14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. – 2 Peter 3:14-18 ESV
Peter has just stated that time is not an issue for God: “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). So, if there appears to be a delay in the fulfillment of His promises, we have no reason to worry or doubt. God isn’t bound by time. Which means, we are to continue to wait, eagerly and expectantly, knowing that neither the circumstances around us or what appears to be a lack of activity on God’s part, are cause for concern. In fact, Peter reminds them, “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” (2 Peter 3:10 NLT). With that in mind, he says, “while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight” (2 Peter 3:14 NLT). In other words, leave the timing of “these things” up to God and spend more time concerned with how you live your lives. Let God do His job and do what He has commanded you to do. And what does God expect of us? Remember what Peter said:
6 …make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. – 2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT
Faith involves trusting God for what He has promised to do. He has promised to send His Son again, and we must rest in that promise, not allowing anyone to distract us from our reliance upon God’s Word. But as we wait, we are to be busy growing in our understanding of God and in likeness to His Son. “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 NLT). This seeming delay on God’s part has a purpose. For one thing, we are to take advantage of the time in order to grow spiritually. We are to use the time wisely, supplementing our faith with the character qualities of Christ Himself.
In chapter 24 of the gospel of Matthew, we have recorded Jesus’ words concerning the end times. He provides the disciples with a glimpse into future things, but then tells them, “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36 NLT). Then, Jesus gave the disciples a series of parables concerning these end time events and their relationship to them. He wanted them to know how they were to live while they waited for these future events to take place. In the first parable, found in chapter five, he tells of 10 bridesmaids, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. But the bridegroom was late. “When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matthew 25:5 NLT). Now, the problem was that five of the bridesmaids had not brought extra oil for their lamps. So, at midnight, they were all awakened by the news that the bridegroom had arrived. When they went to prepare their lamps to meet him, five found that their lamps had run out of oil. They begged the other five to lend them oil so they too could greet the bridegroom, but they were refused and told to go to the store and buy more. While they were gone, the bridegroom came and they missed him. Not only that, when they arrived at the wedding feast, the doors were locked, with them on the outside. Jesus describes the scene:
11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’” – Matthew 25:11-12 NLT
Then Jesus ends this parable with the words: “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return” (Matthew 25:13 NLT).
Then, Jesus tells the parable of a man with three servants.
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.” – Matthew 25:14-15 NLT
The first servant invested his silver and turned it into a healthy profit. The second servant did the same. But the third servant buried his silver in the ground and did nothing with it. He failed to invest it at all. And Jesus states, “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money” (Matthew 25:19 NLT). Notice His words: “After a long time.” There was a lengthy delay. The first two servants used that delay to invest what they had been given and turn it into something even greater. The third servant squandered the opportunity by doing nothing. To the first two servants, the master gave the same response: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (Matthew 25:23 NLT). But the third servant, rather than give the master a return for his money, gave him excuses. “I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back” (Matthew 25:25 NLT). And the master, more than a little put out by this man’s actions and attitudes, said: “You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it” (Matthew 25:26-27 NLT). What happens next is both disturbing and enlightening.
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” – Matthew 25:28-30 NLT
This man loses everything. And the inference seems to be that this servant had never really been a faithful servant at all. The absence of his master had only revealed his true heart. The delay of his master’s return exposed unreliable, unregenerate character. And he suffered as a result.
What these two parables reveal are the character qualities of those who claim to be children of God and members of the Kingdom of God. But notice that the delay involved in both stories, either reveals the faithfulness of some or the wickedness of the others. There are those who are prepared, ready and waiting for the return of the one to come, and there are those who are lazy and lacks in their preparation, acting as if the bridegroom and the master will never show up.
Peter emphasizes that the delay of Christ’s return not only gives His people time to prepare, but it creates an opportunity for others to come to faith. The longer Jesus delays His return, the more time we have to share the gospel with others. We get extra time to grow up in our salvation, while others get the opportunity to come to salvation.
And Peter reminds his audience that they had heard these very same words from the apostle Paul in a letter he had written them. Peter admits that some of what Paul wrote was difficult to understand and that some people had tried to twist the meaning of his words, but the bottom line was that Peter viewed the writings of Paul as equal in weight and authority as the Old Testament Scriptures. So, in essence, he was telling his readers that if they didn’t want to take his word on the matter, they should at least listen to Paul.
The bottom line for Peter was spiritual growth. He wanted those to whom he was writing to be ready for the coming of the Lord. He wanted them to live as if Jesus could come back any day, and he wanted them to be ready, having made the most of the time given to them by God. So, he ends his letter with these words:
“…be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:17-18 NLT
He didn’t want them to get lulled into a false sense of complacency, as if Jesus was never going to come back. He wanted them to be alert to those false messages that might distract them from their true calling and become more concerned with this life than the once to come. Peter wanted them to grow. He wanted them to understand the any delay in the Lord’s return was really the grace of God, allowing them more time to grow in their knowledge of Christ and their likeness to Him. The question wasn’t whether Jesus was coming back. It was whether or not He would find His people ready when He did. How will He find you?
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.