The Mistaken Diagnoses of the Scoffers :: By Jonathan Brentner

One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons pictures a troubled Charlie Brown seeking Lucy’s five-cent psychiatric help. After Lucy provides several cautions about worrying, she says, “If you have to worry, you should worry about this very moment.”

In response, a puzzled Charlie Brown asks, “This moment? Why this moment?” It’s then that a soccer ball comes flying through the air, bonks him in the head, and sends him flying to the ground.

Lucy then explains her diagnosis, “I saw this ball heading this way, see, and . . .”

In his second letter, the Apostle Peter warns us about people who, unlike Lucy, fail to properly diagnose the moment in which they live. They see the same signs of the approaching Tribulation that we do but interpret them far differently. Not only do they reject our diagnosis, but they also ridicule our hope.

“. . . knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?'” (2 Pet. 3:3-4a).

The apostle’s words accurately depict our day. The Rapture has become the object of scorn in many churches, even where it was once taught as a core belief. And, of course, those outside of Christ give us much grief regarding our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing, but that’s to be expected.

What lies behind the scoffing of our day? As the apostle explains, it stems from a wrong interpretation of the day in which we live. Unlike Lucy, our mockers fail to recognize the imminent danger of the rapidly approaching Tribulation period.

They misdiagnose our day by ignoring . . .

The Words of the Apostles

Before Peter warns his readers about the scoffers, he urges them to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Pet. 3:2). The term he used for “predictions” in the original is rhema, which denotes words.

I find it more than a little coincidental that at the end of 2 Peter, the apostle equates the “letters” of Paul with Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). He is the one that provides us with the most details of the Lord’s appearing in passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, Philippians 3:20-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10. These passages, along with many others, form the basis for belief in the Rapture.

Our hope is firmly grounded in the words of the apostles contained in the New Testament. The scoffers fail to consider the words that form the basis for our biblical expectation of Jesus’ appearing. Instead, they wrongly accuse us of relying on John Darby for our beliefs. Such a claim exemplifies their abject failure to understand the clear meaning of the passages cited in the preceding paragraph and many others, which form the sole basis for our expectation.

Biblical Warnings of Judgment

The second mistaken diagnosis is that of overlooking the certainty of God’s judgment.

“They will say, ‘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.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:4-7).

Though many of our critics deny the worldwide scope of the Genesis 6-8 flood, most simply “overlook” it as being an aspect of God’s character to judge sinful humanity. They see the same wickedness, lawlessness, deception, and bloody violence of our day but fail to conclude that these things will bring God’s wrath. They either spiritualize the words of Revelation chapters 4-18, tell us they were a code for first-century believers, or claim that the Lord fulfilled them in the distant past. They mistakenly ignore the biblical prophecies regarding God’s judgment of sin in the current realm.

The assertion that today is no different than any other time in history lies at the heart of their shocking miscalculation of the times in which they live.

This question remains a mystery to me: “Why is it that those who cannot see the signs of the rapidly approaching Tribulation period seem to be equally blind to the fact that the Lord must soon judge America and the world for its wickedness?” The denial of the Rapture, along with the nearness of God’s judgment on this world, characterize many, if not most, of those who ridicule our hope.

The Fact That God Sees Time Much Differently Than We Do

Another errant misdiagnosis of the times is that of a failure to grasp that God sees time much differently than we do:

“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” (2 Peter 3:8).

The Lord has a vastly different perspective of time than we do. He exists apart from time, which is something we cannot fully comprehend.

The scoffers see words such as “soon” and “quickly” in the book of Revelation and errantly insist that the Lord has already fulfilled all its prophecies. Their misdiagnosis stems from not understanding the suddenness of these future events and from the spiritualization of events that clearly haven’t happened at any time in history.

God’s Patience

The errant verdict of those that scorn our hope also stems from a failure to understand the Lord’s patience in waiting for people to repent before He sends the horrific judgments of the tribulation.

“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” (2 Peter 3:9).

When we grasp the full extent of the death and destruction that will take place on the earth after the Rapture, it helps us better understand God’s wanting as many to come to Him as possible before the Day of the Lord begins (2 Thessalonians 5:1-10).

God is exceedingly patient, which is good because He has endured so much with me as He waited for me to mature in my faith. The Father knows when He will send His Son to fetch us, and we can be sure that His timing will be perfect.

The Temporary Nature of Our Lives

The normalcy bias in the U.S. is exceedingly strong, which I believe causes the detractors of our hope to assume that what we see will last for the foreseeable future. They fail to fully recognize that this life is temporary and that God’s judgment is on the way.

In the verse below, Peter looks beyond the Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming, and Millennium to the culmination of the Day of the Lord:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

Just before the start of the eternal state, as described in Revelation chapters 21-22, the Lord will destroy our current world by fire. He does this to remove all the remnants of the past as well as to prepare for a new heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:13).

Though certainly not true of all, many attack the Rapture out of a love for their current lives. They fail to grasp that regardless of their circumstances, what’s coming will be far superior to anything they will experience in this life.

It’s ironic that the scoffing of our hope fulfills Peter’s prophecy of what will happen in the last days before the Rapture becomes a reality. Their behavior reveals the nearness of the very event that they mock, and it’s a common response for those who speak or write about our joyous expectation of meeting Jesus in the air.

Lucy saw the imminent danger for Charlie Brown even though she did not warn him. The detractors of our hope see the same dangers and signs as we do, but they misdiagnose them and, as a result, remain unaware both of the threats to their well-being and the forthcoming joy of meeting Jesus in the air.

I provide a detailed defense of the Pretribulation viewpoint in: The Triumph of the Redeemed-An Eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times. I demonstrate, using an abundance of quotes, that the belief in a thousand-year reign of Jesus dominated the church during its first three hundred years. The historic view of the millennium is a literal view of Revelation 20:1-10 that places it between the Tribulation and the eternal state.

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