2019 08 04 PM How Creation Facts Fuel Christian Faith 2 Peter 3 by Andre Holtslag

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

We heard this morning that one of the things that the Lord’s Supper does is that it “revives in us the hope of [Jesus’] return.”  And this is because “since He commanded us to do this until He comes, the Lord assures us that He will come again to take us to Himself.”

   Well, believers have been partaking of the Lord’s Supper for around 2000 years now, but the Lord still has not returned.

   And I have to confess that while I truly believe that Jesus will come again, I don’t think about it much and when I go to bed at night, I kind of expect that the sun will rise in the morning and life will go on.  Is it the same with you?  

Well, the idea that life will go on as it always has and that Jesus is not coming back was being thrown in the faces of the believers that Peter wrote this letter to.  Indeed, it is a problem that believers will always face because the “last days” referred to in v3 includes the whole time between Christ’s first coming and His Second Coming.  So there will always be those who scoff at or mock the prediction of Christ’s Second Coming.  

  • So the aim of Peter’s letter, as we see in vv1-2, was to stir up the sincere minds of believers by reminding them about the predictions of the prophets and the commandments of Christ through the Apostles.  And the particular prediction in view is the promise that Jesus will come again to judge the world and bring in the new heavens and the new earth. 
  • And he is doing this, as we see in vv3-4, because of the scoffers that we have already talked about.
  • And that brings us to vv5-18 where we see that creation facts fuel Christian faith.  And this is so because Peter’s appeal to history, in vv5-6, forms the basis for what he says about the certainty of the future and the implications for today in vv7-18.  And they will be our three points.

And I am preaching this sermon because our confession article is about the doctrine of creation.  And while the most obvious thing to do would be to turn to Genesis and consider how it sets before us an account of how God created all things in the space of six, ordinary days, I thought it would be helpful for us to see how another part of the Bible (and there are many I could have chosen) accept the historical account of creation that we find in Genesis.  And the particular benefit of this passage 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 interpreted as just a poem or a myth.  But if that is done, then the certainty of the future event can be called into question also.  So this sermon will be about the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible.  But it will also be about what all this means for Christian living today, as we await and prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus. 

