Formations 01.30.2022: Bright Hope for Tomorrow

2 Peter 3:3-15a

The traditional hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is on my mind. In particular, I feel drawn to the line, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine and ten thousand beside.”

Hope takes center stage in today’s passage. Specifically, 2 Peter 3 looks forward to the time when God’s salvation will one day come to its conclusion. Against this hope, the writer warns of scoffers who discount “the promise of [Christ’s] coming” (v. 4) because they don’t perceive that anything has changed since the beginning of the world.

We might be forgiven these days if we identify with their cynicism. After a nearly three-year drumbeat of school closings, overrun emergency rooms, political acrimony, supply-chain mishaps, and senseless violence, and so on, and so on, is hope for tomorrow even possible? It seems like a lot to ask.

That’s unfortunate, because the New Testament consistently describes the meaning of Jesus and his coming in terms of eschatological fulfillment. At the center of the gospel is the triumphant declaration that the time has come, that all of God’s promises have begun to come true in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we can live in hope today that this good work which God began in us will one day come to its fitting end.

By the latter part of the first century, this hope was already waning for some. Things just keep going on the way they always have, they say. Nothing ever changes. Where is the hope of Christ’s coming?

The writer of 2 Peter concedes that these scoffers have a point. Jesus’ glorious return does, in fact, seem delayed. But he goes on to offer an alternative interpretation of why. The scoffers err, he says, by assuming that God’s idea of time is the same as ours. Furthermore, they can’t see that God’s apparent “tardiness” is in fact a display of grace, giving ample time for everyone to repent.

But the end will indeed come. Therefore, we must lead holy lives both waiting for that day and hastening its arrival (v. 11).

This text and others like it are difficult to read in cynical times. That’s why we need them so much. Can we dare to hope for a better future? Can we dare trust God to set things to right, even when evidence of God’s work is hard to find?

Discussion

• What have you learned in the past two years about holding on to hope?
• What does the biblical writer mean by “hastening the coming of the day of the Lord” (v. 12)? How do believers do this?
• This passage advocates both patience and haste. How can we hold these competing impulses together?
• How can we live faithfully in a world that never seems to change?
• Where do you see signs of God’s work in the world?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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