Our Focus for the Future

Our Focus for the Future

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

2nd Peter 3:10-18


Last week we addressed the idea of “Refocusing for the Future:” turning our eyes away from the turmoil and destruction of this world and focusing on the Word of God and the task we have been given, so that God can lift us above the trials, allowing us to serve Him undisturbed.

We touched last week on what the end times will include, and we encouraged everyone to read the book of Habakkuk and try to emulate Habakkuk’s response to the destruction of his culture and his nation. Some of you followed through and have read that book, and saw both the coming judgment and the God who lifts us above that judgment.

We saw that the bad news is simply that judgment is coming. But the good news is that Jesus saves! That is a simple enough message that anyone can preach it and anyone can understand it, and yet it is of sufficient depth and complexity to keep the most astute student of God’s Word busy digging, and thrilled with what he finds, for the rest of his life.

Virtually all “good news” in life is predicated on some pre-existing “bad news.” Last week we rejoiced to know that “Lisa,” the woman of whom it was said, it would take a miracle to save her life, who had been placed in a medically-induced coma and who was on a ventilator, was now off the ventilator and doing better. That was good news because it was a reversal of the bad news!

The good news, years ago, that Australia had perfected an antivenin which was effective for the bites of 85 different kinds of venomous snakes was predicated upon the bad news that Australia has 140 different kinds of venomous snakes!

The bad news in our lives originated in the Garden of Eden, thousands of years ago. We were all plunged into sin and destruction by the one bad decision of our progenitor, Adam. We all suffered the “snake-bite” of Satan there in the Garden. Jesus said in John 8:44 that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning.” Who did he kill? Us! So, as we were all “bitten” by that same venomous enemy, before the human race had begun to produce, and all have passed on that venom to our progeny, we need to look to the only “Antivenin”—the only cure for that poison in our systems. God’s only cure for the fatal disease called sin is the Blood of Jesus, shed at the Cross! Jesus is “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B!” And each sinner needs to receive it personally.

So, today we are going to continue by reiterating the “bad news” of the coming Judgment for sin, and then focusing on the Good News of the second coming of Christ and what we are supposed to be doing in the meantime.

Bad News

Beginning the Day of the Lord

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Rapture in clear terms, and is immediately succeeded by 1st Thessalonians 5:1, 2, which reiterates that the Day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night. And immediately thereafter, it begins describing the tribulation period, which, though it arrived without announcement, just as a thief, it is quite unlike a sneak thief in every other way. The whole point of being a “sneak thief” or a “cat-burglar” is to not be detected, except when the owners of the place wake up and find that something valuable is missing.

The Rapture is the portion of the “Day of the Lord” which “comes as a thief in the night,” and the World will indeed “wake up” to find that the Christians (the real ones) have all gone missing! But that may not bother them, depending on how they felt about Christians. It will certainly be a shock, but it may be frightening to some and elating to others.

The next verse, 1st Thessalonians 5:3, says that “when they shall say ‘peace and safety,’ then shall sudden destruction come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape.” When labor pains begin, childbirth is still ahead: so, what is being described here is the beginning of the tribulation. And it says everyone will be saying, “peace and safety.” There is a peace-treaty mentioned in Daniel 9:27, wherein the antichrist will make such a treaty and break it.. Matthew 24:15 confirms the idea, and finally, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3, 4 makes the Daniel prophecy clear: the antichrist will make a treaty with Israel which is to be a seven-year peace-treaty, during the first half of which, the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem: but he will break the treaty at the 3-1/2 year mark, and seat himself in the temple to be worshipped as God. For the last half century, the whole world has been yearning for a working peace-treaty in the Middle-East. It will come! They will rejoice! But it will only last 3-1/2 years, and culminate in the most terrible, worldwide destruction this world has ever seen.

Jesus described that tribulation in Matthew 24 and Mark 13…and in Matthew 25:31-46, He describes the second coming. He describes the judgment of the living nations saying that those who were saved will proceed into the Kingdom, (not Heaven! Heaven is still future.) (He discusses their works, but, as the rest of scripture assures us, their works showed their faith.) He declares that the unrighteous unbelievers will proceed (eventually) into everlasting fire.

