Skip Heitzig - Breaking Up Camp and Moving On
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Our Father, we commit this time to you. We commit our week to you. Lord, you and you alone know the issues, the things in our families, among friends, that we're thinking about, that we're perhaps troubled about. You even know all the great things we're rejoicing in. But all of it, Lord, we commit to you. We understand, we have that knowledge that everything that is now is very, very temporal. It's not going to last. So, Lord, show us, as Peter teaches us, how to live in the light of that. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful flock of people, those that love you, those that come to worship, to praise, to learn, and then to tell. It's in Jesus' name, amen.
So Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were camping, and after they cooked around the campfire a nice meal, they decided to go bed. And they slept, and a few hours later Sherlock Holmes woke up, nudged his faithful friend Dr. Watson, and said, "Dr. Watson, look up and tell me what you see." And Dr. Watson looked up and said, "I see a fantastic panorama of countless stars." And Sherlock Holmes said, "And what does that tell you?" And Watson thought very quickly, because he knew he had to be very deductive here with Sherlock Holmes. And he said, "That tells me, astronomically, that there are millions of stars and galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Horologically, I can deduce that it's a quarter past three in the morning."
"Theologically, I can surmise that our God is infinite and all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect we're going to have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, Sherlock Holmes, what does that tell you?" And after a long pause, Holmes said, "Someone has stolen our tent!" It's so elementary, isn't it? It's so obvious. if you look up and see stars, somebody took the tent. It's amazing how we take that which is obvious and dress it up and cover it over with stuff that is superfluous. We do it all the time with our universe. We know that our universe is expanding. The Hubble Telescope revealed that years ago. It is expanding from a single point outward. We also know that our universe is running down. The second law of thermodynamics in play shows us that usable energy is running out.
If you don't believe that, just look in the mirror. We're getting older. We're running down like the rest of the universe around us. The radiation of our sun is produced by the loss of part of its mass. The reason you go outside on a nice day and you can feel its warmth is because the sun is losing every second 4,200,000 tons of its mass. If that is the case, and it is the case, that means that it is running down, and it had a beginning, and it will have an end. The universe will come to an end. We come to the end of Second Peter. Peter is at the end of his own life. He is in his seventies when he wrote this. What we are about to read are the last words ever recorded of Peter. Peter knows that he's going to die soon. He reveals that in the first chapter.
He said, "The Lord has showed me that I must put off this tent," his human, physical body. And what he does in the closing paragraph is takes us, the reader, the audience, to the very end of the age. Not only does Peter say, "Well I break down camp and move on, but the universe will one day end. Everything that you see about you will be gone, and because of that we ought to live a certain way." You've heard Christians, I am sure, in the past say this phrase, you've heard it: "It's all gonna burn." Right? You know, they may have something physical and it breaks down, and they go, "Oh well, you know, it's all gonna burn." That's actually very, very true, but because that's true, it ought to do something to us. Peter explains, Second Peter, chapter 3, beginning in verse 10 to the end of this book:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of the God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
In this closing paragraph Peter makes three basic declarations about the future. Look at them as three camping tips, if you will. First of all, our campground is temporary; he says it's all going to burn. Second, our calling is timeless; we're headed to a different destination that will never end. And, third, our compass is true; that's the Scriptures themselves. You'll notice both in verse 10 and 12 Peter says, "All that you see in this universe is going to burn up. It's going to melt," he says, "with fervent heat." Now, what Peter is doing, if you remember, is he is expanding on what he already said. And we looked at that last time we were together. Look back in verse 5. He says, "For this they", the false teachers who deny future catastrophe.
"For this they willingly forget or willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Now putting it all together, here's what Peter is saying. He's saying that just as the materials that were used in creation became the instrument of destruction in the past, that is, the flood, the waters that were used in the forming of the heavens and the earth, and the vapor canopy, and the waters on the earth that were left afterwards, those very waters were broken up and were used for the past destruction of the earth.
