“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
“The Newtown CT. massacre ripped away the veneer of a joyful holiday season, exposing the ugly cruelty that lies at the heart of this fallen world—a world made by an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God.” (Jim Denison) How do we reconcile this evil with an all- loving and all powerful God? How do we as believers understand it and what can we tell our unbelieving friends. In 2 Peter 3 we read Peter’s final words (written in Scripture) and in these eighteen verses we see a sweep of all of human history from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 that can help us understand God’s perspective on this tragedy and all of life in this “present evil age.” (Gal. 1:4) (Please read 2 Peter 3.)
As you see these 18 verses cover from here to eternity, from the beginning of time until we live happily ever after forever – for all who know Christ. And it says that “time” to God is like 6 days. (Assuming 6,000 years of human history, we are in our 6th day.) And God is only holding off His judgment of the unrepentant and full blessing for us as believers because He is waiting until the last person gets saved. (V.9) In these verses we also see four major events and periods of human history. (Before these four events, we have the Eternality of the Triune God and His creation of angels (spiritual beings) and the rebellion of Satan along with one-third of all the angels (millions upon millions) that are now demons on this earth – though many people do not believe in Satan or demons. Satan loves to work under the radar, so to speak.)
1. Paradise created – V. 5 and Genesis 1-2 – the creation of a perfect world where God and man live together in perfect love and joy.
2. Paradise lost – V. 6- 7 and Genesis 3 – A perfect world yes – but there is a snake (Satan) in the garden. This shows us the Fall of man and the curses that came. But the first hint of the gospel is also seen here; and an escape from this fallen evil world in Genesis 3:14-15: “Then the LORD God said to the serpent …..And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head (destroys Satan), and you will strike his heel (Jesus dies but he comes back to life in resurrection power.)” Many people, even some believers, forget this cataclysmic Fall and “expect” this world to be heavenly. But we are in a war against the world, the devil, and the flesh that will not end to Jesus’s second coming.
3. The world and this life is now called, “this present evil age” (see Gal. 1:4) and God ultimately promises eternal judgment for all who reject Christ. (v. 7) So it is filled with demons, disease and death, and evil and sorrow touches every one, young and old. But we also see the promise of redemption, recreation and hope through the gospel promised in Genesis 3 for all who receive Christ as Savior. “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” (Gal. 1:4) But that rescue will only occur ultimately and completely when we get to heaven.
4. Paradise Regained (heaven) for all who receive Jesus. John 1:12. ”But we (all who receive Jesus) are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.” (v. 13) Yet it seems many people, even some believers, have a very vague view of heaven and do not live “looking forward” to it. Yet being with God and our saved loved ones in a perfect world forever should be our greatest hope – even daily. If so, then we will heed Peter’s (and Jesus’) word: “Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live (in this brief life), looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.” (Vv. 11-12) (There are two different “days” here: the day of the Lord (V. 10 – Judgment – the Tribulation in particular and the final judgment for all who reject Christ (Revelation 6-20); and the “day of God” (V. 11 – the new heaven and new earth for all who receive Christ (Revelation 21-22). As believers we should be motivated by both “days”; to reach out to our lost loved ones and friends before they perish eternally “the day of the Lord”; (this is part of the answer on “how then shall we live” i.e., now in this life) and to long for and live for hearing Jesus say, “well done my good and faithful servant” when we see Him face to face and live with Him and the family of God in a perfect world forever- heaven – “the day of God.”
Another very important time period that needs to be noted here is “today” – “what holy and godly lives you should live” and we must add – today – the only day – even moment of time, we have for sure. “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (psalm 90:12)
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it (today or soon, versus I’ll do it someday), to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17)
So Peter exhorts us in this passage on how to live and even more so Jesus gave us a very clear “to do list” while He was on the earth: “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) And the way we love them best is to lead them to Jesus and teach them to love Him and obey all He said: “Go (as you go – about your day/work/play) and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” (Matt. 28:18-20) And He not only told us what to do, He Himself is the message, the model, the motivation and the means to do it.
As the parents and friends of the children and adults who were slaughtered by this evil act ask “Where was God’ – we must all realize that Jesus (God and Man) chose to enter our suffering world and He out-suffered all of us, all mankind combined, as he bore the sin and sorrows of all mankind on the cross and experienced the wrath of God (full justice for all sin) physically, emotionally, relationally (His best friends deserted him) and most of all spiritually, “My God why have YOU forsaken me?” Thus He can both understand the deepest human pain imaginable and He sympathizes with us when we suffering (Hebrews 4:14-16). And He promises us a life of no more suffering or evil for all who believe in His substitutionary death – for all of us who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. (John 1:12)
How then shall we live? God’s love as seen in Jesus is not sentimentality, it is not passionate lust, it is sacrificial giving of our self for the SPIRITUAL GOOD of others…. Giving of our time, talents, treasures ($) and truth by investing the eternal word of God into eternal people. This is the kind of life that pleases God and gives us full joy. (John 10:10) It is not like the “joy” that the world gives us – the fleeting pleasure of sin. King Solomon went for the gusto for what the world offers and said it was meaningless and empty. (Ecclesiastes)
We are our brother’s keeper. (Genesis 3:9) That does not mean we are responsible for someone’s actions and sins. But we are responsible to love and speak truth to those people God brings into our lives as parents, spouses, friends, business associates, etc. Adam Lanza is culpable before a Holy and Just God for the evil he committed. But did those who knew him opt out of doing what God calls us to do – share love and truth. Jesus loved the lepers (social outcast/misfits), loners, tax collectors, prostitutes, “big” sinners. We probably have some of these in our circle of friends. Our call may only be to be share a smile and kind word with some and to spend much time with some others, but we want to stay open to God’s leading “as we go” about our day to day life.
King David said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him (heaven), but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:22-23) From this passage and others it seems that babies and young children go to heaven when they die. They have not reached the age of accountability. Based on this I think the poem below can give us hope as we see God’s perspective on this tragedy. And hopefully in time it will give the parents who lost their children hope too. Of course this assumes that the parents have put their trust in Christ for salvation (let’s pray that they have or will) and thus they can look forward to spending eternity with their loved one. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38 when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious; their laughter filled the air they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy; they didn’t know what to say they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse. “This is heaven” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear, but Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same. Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring those children all flew into the arms of their King,
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand, “Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools” “I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound. “Come now my children let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran. All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, “in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)