Why the delay?
In 2 Peter, the author argues against false teachers who asserted that people need not act with moral reserve because Christ is not coming back in judgment. They said, in effect, “Do what you want. There will be no consequence.” Their teaching sounds a little like this…
Anyway, Peter gives a robust answer to their arguments, one of which is that the Lord has certainly been slow in fulfilling his promise to return, which of course is really to say, “Hey, he hasn’t come back yet, so he probably isn’t coming.” This argument has been around since at least 150 AD, maybe before 68 AD (depending on how you date 2 Peter), so it’s not surprising that we hear the same argument today, two millennia later.
How does Peter respond?
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. 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. (2 Peter 3:8-10, ESV)
There are two arguments here: First, God’s measurement of time is different than humans’ (vv 8-9a). As Frank Thielman puts it:
The eternality of God and the transitory nature of the human life span mean that when people fail to take God’s eternal nature into account, they inevitably become impatient with his timing. (Theology of the NT, 534)
Peter seems to be saying that the delay in Christ’s coming is not as long as it feels to us.
Second, mercy is the reason for what delay there is. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9b). When Christ returns, there will first be widespread destruction before the coming of the new heavens and the new earth, so God’s delay in sending Christ again is to allow time for all who will repent to do so.
It’s been two thousand years; why are we still waiting on Christ to come back? Peter says that Christ will indeed return, it’s just that two thousand years is not so long as God measures time, and he is mercifully delaying the destruction of this world so that all who would repent and turn to him have time to do so.
If you haven’t already, turn to follow Christ today. If you have, we should continue to wait on his return with patient faithfulness. He promises, “Surely, I am coming soon” (Rev 22:20).
(Footnote: I’m indebted to Thielman, 534, for pointing out Peter’s two arguments here.)
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