In like manner, the materials that are currently in the earth will become the recipe of its future destruction. In the past it was water; in the future it will be fire. There's fire all around us. In our universe are stars of burning, fiery masses. We have a sun, for example, with a surface temperature of ten to twelve thousand degrees Fahrenheit. The core of the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. Very, very hot. It's what gives us on a nice day a nice warm feeling, even 93 million miles away. But not only is the universe filled with these blazing bodies of fire, but we live on an earth that has at its core molten mass of rock. The core of the earth is 12,400 degrees, and the only thing that separates us from that is a thin little crust of ten miles that circumvents the globe.
The entire creation, the entire material universe, because of basic atomic structure, is a potential nuclear bomb. And the Bible says it's all going down and it's going down by fire. And it's not like Peter had a burrito one night and thought, "Fire, that's how it's going to end, fire." He is simply playing off of what the Scripture told him before. Isaiah 66, "Behold, the Lord will come with fire... to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire... the Lord will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord will be many." Micah chapter 1 verse 4, "The mountains will melt under him, the valleys will split like wax before the fire." Malachi chapter 4 verse 1, "Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And a day which is coming shall burn them up."
So the Bible repeatedly says the world is going to end. And now we learn how, along with what we just read in the prophets, by fire. Jesus declared in Matthew 24 verse 35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." It's all going down. Now, in Revelation, chapter 21, and you don't have to turn there yet. We are going to turn there soon. In Revelation 21 John the apostle sees it all in a vision. He sees a new heaven and a new earth. Let me read just one verse to you. John writes, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away." I want to give you the flow of this, the chronological flow. We spent six weeks talking about this at one time, and three weeks on the millennial kingdom alone, but I just want to give you a quick flow.
In Revelation 21, by the time we get to that chapter, the tribulation period, the day of the Lord has passed. Jesus, coming back from heaven to the earth, past event. The millennial kingdom, the thousand-year reign of Christ upon a renewed earth, already passed. And then after all of that is done, then this present earth will be destroyed and a new one will be put in its place, new heavens and new earth. Now, typically, questions arise about this and somebody will say, "So why would God bother with a millennial kingdom on this earth if he's going to destroy it and make a new heaven and a new earth?" I'm glad you asked. The reason that there will be a thousand years on this earth as a recreated, restored, renewed earth is for a couple basic reasons.
There are several, but I'll just give you two. Number one, to end the curse that God put the on the earth, to reverse the curse that he put on the earth in Genesis. Number two, God needs to fulfill all of the promises that he made to the nation of Israel, and the Old Testament is replete with them. And the millennial kingdom will affect that. But when that is over, when the tribulation is over, the second coming is over, the millennial kingdom is over, then that will be the end of humanity on this globe. It will all be destroyed. Everything in the created order will be uncreated, so to speak. So we know how. We know it will be at the end. We don't know when that will be. But it brings up a question: Exactly how will that come about? I don't know, but I just want you to hear me out here.
It says in Colossians, chapter 1, concerning Jesus, Paul writes that all things were created through him, things that are visible and things that are invisible, things that are in heaven and things that are on the earth. Then it says this, Colossians 1:17, "He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things consist." The word "consist" means are held tightly together or they cohere; they are glued together by Jesus. In other words, what Paul says in that passage is Jesus created all things. He took the chaos, the unformed mass, and he created kosmos, an ordered system. And what he creates, what he made, he maintains, he holds it tightly together. You know, for years scientists and physicists have observed, and you learned in school, that all matter is made up of rapidly moving particles of opposite charges.
And frequently this comes up: How is it held together? What-what binds it? Dr. Lee Chestnut in his book The Atoms Speaks writes this: "Consider the dilemma of the nuclear physicist, when he finally looks in utter amazement at the pattern he has now drawn of the oxygen nucleus. For here are eight positively-charged protons closely associated together within the confines of this tiny nucleus. With them are eight neutrons, a total of sixteen particles, eight positively charged, eight with no charge. Earlier physicists had discovered that like charges of electricity and like magnetic poles repel each other, and unlike charges or magnetic poles attract each other. And the entire history of electrical phenomena and electrical equipment had been built upon these principles known as Coulomb's law of electrostatic force and the laws of magnetism.
