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Your Eternal Address (II Peter 3:11-13)

October 20, 2019 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: When You Die

Topic: Heaven & Hell, One Mission: Until I Come Passage: 2 Peter 3:11–3:13

 

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I. Your First Address

 

5244 E. Blanche Drive”.

 

That's not my very first address, but it's the first address I can remember. It's the first address I memorized and was prepared to give if needed. When you're a kid, you don't memorize your address with any sense that it will be the first of many. In some sense, as a kid, you simply think about it as... your address; and maybe... that it will always be your address.

 

But for the vast majority of people, their childhood address is never permanent. And if we stop and think about it, in this life, there is no permanent address, is there? Even if you end up raising a family in the house in which you were raised, when you die, that address will belong to someone else, right?

 

But this morning, God wants to remind you that, one day, beyond this life, you will have a permanent address. You may know your first address or your childhood address, but do you know the address that will be the last address you'll ever have?

 

Take your Bible and turn over to II Peter 3. Through Peter, God is going to speak to us this morning about this idea of a final and forever address.

 

 

II. The Passage: "Waiting for New Heavens and a New Earth" (3:11-13)

 

If you were with us either of the past two Sundays, or have been listening online, then you know that we've been talking about death. No, not death as a simply some abstract concept. As the series title indicates, we've been thinking about, and I've been encouraging you to think about, “When You Die”. All of us will, won't we. I happened to run across a publisher's book description this past week that lined up perfectly with our trajectory this month. It reads...

 

Life-expectancy worldwide is twice what it was a hundred years ago. And because of modern medicine, many of us don't often see death up close. That makes it easy to live as if death is someone else's problem. It isn't... But honesty about death brings hope to life... Cultivating "death-awareness" helps us bring the promises of Jesus from the hazy clouds of some other world into the everyday problems of our world--where they belong. (that's from a description for Matthew McCullough's book, “Remember Death”)

 

What McCullough calls “death-awareness” is what we've described as 'dwelling on death'; no, not in a morbid way, but in a meaningful way. That's the very thing God's word encourages us to do. And as we saw in our first lesson, that 'dwelling' involves remembering that your life is both fleeting and forever. What does that mean? It means remembering that life is short, and therefore, I should make the most of the time now in light of my eternal destiny beyond this life.

Speaking of what's beyond this life, last time we heard Paul talk about an eternal destiny that is “far better” than anything this life can offer. Was he talking about heaven? Yes. But for Paul, heaven was ultimately defined by the presence of Jesus. For the believer, to “be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23) was and is the very definition of eternal bliss. Paul believed that because he understood that in Jesus, all the fullness of a good and great God is ours.

 

But accepting and rejoicing in the fact that for the follower of Christ, eternity with Christ is the essence of eternal life, we still might ask, “Do the Scriptures tell us anything else about our experience of a God-filled eternity through Jesus?” I believe they do. Look with me at II Peter 3. This is what we read in verses 11 and 12...

 

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!

 

Now, we're dropping into the middle of a larger passage here, so there are some questions to answer about what Peter is referring to here. Let's see if we can figure those out. So first of all, notice that what we have here is...

 

 

1. God's Description of the Destruction to Come (vs. 11, 12)

 

Notice the language: “dissolved”, “fire”, “melt”, “burn”. This is the language of destruction. But what exactly is being destroyed? When Peter says, “since all these things are thus to be dissolved”, what does he have in mind? Well, verse 12 makes it clear that “the heavens” are included in what's going to dissolve or be destroyed. Thus, the “heavenly bodies”, things like the sun, moon, and stars will be destroyed. But look also at verse 7...

 

But by the same word [i.e., by God's divine decree] the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

 

Now, not only does that also bring the earth into the 'cross-hairs' (along with the heavens), but in light of that earlier context, we see that God is ultimately talking about the world. This is clear from how verse 7 is tied to verses 5 and 6, which are talking about Noah's flood...

 

For they [the scoffers] 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.

 

That's why in verse 7, Peter talks about “the heavens and earth that NOW exist”. So yes, there is a fiery destruction coming, but don't miss that (v. 6) “the world” of human beings and the (v. 7) “destruction of the ungodly” are the emphasis here. This is precisely why we also discover...

 

 

2. God's Instruction Through the Destruction to Come (vs. 11, 12)

 

Verse 11 makes it crystal clear that Peter is not simply describing the coming destruction because it's epic or interesting or makes for a good conclusion to his letter. No! Peter's focus, God's focus, is on the instruction such destruction provides for anyone who will listen.

