You may enjoy no certainty about the weather, national politics, your own health and finances or the future of your local church, but you can be certain of this: “...the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night!”
I do not know and cannot tell anybody when this will happen (1 Thess. 5:1,2). Even if I have some theory or subjective guess, it would be unwise to share it. I do not know when, but I know it will happen. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:16-18, NKJV).
Simon Peter warned about “scoffers” who walk after their own lusts (2 Pet. 3). Ignoring God’s well-known intervention in the days of Noah, these unbelievers were asking: “Where is the promise of His coming?” Like those who raised similiar questions in the days of Jeremiah and Malachi, these mockers were speaking from their own lusts, not any objective basis (Mal. 2:17; Jer. 17:15). This isn’t surprising since unbelief and immorality often walk hand in hand and feed each other (Psa. 14:1).
Peter answered the scoffers. “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” (2 Pet. 3:5-11, NKJV).
Though the false teachers and scoffers press their denials contrary to evidence, the fact remains: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night!” And our response to this ought to be the activity of faith in Christ that results in the “manner of persons” we ought to be, “in holy conduct and godliness.” What the Bible says about Christ’s coming and final judgment was not written to spark speculation and doomsday interpretations of prophecy. The point is personal preparation. Neither the sarcasms of scoffers, the hypotheses of “scholars” or the speculations of TV preachers should shake us from the urgency of this preparation!
But what is God waiting for? Peter tells us, “...that all should come to repentance!” The time lapse (from the original statement of the promise until it’s fulfillment) does not reflect slackness on the part of God!
When my sons were growing up and I asked them to do a job, there was often a typical procrastination. As the clock continued to move and the boys didn’t, I would assume slackness on their part (and I was usually right). The time lapse with humans often means - the promise will never be kept; the work will not be done. But with God, the time lapse means no such thing; because He is God!
This passage of time (considered “long” by man) does not reflect slackness. It reflects that God is longsuffering. The final day of reckoning is delayed because of this disposition on the part of God: “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance!” God is waiting for sinners to repent! Nobody knows how long He will wait, but the delay reflects mercy not slackness.
The objections of men arise from “...misreading the apparent tardiness of God. He is slow, but never late. What seems to us delay is not an interval of Divine neglect, but a period of Divine mercy, granting an opportunity for human ‘repentance’.” (U.R.T., Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, p.#83).
But be careful here! Don’t relax and play on this too much. God’s longsuffering disposition is not unending. There will come a time when God will say - in essence - “That’s it!” Time and opportunity will close.
There are only two ways to deal with these truths. 1) to despise the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and continue in sin. Or 2), to be serious about “what manner of persons” we ought to be. God is waiting. What is your response?