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Setting Your Mind on the Things Above III

We’ve been talking about heaven over the last weeks and I’d like to continue that today as we take a moment to look at some difficult verses of Scripture in 2 Peter 3. What we are about to read describes a common struggle for many people, likely the majority of the population of Canada struggles with this misconception in one way or another. Let’s read verses 3 and 4 to see this concern:  “Know this first of all, 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.”  

The phrase, ‘the promise of His coming’ points to our subject of heaven and the struggle for many is that the evidence of ‘no change’ is stronger than the Scripture’s declarations about heaven. ‘Nothing has changed’, they say, ‘societies and cities still exist, people still work and play, wars and taxes and death… they are all still here. Not only that, but there are so many other worthwhile interests to occupy our attention rather than to try to understand something so mystical as heaven. In fact because you show such interest in this you must be a dreamer, you must not be very realistic, for to believe in . . .

We’ve been talking about heaven over the last weeks and I’d like to continue that today as we take a moment to look at some difficult verses of Scripture in 2 Peter 3. What we are about to read describes a common struggle for many people, likely the majority of the population of Canada struggles with this misconception in one way or another. Let’s read verses 3 and 4 to see this concern:  “Know this first of all, 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.”  The phrase, ‘the promise of His coming’ points to our subject of heaven and the struggle for many is that the evidence of ‘no change’ is stronger than the Scripture’s declarations about heaven. ‘Nothing has changed’, they say, ‘societies and cities still exist, people still work and play, wars and taxes and death… they are all still here. Not only that, but there are so many other worthwhile interests to occupy our attention rather than to try to understand something so mystical as heaven. In fact because you show such interest in this you must be a dreamer, you must not be very realistic, for to believe in heaven is to live the life of a simpleton.’   Why would Peter warn us with such a statement as, “Know this first of all…” concerning the issue of being mocked as sign of the times? I suppose the answer could be a three fold one:  1. Expect the existence of unbelief to increase, not just because the population increases but because godlessness increases. So the first thought is know that this is a sign of the times so persevere, don’t quit.  2. Know that not only should you not quit but also you should be encouraged that this indicates that soon Christ is to come.  3. Know that this world as it presently is, is not heaven, it lacks perfection. Your home does not.  I suppose you could take the bottom line and put it like this… ‘Know this first of all… that there is a heaven.’ The knowledge, the working knowledge of the existence of heaven is central to how you will face discouragement and the self focused belief systems of today. Let’s just take a few moments and consider the process of Peter’s argument for heaven.  I. Understanding the Future Requires Knowing the Past.  In essence Peter says that to believe in heaven you first need to believe in Creation. The argument of the world was, after all, that things have never changed and thus things will never change. Peter points out to them the fact that things have already changed drastically three times. From the creation point of a sinless Eden it changed and the earth was cursed. Then with the wickedness of man increasing to a peak in the days of Noah, the earth experienced global flood and all creation was affected again. The extent of the change in each case was massive. To say that there is no heaven, that God’s promise of a heaven is a myth and by extension that God himself is impotent completely misses the point. Look at verses 5-7, “For when they maintain this it escapes their notice 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. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”   The present heavens and earth are reserved, they are being kept for the time of their trial. By the same word of God that created the universe and spoke things into existence, that cursed the ground, that ordained the flood, the power of this same word will execute the next stage of change upon the earth and heavens. Peter describes that event that precedes heaven as a time when the whole earth and sky are enveloped in fire. Look at verse 10 for a moment… “But the day of the Lord will come 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 it’s works will be burned up.” So as not to miss the point he says the same things again in verse 12. Psalm 102:25, 26 has the same idea, as do Luke 21:33 and Revelation 21:1. To understand how that could be look at what was. When the world was destroyed by the flood, did it cease to exist? No, it still existed yet different. Randy Alcorn in his book, ‘Heaven’, quotes John Piper as saying, “…it does not have to mean that they go out of existence but may mean that there will be such a change in them that their present condition passes away. We might say, ‘The caterpillar passes away and the butterfly emerges. There is a real passing away, and there is a real continuity, a real connection.’  Hence the words of  verse 13 speak to a longing in our hearts, a longing that G.K. Chesterton called being ‘homesick at home’, where though we are on earth the New earth is yet to come…“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  II. The Preparations of God For Eternity Call Forth the Preparations of Man For The Same.  Perhaps the great denial of a creation event is really a denial of the existence of a heaven. If God has not started anything then neither can His word finish anything and I am free to follow after my own lusts. Peter’s caution to all is, ‘Don’t mistake the perseverance of God as negligence.’  How long has God been preparing for you to come to His home? Look at verses 8, 9, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” It’s amazing to think that God moves so far outside of time that a thousand years can seem like one day. I suppose in those terms that would mean that the death of Jesus on the cross would in God’s mind be like it happened just last Friday, two days ago. The even more amazing part is that even with that reality present in His mind He moves with intense patience towards ALL. God is aware that many will reject Christ and perish, many will consider Him slow and negligent, but don’t let this escape your notice, God earnestly knows all of who you are and loves to the depths of His being the preciousness of your soul, mind and body. For all of eternity He has been preparing for you.  And then Peter whispers in our ear the thoughts we already were coming to, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for AND HASTENING THE COMING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD.” The preparations of God call me to a holiness that will actually escalate the coming of Christ. Peter says the same thing in Acts 3:19, repentance and a desire for, ‘Thy kingdom come’,  will actually be used of God as He stirs us to share the gospel, to live the gospel and to hasten the coming of Christ. Verse 14 echoes this, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”  As heaven comes more into our view, as we see this earth as it is now and know it will one day be purged of it’s mess, it’s AIDs like viruses, it’s depleted resources and it’s ruined water… we see the New Earth and New Heaven with Jesus Christ in the capital of the New Jerusalem, no longer any night, no longer any sea on the face of the planet, a population of peoples and races in eternity, men and women in eternity, moving midst the angels in eternity… as these things come more and more into view we ready ourselves today to stand fast, over comers in Christ.  Let me close with these words from a hymn that John Wesley wrote in the 1800’s …    Stand the omnipotent decree!
Jehovah's will be done!
Nature's end we wait to see,
And hear her final groan.
Let this earth dissolve, and blend
In death the wicked and the just;
Let those ponderous orbs descend,
And grind us into dust.
 

Rests secure the righteous man;
At his Redeemer's beck,
Sure to emerge and rise again;
And mount above the wreck;
Lo! the heav'nly Spirit towers,
Like flames o'er nature's funeral pyre,
Triumphs in immortal powers,
And claps His wings of fire.

 

Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.
www.churchoftheopenbible.ab.ca