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93. II Peter 3: “Warnings About Reaching the Finish Line”

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 7/15/2018

(edited November 2021)

 

In Peter’s First Epistle (The Book of I Peter) he concentrates on some very practical matters to which believers must attend including every day challenges, trials, tribulations, and suffering.  Peter was an expert in suffering, for he had witnessed Christ’s suffering, first hand.

 

Now, tonight we are studying Peter’s Second Epistle (or Letter to the Church). In this, his final letter, Peter concentrates more on the challenges within. Within the Church and within the individual believer. He guides into ways of finding the strength to complete our Christian journey here on earth and to prepare ourselves for Eternity?

 

 

In the 1968 Olympic Games, the reigning African Marathon Champion was having a very rough race. John Stephen Akhawai of Tanzania had trained for the Olympic Marathon at sea level back in his country and now the over 7,000-foot elevation of Mexico City was tearing him apart. Mr. Akhawai had previously defeated the man who actually won the gold medal in the race that day. But the thin air in Mexico had quickly sapped all his energy, caused cramping in his leg muscles, and eventually caused him to fall down, very hard. He lacerated a knee and dislocated a shoulder. But, he got back up! Exhausted and grimacing in pain with every stride, he went on! And, though it was over and hour behind the winners who had already crossed the finish line, Mr. Akhawai eventually hobbled into that Olympic Stadium to some scattered applause from the small crowd that remained there. He was in dead last place (57th out of 57) but throughout the course he simply refused to join the nearly 20 other runners that had dropped out that day for various, good reasons. Afterwards, a reporter asked him why he put himself through that much pain when he could have dropped out at any time. He replied: My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race." Mr. Akhawai did not beat any of the other competitors that day, but he did overcome a part of himself that must have wanted to stop. He finished the entire race that had been assigned to finish.

 

If you are a Born-Again Christian, you are in a race, too. And, according to Peter, it will, most likely, turn into a grueling Spiritual marathon at some point. Let’s at what Peter has to say to all of us in II Peter chapter 3:      

Verse 1: This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:”

 

There are all kinds of ways to “stir people up.” Peter is aiming for a very high plane: to encourage the BEST part of the person to come out. And the best way to do that, Peter must have decided, is through the Word of God:

 

Verse 2: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:”

 

Peter is an older man when he is writing this and he has figured out his role in God’s Kingdom. We need to do that too, not in boasting but by taking very seriously that which the Lord has assigned for us to do and to complete for Him.

 

Verses 3-4: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

 

Peter wants to inoculate us all against the false teachings and false teachers that are sure to come our way—and they will! Do you need some of that medicine? Take it, beloved, for you will need it. And, it’s right back there in verse 2! Look at it again.

 

Verse 5: For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:”

 

False Christianity ignores the Scriptures! And not accidentally or ignorantly, we could understand that. Hey, I’m guilty of that! But no, they do it willingly. They do it on purpose.

 

Verses 6-7: “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:  But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

 

Some false teachers, to this day, dispute Noah’s account of the great flood in the Book of Genesis. They disdain the prophesy of the “end times” which are preached so clearly in Psalms, The Book of Isaiah, Daniel, Revelation, etc.

 

There must be a little false teacher in me, trying to get out, too. Sometimes I’ll look at this current world and it seems pretty stable to me at that moment. It seems like maybe it could continue the way it is forever. But the Word of God reminds us that it won’t! The whole cosmos, as we know it, is like one big calendar unfolding before us. (You know the calendar on the wall simply follows the movements of the celestial bodies that God set in motion. Those bodies do not follow our calendars!) And the celestial pages just keep on turning, year in and year out. It can be almost hypnotizing, but Peter wants us to remember something:

 

Verse 8: But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

 

We try to confine God to our scale of time: 30, 60, maybe 90 years on Earth. But the Lord works on His own time-scale. Here’s why He seems so slow at closing out the chapters of History, as we know it. This is why things aren’t changing any faster than they are:

 

Verse 9: The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

 

God is not inept at ending the world, but He is very merciful about it, and we should Praise Him for that. If God had ended this world in 1979, my soul would be burning in agony at this point! I don’t thank Him enough for saving me! However, the Days of Salvation on this Earth will come to an end. They must, or Heaven can never get here. Jesus won’t end, believers won’t end, but the Days of Evangelism will end. And it could happen at any time, according to Peter. Listen:

 

Verse 10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

 

Jesus will return to the Earth like a thief, but not to steal anything. He’s just taking back everything that was His all along!

 

Verses 11-13: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

 

There’s that Finish Line we’ve been talking about! We should be looking for a New Land, and a New Culture in Heaven wherein dwelleth, and reigneth, the Pure Righteousness of God Himself!

 

Verse 14: Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

 

Can you see it? The more righteously we can live in the here and now (though no one, save for Christ, can be perfect on this Earth), the righteously we can live here, the more ready we are to inhabit the Heaven that is to come.

 

Verse 15: And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

 

We weren’t put here to “fit in!” We’re still here for the purpose of spreading a message of the HOPE of Eternal Life while there is still time to believe in Jesus!

 

There is something else here, too, that is so beautiful. Do you see how Peter is at total peace with the Apostle Paul? They were two very different people with different callings from the Lord. And had argued the Bible says, and the road had gotten a little rocky for them. But here the truth of their relationship is revealed by Peter:

 

Verse 16: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

 

It sounds to me like Peter already considered Paul’s letters to the Church to be part of Scriptures! That’s how I read verse 16, anyway. Eventually, God had UNITED their hearts. We need to stay open to that possibility with each other today, even when we disagree.

 

In closing this evening, these are the last words, not just in this chapter, but the last words Peter writes to us in the Bible:

 

Verses 17-18: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

 

How can we endure all the way to the finish line? Listen to our coach, Peter: FOLLOW CHRIST, pray, stay in the Scriptures, faithfully witness, and wait on the Lord. There is a New World Coming, so get ready! Let’s pray.

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