What should our investment strategy be in light of biblical truth about what really matters? Todd points to scripture about end times in 2 Peter 3 and Mark 13 to illuminate right priorities to live by in view of the promise of Christ's return.
False Promises, Prophets, Messiahs and Manipulations vs. the Truth
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 4
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 3
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 2
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 1
One of These Days: What to Expect and What He Expects of Us
Matter Only Matters if the Bible is not a Matter of Fact
Wonders of the World vs. the Wonders of a Magnificent Obsession
The Purpose and Product of Prophecy
Father, we applaud gifts. We are really just humbled at the incredible talent and gifts you give men and women, whether they use those gifts to build great buildings, sculpt great works of art, or just to be gentle and kind and loving and tender and creative in the way they care for us. Whether they're intellectual gifts that heal our bodies or inspire our souls and challenge our hearts, you give us gifts, and we're grateful for them.
It's an expression of your love for us, but all of them are fleeting shadows compared to the one gift we say we've come to understand. It's the gift we have not deserved, the wage we could never earn that has given us life with you. I pray as we talk about the last things we need to know that it would evoke in us a change in the way we live life now and that we wouldn't just have our ears tickled and be impressed with talented people. We'd be overwhelmed with who you are. We ask this in your name, amen.
Well, we're using Mark, chapter 13, as we've been working through this gospel as our impetus to launch off into this idea of the last things you need to know. Mark 13 is a part of Scripture where Jesus, as you know, is in the last days of his life, and he's moving quickly toward being confronted with the powers that be who will put him through some mock trials and ultimately have him hanging on a cross only to defeat death and be delivered from the grave to return victorious to his disciples to speak power and encouragement into their lives.
Then, he will ascend to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God now, waiting to judge the quick and the dead, and send the gift of his Spirit back to indwell them and to declare his glory until the day he returns, but this is the last few days, literally, in the life of Christ, and he had just been into this big temple area where all who worship God would come.
He didn't just cleanse the temple. He basically condemned the temple and said, "This system is broken, and the people who lead it are anything but followers of mine, and I'm going to do away with this temple and this system of expressing your love and repentance before me, and we're going to get away from the shadow of bulls and goats and the sacrifice of animals and the sacrifices of little lambs because the ultimate Lamb has come.
The perfect Lamb of God has come, and if you don't know him, it doesn't matter what you give to God or what worship services you attend or what resources you steward toward him. You must know me, and I alone can set you free." Jesus boldly declared, "I am God." Now, leaving that scenario, just a day or so later, he comes back in, and his disciples, looking to make some conversation apparently, say this in Mark, chapter 13.
"As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!' And Jesus said to him [this crazy thing], 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.'"
Now this rattled their cages. Up until this time, they had heard that the impending death of their friend was imminent. In other words, this Jesus who loved like nobody they ever had seen or met; who had power over nature, had power over all forms of sickness; and who declared and showed that he even had power over death had said, "I'm going to die, and I'm going to be crucified and handed over to evil men, and they will have their way with me," and this didn't rattle their cages enough for them to press him.
In fact, the Scriptures show the three times in Mark 8 and 9 that Jesus presents this truth, they kind of just avoid it, but when Jesus says, "Do you see these magnificent structures man has built? I'm going to tell you something. It won't be long before not a single stone is on top of another." That perked their interest.
It's almost comical, in fact, that this was the thing that grabbed them, that his death didn't bother them as much as the destruction of this temple which they thought was some sacred shrine that God would never allow harm to come to, so they walked on a little further, and we find out that three of them came to him…Peter, James, and John.
They just said to him, "Hey, would you explain this to us." Verse 4 says, "…when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" They wanted to know, "Could you please explain this thing you say is going to happen which, frankly, we can't get."
Jesus would almost say to them, "Man, I can't believe that's what shocks you. Doesn't it shock you that I am God and that I'm going to die? Doesn't that shock you? It ought to shock you, and it should shock you even more that I'm going to declare my final greatness by having not even the grave hold me so that all men will know and God can finally fix in history that I am who I said I was so all men can know I am unique and that 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'"
It's funny when you see folks who are only impressed by material things and their eventual destruction. Here's a story, not true, of a young man who had just invested all his energy into worldly wealth and had a great deal of success at that, and then Black Monday hit. Do you remember that from a few years ago?
