2 PETER 3:1-10
1This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you 2that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles. 3First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts 4and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" 5They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, 6through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. 7But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.
8But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Let's imagine that you don't believe in God, that reality is essentially matter and energy, that everything real is made up of atoms and nothing but atoms. In other words, let's say you are a thoroughgoing materialist.
What is the fate of planet Earth, from a materialist perspective? The most optimistic answer is that Earth will be destroyed when the sun moves into its red giant phase. ["The sun is now in the middle of its life cycle, and will explode in about 4-5 billion years. In the few hundred million years before the explosion, it will swell up and become a red giant as big as the Earth's orbit. It will therefore swallow the Earth." (internet answer)] For those who like youtube, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iauIP8swfBY
What's the point?
No matter how you slice it, there will be an end to earthly life as we know it. It will not go on forever. A billion years is a long time but it is not forever. At any rate, given the speed of our planetary deterioration, biological life might not even have to wait that long. The inhabitants of Earth will be long gone before the sun swallows up the Earth during the sun's red giant phase.
How depressing, right?
Not necessarily. Sure, from a materialist standpoint, the ceasing of all conscious life is depressing. However, from a Christian standpoint, the end of this earthly life is the opposite of depressing: it is full of anticipation. It is true that the End will not be an entirely happy affair. The Day of Judgment will a fearsome day. And the destruction of the godless will be terrible as well. Yet, despite these awful things, the overall picture of the end will be one of triumph, vindication, glory, beauty, reconciliation, healing, joy, love, and worship.
This is what Apostle Peter is pressing in the passage above. Don't join in with the scoffers who think that Christ will not come back. Just as the Flood came during the time of Noah, surely Jesus will return again. Don't think that the Lord is somehow "slow" in returning. Rather, God is waiting for people to repent. The "slowness" has to do with the Lord's mercy and compassion that extend to every tribe and nation. When the time is right, then the end will come.
And while we wait, we wait with hope. The story of our earthly life will one day end. It will end with words -- or something like these words -- "... and they lived happily ever after..." This time this story is forever.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, help us to live with the perspective of your return as the crowning achievement of your great redemption. What you've begun -- salvation -- you will complete! Help us to see our own lives as provisional in that our lives are not ultimate. You are ultimate and your work of restoration is ultimate. Soon, all things as we know them will be transformed. And this transformation will be glorious. Help us, finally, to live out our days as gracious gifts from God as worship unto you. In Jesus' name, amen.