both the ignorant and unstable are in some way emotionally unbalanced. Unfortunately there are many so called “prophets” and “teachers” who are saying and doing crazy things because they have some kind of disposition to being led by their feelings and emotions or moved by their own so called “dreams” and “revelations.” Because they have so called “superior spiritual experiences” they think that they can go beyond what the scriptures teach. In fact they use scriptures out of context. They forget that Paul himself said that “we must no go beyond what is written” and that the Lord Himself says in the Old Testament that we must not add to or take away from His Words.
Those who go down this track will eventually go to their own destruction. In the end they will make shipwreck of their faith and sadly take many others with them. As we have mentioned before in other studies on this website we need the spirit of the Bereans, “who examined the scriptures everyday to see whether what Paul said was true.” God’s Word must test everything. Quite frankly if anyone comes with any doctrine or teaching that cannot be supported in context from God’s Word then it is to be rejected!
(Vs 17) “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”
Peter knew that the believers he was writing to already knew the truth however he wanted them to have it in writing because he also knew that his martyrdom was imminent. His main concern was that they would stay alert, stay awake and be on their guard and not to be carried away by the seductive and mesmerizing doctrines of lawless teachers. God calls all false teachers and prophets lawless men. We must always be doubly watchful especially when we are in a position of strength. It is at such times we will be most vulnerable to the attacks of Satan and from those who would lead us astray from our secure position in Christ.
There is a story in the Old Testament of a man of God who rebuked king Jeroboam and prophesied against the stone alter being used for pagan sacrifices. God told this prophet not to go back the way he had come but to go another way, neither was he to eat and drink anything in that place. He started out on his journey going back by another way and after some time rested under the shelter of a great oak tree. At this point he was in a position of strength having just prophesied God’s Word to a king!
However, there was a false prophet who came to the man of God sitting under the oak tree. This false prophet was able to deceive the man of God by saying that the Lord had also spoken to him as well consequently he invited the man of God back to his house to eat. The man of God was drawn away from under the oak tree to go to the house of the false prophet to eat and drink. The oak tree speaks of a place of strength and refuge. The man of God was walking in the way that God wanted him to walk when he was led astray by the flattering lies of this false prophet. The end result was that the man of God fell from his secure position and was killed by a lion for his disobedience. He ended up being buried in the grave that the old false prophet would be buried in when he eventually died.
We must always be alert and on guard against the false and seductive teaching of enchanters and deceivers masquerading as ministers of righteousness who are in reality ministers of Satan! If we are led astray by these kinds of false teachers then when their judgment comes we too will also be judged!
A lion killed the man of God who allowed himself to be led astray by the false prophet. The amazing fact is that the lion did not maul him or eat him. Why? This lion represented the true “Lion of Judah” the Lord Jesus Christ. The lesson is for all of us is this, that if we allow ourselves to be led astray by false teachers and follow their path we will end up sharing their judgment and ultimately at the Judgment seat of Christ we will have to deal with the Lord Jesus Christ “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” But there is always an alternative as Peter goes on to tell us.
(Vs 18) “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forevermore.”
Every moment of every day we need the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be growing in our personal relationship with Him through prayer and diligent study of God’s Word and through fellowship with other believers who call on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart, with a sincere faith and a clear conscience. Only in this way will we be able to stand against the flood tide of the immorality, self-indulgence and the materialistic lifestyle of this world. We are living in a culture that mirrors the culture and lifestyle of ancient Rome. Just think about our civilization especially here in the west.
Everyone today is pre occupied with the love of money, the love of self, and the love of pleasure. We live in a multicultural and interfaith society. Our society today is sexually perverted. People are preoccupied with violence for entertainment through virtual reality computer games. People’s minds are set on indulging their every sensual whim and desire. They are mad about sport and even have riots at soccer matches. They are obsessed today with physical beauty and this is reflected in the advertisements on television and the internet and in magazines and newspapers. Everywhere you look today the “current beast system” is programming us to become conformed to the spirit of this world namely the one who lives and works in the son’s of disobedience because the whole world lies in the power of the wicked one.
Before the Lord Jesus comes again the true Church, the Body of Christ is going to face its hour of crucifixion world-wide. What happened to the Lord Jesus in His last days will happen to His body, the faithful Church, in its last days. However, just as the Holy Spirit resurrected the Lord Jesus in power and glory so the same Holy Spirit will resurrect His body the faithful Church at His Second Coming.
If we are seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and are seeking only His will in all things then we will be able to stand when the Antichrist unleashes his persecution against the faithful Church. In the end the Lord Jesus Christ will receive all the glory, honour and praise and reign over this earth. All who have loved His appearing will also reign in life with Him forever and ever having overcome the world the flesh and the devil himself. Amen!