WHAT I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW - ABOUT THE SECOND COMING
by Pastor Mike Fortune
March 12, 2011
YouTube: Powerful Quake / Tsunami Hits Japan
- Scoffers will come [2 Peter 3:1-7; Matthew 24:37-39]
- There is no delay [2 Peter 3:8-10; Habakkuk 2:3]
- Live looking forward [2 Peter 3:11-13; Jude 20-21]
On March 11, 2011 the largest earthquake in Japan’s history triggered a devastating tsunami. According to the United States Geological Survey [USGS], Japan's worst previous quake was an 8.3-magnitude trembler that killed 143k people in 1923. Hopefully, the death toll doesn’t come anywhere close to that in the days and weeks ahead! Following the initial 8.9 event, a sequence of major tremors was initiated—six of them within seventy five minutes that were all bigger than or all equal to last month's quake in Christchurch, New Zealand which measured 6.3 on the richter scale. The largest of the Japanese aftershocks was 7.1 similar to the 7.0 that crushed Haiti just a year ago on January 12, 2010.
It seems we are having more and more major earthquakes. But I was surprised to learn that earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant for the last 100 years. According to long-term records since 1900, the United States Geological Survey says we can expect about 18 major earthquakes magnitudes 7.0 - 7.9 and one great earthquake magnitude 8.0 or above in any given year. However, between the years 1969 through 2001, records show that there were only 4 years [1992 and 1995-1997] that we actually reached or exceeded the long-term average number of major earthquakes [see http://earthquake.usgs.gov/
So big picture, this most recent Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami, while falling into the major category of anticipated seismic activity and breaking Japan’s previous record for largest earthquake in its history, does not break the consistent trend of one major 8.0 quake per year the last 100 years, is not the largest recorded earthquake in magnitude the last 100 years [the earthquake in Chile on May 22, 1960 is still the biggest quake in the world on record with a magnitude of 9.5], and hopefully will not rival the January 23, 1556 earthquake in China that killed 830k people.
I think it’s important for Christians to know and understand these larger seismic trends and historical facts so we don’t over-exaggerate the signs of the times when proclaiming the surety of Jesus’ Second Coming. Which is the next topic we’re studying today in our new series entitled What I Want My Kids to Know. Last week we talked about how the Sabbath kept right is a delight. This week, we’re talking about the second most influential doctrine deriving the namesake of our church—the Advent or Second Coming of Jesus. But regardless of what life is like on earth, faith, hope, and love for God should be what motivates our faith in God and in Jesus’ return—even in the end of time full of scoffers—which according to 1 Peter 1:20 actually began in the first century. Did you know that? Peter says, “God chose Jesus as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.” Peter wrote that from prison in Rome about 66AD. The writer of Hebrews says something similar in chapter 1:2, “And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”
But if we’re honest, our initial response to such calamities is to strap on our placards announcing the end of the world as we know it and run for the hills! But have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his disciples about the signs of the times in Matthew 24, specifically mentioning earthquakes, He said they are signs of the beginning not the end? Matthew 24:8 says, “But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” Regarding wars and rumors of wars just a couple verses earlier, Jesus says in Matthew 24:6, “Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.”
In other words, if the earthquakes are not increasing in frequency or severity like the birth pangs of a pregnant woman, they are actually signs of the beginning not the end. Sadly though, I suppose we could say yesterday’s quake and tsunami was the end for the 1300 to 1600 people confirmed dead so far in Japan yesterday. Which is all the more reason why we should live looking forward to new heavens and new earth since this one won’t last forever. Hopefully, that will become clear to you as we study the third chapter of 2 Peter this morning. So please open your Bibles and join me there.
2 Peter 3:1-13 says, “1This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. 3Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires 4They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created." 5They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water 6Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. 8But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9The 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. 10But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 11Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness.”
Peter doesn’t waste much time getting to the point so we won’t either. Point number one that I want my kids to know about the Second Coming is that before it occurs, scoffers will come. 2 Peter 3:3-5 says, “3Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires 4They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created."
