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WORLD AFLAME!

(SERMON #8 ON II PETER)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, June 21, 2015


I remember a conversation I had with my cousin. He was a nice enough person. But he was not a Christian. One night we were talking and he said something I will never forget. He said, “Robert, there’s nothing.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “There’s nothing.” He meant that there is no meaning to life – there’s no purpose – there’s no future – there’s no real hope – none at all. “Robert, there’s nothing.” He hadn’t been to college. He hadn’t studied philosophy. But in his own simple way he was expressing the hopelessness of modern man. This view is called atheistic existential nihilism. It was expressed by Eugene O’Neill in his play “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” In his book on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway said, “There is no remedy for anything in life [but] death.” In his own simple way, my cousin was saying that. “Robert, there’s nothing.”

That night I told him about God. But he said, “To each his own, Robert. To each his own.” I don’t think he realized how profound that was. He was saying, “You have God, and I have my own beliefs” – to each his own. But “his own” left him hopeless. That’s why he said, “Robert, there’s nothing.” Here was a guy who drove a beer truck, talking to me about the deep things of existential philosophy. He knew there was nothing facing him but death, but he refused to hear anything more about God. He knew it was either God or nothing. He chose nothing. I chose God. It’s as simple as that!

The Bible teaches that there will be more and more people like my cousin in the last days. Please stand and turn to II Peter 3:3-6. It’s on page 1319 in the Scofield Study Bible.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after 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 the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:3-6).

You may be seated.

The Apostle Peter wants us to know that scoffers and mockers will increase in the last days. They are like my cousin. They walk after “their own lusts” – their own desires and feelings. They say, “You Christians think that Christ is coming to judge the world. But where is He? Where is this coming He promised?” They say, “Ever since our forefathers died, everything goes on as it always has.”

But they are willingly ignorant – deliberately ignorant – of the Creation and the Flood. “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:6). The scoffers and mockers of today deliberately deny the Biblical accounts of the Creation and the Great Flood of Noah’s time. The scoffers say, “Look how long the earth has been going on. If judgment is coming, why does it take so long? We don’t think it’s coming at all!”

They say that because they are “willingly ignorant.” But Peter tells us “be not ignorant” in verses 8 and 9. Stand and read it.

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:8, 9).

You may be seated.

Why does God wait? Why doesn’t He judge the sinful world now? Verse 8 tells us that a thousand years or one day are the same in God’s sight. Dr. A. T. Robertson said, “God’s clock does not run by our timepieces” (Word Pictures; note on II Peter 3:8). God lives throughout eternity. A thousand years is a huge amount of time to us human beings. But for God a thousand years is like a day. As Dr. Watts put it in his great hymn,

A thousand ages in Thy sight
   Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
   Before the rising sun.
(“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

But why does God wait so long to judge the world? Verse 9 gives the reason. God “is longsuffering to us-ward.” A modern translation says, “He is patient with you” (NIV). God is waiting “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25) – as a modern translation put it, “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (NIV). God waited 120 years while Noah built the Ark. Then He waited until every bird and animal He chose came into the Ark. Then He waited for Noah’s sons and their wives to come in. Then Noah and his wife came in. Only then did “the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16).

A day will come when the last person is saved – the very last one. Then “the full number” will be in. No more will come. Then God’s judgment will fall on this present evil world. We plead with you every Sunday, “Come in! Come in! Come to Jesus now, before it is too late!” One day it will be too late. Don’t gamble with your soul. Come to Jesus now!

What will happen to this world in the future? Look at II Peter 3:10-12. Please stand as I read it.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (II Peter 3:10-12).

You may be seated. “The elements shall melt with fervent heat.” The word “elements” is from the Greek word “stoicheion.” It is the Greek word for what we call “atoms.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “It ends with this great atomic explosion sent by God, this great judgment of the earth...being dissolved by fire” (Thru the Bible; note on II Peter 3:10).

“The day of the Lord” speaks of the day God judges the scoffers of the world – the day when God destroys the present universe in fire. “The day of the Lord” is a phrase used 19 times in Old Testament prophecy – and four times in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is called a day of “wrath,” and “that great day of God Almighty.” The Apostle Paul said Christ will come “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:8).

