Scripture tells us the last days will be marked by those who mock our hope in Jesus’ imminent return. The apostle Peter reveals that in the last days scoffers will appear, ridiculing such hope with this question, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
JD Farag, in his May 26, 2019 prophecy update, listed the presence of scoffers as the number one sign that we now live in the last days. Sadly, many Christian leaders have joined the ranks of those who mock our eager anticipation.
How can we recognize these modern-day scoffers? Below I list five ways they make themselves known:
- Scoffers Discount the Words of the Prophets
Peter begins his warning about scoffers by instructing his readers to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (2 Pet. 3:2, NASB). Notice the emphasis on words; the apostle tells us to remember the words of the Old Testament prophets.
The words that prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah wrote regarding the future have great significance. When Isaiah says the Messiah will rule over His kingdom seated “on the throne of David,” (9:7), he means exactly that. I do not understand why so many regard the opening lines of Isaiah 9:6 as literal but apply a much different meaning to Isaiah’s words regarding Jesus’ future reign on the throne of David. Has the meaning of Isaiah’s words changed over the many centuries?
Scoffers also reduce much of the book of Revelation to allegory. The problem is this: If one claims that John’s prophecies of the millennial reign and New Jerusalem must be taken allegorically, as many do, then who decides what these passages mean (the opinions vary widely)? Furthermore, who decides what passages in the apocalypse are symbolic and which ones represent the intent of the author?
Of course, the writers of Scripture use imagery, symbolism, and metaphors. Scoffers, however, go beyond the original intent of the authors and change the plain meaning of prophetic texts into allegory, into something unrecognizable at the time of the writing.
- Scoffers Ignore Jesus’ Command to Watch
Peter also urges us to “remember the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (2 Pet. 3:2). The Lord gave many commands though the apostles, but here Peter refers to one in particular that relates to His coming. Is it not the Lord’s instruction that fits best the context that of watchfulness and readiness (Matt. 24:42, 44; 25:13)?
The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early church. Many scholars date it to the first century, perhaps as early as AD 70, although it may not have been formally compiled until around AD 300. The first sentence of the document states, “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.”
Chapter 16 of The Didache contains instructions regarding watching for the coming of the Lord, “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”[i] With The Didache we have a document from early in the life of the church that prescribes the same watchfulness as Jesus commanded in Matthew.
If nothing else, The Didache demonstrates the importance the early church placed on readiness for Jesus’ return. Modern-day scoffers never emphasize Jesus’ command to watch for His coming.
- Scoffers Question the “Promise” of Jesus’ “Coming”
What exactly are the scoffers questioning in 2 Peter 3? The word for “coming” (v. 4) in the Greek is “parousia.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, the word denotes the rapture of the church as it does in 2 Thessalonians 2:1. However, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 the word refers to the second coming of Jesus.
Context decides whether “parousia” refers to the rapture or to the second coming.
The context in 2 Peter 3 indicates that the apostle is referring to the rapture rather than the second coming. The denial of this “coming” coincides with a denial of the time of tribulation (3:4-7, 10). We see this same sequence in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9; the rapture delivers believers from the destruction of the day of the Lord that will come upon others “like a thief in the night.”
More than anything else, modern-day scoffers target our hope in the pretribulation rapture. Most of them acknowledge the second coming in some way or another, but it’s the rapture that brings out their rage. Anyone who writes about the rapture will attest to the heated and demeaning attacks by those who ridicule the rapture. Sadly, this comes mostly from professing believers.
- Scoffers Negate the Warnings of Scripture Concerning the Tribulation
In 3:4-7, Peter tells us that these scoffers deny the reality of the Genesis 6-8 flood; in so doing, they deny the reality of the tribulation. Of course, we see this denial of the Genesis account both inside and outside the church today. It’s commonplace today to mock the reality of Noah’s flood.
A more subtle form of such scoffing, however, retains the validity of Noah’s flood while denying the reality of the “day of the Lord” or a future time of great tribulation as Jesus predicted (Matt. 24:21-22). In keeping with the scoffer’s dismissal of the words of Scripture, they regard most of Revelation 6–19 as allegory and deny the reality of God’s coming judgment on the world.
In doing so, modern-day scoffers negate the Lord’s warning of what lies ahead for our world.
- Scoffers Misinterpret God’ Patience
In 2 Peter 3:8-9 the apostle says, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Scoffers twist God’s patience into signifying that the Lord is not returning for His church while some deny the importance of the second coming.
Mockers fail to understand the Lord’s patience in waiting for people to repent before He sends the horrific judgments of the tribulation. Instead, they see it as an indication He is not returning at all for His church, or even claim that Jesus already returned in AD 70.
Why am I warning believers to refuse the appealing invitation to dance with the scoffers? I do so because so many Bible-believing church leaders today deny the reality of both the rapture and the tribulation. Many eloquent preachers and exceptionally gifted writers teach there is no rapture, no tribulation, nor even a millennial reign of Jesus ahead of the eternal state.
I also write because the scoffers’ invite to dance comes with much appeal; on the surface, their teaching sounds scholarly and intellectual. So many great Christian theologians of our day as well as in the past deny the reality of a tribulation and a future kingdom for the nation of Israel. Those “in the know” regarding these things see what those who take a more literal approach to God’s Word cannot see. If we would only dance with them, we would see how New Testament revelation changes the original intent of the Old Testament prophets.
My appeal is for you to run the race as did the apostle Paul who never ceased watching for (and loving) Jesus’ appearing. He wrote this to Timothy shortly before his martyrdom: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
In Philippians 3:20 he adds, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Endure in watchfulness! Do not dance with the scoffers!
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[i] The Didache, Chapter 16, as translated on the Early Christian Writings website: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html