Theologians today call this line of reasoning uniformitarianism. Some say because it hasn’t yet been proven that major earthquakes are in fact increasing in frequency or severity, this line of reasoning concludes the day will never come when they will. But as every woman in her 3rd trimester knows, this is simply not true. Because eventually, that baby is born! But not until the major contractions become closer and closer together. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:8, “All this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”
But anticipated increases in the frequency and severity of signs of the times isn’t the only evidence that the Second Coming of Jesus will eventually interrupt life as we know it. Peter adds two more proofs in our passage as well. The first is found in verse 5. There he says the scoffers forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command. Psalm 33:6 says, “The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.” This was the first recorded instance of God’s spectacular intervention into life as it was. He made stuff. Including this world. And you and me. Before that, Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and empty and darkness covered the deep waters.” But it didn’t stay that way. Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, and John 1 all say Jesus created life and Genesis 2 says He even stopped in time to bless the 7th day as we talked about last week.
But the next reason he gives for God’s willingness to break into life as we know it is the flood. Verse 6 says, “Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood.” You can read about that in Genesis 6:5-8 and after the flood, he promised Noah in Genesis 8:21 that, “Never again will I destroy all living things.” Apparently, what God meant was “with water.” Because the very next verse in 2 Peter 3:7 adds, “And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.” But not just ungodly people. Peter says that fallen angels are being kept for a fiery judgment in 2 Peter 2:4. Peter adds that God keeps the wicked until the day of final judgement in 2 Peter 2:9. And says the same thing about false teachers who scoff in 2 Peter 2:12.
Just because life seems as it always has been. Whether we’re talking about the same number of major earthquakes for 100 years or the same number since the beginning of time, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way! God has a history of interrupting life as we know it right on time. He told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son in one year in Genesis 17:21. God promised their descendants the land of Canaan after 400 years in Genesis 15:13,18 and after 400 years, Exodus 12:51 says, “On that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.” The Jewish captivity in Babylon was to last 70 years according to Jeremiah 25:11 and from Nebuchadnezzar’s first capture of Jerusalem in 605 BC to King Cyrus’ proclamation of their freedom in 536 BC, it did [cf. Daniel 1:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 inclusive reckoning]! Galatians 4:4 says, “When the right time came, God sent His son, born of a woman” and at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptists proclaimed in Mark 1:15, “The time promised by God has come at last!” When the disciples asked the resurrected Jesus when He would come again, he told them the same thing in Acts 1:7 he previously told them in Matthew 24:36, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”
But what we do know is that Jesus came the first time. And regardless of life as we know it, eventually He will come a second time! All earthquakes, whatever their magnitude, whenever they occur, are supposed to remind us of this! And when He does, it will be a lot like it was in Noah’s day. Jesus says in Matthew 24:37-39, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.” This makes it sound like Noah didn’t specifically warn them. But he really did. We know this is true because Hebrews 11:7 says that, “God warned him [Noah] of things that had never happened before” and that by faith, he built the ark and in doing so condemned the rest of the world. 2 Peter 2:5 adds that Noah preached and, “warned the world of God’s righteous judgment.” But like the scoffers in Peter’s day, they apparently rejected and mocked the messages even though the ark was being built. So it should come as no surprise that people will do the same things today about the Second Coming.
Point number one: There will be scoffers. That’s just the way it is. But the same God that created the world and sent the flood to cleanse it the first time has said that one day, He will do so again—not by water—but by fire. So we can start over with a new heaven and a new earth. If you want more info about how that fire will work, please see me after. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 and Revelation 20:7-15 talks about that.
Moving on, the good news about this sobering reminder is that rightly understood, there really is no delay to the Second Coming. For millennia, followers of God have been asking, “How long O Lord?” They have longed for Jesus’ to return. Eve was probably the first one to ask this question hoping at the birth of her firstborn Cain that he would be the promised Messiah because Genesis 4:1 says when he was born she announced, “With the Lord’s help I have produced a man—the Lord.” Paul was hoping he would alive when Jesus returned because in 51AD in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 he said that “we who are alive and remain” will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. And in our passage today, just 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter and the disciples already expected scoffers before Jesus’ return.
But the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk reminds us that rightly understood, there is no delay in Christ’s Second Coming. Habakkuk 2:3 says, “If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” But here we are 2600 years after Habakkuk and 2k years after Peter and Paul and Christ hasn’t come back yet. So God must have a different definition of delay don’t you think? We’ll come back to that in a second. But in order to have a delay, you must know the time of departure. Right? And Jesus told us twice in Matthew 24 and Acts 1 that nobody not even Jesus knows the time of His Second Coming. Nobody except the Father knows the time of our departure. So since nobody knows the time of departure, common sense tells us there can be no delay! So that’s two reasons for point number two. A theological one from Habakkuk saying there’s no delay and a common sense one.
