If you have been around the church for very long, you have probably known people who have widely different views of the doctrine of eschatology—the study of last things. I’m not here referring to those who differ on the timing of Christ’s return or the literal or figurative nature of the millennium. Instead, I’m referring to those who differ on whether or not they are willing to think about last things at all. Some folks are overly fascinated by arguments about the end. Others do not give the end times any consideration whatsoever.
While I surely do not want to encourage anybody to become the overly fascinated variety of Christian, I do think that we need to guard against the error of ignoring eschatology altogether. There are too many Christians who have been frustrated by the arguments out there, annoyed by bad movies, put-off by charts and timelines, and who have simply determined that the issue of the end is too hard to benefit anybody. The fact is, God talks about the end. HE wants us to think about the return of Christ. And he wants it to change how we live.
2 Peter 3:1-7 – 1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 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, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Notice, as Peter comes to the end of his second epistle, that he wants to stir up the church’s thinking regarding the return of Christ and the day of the Lord. Peter specifically points out that there are many who are misled by the simple fact that history continues to go on as it seems to have always done. And that thinking leads to a logical error. Mankind assumes that, if the last two thousand years have gone by without the coming of the day of the Lord, the day of the Lord will not come. But it is a huge mistake to allow yourself to believe, even passively believe, that the end will not come simply because it has not come yet.
Peter wants you to remember, Christian, that before Noah, people assumed nothing would change in the world simply because nothing had ever happened before like the flood. But that historical precedent had no bearing on what came. God intervened in global history in a way that changed the world forever. And God promises that he will again act in a way that changes the universe forever.
2 Peter 3:11-13 – 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Peter, after pointing out to us that those who ignore the return of Jesus are behaving as scoffers, after declaring that Christ will return and change the universe, now reminds the believers of his day that this fact changes how they live. The concept of the promised return of Jesus is a concept that is not to lead us to argue and divide over timelines. It is a concept that is supposed to make us obey the Lord more and more. We want to live in righteousness. WE want to live in faithfulness. We want to live lives that are more and more holy as we long for the day when we will meet our Savior face-to-face.
So, Christian, what do you do? God says that scoffers ignore the concept of the coming day of the Lord. God says that the idea of the return of Jesus and the judgment to come should motivate us to live more God-honoring lives. So, ask yourself how this should change your thinking. Regardless of your exact end-times view, there are some things you have to grasp. If your view of the end allows you to ignore the future, it is faulty. If your view of the end does not motivate you to live in greater obedience to the word of God, it is deficient. May we be a people who love the return of Jesus, who never forget that he is coming, and who never stop desiring to be ready to please him.