“The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:12).

Jesus Himself predicted this event when He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The “heavens” refer to the physical universe and this present world.

Jesus spoke of the end of the world. He said,

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

He did not say that the whole world would become Christian. He never said that. The liberals said that at the end of the nineteenth century, but Jesus never said that. The liberals gave up that idea when the First World War came, followed shortly after by the Second World War. Those great wars shattered the liberal dream of creating a Christian world. Jesus never said the whole world would become Christian. He said that the Gospel would “be preached in all the world for a witness” – “and then shall the end come.” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “When will the end of the world be? It will not be until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in, until God has gathered out His people from among the Gentile nations – it will not happen until then” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Expository Sermons on II Peter, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999 edition, p. 180).

After the two World Wars, the liberal idea that the whole world would be converted changed. The “great thinkers” (so-called) became much more pessimistic. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “The modern scientific view...tells us quite definitely that there will be an end of history. They talk about the second law of thermodynamics. Now what the second law of thermodynamics really says is this – that the world is like a clock which has been wound up but which is gradually unwinding itself and running down, and that there will be a time when it will have run down altogether and life on this planet will cease. There are a great many scientists today who believe this on purely scientific grounds. There will be an end of time, and a point will be reached when life will no longer be supportable. And that will be the end of history” (ibid., p. 189). This is somewhat like what we read in our text, that the world – and the whole universe – will end. The difference is this – they say the universe will cool down and end that way. The Bible says, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

The modern scientists say the world will end in a universe without heat – but they all now say it will end. This leaves them with no hope. The atheist philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) put it like this,

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).

Bertrand Russell was considered one of the most brilliant men of the twentieth century. But all he had to look forward to was “a universe in ruins.” He believed in the end of the world, but he was an atheist – so he had no hope! None at all!

The Bible does not give us a Sunday School lesson for little children. It gives us hard truth. It is an adult message – a frightening message – a true message! This is exactly what is going to happen.

“The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

The universe will disintegrate with a roar. The noise from the disintegrating atoms of the universe will be deafening. The atoms will be destroyed with intense heat – like a million hydrogen bombs going off at once! The power of God will consume the entire physical world and the entire celestial universe will explode. Everything will be gone. Every house, every tree, every hospital, every mountain, every ocean – all will be gone on that day. Even the stars, the sun, and the moon – all will be gone – all will be dissolved in flames.

I sat there in the auditorium of Biola College (now University) on a September day in 1961. Dr. Charles Woodbridge was speaking on these verses. I had never heard a sermon like this. Suddenly I knew within myself that it was all true. This was exactly what would happen. Then Dr. Woodbridge read the next verse,

“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13).

Then Dr. Woodbridge said, “They have no hope. Nevertheless we look for new heavens and a new earth.” He said, “They have no future. Nevertheless we look for new heavens and a new earth.” “They have nothing to look forward to. Nevertheless we look for new heavens and a new earth.” I desperately wanted hope. I desperately wanted a future. I desperately wanted something to look forward to when the universe was on fire. In that moment – and it was only a brief moment – in that moment I knew that only Jesus Christ could give me that hope. And in that moment I trusted Him. I walked out of that auditorium as a Christian. It was very simple. I trusted Jesus – and He saved me. I was washed clean from all sin by the Blood He shed on the Cross.

Oh my loving brother, when the world's on fire,
    Don't you want God's bosom to be your pillow?
Hide me over in the Rock of ages, 
    Rock of ages, cleft for me.
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let me hide myself in Thee.
    (“When the World's On Fire” by the Carter Family, 1930).

If you are not saved by Jesus, all you have to look forward to is a world and a universe in flames. As the famous atheist Bertrand Russell said, “a universe in ruins.” Turn to Christ! Change your mind about life. Come to Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Christ said, “I give unto them eternal life” (John 10:28). Come to Him. Trust Him. He will save you from sin, death, and eternal judgment.

Father, I pray that Thou wilt draw someone to Jesus through this sermon. In His name, Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Peter 3:8-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“When the World's On Fire" (by the Carter Family, 1930).