The Fiery End and The Place Where Righteousness Dwells
Text: 2 Peter 3:11–18
Main Idea: The fiery end of this world is a vivid reminder that Christians must make every effort to live for the world to come.
I. How does the end of this world motivate our pursuit of godliness in the present?
II. How can we persevere in our pursuit of godliness while we wait for the end?
At the risk of losing everyone before we even turn to our final verses in 2 Peter this morning; I’d like to open with a few questions that (I think) will help us engage Peter’s closing exhortations in this book.
Q: What would you do if you knew that the American dollar would become worthless in 5-years but that Bitcoin would increase 100-fold in the same amount of time? Would you continue to hold your investments and savings in dollars out of your love for America? Or would you adjust your financial holdings for the imminent change?
Q: Imagine it’s 2017 for a moment, and you not only learned about the coming pandemic; but you also learned about the very real impact that it would have on our country, the economy, and the world in which we live? Would you do anything different? Would you take any steps to prepare for the aspects of COVID that have been most difficult for your family?
Q: Now, imagine, just imagine, that by means of supernatural revelation, you discover this world is doomed to a fiery end. Not by a comet or nuclear missiles but the very hand of God. And even more, you discover that every person who prefers the pleasures of this world to Jesus Christ will be consigned to the lake of fire for all eternity. Would you continue to live your life living like this world is the only thing that matters? Would you continue doing the things that you are doing right now? Or would you completely adjust your life priorities to the reality of what is coming?
See, this is Peter’s goal in these final verses. He wants us to have the clearest possible picture of the end, so that we will make every effort to pursue a life of ever-growing gospel-powered righteousness in the present. A life in which our daily desires and behaviors increasingly reflect our righteous standing before God that we received through faith in Christ. A life that exudes the very righteousness that defines the world to come.
Main Point: The fiery end of this world is vivid reminder that Christians must make every effort live for the world to come.
In an effort to grasp the true implications of this exhortation this morning, I have organized the message around two questions that come from our text:
- How does the end of this world motivate our pursuit of godliness in the present?
- How can we persevere in our pursuit of godliness while we wait for the end?
How Does the End of This World Motivate our Pursuit of Godliness in the Present? (2 Peter 3:10–13)
Peter’s Logic (3:10–12)
First, if we look closely at the structure of these verses we quickly see that Peter’s exhortation to live holy and godly lives is sandwiched in between two warnings about the coming Day of The Lord.
2 Peter 3:10 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 3:12 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!
Notice, What does Peter want us to see about this coming day? He wants us to see that nothing in the entire universe will be able to escape or survive the fire of God’s holy judgment. The very universe as we know it will be utterly consumed in a fire that will make the yearly combined wild-fires in California look like a birthday candle. Nothing will be spared, everything that humans have ever built, loved, desired, or pursued on this earth apart from Christ will be reduced to nothing.
The second thing that we see in these verse, is that Peter doesn’t mention a single word about the destruction or judgment of sinful people, like he did repeatedly in chapter 2. Rather, he focuses on the destruction of the heavens and earth, and (according to verse 10) the “works that are done” on the earth. Again, not a single word about people.
Yet, in this obvious and intentional omission, I think he is pointing us to two truths (one negative and one positive) that should motivate each-and-every Christian to an active pursuit of ever-increasing holiness and godliness in this life.
The Negative Motivation
See, when Peter tells us that, the “works that are done” on the earth will be burned up, dissolved, and exposed (v. 10). He wants us to see that human beings spend their entire life pouring all of their time, energy, and resources into things that are here today and gone tomorrow.
And more often than not, what are we trying to do in these pursuits? We are trying to: overcome our personal sense of neediness, emptiness, loneliness, or finiteness by producing or doing something that will give us a lasting sense of personal satisfaction, prestige, or security.
- Some people spend their entire life climbing the military OR corporate ladder of success, every thought and action directed toward their advancement and professional reputation.
- Some spend their entire life focusing on their financial security. They carefully budget and plan and save and invest so that that they can have a safe and secure retirement when they get old.
- While others, spend their life pursuing bigger houses, nicer cars, and nicer clothes so that they can stand out from the crowd.
