Patience & Purging // An Exploration of II Peter 3:6-13

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…and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

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.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

– II Peter 3:6-13

 

“Open up, ye gates, that the King of Glory may come in!”[1] The psalmist’s cry for David’s Son to receive His eternal inheritance has echoed for millennia through the pages of Scripture and the bullet-riddled walls of Zion. Paul’s “blessed hope”[2] and the apostles’ earnest inquiry for the restoration of all things are not anemic dreams: the coming of the Son of Man is the True North to which all of Scripture is calibrated, since its earliest words and exactingly judicious decrees were sentenced in Genesis 3.[3] Even the Samaritan woman was expectant in the middle of a discouraging, disintegrating noon summer sun.[4] It is not wrong to hold the King of Heaven to His faithful Word. The weary pioneer who penned much of the New Testament would conclude a letter simply thus: “Maranatha.”[5] Lord Jesus, come.

The greatest assurance Scripture gives tired saints is this: Heaven will not contain the Man forever.[6]

Much will change as and when He arrives. We are aware righteousness cannot dwell with ungodliness.[7] Confession of this truth is a tenet of saving faith, acknowledging the dire straits created order has found itself in since mankind first weaned himself off obedience and allegiance to his Maker.[8] It almost goes without saying the logical conclusion of this confession is the simple (albeit painful) fact He must purge the earth of ungodliness in order to finally and fully dwell here. He wants His people with Him where He is, and He is to reign from Zion. It is not enough to try to “Christianize the earth” or launch a hostile takeover of however many cultural mountains. Jesus must and will reign here. As Spurgeon said, no one need defend a lion. The lion will well defend itself.[9] We, then, are to be faithful until He comes.

Sin tempts us to question His integrity—two thousand years after the conversation on Mount Olivet, and He still hasn’t come back?!—but Peter reminds us: time means time only to those bound by it.[10] It is to our great benefit that He waits, patient as He is, willing more and more and more to call upon His Name and bow their finite knees before the One who inhabits eternity.[11] We possess our souls by patience[12] and resolute trust in the One who finishes everything He starts.

Centuries ago, a few Israeli men were thrown in a furnace to be executed as criminals under the orders of a narcissistic and blasphemous dictator near what is now central Iraq.[13] They entered their appointed flames knowing God could save them, but unsure if He would save them. Perhaps His manner of delivering them from the ruler of this age would come from the flames themselves. Many of us, especially those of us who cut our Bible-story teeth on Veggie Tales, are familiar with this story and its miraculous conclusion: a fourth man appeared in the midst of the flames, saving these steadfast men from certain end. The blasphemous dictator of a blasphemous nation received a testimony of the Most High that day. It was a successful rotation around the sun.

That fourth Man promised every disciple who bears His precious Name that He will both bear long and be with us until He comes.[14] What else do we need? His patience will outlast created order and empower our endurance. His very Word is like gold purified through fire seven times over.[15] We’ll all see our own flames in this age, perfecting our obedience—and so will created order. Fire seven times hotter, seven times over. Why? He is purging our fallen age, world, and lives of everything that will not last long enough to cross the river Jordan with us.

If we do not exalt His worth, the rocks will beat us to it, presumably because they’re tired of waiting.[16] Everything in the heavens and the earth will be restored, renewed, and regenerated to perfect order, perfect praise, and perfect obedience. No longer will the work of His hands strive against Him. There is a reason this has not yet come to pass. He is perfecting something eternal throughout this wait—a character refined by patient hope and steadfast love in the furnace of difficult circumstances.

It is ours to wait, to witness, and to walk worthy of this incredible calling with which we’ve been called. It is His to sustain us until He appears and to save us when He does. Every worthless piece of chaff and dust will be lost in the fire of His coming. Every precious truth, act of obedience, and gift of devotion will pass through the flames with a brighter shine than seen before to display forever in the Kingdom of our Father.

Maranatha.

 

 

Stephanie Quick serves as a lead writer and producer of the Covenant and Controversy film series and resource library, and editor-in-chief of FAI Publishing and Pilgrim Media. She can be reached for queries and bookings at stephanie@stephaniequick.org


 

[1] Psalm 24:7
[2] Titus 2:13
[3] Genesis 3:15
[4] See John 4
[5] 1 Corinthians 16:22
[6] Acts 3:21
[7] 2 Corinthians 6:14
[8] Romans 10:13
[9] Spurgeon, C. 1886. Christ and his co-laborers. Retrieved from http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols40-42/chs2467.pdf
[10] Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8
[11] 2 Peter 3:9
[12] Luke 21:19
[13] See Daniel 3
[14] Matthew 28:20; See 1 John 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13
[15] Psalm 12:6
[16] Luke 19:40