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SCOFFERS IN THE LAST DAYS
(SERMON #6 ON II PETER)
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (II Peter 3:3-4).
The Bible teaches that Christ is coming in the clouds. That is the Second Coming of Christ. But scoffers refuse to believe it.
The third chapter of II Peter is very important to me. I was converted when I heard this chapter preached. It was September 28, 1961. I was a student at Biola College (now University). A series of chapel services were given that week. All the students were there. That day I was seated beside Dr. Murphy Lum. He was studying at Talbot Seminary, which met with the college. The speaker was Dr. Charles Woodbridge. He had left Fuller Seminary a few months earlier. He saw that Fuller was moving toward liberalism – a rejection of the authority of the Bible. The seminary labeled him as a fanatic, but they were wrong. In the next few years events showed that he was exactly right. Other faculty members followed him and left Fuller. These men included Dr. Gleason Archer, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith and Dr. Harold Lindsell. All of them were first-rate scholars. They followed Dr. Woodbridge when it became clearer that he was right. That seminary moved from a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible into liberalism and unbelief.
When I heard Dr. Woodbridge preach on this chapter, it was a live issue. Everyone was talking about Fuller Seminary moving toward apostasy. The Apostle Peter spoke clearly about that.
In the first verse, the Apostle said he was writing a second epistle. It was a letter written to the early Christians “scattered” in various parts of the Roman Empire (I Peter 1:1). He wrote this second epistle (or letter) to remind them of some things they already knew. He told them about scoffers in the last days. He told them about people who didn’t believe in the Second Coming of Christ. He told them about the end of the world – and the new world to come.
I was fascinated by this passage. And Dr. Woodbridge preached it very well! He was a great scholar, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. But he was also a spell-binding Bible expositor. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better one. Even though I heard him almost 55 years ago, I vividly remember how his messages that week touched my heart. Another preacher friend was there as well. His name is Dr. Russell Gordon, a pastor in Riverside, California. I talked with him about this on the phone not long ago. Dr. Gordon could even quote some of the words Dr. Woodbridge spoke. It was extraordinary preaching, life-changing preaching. And the whole course of my life was changed that day – because that was the day I was converted!
Peter told those early Christians he was reminding them of things they already knew. All of us need to be reminded of these things, again and again. The Apostle told them these things were spoken of earlier by the prophets in the Old Testament. He said they were things that the other Apostles had preached. These were not new doctrines. They were old doctrines that they needed to be reminded of again.
Peter told them, “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (II Peter 3:3). These are the “false teachers” and false Christians that he talked about in the second chapter, when he said, “there shall be false teachers among you” (II Peter 2:1). I think it is a mistake to think that these “false teachers” are only professors in colleges and seminaries, although it includes them.
But have you noticed that everybody is an expert on religion? Everybody thinks he knows all about it. You can’t tell them anything. You meet them on the street. You meet them in church. They are experts! Religion is the only subject that you can be an expert on without any study! Our text tells us that there will be more and more people like that in the “last days.” They are scoffers.
“There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (II Peter 3:3).
What does “the last days” mean? Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,
‘The last days’ is a technical term used in the New Testament; it speaks of the last days of the church (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume 5, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 469; note on II Peter 3:1).
A few times it refers to the whole Christian dispensation. You have to read the term in context. In the third chapter of II Peter the subject is definitely the Second Coming and the end of the world. Therefore “the last days” refers to the last period of this age, in the years just before the Second Coming of Christ.
Then Peter said, “there shall come in the last days scoffers.” “Scoffers” means “mockers.” They deny the Second Coming of Christ and joke about it and ridicule it. “Ha, ha! You people think Christ is coming again! What a joke!” That’s the idea. Then the Apostle tells us why they mock. These scoffers are “walking after their own lusts.” That means “following their own sinful desires.” They mock the Second Coming of Christ because they want to keep living selfish and sinful lives. Peter gave their mocking as “evidence that the last days are present” (The Reformation Study Bible; note on II Peter 3:4).
What is the matter with these mockers? First, they are materialists. They are content with the things of this world. They don’t want to believe Christ is coming to judge them. Peter compared them to the people in Noah’s time (II Peter 2:5). God “spared not the old world, but saved Noah...a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Noah preached on the coming judgment. But the people would not listen! Christ spoke of them as materialists – only interested in eating and drinking, and going to parties, “until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27). Peter also spoke of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrha – “turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them” (II Peter 2:6). Again, their main sin was materialism. Christ said, “in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:28-29). And then Christ said,
“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:30).