- And in all of this we cannot forget those who spend all of their free time cultivating their gardens, collecting vintage Star Wars figures, restoring antique cars, or traveling in their RV.
To all these things Peter’s point is this: Even though most of these pursuits are not inherently sinful and some of them may even be wise, they are not going to survive the day of the Lord. The only things that is going to survive the fires of God’s judgment is our progress in holiness and godliness in this life. And the greatest news in this book is that God has already given us everything we need, as Christians, to grow in holiness and godliness though our knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:3–4)!
Yet as we turn our attention to verse 13 Peter reminds us that we, are not merely waiting for the destruction of the world in which we live. No. The day of the Lord (i.e., the second coming of Christ) is a simultaneous moment of judgment and salvation.
2 Peter 3:13–14 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
The Positive Motivation
Just think about it, what is the final state of the people God saves? Is it the promise of an ethereal out-of-body experience with God for all eternity? Not in the least bit! The ultimate promise of salvation is that you and I will spend eternity with God in a glorious new universe in glorified physical bodies. (Two texts)
1 Corinthians 15:50–53 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality
Revelation 21:1–4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Friends, this is what eternity will look like! And if we turn back to 2 Peter 3:13 what is most notable feature of this new heavens and new earth? It’s that, it is the place in which righteousness dwells. This is why our growth in godliness is so important! It is the only thing that we can progress in, in this world, that will actually prepare us to participate in the world to come!
But, notice, I’m not saying that doing righteous works will somehow earn or merit salvation on the final day. The Bible is clear, not one can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Rather, I’m simply saying what Peter has already said in chapter 1.
2 Peter 1:10–11 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Notice, who will be able to enter the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ? Those who have confirmed their calling and election BY practicing and growing in the qualities that Peter listed in 1:5–7. (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love). And why is Peter confident that we will able to do it? Because righteous living is the natural consequence of God’s preexisting presence and power in our lives.
Don’t miss this, in this negative and positive motivation to ever-increasing righteousness Peter is calling us to live every moment of our life on this sin-cursed cultivating an ever-increasing taste for AND deligh tin the world to come.
How can we persevere in our pursuit of godliness while we wait for the end to come? (2 Peter 3:15–18)
Remember the Purpose of God’s Delay
Notice, that Peter is returning to the reality that we don’t know when the end is going to come. And that for some Christians it is going to feel like the end is never going to come. And the sad result of this, is that many Christians will be tempted to abandon their pursuit of Jesus for the deceitful pleasures of this world, while others will simply settle for a stagnant, lethargic, apathetic Christian life.
So how do we wait? What can we do? Well the first thing we need to do is to remember the very purpose of God’s delay. God’s delay is a gracious manifestation of his patience that is purposefully directed toward the salvation of all who will repent and believe!
And that means that the proper response to this delay is a dedicated pursuit of evangelism and discipleship. Jesus left us on this planet for the most specific reason.
Matthew 28:18–20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
But, the sad truth is that it’s easy to grow weary of this task when we do not see many results. And as a result of this, many churches have slowly redefined the very nature and purpose of the church. And as this happens these churches and the Christians in them inevitably trade the good news of the gospel for the kind of priorities and works that are good and acceptable in the eyes of the world… But, will be burnt up and dissolved on the final day.
We need to remember the purpose in God’s delay. But, at the very same time we need to make every effort to guard ourselves from the kind of doctrinal error that could utterly destroy our church.
Remember to Guard Yourself From Error (3:14–17)
See Peter knows all too well —as we have already seen in chapter 2— that it’s possible for someone to pervert God’s free gift of salvation in the gospel into an open license to sin. In fact, he seems to be well aware that a number of people were actively twisting Paul’s teaching about the Christian’s freedom in Christ into an apostolic endorsement of antinomianism!
And while this may seem impossibly crazy in our day and age, this very error is being propagated in America today under the banner of “Free Grace Theology.” A theological movement that completely severs the gospel’s clear call to repentance as a necessary component of saving faith. And that openly denies the Bible’s clear exhortation to gospel-powered good works and progress in righteousness as the necessary fruit of saving faith.
