I Can Hear it Now
“So… Ben, you know when Jesus is retuning? That’s pretty impressive considering that not even Jesus knows the day or the hour of his return according to Matthew 24:36.”
Ok, I’ll call uncle on this one. I don’t know the day or the hour when Jesus will return. However, I do know the main factor that is keeping Jesus from returning right now. Look at 2 Peter 3.
2 Peter 3
1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 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.
8 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. 9 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. 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.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 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! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Ha! Calvinism Defeated! …Right?
See, verse 9, “…not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Calvinism teaches that God predestines some to be saved and the rest will perish, but if God doesn’t wish that any should perish then Calvinism must not be true, right? Not so fast. We need to put this verse into context. Let’s break down verses 1-13 into an outline.
- Scoffers will claim that Jesus is not going to return because it has taken so long (v. 4).
- They deliberately overlook the great flood where God destroyed the earth with water (v. 5-6).
- Similarly, the world will be destroyed again, but this time with fire instead of water (v. 7)
- God’s time is not man’s time (v. 8a).
- God’s apparent slowness is actually patience towards “you” (v. 8b).
- When Jesus returns, the fire of God will consume the earth and everyone on it whose works are evil (v. 10).
- Therefore wait with patience and holiness (v 11-13).
So the overall effect of this passage is to state that the delay in Jesus returning is not due to God’s slowness in fulfilling his promises, but rather due to his unwillingness to allow certain people to perish (namely, his elect). I can easily see someone objecting to me inserting the idea of the elect into this passage, but I think that it is truly a necessary implication. If Jesus is truly not wishing that any should perish (not a single person), then why is this tied into Jesus’ second coming? Whenever Jesus returns, we know for certain from the Bible that many will perish. If Jesus is delaying the second coming to prevent any people from perishing, he will have to simply never return. Therefore the “you” of verse 9 must refer not to the entire human race but to a select group whom God refuses to destroy. We know biblically that this must be the elect.
Why Has it Taken 2000 Years?
The answer is simple: the elect are not gathered yet. If Jesus were to return right now multiplied millions of those who were destined to eventually repent and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins would be destroyed by the fires of judgment before they reach repentance. God is faithful and does not wish that his elect should perish and therefore Jesus still waits to this day. In Biblical end-times prophesy, Jesus is portrayed as a bridegroom and the church as his bride. We can look ahead to the great wedding feast that will occur immediately after Jesus returns, but at our point in history, Jesus is not a husband to the church but a fiancé. I remember the days of my own engagement to my wife, and how difficult and painful the wait for our wedding day was. Jesus however has been waiting for 2000 years. Thank God for his patience! If he had returned a year of two after he ascended to heaven, imagine how many would have perished in smoke! Don’t scoff at the return of Jesus or consider it to be indefinitely far off. One glorious day, the fullness of the elect will be gathered and Jesus will not hesitate to return in glory and set everything right. He will destroy his enemies and marry his church.