How to live waiting for His return

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How to live waiting for His return

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2011 · 13 November 2011

So with what attitudes then do we wait for the day of God, the glorious eternity that God has prepared for us? We discussed at first anticipation, looking for it, anxious for it to come. Then with peace, that is in perfect peace because our account is settled up to the moment so that when He comes there would be no shame and no fear.

Then with an attitude of purification, living in purity of life both in character and reputation. And then evangelization, making sure that as the patience of God lingers, our zeal to lead other people to salvation is maintained. We are God’s plan A to do that, there is no other back-up plan.

So tonight we start with attitude number five, we need to have a discerning attitude while waiting for God. Let us be very careful as we go through this section because it is a very important text. It could lead us on a lot of different subjects, but I want to resist that, and stick with the flow of Peter's thought.

2 Peter 3:15-18, "just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

He is saying as you live in anticipation of the coming of the day of God, you've got to realize that there are going to be a lot of people coming along who are going to try to confuse you about that. And you've got to use good judgment. Paul warned us about that in his past letters.

Now let's look at the parts of this separately. He calls Paul our beloved brother Paul. Really Paul was a fellow apostle, Peter uses gracious terminology to describe Paul. That's really wonderful. They were together at the Jerusalem Council. And in Acts 15, Peter and Paul were together there.

They also shared a common ministry partner. Both of them had the same assistant, a man by the name of Silas. Compare 1 Peter 5:12 with Acts 15:40. So they shared a ministry together in the Jerusalem Council and they loved the same Lord and believed the same truths.

But do you remember that early on in the ministry of Paul there was a conflict between Paul and Peter? Go back to Galatians 2 for just a moment when Paul was in Antioch. He had gone there to be the instrument of the Lord founding a church. And from Antioch, they began to launch the ministry into the world, as Paul and Barnabas were sent from there.

But when Paul was in Antioch, Peter also came. Peter had come to Antioch and had, in effect, pulled all of the believers back into legalism. It was really a sin on Peter's part. And in Galatians 2:11, Paul says, "I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned."

Petrus used to eat with the Gentiles but when new people came he began to withdraw fearing “the party of the circumcision”, and the rest of the Jews joined him in this hypocrisy with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by this.

When Paul saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, he said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you being a Jew live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" He was, in effect, saying why are you free to eat with Gentiles before these new Jews came, and now you're being hypocritical.

Now remember that Peter was the early leader of the church and their primary spokesman. And no doubt, the kind of man he was, didn't like being publicly disgraced. Isn't it wonderful though that when truth prevails and when both men recognize truth, they can deal with sin as sin and not take it personally?

Peter obviously didn't take it personally. Peter knew it was a sin. Peter saw it as a sin. I'm sure that Peter realized the true spirituality of Paul and loved him for it and so here he says, "Our beloved brother Paul." And there's much more in those words than just meets the eye.

So, he says just as also our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him, that's a marvelous statement. The wisdom given him by God wrote to you. Here he is referring back to a letter from Paul. What's he talking about?

Was it a letter? Well he doesn't say it was one letter. He doesn't say if it was a special letter just to them. We don't even know that they were an easily identifiable group. He's simply saying...Paul according to the wisdom given him from God wrote to you.

Then he adds, "As also in all his all his letters." What's he talking about here? Does he have a specific letter in mind? 2 Peter was written to the same group of Christians as 1 Peter. Then to whom was 1 Peter written?

Let's go back to 1 Peter 1:1 and find out. It was written to “those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia who are chosen.” It's Christians all over that area so we can't be very definitive about what group it went. It went to all scattered Christians everywhere.

All of those places mentioned there in 1 Peter 1:1, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, are in Asia Minor. The same region to which Paul wrote to the Galatians and the Ephesians, which are circular letters that went to all of them. We also know that there are letters written to the Colossians and that those letters were also shared with other churches.

Look at Colossians 4:16, "And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans and you for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea." They shared all these letters. And they began actually collections of those letters as they shared them with other churches.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, writing to the Thessalonians Paul says, "I charge you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren." So we can’t say that there is a specific letter, but what he is saying is you are familiar with the wisdom of God given to our beloved brother Paul, which he wrote to you as in all letters.

What's the point? Well Peter is saying Paul wrote you about His Second Coming. Paul wrote you about the glories of heaven and about the day of God. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, for example, are the earliest writings of Paul and they deal extensively with prophecy relating to the coming of the Lord Jesus.

The second series of letters from Paul are Romans, Galatians and 1 and 2 Corinthians, and all of them have passages anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ, passages outlining the future plan of God for Israel and the church.

The third wave of Paul’s letters are the prison epistles, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, again with statements about the future, and how all things are headed toward a glorious climax in Him, the final reconciliation of all things.

Then the last series, the fourth series of letters would be the Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, and even those letters anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So Peter is saying as Paul has written in all his letters, including the one that you have, about the return of Christ, about the glories of heaven and the eternal state. In other words, I'm leaning on Paul here for support.

