On Hastening His Return
The second coming and role of the believer:
The ‘his’ of my title of course refers to the Lord. Jesus Christ has come once to planet earth and has promised to come again. That is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13). If you are like me, the older you get, two things especially get amplified. One, you despair more and more about the ever-darkening and immoral world that we live in. Two, you long ever more fervently for the Lord’s return.
We all know that Jesus told us that no one knows when he will return – not the day nor the hour (Matthew 24:36). But, there are some passages which seem to suggest that we might have a role to play as to when he does come back. I wrote about this last year: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/09/05/god-man-and-the-parousia/
In that piece I featured some of the main verses that speak to this:
Matthew 6:9-10 “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Acts 3:19-21 “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
2 Peter 3:11-12 “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
Here I want to focus just on that last passage. I still find it intriguing that in some way it might be possible for us believers to “hasten” the day of his return. We are not only to eagerly anticipate his second coming, but we somehow can speed it up. Let me draw upon a few commentators here. Peter Davids comments:
One does not simply “look forward to” or “await” or “watch” passively. The structure of our passage parallels two stances: “looking forward to the coming of the day of God” and “speeding the coming of the day of God” (both verbs parallel participles in Greek). This later phrase indicates that the “day of God” is not a fixed date but something that believers can change by their “holy and godly lives.” This idea is based on God’s hasting a day in Isa 60:22 (“in its time I will accomplish it quickly”). This was picked up by a number of Second Temple Jewish authors…
He says that there was a Jewish tradition in which “God hastens or delays the day due to Israel’s repentance or lack thereof.” He continues:
That this idea was not a later development is shown in Acts 3:19–20, which ties repentance to the return of Christ (“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ”). It is also found in 2 Clem. 12:6 (“When you do these things [i.e. good deeds, forsaking hypocrisy, sexual purity],” he says, “the kingdom of my Father will come”). . . . Thus we see that our author is following a solid Jewish tradition, including one found in the early Jesus movement, in declaring that the coming (Greek parousia) of the Day of God is not a fixed date, but that under the sovereignty of God and due to his mercy (mentioned earlier in our chapter) it can be sped up (or, conversely, slowed down) by the behavior of the followers of Jesus. Thus an exhortation to hasten that day was appropriate then (and continues to be appropriate now).
And Douglas Moo says this:
Christians, says Peter, are not only to “look forward” to this “day of God”; they are also to “speed its coming.” The verb used here (speudo) can also mean “strive,” “make an effort,” “be eager.” Peter uses a form of this word with this meaning in 1:5 … and the idea that believers may actually “hasten” the end of history, while at first sight strange, is in fact deeply rooted in Jewish and Christian teaching.
We may think that the idea of Christians hastening the coming of Christ takes away from the sovereignty of God, for doesn’t the Bible make clear that God determines the time of the end? We have here another instance of the biblical interplay between human actions and God’s sovereignty: Human acts are significant and meaningful, but God is nevertheless fully sovereign….
God’s people can hasten Christ’s return by their sincere and complete rejection of the hold of sin on their lives. By connecting what he says here about hastening the coming of the day of God with his exhortation in verse 11b, Peter also suggests that the holy living of God’s people is a way to speed up the eschatological timetable. And we can include evangelism…
Others also stress this connection between holy living and the Lord’s return. As Richard Bauckham states:
In vv 11-14 the author wishes to base his exhortation to his readers not on the threat of judgment, but more broadly on the eschatological expectation of a new world of righteousness (v 13). Since the present world, the scene of human wickedness, is to disappear and be replaced by a new world, the home of righteousness, his readers should be the kind of people who will be able to live in that new world. Then when they face the judgment of God they will be found to be fit, not to perish with the old world, but to enter the new (v 14)….
Clearly this idea of hastening the End is the corollary of the explanation (v 9) that God defers the Parousia because he desires Christians to repent. Their repentance and holy living may therefore, from the human standpoint, hasten its coming. This does not detract from God’s sovereignty in determining the time of the End, but means only that his sovereign determination graciously takes human affairs into account.
Finally, some remarks by David Helm:
God has good purposes for us to fulfill while we wait. We are to walk in the ways of holiness and godliness. We are to be persistently pure and at peace. And next we learn that by doing so, we are “waiting for and hastening the coming day of God” (v. 12).
That is an incredibly striking phrase. I don’t think I understand it fully. But this much can be said: while no one knows when Jesus is going to return in power and glory, we nevertheless have a part to play in speeding it along. What a different perspective on life from the one Samuel Beckett left us! We are not here just to fill time; we are no longer here to kill our time. Our life is filled with end-time significance! Therefore, we ought to put off sin. We ought to disdain doing anything that we would be ashamed of at his coming. Living a life of sin is simply no longer an option for us…. Therefore, let us wait productively. Be holy and godly. Be persistently pure and at peace. Hate sin. For by these things you hasten the coming of the Lord.
From all this we can say at least two things with some degree of certainty: One, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human choices will always be all rather mysterious. But Two, less mysterious is the truth that our way of living is somehow connected to the Lord’s return. That should surely spur us on to a life of godliness and holiness.
One Reply to “On Hastening His Return”
I agree Bill, the Lord‘s return depends on when the gospel gets preached to everyone which is up to us to do. Also, the devil is still trying to take over the world as we are experiencing with the New World Order and God will allow it one day when the Antichrist appears and then we will have the great tribulation if what I’m listening to is correct. What comes to mind is God’s words to Abraham that his future generations would be taken into Egypt for 400 years but it eventually ended up being 430 – not sure if it took Moses a while to get organised as he did kill an Egyptian and had to flee for 40 years in the wilderness before God appeared to him so God may have had to go to plan B for him as with God things just don’t happen straight away again- everything has to align up as if we miss plan A it might take years for God to allow plan B to happen eg when the Israelites said they were afraid of the giants in promised land, it took 40 more years before God allowed them into the promised land as that generation had to die that came out of Egypt. Also, God has plenty of plans for us so if we miss plan A or B He has plenty more but we may have to wait for them to occur.