“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance[i].” (2 Peter 3:9)
People began talking about the second coming of Christ since soon after Jesus died. Jesus talked about it when he was alive. We still talk about it today.
I am not going to speculate or to suggest when the second coming will be. Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24:36), so I take him at his word.
I do believe that a God who could raise Jesus from the dead can cause Him to come again. It will happen. We will also all die as surely as we live. These things I take to the bank.
We do not like to talk about judgment or hell, but we cannot accept the Bible as true with any integrity without conceding those principles. Whether Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven or more of heaven than hell is beside the point; Jesus clearly and pointedly spoke of judgment[ii] and of hell[iii].
Jesus said that some people would end up in heaven with Him, and some would end up in hell without Him. We might call this the great divide.
The “slowness” referenced in 2 Peter 3:9 is God’s slowness in fulfilling the promise of the second coming of Christ… and of the Day of Judgment. (2 Pet. 3:3-8) the second coming and the judgment go together. That is when Jesus will separate the proverbial sheep from the goats.
In this context, Peter famously reminds us that one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day for God. (2 Pet. 3:8). Because God exists outside of time and space (always is, always was and always will be), time is not such a big deal for God as it is for us (limited, as we are, in the confines of space/time and finite).
The fact that “the Day” has not yet come speaks to God’s patience and His desire that none would perish. (See also John 3:16). God’s desire is that everyone would be “saved”. (1 Tim. 2:4) That God desires none would perish and all would be saved suggests that hell is a reality, and it is a reality that God doesn’t choose for us.
Some say that hell means primarily separation from God, but others make a good case that it means something else. (See for example Hell is Not Separation from God (eternal condemnation vs. eternal fellowship with God) or The Rich Man and Lazarus (death vs. eternal life)).
Regardless of what it might mean, hell is no place or condition God desires for us, and it’s not a place or condition we might desire for ourselves, all things being equal. Right?
God does warn of the dualism between heaven and hell. Primarily, however, He presents us with the choice between God and His way or other things and other ways; ultimately, it boils down to God’s way or “my way”. In that sense, the Frank Sinatra song, I Did It My Way, might be a good anthem for those who reject God.
God’s patience allows time for people to repent, to turn from their own ways, and to accept what God desires for us. God doesn’t make that choice for us. He won’t violate the free will He gave us a beings created in His very image.
We also do not dictate to God. God is who He is, and He does not change. The universe was created by Him and for His purpose, including us. The choice is ours to accept what God finds acceptable and to align with Him or reject Him and to seek what we want and align against Him.
For almost two thousand years since God became man, God has been patient, allowing time for repentance (“declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” Acts 17:31 & 20:21). Thus, the writer of Hebrews implores:
“Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts….” (Heb. 3:7-8; quoting Ps. 95:7-8)
Continue reading “The Great Divide”