What I'm saying has been confirmed by him. He wrote about the day of the Lord. He wrote about eternity. He wrote about the fact that God will keep His promise, judge the wicked, change the universe, bring in ultimate glorious eternal righteousness.

Peter's not done. He's going to go deeper into this interesting verse 16, "In which are some things hard to understand." The verb actually means difficult to interpret. Please note but not impossible. Some people say, "Oh, we just can't know. I just don't think we can know."

Some of Paul's passages about the Rapture of the church, the time of the Tribulation, the coming of the man of sin, the return of Christ in judgment, the great age we call the Millennium, the final glorious eternal heaven, some of what Paul says about that is hard to understand, literally difficult to interpret.

Peter doesn't say that he didn't understand it, he simply said it's difficult to interpret so the untaught and the unstable distort it. He's saying it is indeed difficult and therefore people can be easily deceived.

There is an unending proliferation of stuff written about prophetic truth regarding the future. It just comes out all the time. And, of course, for the unstable, the untaught, it can deceive them, particularly when it's perpetrated by unscrupulous false teachers.

Now they don't do this just with prophecy, he says the untaught and the unstable twist as they do also the rest of the scriptures. They do it with the entire Bible. Untaught means they lack information, unstable means they are therefore vacillating in their spiritual character.

The untaught and the unstable are victimized by error. To distort literally means they twist and torture the truth. The lack of clarity on all prophetic issues gives place for the ignorant and the immoral to confuse the truth. And they don't do it just with prophecy, he says, they do it with all the rest of Scripture also.

Now remember in verse 3 that the reason false teachers deny the Second Coming isn't because they've come across some great prophetic truth, it's because they walk after their own lusts and they want a future that doesn't hold them accountable for their immorality.

So along with their perverting and distorting the future judgment, and the future glory of the saints and all that's involved in the coming of Christ, they twist teaching on judgment itself, teaching on the law of God, teaching on righteousness, teaching on repentance, teaching on salvation by grace through faith. And so they distort all kinds of things.

Did you notice that Peter says “as they do the rest of the scriptures?” That means that he is calling what Paul wrote Scripture. That is the most clear cut statement on the pages of Scripture to affirm that the writings of Paul are Scripture. And the false teachers distort it all.

The end of verse 16 it says, "to their own destruction." If you go back into chapter 2 for a moment, that's pretty clear. The end of verse 1 says the false prophets and false teachers bring upon themselves swift destruction. Verse 3 says their judgment from long ago is not idle and their destruction is not asleep.

Verse 3:7 says, there is a Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men. Four times the word "destruction," all four times referring to false teacher, false prophets and those who follow them. In Jude verse 10 it says they will be destroyed like unreasoning animals. Verse 13 it says for them the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever.

Now, let's get the sum of this in verse 17, "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand," "Knowing that there will be false teachers who will come along twisting and distorting the Scripture and who therefore will lead people to their own damnation, since you know this beforehand, since you have this information, be on your guard."

Be on your guard against false teachers, against their destructive heresies. That's why Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show yourself approved unto God." Be on your guard. Why? "Lest being carried away by the error of unprincipled men."

There's another title for the false teachers. These unprincipled men are men who live apart from God's law. You can't sit in a church where somebody is twisting and distorting the Scripture without running the risk of being led astray.

You can't sit in a college, be it called Christian or not, and listen to people distort the Scripture without running the risk of being led astray. You can't go to a seminary for the sake of its academic reputation, sit there and hear error all the time without running the risk of being led astray by unprincipled, lawless men. Only truth brings righteousness.

You must then be discerning right from wrong. End of verse 17 says, "Lest you fall from your own steadfastness." What's that word steadfastness? It's the opposite of being unstable. Peter has in mind a firm stance on truth. Remember when Paul wrote at the end of 1 Timothy 1 as he talked about Hymenaeus and Alexander who had led people into shipwreck in regard to their faith, falling out of steadfastness.

He's not saying that they lost their salvation, that's eternally decided. But you fall from your stability, you fall from your steadfastness in doctrine, in truth, conviction, confidence. So Peter says...Look, living in the light of our eternal destiny calls for discernment. Guard yourself. The only way to do that is to study the Scripture and show yourself approved.

There are two left. Maturation, verse 18, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." He's saying while you're waiting, while you're anticipating your eternal glory, be growing toward that. Paul said in Ephesians 4:14, "Be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about every wind of doctrine, through the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting."

And there's one final word as Peter closes and that's adoration. He says, "To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity, Amen." It just calls for worship. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Glory belongs to God and God alone. And here the Holy Spirit through Peter is saying give glory to Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18, is a great doxology (doxa is the word for glory) given to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore this confirms that God and Christ both are deity and worthy of our praise, Amen?

Do you remember to do all that and are you willing to do all that? Remember that we are in a spiritual warfare that will not end until Jesus comes back or until we are raptured. Be strong and you will reap the benefits in heaven.


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