The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 28, 2011


1) 2 Peter 3:10-13 (Tom Edwards)
2) What Do We Have That We Have Not Received? (Tom Edwards)
3) News & Notes


2 Peter 3:10-13
by Tom Edwards

In last week's lesson, we noted that though there are those who mock the truth concerning the second coming of Christ, it will still occur -- just as surely as the flood in Noah's day also had.  Peter then describes that event in 2 Peter 3:10-12: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!"

The phrase "day of the Lord," which refers to God's judgment upon the wicked, is used in the Scriptures to refer to  various events.  For example, Isaiah 13:6,9 states,  "Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.  Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it."  It is even figuratively depicted as a time in which "the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light" (v. 10).  Though this might sound like the end of time, it is not indicating that at all.  Rather, it is figuratively referring to God's judgment that would befall Babylon, and which would be carried out by the Medes and Persians (as secular history also shows).  For the very first verse of Isaiah 13 declares that this message is "The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amos saw."  And verse 5 shows that Babylon's enemies would be coming from a great distance: "They are coming from a far country, From the farthest horizons, The LORD and His instruments of indignation, To destroy the whole land."  The chapter also tells who Babylon's enemies are, who would bring this major destruction upon them.  It would be the "Medes" (Isa. 13:17-22), and in alliance with them were the Persians (Dan. 5:28). 

So the "day of the Lord" being metaphorically described as a day of darkness with the heavenly bodies not giving their light is often used in the Bible to express the outpouring of God's wrath in different ways on different people of different times.  For instance, Jesus used it to even refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:29); and it was also in the vision God gave John, around A.D. 96, concerning the Lord's judgment that would befall the Roman Empire (Rev. 6:12-14).  Consider also Joel 2:1,2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-16.  Of course, the ultimate "day of the Lord" will be at the second coming of Christ on the last day, when all people -- the dead and the living from all time -- will stand before the Lord in that great judgment day (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10).  And in that day, there will be a literal darkening of the heavenly bodies, for the entire universe will be destroyed, as Peter shows in 2 Peter 3:10-12. 

Just as Peter refers to the Lord's second coming as being likened to an unexpected time when a thief would come, Paul also speaks of it that way in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.  In view of these passages, and others also that teach the same, how can people continue to even try to predict when Christ will return -- as many have, down through the years, and repeatedly failed? 

Though we don't know when Christ is coming again, we know that He is -- and that it could be any time!  We, therefore, need to be ready!  Peter and Paul also indicate this.  For just like Peter, Paul also exhorts the brethren to live holy lives in view of the fact that Christ is coming again. 

To help the Christians in setting that goal, Peter states in 2 Peter 2:13, "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells."

To the Jehovah Witnesses, this "new earth" will be the same earth we now have; but simply cleaned up and made peaceful -- where even lions and lambs can graze together.  But Peter is using this expression of "new heavens and a new earth" to figuratively stand for heaven itself.  In other words, since the present heavens and earth will be completely destroyed, the realm that the redeemed can look forward to is heaven, where God dwells. 

Something else that indicates to us of the figurative usage of this phrase is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:47-53. For here we learn that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."  So the redeemed must be changed from mortal bodies to immortal, which will be adapted for heaven; and that will occur "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality."

We can further point out that Paul is writing this to all of the Christians in Corinth -- not to merely those 144,000 Jewish male virgins, whom the Jehovah Witness take literally and believe will be the only ones going to heaven -- while the rest of the redeemed will live forever on earth.  For all of the redeemed will be given a body suitable for heaven.  While on earth, we have a body that is suitable for our environment; but in heaven, we will need another kind of body for that -- and one that will be far greater. 

The "new heavens and a new earth" expresses a major change from this physical universe to the realm of heaven.  Back in the OT, this same phrase is used to express a radical change from the Jewish economy under the Old Covenant, or that system of Laws they had then, to what they would then have in the New Covenant of the Gospel Age. See, for example, Isaiah 65:17-25.  Note first of all that in this "new heavens and a new earth" (v. 17), God's people would be blessed with longevity; but their years would still come to an end.  For in this one, "an old man" will "live out his days" (v. 20), "...the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed" (v. 20).  They "will build houses and inhabit them; They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit" (v. 21).   They will "labor" and "bear children" (v. 23).  All of these thoughts indicate that the phrase, "new heavens and a new earth," is not being used to refer to an eternal heaven -- as Peter uses it -- but, rather, something that would pertain to time and the physical realm on earth.  And how could a change be expressed any more extremely than by likening it to "new heavens and a new earth" to replace the old?  It was a major change for many Jewish people to turn from the Law of Moses (which they had for 1,500 years) to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Verse 25 helps us to pinpoint the time this passage in Isaiah 65 is prophesying: "'The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,' says the LORD."  This same idea of the wolf and the lamb, and the lion being like an ox, can be seen in Isaiah 11:6-9.  We note in verse 9 that this peaceful coexistence would take place "in all My holy mountain" God says.  That's the key.  For that holy mountain pertains to the authority of God on which His kingdom, the church, was built.  Those who are a part of that -- even if Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile --  would be able to dwell together in spiritual peace. And Isaiah also shows when this would begin in Isaiah 2:2-4.  It would be in the last days when the word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem, which is a prophecy of the time the church was established in A.D. 33, 10 days after the Lord's ascension, as seen fulfilled in Acts 2.  The peaceful coexistence of the wolf and the lamb figuratively represents the harmony that is characteristic of those in God's kingdom -- regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile -- which can also be seen in Ephesians 2:11-22.  The reader must realize that prior to the New Covenant, anyone who wasn't a Jew was considered unclean by the Jews; and it was "unlawful...for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not  call any man unholy or unclean" (Acts 10:28).  This is what the apostle Peter came to learn about 10 years after the church was established and right before going to the house of Cornelius to take the gospel to the Gentiles for the first time.  Now in the New Covenant, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).  "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (vv. 26,27).