  1. So let’s begin with Peter’s appeal to history in vv5-6.
  1. As we have already noted, scoffers were questioning or denying the Second Coming of Christ.  And because of what Peter goes on to say in this chapter, their thinking seemed to be: If Jesus ain’t coming back, then we might as well party!  If Judgment Day isn’t coming then why bother with holy living? 
  • Now, it is helpful to remember that the church of that time did not have the complete NT that we have.  We see in v1 that they had this and the first letter of Peter, and from vv15&16, that they had at least some of the letters of Paul, but they still did not have the complete NT that we have.  And that is why Peter makes his point from the OT.  For the scoffers were clearly familiar with the OT because what they were saying was “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  And that is Genesis 1 language.  So what Peter does is to take the mention of “the beginning of creation” as a cue to expose the error and the foolishness of these scoffers.  
    • And he does this by reminding his readers of the biblical accounts of creation and the world-wide flood.  And he does this to demonstrate that the authority and trustworthiness of the Apostles, which basically adds up the NT, is the same authority and trustworthiness of the OT Scriptures.  So just as the OT Scriptures describe creation, and it happened, and just as the OT Scriptures record God’s promise to destroy the world with a flood, and it happened, so the return of Jesus and everything that goes with it, as promised by Jesus through the Apostles, will certainly happen. 
    • So let’s look for a moment at what Peter 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 those few brief words Peter is restating the simplicity of the account of creation that we find in Genesis 1.  Genesis 1 tells us that “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.”  So the earth was initially a watery mass as Peter says.  And then “God said let there be light, and there was light.”  And then on the second day, God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters … and God called the expanse heaven.”  So you had the watery earth and then the sky or the atmosphere above or the heavens.  And then on the third day, God gathered the waters under the heavens into one place so that dry land appeared.  And He called the dry land earth and the waters He called seas.  And God did all this simply by His word of command.  We read about this in Psalm 33 where it says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made … He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”  So Peter believed that what Genesis 1 records is exactly what happened – in six days, God created all things by His word.
      • And that means that as these scoffers referred to “the beginning of creation,” they were deliberately ignoring the fact that the creation account means that Scripture tells us the truth and is trustworthy.
    • And it is the same with the worldwide flood of Noah’s day.  Having just spoken about water and the word of God in creation, Peter says in v6, “And that by means of these (water and the word of God) the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” 
      • Genesis 7 tells us that by the command of the Lord it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.  “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 6 meters.  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.” 
      • So Peter accepts the historical account of a world-wide flood in Genesis.  Again, what the Scriptures tell us is the truth and it is trustworthy.  
    • And what is particularly relevant in terms of the promise about the Second Coming of Jesus is that God told Noah that He was going to destroy the world with a flood, but it was around 70 years later that the flood came.  And it is not difficult to understand how the people of that time saw Noah building the ark and they heard him warn them that the flood was coming but the sun rose and the sun set and the years kept rolling by, so they just scoffed at his warnings.  But that promised Day of Judgment did come.
  • Now, we will soon turn our attention to what this means for the future and for today, but what we have seen thus far is that Peter accepted the Bible’s accounts of a six day creation and a world-wide flood.  And this is so because even though Peter was not there to see these events with his own eyes, he believed in the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture.  How about you?  Since the 1800s and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, the world and a large portion of the church has decided that the six day creation of all things and a world-wide flood cannot be true; they must be poem or myth.  So it really comes down to this: Is Thus says the Lord sufficient for you?  You might not have an answer for every apparent conflict between science and the Bible, but at the end of the day, do you rest in the truth and trustworthiness of the word of God?  The Apostle did! 
  1. Well, let’s continue on to see how Peter’s appeal to history forms the basis for what he says about the certainty of the future in vv7-18, our second point. 
  1. So Peter begins v7 with “by the same word…”  That means that the authority of the prophets who wrote the OT is the same authority given to the Apostles who write the NT.  Therefore, you can be certain, because of this same authority and trustworthiness, that “the heavens and the earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  So, just as the world was once punished and renewed by the flood, it is for certain that a greater punishment and renewal will come, at the end of time, by fire.
    1. And in terms of what this will involve, we see in v10b 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.”  Verse 12 says, “The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”  It is a pretty vivid description, isn’t it!  Can you picture it in your minds? 
      1. For the last 50 years or so, two words have sent shivers down the spines of many people – nuclear holocaust.  We know from movies and books and newspaper articles that we are one button press away from nuclear holocaust.  Mushroom clouds, blast zones, radiation; it’s horrific to think about. 
      1. But we are talking about one or many nuclear explosions on a tiny planet in one solar system in one galaxy in a universe that has billions of galaxies!  And when Jesus comes again, all the elements of this whole, vast universe are going to be burned up and dissolved by fire. 