"So, what was wrong? What holds the nucleus together? Why doesn't it fly apart? And therefore, why do not all atoms fly apart?" The quick answer, the Sunday school answer is Jesus Christ holds them, makes them cohere together. So imagine what would happen if he let go. And that's what he will do. He who holds it all together will let it go. He will uncreate his creation, and it will all be destroyed. Now, somebody's going to say, "Yeah, but didn't God promise Noah that this earth would never again be destroyed?" Well, you got to read the fine print in the contract. He said he'll never destroy it by water. But over and over again he says he'll destroy it again, this time by fire. So the campground that we live in, it's temporary. It's going down, but our calling is timeless.
And that's verse 13, Peter says, "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." What promise is he talking about? The promise in Isaiah 66 where the Lord says, "'I will make new heavens and the new earth which will last forever,' says the Lord." Remember what Jesus said, "I'm going to prepare a place for you"? This is the place he's going to prepare, new heavens and new earth. Now, it says it's "new." It's new. The word "new" here in our text, as well as in Revelation 21, is a word that is not the typical word for "new." The typical word in Greek for "new" would be the word neos. It means new in time, new chronologically.
The word used here is the word kainos. It means new of a different sort or a different kind, new in quality, unlike anything previously known. In other words, it won't be like the millennium, which is a renewed, recreated this earth. That'll be gone. It'll be a completely new environment, something totally different. Now I'd like you to turn to Revelation, chapter 21, which I told you to put a marker in, and that we would look at. And we can only look briefly at it. Again, I spent several weeks with you here not too long ago, and so I'm just going to peruse this with you in light of Second Peter 3. Revelation 21, John said, "Now I saw a new heavens and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea."
"Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain'", no need for ibuprofen, "'for the former things have passed away.' Then he who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'" That's the summary statement of this section. "Behold, I make all things kainos, completely new, of a different sort that has never been before."
I've always loved the story of the arrogant scientist who kind of looked up toward heaven with a doubled up fist, and he said, "They say that you created the world. You must feel outdated now that we can do everything you can do." And God said, "Okay, I tell you what, I challenge you to a contest." The scientist said, "Deal." God reaches down, gets a handful of dirt, he blew on it, and out of his hand flew a flock of exotic white birds. Turned to the scientist, said, "Your turn." He took in a deep breath, knowing that he had mastered all of the principles of soil manipulation and biological cloning. He reached down and got his handful of dirt. And God stopped him and said, "Ah-ah-ah, get your own dirt." Don't just assemble things out of existing materials.
God created things ex nihilo, out of nothing. And then he will uncreate it, and he will create out of nothing a new heavens and new earth. Now, there's something troubling in the verses that I just read to you out of Revelation 21. Can you guess what it is? It's what it says in verse 1, "And there was no more sea." That's heartbreaking. That's very troubling, because it says in verse 4 there will be no more sorrow. And I'm thinking, "How is that possible to have no sorrow and no sea at the same time? I don't get that." I've wrestled with this for years, because I'm thinking, "A brand-new world with no ocean? Are you kidding?" Listen, if I was doing the creating, it would read: "And there would be no more cities. There will be no more deserts, blowing, windy deserts."
"But there will be lots of beachfront property and palm trees and waves and surfing." It says, "There will be no more seas." So in trying to figure this out, I've been comforted by the fact that sometimes in the Bible the word "sea" refers to nations that strive against God that are not in covenant relationship with God. So, Isaiah 17 says, "The uproar of many peoples who roar like the roaring of the seas, the rumbling of nations rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!" The Antichrist comes out of (Revelation 13) the sea. Revelation 17 it is described, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues." It could be, and I have taken comfort in this, that when it says there will be no sea, it perhaps refers to that metaphorically no groups of unbelieving nations striving against God.
And I go, "Whew!" Or it could simply mean there literally will be no sea, because there will be no more need for sea. There will be no more need, because we live in a water-based environment. It's going to be something new it says. Our bodies, right now, our flesh is 65 percent water. Your blood is 90 percent water. If you don't have enough water, you'll dehydrate, you will die. But in saying there will be no more sea simply could mean that the world will not operate on the same principle, principles that it has in this one. And if there are no more seas, by the way, there are no more barriers that divide us from one another. So, either way, have at it, enjoy whatever solace you can find in its interpretation. But there will be a new heaven or new heavens and there will be a new earth.
