Where is the promise of his coming? - Perhaps the false teachers here referred to were such as believed in the eternity of the world: the prophets and the apostles had foretold its destruction, and they took it for granted, if this were true, that the terrestrial machine would have begun long ago to have shown some symptoms of decay; but they found that since the patriarchs died all things remained as they were from the foundation of the world; that is, men were propagated by natural generation, one was born and another died, and the course of nature continued regular in the seasons, succession of day and night, generation and corruption of animals and vegetables, etc.; for they did not consider the power of the Almighty, by which the whole can be annihilated in a moment, as well as created. As, therefore, they saw none of these changes, they presumed that there would be none, and they intimated that there never had been any. The apostle combats this notion in the following verse.
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? - That is, either, Where is the “fulfillment” of that promise; or, Where are the “indications” or “signs” that he will come? They evidently meant to imply that the promise had utterly failed; that there was not the slightest evidence that it would be accomplished; that they who had believed this were entirely deluded. It is possible that some of the early Christians, even in the time of the apostles, had undertaken to fix the time when these events would occur, as many have done since; and that as that time had passed by, they inferred that the prediction had utterly failed. But whether this were so or not, it was easy to allege that the predictions respecting the second coming of the “Saviour” seemed to imply that the end of the world was near, and that there were no indications that they would be fulfilled. The laws of nature were uniform, as they had always been, and the alleged promises had failed.
For since the fathers fell asleep - Since they “died” - death being often, in the Scriptures, as elsewhere, represented as sleep. John 11:11 note; 1 Corinthians 11:30 note. This reference to the “fathers,” by such scoffers, was probably designed to be ironical and contemptuous. Perhaps the meaning may be thus expressed: “Those old men, the prophets, indeed foretold this event. They were much concerned and troubled about it; and their predictions alarmed others, and filled their bosoms with dread. They looked out for the signs of the end of the world, and expected that that day was drawing near. But those good men have died. They lived to old age, and then died as others; and since they have departed, the affairs of the world have gone on very much as they did before. The earth is suffered to have rest, and the laws of nature operate in the same way that they always did.” It seems not improbable that the immediate reference in the word “fathers” is not to the prophets of former times, but to aged and pious men of the times of the apostles, who had dwelt much on this subject, and who had made it a subject of conversation and of preaching. Those old men, said the seeing objector, have died like others; and, notwithstanding their confident predictions, things now move on as they did from the beginning.
All things continue as they were, from the beginning of the creation - That is, the laws of nature are fixed and settled. The argument here - for it was doubtless designed to be an argument - is based on the stability of the laws of nature, and the uniformity of the course of events. Thus far, all these predictions had failed. Things continued to go on as they had always done. The sun rose and set; the tides ebbed and flowed; the seasons followed each other in the usual order; one generation succeeded another, as had always been the case; and there was every indication that those laws would continue to operate as they had always done. This argument for the stability of the earth, and against the prospect of the fulfillment of the predictions of the Bible, would have more force with many minds now than it had then, for 1,800 years (circa 1880‘s) more have rolled away, and the laws of nature remain the same. Meantime, the expectations of those who have believed that the world was coming to an end have been disappointed; the time set for this by many interpreters of Scripture has passed by; men have looked out in vain for the coming of the Saviour, and sublunary affairs move on as they always have done. Still there are no indications of the coming of the Saviour; and perhaps it would be said that the farther men search, by the aid of science, into the laws of nature, the more they become impressed with their stability, and the more firmly they are convinced of the improbability that the world will be destroyed in the manner in which it is predicted in the Scriptures that it will be. The specious and plausible objection arising from this source, the apostle proposes to meet in the following verses.
