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The LORD Knows How to Rescue Godly People from Trials

October 26, 2014, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Dr. Tan Hock Seng (2 Peter 2:4-12) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1,2 Peter & Jude
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: 2 Peter, 彼 得 后 书

Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
About Dr. Tan Hock Seng: Dr. Tan teaches New Testament studies, theology and languages in various seminaries in Singapore.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

The LORD Knows How to Rescue Godly People from Trials (2 Peter 2:1-9)

Introduction

Koji Minoura is a Japanese paleontologist. After 20 years of analyzing geological data, Minoura warned his government of a devastating tsunami would hit the northeastern region of Japan. This unusual tsunami will occur every one thousand year to Japan. The last time a giant Tsunami hit the north eastern part of Japan was in AD 869. In 2011 this same phenomenon was imminent because it was overdue.

As the Fukushima prefecture was powered by nuclear energy, Minoura urged the government to safe guard the regional infrastructure. He published papers in major scientific journals to convince intellects of the impending catastrophe. Sadly, Minoura’s warning fell on deaf ears.

On 11 March, 2011, an earthquake with a magnitude 9.0 hit northeastern Japan. The off-shore earthquake generated an over-10-meter-high tsunami that smashed the nuclear power plant, damaging the cooling system. Without proper cooling, the nuclear core became over-heated, and three of the six nuclear reactors started to melt. Water containing radioactive materials leaked from the plant into the sea. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown became the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April, 1986.

On the 15 March (4 days after the tsunami) a leading seismologist, Dr Roger Musson, the Head of the British Geological Survey, confirmed Minoura’s research and thesis.

Minoura became popular. Universities began to follow-up on his studies. But that was not what Minoura wanted. He wrote papers to warn of dangers, not to seek fame.

He said, “I regret it, but no one paid attention to my thesis.”

In the AD first century world, Jesus taught about an End-Time judgment for the whole world upon His return to earth (Matthew 25:31-32)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him,

He will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him.

However, the Greco-Roman world seemed to get better and better.

1. International Peace – Pax Romana
2. One world government – The Greco-Roman Empire
3. One common language & shared values – Hellenistic (Greek) culture
4. Strong economy & architectural development
5. Plurality of Religions & philosophies
6. Moral freedom – prostitution, sexual promiscuity & homosexuality are not wrong

The progress and stability of the socio-political world during the first century made Jesus’ warning about the End-Time judgment look ridiculous and unbelievable.

Many people in Asia Minor mocked at the hope of Christ’s second coming. Some teachers denied the End-Time judgment while influencing Christians with their licentious lifestyle.

In 2 Peter 2:1-3 we read:

2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.

False prophetic teachers arose among the people.

I. False Teachers in the Asia Minor Churches

A. There were teachers propagating false prophetic messages among the Christians

Normally, a teacher would teach the word, what God has already revealed in the Scripture.

Those false teachers were teaching beyond what were recorded in the Scripture. They led people to believe what they taught were God’s revelation to them.

However, their teaching-contents contradicted God’s saving plan for His people and the world. What they taught tantamount to denying Jesus’ deity and divine authority. Peter exposed those people as false teachers.

B. Reasons Peter denounced those ‘teachers’ as false prophets:

1. The false teachers denied the second coming of Jesus – The day when the Lord Jesus shall return.

2 Peter 3:4 4 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."

2. The false teachers denied the End-Time judgment.

In relation to the Jesus’ return, the false teachers also denied the End-time judgment that Christ shall execute.

When Jesus was preaching about the Kingdom of God, He also preached about the End-Time judgment that will occur at the end of the world history.

Matthew 25: 31 When the Son of Man comes … 32 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.

The End-Time judgment is part of the gospel message. The message of judgment is a warning for people to turn to the Creator-God so that they may be saved from the judgment-to-come.

At the His return the Lord Jesus shall separate the peoples into two groups just as a shepherd would separated his flock into the sheep and the goat. People who trust Jesus are likened as sheep that follow their shepherd. Those who reject Jesus are likened as goats that prefer to wander off in their own willful way.