It was kind of the depression of our age. It wasn't a depression. It was just a major punch on a Monday, where billions of dollars were lost in the stock market, and this young man had lost pretty much everything he had. His paper money was gone, but he still had his prized BMW. He decided to take a ride in that and unwind, but sure enough, he gets on the highway, and all of a sudden, he hears that telltale sound. He has a flat, so he pulls over.
When he goes to open the door to his BMW, a car races by and rips the door off and his arm with it. He's standing there just crying and wailing, and a police officer pulls up. He hears this guy going, "My BMW! My BMW!" The officer says, "My God, man! Don't you know you've lost your arm?" The guy goes, "My Rolex! My Rolex!" It's crazy. You go, "There's something seriously wrong with that."
When you read this, it's something seriously wrong. If you've been reading in the last few chapters of Mark and this is what it takes to get their attention, you go, "That's crazy!" Jesus says, "This is finally what makes you curious about how things are going to work out, when I tell you that these buildings are going to go away?" and Jesus then goes into a series of descriptions about what will happen before all these things happen in a final way.
In the weeks ahead, I will explain to you terms like already but not yet and pre-fulfillment, and you'll find out that, in fact, that temple, Herod's temple, was destroyed in AD 70, when the caesar of the day, Titus, came down from Rome and disciplined the Jews and basically caused what's called the great dispersion or diaspora and sent these followers of Christ and these folks who worshiped Yahweh of the Old Testament just everywhere, and God used that ultimately to be the beginning of taking the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.
We're going to see how there's going to be another event the Scripture anticipates which will be similar to that, which will be the final fulfillment of what Christ talks about in Mark, chapter 13, but today, what I want to do is just wrap up where we were last week. I want to do that by showing you that the idea that Christ delivers in Mark 13:1-2 is not a unique idea in Scripture. In other words, it's not unique only to that section.
It's repeated somewhere else, and one of these men who questioned Christ on the Mount of Olives, later wrote a couple of letters, and in one of those letters, he dealt with this topic of not being impressed with material things. As we get the last things we need to know in order, one of the things we have to get a right understanding of is that, to be impressed with and committed to Rolexes, BMWs, great buildings, or beautiful bodies is foolishness to the highest degree.
Those of us who say we know ultimately that this Jesus who was is the Jesus who is and will be ought to look differently in the way we deal with our praise of architecture and with our infatuation with self and with our commitment to accumulate material things, or we mock our claim of belief. Now this man's name was Peter, and he wrote a little book called 2 Peter, or so we call it because we're not very creative.
In 2 Peter, chapter 3, let's dig in and see if we can't learn something from this one who was with Jesus on that day. We mentioned last week how a right understanding of what Christ was saying should make us not somebody who would find our shelter in religious relics or temples or places of worship.
When judgment comes, there's no place to hide. I don't care what garb you adorn yourself in. If it's not faith, there's no way you can avoid judgment, even if you hide in the very Holy of Holies in Jerusalem. We should trust God and not in superstitions or prophets who tell us what we want to hear, that there's no way judgment is coming. We should not be infatuated with our appearance just like we shouldn't be infatuated with architecture.
Now, I want to say this as we get started. You're going to find that Peter says this. It's an idea that's communicated a number of times through Scripture, four times in fact just in this little book of 2 Peter, which is just three chapters long. It says this. It's not often enough considered that man or humankind needs to be reminded much more than we need to be instructed. We need to remember that.
It's not so much that we need to get new learnings about last-times specifics so we can live differently. We already know enough if we simply know that Jesus Christ said that he will return in the same way he left and will judge the living and the dead and that all men will be culpable before him and all men will be held accountable. That's enough.
Our problem is not that we don't have details about the sequence of what will happen or the exact timing of his coming. Our problem is we neglect what we already know, and Peter knew this, and Peter knew that we would be surrounded by false prophets just like the contemporaries of his day would be.
The false teachers told you that Jesus wasn't necessarily somebody you should stake all your confidence in and concerning yourself with his return and pursing holiness is not something you should be that infatuated by. These false teachers were constantly encouraging you to mock his coming and to reconsider whether or not you should live the lives that suggest that he's coming, so this is what Peter wrote in 2 Peter, chapter 3, about 30 years after that conversation we just saw in Mark 13.
