2 Peter 3:8-9 “The Second Coming, Part 2: The Purpose of Patience”


So do not let this one thing escape you, beloved: with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. The Lord is not slow from fulfilling the promise, as some count slowness, but He is patient for you, not desiring any to perish but that all have time for repentance.


The encouragements and exhortations to “remember” from 3:1-2 continue in this present text. After calling his beloved readers to remember all that the prophets proclaimed and the apostles preached (vv. 1-2), and warning them of coming mockers who will overlook the basic facts of biblical history in their mocking (vv. 3-7), Peter now warns his readers not to make the same mistake by letting this one thing escape their notice. It is possible, even probable, that genuine believers will be shaken and disturbed by the teaching and mocking of false teachers. They target the unsteady (2:14) and the immature (2:18) and so Peter writes these encouraging words to hold his readers steadfast and immobile. If they are to stand firm against the railings of these lunatics, the saints of Asia Minor must not fail to notice two things: (1) that God is the Lord of time and (2) that time has a specific purpose.


The Lord of Time (v. 8)


So do not let this one thing escape you, beloved: with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.


A new exhortation begins here though it is not completely unique from what has just been stated. By inserting a new “beloved” (ἀγαπητοί) Peter directs the attention back to his redeemed audience, and audience that he has love and affection for because they are redeemed.


Context is everything. Peter directs this imperative at “you” (ὑμᾶς). The second person plural pronoun makes it abundantly obvious that Peter addresses his readers and is no longer describing the mockers or their mocking. As already mentioned, the addition of “beloved” makes it clear that he considers his readers among the redeemed of God. These are the same elect saints (1 Pet. 1:1) he already wrote to (3:1). The fact that Peter is addressing known believers is crucial in understanding everything that follows.


Peter uses the same verbal root λανθάνω (to escape notice/awareness) here as he did in v. 5 when he exposed the illogical reasoning of the mockers. They allowed the facts of history and of the Biblical narrative of Genesis 1 to “escape their notice” (λανθάνει). The negated present imperative (λανθανέτω) demands that Peter’s readers not make the same mistake. Peter does not speak in generalities, for there is literally one thing (ἔν τοῦτο – this one [thing]) that must not escape the attention of his readers. The following ὅτι (that) clause explains what they must not let slip by their awareness.


Peter predictably points his readers back in the direction of the Old Testament. The basis of the statement “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day” is found in Psalm 90:4: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night” (NASB).


Context is everything. As Peter encourages the saints against the coming mockers who deny the coming of Jesus Christ, he points them to consider time from God’s perspective rather than from their own. To do so, he directs his readers to Psalm 90.


A Timeless God from the Fathers (Ps. 90)


It is not insignificant that Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses, the man of God. Here Peter uses a text written by one of the fathers who is now asleep (3:4). The psalm is written as a prayer that longs for the restoration of the nation Israel and the undoing and reversing of the curse. The psalm has three basic parts: (1) The Creator and His Creation (vv. 1-6), (2) The Cursed Condition (vv. 7-12), and (3) The Call to Reverse the Curse (vv. 13-17).


The psalm begins by recognizing, praising, and submitting to the God of creation (vv. 1-6). He is the Lord of creation to whom mankind cannot compare. The span of man’s days are fleeting like the grass (vv. 5-6) while the Lord views a thousand years as if it were the span of a night’s watch (v. 4).


In vv. 7-12 Moses describes life under a cursed condition. Mankind has rightly earned the wrath of God (vv. 7-8) and therefore man can expect to live 80 years if he is considerably strong (vv. 9-10). In this light, it is necessary that finite man learn humility in the face of a timeless God (vv. 11-12).


The final section of vv. 13-17 begins by asking how long God will wait to fulfill His promise to undo and reverse the curse (v. 13) before praying for that fulfillment to come in its completeness (vv. 14-17). Taken by itself, this portion may seem impertinent. But within the context of the whole, Moses has already admitted that the Lord’s timing is His own (v. 4). This is not a prayer of impatience, but a prayer of anticipation.


Psalm 90 (written about 3500 years ago) is an eschatological psalm that submits to the Lord’s timing and yet longs for the completion of the Lord’s promise. That is exactly Peter’s point.


