He will come again
Andrew Sveda | Tuesday, March 7, 2023
“Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV). The hope and anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming, the judgment, and the resurrection are central to the Christian faith and life. Indeed, this eager expectation is the chief part of the “helmet of the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It should not surprise us, then, that Satan should seek to foment doubts and anxieties about these promises and truths.
The verse quoted is an example of such an attempt to deny Jesus’ return. It’s an objection we have all undoubtedly heard or felt. But it should, first of all, comfort us to remember that such scoffings are neither new nor surprising but were foretold long ago (2 Peter 3:2-4). They may make us feel uneasy, but God is not surprised by them. This reminds us that God is in control, that He has appointed and “fixed” the very day and hour of the End (Acts 17:31) and that He knows how people will react and what they will be saying in the intervening period. Everything is going according to plan, just as He said—ironically even the fact that scoffers will mock that it is not.
But what of the argument itself? It is quite faulty because the underlying assumption (“since nothing has changed, nothing will ever change”) is terribly wrong. As one preacher put it, one could say using the same logic, “I’ll never die. I never have.” History, too, has repeatedly shown us that we have no clue what will happen to us even in the coming days or hours. How many of us, for example, would have scoffed if we told ourselves even days before the COVID lockdown what we know now? The fact that you can’t imagine the Second Coming doesn’t change its truth any more than the fact that your previous inability to imagine what living in a pandemic would be like meant that covid would never be a problem. This calls for humility. Shall we—who do not know if we will even live the rest of this very hour—dispute with and scoff at the Author of history?
But how does Peter address the objection? He first points to the Flood, which refutes the scoffers’ claim of a changeless creation and provides a precedent for the coming destruction (cf. 2 Peter 2:3-10). The time between the Creation and the Flood likewise mirrors the way “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (3:7). The world need not see some massive change before the End takes place. Just as the means for the Flood was within creation itself, and set up by God “long ago” (3:5), so, too, are the means of the coming destruction prepared and ready, waiting for God’s command (3:7). God, “declaring the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), has already set the pieces in position. Thus, just as in “the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37), people will be doing ordinary things— “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” — “until” the very end (Matthew 24:38), and the Lord will come like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43-44). Not only, then, is the scoffers’ grounding for their argument (a changeless creation) disproven by the Flood, but, while the Bible gives us signs of and information about the End Times (e.g., Matthew 24:3-35, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, the Book of Revelation), we also should not expect, as the scoffers assume we should, to know the day or hour until it has come (Matthew 24:36,42,44). The last days, while quite unique and calamitous, will also be quite ordinary. It could even be today.
Peter provides a second response in the following verses, reminding his readers that God’s view of time and the perspective of eternity is quite different than our own. We often take this to mean that God is apathetic or uncaring, but the delay (in our eyes) instead flows from the mercy of God: “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 3:9). God waits because He is currently working to spread the gospel, to call people to repent and believe in Christ, and to gather all His elect. He delays so that He will save people. Rather than a reason to scoff at God, this should drive one to thank God for His forbearing mercy and to repent and believe the gospel at once, for He will not delay His wrath forever. Understanding God’s active plan in all of history to save “a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9), we can begin to wait for Him—though always saying, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)—with gratefulness and praise for what He is doing and accomplishing even now.
There are, of course, plenty of other things to say about Jesus’ Second Coming and the reasons we know it will come to pass, such as Christ’s resurrection, which ensures our own (1 Corinthians 15:20), our union with Christ (Colossians 3:3-4, John 14:3), and the Spirit’s indwelling, which “is the guarantee of our [believer’s] inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14). All of these things give the Christian hope and remind us that no matter how mundane this world may seem, Christ indeed is “coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). This truth rips open the ceiling and breaks down the door of our lives when we struggle to see God and to see Him in our lives. It calls to mind His sovereign plan, His active and supernatural working today, and what He will do in but a little while. It should drive us to praise God and to more “eagerly [wait] for” (Hebrews 9:28), long for and “[love] His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). “Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.