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
Peter makes a statement, almost offhand, that one day is as a thousand years. It’s unexpected although in context it makes perfect sense. It’s important not to misunderstand Peter’s point and make this into something that it is not.
Peter does not that one day literally equals one day. We know this because of the way Scripture uses the word day in other passages. For example, the Bible says in Genesis 11:26: “When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” If Peter is taken literally, then Kenan was 25,550,000 years old when Abram was born (70 years x 365 days per year x 1000). In Psalm 90:10, using the same formula, the days of our lives are 25,550,000 years. Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would go into captivity for 25,550,000 years. They would still be there! “One day is as a thousand years” is not to be understood literally.
One Day is as a Thousand Years is Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a writing technique common to the Bible and common speech. Someone may ask the age of someone else. You might reply, “he’s as old as dirt!” You don’t mean that literally, you are saying that he is very old.
Mark says of John the Baptist that “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem” were going to be baptized (Mark 1:5). Surely not every person was going out. Mark is emphasizing that many people were traveling to be baptized by John.
In 2 Peter 3, “One day is as a thousand years” serves to illustrate and highlight Peter’s following statement:
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 3:9
Peter wants the hearers, and the scoffers (vs. 3), to understand that God does not operate on their schedule. God’s time is not our time. The hyperbole emphasizes Peter’s point.
One Day is as a Thousand Years Makes Perfect Sense
Taken in context we observe the following.
- Some do not believe judgment is coming because it hasn’t happened yet.
- Their justification for such a statement is the claim that nothing has changed since long ago.
- Peter reminds them of the great flood; a waterborne judgment that looks toward the coming firey judgment yet to come.
- It hasn’t come because God is not on man’s schedule, indeed “one day is as a thousand years.”
- God may seem to delay only because of his patience toward men and his desire that all will repent.
When taken in its context, the statement as hyperbole becomes very clear. Nothing in the text suggests that it should be understood in any other way.
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