In Peter’s milieu the false teachers led many people to reject Jesus’ teaching about the End-Time judgment. This is not a new phenomenon. In the milieu of the prophets Amos and Jeremiah, there were false prophets who led people to reject the prophetic warning concerning God’s judgment of Israel and Judah.

People, generally, like to select what they like to hear and believe and reject message that make them feel uneasy.

a. Amaziah, Israel’s national priest, opposed Amos’ message of judgment by accusing him of treason (Amos 7:10-13)

b. Hananiah, Judah’s national prophet, opposed Jeremiah’s message of judgment by downplaying the 70-year Exile to 2 years. Hananiah claimed that within two years the Exile would be over, and life would be back to normal (Jer 28:1-4).

The people’s wrong understanding about God’s grace and their own covenant-status led them to be unrepentant of their sinful living.

They thought, “We are God’s people. No matter what we do, God will always bless us.”

In his gospel teaching the Apostle Peter teaches the Day of the LORD. This is what Peter emphasizes:

2 Peter 3: 10 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.

The Day of the LORD is the time when the Christ will execute judgment on people who reject God and rebel against Him.

The false teachers were leading people to scoff and reject the Day of the LORD.

They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

As the false teachers were money-minded opportunists, they would preach what people enjoyed hearing. They taught twisted concept of “grace” to endorse sins.

The Apostle Paul describes a similar situation at Ephesus in these words:

2 Timothy 4:3-4 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

In 2 Peter 2:4-6, we read of three incidents of God’s judgment in the past.

II. Three Examples of Devastating Judgment that God Executed in the Past

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell1 and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter cites three examples to convince the people that God shall surely the world for its wickedness:

1. The Judgment of Wicked Angels (2:4)
2. The Judgment of the Wicked Ancient World (2:5)
3. The Judgment of the Wicked Ancient Cities (2:6)

Peter’s citing the three devastating judgments in the past aims is to make the point that When God says that He will judge wickedness, He will SURELY do it when that Day arrives.

The first incident that Peter alludes to is the Judgment of Wicked Angels.

A. The Judgment of Wicked Angels (2:4)

There was a time in Creation History where the Creator-God punished some angels for their sins. The Scripture does not reveal to us what sin those angels committed and how they were punished. However, during the Inter-Testament period, many Jewish people became fascinated with angels and demons. Those people speculated about the nature of the angels’ sin in Genesis 6. They interpreted the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6:2 as “angels”. Those angels sinned by marrying human women and having children with them.

Some Jewish literature written during the Inter-Testament period talked about how angels cohabited with human women. There are a few variations of the stories: One version talks about angels taking up human forms copulating with women; another version talks about angel possessing evil men (those who worshipped angels) and the spirit-possessed men then mated with the women; and another, about angels causing women to conceive while they were in a trance-state, something similar to the way the virgin Mary was made to conceive by the Holy Spirit.

1 Enoch was the most popular book among the Jewish people because the stories about angels were told in a very elaborate and detailed fashion. It is important for us to note that the Jewish community did not regard all these literatures as Inspired Writings of God, the Holy Scripture. Those Jewish interpretations should not be treated as God-revealed truth but as speculation. The 1 Enoch’s story version about the fall of angels became a common Jewish folklore. During Peter’s milieu, Jewish families were very familiar with the “Sins of the Angels” story, as we, Chinese, are well-acquainted with “Sun Wu Kong” story from Wu Chen Shi’s Xi You Ji (Journey to the West).

Now Peter’s allusion to the “Sin of the Angel” story is to express that

If God did not spare the angelic beings (His special agents) when they committed sins, then He will surely punish the unrighteous human beings at the End-Time judgment.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell1 and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

9 then the Lord knows how to … keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment,

B. The Judgment of the Wicked Ancient World (2:5)

5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but a preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought ba flood upon the world of the ungodly;

C. The Judgment of the Wicked Ancient Cities (2:5)

6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter recounted the three devastating judgments in the past to convince the people that there will be a future global judgment. God will not spare the wicked – those who rejected and rebel against God’s moral will. The only people who will be saved are those who humble themselves and accept the salvation that comes from the LORD. In the New Testament teaching, the salvation that comes from the LORD is Jesus the Christ. Jesus is God’s provision to save and deliver us from the Judgment-to-come.

