What’s Taking So Long?
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 3:8-10
(Read vv. 1–10) A couple of weeks ago, we drove to Phoenix to visit the Schaals and so I could preach at International Baptist College. Our kids haven’t been a lot of long road trips, and they were very excited to see their friends. So, I bet you can guess what question we started hearing before we even made it to Lucerne Valley. “Are we there yet?”
If parents got a nickel every time, we heard that question, we’d all be rich. Newbies to this question, think they can solve this. Some parents try to rationalize with their kids. They take several minutes explaining their route and how many hours it’s going to be. When they’re done, the child asks, “So, are we there yet?”
And every parent tries suggesting a nap. She explains, “Honey, the trip will go so much faster, if you sleep.” But the child thinks, “That’s stupid. Why would I want to sleep, when I can just keep asking if we are there yet?”
Some try this lecture, “When I was a kid, we didn’t have iPads and video games. You should be thankful for all that you have.” That one works every time, right? Of course not. It doesn’t take long before even the most patient, rational parent, quickly retorts, “It’s going to be all day, so stop asking.”
In a similar vein, v. 4 quotes the false teachers as asking, “Where is the promise of His coming?” meaning, “Where is the 2nd coming of Christ?” Jesus had promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself” (John 14:3). It was now roughly 30 years later, and many were beginning to ask, “Are we there yet? What is taking so long?”
It has now been almost 2,000 years since Jesus left, so this question is even more pressing for us. We get anxious for Christ to return. Or if we are honest, many of us have probably wondered if he’s coming at all. What do we do with these questions? Thankfully, Peter offers a rational, encouraging answer in vv. 8–10, and hopefully, we’ll respond a little better than young children in the car. First, v. 8 responds that…
I. God’s view of time is bigger than ours (v. 8).
We must frame this verse with the fact that the NT consistently emphasizes the imminence or nearness of Christ’s return. Jesus warned, “You also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:44). And the Bible concludes by stating, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev 22:20–21). And v. 10 of our text states, “The day of the Lord…” And when mortal human beings hear “quickly,” we naturally think in terms of our 70–80-year lifespans.
So, if you were part of the 1st generation of Christians, and you were enduring persecution and ostracism for your faith, 30 years feels like a very long time to wait. We can see how these believers were getting anxious.
I’m sure we’ve all felt the same way. How long is Jesus going to wait? How long is he going to allow evil and perversion to go on? Is he even coming?
Peter responds, first in v. 8 by reminding us of God’s eternality. He does so by paraphrasing Psalm 90:4, where Moses contrasts the eternality of God with the brevity of man (read vv. 1–6). Moses does a beautiful job of describing the difference between God’s perspective on time and ours.
And Peter picks up on this and states first, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years.” The idea is that God can do in one day, what we think requires a thousand years. For example, think of all that God did in Day 6 of the creation week. Evolutions are certain that it would take millions of years for all the land animals on our planet and for humans to evolve, but God created mature versions of all of them in a single 24-hour day.
Or consider what Christ accomplished on the cross. In single day, Jesus fully and finally addressed the infinite sin debt of billions of people.
God is not like us. He does not need days, weeks, and years to complete big projects. Rather, he can instantaneously accomplish his most magnificent purposes with a simple command.
Peter follows by stating, “And a thousand years as one day.” This statement focuses specifically on God’s eternality. This is one of those concepts that we will never fully comprehend. For example, this week I did a little reading about God’s relationship to time. Reading brilliant theologians debate whether or not God experiences time at all and how he relates to time is a reminder of how vast God is. Our God is infinite in glory.
John Frame helps us imagine God’s experience, when he states, “Try to imagine what it would be like to have a consciousness without beginning and end, without change, with perfect knowledge of all times, and with complete sovereignty over temporal relationships. What would that feel like?”
We can try, but the fact remains that time dominates and limits all that we do. There’s no way we’ll ever wrap our little brains around God’s eternality.
Yet Peter says that it provides important perspective as we think about the 2nd Specifically, what feels like a very long time to us, is just a blip on God’s radar. It’s sort of like how we say that the older you get, the quicker the years pass by. In a similar way, a thousand years does not seem all that long to eternal God; it feels something like a single day to us. It’s incredible.
I want to mention that some of you may have heard prophecy teachers use this verse to justify very specific predictions regarding the return of Christ. They say that the earth is roughly 6,000 years old, which is like 6 days to God, and they claim that 7th day will be the Millennial Kingdom. Therefore, they claim that Jesus must surely be coming very soon. But Peter gives no indication that he intends to predict the return of Christ. He is simply making a comparison to help us understand that God’s perspective on time is very different from ours.
