Second Sunday in Advent
December 5-6, 2020
“The Grand Finale”
II Peter 3:8-14
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Sometimes I don’t know why I fell in love with my wife, Marilyn. Sure, she’s pretty and smart and nice, but she doesn’t even care about football. She won’t sit and watch football with me for 10 straight hours. Didn’t she promise, “For better or worse?”
Except this past Sunday. I told her about the COVID problem with the Broncos and how the NFL said that all of our quarterbacks had to be quarantined and so we were going to start a new player who was really good at quarterback in high school but had never even played a down, at any position, in the NFL.
All of a sudden she wanted to watch. She wanted to see how he would do. But it didn’t go well. One completion to our players, two to the opposing team. And then I found out why I love my wife. She must have been paying attention to football all this time – without me knowing it. The Broncos were getting killed and as she watched she said, “Isn’t there a mercy rule?” “Can’t we just agree that the game is over at half-time and shake hands and go home?” She knew there wasn’t going to be a grand finale, just an awful end. And she was right!! She normally is.
Boy, do we like a grand finale!! New Year’s Eve we count down from 10 to 1, the ball drops and we get all excited about a New Year beginning. (Especially this year) On the Fourth of July we really like the last 5 minutes of the Fireworks display – they seem to get better every year. Don’t leave to get to your car until you’ve seen the grand finale, right?
The Bible talks about life as having a grand finale. For each of us, for our world, for eternity there is going to be a grand finale. There will be no quitting at half-time, shaking hands and going home – something bigger than that is in store for us. And we should be excited about it.
I don’t think that I have spent enough time preaching about this grand finale – the end of the world. But it is a clear teaching in the Bible. Our reading from Peter is all about it, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (II Peter 3:10)
But this isn’t just what is going to happen to this earth – it is about what will happen to us and to all people. In good Old Testament warning, Malachi says, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2a) The grand finale will be the day of judgment. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” (Matthew 25:31-33) To one group He says, “Come, you are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” To the other group it was the worst words, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:34,41)
Do you ever think about it? Do you think about the extreme events of that last day, the standing in front of the judge of all? Maybe not. Peter said that for many they close their eyes to what is going to come. He writes, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (II Peter 3:3-4) But Peter tries to help them understand the difference between how God considers time and how we consider it. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” (II Peter 3:8-9a) This is sort of like that thought – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The grand finale is coming, and it is coming soon. The end of the world, destruction of everything that we can see, and the day when we will stand before the only one whose word matters for our eternity is coming. But how we understand soon and how God understands it may be different things. I have a joke for you. God was explaining to one of His believers that for Him a million dollars was just like a penny and a million years are like a second. So, getting up some gumption the believer asked God, “Can I have one of Your pennies?” And God winked at him and said, “Sure, in a second.”
But, tell me, why hasn’t He come? Why haven’t we had that day when He will judge the world with justice and throw the devil into the lake of fire and give to us believers our resurrected bodies? Why? Because He wants more people to know the fullness of His salvation. God has paused the return of Christ because of His heart of love for all people – especially for those whose heart is not right with God. Our reading says this, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
God loves us. He loves everyone. He takes no joy in the eternal punishment of any of His creation. So He waits. No grand finale yet. No big fireworks yet. No ball that is set to drop yet. He calls for repentance – change – in heart. He calls for people to come to faith in Jesus as their Redeemer and Savior. He wants you and all your family and all your friends (and even your enemies) to know the fullness of God eternally. This is what God desires for all people – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) What a finale – just as Paul would say – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
But right now we have to wait for the finale. Maybe we are in Act I, or Act II, maybe even Act III, but we aren’t at the end right now. Remember – “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So what do we do now? Peter raises that question. “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.” A few verses later he adds, “So, then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (II Peter 3:11-12a, 14) This is a time for opportunity. There is something great about the culmination of living and life right now.
How can we speed the coming of that great day? By prayer. We pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Every time we make that request in our Lord’s Prayer we are hastening that day. And then we proclaim. Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Prayer and proclaiming, bringing others to the hope of Jesus and the certainty of their eternal salvation leads up to the great finale.
This past week a friend of mine and a friend of yours, Lynne Williamson, died. She suffered a seizure for the first time about 5 years ago. Since that time she went through about half-a-dozen surgeries on her brain. She fought to live. But she wasn’t afraid to die. She grew tired of the tumor growing back time and again and the long rehab that each surgery required. But Lynne just didn’t die, her life didn’t just end – it had a great finale. God took her home. Like Paul says, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7)
Jesus is coming again. That day will be the best day. Be ready for it. It will be the best finale you’ve ever had. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen!!