2 Peter – Living in the light of God’s patience
“And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved.” 2 Peter 3:15
There comes a point in a person's life when they realize they aren’t going to live forever. The Bible reminds us that, “It is appointed unto a man once to die and then the judgment…” Hebrews 9:27. You know it in a broad sense when you are young but it doesn’t usually hit home until your later years when it dawns on you that life is short, fleeting.
Peter was dealing with this when he sat down to write his second letter. Along with the other Apostles, he had faithfully led the fledgling church since God, the Holy Spirit, had filled them all, empowering them to preach the truths about Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations. Now thirty-something years later, the Gospel of Jesus Christ changing lives across the known world, growing and expanding, the Lord nudged his heart and told him it was about time to hang up his sandals.
"For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life, so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone." (1:14-15)
He probably didn’t realize it at that moment but Nero would soon have him executed, crucified upside down, as the evil emperor sought to terrorize and crush the peaceable movement of Christ.
What do you say when you get to say one last thing? What do you want to leave people with?
As he looked at the young church he decided to write about some current issues, specifically; the Kingdom of God, false teaching, and the second coming of Jesus Christ.
His short letter applies as much today as the day it was written and it could be distilled down to this:
How should we live in the light of God’s patience?
Even then, in the Roman Empire in the middle of the first century, Christians were anticipating the second coming of Christ. Life was hard, persecution was rampant, pressure from the religious establishment was non-stop. So they held fast to Jesus' promise, thinking, "surely Christ will return and deliver us from all this…"
How many of us have looked heavenward and cried out for the same thing? “Come, Lord Jesus, deliver us, set this place right!” And yet He has not returned.
The false teachers and religious people seized upon Jesus' apparent negligence, trying to mislead the believers like the serpent in the garden of Eden, "Did God say?…"
So Peter reminds us that God exists outside of the realm of time He created. Time is something He created for us, not for Himself. Where we see days turning into months and years, God doesn't. God isn’t bound this way. “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (3:8) His promised return is certain, that's the important thing.
Two thousand years later there are so many belief systems and theories and ‘ism’s’ about the Second Coming of Jesus that there are cottage industries supporting proponents of one view or another. But Peter doesn't speculate. He makes it plain and clear.
“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (3:9)
By His boundless, timeless, unfailing love, God has been waiting for you to give Him your heart. He is waiting for people in Nepal and Somalia and the remotest Islands of Indonesia to hear the Good News about Jesus and turn to Him. And other people we don't know, from every nation tribe and tongue. We don't know them, but He surely does. Then He will come. On His terms, not ours.
How then should we live in light of this kind of patience?
We should live godly lives, God has given us everything we need.
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (1:4).
And don't rest on yesterday's faith but continue to pursue a more and more virtuous life.
“… Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:5-8)
Then, growing in love, grace, faith, and humility, we will become partakers of the divine nature, experiencing in this short life a bit of the unspeakable wonder of eternity with Christ that we long for.