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New Heavens, New Earth (II Peter 3:11-13)

September 4, 2022 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)

Topic: One Mission: Until I Come Passage: 2 Peter 3:11–13

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Children's Lesson (click here) 

I. What's Certain in Your Future

If I asked you this morning about your future, you might be able to tell me about some things you have planned, some outcomes that seem inevitable, and probably a fair bit about your goals, about what you hope will happen. But did you know that God has already revealed the most important pieces of information you could ever have regarding your future. What He has revealed and its accuracy is an absolute certainty. The only uncertainty is what you've done with that information. Turn over, if you haven't already, to II Peter 3, verses 11-13.

 

II. The Passage: “But... We are Waiting”

Before we look at our main text, let me share a few thoughts about the context here, specifically, how Peter has arrived at 3:11-13. In chapter 2, Peter explicitly exposes the deception and destructiveness of certain false teachers who had, or were beginning to, infiltrate the church or churches to whom Peter was writing. But God had his eyes on both those who were false and those who were true. As Peter wrote in 2:9... “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment”.

But when we move into chapter 3, we learn that such people not only distort things like authority, liberty, and purity, but they also attempt to 'distort away' the reality of that “day of judgment”. No, Peter isn't talking here about temporary, earthly consequences for these “false teachers” (2:1) and “scoffers” (what he labels them in 3:3). He's talking about an earth-shaking, world-ending, cosmos-altering intervention, one that will result in divine and eternal judgment against every kind of deception and distortion. These pseudo prophets seem to preach things like, “The world is what is, and it is what it always was and always will be. So stop worrying about some scary, world-ending future and start enjoying life today.”

What these individuals are (v. 5) “deliberately overlook[ing]” is that God has intervened in our world, in order to judge our world. He did this in Noah's time, and he did so by means of water. In the same way, God will speak another word of judgment concerning our world. Look at 3:7...

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.

And it's that reality of coming judgment that prepares us for our main text. Look at 3:11-13...

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.

Let's break this down a bit, shall we? “Since all these things...” All what “things”? Look at v. 10...

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed [or 'found out' in judgment].

So space and sky, stars and planets (including the earth itself); that's everything isn't it? The whole created order. Notice how the word “dissolve” is not only found in verse 10, but also in verse 11, and verse 12. Also notice that word's parallels in this context: “pass away”, “set on fire”, “melt”, “burn”. To be clear, this dissolving or dissolution of all things is not a result of some scientific phenomenon or human decision. This is divine intervention. This is cataclysmic judgment. And nothing, not one thing, will be unaffected by this judgment.

Now, there's so much here about the end of the world, so many interesting details that could keep us talking for hours about the when and the how and the who. But I want you to see that the emphasis in our text this morning is actually the why. Why did Peter want his readers to understand this overwhelming reality of coming judgment? Why does God want us to hear this very word this morning? The answer is clear. Look back at verse 11. It's so we can ask the same question Peter wanted them to ask. Verse 11: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought [we] to be...?”

What God has inspired Peter to write here was written so that we can be the people we ought to be. Do you know you who ought to be? No, not “ought” according to your desires or the world's expectations, but “ought” according to God's desires and design. And that's what Peter will go on to describe here. Who ought we to be? We ought to be 1) a people who know the world is passing away, 2) a people who know the importance of repentance, and 3) a people who know something much, much better is coming. Let's look at each one of those.

In light of what God has revealed to us, we ought to be...

 

1. A people who know the world is passing away. (v. 11)

In verse 11, Peter describes the person who has truly accepted that the created order will be totally destroyed... as a person whose life is marked by “holiness and godliness”. Think about it. If you were being swept down a raging river toward jagged rocks and a deadly waterfall, which would you grab: the overhanging branch of a tree growing by the riverside, or a cluster of broken branches that had been caught by or snagged on a rock in the middle of the river? Yes, the overhanging branch may be harder to grab hold of, but that cluster of branches simply will not last. The tree is rooted. It's firm. At some point the tangle of branches will come apart, and when it does you will be swept away. This is how another Apostle applied that illustrated idea...

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. [17] And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)

Why is the world passing away? Because the world has been judged, is being judged, and will be fully and finally judged by the One who made it. It will be upended. It will be overturned. It will be dissolved. And yet in the middle of our 'raging river', we too often cling to it. We act like it's firm. We build on it. We allow it to shape us. How we use our money is a good example. How we define success is another. The things in which we invest our time. Our political exaggerations.

Our often unqualified faith in medicine or economics or this or that 'talking head' on this or that 'trusted' media source. God's word is telling us that if you know such things are temporary, and often because of that, tainted as well, you should hold them loosely, or maybe not at all.

In contrast, we hold fast to what is eternal; to that which belongs to God. Peter uses two words to describe that kind of set apart from the world and set apart for God perspective. Peter uses two words to describe that set apart from the world and set apart for God lifestyle. Those words are “holiness and godliness”. We also learn here that we ought to be...

 

2. A people who know the importance of repentance (v. 12)

Look again at verse 12. Peter reminds his readers that they should be “waiting for and hastening the coming day of God”. If we, for just a few minutes, set aside the idea of “waiting for” that day, we're left with this interesting word “hastening”. As many of you know, it's a word that can mean doing something quickly, or causing something to happen more quickly than one might expect. But that latter definition seems strange in this context, doesn't it? Can we really cause the “day of God” to come sooner in some sense? I think the answer to that question is “yes”!

