Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
The background to this passage is the cataclysmic end of the world. It’s coming. The heavens themselves – star-filled – will be undone, burned up with fire.Imagine the raging holocaust! Such will be the blazing intensity that the very elements themselves will melt in the heat.
But not only will there be an apocalyptic ending, there will also be a glorious beginning. The Lord himself has promised a new heaven and new earth that will emerge from the destruction of the old. Peter told us earlier that the Lord has given us his very great and precious promises (1:4) – this is one of them, sure and steadfast.
In light of this, how are we to live, right here, right now?
In my youth there was much emphasis on “end times.” Authors and preachers examined biblical prophecies, seeking to overlay those details on current world events. Some of it was helpful, but some of seemed to be needless distraction. Infamous politicians and rogue nations got inserted into the prophetic narrative, stoking ongoing debate about how it would all play out. Works of fiction and non-fiction hit the shelves of local Christian bookstores. Films were produced. Youth groups discussed the details.
But the point of the prophetic word was never to fuel endless speculation. Rather, the intent was to produce fresh focus in living for Jesus right now.
“What kind of people ought you to be?”, Peter asks, and then gives some answers. Indeed, it seems to me there are three.
Firstly, “live holy and godly lives” (verse 11). In other words, take your discipleship seriously. Live life focused on Jesus. “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (verse 14). There’s an element of wake-up-call, lest his appearing catch us off-guard and find us slacking in service. This was the theme in a number of Jesus’ own parables. The Lord and Master is returning at an hour that is unknown, so his servants should faithfully fulfill their tasks so they won’t be ashamed at his coming. Live holy and godly lives – the Lord is coming.
But there is also an element of edge-of-the-seat anticipation, joyfully eager for him to come through the door, calling us home. When, after a long absence, a dearly loved relative is coming for a visit, there is impetus to get everything spic-and-span-ready because you love the person so much. You can’t wait to see them. Live holy and godly lives – the Lord is coming.
Secondly, speed his coming (verse 12). I think the sense here has to do with the reason for his delay. “The Lord is not slow,” Peter says, but rather “he is patient … not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (verse 9). Again, “our Lord’s patience means salvation” (verse 15). So, use the time to share the good news of Jesus, that the Lord’s patience may be productive! Take up his own yearning for all to come to faith. Take steps to share the good news.
Thirdly, “be on your guard … (against) the error of lawless men” (verse 17). This is the same theme we saw in the last chapter – watch out for false teachers and teaching that would lead you astray from the Lord. Stay focused on Jesus. He’s coming.
“The day of the Lord will come” (verse 10). So, be ready. Be eager. Be on guard. To the glory of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, fill up my sights with the hope of your coming. I want to live now in a way that honours you, that shares news of your salvation, and that stays focused in your truth. May it be. Amen.
In light of his coming, is there a behaviour to change, a person to contact, a truth to more carefully guard? What steps will you take to do so?
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