2 Peter 3:9 Explained

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.
The word ‘you’ in this passage [“but is patient toward you”] is translated mostly ‘us’ or ‘we’ and in one verse ‘our’. But who is the “all”? Does this passage mean that God is patient and expects everyone who ever lived to come to repentance?
How long is God willing to wait? Doesn’t God know already who is going to repent?
Many people want this passage to say that God is being patient with individuals, all individuals, and giving them time to repent because He wants to give them a chance to take Him up on His free offer.
Please don’t be delicate, that idea is baloney. At least as far as this verse goes. The patience God is showing is in His waiting to return. Look at it in context:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

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.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Now let us apply that idea to all individuals who have lived and died, which we will call SET A, and if He tarries in His coming, all who are alive today and will die before he comes, which we will call SET B. What then has His second coming have to do with their repentance? SET A has already died. God did not keep them alive until they repented did He? Well some of them which we will call the ELECT of SET A, these He kept alive until they repented. But what has that to do with His second coming? Absolutely nothing. The rest of SET A died in their sins, God was not patient enough with them it seems!
What about those alive today who will die if the Lord tarries? Does he keep them alive until they repent? Well, some of them He does, and we will call them the ELECT of SET B. These He keeps alive until they repent. But again, what has that to do with the second coming of the Lord? Again, absolutely nothing. The rest of SET B will die in their sin. Again, God didn’t keep them alive long enough to come to repentance.
So why then are my brothers in Christ using this verse to speak of God’s desire to save all individual sinners? My guess is that interpretation fits their idea of God. Now I am not here to argue for or against that idea of God [I am against it], but to point out that 2nd Peter 3:9 does not say or even try to say what they argue it does. IT does NOT say that God is patient towards every sinner who ever lived and desires their salvation. IT JUST DON”T!!!
What then is it saying?
Peter is speaking of the last days. There will be mockers mocking the idea that Jesus is returning. Why is that a problem? We are a people of hope. We are a people of the promise that gives us hope. We are a people who turn from this world and the pleasures therein and rather suffer as we wait for the world to come -the world to come which starts on the return of Jesus. Our Gospel also speaks to His return as one of condemnation and judgment for those who reject God and lust after sin. So they keep on sinning and we keep on suffering year after year, decade after decade, century after century. So we wait and endure their mocking.
But why is He waiting? Why doesn’t he just come and shut up their mocking mouths?
To answer that, let me start from the beginning of Peter’s letters.
In 1st Peter 1 we read:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
Peter is writing to the elect exiles. Peter has no idea how long the Lord will tarry. All Peter knows is that the angel told him this:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Peter then had an expectation that he would see Jesus come back the same way He left. Peter was looking forward to the Lord’s return. Peter was watching and waiting as he lived in the last days and listened to those around him mock his belief that Jesus was coming back.
Now if you are like me, you are hoping that there are some loved ones who the Lord might yet save. Maybe you are praying for a spouse, or a sibling, or your lost children. Maybe you too are waiting and watching for the Lord’s return and hoping that He tarries until He saves those you love. And Peter has great affection for these exiles he is writing to for he says t the beginning of chapter 3:
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
See, he calls them beloved. He cares about them. He carries their cries and prayers to the Lord in his own prayers. He tells them to cast their cares upon Jesus who cares for them. And he knows they too hear the mockers derision. And he wants to give them hope. So he tells them: 

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.

The KJV says slack instead of slow. God is not slow nor clack. God has a plan and He is carrying it out. Time has no advantage over God. He sees the end from the beginning and he knows all things, even those things which have not yet occurred. So while the mockers take aim at us for His slowness thinking that the passage of time proves our idiocy in believing, Peter wants to reassure us that God is in control and is getting it done.
God isn’t being patient with all the mockers wishing they might get saved. God KNOWS exactly whom HE will save. Salvation is all of God and none of man. God isn’t sitting around hoping maybe if He doesn’t come back so soon, maybe, oh maybe more will be saved. NO No NOPE!
God is being patient because His plan is perfect. God is no slave of time. Time is doing His bidding. He isn’t rushing His perfect plan simply to shut up the mockers. Their day most certainly come unless He has mercy on them. Peter is speaking to the beloved, the elect. He is telling us that God is waiting for us all to come to repentance. Listen to how Paul puts it: 
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
And when the fulness of the gentiles has come in and God shows mercy to Israel and brings them to repentance, then the end will come and the Lord will return.
So back in 2nd Peter 3, Peter continues:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;
Peter tells us what the end of those mockers is to be and then spurns us on to holy living as we look to the 2nd coming of the Lord. We are to regard the patience of the Lord as salvation. Now you could read that idea of salvation is for those already saved being found in peace spotless and blameless due to their own diligence or you could see it as the salvation of the rest of the elect as we live holy and blameless lives despite the mockers and as we wait God’s perfect plan top unfold bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles and the remnant of Israel.
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2 comments

  1. gracewriterrandy

    Mike,

    Good thoughts. It always amazes me how people with a handful of proof-texts wrenched from their context are willing to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture in clear passages. We must always remember to ask about what questions are being answered in a given text. Is Peter, in this passage, discussing the doctrine of God’s decree, or is there another issue? As I think you have made clear, the issue here is why God does not immediately zap these scoffers. If he had done so, there would have been no space for the elect to have been born, much less come to repentance. And, the issue is clearly not coming to repentance but “having space for repentance.”

    I have no difficulty with the idea that God has published his desire that all repent. I doubt he would command people to do something he didn’t want them to do. But, that is an issue of his holy character, not of his decree. Being holy, he cannot but desire that his creatures be holy. The Bible makes it abundantly clear to us that God always accomplishes his decreed will. This verse, whatever it means, cannot contradict that clearly revealed truth. My point is, we cannot pick and choose which verses we are going to believe and which we are going to ignore. Whatever their proof-texts mean, they cannot contradict the clear teaching of Scripture in doctrinal passages in which the writer focused on a particular doctrine specifically. It is time for some of these folks to interact with verses like Eph. 1:11. The god they worship is a benevolent well-wisher, but he is not the God of the Bible.

  2. gracewriterrandy

    Mike,

    One of your points reminded me of a tract I read years ago entitled “Arminianism Cuts Its Own Throat” by A. W. Pink. Are we really to believe Peter intended to say God is waiting patiently for the repentance of those whose recalcitrant unbelief he has already foreseen? That seems a bit lame. Even if he had no control over the the salvation process, we should at least acknowledge that he knows what will happen. This reminds me of that abominable song that Jesus is waiting, “to see if you are willing to open the door.” Let’s at least give him credit for knowing.

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