Have you heard the news? Jesus Christ is coming again!
This is one of God’s sure promises. But if it’s true (and it is), then what kind of person should you be as a result?
This is St. Peter’s great question to us today.
Some in Peter and Paul’s day thought that because the coming of the Lord was imminent that they should sit around and wait and do nothing. Others, because He tarries so long, thought they could do whatever they wanted since the presence of the Lord seemed so distant.
Looking for and hastening the Day of God, Peter says we are to live our lives in holy conduct and godliness (verse 12).
In all of these passages, there is a tension in time. Is Peter speaking of the coming of the New Covenant, as he did on the Day of Pentecost? At that time he said that Joel’s prophecy had just been fulfilled about wonders in the heaven and signs on the earth, blood and fire and vapor of smoke, in which the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon into blood. This is entirely possible. Or is he talking about the Second Coming, things that are still in the future, even for us?
It’s hard to tell. But as far as Peter’s teaching about how you should live – does it make a difference? If Peter is speaking about the coming of the New Covenant, in which a new heavens and new earth of righteousness exists, in which Jesus Christ is the Temple, the High Priest, and the Sacrifice, and in which we participate in Christ in His ministry, then we are to be holy because we are God’s holy Temple and partakers of the divine nature. If Peter is speaking about the Second Coming, then we’d better be ready to meet God, and that also means being holy.
The fact is that we don’t have to wait for the Second Coming for the Day of the Lord to come. Every Sunday, after all, is the Lord’s Day, and on that Day He inhabits the praises of His people, and for those who celebrate Holy Communion He comes and visits them most dramatically. Every day is also a Lord’s Day, a day in which He comes to visit His people.
We have an entirely wrong idea of time sometimes, as if it’s all discontinuous. We believe that today is not connected to yesterday and tomorrow and so we live out several lies. Since today stands all by itself, we don’t understand that the life we have been living up until today exerts a vast inertia over us – for good or for evil. Since we believe today stands all by itself, we “live for today,” not remembering that what we do today will determine to a large extent how we will live tomorrow and thereafter.
Another lie we swallow is that we have plenty of time. We are thrilled and encouraged when we hear that people like Benjamin Franklin converted to Christ on his deathbed (apparently, an apocryphal story.) But we cannot trust that it will work that way. Someone who has led a life of selfishness is very likely to continue that way, even when faced directly with death and the afterlife.
The truth is that is some mysterious way we are, by our holiness and godliness, to hasten the Day of the Lord. In some way so mysterious that it must be divine, we are made participants in manifesting God and His Kingdom. I think this is what Peter had in mind: he learned it from his Lord.
Isn’t this the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer – that by leading holy lives we manifest and hasten the Kingdom of Heaven? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The meaning of our Lord’s words are that whenever God’s people do His will, His kingdom has come. Since our obedience can only come from the obedience and righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself, whenever we obey, we are manifesting the kingdom and power and glory of Christ and His Kingdom. In heaven, God’s will is perfectly done, and whenever we obey we are acting in a heavenly manner, even while here on earth. Our obedience is what brings in the new earth and manifests the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus said was near because He was near.
Therefore, Peter, having learned these things from the Lord Himself, says that we are to “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (verse 14.)
The Lord’s Prayer also teaches us that we hasten the coming of the Lord whenever we pray. It is in the act of prayer that we ask the Lord to make His kingdom come, and we ask Him to do this by having His holy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer, we ask for His kingdom to come by the forgiveness of sins, and so repentance is also a means of bringing in the Kingdom. Prayer itself is essential because it is what restores the godly order to our lives: in prayer we acknowledge God to be the Lord and that we are His humble servants.
Finally, we hasten the Day of the Lord whenever we preach (proclaim) the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is why both Peter and Paul are so forceful in their teachings that we must treasure and guard God’s Word. Each of you must know the Scriptures, you must teach them to your children, and you must pray for and submit to God’s ordained teachers of the Word.
Jesus Christ is coming – in fact, He’s already here. Therefore, consider what manner of person you ought to be. If you are strong in obedience, in prayer, and in proclamation of His Word, then you will not fall from steadfastness or be led away by the wicked (verse 17.) And that is the kind of person with whom God is pleased.
Prayer: Father, I thank You that You sent Your Son into the world to redeem it, and I thank You for sending Your Son into my life. Help me to see You every day through Your Son and through the means You have given me of knowing You. By the grace of Your Holy Spirit, help me to live a holy life that is pleasing to You and a life that manifests Your Kingdom to the people in my life. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to meditate on the Coming of the Lord, both in His Second Coming and in the ways He comes to me each week. I resolve further to close my eyes and imagine the Lord with me. As I experience His presence, I will listen carefully to what He tells me about how I should live before Him. He is likely to remind me of something I already know and need to obey Him more fully in.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson