Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering something that is historical fact; Jesus really died and rose again, 2000 years ago.
And I wonder if it has ever struck you that the Christian faith calls attention to recorded, historical fact? Many religions, like Buddhism or Hinduism, do not. But we have a Book which gives us a record of what happened and how it happened and when it happened and who did it and to whom it was done and why it was done; God has given us a simple and trustworthy record of what He has done in history. God would have us know that our faith is based on recorded, historical facts.
And one of the reasons why this is so important is because of the future. You see, the Lord’s Supper also “revives in us the hope of [Jesus’] return. Because the Lord Jesus commanded us to share in the Lord’s Supper until He comes again, we may be certain that He will, one day, come again.” So the certainty of what happened in the past, which is based in this record of historical fact, gives us confidence about what is promised for the future.
And this is exactly what we see in the passage before us today as well. Peter is exhorting or instructing or urging believers to grow in godliness. And he does this by pointing his readers to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. But he connects what is going to happen with the historical facts of creation and the world-wide Flood.
Here in 2 Peter 3 then, THE APOSTLE DEMANDS PROGRESS IN FAITH BY HIGHLIGHTING CREATION/NEW CREATION FACTS. So two major headings this afternoon as we first of all consider THE CREATION/NEW CREATION FACTS and then THE IMPLICATIONS of the creation/new creation facts.
I. So first of all, the creation/new creation facts.
A. The believers Peter wrote to were being troubled by FALSE TEACHERS. These teachers minimized the person and work of the Lord Jesus and taught that there was nothing wrong with sexual immorality. And because years and even decades had passed by since the promise of Jesus to return to the earth in power, soon, they were teaching that it was a meaningless promise; He ‘aint coming back, so party on, was basically their theology. So now Peter has to address the key question of his letter: Was the promise of Jesus meaningless? Doesn’t soon mean soon? Were the false teachers right that the long delay in the fulfilment of this promise meant that the promise was meaningless? And of course, this question is even pointier today, isn’t it, some 2000 years later. If Jesus is not going to return as He promised or if His return could still be millennia away, then why should we bother with holy living?
B. Now, just remember that the believers Peter wrote to did not have the Bible that we have in our hands. They had the OT. And you can see from v1 that they had this one and at least one other letter from Peter, and from vv15&16, that they had some of the letters of Paul. But the OT and a letter or three from Peter and Paul is quite different than the complete Bible that you have in your hands. And so, these believers were being taught that sexual immorality is OK because we have Christian liberty now and laws like that were just part of the OT. And in terms of the teachings of Paul and/or Peter about the return of Jesus and Judgment Day, it becomes plain from v4 that the response of the false teachers was to dismiss the return of Jesus as a myth. To them, worrying about Jesus and Judgment Day was a nonsense, because “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
1. And this is a powerful thinking trap to fall into, people of God. Most of us here will have loved ones whose rejection of Jesus is at least in part because of this – The sun comes up, the sun goes down…
C. Well, that brings us to v5ff and the creation/new creation facts. What Peter does is to take their mention of “the beginning of creation” as a cue to expose their utterly foolish and stupid thinking.
Now let’s just pause here for a moment. Congregation, I am preaching this sermon in connection with the doctrine of creation. And the most obvious thing to do would have been to go to Genesis. There are so many evidences in the first few chapters of that book that demonstrate that Genesis 1 is a simple account of how God created all things in the space of six, ordinary days, not all that long ago. But what we are doing instead is taking note of how another part of the Bible (and there are many we could have chosen) accept the account of creation that we find in Genesis. The reason I have chosen this one in 2 Peter 3 is that creation is linked with the Flood and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. So two events from history are linked with an event of the future. And I am sure you will be aware that the two events from history are denied by many today or being stripped of their simplicity. But that then puts the certainty or the simplicity of the future event described here in jeopardy also. And that would have serious consequences, as we shall see.
D. So getting back to our text, Peter confronts the idea that the promised return of Jesus in power is meaningless by focusing the attention of his readers on the biblical accounts of creation and the world-wide flood. At the end of ch. 1, He has already explained why what he says, as an apostle, has the authority of Scripture. So here, in summary, he is saying, Because you know that those two events happened and how they happened and, in the case of the flood, why it happened, from Scripture, you can be certain, because I speak to you as an Apostle of Christ, that the return of Jesus and the great and terrible Day of Judgment and the new creation will certainly happen.
1. So let’s look for a moment at what he says about CREATION. In v5, we read, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God.” And with these few brief words Peter is restating the simplicity of the account of creation that we find in Genesis 1. Turn back there for a moment. We read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
a. The words “the deep” are how the Bible commonly refers to the oceans. And that together with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters reveals that at that point in time, the earth was a watery object.
b. From v6, we see that it was on the second day that God made an expanse between the waters, by saying, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters.” And so, He separated the waters under the expanse from the waters above the expanse. “And God called the expanse heaven.” And then on the third day, God gathered the waters under the heavens into one place so that dry land appeared. And God called the dry land earth and the waters He called seas.
c. So again, in as we return to 2 Peter 3:5, Peter is simply summarizing Genesis 1:1-10. Peter accepts the record of God forming “the earth out of water and through water by the word of God.”
d. And the words “BY THE WORD OF GOD,” are just as important as the mention of forming by water, because they acknowledge the fact that God created by speaking things into existence. He said, “Let there be…” and there was. This is why we read Psalm 33 earlier, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made … For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”
e. Peter accepts the account of creation, as we have it in Genesis, as historical fact.
