PETER ON JESUS’ RETURN
Peter does not have an organized section on Jesus’ return like he has on The Day of the Lord or Judgment Day (II Pe. 3). Instead, he refers to Jesus’ return frequently as it relates to their daily living and struggling for their faith in Christ. The return was immanent and essential proof of the believer’s reward (I Pe. 1:5,7). The final bestowal of grace would take place when Jesus Christ was revealed (apokalupsei), (I Pe. 1:13). Jesus’ delay led to speculation and confusion. The language Peter used hints at his acquaintance with John Zebedee, Luke and Paul. He endorsed Paul as one of God’s bright recipients of special insight (II Pe. 3:15-16). “Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of the same matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
One of the misapplied ideas absent in Peter was a removal of Christians before they suffered. For Peter, as well as for Paul, suffering for the faith was part of Jesus Christ’s disclosure. The first Christians did not escape the cross as they were led to believe by Paul in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Jesus had said that the Son of Man, upon his return, would have angels gather his elect. Only the time when it was going to take place, the Father had not disclosed (Mt. 24:30-31, 36). The Father, however, had disclosed that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed during their generation or time and not during the second coming of Christ, as Paul understood it (Lk. 21:32). When the persecutions continued, Paul stopped predicting events and Peter encouraged his people to endure to the end of their lives. There had to be another reason why Christ delayed his return and Peter came up with a profound explanation. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Pe. 3:8-9). Peter’s explanation of the delay coincided with Jesus’ prediction that sorrow and trouble for his followers would begin with his disciples in Jerusalem and end at the end of time and every generation will taste the tribulation Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). The Gentiles would trample on Jerusalem until their time would be fulfilled (Lk. 21:24). The problem was settled when John received the revelation that all the souls that would die for their Lord had to be counted before the end would come (Rev. 6:11).
Peter’s primary objective was not about the return of the Lord but to secure their election by participating in their own salvation. He did not feel that his people were prepared to face death or a sudden return of Christ. The problem then and even today was and is, “when is salvation finalized?” Is it at the beginning of a Christian’s journey, like modern Christians are led to believe, or is it when one dies or when Christ returns? Peter came to the conclusion that it will be confirmed when Jesus returns, whether they live or die. No one passes the final exam until they meet Jesus. Peter believed that Jesus would again reveal himself during the lifetime of some of his parishioners. He also believed that the end of everything was around the corner; nevertheless, he may not be present when Jesus Christ revisits the earth. On His first visit (episkope), his followers were not certain what His purpose was (Lk. 19:44). In His return visit (episkope), He could face unprepared followers (I Pe. 2:12). Those that shall be ready, He will bless them and reward their faith when he is revealed (apokalupsei), (I Pe. 1:7; 2:9; 3:13). Those that have suffered for Christ will receive special recognition (I Pe. 4:13) and share in his glory when He is revealed (I Pe. 5:1). “And when the Chief Shepherd appears (phanerothentos), they will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away,” (I Pe. 5:4). Those that would be crowned were the elders and overseers that readied and guided the people through tough times.
The day of the Lord or death could come like a thief and the believer’s faith reminded Peter of their Lord’s warning: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8). He himself was not strong enough to stand with his Lord the first time and disowned Him three times (Mk. 14:66-71). Destruction and persecution were all around Peter and his followers. It was under such conditions that he asked, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God as you wait eagerly for its coming.” “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (II Pe. 3:10-14). Yes, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who suffered in his body is done with sin,” (I Pe. 3:18; 4:1). Death alone frees man from sin forever, but will the soul end up with Christ or with his enemy?