2 Peter 3:8-10
2 Peter 3:8-10
People throughout all of history have been waiting for the coming of the Lord. As we’ll see, God’s timing is certainly not our timing. Is. 55:8 says “Neither are His thoughts our thoughts, or His ways like our ways.” Habakkuk ch.2vs.3 says “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.”
Last week we looked at how non-Christians mock the scriptures, particularly the creation account as clearly described in Genesis, as well as mocking the fact of Christ’s second coming. We also discussed how some Christian leaders today are actually buying into these mockers’ claims, I think, as a way to appease those non-believers. But what they’re actually doing is allowing false doctrine to seep into the church, undermining everything that the gospel is built upon.
Today, we’re going to look at 2 Peter ch.3vs.8-13, which say “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 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. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 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! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
In verse 8, Peter is loosely quoting Moses from Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”
The first implication of 2 Pet. 3:8 demonstrates the intensity of time – if we are to take this verse literally, then it shows us how awful our sin really is. I appreciate how one commentator put it: If one day is like a thousand years to God, that would mean that if we sin for one minute, it is like sinning for 8.5 months to God. Think about it: the murderers, the rapists, the thieves, those who plot to do evil; how great their sin is in the sight of the Lord. Then consider your own sins: those you do in secret, though probably not as heinous and long lasting as plotting and carrying out genocide, but still all the more serious and severe than what we want to make it out to be.
Or as I thought about applying this formula to my classroom attendance policy, in which my students have up to 15 minutes after class starts before they are counted tardy/late, in God’s view they actually have over 10.5 years till they’re late! Of course, this literal interpretation would stop at my classroom door/online room.
This is just one more piece of evidence to demonstrate how significant Jesus’ death on the cross was. Why Christ HAD to die. The sins of this world are that severe.
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us in ch.8vv11,12 “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.”
God’s judgment will come. You can count on it.
Another implication of this verse shows us the brevity of time. Again, if taken literally, a thousand years being like a day in the sight of the Lord shows how utterly brief our lives really are; one hour to God is like 41.5 years to us. Can someone look up Ps. 39:4, James 4:14, 1 Pet. 5:10.
Psalm 39:4 says: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”
The writer here is expressing how incapable he is and how short his life is and is crying out to God to help him.
James 4:14 says “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
James is warning some in the church to stop boasting and repent, reminding them of how brief life really is.
1 Peter ch.5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternalglory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Even our most pressing concerns and troubles are considered “a little while” compared to the eternality of God.
I don’t think this is to be taken literally, but whether taken literally or not, the main point is that God is on his own timeframe. He is not bound by time and space like we are. We aren’t told when, and in fact, we aren’t supposed to know. Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 quote Jesus “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Like a toddler asking his mother when daddy will be home, the mother replies, “just wait, he’ll be back soon.” To that child, “soon” is anything between right now and 5 seconds from now. For God, who beholds all of the past, present and future, “soon” takes on a whole new meaning. What seems “soon” to God will never seem soon enough to us. And what appears way too fast to us, is nothing compared to God who sees into eternity.
Verse 9 says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
So, we aren’t told when, but we are told why. Verse 9 is very clear: Christ has not returned yet because he desires for as many people to repent as possible, and that includes the scoffers and mockers and false teachers. God is being so patient toward them that even they think God is slow and never coming to judge. They don’t see that the fact that Christ hasn’t returned yet is actually benefitting them. Every day that Jesus waits is another opportunity for themto repent.
The second aspect of God’s unique timescale is that what he says will happen, will eventually happen. It’s as if Jesus actually means what he says. This is an area where faith comes in. In Mark ch.13vs.31, Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The application here is that we can trust Jesus.
How will Christ return? Verse 10 says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” Can some people lookup Matt. 24:43, 1 Thess. 5:2, Rev. 3:3, Rev. 16:15.
Matt. Ch.24vs.43 says “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”
Jesus here is painting a word picture of what his return will look like, and how people will respond to his return – they’ll be surprised.
1 Thess. Ch.5vs.2 says “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
Paul was so certain of this fact that in the previous verse, he told his audience that “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.” They should know this already; it’s a given.
Rev. ch.3vs.3 says “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
Here in John’s vision, Jesus is using the same type of language toward the church in Sardis.
Rev. ch.16vs.15 “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”
Jesus is coming full circle to what he said in Matthew ch.24, reiterating the fact that when he returns it will be sudden and unexpected. Peter only devotes two sentences (vv. 8,9) to countering the apparent slowness of Christ’s return. He’s like Paul in 1 Thess.ch5 saying “you guys know this already! You know that Jesus will return.” We will be surprised, but not unprepared.
The next part of verse 10 says “and the heavens will pass away with a roar…” We see this graphically displayed in the book of Revelation. Can someone lookup Rev. 6:14; 20:11.
Rev. 6:14 “The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
Rev. 20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.”
This roar is different than the roar mentioned in 1 Peter 5:8 “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion.” The Greek word here for ‘roar’ that will take place when Christ returns is actually “the whizzing sound produced by rapid motion through the air or a thunderous crash”, maybe like an arrow flying through the air or the sound of insects wings buzzing, or thunder during a storm. But it will be loud and everyone will hear it.
Peter goes on to say “…and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved…” The word ‘dissolved’ means to break apart, just like when Jesus said in John 2:19 “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The same Greek word is used for “destroy.”
Peter continues “…and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Everything that has ever happened will be discovered and made known.
Can someone look up Luke 12:2,3 “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”
Everything any of us do will be exposed.
Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), 228.