Thesis: Christ's return will vindicate the faithful life we are now living in Christ.
1. Illust. When I was a little boy growing up in Fredericksburg, VA the Second Coming of Christ was something that was very real to me. I'll never forget one hot, Summer Sunday night in June. As soon as evening services were over a group of us kids ran outside. The first thing we saw was a full moon rising on the horizon--brilliant red from dust in the atmosphere. We scared each other by saying, "The moon's turning to blood! Jesus is coming soon! It's the end of the world!" The Second Coming never seemed so real to me as it did that night!
2. Unfortunately for many of us, Christ's return seems distant and unreal.
a. Perhaps when we were young we thought about it and were scared ..... now we probably don't think of it at all.
b. Not so for the first Christians.
1) Vital part of their theology.
2) Lived in less than ideal circumstances and they longed for Christ's return ("Maranatha"--1 Cor. 16:22).
I. MODERN ATTITUDES TOWARD SECOND COMING < 2 extreme views >
A. One extreme view ["Modernist"/Liberal] is best illustrated by an item that appeared in the Q&A section of a denominational religious magazine:
READER: "Why are there so few sermons in our churches on the 2nd Coming? Is this part of our belief or not?"
EDITOR: "Not all Christians think alike on matters of theology, but it would be hard for someone to feel at home in our tradition who did not understand God as the one who has come, who is present in our lives today through the risen Christ, and who is yet to come in whatever form the future winds up taking. To literalize the 2nd Coming is to ruin both its beauty and its significance. To ignore it is to avoid what may be the most important part of the gospel we know about since the past and present, relatively speaking, are brief while tomorrow borders on forever."
ANOTHER READER: "I compliment the Rev. _________ for his elusive non-answer to what I am sure was a serious question concerning the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ. If I understood his answer he said in effect, `We don't all agree, but if you want to be comfortable in the _______ church you will need to agree that Jesus is coming again, but not really, for if you actually believe in the 2nd Coming you will ruin both its beauty and its significance, yet you can't ignore it because it is in the future ...' Why not a simple answer? Why not admit that those who cannot receive the Bible literally must spiritualize the 2nd Coming because it is too large a segment of the NT to be ignored."
B. The other extreme [Fundamentalist] believes in a literal 2nd Coming, but often exaggerates it in one of two ways:
1. PUNISHMENT: "Great Bar-B-Que" at the end of time.
a. God will "roast and toast" sinners in the end.
b. Many have been exposed to this view (cf. 1st illust.!)
2. PERSONAL REWARD: "Eternal amusement park."
a. Illust. If you enjoyed playing golf, in heaven you get to play golf forever! Tennis--play tennis to heart's content; fishing, etc. Not any different than Islamic idea of those who die in a Holy War get their own personal harem!
b. Heaven is sometimes pictured as something you get when you die because you're "down & out" here!
1) Marx noted that interest in afterlife rises falls based on one's economic condition.
2) Shack here--ante-bellum mansion there; I get heaven then because I'm so deprived now!
3) PROBLEM: What happens if you're not deprived? If needs are met and you're basically happy? Heaven become irrelevant?
C. Both of these extremes are wrong--the first because it denies basic Bible teaching, the second because it trivializes the 2nd Coming and Judgment, making central things Scripture does not.
1. What is the place of the 2nd Coming in the Christian life? What exactly should we be looking forward to?
2. The letter of First Peter provides an answer.
II. THE SECOND COMING IN FIRST PETER.
A. To the original readers of 1 Peter, the idea of Christ's return would have had great appeal.
1. They were out of step with society; a "peculiar people" (cf. KJV!); "aliens & strangers" (2:9-10).
2. They were being persecuted/harassed for their faith (1:3-7).
a. Faith was being put to the test--"refined."
b. Illust. Gold, though valuable, is not so fragile that it can't be put into fire and refined--making it even more valuable. Peter says faith is like that. Gold is not eternal, faith is. If gold which perishes can be put in the furnace, why not our faith?