2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I sense with each passing day of infection surges and quarantines … inner city violence and destruction … there are many who are asking if we are living in the “end times”. Is the Lord Jesus returning? If all the “required” prophecies have been fulfilled, then what is His delay in coming? The Apostle Peter gives us some insight into answer because these same questions were being asked within a generation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Times of unrest and civil disorder within the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation had reached a fervor that by 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed. For the followers of Christ Jesus … believers … it must have felt similar to the times we see unfolding before our own eyes. And it is a question that believers would continue to ask in generations to come as kingdoms rise and fall … as totalitarian dictators attempt world dominance … and as untold humans are subjected to a myriad of atrocities under the influence of demonic forces. So the people of God ask: “Where are you, God? How long will you allow evil to continue? In the Book of Acts, we read this account:
Acts 1:3-11 (NIV)
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized in water, but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
Notice the question they asked of Jesus before He ascended: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They must have believed that Jesus in His risen body would now rule and reign over Israel. To me, to have this discussion recorded, indicates the apostles were indeed eyewitnesses of His bodily resurrection in a physical human form to have interacted with Him over the past 40 days to inquire of His intentions post resurrection. But observe a couple of things: 1) Jesus does not answer their question; rather, He tells them “it is not for you to know.” None of us will ever know the day or the hour. But then Jesus turns their thoughts to the anointing of the Holy Spirit to “receive power” to become His witnesses. The question regarding the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel had been redirected to the building of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. And then, without explanation or further physical contact, Jesus left them … ascending into the clouds and leaving their view. Then two angels appeared and spoke to the apostles; assuring them Jesus would come back again.
But the apostles knew these things … or at least Jesus told them what would occur. Did they listen to the parables? Did they understand their riddled metaphors? Maybe, we too, should revisit the Parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11-26. It begins: “While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.” And the nobleman provided resources for his servants to work while he was gone. You can read the rest of it. Of interest, Jesus shared this story just prior to entering Jerusalem on a donkey before zealous voices proclaiming “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”
So, what was Jesus trying to tell His disciples about the Kingdom of God? Well, it would not appear at once. It would be “received” upon His return. And His servants are to be engaged in building and expanding the Kingdom He is returning to receive unto Himself. That’s the best I can distill it down. Maybe the question being asked is not one of concerning ourselves with the “timing” of His promised return; rather, the concern to be reflected upon is building the Kingdom in His absence…. In short, we are to be busy with Kingdom work right here … right now. We have been given the power of His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. This means we believe in the One God sent. This means we testify to the truth of His life, death, burial, and bodily resurrection. This means we abide in Him. This means we live as Jesus did. This means we are working … not for our salvation … but for the Kingdom of God. “In His defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” (Cf. John 5:17) And, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (Cf. John 9:4) That we were saved to work in the Kingdom is evident, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)
So, I pray that we will look deeper at these questions? When will the Kingdom be restored? When will Christ return? Only the Father knows … and it is NOT for us know. But what we do know is that Jesus is returning for His Church. And so the question is whether His Church will be filled or will it be emptied? Jesus has planned a marriage supper … a banquet … and we are to invite the guests to His celebration. We are to go into the highways and byways to bring guests. There is a lot work to be done. There is a lot of preparation to be made. There is a great sense of urgency because the Day of the Lord will come like a thief!” We have no time to waste because the bridegroom will soon appear as He told us. So let us be about His business … let us be found doing what He commanded us to do. And then … let what Peter exhorted somehow motivate us more – knowing this: The Lord is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:3-14 (NIV)
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 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. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.