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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + February 8, 2017

2 Peter 3:1-18
Mark 13:24-31

2 Peter 3:1-18 (NKJV)
Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Mark 13:24-31 (NKJV)
The Lord said, "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away."

Commentary 

When the Gospel is preached in its fullness, it is not a system or a process of salvation. Nor is it merely a list of events in the past, performed or participated in by Christ which have produced our salvation. Rather, the Gospel has two parts. The first is the one that we likely think about more often, and that is the report of Christ's victory over the powers of sin and death and hell which had reigned over God's Creation since Man first led Creation into sin. It is this victory that we celebrate every Pascha, and on every Sunday of the year. The power of the proclamation of Christ's death and most especially His Resurrection is so great that it often overpowers every other proclamation of the Church throughout the year, and in many case rightly so. It is not, however, the end of the Gospel. The Gospel goes on to tell us that after Christ's Resurrection, He ascended into the heavens, and took His seat enthroned beside His Father, ruling over heaven and earth. We live in a world ruled over by Jesus Christ, though He currently rules in the midst of His enemies.

But even this is not the end of the Apostolic witness, as we hear it in the words of St. Peter in his Second Epistle and from Christ Himself in today's Gospel reading. Christ is going to return again, to appear again, gloriously, in His Second Coming, and when He does, He will judge the living and the dead. Christ's Kingdom is coming to exist on earth as it does now in Heaven. There is, therefore, at the end of the Gospel, a promise and a warning. A promise that this world in which we now live with its joys and pleasures mixed with sorrows, good mixed with evil, its loss and its tears is not the end, and it will not last forever. This world will be transformed into a New Creation, filled with justice, with peace, and with joy, as the waters cover the sea. This New Creation began with Christ's Resurrection, and began in our hearts when we were baptized into Christ.

This promise, however, is also a warning. A warning to those who would practice injustice, who would continue in sin, who would reject Christ and His reign over them. For these, the knowledge that Christ is returning again is a dire threat as justice is a double-edged sword. Christ the King has triumphed over His enemies and established His Kingdom, soon He will return to His holdings to see how they fare, and to set right any disobedience against His rule, and any abuse of His people. Peace and justice will be established once and for all, and Christ will reign forever.

The purpose of a warning is to encourage the warned to take action, and this, likewise, is the purpose of the warning which concludes the Gospel. The fact that Christ our King is returning means that we must prepare ourselves to receive Him. That He is coming to judge the living and the dead means that we must prepare ourselves to be judged. That He is returning at the end in order to rule forever means that we must take action and prepare ourselves now, so as to be ready when that hour comes.

Because our King is returning, we must prepare ourselves, our homes, our families, our hearts, and our souls to receive Him. This means cleaning away and removing everything which has polluted or entangled our souls. This means taking a thorough stock of our lives and our way of living, and cleaning out even the darkest and dirtiest corners. Knowing that He will judge the living and the dead and that all of the hidden and secret things will be revealed means that all of the dirty secrets, the skeletons in the closet, and all the other hidden shames must be brought to light in order that we might repent and repair our lives so that, having judged ourselves, we will not face judgment. Likewise it means that we must resolve our differences with all of our human brothers and sisters, so that these disputes and grudges will not come before the Judge. That He may come at any unknown moment, as a thief in the night, means that we cannot delay, we must make ourselves prepared and keep ourselves in a state of readiness to face our Lord at any time. If we believe the Gospel, both what it says about the past and what it says about our future, and we therefore prepare always for the return of our Lord, we have nothing to fear from His return. Rather, we can join with St. John in his Revelation in praying "Maranatha, come Lord Jesus".

Questions to Ponder

  1. Both St. Peter and our Lord in today's Gospel remind us that this world will not continue spinning on forever in its present sinful state. Rather, a time is coming when the Lord shall return to judge the heavens and the earth. Are you prepared if the time of his coming ends up being very soon? Do you believe that He will return at any moment, without any additional warning, and if so, how does that belief shape how you live every day?
  2. St. Peter tells us that if it seems that the Lord is delaying without reason in His return, or worse, someone might conclude that He, in fact, is ambivalent toward the suffering and cries of His people in this life. Rather, St. Peter reminds us that this is, rather, a delay with purpose, that He delays in order to allow as many as possible to find repentance and salvation. Are you as patient with God, when you want something in this life, as He is with us, in giving us opportunities to repent and change? When you have made request to God for relief from suffering, or anything else, are you able to patiently endure, as Christ did His sufferings, or do you rather quickly give up on Him and on prayer?
  3. St. Peter gives us consolation, in letting us know that he also found many things in St. Paul's letters hard to understand, but then warns us that despite that difficulty, twisting the Apostle's writings, or any of the Holy Scriptures, will lead to our destruction. When you read the Scriptures, and you find a teaching which is hard, which is difficult to accept because of how it would require you to change your life, do you brace yourself and accept that hard teaching, or do you seek to reinterpret it to make it easier to swallow? Do you find the Scriptures again and again making you think about your beliefs and actions and reconsider them, or do you find ways of using the Scriptures such that they endorse your attitudes and actions?

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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