✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path that sinners take, nor sit in the seat of mockers.” One of the defining characteristics of the ungodly is that they are mockers. They revel in making fun of stuff. They delight in tearing down the good gifts of God and His teaching and the things that make for order and peace in our lives, and they do little to build up what is good and right. This is the way of a good deal of today’s comedy and entertainment, mocking and scoffing and making parodies of people and institutions, and then walking away and blaming others for the rubble that remains. Hidden beneath the mockery is an unbelieving heart.
Now that’s not to say that all mocking and scoffing is wrong. In the Old Testament the prophet Elijah famously mocked the prophets of Baal as they danced around their altar and called on their god to send down fire on their sacrifice. Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” Idolatry in all its forms is to be mocked, along with the foolishness of those who oppose God’s ways. Psalm 2 speaks of how, when God looks down at all the scheming and conniving of the rulers of this world, as if they’re the ones in control, the Lord laughs at them and scorns them. The God/god we truly serve is often revealed in what it is that we mock and make fun of.
The Scriptures warn us to beware of engaging in worldly mocking and scoffing. And especially today, the Scriptures warn us to be prepared to be on the receiving end of ridicule because of who we are as the people of God. You’re going to have a hard time being a Christian in this world if you’re going to be all worried about what people say about you, if you’re trying to remain popular with the secular and pagan types that are all around you.
Peter reminds us in today’s Epistle, “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” “For almost 2000 years you Christians have been talking about Jesus’ return. It hasn’t happened yet. Why should I believe it ever will?” Notice Peter states that they say this because they walk “according to their own lusts.” Their way of life is to follow their own passions and desires and appetites. The notion of a God who might one day judge their behavior doesn’t fit in very well with the way they want to live. And so they deal with that by scoffing at the idea, mocking it and making fun of it as stupid and ignorant.
But Peter goes on to point out that they do this by willfully forgetting the truth. They purposely ignore reality in order to justify themselves. That is why those who object to Christian teaching are becoming increasingly bold and condescending in their speech–it takes a lot of passion and effort to fight against what you know deep down is true. St. Paul speaks in Romans 1 about how the unrighteous “suppress the truth” that is clearly evident in creation. Unbelief pushes the truth down and out of the mind so that people can rationalize the way they think and act.
All of this is not unlike how it was in the days before the flood. Genesis 6 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And so the flood came. But before that it took Noah decades to build the ark. In the meantime the Scriptures say he was a “preacher of righteousness,” warning people of the coming judgment. But no one paid attention. They surely mocked him for his building project. We heard it in the Gospel last week, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married . . . until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” As we live in this ungodly and perverse world, Peter reminds us that there is another judgment coming, this time not by water but by fire.
Now it’s easy to condemn the world out there. But we dare not think that all of this doesn’t have its effects on us, especially in our media-saturated lives. The temptation for us as we wait is to grow weary in the struggle, to become tired of being made to feel like an outsider, and finally to just give in, to go along with the mindset of the culture, to adopt its self-indulgent way of living, to compromise your beliefs because, well, that’s what you’ve got to do to get by or to get ahead. The daily barrage can entice us all to believe the lies, to question or even give up on God’s Word.
And so Peter here offers us some encouragement. He reminds us first of all that the Lord’s delay is not a sign that He’s forgotten about us or that the promise of His return is empty. Rather, it’s a sign of His great mercy. He is patient and longsuffering with us sinners, not wanting anyone to perish eternally. He gives us all time to repent. It is written that the Lord is “slow to anger.” He’s not like us, with a short fuse when things don’t go our way. He’s not looking for a reason to let us have it, even though that’s exactly what we deserve. Rather, He is “abounding in steadfast love,” wanting all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So if you hear someone ridiculing a belief in the second coming, or if you find yourself beginning to question it, remember that in the Lord’s delay is His patient mercy. The only reason the world continues on each day is because of His love for fallen human beings.
Our Lord is longsuffering toward us because He suffered long for us. And that suffering included being mocked and ridiculed Himself. At Golgotha Jesus was scorned and made fun of and treated as a fool in order to deliver us from our foolishness and to vindicate us who believe in Him and to deliver us from judgment. All of the judgment we have merited He already endured in our place on the cross. The punishment has been meted out. The sentence has been served. It is finished. And that means that the Lord can wait, and so can we. There is no hurry. For God’s wrath has already been appeased. Your redemption is won in Christ through the blood that He shed. You are safe and forgiven and put right with God. You have nothing to fear.
And besides, what seems like a dreadfully long time to us is just a blink of an eye to the Lord. One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day to Him. We must always be careful to look at things from His eternal perspective and be patient, even as He is.
Still, there will come a point when the time of mercy, when the opportunity for repentance will end. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” suddenly and unexpectedly on the world, as did the flood. On that last day it is written here that the whole universe will be incinerated and will pass away with a great noise, the real big bang. The elements of this sin-cursed old creation will melt and fully degrade and expire to make way for the new creation to come. Specifically, Peter says that the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. All of our greatest works and achievements, all that human hands have made will be consumed–the great pyramids, skyscrapers and stadiums, computers and technological gadgets, the things and the property that we worked so hard to make payments on–all of it, evaporated, gone.
Therefore, since that is what is going to happen, how should we be conducting ourselves? Should we be setting our hearts on the stuff of this world, or the status and power that comes with being honored by others and not mocked by them? Why be completely wrapped up in what doesn’t last? This is no time for complacency and spiritual laziness. Rather, says Peter, since the last day is fast approaching, we should be conducting ourselves in holiness and godliness and love toward others. We should be looking for and living for the day of His return.
The Epistle draws this all together when it says, “According to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This old cursed and deathward creation is not where it’s at. Rather we await our bodily resurrection in that place which our Lord Jesus is preparing for us, a real, tangible world in which righteousness dwells, for He, the Righteous One is there. No more will there be violent and stomach-turning news reports. No more will we have to deal with our own frustrating fallen nature. For all things will be made permanently right and good and new in that Day. All scoffing will be done, all mockers cast out, and there will be only perfect praise and reveling in in God’s glory.
And even now, the Scriptures say, you are already new in Christ, for you have been baptized into Him who is immortal and incorruptible. Like Noah of old, you have been saved from judgment through water; you are safe in the ark of church, Christ’s body. As Noah and His family and the animals entered in through the side of the ark, so also you have found refuge in the side of Christ, from which the blood and the water flowed for your cleansing and your redemption. You are the ones the Gospel speaks of who are at the Jesus’ right hand. To you He will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Let us then pray daily for our Lord’s return. Let us look for His coming, especially as He comes to us hiddenly even now in the holy supper. Our Lord says in Revelation, “Surely I am coming quickly.” We say with all the saints who have gone before us, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