The Lord Is Not SlowSeries: An Eschatological Mix
THE LORD IS NOT SLOW
Sermon By Terry Siverd / October 10, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
Welcome to those joining us online - - we're grateful for your interest in the study of God's word.
My sermon title for this morning is, The Lord Is Not Slow - - a phrase borrowed from Second Peter chapter three. My intentions are to delve into 2Pet.3:10ff in an upcoming sermon, if not next week, sometime soon. But for this morning, I want us to explore the verses that precede - - 2Pet.3:1-9.
There is considerable debate among scholarship as to the authorship of 2Peter. Without going into detail as to the various reasons why some scholars question this matter, I am going to work from the assumption that the apostle Peter is the author of not only 1Peter but also 2Peter. I came across a quote recently, which I have placed in the footer of today's FamilyMatters. “He who teaches the Bible is never a scholar; he is always a student.” If I could tweak this quote ever so slightly, it would be to convey that this applies to both a “he” and a “she”. Over the years I have found that there are many women who are very much interested in eschatology - - the study of time-of-the-end events. And not only are they “tuned in” and “turned on” by such, they are quite keen in their pursuits.
I want to emphasize that while I am all for academic studies, I suspect that some students have become overly impressed with some professors to the point where it has handicapped their own ability to think outside of the box. I think it would do us preachers a world of good to stay bent on thinking within the confines of the Scriptures. I have often noted that one of the hardest things about teaching the foundational elements of covenantal eschatology is the need to do some de-construction before construction. In other words, sometimes the greatest need is to un-teach someone before re-teaching them. This is the case on multiple layers. Many of the people in the pews have been on the receiving end of a steady diet of teaching that leans strongly towards a futuristic understanding of eschatology. These teachings have been engrained in them over the course of many years. Sometimes this indoctrination is so strong that their eyes and ears become unreceptive to any new view of old topic. This is what we might refer to (respectfully) as “getting bogged down in the old paths”. It reminds of a quote from the poet Ellen Glasgow - - the only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions. What is often times true regarding the people in the pews can be doubly so for the more learned: college professors and especially lifelong academicians. Likewise for a number of accomplished long-time preachers.
I think this was precisely the “problem” with Saul of Tarsus. By his own admission, Saul felt quite secure in placing great confidence “in the flesh”, as he notes in Philp.3:5-6. After all, he was circumcised on the eight day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless. Had Jehovah God not opened His eyes (his heart & mind), he might have gone down in history as the greatest persecutor of Christians that the world had ever know. Although he kicked against the goads (Acts 26:14), he finally humbled himself and opened his mind to receive a new understanding revealed to him by God (2Cor.12:1ff).
Let's open our New Testaments now to 2Peter 3.
In vss.1-2, Peter acknowledges that this is his second epistle, which is written to them by way of reminder. They were called to remember the words spoken beforehand...by the Old Testament prophets as well as the words of the Lord communicated to them by the New Testament apostles. In vss.3-4, Peter affirms that (those receiving his letter were living in the last days. He testifies that those last days were polluted with MOCKERS. In particular, he specifies that the nature of their mocking came in the form of a question which amounted to a taunt: WHERE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING? The gist or punchline of this “taunt” was: where is THE FULFILLMENT of the promise of His coming?. This question takes us back to the Olivet discourse where Jesus explicitly predicted the destruction of temple the city of Jerusalem. You house is being left to you desolate (Mt.23:38) … Not one stone will be left upon another (Mt.24:2). The first-century disciples were at that time 35 years or so beyond the Lord's prediction, yet nothing had happened: For ever since the fathers fell asleep, ALL CONTINUES just as it was from the beginning of creation. Peter then reminds them, in case they'd forgotten, that God had brought destruction in the past by means of the flood. In vs.7, Peter re-affirms the prediction of Jesus: But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
We will address that fiery judgment in a future sermon, but for now let's focus on the next two verses. Vs.8 / But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Rather than being some formula for how man ought to reckon God's mathematics, Peter simply alludes to the Psalm of Moses (Ps.90:4): a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by. It might be hitting the nail on the head to understand this text to simply be a strongly-word appeal, something akin to telling these mockers and those who may have been sucked in by their mocking: DO NOT PRESUME TO TELL GOD HOW TO DO HIS BUSINESS.
What is really important here is vs.9 - - listen to the language very carefully. The Lord is NOT SLOW (slack) about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. If we revisit the Olivet discourse (Mt.24 & Mk.13), we cannot fail to note once again that Jesus had predicted that the Jewish temple and the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed before the passing of that generation. “That generation” specified that all these events would be accomplished before some of them would die (Mt.16:28). These last-days mockers that Peter confronted were falsely assuming that Jesus was wrong about His prediction. This is why Peter said in no uncertain terms, THE LORD IS NOT SLOW!! What the mockers perceived to be God's failure to deliver on His promise was actually the patience of God. Remember Jesus' proclamation in Mt.24:14 - - this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then...the end shall come.
The passing of thirty-five years (from 30-65 AD) was viewed by the mockers as God's negligence. Actually, it was more than that, it was meant to be a negation or disputation of God's truthworthiness. In truth, at its very core it was a denial of the Messianic identity of Jesus. These “mockers” were one in the same as the “antichrists” spoken of by John (1Jn.2:28 & 20 and 2Jn.7).
Peter's declaration, The Lord is not slow! Is another way of saying what Paul said to the Hebrews (Heb.10:37). Written around the same time, the epistle to the Hebrews was an effort to encourage the disciples to remain faithful … to be diligent … to hold fast … to draw near … to not become dull of hearing … to press on … to consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds … to not forsake the assembling … to not shrink back to destruction … to run with endurance. To the Hebrews, Paul asserted: for yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come and will NOT DELAY.
If one believes that the judgment depicted in 2Pet.3:10ff has not yet been fulfilled, then one would surely conclude the Lord IS slow. Yet Peter does not equivocate on this matte - - he proclaims the Lord is NOT slow. If ones believe that the coming of the Lord spoken of by Paul in Hebrews is still yet future to us, then one would aptly conclude that the coming of the Lord has indeed been DELAYED.
What could possibly have emboldened both Peter and Paul to make such definitive assertions? The answer is this: They were inspired apostles guided by the Holy Spirit who was sent to them to disclose things to come (Jn.16:13).