He says, "This is now, beloved [followers of God with me] , the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…" Notice that word. He uses it four different times in this little book. "…that you should remember…" There it is a second time. "…the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles."
Over 16 times in the New Testament alone, by Christ and by his followers who gave us God's Word through the inspiration of that gift that the person of Christ said he would send… Over 16 times, he says, "Don't forget what you've already heard, that Christ is coming," and he also said, "Don't forget what Christ and what those who you follow have told you to do, which is to be holy." In 1 Peter, you find the commandment to be holy as God is holy. Jesus himself, the very first time he's on the scene says, "…be holy, for I am holy."
What Peter is saying is, "Don't let these false prophets intimidate you or get you to blow off this concept of accountability before a God who lives and will return, and don't blow off this idea that you should purify yourself, knowing you're going to meet him, as the false teachers would encourage you to do."
Now I want to just roll through this very quickly because Peter admonishes us to not just necessarily delve into new truth but be reminded of what we already know. I'm going to apply that right now, and I'm going to walk you through what we did two weeks ago and remind you the purpose and product of pro and phemi, the two Greek words pro or beforehand and phemi, which means to declare.
When you find over 25 to 33 percent of our Bible is prophet when it was written, when you see the Scriptures declare beforehand what will come, what is the purpose of that? To make us bright and intellectual, to have inside information so we can know how we can screw around right before the Master returns? No. The purpose of prophecy in the Scripture is something else. It's fourfold, and so we reflect on that to remember and remind us why we're studying this.
First, the study of prophecy should encourage us to worship because God alone is sovereignly holding history. Everything is in his hands, even tomorrow. This week, I was listening to Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer, who was one of the many folks who died in that plane headed toward Washington that was buried in the Pennsylvania countryside. They asked her about how she could get her arms around this, and she goes to God's sovereignty.
She just simply says, "You know, God knew on September 11th those terrorists had that in mind. On September 11th, God knew when Todd kissed his two living children and the one in my womb good-bye that day that he would get on that plane that those terrorists were on, and God knew that plane would end up on Pennsylvania.
I don't really understand why God has allowed that, but I know God was not surprised when that happened. I also know God is in control of this world, and that the way he is using events in this world will ultimately work together for my good," she says with the perspective of time. Still not comfortable with the fact that God has chosen to use her in such a painful way but ultimately submissive to the fact that he is God and she is not, her understanding of last things is that God is still in control and that Romans 8:28 is true.
I shouldn't deliver to Lisa, but it blesses my heart to hear Lisa deliver it to me that, "Todd, all things work together for good to those who love this God and are called according to his purposes, so I'm going to worship him." As Spurgeon said centuries ago, "God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace his hand [when you can't see the fingerprints of God on something], we must trust His heart," which is to say, "Worship him because he is God." Prophecy should help you in your worship of God.
Second, prophecy should help you, encourage you, and motivate you to read your Bibles because this God who knows what you cannot know has chosen to reveal certain things to you. Third, prophecy should encourage you to purify yourself because you know you're going to deal with him. First John says, "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him [the return of Christ] purifies himself…" This is all a reminder, but don't you need it? I know I do.
Fourth, prophecy, knowing that God can declare beforehand what should be should encourage me to do what Lisa Beamer is doing, to not just worship him in the eternal but to trust him in the today.
We mentioned that we have a number of convictions we can never waver on. While there is much that we can't be certain about, we want to know what we can be certain about, and the convictions we cannot waver on, or if you don't have them you need to establish, we listed off as this. First, the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, both of the righteous and the wicked is going to happen.
Second is the certainty of recompense through judgment, that all of us, the saved and those who will be severed from God, will be judged, either as servants or as people trying to attain through their own righteousness. Those who try to attain by their own righteousness by delivering a resume we know will always fall short because they are not holy as he is holy.
Those of us who have acknowledged that we're not holy and have availed ourselves to God will be, by grace, saved, but then he will judge how we responded to that as faithful or not-so-faithful servants, so we ought to be certain about that.
Third, we ought to be certain about the return of Christ. We don't know ultimately when, but we know that it's near. We know that it might be delayed, and we know that, specifically, we'll never know for sure the time, but we should know for sure that the return is coming. Fourth, we should be clear on the reality of heaven and hell.