And that is what we are hoping for. That is what the Bible promises. That is our timeless calling. Something else you should know before we get back; and that is, there's a capital city to it. You saw it in verse 2 and 3. It says "New Jerusalem." You know, there's not a lot of details about the new earth. But one detail with great detail is in the very next chapter. It's all about this capital city called New Jerusalem. He said, verse 2, "I, John, saw the holy city", new environment, new order. It's holy. I can't imagine a holy city, can you? I mean, we don't even have a block in our city that's holy, let alone an entire city that is. "Righteousness dwells" in it, Peter said. But he said, "...coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.'"
Verse 10, "He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." Talk about a different capital city, this one comes from the heaven down toward the new earth. And it seems to indicate, as I read, that it, like, orbits the new earth. Don't have time to go into detail here, but if you read further, it gives you the dimensions of this New City. It's 1,500 miles cubed, about the size just slightly smaller than our moon coming toward the earth and orbiting around it, hovering around it. That's the sizable city. According to one scientist Henry Morris there's enough room in that city to house, get this, 20 billion people each having 75 acres cubed in that city.
And that is presupposing that only 25 percent of the New Jerusalem will be used for dwelling while the other 75 percent are for parks and public places, and etcetera, etcetera. It's enormous and that is the capital city and it is a holy city. I have people all the time saying, "I want to go with you to the Holy Land." I'm thinking, "Well, that's going to be a while." Because Jesus looked over Jerusalem and he wept over it. He said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one that kills all the prophets and stones all who are sent unto her." It's not holy right now. It will be one day. It will be a holy city, new heavens and new earth. So, our campground is temporary; our calling is timeless, new heaven, new earth.
Go back to Second Peter, and let's look at our third and final, and we'll close the book together: our compass is true. Our compass is true. Did you notice in verse 13 he says, "Nevertheless we", now watch this, "according to his promise, look for the new heavens and new earth." You know what he's referring to? Promises made in the comic books? Promises made in the Bible, in the Scriptures. One of the things that we see, Peter does throughout all of his writings, he's always pointing back to the Scriptures. "This is what the prophets said...," "This is what Jesus said...," And now in this last paragraph he talks about "This is what Paul the apostle said," and how people twist what Paul said, like "they do with the rest of Scripture." He's equating Paul's writings currently at the time with the rest of Scripture.
But what Peter is saying in principle is all of the truth that is found in the Scripture, whether it's thy Old Testament prophets, or the words of Jesus as recorded, or it's the words of Paul, they provide for us a compass. They do something for us. First of all, they motivate our will. Verse 11, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved", now it's a very logical question, "what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" Okay, if the material universe is going to be destroyed, what kind of a person should you be? The wrong answer would be: "a materialistic person." You ought to be a spiritual person. You ought to be a person that lives for what's beyond the material. In fact, the word "manner" in verse 11 means foreign or otherworldly or exotic.
Because he just got through saying, "If this earth is going to be destroyed, and you look for a new heavens and new earth, what otherworldly person ought you to be?" Not a person of this world, but of that world. It motivates our wills. Second thing it does, it settles our hearts. Verse 14, notice the word "peace." "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found in him or by him in peace, without spot and blameless." I don't know about you, but when I read this, it's a little contradictory at first. See, he says, "Everything here is going to be burned up with fire and destroyed, and we", now he says, "are looking forward to that with peace." You go, "What?! Who in their right mind would look forward to that with peace?"
So I want you to understand, he is not eager, nor should we be, to see massive destruction and death that will be part of the future scenario. John is thinking what's coming after that, or Peter is thinking what's coming after that. New heavens, new earth, New Jerusalem, eternal state, that in and of itself settles our hearts. It's not unlike John in the book of Revelation. If you've read the book, you know that in chapter 10 an angel gave him a little book to eat. He said, "Here, put this in your mouth and eat it." And as he ate it, and by the way, the book was all of the future things that were about to happen on the earth, he said, "It was sweet to my taste, but bitter when I swallowed."
