Summary: Jesus Christ will be coming again and we need to get ready.
If you were writing a letter to people who were suffering, what is the one thing above all others that you would want to say to them? It would probably be something like this: "What you’re going through will not be in vain. When this terrible ordeal is over, you’ll be able to look back and see that your faithfulness was worth it all."
That reassuring message was given repeatedly to the early Christians. As they faced trials of every sort, the message of God to them was to the effect that their faithfulness in these situations would be fully rewarded. Paul spoke of the fact that "if indeed we suffer with him...we may also be glorified together." (Romans 8:17). Then he added, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18).
Paul also told the Corinthians, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Peter was writing his epistles to Christians who found out first-hand what it meant to be persecuted for their faith. The early church came under intense social persecution even before Rome began its official efforts at getting rid of Christians. So Christians often lost their jobs, had their property confiscated, were denied access to public markets, and suffered many other indignities. Many were false accused and landed in prison because of their beliefs. Eventually, of course, many would lose their lives because of their faith.
If you were writing to encourage the Christians who faced this sort of opposition, would it not make sense to talk about what the future holds for us? So Peter spends much of his second epistle doing just that -- talking about the eventual destruction of the world and the second coming of Christ.
To Christians who were faced with hardship and difficulty, the message of the end of time was a much needed doctrine. They needed to look beyond the pain and difficulties of their present day to the future certainty that justice and judgment were coming. They needed to live in the present with a view toward the endtime. They needed to know that Jesus meant what he said, and he’ll be back.
And those are all truths that we need to be reminded of as well. While our situation is not one of oppressive persecution, we’re still very much tempted to live with our eyes focused only on the present. And we can’t live like that. As Christians, our eyes have to be focused on the future. Like the persecuted Christians of the first century, we need to see Peter’s message of the endtime. We need to look back at our Lord Jesus and know that he was telling the truth when he said, "I’ll be back."
Turn with me to 2 Peter 3 as we take a look at what Peter has to say about the second coming.
I. The Fact of His Coming
"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ’Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Peter says that there will always be folks who will scoff at the idea that the world is going to come to an end some day. They will laugh at the idea and ridicule the notion that Jesus is coming back again. And the reason they’ll do that is because they are walking according to their own lusts.
And when you think about that, it makes sense. Ask yourself the question, "If you wanted to be free to do whatever you want to do, to pursue a self-indulgent lifestyle, to ignore every restriction that God has set forth, how would you go about doing that?" And the most logical course would be to get rid of the concept of the second coming. Because if you could succeed in convincing people that Christ is not going to come back again, then you would feel free to live however you want to live.
As Paul said in I Corinthians 15:32, "If the dead do not rise, ’Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’" If Christ is not coming back and the there’s not going to be a resurrection and there’s no life in the hereafter, then just go ahead and do whatever you want to do to enjoy life, because after all, what difference does it make?