while you are waiting: a sermon on a reading from 2 peter 3

peter the apostle, 2 peter 3

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

December 9, 2023

Note: This sermon was delivered during the Eucharist for a class of ministry students studying for ordination to the diaconate, using the readings for Advent 2, Year B.

the reading:

2 Peter 3:8-15a

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. The 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. But 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.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

the sermon:

Just yesterday, I’m at home working on ministry and work stuff. My wife was getting ready to take the kids to their home school community Christmas party. The kids were all ready to go, and just waiting for Mom to finish getting ready. 

So what did they do? 

They just sat around bored, wondering when they could load up in the car to go. In their boredom, they just get stir-crazy! They honestly don’t know what to do with themselves. So I end up getting on their case, “while you’re waiting, just go find something to do!”

Today’s reading from Peter’s second letter is his farewell letter to the churches. He knew the end was coming soon for him, so he was essentially offering his last best advice. Throughout the letter, he encourages Christians to never stop growing and to be participants in God’s work.

He also spends a great deal of time in this letter dealing with corrupt teachers, and specifically (closer to our reading) the “scoffers” who were critical about Jesus’ return and how long it would take.

Many in the church, along with other religious observers, were being skeptical because 30 years later, Jesus still had not returned. 

So Peter addressed the concerns by talking about God’s timing and looking ahead to the second coming.

a thought about God’s timing

In this passage, we get the phrase that, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” 

Just so we’re clear, this is not a formula for trying to determine the date of Christ’s return, or any other schedule for things that God does.

The big thing that I think is important to recognize here is that time is different for God than it is for us.

It’s actually a great theological and philosophical question… Does God exist outside of time? And honestly, I’m not sure I can accurately answer that. My finite mind may not be able to fully comprehend many characteristics of the Being who spoke the entire Universe into existence, of which, we’re a mere speck.

But Peter’s paradoxical statement is an important one. We don’t know God’s timing. But we just need to trust that He’ll do what He says He’ll do, when the time is right.

a thought about life as we know it

Then there’s this talk about everything dissolving away. Much of this is Peter’s call-back to the writings of Isaiah (34) and Zephaniah (3), when the prophets talk about the times when the old, corrupt world passes away and the New Heavens and New Earth come with redemption.

Peter uses some heavy language here, talking about loud noises and fire. It can paint a scary picture, for sure.

But in all of this, there’s this idea that all of the junk in our world will go away, and with that something new is coming. All of that corruption, gone. And what’s left will be new, and glorious.

I don’t intend to dive into exactly what that looks like, because that could likely be a whole series in itself. But what I will say is that life as we know it today will change. When Christ returns, things will be different.

while you’re waiting…

Then comes this statement that I love.

“Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things…”

It’s as if Peter is saying, “Listen, we don’t know when exactly it’s coming. And we don’t know exactly what it’ll look like. But we can trust in His promise that it’ll happen. And we know it’ll be amazing. In the meantime, this is what you need to do…”

And that’s what I want to focus on today. There are really two things that he encourages us to do.

1 – strive to be found by Him at peace, without spot or blemish

The first is to, “strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish.”

At first, I looked at this as being two separate things… one about being at peace, and the other about being without spot or blemish. But I really feel like it’s a single statement that Peter is encouraging us in.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s first take a look at that term, “without spot.”

In the Greek, it’s aspilos (as’-pee-los). It translates as spotless; metaphorically it means free from censure, free from vice, not spoiled or made impure.

That’s a great term to describe Christ, the spotless lamb sacrificed for our sins. It’s also a great way to describe what He does with us. He’s taken our sins. 

This idea of us being without spot or blemish hits at our theological concepts of sanctification and justification.

It’s something He’s already done, and something He’s still doing in us.

This isn’t about striving us for some level of perfection in Christian living. It’s about accepting what He’s done and is doing.

Peter says that we need to strive to be found at peace in this. We need to work to recognize and have confidence in who we are in Christ, and rest in what He’s done.

2 – regard the patience of our Lord as salvation

The second thing Peter encourages us to do is to, “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

Remember, in this letter, Peter was dealing a great deal with corrupt teachers and scoffers. And their questioning would indicate that Christ’s delay was proof that He wasn’t coming back. Their impatience was influencing their trust in the Lord and His salvation.

The great 19th century theologian and minister, Albert Barnes, writes about this in his commentary. He says,

“Many had drawn a different inference from the fact that the Saviour did not return, and had supposed that it was a proof that he would never come, and that his promises had failed. Peter says that that conclusion was not authorized, but that we should rather regard it as an evidence of his mercy, and of his desire that we should be saved.”

In other words, we don’t need to be in a rush to see the Lord return, especially when it means there are more yet to be saved.

Don’t look at any delay as a lost opportunity to be in this New Heaven and New Earth with Him in all His glory. Rather look at it as a chance to bring more people along with us. 

And that’s the heart of God, isn’t it? That none would perish. 

final thoughts

So, in this season of Advent, a time when we anticipate the coming of our Lord, not only in the first coming in the Incarnation, but also in his return, I want to encourage you in the same things Peter did with the early church.

Trust in what He’s done and is doing in you. Take the opportunity to know Him better, and to realize more and more who you are in Christ. And find peace in that!

Also, know that God loves the world and is determined to rescue it. And as Peter tells the church throughout this letter, we get to be a part of this amazing, beautiful work of redemption that He’s doing. 

So may you, during this season of reflection and anticipation, be found at peace. Rest in the confidence of your own salvation. And know that the work you’re doing matters to the Kingdom. One day we’ll see all things new. But while you’re waiting, hold firm to your faith that God is who He says He is, and that He keeps His promises. Amen.


Photo credit: Statue of Apostle St Peter with the keys, Piazza San Pietro just outside of St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican/Rome 2016 by Erik Törner. Used with permission.


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while you are waiting: a sermon on a reading from 2 peter 3

by Dan King time to read: 8 min