Therefore, he opens v. 8 by challenging us not to “forget this one thing.” Verse 5 condemned the false teachers for “willfully forget(ing)” the truth. But v. 8 has a more compassionate tone. Peter understands that even though we know God is eternal, we don’t always let it shape our perspective like we should.
That’s why he says multiple times in 2 Peter that one of his basic purposes is to remind us of foundational truths. It’s not enough that we know the truth; we must constantly rehearse it so that it shapes our minds. Don’t forget the eternality of God and his other glorious attributes. Rehearse them and make sure they shape your perspective on all of life.
Specifically, Peter says that God’s eternality must shape our expectation of Christ’s return. We must remember that God doesn’t look at time the same way we do. He has an appointed time for every detail of the end times, and he has very specific reasons why he delays.
It’s up to us to balance waiting expectantly and living every day understanding that this could be my last, with also humbly trusting that God has good reasons for all that he does, and Christ will return at the perfect moment. Then v. 9 explains one of reason why Christ delays. Peter’s 2nd answer to the delay of Christ’s return is…
II. God has more people to save (v. 9).
This verse gives a beautiful description of God’s nature. Notice it’s built on a strong contrast between a false assumption about God’s nature and what’s actually true. The Lord “is not slack”; instead, he is “longsuffering.” So, first, Peter declares that…
God is never lazy about fulfilling his purposes. The verb translated “not slack” means, “to delay, be slow, loiter.” Most likely, the false teachers claimed that God was procrastinating or being lazy about fulfilling his promises like we often are. We’ve all done this.
How many of you have ever been slow to fulfill an obligation, not because you couldn’t get it done on time but because you just weren’t motivated?
We all have. Sometimes, we are just lazy and apathetic. Sometimes, a particular job is boring, difficult, or even painful, so we keep pushing it off.
The false teachers apparently claimed this was why Christ hadn’t returned. They argued, “If God were really on top of things, and he really cared about us, he would have returned by now. But his delay means that God isn’t all that interested in what’s happening on the earth. He probably won’t ever get out of his Lazy Boy and come back.”
They claimed that God is apathetic, irresponsible and lazy. Therefore, Peter adamantly denies that God is lazy about fulfilling his purpose. Instead, in the 2nd part of the contrast he affirms that…
God is patiently calling sinners to himself. This is a wonderful statement about the nature of God and the call of the gospel, and it has massive implications for us. But before we get there, we first need to address a big question that this statement raises.
Specifically, “If it is true that ‘(God) is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance’ and he is all-powerful, then why don’t all people repent?” This is a tough, real life question, especially when someone dies without Christ. There are 4 major answers to this question.
All people will repent and be saved whether in this life or after death. We call this universalism. Sadly, a lot of people who call themselves Christians claim that God will give people a second chance to be saved after death and that all will respond. It sounds good; however, there is simply no way you can take the Bible seriously and maintain this position.
For example, v. 7 clearly rejects universalism (read). Peter says that “ungodly men” will face “perdition.” And the OT, Jesus, Paul, John, and many other biblical authors all agree. So, as attractive as universalism may be to our sentiments, we cannot go there and be faithful to our Lord. A second more serious attempt to answer this question is that…
Man’s free will limits the fulfillment of God’s desire. There are 2 major directions this argument goes. Some who believe in what is called “Open Theism” claim that God can’t know the future, because man’s free choices make the future genuinely open or contingent. The future could truly take several forms. Hopefully, we can see the problems with that right away. The Bible is clear that knows the future and is sovereign over all things.
Therefore, the more common form of this view is that God values the free choice of humans more than he values their salvation. Therefore, repentance is entirely contingent on the choice of sinners, and God’s desire is left unfulfilled simply because people choose to reject him.
It’s an extremely popular argument, but it doesn’t actually let God off the hook, because a sovereign God could still cause the salvation of all people. As well, the Bible never makes this argument. Scripture never says that free choice is more important than salvation.
But it does consistently teach that God is sovereign over the salvation of men. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus assumed that the Father has chosen who will be saved, and he says very clearly that they all will be saved. Therefore, a third common answer to this question is that…
Peter is only referring to the elect. According to this view, “us” or “you” (there is a variant there) specifically refers to the elect, and it limits “any” and “all” to the elect as well. So, Peter means that Christ is waiting to return until all the elect repent.
The problem with this view is that “us” in v. 9 refers to Peter and other believers who are already saved. It doesn’t make sense to say that Christ delays his return, because he is waiting for Christians to repent. Therefore, I believe that the best answer is that…
Peter is referring to God’s desired will, not his decreed will. In other words, the Bible teaches that God has 2 wills, and they are not always the same. First, God genuinely desires the salvation of all people. Ezekiel 18:32, “‘For I have no pleasure in the death of the one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” God does not want anyone to perish.
