As we preached through 1 John 2 this week, we heard the Apostle say that “it is the last hour.” John and his contemporaries were convinced that Jesus had ushered in a new and final era of human history. The end was near. He who had come would come again. And soon.
John’s fellow Apostle, James wrote,
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:7-9; emphasis added)
The Apostle Peter said, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).” Calling his readers to endurance, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay (Hebrews 10:37).” There was no doubt. The return of Christ was imminent.
Yet if they were holding their breath, they would have passed out by now. Nearly 2 millennia has passed since the Church began waiting for her Savior. We continue to wait, and skeptics laugh as we do. In Biblical Errancy, David McKinsey writes,
Paul, himself, showed…that he was among those who awaited the imminent return of Christ. Yet, as the history of that era clearly shows, all was for nought. No messiah appeared…The NT repeatedly says the messiah was to return in a very short time. Yet, mankind has waited for nearly 2,000 years and nothing has occurred. By no stretch of the imagination can that be considered “coming quickly.”…It is, indeed, unfortunate that millions of people still cling to the forlorn hope that somehow a messiah will arise to extract them from their predicament. How many years (2,000, 10,000, 100,000) will it take for them to finally say, “We can only conclude that we are the victims of a cruel hoax”?
Is it all a hoax? How is 2000 years (and counting) imminent?
While only God knows the answer as to when He will return (and all guessing otherwise is folly; just ask Harold Camping), in 2 Peter 3:8-10, He has told us at least 3 things to hold onto with certainty as we wait.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Pet. 3:8-10)
1. He is not bound by time. We live in a world of calendars, schedules, daily planners, alarm clocks, and stop-watches. Every second matters. We need to be on time. Get things done in time. Carve out time. Our time is limited. Our time is running out. The time it takes to read this sentence is 3 seconds you’ll never get back. We are slaves to time. God is not. He is it’s Maker and Master. He has no beginning. He has no end. If we could see into the heavens, we would not find a frantic Almighty constantly checking His watch making sure things are on schedule. He is not like us. One day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. But take heart. Though He is transcendent and above time, in relation to us, He is always perfectly on time. At the precise moment, He called out to Abraham and stopped his knife from falling on Isaac. When the fullness of time had come, He sent Jesus into the world to be born of a woman (Gal.4:4). And He who makes “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:11), will not delay his coming for even a moment beyond His appointed time.
2. We ought to live ready: Like a thief. That’s the analogy that Peter uses to describe the coming of the Lord. It’s one of the Bible’s favorites on the matter. Unexpected. Sudden. Without warning. Any moment. The point is, with every passing moment we are closer to His return than when we first believed. It could be 10,000 years from now. But it could also be 10 minutes from now. Christ has died. Christ has risen. All that remains is Christ will come again. And so our response should be to live ready. Do not neglect His great salvation. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).” Do not delay coming to Him or living for Him.
3. He is more gracious than you could possibly imagine. Here’s the one that gets me the most. We think His delay is a sign of His absence. Or His faithlessness. Or His lack of care. Think of all the saints, even now His persecuted Church, who cry to Him, “How long Lord? How long?” How long before He makes all things right? But the Lord delays His coming not because He is faithless but because He is faithful. Not because He does not love His people, but because He loves them more than we know. Listen again to Peter’s words.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
His patience with sinners makes Him wait. He waits to return till the very last sinner who will embrace Christ for salvation reaches repentance. He will not return till the last of His elect are brought in. So if there is some sinner in some corner of the earth who is a part of God’s flock, but he has not yet turned to the Good Shepherd, God will delay. If there is a prodigal daughter running as fast and far from home as she can, until He catches her, the Hound of Heaven will wait. If there is a dying thief who ignores God for a lifetime but will seek mercy on his deathbed, the Lord will will wait. If there is a child of God still unborn, for him to arrive, hear the gospel, repent of his sins, and trust in Christ, God will wait. Until the very last sheep of His flock is brought in, until the very last child of His family is adopted, until the very last sinner who will repent is saved, God will wait.
He waits patiently for sinners. And so we wait patiently for Him.