A Timeless God from the Apostles (v. 8)


Strict adherence to the text will not allow for any fanciful interpretations. Peter uses the cardinal number “one” (εἷς) three times in this verse: “Do not let this one (ἕν – neuter form) thing escape you…one (μία – feminine form) day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one (μία – feminine form) day.” There is no way to understand this text other than to take “one day” literally. Peter even reverses the word order in the last instance (μία ἡμέρα vs. ἡμέρα μία – literally: one day vs. day one) to mirror the Genesis account (Gen. 1:5). Therefore, it is also necessary to treat “a thousand years” literally as well.


Yet the point is not to provide any sort of timetable so much as it is to follow the same line of thinking Moses produced in Psalm 90. Peter’s point is so very simple: God exists outside of time and therefore has a completely different perspective to time than mere humans. What is a very brief span of time to us (one day) is much the same as a thousand years (a very lengthy span of time) to Him. Edmond Hiebert points out that it “is not that time has no meaning for God but rather that His use of time is such that we cannot confine Him to our time schedules.”[1] He goes on to point out that to God, time is both extensive and intensive. Time is extensive in the sense that He may use a thousand years to accomplish what we might feel ought to be done in a single day. The repentance of Israel, judgment of the wicked, and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom certainly seems to be a long time in coming. Time is intensive to God in that He may accomplish in a single day what we would have thought required a thousand years. In six such days God accomplished all that the brightest “scientific” minds conclude would have taken millions if not billions of years. Peter’s point is so simple, but how does it fit into the overall argument?


The mockers’ main point is that the world is much the same as it has always been (v. 4). In a sense they are correct. Wicked men exist today as they always have. Evil empires rise and fall, only to be replaced by another wicked empire. One would think that if God were going to judge humanity, He would have done so long ago. Where is the promise of His coming? Peter stops his readers, turns their eyes to meet his own, grabs them by the shoulders and reminds them not to consider the timing of God’s promised judgment and kingdom from a human perspective. A thousand years transpired between the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Another thousand years would elapse before the Seed of David, Seed of Abraham would appear. Yet in a single day, that Seed accomplished redemption for His people. We are mere mortals who are here today and gone tomorrow. God is infinite and is thus not bound to time. To argue that Christ will not return to judge the world because He has not already done so is to ignore the fact that God is God. Beloved, do not let this fact escape you.


The Purpose of Time (v. 9)


Peter’s care for his readers is evident in this verse. Not only are the contents full of assurance, but Peter provides a more thorough answer to the problem. He does more than undermine the mockers’ claim that apparent slowness equates to false promises. Peter presses on to explain the reason for this apparent slowness.[2]


Time is for Patience (v. 9a)


The Lord is not slow from fulfilling the promise, as some count slowness, but He is patient for you


Peter begins with a straightforward denial of what the mockers claim. The Lord is not slow regarding the completion of the promise. The verbal form βραδύνω indicates a delay or hesitation based on one’s inability or even indifference. God is neither unable nor indifferent concerning His promise.[3] The genitive τῆς ἐπαγγελίας is an ablative genitive of source. God is not slack or slow from His promises.[4] It is not as if He is unable to fulfill what He promised to fulfill. By mentioning the specific promise, Peter points back to the mockers’ claim in v. 4, but also reaches back to his introduction concerning precious and magnificent promises that God has already granted (1:4).[5] This promise is a singular idea that captures the entire gambit of salvation. The atonement for sin, redemption to God, provision of the Spirit, perseverance to endure, provision of eternal life and reigning in glory with Christ are all present in this “promise.” The Lord (κύριος: Peter possibly has the covenant name of Yhwh in mind) is not kept from His promise. He is not slow, as some count slowness. When Peter mentions that some (τινες) consider the Lord to be slowed from His promise, who does he mean?


Context is everything. There are some who think that Peter refers to the mockers here.[6] Yet Peter has been addressing the beloved readers since v. 8, a point that is made obvious in the next phrase “but He is patient for you.” Peter knows that the mockers will target the unstable and immature and it is possible (perhaps likely) that some of these will fall sway under the mockers’ irrational reasoning. It is for this reason that Peter writes (1:12; 3:1-2) and demands that this one thing not escape their notice (v. 8) because it appears that some of them have.[7] There are some who are beginning to doubt that the Lord will fulfill what He said that He would. This apparent slowness is not a marker of inability nor of indifference but reveals the patience of the Lord.


