I was reminded recently of a prophecy of the end times that I, personally, find very discomforting. What is it? Well, it's found in the following passage.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, 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. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:3-9 KJV
Obviously the world is full of people that choose not to believe, but if we notice that in this passage Peter is talking to believers, and refers to people scoffing about the prophecies of the return of Jesus, it seems logical to assume he is talking about believers being the ones doing the scoffing! This is why I was reminded of this passage; I heard these exact words from someone who professes to believe. When I raised the subject of all the signs of the end being fulfilled before our eyes I was told these things have been going on for years, and would in all likelihood continue. My first thought was to ask if he knew he was fulfilling prophecy by saying that, but I chose not to pour gas on a fire. Later however, I thought about this encounter, and wondered if there was anything different I could have done? As I considered these things the Spirit led me to some words I'm sure most of us are familiar with.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; Revelation 2:7 KJV
Since I am more than familiar with this phrase, I asked the Lord why He led me to it as it seems rather self-explanatory. Of course, as you might expect, the Lord showed me a few things about these words that I was not aware of. You may or may not know that in the Greek, individual words can be translated as a single word, or as a phrase. I mistakenly assumed the word for "ears" was a single word translation. I mean, everyone knows what an ear is right? Wrong. The word used here for ear is "ous", which according to Strong's is a metaphor meaning: "the faculty of perceiving with the mind, the faculty of understanding and knowing."
Now this puts a whole new spin on the passage, because it would seem Jesus is saying that although He is speaking to believers, some will lack the "faculty" or ability to perceive and understand. Ouch! The more I thought about this, the more I wondered if this lack of ability was natural, or learned? Is it possible that there are believers who deliberately choose to ignore what God has said in His word? If that is the case, it would seem that it must be a result of an attitude of skepticism on the part of the believer. I know I have met people over the years who exhibit the " I find that hard to believe " attitude, but to point that attitude towards God's word seems unbelievable.
Yet I found it must be more common than I realized because my next discovery was that this phrase is not just found in these letters to the churches, but is used 37 times in the New Testament, and 18 times by Jesus himself while teaching. So if Jesus knew there would be some believers who would find some of what He said hard to believe, what advice does He give for us who do believe when we encounter those of the unbelieving camp? I think the answer is found in the passage by Peter when we look at what we are told about the Lord's attitude towards mankind as a whole.
First of all, we are told that this attitude is "willful ignorance".
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 2 Peter 3:5 KJV
When we encounter these people it is important to realize they have made a choice not to believe what they have heard. They are aware of what God has said, but they choose not to believe. As such, it follows that arguing with them might just prove to be counterproductive. Yet, there is a comeback we can use and it is revealed in the verses that come next.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9 KJV
What is the answer? God is longsuffering and waiting as long as He can in the hope that more people choose to follow Him. It's easy to look at the world as it is today and wonder just what it is that God is waiting for, but the answer is given here. More believers. That is not to say that God will wait forever, because He has made it clear that He won't. As these verses say, God judged the world once, and He will again. He is not "cutting us some slack" and changing His mind. It is going to happen.
God loves the scoffers and so should we. As easy as it would be to get upset at believers who choose to ignore what the rest of us see as signs of God's imminent return, we need to have God's longsuffering attitude towards them. We should simply point out to them that there is a reason God is waiting, but He won't wait forever. Yes, much of what we see has happened before, but explain the increase in frequency and severity. After all, we are told that the end of this age will be like a woman in childbirth. Those of us who have experienced or witnessed the birth of a child know one thing; it's not quiet and sneaky, it's loud and obvious. Hopefully there will come a point in time when many of these "skeptics" will change their minds as the signs get even more frequent and pronounced.