Notice the sins they committed. In both cases – in Noah’s day and in Lot’s day – Christ did not focus on sexual sins. He did not even mention sexual sins! Why not? Because the root of their sins was connected with materialism – living just for this world – living just to have fun – living just to eat food! Living just for material pleasure. Many Chinese people are like that. Dr. Charles C. Ryrie said that the activities mentioned were not sinful in themselves. But “the people were unprepared.” When “Christ returns many people will be...secure and unprepared (as in the days of Noah and Lot)” (Ryrie Study Bible; notes on Luke 17:26-30).
A person runs off to Las Vegas on Sunday. He misses church to go and see the lights there. He runs off on Sunday to San Francisco. Another person spends hours playing video games, but he has no time to read the Bible. Others look at pornography by the hour, but have no time to pray. Others focus their lives on money, but they do not lay up treasures in Heaven. Materialism destroys your spiritual life. You don’t know God. You don’t have Christ. All you have are the trinkets of this world. The Apostle John said,
“All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:16-17).
When I was a teenager I lived on Elizabeth Street with my aunt and uncle. There were many young men on that same street. Some of them got beer and drank it out in a shed. Some of them spent hours playing with gadgets, and fixing cars. Some of them went down to Tijuana to a house of prostitution. All of them thought they were smarter than me. They made fun of me and ridiculed me. They said, “Robert is religious” – like it was really weird to be serious about God. Later I became a pastor. One by one they died. Their relatives phoned and asked me to perform their funerals. But I never had one word of hope to say in those ghastly funerals. Not one word of hope! All I could do was explain the Gospel to those who were alive. Everyone knew there was no hope for the boys who lived to drink and play with cars and go to see prostitutes. Everyone knew there was no hope at all for them! By the grace of God I’ve outlived them all. By the grace of God I’ve had more enjoyment out of life than any of those poor, lost boys I knew so long ago.
“The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:17).
Are you living only for this world? Do you ever think about the eternal world? Are you ready for the judgment?
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (II Peter 3:3).
What is the matter with them? First, they are materialists. But second, they are spiritually blind. The Apostle Peter spoke of that in the second chapter. He said,
“these, as natural brute beasts...speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (II Peter 2:12).
They are as spiritually blind as animals – they are like “natural brute beasts.” They talk against Christ, His Second Coming, even His death on the Cross. They laugh at His resurrection from the dead.
You see young people like that all the time. They only use the name of Jesus as a swear word – “Jesus Christ!” When you try to get them to come to church, they could care less. And when you come here to this church they laugh and sneer and mock you. I know a young man who pays the rent for his mother and sister. Yet they yell at him, “Why do you keep going to that church?” The fact is, if he wasn’t coming here they probably wouldn’t have a house to live in. He would be running off somewhere, and they would be living out on the street! They “speak evil of things that they understand not.” They are spiritually blind.
The Bible teaches that we are all born in sin. Our first parents sinned – and we inherited a sinful nature. We are sinners by nature from them. Until we are converted we are “natural” men and “natural” women. The Bible says,
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
You can be very intelligent, but if you have not been converted you are only a “natural” man or woman. The Scofield note on I Corinthians 2:13-14 says this: “The unseen things of God are undiscoverable by the natural man.” They grope around in the dark without ever being able to find God.
Lord Bertrand Russell was a famous British mathematician and philosopher of the twentieth century. When I was a young man he was the main atheist to be feared, too intelligent to answer. With all the accolades and honors that were given to him, you would think he was a happy man. Instead he held a hopeless attitude toward life. Before his death, Bertrand Russell wrote,
No fire, no heroism, nor intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave...[all] are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins (Lord Bertrand Russell, A Free Man’s Worship).
He was one of the most brilliant men of the twentieth century – but all he had to look forward to was “a universe in ruins.” That’s where a “natural man” ends his life – with no hope, no peace, no future, and no God. These are scoffers, who walk after their own lusts, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?”
Another famous man of the twentieth century was H. G. Wells. He wrote The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Outline of History. Mr. Wells was a philosopher, historian, and science fiction writer. He spent his life attacking Christianity. But when he was an old man he said, “Here I am at sixty-five still seeking for peace. Peace is just a hopeless dream.” At the end of his life Mr. Wells said that mankind is doomed “to degradation, suffering and death.”
You will never find Christ by following the mockers and scoffers of this world. You will never find Christ by trying to “figure out” how to be saved. You must not trust yourself, because
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
If you want to be saved from “a universe in ruins” you must trust Jesus with childlike faith. In the words of the hymn Mr. Griffith sang, you must say in your heart,
Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
And help me to make a complete sacrifice;
I give up myself and whatever I know;
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(“Whiter Than Snow” by James Nicholson, 1828-1876).
Then you will be able to speak of Jesus, who “washed us from our sins in his own blood.” I pray that you will trust Jesus soon. Amen.
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Peter 3:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Whiter Than Snow” (by James Nicholson, 1828-1876).