Come when it may, the advent of Christ will surprise the false teachers who are saying, “Peace and safety;” “all things continue as they were from the beginning.” Thus saith the word of Inspiration, “Sudden destruction cometh upon them.” The day of God shall come as a snare upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. It comes to them as a prowling thief. “If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” Habitual watching is our only safety. We must be ever ready, that that day may not overtake us as a thief. TM 233.1
Let everyone who loves God consider that now while it is day is the time to work, not among the sheep already in the fold, but to go out in search of the lost and perishing ones. These need to have special help to bring them back to the fold. Now is the time for the careless to arouse from their slumber. Now is the time to entreat that souls shall not only hear the word of God, but without delay secure oil in their vessels with their lamps. That oil is the righteousness of Christ. It represents character, and character is not transferable. No man can secure it for another. Each must obtain for himself a character purified from every stain of sin. TM 233.2
The Lord is coming in power and great glory. It will then be His work to make a complete separation between the righteous and the wicked. But the oil cannot then be transferred to the vessels of those who have it not. Then shall be fulfilled the words of Christ: “Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” The righteous and the wicked are to be associated together in the work of life. But the Lord reads the character; He discerns who are obedient children, who respect and love His commandments. TM 234.1Read in context »
When these things are dwelt upon as they should be, scoffers will be developed who walk after their own lusts, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Thank God, all will not be rocked to sleep in the cradle of carnal security. There will be faithful ones who will discern the signs of the times. While a large number professing present truth will deny their faith by their works, there will be some who will endure unto the end. 5T 10.1
The same spirit of selfishness, of conformity to the practices of the world, exists in our day as in Noah's. Many who profess to be children of God follow their worldly pursuits with an intensity that gives the lie to their profession. They will be planting and building, buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the last moment of their probation. This is the condition of a large number of our own people. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. To but few can it be said: “Ye are all ... the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” 5T 10.2
My soul is burdened as I see the great want of spirituality among us. The fashions and customs of the world, pride, love of amusement, love of display, extravagance in dress, in houses, in lands—these are robbing the treasury of God, turning to the gratification of self the means which should be used to send forth the light of truth to the world. Selfish purposes are made the first consideration. The work of qualifying men to labor for the salvation of souls is not considered of so great consequence as worldly enterprises. Souls are perishing for want of knowledge. Those who have had the light of present truth, and yet feel no spirit of labor to warn their fellow men of the coming judgment, must give an account to God for their neglect of duty. The blood of souls will be upon their garments. 5T 10.3Read in context »
The desire of our Lord is that we should be watching, so that when He cometh and knocketh we may open to Him immediately. A blessing is pronounced upon those servants whom He finds watching. “He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Who among us in these last days will be thus specially honored by the Master of assemblies? Are we prepared without delay to open to Him immediately and welcome Him in? Watch, watch, watch. Nearly all have ceased their watching and waiting; we are not ready to open to Him immediately. The love of the world has so occupied our thoughts that our eyes are not turned upward, but downward to the earth. We are hurrying about, engaging with zeal and earnestness in different enterprises, but God is forgotten, and the heavenly treasure is not valued. We are not in a waiting, watching position. The love of the world and the deceitfulness of riches eclipse our faith, and we do not long for, and love, the appearing of our Saviour. We try too hard to take care of self ourselves. We are uneasy and greatly lack a firm trust in God. Many worry and work, contrive and plan, fearing they may suffer need. They cannot afford time to pray or to attend religious meetings and, in their care for themselves, leave no chance for God to care for them. And the Lord does not do much for them, for they give Him no opportunity. They do too much for themselves, and believe and trust in God too little. 2T 195.1
The love of the world has a terrible hold upon the people whom the Lord has commanded to watch and pray always, lest coming suddenly He find them sleeping. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” 2T 196.1
I have been shown that God's people who profess to believe present truth are not in a waiting, watching position. They are increasing in riches and are laying up their treasures upon the earth. They are becoming rich in worldly things, but not rich toward God. They do not believe in the shortness of time; they do not believe that the end of all things is at hand, that Christ is at the door. They may profess much faith; but they deceive their own souls, for they will act out all the faith that they really possess. Their works show the character of their faith and testify to those around them that the coming of Christ is not to be in this generation. According to their faith will be their works. Their preparations are being made to remain in this world. They are adding house to house, and land to land, and are citizens of this world. 2T 196.2Read in context »
The words of the Saviour in the parable of the wicked servant apply very forcibly to those who ridicule the near coming of the Son of man: “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for Him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.” 1T 57.1
We found everywhere the scoffers whom Peter said should come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying: “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But those who had looked for the coming of the Lord were not without comfort. They had obtained valuable knowledge in the searching of the word. The plan of salvation was plainer to their understanding. Every day they discovered new beauties in the sacred pages, and a wonderful harmony running through all, one scripture explaining another, and no word used in vain. 1T 57.2
Our disappointment was not so great as that of the disciples. When the Son of man rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, they expected Him to be crowned king. The people flocked from all the region about, and cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” And when the priests and elders besought Jesus to still the multitude, He declared that if they should hold their peace even the stones would cry out, for prophecy must be fulfilled. Yet in a few days these very disciples saw their beloved Master, whom they believed would reign on David's throne, stretched upon the cruel cross above the mocking, taunting Pharisees. Their high hopes were disappointed, and the darkness of death closed about them. 1T 57.3Read in context »