These are the last days. You don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to what the apostle Peter wrote: “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). The last days were inaugurated with the first coming of Christ. His incarnation, death, and resurrection ushered in the final chapter of redemptive history. At his second coming in judgment and glory, Christ will bring the story of redemption to a close.
As the return of Christ nears, the Lord promised that there would be signs, but we need not fear these signs. Christian vigilance is not an attitude of fear but faith. Even so, we ought to be prepared for Christ’s return. How should we prepare?
Again, the apostle Peter gives us a straightforward answer. He writes: “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). Peter understood that the end times had already arrived, but the “day of the Lord” was still coming. And this day will arrive “like a thief” (v. 10), meaning that it will happen when we least expect it. Christ’s return will be sudden and that it will catch many by surprise.
We also see that it will be a cataclysmic event, affecting all of creation. The descriptions that Peter gives in this passage, of the heavens passing away, heavenly bodies being burned up, the world being set on fire and dissolving are frightening. Make no mistake, for many it will be a terrible day. The Scriptures tell us that it will be a day of destruction (Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15), wrath (Isa. 13:9), vengeance (Jer. 46:10), doom (Ezek. 30:3), and darkness (Amos 5:18).
Finally, we see that it will be a time of judgment, because “all the works that are done on [earth] will be exposed.” There will be no place to hide and all our deeds, even those done in darkness, will be brought to light. We will have to give an account of how we lived.
How do Christians prepare for such an event? Peter continues: “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!” (2 Peter 3:11-12). In verse 11 Peter tells us how we should prepare: since these things will take place, what “sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”.
First, we are told that we ought to be holy. What does that mean? Holiness, at its core, means that the believer should be set apart – different – consecrated for God’s special use. There should be an exclusivity in our relationship with God, where no rival love is allowed, and no alternative life is pursued. Our hearts and our lives should be holy devoted to our Lord.
Second, we are told that we ought to be godly. How does holiness differ from godliness? The two are intimately related and you cannot have one without the other. However, some suggest that holiness emphasizes character, while godliness refers to conduct. Godliness is a life lived in devotion to God. These are right beliefs in action. Your life should reflect your love for God. It carries the idea of worship, not only as something you do on a Sunday, but as the pattern of your life.
Keep in mind, when Christ appears, this is what he has promised to perfect in us. In the words of 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” When Jesus appears, the believer will be glorified – sanctification will be complete. And this hope drives our sanctification while we wait on his return: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (v. 3).
Being prepared for the end times, means living a holy and godly life – one that you would not be ashamed of when you are called to stand before our Lord. This is how the Scriptures exhort us to prepare for Christ’s return.
Because of Christ,