So in view of this "new heavens and new earth" that the Christians eagerly await, Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:14, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless[.]"  Similarly, John shows in 1 John 3:2,3 that because the Christian will be made like Jesus (with a glorified body) when He comes again, we are to strive for holiness to be ready for that time.  For "everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."  May this also be true in the lives of each one of us!


What Do We Have That We Have Not Received?
by Tom Edwards

What do we have that we have not received?
For from You all blessings flow. 
Even the very thanks we give,
We have because of You. 

No matter how hard we have to work at accomplishing or acquiring anything, we should try to realize just how much God also factors into making that attainment a reality.  For instance, if we want to imagine God not doing His part, then what if He took away the food He has made possible for us, or the water we drink, or the air we breathe, or the sun that also helps sustain life on earth, or gravity?  Or what if He took away our physical strength that He has enabled us to acquire, or our mind that can be developed, which He has also provided us with?  Or what if He took away all the resources He has given to our planet -- resources that we enjoy, and resources with which we design and build even modern conveniences?  How, therefore, can anyone ever say, "God has never done anything for me!"?  When, in actuality, He makes possible everything we can do and everything we have!  So think again of the beginning statement: What do we have that we have not received?  For from You all blessings flow.  Even the very thanks we give, we have because of You. 

The first question is actually based on 1 Corinthians 4:7.  Some Corinthians had become so puffed up in themselves that they did not even give God the credit for the things He had done for them -- such as blessing them with miraculous gifts.  Paul, therefore, rhetorically asks, "...And what do you have that you did not receive?  But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"  In other words, they boasted in themselves, as if they had no one to thank but themselves for what they had. 

Though this verse does focus on the miraculous gifts, which are not a part of our present time, I see how this same principle can apply to us today by realizing that whatever we have been able to accomplish or obtain, we need to give God the credit, the thanks, and the glory for it.  For He truly is the one who makes all things possible -- and even the things we can do!

I often like to think about these things -- with thanksgiving to God.  Maybe you will, too.

-- from my Facebook site


News & Notes

I recently talked with my sister (Helen Bott).  Her cancer in her lymph node is at Stage 3.  She still has about 2.5 to 3 weeks to go to heal from her surgery before they can start the chemotherapy.  When they do begin, it will be a very aggressive kind with a high potency.  She'll receive it once every 3 weeks for 5 months, which will be 6 times total. 

Her work allows for up to 84 sick days.  She is using 42 of those for her surgery (since her doctor told her it can take 6 weeks to heal from it).  She plans to go back to work around the middle of September and will have 42 more of the sick days to use for when she really needs them -- or she might take one more week of sick-leave for when she begins the chemo (to see how things go). 

She will also have to have a cat scan to see if cancer is elsewhere, but that isn't scheduled yet. 

Plus, they will also be inserting a probe in her chest that she'll have to wear for the five months of the treatment.  But before they can insert that, she has to be off of pain medicine (and some other medications) for 5 days.  The other night, however, her back got to hurting so badly that she had to take a pain pill.  Her doctor told her that the pain was because of her surgery. 

Helen is trying to take one step at a time, beginning with healing from her surgery. 

She had mentioned to me of two others at her work who had also gone through this same treatment.  One had breast cancer, and the other had cancer at Stage 4.  Both of them were cured, but the treatment can make you feel pretty bad.  Helen was told by one of them that "by the time you get feeling better [about 3 weeks], it's time for another treatment."  But I would think it would effect different people differently, and I sure hope it will go well for Helen.

Again, I solicit the prayers of all who are Christians for my sister.  Thank you.

Let those of us who are Christians also continue praying for the following people:

Danny Holton, who is receiving radiation treatments for pancreatic cancer in its 4th stage. 

R.J. Evans, who will soon begin treatment for a slow-developing prostate cancer, caught in its early stage.      

Jackie Evans (R.J.'s wife), who is seeking a remedy to eliminate a 3-year back pain.   

Cheryl Anderson, who has been having some health problems.

Cheryl Crews, who continues with infection, not feeling well, and undergoing treatment.   

Bill Barfield, an 85-year old with prostate cancer, whose mobility was also impaired several years ago, due to a stroke.    

Bill Holt, who is still recuperating from a severe pancreatic pain, which required about 3 weeks in the hospital and living on just intravenous feeding for almost all of that time.    

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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