Then we mentioned, as a way of reminder, there are some things that we can't be so sure about and convictions that we ought to say, "You know, these can wait." First is, specifically, the itinerary of Christ. What is the hour and day of his coming? We don't know. We know, again, that it's near. We know it might be and has been delayed at least to this day, but we know it's coming. To say we know the specific itinerary is trouble.
You'll hear me say that almost every week in the days ahead. Even when I give you some scenarios that appear to make sense to people today, I'll remind you of scenarios that seemed just as dramatic to people a while ago. The imminent return of Christ means that there was not ever any long series of progression that God needed to go through in order to return and come for his children.
Now I'm going to tell you today why he hasn't come as of yet, but don't ever get impressed with somebody who can take the New York Times, drape it over your Bible, and go, "This is this, so get ready." That has destroyed the faith and people of the faith for centuries, and I'll explain to you why.
Second is the identity of the Antichrist. I told you the pet Antichrist candidate of the day is Prince Charles, and there are some impressive reasons why they can prove that Prince Charles is the Antichrist, and I would say, "We can't be sure, but we can be sure there will be one, and we can be sure that his bid to put himself in a place where ultimately we should worship him will fail." Meanwhile, what do we do?
We remember that, bottom line, the purpose and product of prophecy. It wasn't written to satisfy our curiosity. It is given to supply us with confidence and remind us of our charge, which is to say, "Be faithful." Now, you go, "Man, didn't he say that two weeks ago?" Yeah, I said that for 45 minutes two weeks ago.
We spelled it out in much more detail. Do you know what I'm doing? I'm reminding you. It's been two weeks, and I needed to remind myself today why I read my Bible, among other reasons, why I worship the God who is, and why I can trust him when some very painful things go down, the September 11th of your day. Second Peter, chapter 3, continues though, and this is what it says. He says:
"Know this first of all [as a matter of first importance] , that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'
For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice…" Almost tongue in check, he says. "…that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water." This is what Peter is saying. You can see the little heading right there above that. That's simply that scoffers aren't concerned about being holy for one reason: they're not wholly convinced that Jesus is coming.
Peter says, "Prepare yourself for folks who will mock God and mock you for believing that prophemi is true." There's a reason these scoffers hold onto this, and there's a methodology they use, and it's basically the methodology of two big words, deism and naturalism and another big word uniformitarianism, which is simply to say that deists believe God is a cosmic watchmaker.
They believe he made this earth. They're not atheists or naturalists, who believe it is evolved out nothing, but they are people who believe that God made us, wound us like a watch, and now lets us just tick on our own and what we do with this world is really of our own deciding, that God is separate and apart from us and everything that happens now happens naturally without supernatural intervention. That's what they say.
Uniformitarianism is actually a form of almost being geologists, and they basically believe that existing processes can explain everything we see and account for every geological change we see. Geological processes happening as they always have been, acting in the same manner as they are presently can account for everything we see. Everything is uniform. What they say is it's always been this way and that God has always talked about coming, and where is he coming?
I want to just point out a few things right here. Peter says that, when they do this, they forget that God spoke this world into existence, and they forget that God judged this world. I want to make a quick note for you here about Peter, a couple of things about Peter and a couple of things about scoffers that are right there in 2 Peter, chapter 3.
First, you need to see that Peter was a creationist, and he believed that God spoke this world into existence. Peter was also a believer in a universal flood. Now just as an aside, you need to know Jesus also believed in creationism, and Jesus also believed in a universal flood. That's, by the way, why I happen to believe in that because I don't like to argue with guys who heal the blind, who walk on water, and who are raised from the dead. I just kind of default to their opinion.
When Christ says, "Hey, this is the way the earth came into existence, and this is the way the earth was judged once" and when he talks about and declares beforehand how the world will be judged again by him, I sit up and take notice. Scoffers, on the other hand, are individuals, according to 2 Peter, chapter 3, who are ignorant of God's activity in the past, and it says, "…it escapes their notice…" or they are willfully ignorant. It should say, "They are ignorers of God's activity in the past."