2. And Peter also accepts THE ACCOUNT OF THE WORLDWIDE FLOOD that we have in Genesis as fact. For having noted the role of the waters and the word of God in the forming of the earth, Peter says in v6, “And that by means of these (the water and the word of God) the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.”
a. Genesis 7 tells us that by the command of the Lord, “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished– birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind … Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”
b. So Peter accepts the account of the world-wide flood that we have in Genesis as historical fact.
Now, we will return to the link between creation, the flood, and the new creation in a moment. But I want to say just a little bit more about the significance of Peter’s acceptance of the accounts of creation and the world-wide flood as historical fact. Do you see the importance of this book?! It was what the OT Jews had. It was what Peter had. It is an account of history given to us by a trustworthy God who wants to be known and believed in and loved and obeyed. Bulletin parable.
E. But let’s turn our attention next to the connection between the creation and world-wide flood facts, and the New Creation facts in vv7-13.
1. According to “the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles,” that Peter mentions in v2, we learn from v7 that “by the same word the heavens and the earth (by which is meant the created universe) that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Just as the world was once punished by the flood, so a greater punishment and renewal shall come, at the end of time, by fire.
2. From v10b, we see that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies (or elements) will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
3. And from v12, “The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
4. And finally, in v13, there shall be a “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
5. Can you picture what is described here? I am really struggling to do so! Creation – its in the Bible! World-wide flood – it’s in the Bible! Terrifying! Haiti. As the rain started and floods rose!!!
6. Since about the 1950s, two words have sent cold shivers down the spines of many people – NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST. Movies, books, newspaper articles, the Cold War, Iran, and now North Korea; from all this we learn that we are one button press away from nuclear holocaust. Mushroom clouds, blast zones, radiation; it’s awful to think about. And I don’t mean in any way to minimize the reality of nuclear bombs and their devastating effects, but we are talking at worst about several or many nuclear explosions on a tiny planet in one solar system of many millions, in one galaxy of many billions… But when Jesus comes again, all the elements of this whole, vast universe are going to be burned up and dissolved by fire. We pray for reformation in the church and revival in society, and rightly so. We pray that there might be godly politicians who can stem the flow of evil and immoral legislation. But do you know what it will take to rid this world of the effects of sin? The whole universe being burnt to a crisp. And if the whole universe is going to be dissolved through fire, then we better understand that there will be nowhere for anyone and whatever they have done to hide. Everything God has made and done, and everything that mankind has made and done, will be laid open and on full view to Him, for judgment.
a. Just this past week, the All-Black, Aaron Smith’s, sexual immorality was played out on our news screens, causing him a great deal of shame and embarrassment. Well for the sake of illustration, there is going to be some sort of cosmic HD screen on which are replayed everyone of our thoughts and words and actions.
7. Congregation, this is a terrifying picture. And it is meant to be terrifying. It is so difficult for us to grasp what this might look like. But creation in six days and a worldwide flood are also difficult for us to grasp – but they happened! They are recorded, historical facts! And this too will happen.
II. Well, that brings us lastly and briefly to THE IMPLICATIONS of these creation/new creation facts.
A. And the first is, as is spelled out in v9, that the ‘delay’ in Jesus’ return should not lead us to doubt the promise of Jesus but instead to acknowledge and give thanks for the PATIENCE of the Lord. And so, as we see in v15, we should “count the patience of the Lord as salvation.” If the Lord had not ‘delayed’ His return, the believers of Peter’s day, and the believers since then, and you and me today, would not know salvation in Christ and the joy of eternal life with Him. So even as we pray for the Lord Jesus to come quickly, we may thank Him for His patience towards us and many others.
B. But the second implication has to do with our progress in the Christian faith. For if you look at v14, you see one of those NT THEREFORES. Because Jesus will return to judge all people, and because there will be a new creation where righteousness dwells, “Therefore, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
1. So let me ask you this question, according to this verse, what is it that makes someone “diligent to be found by Him without spot and blemish, and at peace?” It is if he or she is “waiting for these,” isn’t it. If you live expecting the return of Jesus, Judgment, and the new creation, then you will be eager to live a godly life. V11 makes a the same point, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”? In fact, as Peter goes on to say in v12, lives of holiness and godliness are lives that wait “for and hasten the coming of the day of God”! Every act of devotion to Christ and every choice to do what is God-honouring and every time we proclaim the good news of eternal life in Christ, we hasten or speed the day of Christ’s return!
2. And just in case you are in any doubt about what holiness and godliness looks like, Peter has already described this in 1:5-7, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
3. If you are truly waiting for the return of Jesus, you will be diligently seeking to grow in these qualities. Listen to how v8 continues, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
a. Are these qualities INCREASING in you? Is there more virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love in you than there was when you last sat around this table, or last year?
b. Are you PRACTICING these qualities? Gym/sports/career…
c. People of God, we cannot, we must not partake of the Lord’s Supper if we are not serious about growing in godliness. If the Lord Jesus willingly took our sins on Himself and endured the wrath of God against them, and if He is coming again to Judge everyone, then we better hate our sin and be eager to live lives of increasing holiness and godliness.
Well, I trust you see the importance of the doctrine of creation. It is a historical fact that is connected in these verses with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. And if it is undermined in any way, then it makes the facts we are given about the return of Jesus that much easier to explain away or ignore. And that would be awful because Peter ties our progress in faith to our expectation of Jesus’ return in power.
This chapter closes with these words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” May it be that we have done that this afternoon. So “to [our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ] be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”