16 May 20142 Peter 3:11-13
“… what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God ... ?” (vv. 11b-12a)
Peter has already warned his followers against those people who would try and predict exactly God's next move - some of the "scoffers" were already trying to convince people that Jesus would never return while others were determined to pinpoint the time when it would happen. No, said Peter - the Lord will come "like a thief" (2 Peter 3:10) - unpredicted and unexpected.
In the meantime, Peter urges his followers to "hasten" the coming of the day of God. In her poem Insomniac, Sylvia Plath describes the darkness of the night sky as a thin sheet of paper shielding a great white light, in which the stars are just "much-poked periods" letting through tiny glimpses of this light. If this light is the kingdom of God, "where righteousness is at home" (v. 13) and which is very much already in existence, then Peter is urging the people to make as many holes as possible in the veil of sin, despair and deceit that separates us from God. To let in as much light as possible - to give the world a preview of the "new heavens and a new earth" (v. 13) that the Lord has promised. By living lives of "holiness and godliness", God's people can move the world more swiftly towards the day when the carbon paper will be ripped away and the earth will be transformed by the light.
There is some argument among scholars as to whether passages like this and Revelation 21:1 ("Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…") mean that the current universe will be annihilated or transformed - it varies between translations. It seems that just as we cannot know exactly when this will be, we cannot predict exactly what it will be like - only that we 'wait for the day of Lord'.
- Why do you think we always want to know precisely what will happen next?
- To what extent is Peter really asking "what sort of people ought you to be" - or does he already have the answer?