But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. - 2 Peter 3:10
When Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, decided to occupy Kuwait, a coalition of nations decided he should be evicted and punished. The ancient city of Baghdad was subjected to a massive aerial bombardment, and television showed pictures of “smart bombs” hurtling with devastating accuracy into selected targets. People around the world watched from the comfort of their own homes. But there was little comfort in the homes of Saddam’s troubled people—for them, the “fireworks display” was destruction and devastation.
So it will be in the “day of the Lord.” The prophet Joel said the day of the Lord will be “an awesome, terrible thing” (Joel 2:11). But Peter, preaching in Jerusalem, called it “that great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20). Which will it be—great and glorious or awesome and terrible? It will depend entirely where you’re sitting. Those who are safe and secure in Christ’s salvation will rejoice as they are introduced to the full glory of his presence for all eternity; those who are not in Christ will experience the awesome, terrifying judgment of God.
Many men struggle when faced with these weighty truths. Will God really bring fiery judgment on his own creation? Does he intend to create “new heavens and new earth?” Will people really perish in the coming judgment? When will all this happen?
The timing of the “day of the Lord” is a secret known only to God. We are certain that the great day will happen. We are uncertain about the timing (2 Pet. 3:10). Why the uncertainty? Why didn’t God tell us when it will happen? Perhaps because he knows human nature! Those people who have suffered for the sake of God’s Kingdom and who have endured because they have hoped for his speedy return would likely have despaired. And those who have had little interest in reaching the perishing would have had even less interest if they had known that the Lord was not about to return. And since we are selfish people, we might have lived as we wished until the last minute before getting around to being what we should have been!
These things seemed to be on Peter’s mind when he said that the promise of the day of the Lord, and the uncertainty of its timing, should stimulate us to “holy, godly lives” (3:11). We should “look forward” to this great event, and the anticipation should inspire us to “hurry it along” (3:12). Of one thing we can be sure—”the day of the Lord will come”!
For Further Study: 2 Peter 3:8-18