Christians use this phrase a lot. We use it when something hasn’t happened in the time period we’d like or in the sequence we’d like. It’s a phrase that helps us bolster faith when our expectations of God aren’t fulfilled.
It’s a useful and encouraging phrase; but is it true?
We focused on 2 Peter 3:1-14 as our core text which teaches Christians how we should conduct ourselves until the 2nd coming of Christ. I believe that Peter’s teaching in this text has far more practical meaning in the daily lives of believers than predicting (or arguing about) the sequence of events that happen before or during Christ’s return.
A few verses in that section of scripture make statements about God’s timing that can have great effect on how Christians should expect to experience life on earth. Peter writes:
“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.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)
First, “Timing” Has a Godly Perspective
My days feel as though they come and go at a break-neck pace. I’ve noticed that everything seems to move faster as I get older. I gulp down blocks of time. Instead of counting minutes, I count hours and days. Life appears to spin as these spans pack on top of one another.
When Peter says the Lord’s single day is like 1000 years to us it creates two thoughts for me. Initially it makes my life feel like it’s spinning even faster. I think maybe I’ve prayed like the Psalmist:
“O Lord, make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Psalm 39:4 (ESV)
Our lives are truly fleeting. Our time on earth doesn’t just move fast. It’s a single strobe flash in a dark room to the Lord. In this light alone our lives aren’t just microscopic and swift, they are inconsequential and meaningless. How relevant could Jesus hold lives that happen so fast from His perspective?
Yet, I think there’s a converse thought here. In order to fully collect this thought, we have to try to combine our perspective with His. This is something most effectively done by faith in Him.
I realized the Lord’s movements in our “real time” seem especially slow and deliberate. I see that God may have only a few, if even more than one, milestone interactions with us in our lives. And these interactions with Him are anything but inconsequential or meaningless. God’s break through intersections in our lives change us forever. I’ve only had a few of these experiences, yet I know two things: 1. They were undoubtedly of God 2. They transformed my life forever.
If 1000 years is like a day to God, He’s had an extremely busy “few days” since Jesus ascended, not withstanding the amount of time since creation. Amazing to me is that inside God’s “days” are actually billions of people who’ve known or experienced Him. These are billions of lives revolutionized forever!
Second, God’s Motivation is Good
Peter is clear that God is not slow concerning what He’s promised us in His Word. God isn’t disorganized or emotionless. The Lord has a plan and He’s working this plan through the engine of the Gospel.
The goal of the plan is simple. God isn’t willing that any should perish. He wants everyone everywhere to have an opportunity to experience and know Him. He doesn’t want anyone to meet the finality of death.
God’s motivation for interacting and moving the way He does; for appearing slow and deliberate, is the salvation of souls. This should elevate Him from our viewing angle, because He’s behaving in the most excellent way with the highest degree of love.
He is a father who’s watching His children vigilantly. He knows their hearts and tendencies. He’s perfectly planning the appropriate time for each child to uniquely hear His voice the clearest and loudest. Why? For each child’s ultimate good.
All through Christ’s sacrifice. This is love.
Does God have timing?
From our point of view and in the way our brains understand timing; I think He does. Yet, we must understand that timelines and simple linear thinking are severely limited.
God intercepts us with great compassion. He steps into our lives with peace and wisdom we cannot wholly understand. He is brilliant; adept in the way He works. This transcends a timeline.
Gladly, His work will continue, in the same way, through His Church until Jesus returns. When that time comes, no one who’s ever lived will be able to say they don’t know the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All will say, that Jesus is the Lord to the Glory of God the Father. They will all recall the times when God intersected their lives. All will celebrate or mourn at their response to Him. (Romans 14:11-12, Philippians 10:9-11)
Peter’s teaching is for the Church to wait, patiently, for the Lord to finish His narrative. We are to conduct ourselves in tribute to Christ alone; spreading the Gospel, watching the signs and expecting His coming until this timeline ends.