The context is especially helpful here in making sense of this. Look back at verses 8 and 9:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

If the timing of Christ's return, on that “day of God”, is viewed in this present age as a season of divine patience, as a grace-crafted window for genuine repentance to flourish, as Peter indicates here, then those in our midst (that is, those in a church context) who are not truly right with God can actually cause the “day of God” to come sooner by doing that very thing: repenting. So I believe the word “hasten” in verse 12 is simply Peter's shorthand for a call to repentance. This hastening doesn't somehow alter God's sovereign timing for that day, since his purposes factor in this human act of repentance. But think about it: the fact that our sin, your sin and my sin, is so poisonous that the whole universe must be destroyed because of it, how could that not drive a person to inspection and repentance? But there's a final idea related to that “ought” in verse 11. We also learn here that we ought to be...

 

3. A people who know something much, much better is coming. (v. 13)

Look again at that final statement in verse 13: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The “promise” Peter is referring to here is from Isaiah 65:17 where Yahweh declares, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Now think about this promise in light of what Peter has already written. The people we “ought” to be should flow from warnings about coming judgment. The people we “ought” to be should be shaped by sober-minded reflection about the impermanence and moral infection of this present world. But even more so, the people we “ought” to be should be inspired by the reality of God's new world, described in verse 13 as a place “in which righteousness dwells”; or a translation I like even better, “ a place where righteousness is at home”.

Even if you rightly reject those cartoonish depictions of people sitting on clouds with halos and harps, if you were taught to believe that our eternal home as Christians will be in heaven, that simply is not accurate. Though it's a widely held notion, it isn't what the Bible teaches. As we see here in verse 13, our future home will be “new heavens and a new earth”.

At the outset of the NT, Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). Later in that same book, Jesus promised his disciples that “in the new world... you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones...” (Matthew 19:28) In fact, this promise helps us understand God's ancient promise to Abraham. Like so much of the OT, we later learn that that promise about the land was really just a picture of something greater, for as Paul indicates in Romans 4:13, God's promise was a “promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world”. Hebrews 2:5 speaks about “the world to come”, and Revelation 5:10 confirms that Jesus shed his blood to make us “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” And of course, that's how the Revelation ends, with this vision in 21:1... “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

What will that coming world be like? It will be gloriously “new”. In what sense? In the most important sense: it will be a world “in which righteousness dwells”, an everlasting result of the great Refiner's fire. 'Far as the curse is found'... there will instead be blessing.

 

III. Waiting is Watching

Is that what you're waiting for? That word waiting is used twice in our passage, once in v. 12, and once in v. 13. Interestingly, we also find it in v. 14. But our English word “waiting” sounds... passive, doesn't it? This word in Greek is not passive. It's active. It's probably better translated “watching” (with that sense of expectation). Picture a family waiting at the end of an airport concourse for the their son who is coming home from a war zone, or little kids who are waiting by the window for grandma and grandpa to arrive. In both cases, the waiting involves watching, looking, hoping to see, and ready to act when you catch sight of your loved one.

But is that us in regard to our 'loved one', Jesus? Is that you? For most of us, if we're honest, the end of the world is the stuff of movies... and maybe Christian fiction. We wake up every day, not watching with expectation, but simply expecting (in the words of 3:4) “all things [to continue] as they were”. And watching for a new world, one in which “righteousness is at home”? No. Again, if we're honest, we might not be comfortable in a world like that? Why? Because we've become too comfortable with unrighteousness.

Brothers and sisters, friends, in light of both the destruction of the present world, and the nature of the new one, we should be convicted of our sin. Our love for this present world must be called out. But conviction of sin should then lead to faith; to a new kind of trust. If we are, in faith, looking to Jesus, then more and more we will see in this tainted world the poisonous power of the very same sin for which Jesus died. Similarly, if we are, in faith, looking to Jesus, then more and more we will long for the beauty of Christ's righteousness; that it would fill our own lives, and ultimately, the whole world. Just imagine a new world in which the love and power we see in Christ crucified and raised permeates every single person. That's a staggering thought.

There is an incomparable judgment coming. But on the other side of it, there will be incomparable blessing. How can you experience that blessing? By trusting that Jesus Christ already experienced that judgment on the cross, so that those who trust in him will be spared.

But not only spared. Jesus rose again from the dead that you and I might also experience a foretaste of that world to come, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Faith family, we are a preview to this world of what is to come in the next one. May we live in such a way that the beauty of that new world is clearly visible.

And may God teach us, more and more, what it means to wait... to watch... or as Romans 8:23, Galatians 5:5, and Hebrews 9:28 describe it, to “wait eagerly” or “eagerly wait” for our 'loved one', Jesus. God has already revealed the most important pieces of information you could ever have regarding your future, and what he's revealed is an absolute certainty. So... how is that revelation affecting you today? Though we pray for and work for the world's rescue (that is, the salvation of souls), may we also long for the end of sin's cancerous reign. May we learn to cry out with our brother John in Revelation 22:20, to cry out daily, whether inwardly or outwardly, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)

October 2, 2022

Visions of Jesus (Revelation 19:9-10)

September 25, 2022

Why Justice is Worth Singing About (Revelation 15)

September 18, 2022

How to Conquer the Dragon (Revelation 12:11)