Scoffers are ignorers of God's person. They don't know why he hasn't come yet, so Peter is going to tell them here in a couple of verses. They are ignorers of God's declaration for the future. This is what scoffers are. They scoff what God has done in the past, even though it goes against all evidence to scoff at it. They scoff against the character of God, even though he screams who he is and gives reasons why he may not come just yet, and they ignore the possibility that this God who made us will come deal with us again.
Now here's just a little observation I kind of scribbled down for myself this week as I was thinking about this, and that's this. Mockers don't present reasons they don't believe in the Word of God so much as they follow after their own lusts and encourage themselves by belittling those who don't follow after their own lusts.
In other words, what I'm saying here is, when you run up against mockers and scoffers, they won't typically come at you with science, and they won't come up with reasons why you shouldn't believe. They'll just go, "You can't believe that, can you? Look at the world around us. Everything's happening by explainable causes that, continuing in the way they are today, will bring about tomorrow just like it's always been." Really?
There's this little idea that came onto the human scene about 150 years ago by the name of evolutionism, and it is a framework upon which mockers now stand with great august, great confidence that they don't need to believe what you and I believe. They stood there on this rock of evolutionism, and they screamed at us and said science was on their side, and they took Darwin's work, On theOrigin of the Species, and they said, "Now we have a uniform way to show you how what is always has been and how we got where we are today."
I want to just make this observation. When you come against creationism, however you want to define that (I'll leave it there for now), you don't just mock the reliability of the book of Genesis. When you come against creationism, you mock the entire word of God. You mock the deity of Jesus Christ, because he was a creationist, and you mock the foundation for objective morality and ethics.
If I can scoff that God made this world, I can scoff about everything about his coming, about his existing, and about you and me being accountable to him. They entice their lust, and they go strong after their own desires, and they do this with great bravery because they don't see any consequence to it.
Let me remind you that Jesus himself observes this. He says, "It'll be just like in the days of Noah, when men were eating and drinking and marrying and giving themselves in marriage, and everything was fine until a little rain started to fall, and they realized that maybe Noah wasn't a nut after all and that maybe there was an impending judgment and, if they didn't get on an ark of rest to be lifted up above the coming flood of judgment, they would be in trouble."
Jesus is capturing the same idea. The word Noah in Hebrew means rest, and if you don't find one who you can find rest in… Remember what Christ said? "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." If you don't get yourself upon the ark of grace that Christ provides, you will not escape the coming flood of judgment. You won't be lifted above it. You'll be caught up in it, and mockers will be there, laughing at those of us who finding our rest in the ark of Christ.
They will mock us right up until the day the rain comes. You're going to find out in a minute that Peter says the rain that comes this next time will not be a rain of water because God swore that he'd never destroy the earth by flood again. Now those of you live down in the New Braunfels-San Antonio area go, "Wait a minute. Where's that promise?"
Well, he didn't say he'd never flood the Brazos. He said he'd never flood the earth and destroy and bring judgment on the earth through flood again, and he put his covenant, his mark in the heavens, Genesis 9 says. What was that? It's a rainbow, and every time you see it, it's God's reminder: "Hey, my mercy and grace are with you."
One of the things I mentioned the very first week is that every time we seen rain… I didn't mention this, but I mentioned where I'm going with this. Every time it rains, and it stops, do you know what we ought to do? The word mercy ought to come to our minds, because the people in the days of Noah were no more deserving of judgment than we are today. In fact, you could make a case that we are much, much more deserving of judgment than they ever were.
Many theologians have said that, if God does not bring judgment on the United States and the world upon which we live today, then God's going to have to apologize to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he'll have to apologize to the contemporaries of Noah. When that rain stops, you and I ought to look at each other and just go, "Mercy that this isn't the day."
This is what I said a couple of weeks ago. While there is often a second chance, there is always a last chance. If we were students of the Scripture, every time it rained and stopped, we would go, "Mercy, grace, patience, forbearing." It's God's desire that his patience would lead us to repentance.
This is why scoffers mock and scoff. In Psalm 73… We looked at this some this summer in our Songs of Summer series, but let me take you back to Psalm 73, verse 8. It says, "They mock and wickedly speak of oppression…" The mockers do. "…they speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth." Peter says, "Prepare yourself for it. It's coming."