      1. We regularly pray that there might be godly politicians who can stem the flow of evil in this land and that there might be revival and reformation around the world.  But the fact is that what it will take to rid this world of the effects of sin is the whole universe being burnt to a crisp! 
      1. And if the whole universe is going to be dissolved and purified by fire, then we better understand that there will be nowhere for anyone to hide.  Everything that every person has done will be laid open and on full view for God to judge. 
    1. Congregation, this is a terrifying picture.  But we need to know and believe that just as the earth was purified and renewed through the world-wide flood, so the whole universe will be purified and renewed through the fire of Judgment Day.
  • But on the other side of that day is what v13 describes: For God’s promise is that there shall be a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  Wow!  What a wonderful promise!  I cannot wait to experience that!  How about you?  Does this promise fill you with eager expectation? 
  • And just in case we make the mistake of thinking that God seems to be very slow to fulfill this promise, look again at vv8-9 where this ‘apparent slowness’ is rejected. 
    • Verse 8 first of all reminds us that our time is not God’s time.  We might think that 2000 years is a long time, but to the eternal God it is a moment.  It’s a little bit like how when you are young you think that 50 is really old, but when you are nearly fifty, like I am, you still think about yourself as senior youth J  It’s all about perspective!  2000 years is nothing for God!
    • But Peter also reminds us about the character of God. 
      • In Exodus 34 we read about the time that God revealed Himself to Moses.  It says, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””  Did you catch that?  Yes, God will not clear the guilty, because He is holy and just, but He is also merciful and gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness and keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.  And I for one am so very thankful that this is who God is.  I need desperately need His patience and grace and slow to anger-ness.  Don’t we all?
      • And that is why Peter says, “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.”  And while we could pause here and spend an hour on why many Christians use this verse to argue against the doctrine of election because God wants all to reach repentance, note that Peter says that God is “patient toward you.”  And “you” is those Peter wrote this letter to.  And the letter begins by telling us that Peter wrote to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with [the Apostles].”  In other words, all believers.  The Day of Judgment will only come once all those that God has chosen to salvation in Christ have come to repentance and faith, and not a day before!
  1. Well, that brings us thirdly and lastly to the implications for today that are spelled out in these verses.  For it is very clear in this passage that the promise of judgment and new creation in the future must affect the way that believers live today.
  1. And we see this in one of those NT words that always ought to capture our attention; it is verse 14’s “Therefore.”  Whenever you come across the word “therefore” in the NT, you are about to read the implications of what has just been said.  So, in light of the fact that the fire of judgment and renewal is coming, “therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” 
    1. Does that describe you, brothers and sisters, young people, and boys and girls?  Are you waiting for the return of Jesus?  And does this reveal itself in your diligence to be found without spot or blemish, and at peace?  It is basically the same message as the end of v10 and v11, Since the works done on earth, meaning all of our thoughts, words, and behaviour, will be exposed on Judgment Day, and “since all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”?
    1. Boys and girls, imagine that you have been a bit naughty in the morning and Mum sits you down and says that when Dad comes home she is going to give him a report about your behaviour through the day.  Do you think that will affect how you behave in the afternoon?  It should do.  I am sure you will try and be extra good in the afternoon so that the report to Dad includes a lot of good.
    1. Well, we certainly have every reason to not lose our temper and to avoid hatred and to not be lazy and to not give in to sexual temptation and to love our neighbour and to obey the speed limits out of gratitude to God for our salvation in Christ.   But this chapter is giving us another reason for holy living – Jesus is coming and all your evil deeds will be exposed on Judgment Day. 
    1. Now, this is not said to put your salvation in doubt.  We are saved by grace alone.  Christ will claim us as His own; He will tell the Father that He died to cover all our sins.  But v10 is telling us that what we have done will be exposed or laid bare before God.  And this ought to motivate us to work on our temper and our desires and our lack of self control and our lack of gentleness and love and forgiveness, etc.  Simply put, even though all that we have done will be covered by Christ, we should want the list of our sins that will are read out to be as short as possible.
  • Well, as we draw to a close, look again at v12 where we see that we are to be waiting or and hastening the coming of the day of God.”  Isn’t that striking?!  God is sovereign and unchangeable and all things happen according to His plan.  But to hasten is to speed up.  When parents tell their children that the sooner they tidy the lounge up and put the toys away, the sooner we will go to the park, they are calling on their children to hasten the time of departure or to make the time that they leave come as soon as possible.  So what we are being told here is that every one of your acts of devotion to Christ and every choice you make to do what is God-honouring and every time you tell others about salvation in Jesus Christ, you hasten or speed the day of Christ’s return!  It’s incredible! 

Well, brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, I trust you can 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 perhaps we can ignore what the Bible says about Judgment Day and then there is really no need for us to be too concerned about holy living.  But Jesus will return and there will be Judgment Day, thus says the Lord.  So may each one of us “be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”  Amen.