“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8–9, NASB95)
“How Much Longer?” This is probably one of the most asked questions when traveling with kids. If not, it is probably closely aligned with “Where are we going?” At least this is the case in our household. The where are we going was frequently answered with either, “To the bologna palace” or “To the moon.” And, the time question was frequently answered with “five more minutes.” My kids did get serious answers as well, but these were some of the ones used when we did not know exactly how long, we did not want to disclose, maybe did not even know ourselves, or were tired of being asked. I do tend to pull on a leg every now and then, and it is probably reflected here. I don’t want to get his wrong, so I won’t be specific about who said it or when. But, I was told that my grandfather was so good at pulling legs (with a wink in his eye) that people could only walk one direction around the mountain afterward.
But in all seriousness and in the face of being taunted for our Lord not having returned, Peter adds here a powerful statement about the difference in how we see time and in how God sees time. Sure, God can see it as we do. But He also sees it from His eternal perspective and, in seeing it, He sees every minute detail that fits in along the way.
We count time in minutes, hours, months and even years. There are even some, such as top-level athletes, who count it in fractions of seconds as well as scientists and theorists who attempt to count in ages and eons. But every single person who has ever lived has done some inside the framework of time and lives in the context of time.
These believers to whom Peter was writing had definitely been waiting for the return of Jesus for an extended period of time (from their perspective), and we today continue even now in that same wait. The mockers around them were very much aware of this, and they were using this apparent ‘delay’ on God’s part in an attempt to erode away at the believers’’ trust in Christ and the fulfillment of His promise to come again. The enduring word of God had escaped the mockers’ attention as we read in the previous verses. And, in these verses Peter writes so that his readers would not have this important fact escape theirs.
Here it is: “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.”
We get so focused on our time frame and the situations that surround us in our limited lifespan, that it becomes very easy to lose sight of the fact that our God exists outside of time. He created all that exists, and He put each of us into it in a particular place in time. But He is not constrained to either place or time as we are.
This does not mean that God is indifferent to the struggles we endure or the length of time that it takes for some things to come about or even pass. God knows us intimately just as He fully knows everyone who has gone before or who is yet to come. My favorite Psalm always has been and will most likely always continue to be Psalm 139. In the first 16 verses we read of His intimate awareness of and involvement in our lives.
"(1) O Lord, You have searched me and known me. (2) You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (3) You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (4) Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (5) You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (7) Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. (9) If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, (10) Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. (11) If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” (12) Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; (16) Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:1–16, NASB95)
Think about just this part of the psalm for a few minutes: You have searched and known; You know when; You understand; You scrutinize and are intimately acquainted; You know the word on my tongue before it is said; You have enclosed me; Your hand is on me; You are everywhere I am regardless of height or depth, light or dark; Darkness and light are alike to You; I am your wonderful work; I am skillfully wrought by You; Your eyes saw me before I ever was, and in Your book every single day of my lie was laid out before there was ever one of them.
This is how well our God knows us. He knows us from before to after, and there is nothing that isn’t known by Him. This can only be possible because our God exists outside of time, and He holds the fullness of time in His hands. And what seems like an eternity to us, is known by Him in the fullness of what really is eternity and He keeps it in perspective.
God does not panic. He is purposeful, and in this passage Peter reminds us of the great purpose behind anything that we might see as a delay. He wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that was lost. God knows every single one of those individuals, and has known them before there was ever one day to them as we read in Psalm 139. With this knowledge, He and He alone is knowledgeable and wise as to when to bring the waiting to an end. Consider the patience that He has shown to you over the years.
I know that He has been incredibly patient with me. I have messed up some many times and in so many ways, and yet He continues to love me, grow me, care for me, and use me. I may not understand the ways at times or even the delays, but I do understand that He has it fully in control. And, as weak as I am, I am called by Him to trust Him with every breath and every step to bring me exactly to where He wants. He knew me when I was a young boy and a bus would come into our Navy housing tract and pick us up and bring us to a midweek church program. He knew me when I was in high school and even took up Transcendental Meditation for a brief season in search of answers. And, His Spirit kept me on edge during this time such that I did not continue, but was opened to something else. He knew me the day I attended a church during my senior year of high school and heard the incredible message of Psalm 139 and just how much He really knew me and loved me. Christ could have returned at any time before that date, but God delayed. And, He is still delaying today as He knows every single person who has been chosen and is called by Him.
I don’t know where you are in this season, but I know that our God is present and He is powerful. Someday His Son will return, and until that time we will all continue to live a certain number of days after which we will be judged. The only difference maker is salvation in Christ, and Peter said that this is why Christ has yet to come.