2 Peter 3:8, “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.”
Why does it seem that, from our human perspective, God is slow to work? God’s timing often does not sync with our timing. In the midst of hardship and suffering, we can quickly forget essential truths about who our great God is. The recipients of 2 Peter were facing a group of scoffers who were questioning when Jesus would come again. The believers Peter wrote to were no doubt perplexed by this. Perhaps some of them were beginning to doubt if it was true and in general it appears they were discouraged.
In light of this Peter exhorts his readers in 2 Peter 3:8 to not overlook one fact. But before he does that he uses a very special term for them, beloved. This is now the second time Peter uses this word in chapter three (3:1). This is a term of endearment. Peter has a deep, affectionate love for them and it is out of his love that he is stirring up their sincere mind by way of reminder of the certainty of Jesus’ return.
There is a valuable lesson here for us. Love is the driving force for our interactions with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said in John 13:35 that our love for one another is how all people will know that we are His disciples. We are to speak the truth to one another in love. Peter here is providing an excellent example of how we can do that with believers who are bombarded by falsehood and suffering. Too often the people of God do not exhibit love in their interactions from one another. We are not charitable in our theological disagreements, and assume the worst of people who have Christ dwelling in them through the Holy Spirit. May we imitate Peter and let love shape how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. As people loved by God, we can love others who are loved by God.
What is the one fact that Peter does not want these dear loved ones to overlook? The eternity of God, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Notice that Peter does not say one day is a thousand years for God and one thousand years is one day. God does not experience a succession of moments. We live moment by moment, second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. God is eternal and created time. He does not exist in time but as Augustine said he works with time. Because we experience the moment by moment succession of time, this means we are constantly changing. Right now, you are not the same as when you read that last sentence. God never changes, he is immutable. If God could change then, He would cease to be God because it is his nature not to change (Malachi 3:6). God’s eternity and immutability are intimately connected.
Peter wants his original readers and us today to look at this from God’s perspective. Peter is saying, “beloved you may think that God is not working. You do not understand why the return of Jesus has been delayed, but remember this, God is eternal and for Him, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand days are as one day. God is working and will keep His promise but don’t forget who God is because His promises reveals how He works.”
What might appear to be a long time from our perspective is not a long time from God’s perspective. God is not like us in this., We ned to rest in who He is.
This has massive ramifications for how we think about and live with God’s timing. John MacArthur commenting on this passage writes, “The amount of earthly time that passes is of no consequence from God’s timeless perspective.” While it is hard to be patient, we can wait on the Lord knowing that He does everything with perfect, impeccable timing. God has never been late.
We see a healthy way to relate to God’s timing in the Psalms. In Psalm 94:3 the Psalmist cries out to God, “O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?” The wicked are winning the day. Everywhere the community of Israel turned wicked people were boasting in their evil. The Psalmist asks God how long will this take place. This is a proper way to grapple with God’s timing. The Psalm is not irreverently questioning God. We see this by how this Psalm concludes, “He will bring back on them (the wicked) their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the LORD our God will wipe them out.” It’s as if the Psalmist says I do not know how long the wicked will exult but I do know that God in His timing will judge them and will wipe them out.
Our present condition is not our final condition.
I often wonder how the Israelites felt during the four-hundred years of silence before Jesus came. How many people cried out to God for Him to keep His promise? How many left their faith because they did not trust God’s timing? But we see that God sent Christ at the right time. Twice Paul says that Christ came at the right time.
- Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
- Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son.”
God’s timing for Jesus’s first coming was perfect, and it will be when He comes again in His Second Coming. God’s eternal perspective will always be better than our finite perspective. To rest in this, we must continually remind ourselves who God is and how that connects to His action.
God’s eternity is a source of contentment for His children. We do not know when God will work something out, such as the second coming of Jesus, but we know He will take care of it. May He receive all the “glory both now and to the day of eternity.”