But that Kingdom age is described in much detail: 1000 years long according to Revelation 20, and filled with Peace and righteousness, and the knowledge of the Lord, according to the Old Testament prophets. But it ends in violence, as did all the other ages, and this time, it is the end!

in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Revelation 20:11 describes the Great White Throne judgment: it says that all heaven and earth flee from the face of Him who sat upon the throne, and “There was found no place for them.” Why?  Evidently this is where the “Fervent heat and great noise” come into play, because in Revelation 21:1 says there was a New Heaven and New Earth “because the first earth was passed away.” And, between the passing of the first earth and the creation of the New Earth, was the judgment of the unrighteous dead of all time. They all had been cast into the lake of fire.

The End of the Day of the Lord

That is some pretty bad news we just read, except for the Good News that there is a New Heaven and a New Earth coming, and that we will be with Jesus while He judges the world, and that we are never to be condemned again. This is why John 5:24 is so precious, along with Romans 8:1. Jesus declared in John 5:24 that those who have placed their faith in Him will never be condemned by God, while Romans 8:1 reiterates that “There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

The condemnation of the unrighteous world will “pass over” the believers, who have trusted in the Blood of the Lamb of God. Does that sound familiar? I surely hope it does! The Passover was a picture, a prefiguring of this very promise: that the wrath of God will pass over the people of God, because He sees the blood of the covenant…Jesus’s Blood at the Cross…and offers no further judgment. As Jesus proclaimed from the Cross, “It is finished!

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

As we then consider the coming Judgment, the ultimate Bad News which will take the World by surprise, and finally end the Day of the Lord with the promised destruction and Judgment, we need to take seriously the last request of the Lord, that we are to reach the World with the Gospel; because it is His deep desire that people be saved. And the only “Ambassadors of His Grace” that He has appointed are His saints…the believers. You and me!

Consider a firefighting crew.

Several of the members of that crew may be fully trained medics. Several will have Commercial Driving Licenses (CDL) and whatever special training is needed to drive a fire truck. A couple of them may be trained mechanics, to keep the trucks in top shape. Some will be skilled managers, etc. But every single one of them is a firefighter! Their job is to fight fires. Their particular “assignment” or “task” within the firehouse may include anything from doing Public Relations work, to performing fire inspections, or just cleaning and inspecting their own fire-fighting apparatus. But their collective job is to fight fires!

You may have the task of teaching a Sunday school class, or doing bookwork, or helping with food distribution, or repairing a church building, or mentoring younger believers…but your Job is to Preach the Gospel. You are a chosen ambassador of Christ! Take that seriously! Don’t lose sight of who and what you are in Christ!

Finally: How should We respond?

13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

We are told that, since the coming Judgment is a sure thing, and that there will be millions of people lost, for lack of the Gospel, that we need to be doing what He said to do! That includes a holy lifestyle, and the constant walk with God. But it also includes being an Ambassador.

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

It is interesting to me that as Peter is telling us to get on with the job counting the longsuffering of God to be an open door for salvation to those willing to trust Him, that he also cites the Apostle Paul, who preached that very thing. In 1st Corinthians 15:34, Paul said “Awake to righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” The point? Evangelism is our job. If it isn’t happening, at least at some level, we should be ashamed of our nonfeasance of duty.

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

Peter warns us that we can be distracted and fall away into non-function, and unfruitful behavior.  What could be the contrast? (How should we act in order to not be led astray?)

18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The next verse answers that question: “Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And we know how to do that: 1st Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby!”

To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

And the result will be “Glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus…”, forever! Here again, Peter agrees with Paul. (Ephesians 3:21 “21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”)

Lord Jesus, we ask your forgiveness for failing to do the job you have called us to do, and we ask that you renew a right spirit within us, giving us a passion for the lost. Let us see the World as you see it, and offer the Love of God, as you have called us to so.