Reading 2 Peter Chapter 2
The end is coming.
These words are usually seen worn by a hermit type man walking the streets of a busy city. They are meant to warn people of some imminent unspecified danger. People scoff at the teaching and usually ignore the man’s warning. But, what is sometimes unthought-of is that the end is coming. For many it comes sooner than it does for others. It may come by disease, by natural disaster, by murder, by a tragic accident, by bombings or by countless other ways which quickly brings the end of life. Of the six billion people who are living and breathing today, not one is immune to the danger that the end for them could come very swiftly.
But regardless how life might end, many in this world believe that things will be okay for them in the end. They will either be resurrected to life or at death they will fly away into heaven to be with God. Some believe that every single person who has ever lived will be alive in the end. Others believe that only a select few, usually members of their own group will enjoy the benefits of some type of after life. We ourselves believe in the resurrection from the dead for those who have been baptized into Christ. Some believe that every person who has ever been baptized will be part of a world to come. This is the “once saved always saved” doctrine that is believed by the majority of Christians. We ourselves believe that there will be a judgment that the baptized will need to pass through to enter into the age to come.
Once we start looking at the subject of the coming end of the world, we find some sobering teachings in scripture. The first is the extent to which the judgments of God will be carried out. The effects of Gods judgment are far reaching and will affect many people, even those who have not yet lived long enough to engage in behavior that warrants the judgment.
God said to Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me.
No doubt these words must have taken some time for Noah to absorb. The end of all flesh speaks of more than just a few bad people. It’s speaks of the end of every single person that Noah knew and every man, woman and child alive at that time. Included would be grand parents, mothers, teenagers, children and even infants that were only a few weeks old. And the end would not just be brought upon man, but also God even specified that He would also bring to an end the cattle and the things that creep on the ground and even the birds that fly through the air. Every single breathing thing would be violently destroyed by the flood.
The second sobering thing is found in something that is absent in Gods instruction to Noah. God gives Noah very detailed instructions on what He needs to do to be saved from the coming desolation. He clearly defines the building of the ark. But no where in the context does God ask Noah to call the people of the world around him to repentance. God would wait 120 years before actually carrying out the judgment. But during that time period not one other person would be allowed the chance for repentance. The opportunity to be saved from the coming flood. It was to late for that. The severity of God was clear. The line had been drawn well before the judgment actually was carried out. Only Noah and his household were saved.
So we see in the account of the flood that a point was reached before the judgment was actually executed when God had drawn a line on who would be saved. Anyone not included in the saved were destroyed. This was true without any regard to age, position, or the extent of responsibility that person may have had for the sins for which the judgment was being carried out. It was carried out on both man and animals.
We see these things also with the judgment upon Sodom. When Gods judgment was poured down on Sodom, it was very swift. All the people and animals in the city were instantly destroyed. The judgment was very broad in scope and every grand parent, every mother, every teenage, every child and every infant were burnt up in the fire. The line had been drawn and only Lot and his family were allowed to escape.
The line had been drawn and no one else in the city would be saved, none of those people were even given the opportunity for repentance. It was just too late for that. But another sobering fact emerges in this judgment. The Angels were ready to save Lots entire household. But Lots sons in law did not believe Lot and they choose to stay in the city. And even after being forcefully led by the hand from the city by the angels, Lots own wife turned back. So even though God was willing to save the entire house hold of Lot – not all were saved. The sobering fact is that even if a person is included in the household that God is willing to save, by their own actions or lack of actions, they too can end up suffering the consequences of the judgment.
In Ezekiel we see the same principles being applied to the judgment on the city of Jerusalem. This is because the land was full of bloodshed and city full of perversity. People felt the Lord had forsaken them and that He could not see them. In other words they had gotten away with sin for so long, they just did not think about it anymore. Their conscience was seared. First the instruction is given to go through the city of Jerusalem and make a note of every man who sighs and cries because of the abominations that are happening in it. These are those who are truly grieved by the evils that are taking place. These are those who still hope in God to deliver them.
Next they were instructed to kill everyone else. The words written tell the extent of the judgment: “do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women” And like the Judgment in Sodom, the household would also suffer the affects of this judgment, for those pouring out the judgment are told to first “begin at the sanctuary”. The judgment was to begin with the household. The house would be torn apart and not all would be saved.
We can see in all these events types of the expected judgment at the end of the world which is to come.
There are some things we know about the coming time of judgment. First it will come swiftly and unexpectedly on the inhabitants of the earth. Christ teaches that it will come as a snare. It will catch the whole world totally off guard, but once it begins there will be no turning back. His warning is echoed by Peter who says it will be as “a thief in the night”. Peter describes it as a total melting away of the world that we know, when the heavens and the earth are dissolved and the elements of the earth melt with fervent heat. Paul writes that at that time the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels and in flaming fire take vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel. They will be punished with everlasting destruction. The Revelation records that the plagues shall come in one day – death, mourning and famine. And there will be an utter burning of fire - for strong is the Lord that judges.
