The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
When we read about Christ coming back to earth, the power and majesty of the scene boggles our minds. We envision Him on a cloud with trumpets blaring and believers, dead and alive, defying gravity to join Him in the air, we imagine Him returning to earth as the warrior who slays his enemies, and we can see Him taking the throne in Jerusalem to rule on earth. During Christ’s thousand year rule amazing things will happen, nature will be turned upside down;the lion will lay down with the lamb.
“Come on back!“ We plead. However we may be ready, but others aren’t. One of the reasons Christ postpones His return is to give more people an opportunity to respond to the message of grace. We care about the lost people we know in our families and neighborhoods, but God longs for every heart around the world to turn to Him. He is saying, “not yet. I’m not ready to come because there are still more people who haven’t heard and more who haven’t trusted in Me. Not now. Not yet. But it won’t be long“.
When Christ returns, wrongs will be made right, and God’s faithful people will be honored. Our hearts long for God‘s justice and grace to roll throughout the world, but God has a higher priority. He delays judgment for sinners and honor for saints so that more lost people can be found. The delay we endure is a small price to pay for an eternity of forgiveness, peace and joy for even one more person, and we suspect it’ll be a lot more than one who responds.
“When you return to God, you discover he has been facing you all the time.“
There are some important things for us to consider. The first is that God keeps His promises. When Jesus left, He promised to come again. John 14 makes that clear. Paul in Thessalonians tells us that the Lord will descend with a shout and the dead in Christ will be resurrected and those who are in Christ will be changed- transformed and caught up(raptured) to meet the Lord in the air. As Peter was writing this letter there were those who were despairing that God would keep His promise since it wasn’t happening as soon as they had first believed. So Peter reminds us that though God delays, He never fails to keep His promise.
The second thing to consider is that God is long-suffering(patient) with us and everyone else too. Some of us are slow-learners and being one of those, I’m glad God gives me time and space to learn and grow. Sometimes once we grasp something it feels so easy that we become impatient with those who don’t instantly get it. We forget it took us a while. Often we repeat the same mistakes again and again and God gently teaches and trains and molds us until we finally become what He designed us to be. Thank God the He is patient or else none of us would make it.
But the most important thing for us to consider is the truth that it has never been God’s will or desire for anyone to perish. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked because they are lost for eternity. Often we hear that God condemns sinners to hell as though He enjoys it. Was that the case then we would be pressed hard to explain the cross and the crucified Savior. If God were so uncaring and cruel as some want to make Him to be explain then Him giving up His Son.
“He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
Furthermore if God didn’t love us and was willing for us to perish then explain why Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
“But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Peter tells us that the delay of the coming of the Lord is due to His unwillingness that any should perish. So what does this say to us? I know that we all have a longing for the return of Christ and for the world to be set right but are we willing that those who don’t know Christ to perish. Are we willing not only to wait a little longer for our redemption but to also work and witness and plead with those who are still in their sins to come to know Christ? You see God’s desire is that all come to repentance and He is unwilling to rest until the last one is won. So what about us? Can we truly fully enjoy our relationship with God and forget about those who are still lost?
In the Old Testament we read of an occasion the God says to Moses, “Stand aside, I’m through with Israel and their constant rebellion and idolatry. I’m going to wipe them out and I’ll raise up a new nation for you to lead.” Moses makes a startling reply:
“The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked (stubborn, rebellious) people. Now therefore, let Me alone and do not interfere, so that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you (your descendants) a great nation.” But Moses appeased and entreated the Lord his God, and said, “ Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil [intent] their God brought them out to kill them in the mountains and destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from Your burning anger and change Your mind about harming Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), Your servants to whom You swore [an oath] by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He had said He would do to His people.”
Did you read that Moses pleaded with God for the Israelites? And it so captured God’s heart that He changed His mind. Are we so compassionate for the lost that we would intercede in such a way that they would be spared?
Finally hear the heart of Paul in the matter of wanting to go home to be with Christ but also desiring to remain and continue the work of ministry.
“If, however, it is to be life here and I am to go on living, this will mean useful and productive service for me; so I do not know which to choose [if I am given that choice]. But I am hard-pressed between the two. I have the desire to leave [this world] and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; yet to remain in my body is more necessary and essential for your sake. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your rejoicing for me may overflow in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
I pray this resonates with all of us and that we find the urgency to share the gospel at every opportunity to anyone we can- not willing that any perish. Though we may desire for Christ to come back, may we also be willing to wait while we work to rescue those in peril of perishing.
Dr. John Thompson