There is one thing that lifts the human spirit and keeps us going despite the challenges we face. Called “hope,” it is that intangible quality that looks beyond life’s challenges to a better tomorrow. It leads us to live purposeful existences because we know a new day is coming. Anticipating the best in life even when we are facing the worst in life, hope looks beyond what now is to what will be. Hope keeps believing, trusting, anticipating, and expecting that out of today’s darkness, tomorrow’s light will shine more brightly.1
The Roman statesman Pliny the Elder allegedly said, “Hope is the pillar that holds up the world.” He was right. Without hope, our world is on a collision course with disaster. Without hope, the foundations of society collapse. And without hope, we live our lives in silent despair.
The pagan’s hopeless despair
I have always been fascinated with the hopeless despair recorded in the inscriptions on the tombs along the Appian Way just outside of Rome. You will recall that the apostle Paul was led along the Appian Way when the Roman authorities brought him as a prisoner to Rome. He must have sensed the despair of the pagan populace of Rome as they lost hope about the future.2
Here are just a couple of the inscriptions:
“I was not, I became, I am not, I care not.”
“Eat, drink, enjoy yourself, then join me.”
In describing life, the skeptic Bertrand Russell put it this way: “We stand on the shore of an ocean, crying to the night and the emptiness; sometimes a voice answers out of the darkness. But it is the voice of one drowning; and in a moment the silence returns.”3
What hopelessness, what despair, what meaninglessness we may see around us, yet life in Christ offers us eternal hope.
Peter’s focused hope
In the face of scoffing and skepticism, the apostle Peter presents the all-consuming purpose of life. He reminds us that there is hope for today, tomorrow, and forever. In 2 Peter 3:1, 2, he states, “Beloved, I write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.”4
Some people are always looking for some way to unlock the mystery of why Jesus has not yet returned. They try to discover some new prophetic time chart that will give them divine insight into the future. They have an insatiable desire for some novel discovery that they believe, if everyone would only understand, would somehow miraculously usher in the return of Jesus.
Here Peter says, in effect, that what we need is not so much new truth but a repetition of the eternal ones we are prone to forget. Certain biblical truths need to be repeated and never pushed into the background for the sake of anything else.
The Greeks spoke of “time which wipes things out,” as if the mind were a slate and time a sponge that passes across it with a certain erasing quality. Throughout Scripture, we find the great truths repeated. We do not need something new as much as we need to be reminded of the ancient truths of Scripture that give meaning and purpose to our lives.
Peter continues in verses 3, 4: “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ ”
The idea of the second coming of Christ in the last days will appear ridiculous to many people. It will be a subject of ridicule, skepticism, and mockery. They will cynically ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Second Peter 3 uses the word promise three times. It is also in verse 9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise,” and again in verse 13, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth.”
Thus, Peter employs promise three times to describe the certainty of our Lord’s return to the scattered believers throughout Asia.
Based on His promise
The second coming of Christ does not rest on idle speculation. It is not based on a desperate wish or human philosophy but rather on the unchangeable, reliable promises of God’s Word. The second coming of Christ reveals the tremendous truth that all of history is heading toward one glorious climax, one final destiny. Life is going somewhere, and we are to meet Someone who has the ultimate answer to all of life’s problems. Without this conviction, we have little left to live for.
A promise is a declaration, an assurance, that a person will do a particular thing or that a specific event will happen. It is a pledge and a commitment. Because a promise is as good as the one making it, there can be no greater promise maker than Jesus Himself.
The Bible mentions the second coming of Christ 1,500 times, once every 25 verses in the New Testament. For every prophecy on the first coming of Christ in the Old Testament, we find eight on the second coming of Christ. Here are just a few of the promises of Jesus’ return in the Bible:
- Jude 14: “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied . . . , saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints.’ ”
- Psalm 50:3: David declares, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent.”
- Isaiah 35:4:
- Say to those who are fearful-hearted,
- “Be strong, do not fear!
- Behold, your God . . .
- . . . will come and save you.”
- Matthew 16:27: “ ‘For the Son of man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’ ”
- First Thessalonians 4:16, 17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout.”
Standing head and shoulders above them all is Jesus, who gives His Word that He will return: “ ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ ” (John 14:1–3).
The return of our Lord is not idle speculation but a reality. It is as certain as the promises of God’s Word.
Peter continues his discussion of the return of our Lord in 2 Peter 3:4–7, describing three things all scoffers forget. Notice what they say: “ ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’ ” (v. 4). In other words, there have occurred no significant changes in world history since the beginning. Things have continued on a uniform basis. Then Peter makes this stunning observation, “For this they willfully forget” (v. 5).
The King James Version puts it this way: “For this they willingly are ignorant of.” It is one thing to be ignorant but quite another to be “willingly” ignorant. Those people had the facts before them, but they scoffed at the facts and denied the truthfulness of God’s Word. Locked into their opinions, they refused to change. With their minds made up, they would not alter their opinions or long-cherished habits.
Peter then describes three actions by God that prove the scoffers wrong when they emphatically state that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation”:
- God created the world by His Word (v. 5).
- God destroyed the world by His Word (v. 6).
- God preserves our world by His Word (v. 7).
Then Peter proceeds to explain the reason for the delay of the return of Christ: “But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (vv. 8, 9).
The apostle makes the key point that God’s view of time and ours are dramatically different. For the Lord, time is always eternally present. The past and the future are as vividly real to Him as the present moment is to us. What seems long to us is but a microsecond to God (v. 8).
Peter then adds a glorious assurance: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat. . . . Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be?” (vv. 10, 11). The latter is a fascinating expression. It literally means, “What country do you come from?” Thus, Peter is saying, “If you are a Christian, you are a citizen of heaven. You are a pilgrim and stranger on the earth. You are a child of the King. You are an ambassador for Christ, and you ought to act like a citizen of heaven.” The apostle then adds another significant insight in verse 12: “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” As author Ellen G. White affirms, “By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God. 2 Peter 3:12, margin. Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory.”5
Peter’s final appeal is an end-time call for holiness. He calls for us to live righteous, godly lives. But who is righteous enough to stand before a righteous God at His coming? The good news of the gospel is that we appear before God in Christ. He is our righteousness.
Everything we are not, He is.
All we need is found in Him.
Christ justifies us; in Him, we stand before God just as if we never sinned.
Christ sanctifies us. He is the only One who makes us holy.
Working in our hearts to change us, He makes us over again. In Christ, we who are accepted as His sons and daughters will daily grow in grace to be more and more like the One we admire. Thus, in Christ, we are secure, filled with a hope that does not disappoint until the day He comes, and we see Him face to face. This is good news—incredibly good news—and there can be no better news.
- See Brigett Hyacinth, “Hope: The Cornerstone of Leadership,” Linked- In, November 30, 2016, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hope-cornerstone-leadership-brigette-hyacinth.
- See Mark Finley, Hope Beyond Tomorrow (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.), 2018.
- Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, reissued (New York, NY: Routledge, 2000), 194.
- Scripturein this article is from the New King James Version.
- Ellen G. White, Maranatha (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1976), 19.