I was a young engineering student preparing for reckoning day.
My team of student-researchers had worked hard all semester to create a project using a primitive robotic arm and a series of mechanical processes and electrical circuits. Truth be told, it wasn’t going that well. The arm failed to perform as planned in most trials and we were down to the wire. And the judges were coming.
The university president and several state officials who made decisions about program funding walked in. These guys were experts and decision-makers. That feeling in the pit of the stomach when you are on trial—the sweating and the angst. That moment when all your hard work is examined. Will we pass or be found wanting?
I hate that feeling. There is a dim hope that all will be well, but an overarching fearful dread that we’re all going down. Did our project pass the test? I’ll get to that later.
One of the Apostle Peter’s goals in both of his letters to the churches is to remind us that there is a far more important Judgment Day coming. In our passage today:
He is saying again what he has said before.
He is saying again what the Holy prophets foretold.
He is saying again what the Lord Jesus commanded.
He is saying again what the other apostles taught.
With so many witnesses—impeccable witnesses—we should pay attention to this message. But it is not a pleasant message.
We love to hear good news: the agreeable, ear-tickling, chicken-soup-for-the-soul news that we are always attracted to because it costs us nothing and assures us (sometimes falsely). But oftentimes it is the not-so-pleasant news that sobers us and rights our perspective. It is truth that gives valuable instruction on how to live. That is exactly what Peter is doing here.
What was this message Peter is reminding us of? The message of coming judgment. The message that there will be a day when every man and woman will face the fierce and righteous inspection of Jesus Christ.
You may say, “I don’t believe in that judgment stuff”, and you aren’t the first to say it. From the beginning, people have scoffed, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming. It has been so long. Surely there is no second coming of Jesus, there is no judgment to fear.”
But Peter, who walked with the Lord Jesus and heard Him speak of this judgment, warns us to think differently. Judgment came once by water, and it will come a second time by fire.
The Apostle Paul warns similarly, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Just because God has delayed His judgment, doesn’t mean it will not come. It surely will. God counts differently than we do. He is not slow to act as we might count it. Rather, He is patient, so that others might come to repentance.
But every great Bible doctrine calls us to a response. So Peter asks the question, “If we are to face God’s reckoning day, what sort of people ought we to be? How should this truth change how we live?”
Thankfully, the Apostle answers his own question.
- Work hard to be found by Christ to be without spot or blemish.
- Don’t be carried away with the error of lawless people.
- Do not lose your stability.
- Grow in the grace of God and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In short, live like you will stand before Him in judgment.
So how did the trial of our engineering team end up? We could hardly believe it, but when the critical hour was upon us, with the eyes of all the judges on us, our project worked flawlessly. I still think there was a little luck involved that day. But we cannot rely on luck when we stand before Jesus Christ. On that day, grace must be our hope.