Verse 11 says, "They say, 'How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?'" And the psalmist writes, "Behold, [these are the mockers] these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth." Why wouldn't they, if they thought God wasn't coming? Why wouldn't they commit themselves to matter? It's all that matters if matter will not be destroyed.
He's even tempted to be impressed by these mockers, and he says, "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence…" Do you see right there how consistent your Scriptures are with warnings and ideas? Peter says, "Don't let these mockers affect you. Don't forget the prophets. Don't forget Christ. He is coming, and you should be pure."
What he's saying is, "I hear the mockers. I see them invest in a life where matter matters, and I see their pleasures, and I hear them mock God, and God doesn't come, and maybe I am stupid for being concerned about last things." See, this is not a new temptation. In Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, this is the same idea that Solomon wrote years later. He says, "…I have seen the wicked buried [with honor] …" What's he saying there? Mockers go to the grave, and people praise them.
How strange that these mockers were the very ones who were in the religious services and churches of the day, but he says they're praised in the city where they were doing all the evil they were doing and where they committed their crimes. Then he says, "When a crime is not punished, people feel it's safe to do wrong." You know, in the NAS, the Scriptures I usually use, it says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."
Now let me tie this idea up. When you run across mockers, mockers mock not typically because they bring you reasons. They don't bring you intellect. They don't bring you science. They don't bring you evidence. They bring a desire to follow after their own lusts, and they encourage themselves by belittling those who don't live for the now, and they say, "You're fools, man. You're missing out on all the fun because you have this guilt complex."
I mentioned that, if you mock creation, you don't just mock Genesis. We all know Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Psalm 33, though, says, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host." David believed it.
Hebrews in the New Testament says this. "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." The very book which declares more about what will be than any other, Revelation, points to this idea of creation. "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things…"
If you mock creation, you mock God's Word, you mock the Lord, you mock the deity of Christ, and you mock the foundation for all objective ethics and reality. Why do men do it? What's the answer according to 2 Peter? They want to do what they want to do.
I'm going to show you something. It's about a 30-year-old quote, and all he's doing, if in AD 60 Peter wrote what he just read, then some 1,910 years later, he stood up and said, "Peter is right. The reason we don't concern ourselves with justice and pursue holiness is because we don't want to." This wasn't just your village idiot. It's a guy by the name of Dr. George Wald, who was a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology, a Harvard laureate, and this is what he says. Follow this.
"There are only two possible explanations as to how life arose: Spontaneous generation arising to evolution or a supernatural creative act of God... There is no other possibility. Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others, but that just leaves us with only one other possibility...that life came as a supernatural act of creation by God, but I can't accept that philosophy because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically [ignorant, stupid and] impossible, spontaneous generation leading to evolution."
Now this is a smart man, and what he's saying is, "Look, let's just be honest about why we're so fired up about saying there are no last things we need to be concerned with. Because we don't want to cloud truth with facts and because we're committed to just having a big time. You know what? It just makes us a little less anxious to tap the keg when we reflect on the fact that we might be accountable, so we choose to mock those who pursue a life of holiness. It makes the orgy a little less well attended when we read the Scriptures, and we like orgies."
Did you catch that? Do you see how wise your Scriptures are? This is a guy who's smarter than anybody you'll debate about evolution, and he's saying, "It's a joke, but philosophically, we have to go there if we're not going to just kill ourselves." You know, when people tell you about the Christian faith, they'll tell you it's a crutch?
Do you know what the truth is? Atheism is a crutch that they need to lean on so they are not crumpled in fear at the reality that they know. Notice what Peter says. He says they deny this, following not their minds, following not science, following not reason, but following their lusts. Now where do we go with this? Well, let's go back to Peter, and we'll read verse 7 down through verse 10.
It says, continuing now, "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire…" That's an interesting little phrase right there. That phrase reserved for fire literally means and is translated in some books, some translations of Scripture, as stored with fire. We know that elements are stored with power. We know there's enough energy in a glass of water to run and power a city or to ruin a city (see Nagasaki and Hiroshima). We know you can run a nuclear sub on what is contained in a glass of water.
What Peter is writing right here, not being an atomist, he just knows that the present heavens and earth (he doesn't even know why, but the Spirit of God had him right) are reserved or stored with fire, if you will. It says they are "…kept for the day…" That word kept is the way you store treasure.