III. God’s Justice and Mercy in Judgment

Fifty years ago, when a pastor preached about God’s judgment of the world, the congregation responded with fear towards God, and they examined their lives for areas they needed to repent of.

Today, if a pastor were to preach about God’s judgment of the world, many people might become angry at God. They would call God a Bigot. They feel that God is wrong and has no right to judge the world. To judge the world shows that Go is intolerant and lacking love. They feel that God should understand human beings more and draw out their natural goodness, instead of being quick to destroy. They argue that there is no such thing as “sins,” but only misunderstood dysfunctional behavior that can be corrected.

If Christians were to think that way also, then they are forgetting that they are looking at the Creator-God. As the Creator of human beings, God knows and understands psychology, sociology and ethics better than we do.

We need to remember that the God who judges the world is not only the Giver of life but also the Taker of Life. So, the Creator-God has every right to judge the world.

Let us listen to the way God is proclaimed in Exodus 34:6:

Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…

The God of Grace, Love and Compassion does not leave the guilty unpunished.

A. The Distortion of God’s Grace in Many Contemporary Preaching

Today, many speakers preach about God’s grace to a point as though God has completely lost His sense of Justice. The Grace of God in Jesus Christ is like a carpet that we can sweep all our sins under. God is being portrayed as a Heavenly Father who only knows how to pamper and spoil His children.

However, the scripture teaches us our Heavenly Father disciplines His children, as well as He loves them.

Hebrews 12:5-6 "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (c.f. Prov. 3:11, 12)

In God’s grace there is also divine discipline, so that we may grow as children who are Christ-like, not spoilt-brats.

God’s Grace does not nullify His Character of Justice and Righteousness.

B. God’s Character of Justice in His Judgment.

1. God judges the world to vindicate righteousness

The Creator-God is not a God who takes pleasure in judging and condemning humankind. He judges because of the prevalent evil, and people are unrepentant.

In Luke 17:27, Jesus describes the moral situation in Noah’s days using euphemisms: “eating” “drinking” and “marrying.”

27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

Euphemism is a nice way of saying something that is not nice. e.g. The wife caught her husband going to bed with another woman. “Going to bed” is a euphemism for “adultery”.

In 1 Peter 4:3, Peter drops the use of euphemism when he denounces the believers’ past sins:

1 Peter 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness (drinking), orgies (marrying), carousing (eating) and detestable idolatry.

In the Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah

Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous

Genesis 19:4 gives us a glimpse of the sinful nature of the people living in Sodom

Genesis 19:4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom-- both young and old-- surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."

Then city of Sodom did not have Section 377A.

God will judge to vindicate those who are righteous and those who are treated unjustly in this world.

2. God judges in absolute Justice

Being created in God’s image, our sense of right and wrong, and justice are derived from God Himself because we are His image.

If we care about justice, we should be aware that the Creator-God is more concerned about justice than we do. God will not make mistakes in His judgment that will allow anyone to accuse Him of being unjust.

3. God will not sweep away the righteous with the wicked in His Judgment.

Abraham once questioned God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:22). Then God assured Abraham that he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could be found. When God could not find ten righteous people He rescued the few who were righteous before destroying the cities.

4. Peter assured those who heed the warning that God will Rescue the Righteous (2:7-9)

2 Peter 2:7-9 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) -- 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.

IV. Contemporary Responses to the End-Time Judgment Message

A. People Who Believe in Doomsday Rumors but Not God’s End-Time Judgment

There are people who rather believe in scary rumors like the Mayan Prophecy, or the Nostrademas’es predictions.