Look at verse 11 again: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be...” If the world is to end like this one day, what does that mean for this day? Well, Peter tells us. It means we should lead “lives of holiness and godliness”. Please don't miss the connection: if the stuff of the world and the systems of the world and the priorities of the world are going to be burned up one day (in the fire of God's judgment), then why would we allow our lives to be defined by such things? We should instead by set apart (“holiness”) and conformed to God, not to the world (i.e., godliness instead of worldliness).

 

Peter continues in verse 12: “Instead of getting spiritually comfortable today, wait for God's day to dawn. And do his work in this world, which amazingly, will hasten Christ's return. Brothers and sisters, it's this spiritual focus, this moral focus, that prepares us for the next verse. In verse 13 we go on to read about...

 

 

3. God's Construction After the Destruction to Come (v. 13)

 

Though the world will be destroyed through God's fiery judgment, Peter writes reassuringly...

 

(v. 13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

There is a new world coming, one that Peter describes as “new heavens and a new earth”. To be clear, Peter is using OT language here to describe the new age that God will bring through his Messiah. “New heavens and a new earth” are mentioned in both Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22. At the end of the NT, the Apostle John also uses these same terms in Rev. 21:1.

 

But we can't miss what makes that new world so new: it will be the place (v. 13) “in which righteousness dwells”. Does that mean there is no righteousness in the world today? No. It simply means righteousness will be the defining characteristic of that world; something that could never be said about our fallen world today. For those who love God, and love the things God loves, that will be their native country; that will finally feel like home. This is why Peter goes on to encourage them in the next verse, verse 14...

 

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these [i.e., new heavens and a new earth], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

 

Now, let's take a minute and 'connect the dots' in terms of how this relates to “when you die”. For the person who has been reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, death is a doorway into the presence of Jesus and the glory of God, for all eternity. But as we read here, that eternity will ultimately take place under “new heavens” and on a “new earth”. Let me give you three simple points about the pathway from your death to God's new creation.

 

First, those who die in Christ are with Christ immediately after death. Remember the word of Jesus to the repentant thief who was crucified with him: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) Last week, we heard about how Paul desired to “depart and be Christ” (Phil. 1:23). He made the same point in II Corinthians 5:8 when he said, “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” To be “away from the body” is another way of saying we are disembodied spirits at that point. This is what some have called the intermediate state. It's not the fullness of God's plans for us, but as we've already heard, the consolation is that we are with Christ. Speaking of Jesus...

Second, when the Resurrection comes, you will be re-made like Jesus. Paul spoke about this in that same passage from II Corinthians 5. (v. 1) “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This is the glorified body Paul described in his previous letter to the same church. He wrote in I Corinthians 15:49... “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” Jesus is not a spirit. He rose again with a physical, but imperishable body. In the resurrection, we will be made like him in this same way.

 

Third, your new, physical life will be lived a new, physical world. Brothers and sisters, when Paul says our “citizenship is in heaven” in Philippians 3:20, he wasn't claiming that heaven is our eternal home. He was declaring that the King of heaven is our eternal king; that we belong to His kingdom. If you belong to Jesus by grace through faith, your eternal address is not heaven. Your eternal address is the new heavens and new earth. It's the last address you'll ever have. So just as your will be remade in the resurrection, so too the planet on which we live.

 

 

III. Settling or a Settler?

 

Now in light of all these details, please don't forget the moral force of what Peter's revealed. We should be asking ourselves, “Am I comfortable in this world, or am I truly waiting for the next one?” By “comfortable” I mean worldly compromise, and by “waiting” I mean living with an eternal focus. Or to put it another way, are you settling, or are you a settler? Like in the Old West, a settler journeys forward, with an eye toward their future home. But before that times come, settlers are always being tempted to settle... to settle for the here and now; to settle for worldly counterfeits. Are you settling... or a settler?

 

This morning, God is calling you, or maybe reminding you, to long for a new world “in which righteousness dwells”. I think that means we have to acknowledge just how wrong this present world is before we can really delight in just how right that new world will be.

 

Remember what the Apostle John wrote about that new world in Revelation 21:3, 4. Listen to how the symptoms of the curse of our unrighteousness is reversed on that new earth...

 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

For those who have trusted fully in Christ's finished work on the cross, and are living now in light of and by the power of his resurrection, the reality of this eternal address should both comfort and inspire us; it should fuel hope and foster worship; in longing for that world, we discover a loosening grip on this one. What is to come is truly that good... because it's God's good, unstained, undefiled, unscathed, and unencumbered.

 

Now, with that glorious, almost 'to-good-to-be-true' vision in your mind, please remember this: all that is yours through Jesus. And if you aren't sure if that's true of you personally, please know it can be. In the face of both life and death, God is inviting you this morning to relish in that new world. Turn away from sin and self and give everything you know of yourself to everything you know of Christ. Let's pray and thank God for the promise of that new world.