It's the way you preserve something and guard it dearly. If you've ever been around the president of the United States, it's a pretty awesome thing because, wherever he goes (actually also where the vice president goes), there's always a Secret Service agent and somebody carrying close behind him a box, a suitcase, and it's the Batphone.
That Batphone basically holds in there the codes to our nuclear armament, and it holds everything that those two men (if one is taken out, the other has it) need in order to make a decision to defend the United States. I want to tell you something. There are Uzis and buff guys in mirrored glasses who keep that thing very safe.
What it's saying right here is that God is keeping the earth for himself in an also very safe way. Why? "…for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." He says this. "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise…"
Mockers think God doesn't come because he's tardy or because he's late or because he can't, that he's incompetent, but that's not why God is slow. He's slow not "…as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." Quiz: Why has the Lord not returned yet?
Answer: Maybe it's because of you, and maybe, because before the foundations of the earth, God decreed you would be his child and he would woo you and draw you. Maybe he decreed he would use the preaching of 2 Peter, chapter 3, and maybe he said he'd do it on September 8, 2002, and the reason the Lord didn't return on this Rosh Hashanah and the reason God has not come with judgment now is because he loves you and because he wants you to know he understands the hopelessness of life apart from him.
He understands what it's like to be tempted, and he knows that, if you weren't innately good, as he was, he couldn't have even resisted temptation. He wants to give you forgiveness, and he wants to glorify himself as he makes you a trophy of his grace.
What's going on here in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verses 8 and 9, is not a declaration of time. It's an expression of attitude God has. Man is immortal, which is to say we have a beginning but no ending, but God is eternal, which means he is without beginning or end. Eternity does not equal extended time. That, if you will, is immortality. Eternity is existence above, separate, and apart from time.
See, you and I see time against time. God sees time against eternity, so he's not concerned about 1,000 years. He's concerned about you. He's not slow because he's incapable. He is slow because he loves you and wants all to come to repentance, but there is going to be a day, and we cannot miss this, when God says, "Enough is enough. No more second chances. There's now a last chance." The Spirit of God will not strive with men forever. I want to tell you, as you study last things, you need to know this. That day is almost unspeakable in its horror.
What Peter is saying right here is this. It's foolishness to invest in matter because matter only ultimately matters if the Bible isn't ultimately a matter of fact, and materialism and being consumed with today is foolishness. Why? This earth is stored for fire. It's being reserved for fire. It's being kept by God.
It's interesting a cross-reference for this to me is in Colossians, chapter 1, where it says simply that Jesus holds all things together by the power of his will. Do you want to know what I think? Let me just step away from what I would say is unrefutable truth and give you Todd Wagner's understanding. I think Jesus does hold this world together, and I think what's going to happen… I want to go back and show you something in 2 Peter, chapter 3, first.
What's going to happen is that this world will not end in a nuclear war. This is not a prophet speaking. This is your pastor's understanding and ideas. I told you I'd tell you when the two went different directions. Look at 2 Peter, chapter 3. In 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 10, he says, "But the day of the Lord will come…" Don't let those mockers mock you. "…like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."
Now this is very interesting. The word that's used for roar is the word that's used in the Greek for the whirring of a bird's wings or the hissing of a snake. When they were in the desert of Nevada in the 1940s when the Manhattan Project was tested, eyewitnesses said they heard a hissing sound almost like a roar when that bomb went off.
That word you find there where it says "…and all the elements will be destroyed…" In the King James Version, it says they will melt, which is to say they will disintegrate. They will dissolve. They will be broken down to their most basic element. All elements will be reduced to the most basic of their existence, which is to say it'll even be smaller than an atom. Now I believe this world exists because God is holding this world together by the power of his Word.
I don't think God is going to let somebody else grab that magic little case from him and push the buttons himself (or herself). This is God's world. He made it, and God will destroy it. I think what you're going to find out as we study these last things is what Peter is saying is, "Don't get impressed with temples and 110-story buildings and wonders of the world because they do not last, and foolish people commit themselves to making things great on this earth."
