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A Thousand Years in Eternity December 10, 2017

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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2 Peter 3:8-14

Second Sunday in Advent

December 10, 2017

 

Focus:  God promises us Paradise upon Christ’s return.

Function:  That the hearers live each and every day as children of God.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.

 

A Thousand Years in Eternity

 

As we began our Advent journey of waiting last weekend, Pastor Otto sought to prepare us for the physical second coming of Jesus.  That Christ, fully God and fully man is indeed returning to this earth to bring about the Final Judgment.  And it is really Him, tangible, in the flesh, scars and all.

Our text from the Apostle Peter today allows us to continue on this theme.  The Advent season isn’t just waiting for Christmas and the baby Jesus, but it’s also waiting for the resurrected Jesus and the Last Day.

Two thousand years ago, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made us a promise.  John recorded these words at the very end of Revelation: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”  I am coming soon.  Those are our Lord’s words to us.

And in the time that passed, these words have been heard in different ways.  If you’d like, make it a point to read Paul’s writings to the people in Thessalonica sometime this week.  They heard that Christ was returning soon, so they lost interest in work.  Well, if He’s coming back soon, why do we need to plant a crop?  Why do we need to worry ourselves about the harvest?  Christ is coming back before all that!  Paul had to teach them that that was the wrong way to live their lives.  While on the one hand, they were trusting in Christ’s promise, on the other hand, they failed to keep in mind their vocations to serve their neighbors.

But aside from those random false prophets today who keep trying endlessly to predict Christ’s return, even though Christ Himself said that no one knows the day or the hour, aside from these, we really don’t have a Thessolonian problem, do we?  Our problem today with this word “soon” isn’t that it’s coming upon us immediately, it’s that we’ve lost patience.

This is a sinful nature problem.  Patience isn’t a strong suit for us.  And even if you count yourself among their rare individuals who actually are viewed as patient by their peers, what would happen to your patience if it were tried for a couple years, instead of a couple of minutes?  The Jewish people ran into this.  As they waited for the coming Messiah, as they longed for Christmas, many gave up.  As years turned into decades, and then lifetimes, and then centuries, and then even millennia, they lost their patience.

And for those who failed to see Jesus as their Messiah, many of those Jews today have stopped believing in a coming King.  They’ve turned it into a metaphor that deals not with the here and now, but deals with life beyond the grave.  And as we look around Christendom, we’re seeing this pattern emerge as well.  Christians turning the soon return of Christ into a non-event.  A metaphor that His return is simply synonymous with your moment of death.

We’ve lost patience to the point where we no longer are waiting.  Think about it for a moment.  If I could tell you, that without a doubt, Jesus is returning to this green earth tomorrow, what would that do to you today?  How would that impact what you do when you walk out those doors in thirty minutes?

Sure, some people would seek to get in as much of our idols as we could.  Our favorite entertainment, our favorite hobbies, our favorite foods.  But others among us would be overjoyed.  And concerned.  Overjoyed at the return of the King, not the Lord of the Rings movie, but Jesus.  And at the same time concerned for their neighbors, their loved ones who didn’t know Christ was coming tomorrow.  And so they’d leave the church today, pull out their phones, send a text, wait, no don’t do that.  They’d go and visit.  They’d strike up conversations, they’d share the excitement and the good news of sins forgiven in this Babe of Bethlehem.

But what if I told you, without a doubt, that Christ was coming back precisely 100 years from this very moment?  How would that change your day today?  Would it at all?  If we’re honest, most of us have the opposite problem of the Thessalonians.  We live as though Christ isn’t coming back at all.

And so today, Peter is reminding us that we’re still waiting.  And he’s giving us an eternal perspective.  A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day before the Lord.  You see, when we look at God from our perspective, we see just this tiny glimpse.  Just a minute fragment of reality.  And God sees the whole picture.  So indeed, soon still means soon.  It could be this very night.  It could be next week.  It could be another couple thousand years.

So instead of asking when, instead of trying to figure out when, Peter tells us how to wait.  That is, to live our lives in holiness and godliness.  For something to be holy doesn’t always mean perfect.  The utensils used in the Tabernacle weren’t perfect, but they were holy.  They were set apart for a specific purpose.  We are set apart for a specific purpose.

Sometimes we falsely think we need to care for this world because this planet is our future.  That’s not true.  God promises a new heaven and a new earth.  And whether that new earth is a completely new creation, or if God terraforms this rock, we don’t know.  No, instead, we are care for this planet because we’re holy.  Adam and Eve were set apart in the Garden of Eden, distinguished from the rest of creation to be caretakers of creation.  And so, you and I today care for this creation because that’s part of our vocation as children of God.

But we aren’t just holy before the plants and animals of this world.  We’re also holy before our neighbors.  We are set apart, to be salt, to be light, to be a city on a hill.  That to live our lives in godliness, living out our vocations before our families, friends, and coworkers, is to share the good news of Christ with them.

I’m not telling you to carve out sixteen hours a week for speaking gospel into the lives of your neighbors.  We’re called to live each and every day as Christians.  The people around you will notice.  Your friend will notice when you refuse to speed to cut a few minutes off the trip.  Your neighbor will notice when you clean up the trash laying around their yard.  A random stranger, who’s still your neighbor, will notice when you hand them a blessing bag on the road.  Your kids will notice when you choose to shun the words “that’s okay,” and instead speak the words, “I forgive you.”  The little, seemingly insignificant things that you do each and every day can speak volumes to the people around you.  And they can give you opportunities to speak about Christ and what He has done both for you and for them.

That’s the final verse of the text.  On the service, it looks like works, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”  But what is it that makes you without spot or blemish?  No amount of bleach, no amount of good deeds.  Christ alone.  Jesus is the only one who can make this wretched, fire-bound sinner, spotless.

And in His blood, shed on the cross, He has.  That’s exactly what He’s done.  In Christ, I’m without spot or blemish.  In Christ, you’re without spot or blemish.  In Christ, we have peace.

This is what it means to wait.  That your hope isn’t built on earthly things, but on Christ.  That your treasure isn’t bound up in the stock market, but in the wonder of His Word.  That the longing of your heart isn’t for your lunch this afternoon, but for His body and blood at the table which we receive together.

This is the promise of the gospel: there is a new heaven and a new earth.  And when Christ returns, that new earth will be your home.  Because you are His.  Because you are forgiven.  Because you have life in His name.  And this “promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off.” (Acts 2:39).  So we wait.  We wait for a Paradise we can’t describe, but we know is there.

 

 

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