But in his infinite, sovereign purpose, which we will never fully understand, he knows this is not best. Therefore, his decreed will includes the condemnation of the lost. It’s similar to the conflict a parent feels, when he disciplines a child. We don’t want to inflict pain, but we know that it is best, so it must be done. Yes, we will never fully comprehend why, but we can trust that God’s purposes are always good even when they are painful.
So, we should take 2 Peter 3:9 at face value. “(He) is longsuffering…” John Calvin said of this verse, “So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost.” Our God loves sinners, he longs for their salvation, and he is patient with them. So, what does this mean for us?
First, it should dramatically reshape how we look for Christ’s return. Every day that God waits is a reminder of his compassion toward the lost. He’s not waiting, because he wants to let sin reign or because he wants to make us miserable. No, he waits, because he loves sinners, and he is patiently drawing them to himself.
Second, God’s compassion for the lost ought to inspire the same compassion in us. With all that’s going on in the world, it’s very easy to look at the lost as our opponents, who are taking our freedoms, bringing violence to our communities, or just irritating us.
Certainly, God’s hates sin more than we can imagine, but God also loves sinners. I love Jesus’ example in John 4. While the Samaritan woman ran to the village to bring her friends out to Jesus, his disciples brought him food. But he had no appetite, because he was overwhelmed with zeal for the salvation of the people in that community.
It is so important that we embrace the same compassionate, gospel-centered vision. And then we must actively and aggressively share the gospel. So, do you grieve for the lost state of sinners around you? And are you going after them with the good news of the gospel? Let’s use God’s heart for the lost as motivation to go after them with the gospel.
A third application for some who have never repented of your sin and received Christ, is to respond to the call of Christ. Consider the fact that one reason why Christ has not returned is because God is patiently waiting for you to be saved. He loves you, and he does not want you to perish.
And you don’t have to, if you simply “come to repentance.” This word means that you must agree with God, about his lordship over your life, about the wickedness of your sin, and about the fact that our only hope of salvation is in Christ. Please talk with us today about how you can be saved.
Returning to the text, vv. 8–9 offer 2 reasons why God delays his return. We long for him to come and to come quickly. But we have trust that God has a perfect plan, and he will come at exactly the right moment. Therefore, Peter follows in v. 10 by affirming that when the time is right…
III. Christ will return (v. 10).
It’s worth noting that the verb “will come” is in the emphatic position. Peter wants to emphasize that yes, Christ may not come back as soon as we would like, but he will come.
Notice also that Peter uses the phrase, “the day of the Lord.” This is a common biblical phrase, that is intended to summarize the entirety of end times events, stretching from the Rapture to the establishing of the eternal state. First, Peter says this entire complex of events will begin…
Suddenly (with the Rapture of the church): Peter says, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” The NT uses this phrase several times to warn that Christ’s return will be unexpected and surprising to mankind, and many of them will not be prepared. “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thess 5:2–3).
This is an important warning. Peter recognizes that Christ’s return may not happen as soon as we would like. But this doesn’t mean we should become dull and unprepared. We must always be ready for the return of Christ.
So, if you have never been saved, you shouldn’t wait for a more convenient time. No, Christ could return at any moment, so be ready. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2b).
And Christians should also live with a sense of urgency. We never know how many more days we have to serve Christ. So, don’t put off to tomorrow what needs to happen today. Be ready. So, Peter says the “day of the Lord” will begin suddenly, and then he adds that it will end…
Severely: At the end of the verse, Peter jumps to the very end of the “day of the Lord” just before the establishment of the eternal state, and he says, “The heavens…” The term “great noise” is particularly interesting.
It’s the Greek term hroizadon. Rogers & Rogers say, “The word is onomatopoeic, expressing the whizzing sound produced by rapid motion through the air of shrill rushing sounds—the hissing of a snake, the whirl of a bird’s wings, the hurtling of an arrow—and then is used for the rushing movement itself or the accompanying crash or roar.” In a flash this universe and all the fleshly works done in it, will be gone.
So, yes, it’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus left, and it’s very easy for us to be lulled into thinking that life will go on uninterrupted forever. It’s very easy for us to begin to crave every pleasure this world offers and to put all our hope in worldly ambitions.
But don’t forget that there are no delays in God’s timetable. “A thousand years is as one day” to the Lord. And in our day, God is not at all concerned about worldly ambitions and pleasures but about the salvation of the lost, so make that your ambition also.
And finally, don’t forget that in the end Christ will come. He will destroy this world and every worldly ambition. It may all begin today. So be ready.