Watching the news these days, it’s hard to feel hopeful about the future. The presidential campaign is unsettling, there is unrest in our cities, and division abounds almost everywhere you look. Maybe world affairs aren’t your source of concern. You may be searching for hope in the midst of a health crisis, financial despair, marital challenges, loneliness, or career challenges. Where is there hope? Titus 2:3 provides a definitive answer:
…while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
It may sound like a simplistic church answer that our hope is in the return of Jesus Christ. How does that help with what we’re facing right now? Peter warns us that there are many who will say this returning is not very likely. There will be scoffers, people who mock the idea of His return in 2 Peter 3:3: “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” Peter, continues in this chapter to guide us how to keep hope alive.
Keep Hope Alive with a Backward Look
“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Peter 3:4-7
The scoffers may be as much questioning as they are mocking. Peter reminded the early church to look back to maintain hope – all the way back to the beginning of creation. God made a statement in the past about the earth, and the flood came. And God also made a statement about Jesus’ coming. Pastor Paul David Tripp refers to this “eternity amnesia:”
When we ask this present world to be what it was simply never meant to be, we demand that our lives here and now behave as if they were our final destination.
Sometimes we hesitate to look backward because we want our present life to satisfy every need.
Keep Hope Alive with a Forward Look
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8
God is timeless. He lives outside of our time constraints. He is continual. To God, even though 1,000 years pass, it’s as if it has only been a day. The significance of this timelessness is seen in verses 9-10: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”
A day is coming when Jesus will judge this world. We don’t generally like to talk about this characteristic of God. We prefer the idea of acceptance – that everyone will be okay. Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf describes this in his book Exclusion and Embrace:
My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the west. To the person inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a warzone. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first blundered, then leveled, then burned to the ground. Whose daughters and sisters have been raped. Whose fathers and brothers have their throats’ slit. The topic of the lecture? The Christian’s Attitude Toward Violence. The thesis that we should not retaliate since God is perfect, non-coercive love. Soon, you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other unpleasant captivities of the liberal mind.
Volf is observing that in the west, where we live in comfort and ease, we surmise that judgment isn’t necessary and doesn’t help. But judgment is the only thing that protects us against vengeance. Because of God’s judgment, we can be assured and look forward to the day when He will right every wrong. He will heal every sickness and every broken person will be restored. When Jesus comes to judge, He will bring a new heaven and a new earth. Everything that is true and good will be restored.
Keep Hope Alive with an Inward Look
You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 2 Peter 3
Knowing that one day Jesus will return should motivate you to godly living. Pastor Warren Wiersbe describes it like this, “The purpose of the prophetic truth is not speculation, but motivation.” It’s easy to watch the clock and basically stop living. The point isn’t to just sit and watch the clock in anticipation of His return. The point is knowing the day is coming when He will return which should motivate you to take seriously the calling that God has given you – a motivation to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” C.S. Lewis observed it like this:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels and the Prophets, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea, we are far too easily pleased.
Keep Hope Alive with an Outward Look
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
The idea of repentance is often misunderstood Repentance means to turn around or go a new direction. God wants people to come to repentance and understand what that means in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” This passage tells us that the earth will be destroyed, but God will rebuild it. Peter is telling us to look outward and know that everything you make a big deal of today is not as significant as what will be in the new heaven and earth. All that we put into this world and all that we live for today will, in many ways, not last.
Everybody eventually has to downsize. It doesn’t matter how much you own or how much you have, it will someday go away. You may pass it on to others, but you can’t take it with you when this life is over. Peter wants us to pay attention and get into the mindset that what Jesus is building and will build is what matters. This is where we should invest our lives.
This Call to Worship, written by Rev. James Montgomery Boice, was the opening of each worship service at 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and is really a call to hope:
To all who are weary and need rest
To all who mourn and long for comfort
To all who feel worthless and wonder if God cares
To all who fail and desire strength
To all who sin and need a Savior
This church opens wide her doors
With a welcome from Jesus Christ
The ally of His enemies, defender of the guilty
The justifier of the inexcusable and the friend of sinners
God doesn’t promise to make your world better. He promises to right everything that is broken in the new heaven and the new earth. One day, all broken will be made right. Our hope is not repent or you’ll get judged. Our hope is found in that Jesus Christ has become, through His work on the cross, the one who has secured your future.