December 15: The Final Countdown

2 PETER 3:3–4, 8–9

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?” . . .

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Consider This

Did you ever make construction-paper Christmas countdown rings as a kid? Using alternating red and green strips, I’d staple them into interlocking rings, one for each day from December 1 until the lone yellow ring for Christmas Day. Each morning at breakfast I’d tear a ring off as our countdown clock: T-minus five days till presents!

And remember when the longest day of the year was? The day before Christmas, when there was only one green ring left. That day seemed to take forever. I remember once waking up at around 11:00 at night, believing the time had come and ran through the house literally ringing a bell to wake everyone to come open presents. My parents were not impressed. “It’s not time yet!” they shouted me back to bed. Dejected, I got under the covers and thought, When is it ever going to happen?

We’ve spent the last two weeks preparing for Jesus to return, each day tearing off another ring in preparation. But when is it ever going to happen? It’s been about two thousand years, and the waiting is excruciating: “God, when are you sending Jesus? We’re ready to be rescued here!”
But for God, it’s only been a couple of days.

Let’s pause and clear up one thing: “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord” is not a key to the secret math formula for predicting Jesus’ return. It’s a simile: a figure of speech where two unlike things are compared using like or as to make an emphatic description.

No one knows when it will be, not even Jesus (see Mark 13:32). Peter is saying that what seems like a long time to wait for us is not all that long to God. In fact, God is being patient.

Patience has always been God’s way. After all, the entire Old Testament has God being patient. Think about how much time there was between Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah . . . until John the Baptist announces the arrival of Jesus.

What’s evident here is that God has more patience than we do because, “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (v. 9).

His patience is for the sake of the lost. But did you catch who his patience is with? I didn’t notice it either.

“No, he is being patient for your sake.”

God is not being patient with them; he’s being patient with us.

Why would God need to be patient for our sake if we already believe? Just come on and get us out of here, Lord!

God is being patient with us because we’re the ones who are supposed to share the good news with those who would otherwise be destroyed. God has patience for the sake of the lost, but he is patient with us because we are the ones who are supposed to be calling them to repentance. In a sense, God’s patience creates an urgency for us to share the good news before the final countdown.

This season of Advent is not just for us to prepare for Jesus’ return; it is also a season where we, in the spirit of John the Baptist, call others to repentance . . . our lives like voices in the wilderness shouting:

“Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.” (Luke 3:4–6)

Speaking of John the Baptist, here is where we make our pivot from the clouds to the cradle; from the end to the beginning, where our story will open on a waiting people asking, “God, when are you sending the Messiah? We’re ready to be rescued here!”

Many had become impatient and so moved on. They were going about their business and had forgotten his promise. This means we’re in good company. But as we’re about to see, God always keeps his promises.

Christ was born. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!