When you work at Old Navy like I did one summer in college, there are three words that you never want to hear: “Corporate is coming.” Those three words have the power to ruin weekend plans, interrupt sleep schedules, and violate labor laws. Those three words can transform a relaxed and casual work environment into an industrial age sweat shop.
The news that “corporate is coming” has a way of removing the veneer and exposing all the flaws underneath. Management discovers a new attention to detail. All of the denim needs to be neatly stacked in size order, like a wall of blue bricks. Those dirty windows that we walk by everyday needs to be shined and spotlessly transparent. The budgetary constraints that normally limit man hours are no longer enforced. We need all hands on deck when corporate is coming.
After living through a few “corporate is coming” panics, I eventually got bold enough to ask my boss what seemed to me like a fairly common-sense question: “Why don’t we just always keep the store the way it’s supposed to be?” I don’t think she liked me very much after that.
Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:8-13 because he doesn’t want the church to take the Old Navy approach to Jesus’ upcoming visit. In other words, he wants the church to be always ready for the return of Christ. He wants God’s people to be prepared for that awesome day.
How then does Peter want us to prepare? What does it look like to live in a state of constant readiness? Peter points to three aspects of a ready disciple.
First, to be ready one must expect Jesus to return at any moment. God does not look at time the same way we do. What seems like a long time to us is not a long time to him (3:8). Apparently, the first century church to which Peter was writing was already wondering why Jesus had not returned.
Peter wants them to know that the primary reason for his delay is his merciful patience. He wants more people to repent and be saved (3:9). That hasn’t changed. The reason for delay, even 2000 years later, remains the same. God is giving more opportunities for people to repent and be saved.
But we must not expect his patience to last forever. The day of his return will come “like a thief” (3:10). I’ve had several thieves visit my residences over the years. In each case their success was dependent upon the element of surprise. If I had known they were coming, I would have set up some classic Home Alone-style boobie traps or something. However, I didn’t know, and I’m missing quite a few tools from my toolshed as a result.
Peter wants us to live with a perspective that expects Jesus’ return at any moment. We shouldn’t expect to get a warning sign first.
Second, Peter wants us to live godly lives. When Jesus returns, he is returning to judge. All human works will be exposed (3:10). This emphasis is one of Peter’s main reasons for writing this letter. He wrote to remind God’s people then and now that, through knowing Jesus Christ, we have everything we need to live the kind of godly lives that God calls us to live (1:3). In other words, Jesus expects his people to live lives of obedience.
Third, to be ready we must eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return. Beyond merely knowing its inevitability, Jesus wants his followers to long for the day of his return. I fear that many Christians live with an attitude that says, “Jesus, come back, but not yet.” We want heaven but we don’t want to miss all the fun things on earth. We want Jesus to return after we cross off our bucket lists.
This view of heaven completely misses everything the Bible has to say about it. Heaven will not be an interruption to the fulfillment of your desires; it is the ultimate fulfillment of your desires. Once we have been reunited to Jesus in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (3:13), all of our longings will find their righteous fulfillment in the presence of Jesus.
It’s been a rough week for my church. We’ve laid to rest two longtime members who loved Jesus and served him with their lives. I’m tired of death. I’m tired of contention and violence and hatred. I long for the day when Jesus will establish his righteous kingdom and bring sin, suffering, and death into final subjection to his authority.
Will you be ready?