He said, "There's nothing on this earth that God's not going to unleash, and they're going to go away like a whistle. They will be reduced to the most basic things." Now some of us go, "How could God allow these beautiful creations of man to go away? Won't he want to preserve some artifacts from earth for display in heaven? Won't he at least save Mona Lisa, one of the homeliest-looking chicks who's ever existed, a painting I think most high school kids could do but for some reason we say it's the definitive work?"
All right, write me your letters. Tell me I'm ignorant about art. I know it, but how nuts! How nuts that God, if he's God, would need something we made so that heaven's a little prettier. That's why Peter is saying, "Look, don't invest yourself in this. It's going away. It's not going to last, and people who make themselves consumed with matter are nuts." Don't invest in this world. Invest in the world to come. The last thing you need to know is the finest thing we've created is going to just go.
When this happens, every wonder of man will be burned up. Everything man boasts about will be consumed. You know this. There'll be nothing we can give to him to say, "You can't judge me. Look how great I am. Look what I made. It's… It's gone!" That's Peter's point. God is going to let it go. People who have money, people who have greatness, people who have fame… God is going to let it go in a roar, when the power of his world no longer holds it together. How foolish!
You know when Lucille Ball died a number of years ago, I heard a guy on the radio say, "You know what? God must've needed a good laugh in heaven because he took Lucy to be with him." Well, I have news for you, Luce. You didn't deliver any syndicated shows to him because they're gone. They're gone.
When John Wesley made his tour of duty through the United States of America, a great plantation owner grabbed him and walked him around his plantation and just showed him all the splendor of his greatness. Then he brought Wesley into his dining room, and he sat him down, and he said, "So what do you think?"
Wesley looked him in the eye and basically said, "I think you're going to have a real hard time leaving all of this because you're not ultimately investing in what matters, and from what I can see of your life, you must not think that matter is ultimately a matter of fact. You didn't take me into your room and show me your family and the way you care for your wife and love your children.
You didn't show me your slaves and how you've allowed them to be free in your care but because you love them so much they've chosen to be here and that there's harmony and a sense of divinity in your plantation and how you use a number of your crops to care for the poor who are in your community. You didn't take me through all that and sit me down and go, 'What do you think of all this?' You took me to fleeting things that are going to be just devoured in a moment."
You've all seen the bumper sticker, "He who dies with the most toys wins." It should say, "He who dies with the most toys still dies and leaves all his toys here behind him." Materialism or being consumed with matter is nonsense. Now that doesn't mean you can't have nice things. That's between you and God.
Who am I to judge the servant of another? Some of y'all would judge me and my standard of living and go, "Man, Todd, if you believed that, you wouldn't live in that house now that somebody graciously allowed your family to enjoy. You wouldn't dress like that. You wouldn't drive that car."
Materialism is not equated with amounts. Materialism is equated with attitudes and how you as a steward live in fear before a God you know you must give account to. You don't build up greatness by that which you can accumulate and that which you think will make your life ultimately one of account. If you have a right mind toward last things, you will have a different perspective on things. Let's pray.
Father, I don't want to be deluded that I'm okay because I can point to others who live with more than I have. I just want to believe in the resurrection of the dead, the recompense of judgment, the return of Jesus Christ, and the reality of heaven and hell. I want to invest in the world that is to come. Father, I know, if I'm going to care more about eternal things, I'm going to have to carefully reallocate my resources because you've told me that where my treasures are, there my heart will be.
Father, I know when we talk about end-times things, it's not good news for everybody because their treasures are on earth and every day brings them closer to losing their treasures, and I want to thank you that that's not so with me and not so with many of my friends in this room who, by grace, have been taught to think ultimately with truth and that is that every day brings us closer to our ultimate treasure because we are living not for this world but for the world to come.
Lord, here's what I need you to do. I need you to change us still more. I need you to change us so that we invest more in tomorrow with our hearts' affections and with our hands' earnings so that eternity and destruction of this earth and all it holds is more exciting for us tomorrow than today. O God! Make us believe you. I pray our hands would follow our hearts in this and we would live more radically, and we would live more other-worldly minded because we don't just talk about prophecy. We believe it, so we can look forward to the day.
Would you help us worship you now this week by being less consumed with our beauty, our money, and the works of our hands and finding comfort there? Might we find comfort only, Father, in the grave, knowing you will reward your servants on that day. God, convict us and change our investment strategy. In Christ's name, amen.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 13.