So I ask with the scoffers in 2 Peter 3:4, “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.” You can hear “Jesus is coming soon” only so long before it falls on doubtful minds and deaf ears.
Of course, end-of-the-world mockers abound; sane society waves off those fruitcakes. Yet Hollywood rakes in piles of cash from movie-goers fascinated by the anticipation or aftermath of apocalypse on the big screen. “The Book of Eli”, “Red Dawn”, “War of the Worlds”, “Resident Evil”, “I Am Legend”, “Fail Safe” are just a few of the dozens and dozens of end-of-the-world box office hits. Something seems to attract us toward the End like drivers rubber-necking a deadly accident.
Cosmologists agree. Their First Law of Thermodynamics states that the total amount of energy in the universe, though it changes in form, is constant. Never any more, never any less. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the quality of that energy deteriorates over time. Usable energy is always decreasing, while unusable energy is always increasing. Gasoline, for instance, is usable energy. But once it propels a vehicle and exits the tail pipe it’s unusable. Therefore cosmologists conclude that the universe isn’t everlasting; the world will ultimately end.
If you’re physics-minded, you may want to click on the video below. It’s a fairly-fascinating 36 minutes, but totally naturalistic. At the very end it turns fruitcake-ish. It assumes that somehow after every energy-source in the universe has become unusable. humans will somehow find more usable energy to live on everlastingly. Such is one’s “faith” when one is a naturalist and there is no God! Even when all evidence establishes an End, somehow humans will prevail!
They disagree on major points, but Hollywood and science agree with Scripture: the End will come. (I’m sure God is breathing a sigh of relief! With Tinsel-Town and cosmologists in his corner, God must feel better about his prophecies of the End!) Since Hollywood and science can be a bit fruitcakey, though, I’d rather get the scoop from a few Scriptures . . .
The End. In Matthew 24 the disciples ask Jesus about the signs of the end of the age (24:3.) He warns them of deceivers, wars and famines, then says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (24:14).
” . . . the end will come.” The apostle Paul echoes: “Then comes the end, when [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). “Then comes the end . . . ”
These two chapters are enough to establish it. But like Jesus-is-coming-soon repeats, hear about the End and it seems as far off as the finish line in a marathon. I’ve got enough trouble surviving today and you want to bother me about the End of the world? The far-off future has a way of sneaking up quickly, though, doesn’t it! When I was young, I never thought I’d get old. Me bald, fat and wrinkled—an impossible nightmare, or at least science fiction. Guess what? It’s come! So will the End.
Now think with me about this deeply profound thought (!): since there is the End, there must be Last Days leading up to the End!
The Last Days. Nineteen hundred and eighty-some years ago, on the Jewish holy day Pentecost, the apostle Peter explained to a crowd in Jerusalem what the “other- tongues-speaking” they had just heard was all about . . .
” . . . this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams . . .
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day‘” (Acts 2:16,17,19,20).
According to Peter, that outpouring of the Holy Spirit—or more broadly the birth of Messiah Jesus—began the Last Days. The writer to the Hebrews agrees, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . ” (Hebrews 1:1,2a). “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . ” Christmas celebrates the start of the Last Days. And the Last Days climax with . . .
The Parousia. (that’s New Testament Greek for the Second Coming of Christ.) And with him will come sudden dissolution . . .
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and the 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 3:10).
The world will end. We are living in the Last Days leading up to the End. And at the End the world will burn.
The (Wise) Response.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,
what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
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? . . .
But according to his promise
we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13).
I used to think Peter’s question in verse 12 was rhetorical—especially since he gave the answer in verse 11. Now I think maybe he wants me to specify how I can live a holy and godly life that shows I’m waiting for the coming of that day when the old earth burns and the new earth emerges purified. That will take prayerful thinking since holy-living sermons are sparse. But here’s motivation: at the End, apparently before the new heavens and earth come, the present heavens and earth will perish and there will be only God . . .
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will all be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end” (Hebrews 1:10-12).
What will it be like to stand alone before God to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14:12)? What will it be like to claim our only righteousness is Christ and our only rescue from wrath is his blood? What will it be like to know that the new creation is just over the horizon? What will it be like to see Jesus face to face?
Every spring even loser baseball teams think, “Maybe this will be the year!” Maybe so. Maybe this is the year when losers like us come to the End of the Last Days. Maybe this is the year of the parousia. MAYBE . . .