Happenings around Antioch

The Lord’s Gracious Delay

I am so glad Jesus did not return before 1972; that was the year the goodness of the Lord led me to repentance. Some of you could say the same about 1990, or 2000, or maybe someone here or listening online would say that about 2024!

Peter says in his second letter with regard to the second coming of Christ, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise.” But we could also say, the Lord is not slow. Period. He is never slow, and he is never late. It reminded me of Gandalf’s quip when Frodo said, “You’re late!” Gandalf replied, “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.” God does everything precisely when he means to. But Peter adds that the Lord is not slack or slow in fulfilling his promise, the way we would feel if someone told us they would come and help us or see us or give us something we need. And they don’t come on time or even in the same month they told us they would come. We count slowness in matters of seconds, or at best minutes, don’t we? If we see God as our waiter, then we want that cup of coffee right now, not two minutes from now. We want God to heal us or promote us or help us or bless us right now. And if we think of Jesus’ return in the same way, we may get impatient as we see the evil and corruption of the world increasing at almost the speed of light and we do not understand why God would allow it to continue. Habakkuk wrote about the judgment of God that was coming on Judah and on the Babylonians, but not for many years. God told the prophet, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Why has God delayed for more than 2000 years to send the Son of God, the returning King of kings? Is it because he is enjoying storing up wrath for unbelievers? No. It is because of his infinite love for those who will be saved. He is, Peter writes, “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Paul wrote the same thing to Timothy, that we should pray for all people, for kings and for all in authority, because God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The way to understand this is to acknowledge that there are three ways God wills something.

The first is by sovereign decree. He spoke the universe into existence by decree. What he willed by sovereign decree came into being without fail. The second is the will of his commands for his people. He commands us to have no other Gods before him. He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to forgive others as he has forgiven us. That is his will for us. Will we do that perfectly? No. The third way to speak about God’s will is illustrated in this text from Peter’s letter. R.C. Sproul calls it God’s will of disposition, or, his attitude. He does not delight in the death of the wicked. He said the same to Ezekiel: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

God certainly does decree the death of the wicked. As Peter wrote, God will rescue the godly and will “keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” At the same time, his sovereign will, and the reason he delays the day of Jesus’ return, is that he will not allow any of his elect to perish. Each of them, because of God’s grace, will reach repentance and be saved.

That is cause for great rejoicing.