Judgment By FireSeries: An Eschatological Mix
JUDGMENT BY FIRE
Sermon By Terry Siverd / November 14,, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
Welcome to those who are joining us online - - we're grateful for your interest in the study of God's word.
Please open your Bible to 2Peter Three.
The starting block for this morning's study of 2Pet.3:10-13 actually begins in 2Pet.3:1-4. Peter reminds his first-century readers that this is now a second letter that he has written to them. His purpose in writing them is to remind them of the words spoken long ago by the Old Testament prophets and the words more recently delivered to them by the apostles of Jesus. As with all NT epistles, this letter was an “occasional” document meaning that it was written in response to some issue. In this case, Peter is writing to combat and correct false contentions being made by ones he calls mockers (2Pet.3:3). There mockers were quasi-Christians were actually Jewish zealots, bent on clinging to the Law, The Temple and The City.
One driving force that precipitated the cross were the words Jesus spoke during His final visit to Jerusalem. Using parables, as was His custom, Jesus delivered two indicting parables. In Mt.21:33f, He spoke about how the Jewish leaders had rejected the many messengers sent to them by God. Their lack of faith was culminated in the killing of God's Son. God's announced verdict is found in Mt.21:43 - - the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing fruit. Vss.45-46 make it clear that they understood the judgment that was pending and they were not happy. In Mt.22:1-7, we read of another parable (the marriage feast for God's Son). Invitations were sent far and wide, but they were all either ignored or declined and God was not happy. The king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
In Mt.23 Jesus unleashes seven woes upon the leaders of Israel. God's sentence against their arrogant disbelief is encapsulated in vs.38, where Jesus declares God's intention to abandon His presence in the holy temple. behold, your house is being left to you desolate. Mt.24 follows quickly with Jesus' solemn pronouncement regarding the coming destruction of the temple - - Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down. Not long after Jesus death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Stephen is martyred. False witnesses accused Stephen of blasphemy, when actually Stephen was simply echoing Jesus (Acts 6:14) - - we heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down...
This is the larger context for the words that we meet up with in 2Pet.3:4 - - where is the promise of His coming? … for all continues just as it was... This amounts to an outright denial of two things: Jesus' Olivet discourse and His Messianic authority. The mockers were contending that 30+ years had come and gone and the temple was still standing. Thus, they argued, "He's not coming!" This is what occasioned Peter's words in 2Pet.3. Peter affirms (vs.7) the present heavens and earth were being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment. He underscores: The Lord is not slow about His promise.
Peter's words continue in 2Pet.3:10-13.
Three things will help us greatly as we read these words.
First of all, we must recognize that this 2Pet.3 judgment was against the apostate nation of Israel. 1Pet.4:17 states, it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God...
Secondly, we must realize that these words were apocalyptic poetry and symbols, borrowed from the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophets frequently employed this cosmic-sounding terminology to describe God's judgments. There are scores of OT texts that can be listed to show the precedence for this kind of language.
Isaiah 13 records an oracle/judgment against Babylon - - read Isa.13:6-11
Isaiah 24 depicts God's judgment against the land of Israel - - read Isa.24:1-8 and 19-23.
Isaiah 34 details God's judgment against Edom - - read Isa.34:1-4 and 9-10.
Ezekiel 32:7-8 paints a picture of God's judgment against Egypt. cf. Isa.19:1 / behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt.
Micah 1:3-4 depict God's judgment against Samaria and Jerusalem.
Nahum 1:3-6 contains an oracle against Nineveh.
Having noted these OT passages, we now have a better understanding of the language we encounter in 2Pet.3. - - heavens pass away with a roar...elements will be destroyed with intense heart … the earth will be burned up ... Although this kind of language speaks serious condemnation, it is hyperbole and not intended to be taken literally. In 2Pet.3 it is used to describe COVENANTAL JUDGMENT upon an apostate/unbelieving Israel.
Thirdly, this image used by Peter of a judgment by fire or a fiery conflagration is just one of many images.
Sometimes I look back on my 45 years of ministry and wish I could have been a college professor (at Harding). Had you been a student in “my class” over the last few weeks, I would have begun today's lesson with a quiz. In light of my recent essay, Wherein Dwells Righteousness, list various poetic descriptions of God's judgments. Such as: A shaking (Joel 3:16 & Heb.12:26-28) … A wearing out or waxing old (Ps.102:25-26 & Heb.8:13) … A rolling up of a scroll (Isa.34:4 & Rev.6:14) … A fleeing away (Rev.20:11) … and A fiery destruction (2Pet 3:10ff).
Actually, I have no regrets about not being a professor. My ministry with many of you (for some, spanning the last four decades) has been quite fulfilling. I will be forever grateful for your willingness to study with me for so many years. I have appreciated the freedoms you have allotted to me - - to diligently search the sacred Scriptures. And I am so very appreciative of your faithful partnership over the last many years.
In closing, let me just say - - don't be intimidated by 2Peter 3. The language is not at all sui generis (unique). It is scattered quite heavily throughout the Old Testament. My exhortation to us all is to read 2Peter 3 in the broader context of being just another judgment passage. But equally important, read 2Peter 3 in its more immediate context - - it is a judgment against first-century Jerusalem.