WHAT DOES 2 PETER 3:8 MEAN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Exactly what does this mean? Opinions aside, to the Holy Word of God!
There are two common views about 2 Peter 3:8. Firstly, some have tried to use it to interpret the book of Genesis. Secondly, some have tried to predict the time of Jesus’ return to Earth in wrath. We will discuss these two issues, looking at some verses, and then we will conclude by discussing what 2 Peter 3:8 really means.
2 PETER 3:8 IS NOT A REFERENCE TO CREATION
When people want to partly harmonize the 13.7-billion-year timeline of Big-Bang/Evolutionary Theory with the Book of Genesis, they often pair those creation verses with 2 Peter 3:8… At least the first part anyway!
It is said that since Peter wrote “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” then each “day” of Genesis chapter 1 is assumed to be a 1,000-year period rather than a 24-hour period. So, it is then suggested that it took God 6,000 years to create our universe, roughly 6,000 years ago. While this explanation does not fully agree with secular dates (actually way off), it at least generally agrees with an “older earth” (earth being 12,000 years old). Such a belief at least divorces Bible-critics from that strict literal Bible interpretation that keeps them believing what they want.
Firstly, we need to understand that 2 Peter 3:8 contains similes: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day.” The Bible did not say, “One day with the Lord equals a thousand years, and a thousand years equals one day.” Peter is proving his point by making comparisons: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Furthermore, now you can see why people only quote the first part of this verse. The second part says, “And a thousand years as one day.” To make those “days” each a 1,000 years long is to make each 1,000 year-period the length of a day. This demonstrates there is no solid Bible understanding with this methodology 2 Peter 3:8. The “Day-Agers” hold a self-defeating position. Notice: If 1 day = 1000 years, then the converse is also true (1000 years = 1 day):
1st day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
2nd day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
3rd day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
4th day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
5th day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
6th day of creation = 1000 years = 1 day of creation
Again, the left and the right equal each other. Making days equal millennia is to make the millennia into days once again. This is nonsense. It shows us that this is not the way to properly handle 2 Peter 3:8. We will look analyze 2 Peter 3:8 later. For now, just notice what the rest of the Bible says about the “days” of the Creation Week.
Exodus 20:8-11 proves conclusively that the length of the “days” of Genesis chapter 1 were 24-hour periods and not indefinite periods of time: “ Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
In the fourth of the Ten Commandments, Israel was instructed to work six days and rest on the Sabbath, just as the LORD worked six days and rested on the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3). What Jew worked 6,000 years? Who worked 6,000,000 years? What about 6,000,000,000 years? Ridiculous! Genesis 1 defines “day” six times: “And the evening and the morning were the … day” (verses 5,8,13,19,23,31). One evening and one morning equal what? Only a 24-hour period!
Some argue against this by saying since the sun was not made until Genesis 1:14-16, the verses previous could not refer to a 24-hour period. We refute that contention with the fact that God could know the exact length of a 24-hour period without the sun being there to serve as a way to measure the time. The Bible is quite clear that God created the heaven and the earth, and all the life forms therein in 144 hours, or six consecutive 24-hour periods. If someone persists in arguing at this point, they are fools. Let them go quarrel with the clear evidence found in God’s Word.
2 PETER 3:8 IS NOT A PROPHETIC TIMELINE
Another abuse of 2 Peter 3:8 is to repeat the error of some “prophecy preachers.” They have used the verse as some sort of calendar to predict Jesus’ return.
Several years ago, Harold Camping asserted that God’s judgment would occur exactly 7000 years after the Great Flood of Noah’s day. He argued if God gave a seven-day warning before the flood of Noah came (see Genesis 7:4), then God was somehow hinting that judgment would occur exactly 7,000 years after the Great Flood. According to Camping, Peter’s words of “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8) refers to God judging the world exactly 7,000 years from the time of the Great Flood of Noah’s day. As it turns out, that date was (allegedly) May 21, 2011. Of course, there was no divine judgment in 2011. There was no Second Coming of Jesus. There was no Rapture. Harold Camping’s claims were nothing but a fraud, a hoax, a publicity stunt to generate donations. It was certainly not of the God of the Bible. Because of such foolishness, Christianity (again) became the laughingstock of the world.
WHAT DOES 2 PETER 3:8 MEAN, THEN?
Friend, in case you have not noticed, our world is always searching for peace. It is said if we could eliminate anything and everything “religious” and “spiritual,” our world would be peaceful. Others say we should meet and converse with heads-of-state, and make many peace treaties to ensure international tranquility. Africa and the Middle East are ravaged by war and destruction, ever so desperate for peace from centuries- or millennia-long conflicts. The suffering these poor people are facing make even some Christians wonder how can God just keeps letting it continue. We can rest assured that God is not “sitting around in heaven in a recliner,” taking pleasure in what mankind has done to His once-perfect world.
In His own time, He will consummate it all: we cannot rush Him because He knows best. First Timothy chapter 6: “ That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;  Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
Beloved, we will never even partially fathom the depths of God’s longsuffering. Even in the Apostle Peter’s day, nearly 20 centuries ago, the scoffers (unbelievers) kept asking how long before Jesus Christ would return and wipe them out. We read in 2 Peter 3:8-9: “ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Once God gets angry, whether one day later or 1000 years later, His wrath is still undiminished, until it is poured out in just as much fury as if He had never waited. But, today, God is withholding that wrath. When He unleashes that wrath, it will be undiluted, undiminished. While we get angry and eventually get over it, God’s anger never dissipates until His wrath enforces His righteousness. Oh, may we not take this Dispensation of Grace for granted!
In verses 15 and 16, Peter reminded his audience that the Apostle Paul had the answers to Christ’s delay—He was waiting for more people to be saved into the Church the Body of Christ: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;…” May we never take God’s peace in and through Christ for granted, for one day, He will withdraw it from this world, and replace it with His wrath!
It has been 2,000 years since God’s Word has been promising Jesus Christ’s return in wrath, and it is easy for people to conclude, “It has been so long that it probably will not come anyway. Maybe God was just bluffing from the very beginning.” (This was the claim of the scoffers in 2 Peter 1:16 and 2 Peter 3:3-5.) Just like in the natural world, if someone waits years before retaliating or getting even as promised, there is less apprehension. The more time that passes, the more likely we are inclined to believe nothing will happen. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Certainly, God is not so fickle as we and our emotions. Once He says it, you can bet everything you have that it will come to pass. It may take Him a few days or thousands of years, but He will bring it to pass in His own time. He has a schedule and we cannot rush Him. The Lord is not “slack,” unreliable, untrustworthy. He just works on a different time-frame than we do. It works to the sinner’s advantage that God in His grace delays the wrath prophecy says is still on its way as I write and as you read!