It was bitter because of the "day of the Lord" judgments that were coming before; it was sweet because of the Lord who will return after and all that he'll bring. It was both bitter and sweet. But peace is a state of mind that is one of the first by-products every believer enjoys when there is a commitment to Christ and that person is born again. There's a peace that passes all understanding. And no matter what, because you know the scenario, it settles our hearts. Third and finally, it stabilizes our minds. Look at verse 17. "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked."
He says, "You know this stuff. You have read the prophetic Scriptures. I have told you the prophetic Scriptures. And knowing this gives you a level of steadfastness, sure-footedness. It keeps you from falling off the path. When you and I are able to see how the Scripture predicts certain events, and those events have come to pass, then we logically should say, "Then everything else he said is going to happen is going to happen. And that causes in me a real steadfastness. It stabilizes my thinking. It keeps me from falling into doctrinal instability, losing confidence in the truth." Well, Sherlock Holmes and Watson looked up at the stars and they discovered somebody had stolen their tent. Watson discovered that the world was beautiful.
Peter also looked up at the stars and said, "Ah, they are beautiful. God made them, Jesus made them, but they're not going to last. Just like I, Peter, am breaking up camp and moving on, you will one day do the same." In fact, this entire created universe will do exactly that. Knowing that should make you live a godly, holy, confident, expectant, peaceful life. For the last thirty years I have at funerals read a little thing at the end that I found many, many, many years ago. But it's based on this whole idea of our body being a tent, and we're going to die one day, take down the tent and move on. And so I'm going to close with this. It's essentially a prayer of a human to God, and then God answers that person back.
It goes like this: "Mr. Tentmaker, it was nice living in this tent when it was strong and secure and the sun was shining and the air was warm. But, Mr. Tentmaker, it's scary now. My tent is acting like it's not going to hold together. The poles seem weak, and they shift with the wind. And a couple of the stakes have wiggled loose from the sand, and worst of all, the canvas has a rip. It no longer protects me from the beating rain or the stinging flies. It's scary in here, Mr. Tentmaker. Last week I was sent to the repair shop and some repairman tried to patch the rip in my canvas. It didn't help much, though, because the patched pulled away from the edges and now the tear is worse. What troubled me most, Mr. Tentmaker, is that the repairman didn't seem to notice I was still in the tent.
"They just worked on the canvas while I shivered inside. I cried out once, but no one heard me. I guess my first real question is: Why did you give me such a flimsy tent? I can see by looking around the campground that some of the tents are much stronger and more stable than mine. Why, Mr. Tentmaker, did you pick a tent of such poor quality for me? And even more important, what do you intend to do about it?" God speaks: "O little tent dweller, as the Creator and Provider of tents, I know all about you and your tent, and I love you both. I made a tent for myself once, and I lived in it on your campground. My tent was vulnerable too, and some vicious attackers ripped it to pieces while I was still in it. It was a terrible experience, but you'll be glad to know they couldn't hurt me."
"In fact, the whole occurrence was a tremendous advantage because it is this very victory over my enemy that frees me to be a present help to you. Little tent dweller, I am now prepared to come and live in your tent with you, if you will invite me. You will learn as we dwell together that real security comes from my being in your tent with you. When the storms come, you can huddle in my arms and I'll hold you. When the canvas rips, we will go to the repair shop together. But someday, little tent dweller, your tent will collapse, for I have only designed it for temporary use. When it does, you and I will leave together. I promise not to leave before you do. And then, free of all that would hinder or restrict, we will move to our permanent home and together forever rejoice and be glad."
Look in the mirror, the universe is winding down, and you and I with it. We're not living for this world. We have a better one ahead, and we should live with that in mind, because that will motivate us, and the Scripture will be a compass to us that keeps us firmly on the path.
Thank you, Father, for the opportunity to have read and studied, to have pondered and to have applied the words of your servant Peter who walked with our Lord Jesus in the flesh and, moreover, enjoyed the living hope after Jesus had resurrected and ascended. And here, as an aged man, gives to us the kind of wisdom, not just human wisdom, but inspired by your Spirit, the very words of God that have helped us, the people of God, in Jesus' name, amen.