Sitting in sunshine on a beautiful heath, I don’t really want to think about this world coming to an end. Its life and beauty are wonderful. But I know that there are plenty of places where beauty and peace are much harder to find.
It’s for those in such places, more than for me, that the promise of a new creation brings hope. Peter seems clearer than Paul that this universe does indeed have a limited time to run before creation is renewed. The timing is completely and deliberately uncertain – but an ending and a new beginning will come in God’s time.
In lots of ways I’m not sure what to make of this – both in terms of how to interpret Peter and in my reaction to the idea. But Peter’s main point in reminding his readers of this coming end is not for us to speculate about the end – its timing and exact nature – but to focus our hearts and minds on the present moment, knowing that it is the only one of which we can be sure.
So Peter calls us to live lives of holiness and godliness (3:11), at peace without spot or blemish (3:14). If we knew when the end would come, we’d probably leave serious effort at these things until the last moment. Not knowing at which moment the end will come (whether for us individually or for the universe) we should have the incentive constantly to be ready.
Peter himself acknowledges (3:1-10) that time is passing without the dawning of the Day of the Lord, and that this is leading some to give up on the idea altogether. How much more so a couple of thousand years later?
Can we recover something of the urgency that we saw in 1 Thessalonians from Paul, and that we read here from Peter? What would I want holiness and godliness to look like in my life at its end? And what am I doing now to make that a reality?