But if there’s no delay, what’s taking so long? A couple weeks ago when I was in Maryland doing that teenager Bible conference weekend, one of them wrote a really great question on a post it note and stuck it to the prayer wall as they were encouraged to do. Take a look at it on the screen. This teenager asked the same question Habakkuk asked thousands of years earlier. “How long O Lord?” or in their words, “WHEN will you get here already?” And the answer is: I don’t know! Nobody does! But what we do know is He is waiting for you! Because 2 Peter 3:9 says, “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.” Will everyone? No. Just like Noah’s day. Does He want everyone to repent? Yes! Exodus 34:6-7 adds, “I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive sin, but I do not excuse the guilty.” God loves us like crazy! And is willing to wait for what seems like a crazy amount of time to us. But to God, it’s like a couple of days. We know this is true because of what 2 Peter 3:8 says, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”
Peter is quoting Psalm 90:4 which says the same thing. So you need to know that time to God is not the same as time to us. We live for 75 years. He lives forever! A thousand years to us is really long time. But a thousand years to God is like a day. So two thousand years of being in the end time is like two days to God. So there really is no delay. God is in control. Everything is going as God expects. But He will not wait forever. One day death will die [cf. 1Corinthians 15:54] and evil will end [cf. Nahum 1:9] and as 2 Peter 3:10-11 says during the Day of the Lord, “The heavens will pass away with a terrible noise...and he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames.”
So if everything on this earth is gonna eventually melt like a marshmallow, how tightly should we really be holding onto things here? Shouldn’t it be much easier for Christians to spend less and give more? To hold a garage sale if necessary, to raise some money for the flood victims here in Ohio or earthquake victims in Japan? Why? Because you can’t take any of it with you! You might as well sell what you have and give it away while you can! Because it’s not enough to just wring our hands and run for the hills misquoting Matthew 24. We must show people that God loves them like crazy! Especially when life gets crazy! So in a few weeks, we’ll be collecting a special offering for the earthquake victims of Japan and the flood victims of Ohio. I’ll remind you each week before then so you come prepared to give extra on Easter Sabbath April 23. That’s the least we can do for the people God is waiting to save and loves like crazy don’t you think? What day we doing our next big give for earthquake victims in Japan and flood victims here in Ohio? April 23. So please sell some stuff between then and now that’s just gonna melt anyway some day so we can bring an extra offering April 23.
But in the meantime, how should we live while waiting? 2 Peter 3:11 asks it this way. “11Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live?” Verse 12 answers it I think. And this is point number there. We should keep “Looking forward to the day of God.” Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who taught toward the end of the first century AD, said it this way, “Repent one day before you die.” So his disciples replied, “Does one know on which day he will die?” The rabbi replied, “All the more reason that he repent today.” [Babylonian Talmud Shabbath 153a; The Abundant Life Bible Amplifer:Peter & Jude, Pacific Press, 1995, p.170].
Jesus came the first time. Right on God’s time. And regardless of life as we know it, He will come a second time! Right on God’s time. All earthquakes, whatever their magnitude, whenever they occur, are supposed to remind us of this! So pay attention. Wake up! And start living looking forward to the day Christ comes while you still have today. If you’ve never given your life to Christ, been baptized, and joined a church community what’s stopping you from doing so? What are you waiting for? It’s as simple as ABC. Ask Jesus to come into your life. And He will [Revelation 3:20]. Believe the truth about yourself. That you are a child of God [John 1:12]. And confess your need of Him [1 John 1:9]. And our patient God who loves you like crazy will be faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Get baptized! Mark 1:9 says Jesus was baptized. And John 13:15 says we should do as Jesus has done to us. Join the church! Ephesians 5:25 adds, “Christ loves the church and gave his life for it” so why shouldn’t you? Every team has a roster. Every business a payroll. What’s stopping you? Acts 8:36 says, “Look! Some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”
So on April 30, the Sabbath right after Easter and our big earthquake offering, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have us a baptism in here! Pastor Anna and I are conducting classes right now every Sabbath @ 10am and 1:30pm. So please see me or Pastor Anna if you’re done waiting to get baptized. Jesus came the first time. And Jesus is coming a second time. There will be scoffers who won’t believe this message because of the apparent delay. Point number one. But rightly understood, there is no delay. Point number two. So let’s live looking forward to that new heaven and a new earth with Jesus forever. Point number three.
Let me close with these words found in Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God's love.” Is that your desire? Anyone here want to get baptized?Everyone else willing to stay close to Jesus waiting for His Second Coming? Even so, come Lord Jesus!