The εἰς preposition indicates purpose. The Lord is patient for you. The patience of God (μακρόθυμος) is a perfection that constitutes His person (Ex. 34:6). God does not possess patience so much as He is patience. What appears as a delay of judgment and a hesitancy to fulfill His promise is an extension of God’s patience for the benefit of you, the elect aliens of Asia Minor. In what way is the patience of God for the benefit of the saints?


Patience is for Repentance (v. 9b)


Not desiring any to perish but that all have time for repentance.


Many men attempt to pry open the simple message of Peter to accommodate a form of the Pelagian heresy. Some twist the text around academic arguments regarding the decretive will of God versus the permissive will of God,[8] while others simply view God as a poor being that is left with a reality that is utterly contrast to His desires.[9] In so doing, these men begin to abandon the first principle of interpretation: authorial intention. Is it Peter’s intention to remark upon the decretive will of God versus His permissive will, or is he writing to encourage the saints of Asia Minor?


Context is everything. We should see a connection between the “all” (πάντας), the “any” (τινας), and the “some” (τινες). All of these indicate the same antecedent; namely, you.[10] Peter is still speaking within the context of redeemed individuals. He continues to exhort those who are elect aliens, though some may have fallen prey to false teaching and are now in confusion. It is not appropriate to sidestep the issue by stating that God does not desire all humanity to perish, for the pronoun τινας (any) speaks of individuals rather than people groups.[11] The issue must be addressed head on. Peter speaks to believers and encourages them not to abandon the apostolic faith (1:1) simply because it appears that the Lord has delayed His promise. This delay has occurred so that the elect would have time for repentance.


As before, the εἰς preposition indicates purpose: “but all have time for repentance.” The infinitive from χωρέω is not the normal verb for “come” (“but for all to come to repentance” NASB). It is used to indicate room or space and is elsewhere translated as room (Mk. 2:2) or containing (Jn. 2:6). Yet the context (which is everything) does not indicate physical space but time. The εἰς preposition is used again with the same intention of purpose (εἰς μετάνοιαν χωρῆσαι = for repentance to have room/to have time). The supposed delay of judgment is provided for the purpose of allowing time for the elect to repent.


That same patience that defines God’s person (Ex. 34:6) is often connected with repentance (Joel 2:12-13; Jonah 4:2-3; Nah. 1:3). The prophets often pointed to this patience of God to illicit the nation of Israel to act accordingly; namely, to repent. Peter has already used this same rationale twice in his early ministry. Regarding judgment, on the day of Pentecost, the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit was a taste of the coming Day of the Lord. Peter’s conclusion was to command repentance (Acts. 2:14-38). Regarding blessing, Peter spoke of a coming time of refreshing and blessing that would come to the nation of Israel but only upon the nation’s repentance (Acts 3:19). These twin truths consist of the full orbed promise of God. He is not slack or slow from this promise. He provides the necessary time for His elect to repent. They will repent, for they are His elect, and it is not His desire that any of them should perish.


Conclusion


There is a reason that you have been granted the ability to wake up this morning. The wrath of God has been stayed this day for a single purpose: for the gospel to be preached so that the elect might repent. If you, dear reader, have already repented of your sin and trusted Christ alone for your salvation from the wrath to come, then praise God! But the time is short and so we must go about the work of making disciples. If you have not repented and trusted in Christ for the remission of sins, then do so now, dear reader. For the day of the Lord will come like a thief.


Soli Deo Gloria!




[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p, 153. [2] Peter Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2006), p. 277. [3] Hiebert, p. 154. [4] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 345. [5] Davids, p. 277-8. [6] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 380-1; Davids, p. 279. [7] Lenski, p. 345. [8] Schreiner, p. 381-2. [9] Davids, p. 281-2 [10] John MacArthur, 2 Peter & Jude, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2005), p. 122. [11] Hiebert, p. 156.

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