Chapter 3:8-9 (ESV) - 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.
Question to consider: What is Peter’s point in talking about the patience of God?
God created time and space and has no beginning or end. Since we had a beginning, and our entire existence has been within the boundaries of time and space, it is very difficult for us to imagine the eternal. As we mature, we become more and more aware of things beyond our immediate vicinity. Hopefully, people mature enough to realize that the universe extends beyond their own experience and expectations, and we as Christians, help people to see that Christ is at the center of everything. People praised King Solomon for his practical wisdom and worldly accomplishments, but his true wisdom did not come about until his old age when he finally realized that everything not done for the glory of the Lord is meaningless. Unfortunately, he had to wade through an awful lot of foolishness to get there.
When Peter proclaimed that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, he was making a statement about the eternal nature of God. He was not giving us a key to convert things to God time. The use of “thousand” in scripture is idiomatic. There is great debate about when the thousand year reign of Christ happens or whether it is a literal number. The apostles understood Christ to have begun His reign when He ascended into heaven at the beginning of Acts. The proof of this was the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the church. It’s been two thousand years since this happened, and we know that Christ is still reigning because we still gather as the church. If we are forced to take “thousand” literally, then God doesn’t own the cattle on the 1,001st hill, and God’s blessing on a thousand generations still has about 38,000 thousand years to go.
I think when we look at these verses in this way, we are missing his point. Peter is emphasizing the mercy of God in withholding His judgment. When Christ said judgment would come upon that generation, God waited until the last possible moment in that generation to destroy the temple because He desired to give every opportunity for people to repent and turn to Him. We can apply this same desire for mercy today. If it seems like Christ’s coming is delayed, we can take comfort in the fact that there are still some who will repent from their sin and turn to Him. It is good for us to pray for Christ to return and bring justice, but until that day comes, we continue to faithfully preach repentance and forgiveness of sins and baptize all who will come to the fount of God’s grace.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for the grace and mercy You have shown in giving people every chance to repent and turn to You. May Your word bear fruit in us and our desire be to share the good news of Christ with the world. Amen.