Christ teaches in the parables of a time coming when the line will be drawn. When it will be to late to gather oil for our lamps. When he that is unjust will be unjust still and when he that is filthy will be filthy still. When he that is righteous will be righteous still and he that is holy will be holy still. The book is being written as we speak. And there may be times in our life when we feel that God is taking us forcefully by the hand to lead us out of the city of Babylon. But He can do little for us if we keep walking back in.
There is no doubt that the changes that are coming will not be easy changes. We already are living in the time when “men’s hearts fail them for fear” of the things that are happening and the things that could happen. There is distress and confusion all around us.
But, just as Noah was rescued from the coming flood and just as Lot was delivered out of Sodom before the fire came, likewise the scriptures indicate that the saints will be removed before the desolations begin. In Luke we are told to pray always that we might escape the coming destructions. Isaiah prophesied of those who will be saved by saying “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their wickedness.” Paul also testifies that the saints will be protected from the coming judgment when he writes; to those who are troubled “rest with us” when the Lord is revealed from heaven.
The timing of the events is defined in scripture. First, the dead in Christ shall rise. Next those who are alive and remain will be gathered with them in groups. Jesus described it in a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled as a time when two will be together in a bed; one will be taken the other left. Two will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left. When asked where they would be taken, Jesus replied that they will be taken to where he is. In the same way the vultures are gathered together around a body, the saints also will be gathered to be with the whole body of Christ.
But this gathering will not be all happy. The conclusion of the whole matter is that God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing. Christ taught of a Day of Judgment, a day when every man would be judge according to his works. For it is recorded that all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Peter writes that the judgment is to begin at the house of God.
95% of the preachers of the world will tell you otherwise. They will tell you not to worry; once you have been baptized you are in. You have a clear sailing into the Kingdom of God and there is nothing for you to worry about. It doesn’t matter what you do, because we all are in need of Gods grace anyways. They will tell you that works have nothing to do with us getting into the Kingdom. The words they speak are pleasing to the ears. Of course we would want to believe that. Of course we would like to think that we don’t have to do a thing and everything will be taken care of for us. That in the end it will be okay for us.
But, make no mistake about it; Christ taught that when the son of man returns, the first thing his angels will do is to gather out of his Kingdom – which is another way of saying out of his household – all that take pleasure in their own deceptions, all who live after the flesh and they would be cast into a furnace of fire.
Oh no, the preachers of the world say, this is not the Christ they know, this is not the way that Christ deals with men. The Christ they teach about would never do such things. But consider this, the Christ we believe in, our savior has now sat next to his Father as a mediator for almost 2000 years. And during those years, think of all the judgments that have been carried out. The judgments that have occurred through the years have been just as powerful and just as severe as the judgments that occurred prior to the raising up of Christ. Consider the desolation of Jerusalem around the year 70 AD. This same Jesus who the preachers of the world say would never hurt a fly; this same Jesus was actually the one who pronounced Judgment upon the city. He declared “Behold your house is left unto you desolate and upon you will fall all the righteous blood that was ever shed upon the earth. He openly warned the men of that age that the judgments that God carried out in Sodom would be nothing compared to the judgment that they would face.
Consider how he spoke of Judas. Judas was one of the twelve. One of those who ate and drank with him. One of those whom he baptized. If Judas had continued in that way, if Judas had remained a servant to the Lord then all would be well. But Judas chose another way. Judas betrayed Jesus. And Jesus clearly said woe to the man by whom he would be betrayed. It would have been better if that man had never been born. Likewise Jesus speaks just as strong concerning future judgment of those who cause offense, by saying "woe unto the man through whom offenses come. It would be better for him that a millstone was hanged around his neck and he was cast in to the sea."
Yes, our Lord is ready to forgive. Yes he is full of compassion. Yes he is coming quickly and his reward is with him. But he will give to everyone according to his work. Those that practice the commandments will be sheltered from the judgment to come. They will have a right to the tree of life. They will enter into the gates of the city. "But if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" For outside of the gates, outside of the city will be the dogs, the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, the murderers the idolaters, those who love the lie.
And in that group, many will be shocked. Many will be devastated. Many will weep and cry.
The scriptures can’t be any clearer than this: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains for us no more sacrifice – but instead all that remains for us is a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. He that despised the Law of Moses died without mercy. How much sorer of a punishment belongs to him that tramples under foot the Son of God by not treating this covenant we have entered as a holy thing, something that is worth holding onto, something that is worth selling everything else we own for. But instead doing evil despite the Spirit of grace.
The Lord will judge his people.
And again it is written for if after we have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord, we become entangled in them again and overcome, the latter end is worse for us than the beginning. For it would have been better never to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known it to turn from the holy commandment.
The end is coming! Sooner or later it will catch up with each of us. Therefore this is the time to serve the Lord to do His will and to learn His Word. Anything else we take pleasure in is really only vanity. None of us know how long we have to live. The things around us are only temporary and in a moment they could be gone forever. This is why we have gathered here today in remembrance of our Lord. Not because we really didn’t have anything else to do. Not because we think this is a waste of time. Not because we want to perish and never live again. But we have gathered here today because we thirst for the Word of our Lord and his Word will last when we drink it. It is real and we believe he has asked nothing of us then what is for our own good. We have no other place to go because only he is our rescue and we will sigh and we will cry until the day come when we are gathered to meet together with him.