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. 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. 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.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 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! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:8-13 ESV
There were those in Peter’s day who were saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV). Peter and the apostles had been teaching about the coming Day of the Lord, but it had not yet happened. Like the prophets of the Old Testament they had warned of coming judgment, but so far, nothing had happened. So people had begun to assume that the Second Coming wasn’t going to happen. There were even false teachers propagating the idea that there wasn’t going to be any judgment at all. This led them to mock and scorn the teachings of the apostles. With no fear of coming judgment, they followed their own sinful desires (2 Peter 3:3). They promised freedom, but were slaved of corruption themselves (2 Peter 2:19). They seduced others to abandon godly living. Without the fear of God’s judgment, they promoted a lifestyle based on sinful passions of the flesh (2 Peter 2:18). They operated on the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”
But Peter had some bad news for these people. They were allowing God’s gracious delay in bringing judgment to lead to denial of its very existence. But Peter reminds his readers to “not overlook this one fact … that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Time isn’t an issue with God. He is not bound by time. And while we may think that God seems to be taking His sweet time when it comes to the return of His Son and the final redemption of His creation, God is in no rush. And Peter tells us why. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). It is not God’s desire to destroy people. He does not love condemning the disobedient and rebellious to hell. But as a holy, just and righteous Judge, He is obligated to do so. It is His moral responsibility to deal with the sinfulness of men. To not do so would violate His very character as God. He would love to see all men repent, but He knows that will not happen. As a matter of fact, without the sovereign intervention of God Himself, no one would repent. Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). In that same chapter, Jesus is recorded as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV). And He also claimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).
Because all men are dead in their trespasses and sins, all men are condemned to die and to spend an eternity separated from God. That is the righteous punishment reserved for them by God. But God has made it possible for some to be saved. His desire would be that all be saved, but that will not happen because not all will accept His offer of salvation through faith in Christ. But God is graciously delaying His judgment on all mankind until all those who are going to be saved have been. God knows that number. In fact, Paul told the believers he wrote to in Rome, “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Romans 11:25 NLT). There is a divinely appointed number of those who will be saved. And when all those who have been called by God have been restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then His Son will return. Jesus Himself said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV). So we should view God’s delay as a sign of His grace, not as a reason to deny to His coming judgment.
God’s judgment will come, Peter assured his readers. And it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Jesus told His disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV). So Jesus told them, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 ESV). Peter gives his readers similar advice:
Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.– 2 Peter 3:11-12 ESV
Jesus is coming back. Judgment is coming. God will finish what He has started. So as we wait for the promised fulfillment of His plan, we are to live holy and godly lives. Our hope is based on God completing His redemptive plan for mankind and for the universe. That’s why Peter writes, “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 NLT). Our hope is not based on this world, but the one to come. God’s final judgment will have to take place before His plan for the glorification of His creation can happen. Jesus had to suffer and die before His glorification could take place. As followers of Christ, we are experiencing suffering in this life, but we will one day be glorified. We are to live with the end in mind. Which is why Paul encourages us with these words:
While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 NLT