I’d rather not wait for the return of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns, he promises to make all things new – perfect and without defect. That means I’ll never have to fight against my own sin ever again. I’ll have a new, perfectly functioning body. It means there will be no more poverty, no more abuse, no more weapons of war, no more pollution, no more sin. I don’t want to wait for that.
In the conclusion to his letter, Peter reminds us that there is a reason why the day of the Lord has not already arrived. He writes in chapter 13:4: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation”. Peter has just finished writing about the day of the Lord and warning his readers not to listen to the false teachers who were saying that Jesus was not really going to return. These false teachers reasoned that if Jesus was going to return, he would have done it already. We can see some make a similar argument today – Why would a good God allow the suffering and violence of the world to continue? Why would Jesus wait more than two-thousand years to return? Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to make all things right, right away?
Peter’s initial answer is that we cannot forget that we experience time differently than God. What is a thousand years to an eternal God? We wonder why Jesus is taking so long, yet he’s only just sat down at the right hand of God the Father. God is not slow, even if from our terribly limited perspective, it seems that way. Earlier in the chapter Peter writes:
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.2 Peter 3:9
Not only do we need to adjust our perspective on the timing of God’s patience, but also his purpose. Simply put, God’s purpose is that all would be saved. As Peter writes: “our Lord’s patience means salvation.” How does this work? Consider John’s vision in Revelation 7 where he sees an innumerable multitude of people from all corners of the globe standing before the throne of Jesus and worshipping. If Jesus had returned a few years after his ascension, John’s vision could not have been fulfilled. The gospel would not have gone much farther than border towns of Israel. Among the worshippers in John’s vision, there would be no one from the warring clans of northern Europe, nor from the cannibalistic tribes of the South Pacific. There would be no Chinese or Spanish or Cree spoken around the throne. You and I would not be there.
The vision John saw on the Island of Patmos, is the purpose of God’s patience. God desires the salvation of all men – people from every time, place, culture, and language. Furthermore, God has predestined who this great multitude will be and the unfolding of history is slowly revealing who they are. When the “full number”, to borrow Paul’s phrase, of God’s elect are gathered in then Christ will return and we will find ourselves standing among the multitude worshipping the Lamb of God. We will see the face of Abraham, of Ruth, of Paul, of Augustine. We will see Africans, Chinese, Norwegians, Haitians, and every other nation and tribe on earth, and we will marvel at God’s patience.
So, yes, I’d rather not wait for Christ’s return. But God’s plan and purposes are so much greater than my own.