Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Long Must He 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 Peter 3:8-10 ESV
Throughout Christian history there have been groups of believers who have given most of their attention to the end time, or that topic of theology called eschatology. Their preoccupation with how and when this apocalyptic ending will occur often throws them into a theological imbalance. In part, this is what Peter is addressing in the passage today. More specifically, he is dealing with the believers who are doubting the Lord's promise of returning because some people in this first generation of Christianity have died, while the earth and human history have continued to march forward unabashed.

In this post, I want to avoid a discussion of the particulars with regard to God's final judgment and concentrate on what Peter is saying in verse 9, but (the Lord) is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

It seems to me that we do not ask the right question. We observe that our world is filled with hatred, poverty, natural disasters, wars, a crumbling world economy, and such. And, we note that these troubles are growing rapidly. Sometimes, we must wonder, What is God waiting for? Why doesn't he pull the plug and put an end to all of this now?

But, in this passage, Peter frames the question differently, perhaps from God's point of view. He asks instead, What are you waiting for?

It is one thing to wonder about the Lord's timing, but it is quite another to lose sight of the reason why he would delay his return in the first place. What Peter tells his audience is that their point of view regarding God's timing is irrelevant--a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day--what is relevant is that the time remaining is to be spent bringing ourselves and others to repentance, a transformation from a life of disobedience and sin to a life of holiness and surrender to the Lord.

Unfortunately, this "between time" as some call it, is spent all too often unfruitfully. As we work and play, giving little thought to God, it is hardly a worthy question to ask, "God, why don't you do something about all this?" We are apt to wonder why God allows massive suffering and things we perceive to be unjust. We lose our way, forgetting that God's justice would require comprehensive suffering, even death, were it not for his grace. We forget that we are his guests, by grace, and that everything we have is a gift from God. Truthfully, we spend our time consuming the feast God has set before us, rather than in serving it.

Repentance requires transformative thinking and behaving. It means we keep on serving, keep on worshiping, keep on believing, hoping that our work might be completed rather than abbreviated by God finally letting the clock run out and rescuing us from a contemptible life of doubt and disobedience.

It is really God's grace that is reflected in his delay so that the work of his grace might have full effect on us and thrust us into the work of the kingdom. As Paul said in Philippians, For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Our time here is of value to the kingdom, and every moment in which God suspends his final judgment is an indication of his patience and his desire that all should reach repentance.

How long must He wait?

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