And while it’s true that many churches have been swept up and “carried away” with this error and embraced it as gospel truth. Countless others were not deceived in the least bit, because they were already following Peter’s instruction, they were actively guarding themselves from error. They knew the truth, and as a result they quickly saw this teaching for the blatant error that is.
Olympic, what does Peter want us to see in this 2nd exhortation? He want us to see that there is no excuse for Biblical illiteracy OR doctrinal complacency in the Christian life. Notice he is not talking directly to the pastors and the elders, he is talking to the average church attender. And he is telling them to take care that YOU are not carried away with the error of lawless people! And Christian the only way you are going to be able to do this is if know the foundational doctrines of the Christian life.
- You need to grasp the character and nature of our Triune God.
- You need to embrace the mysterious tension in the true deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.
- You need to understand the true nature of fallen mankind.
- You need to know how the substutionary atonement of Christ on the cross satisfies the wrath of God and opens the way to our justification and restoration through faith.
- You need to know that faith without works is dead faith.
- You need to know that the future return of our Lord Jesus Christ will totally overwhelm and eclipse the greatest trials, temptations, and sacrifices you have every faced in this life.
But, as we turn to verse 18, we quickly discover that our persevering pursuit of godliness is more than a matter of gospel proclamation AND proper doctrine. It’s a matter of actually growing into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Remember, You Become What You Behold (3:18)
I know we have covered a lot of ground this morning, but please stay with me for this final verse. Because when Peter calls us to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of Jesus Christ, he is telling us that our growth in grace (i.e., holiness, godliness, and righteousness) is inextricably linked to our ever-growing “knowledge” of Jesus Christ himself. And as we discovered in the opening verses of this letter, this “knowledge” is not a purely intellectual knowledge (though intellectual knowledge is important), it’s an ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ himself.
Christian the key to your holiness is not in merely developing your ability to say no to the pleasures of this world (Is it necessary yes! But it is not the key). Rather, the key to holiness is learning to see and savor and love Jesus Christ! …You become what you behold.
Let’s take a quick look at two passages:
Psalm 135:15–18 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.
Now while we don’t have many physical idols in America, it’s important that we understand what an idol is. It’s more than a golden statue. An idol is anything that we turn to for a sense of safety, hope, power, or happiness instead of God.
This is why those who turn to pornography for happiness, money for security, or positions of prominence for their self-worth are eventually consumed by them… We become what we worship.
2 Corinthians 4:17–18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Q: According to Paul, how do we grow in grace? How are we sanctified? How are we progressively transformed into the image of Jesus Christ?
A: By the power of the Holy Spirit.
Q: And in what environment OR through what means does he do this life-changing work?
A: He does it as we grow in our knowledge of Jesus, a knowledge that enables us to know him and see him as the infinitely glorious AND all-satisfying Savior that he truly is!
And when this happens, we discover a completely new kind of freedom. An increasing freedom from the siren-call of this world and it’s sinful pleasures that frees us to discover the true joy and pleasure of righteousness.
See when it comes down to it, our war against temptation and sin is not won on the field of white-knuckled self-denial; even though we may fight countless battles on this field. No. The war against temptation and sin is ultimately secured on the battle field of our highest pleasure and delight… for where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21).
Friends, the closing question of this short book is this: in which world does your treasures lie?
 “The reality of the day of the Lord demands we live in a certain way;” Matthew S. Harmon, “2 Peter,” in Hebrews–Revelation, ESV Expository Commentary, ed. Iain M Duguid, James M Hamilton, and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 405. “Knowing the outcome of this world should motivate believers to live a new quality of life;” (Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003], 390).
 Adapted from: “Grow in the Grace and the Knowledge of Our Lord” John Piper, Sermons From John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
 Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 392.
 “The increase in “knowledge” (γνώσει) is not theoretical but rather personal knowledge (see 1:2, 5–6, and comments), whose object is “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2; and comments);” (Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 343).
 Dieudonne Tamfu, 2 Peter and Jude, ed. Samuel Ngewa, Africa Bible Commentary (HippoBooks, 2018), 78.