B. People who are Speculative about the End-Time Judgment

Whenever some major disaster strikes, some people will begin speculating about the date of Christ’s second coming. This type of scare is termed as “crisis eschatology”. The next slide shows us the numbers of “second-coming dates” that people had speculated in the last 100 years. The recent end-time fever was escalated by an American preacher, Harold Camper in 2011. Many people who believed him resigned from their works to wait for Christ’s return, only to end up disappointed and jobless.

C. Theologians Who Deny the End-Time Judgment as They Had Rejected Jesus as God

In the book Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, four different theologians argue and refute one another’s position: Is Jesus Christ is the only way to God? Is Christianity is just one among many paths to God?

View #1
R. Douglas Geivette & W. Gary Philips jointly advocates that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. No one can be saved without an explicit faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

View #2
Alister McGrath reasons that generally Salvation is found in Christ alone, but the Scripture is silent about how God will deal with those who never heard the gospel. We cannot assert that those who have no chance to hear the gospel are surely lost eternally. God is able to save those who never had the chance to learn the gospel in His Way and Sovereign Wisdom.

If people were to ask Alister McGrath, “What will happen to my parents, they died as non believers?” “What will happen to my grandparents, they did not hear the gospel?” McGrath’s answer would be, “God is more concerned than we are about our loved ones’ salvation. Although we do not know the answer, we can Hope in God’s mercy that He may save them in His sovereign Justice and Power.

View #3
Clark Pinnock believes that Salvation Jesus is the only way to God. However, he also believes that some religions contain general revelation about God. “General Revelation” means that people can know that there is a Creator-God through the Creation. But General Revelation cannot answer questions like, “Who is this God?” “Does he know me from among 7 billion people?” “Why must Jesus Christ die on the cross?” We know the answers because God has revealed to us by means of specific revelation through Jesus Christ and in the Bible. Clark Pinnock believes that “The general revelation contained in some religions may lead a person to the specific revelation found in Jesus Christ. However, such phenomenon is not always true for all people.

View #4
John Hick, who presented the last view, argues that Jesus is not the only way to God. All moral religions are able to lead to God. Religions, like Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam are able to save. If that is true, then there is no need for missions.

John Hick was asked how he would respond to Bible texts that teach “Salvation in Christ alone” as follows:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Philippians 2:10-11 at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Romans 10:13-15 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

John Hick simply asserts:

1. Jesus is not God incarnate. He was only human, a prophet that taught people to live close to God.

2. Jesus never made any of those exclusive claims that He is Savior and He is Lord. The Church invented that theology and elevated Jesus to be God, the second person of the Trinity.

3. The gospels were not written by eye-witnesses. The contents were copied from Q source. The NT writers just put words into Jesus’ mouth.

When John Hick rejected that Jesus was God-Incarnated, and dismissed the Gospels and the NT writings as the inspired word of God, he also indirectly denied the hope of Christ’s return and the warning about the End-Time judgment.

Towards people who assume that the Church had invented the prophetic teachings concerning Christ’s return and the End-Time judgment, the Apostle Peter wrote:

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The teachings about Jesus’ second coming and the end-time judgment are not figments of human imagination. They are prophetic truths revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter was one of the many eye-witnesses.

CONCLUSION

The Apostle Peter convinces the Asia Minor Christians that there will be an end-time judgment. The judgments of the wicked angels, the wicked world in Noah’s day, and the wicked ancient cities assure us that God shall surely judge wickedness at the end of human history. Judgment is a part of God’s re-creation plan.

Peter also assures the Christians that when the Day of the LORD comes, God is able to rescue the God-fearing people and the innocents from the judgment.

In Acts 2:16-21, Peter refers to Joel’s prophecy concerning the Day of the LORD. How then can a person be saved when the Day of the LORD comes? Peter answered by citing the prophet Joel, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). After that Peter preached that Jesus is the LORD. In other words, those who humbly believe that Jesus is the Christ and the LORD shall be saved from the Judgment-to-Come.

2 Peter 2:4–12 (Listen)

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,

(ESV)