SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
And in this passage, the Church continues Her traditional Advent emphasis on eschatology...on the doctrine of end time and the doctrine of the end of the world.
And in this case, the Church pulls one of the most explicit passages from the New Testament about how the world will end and also that the world—that we know it now, this visible world—when it ends, will not simply be dissolved but that it will be renewed and that there will be a new world, a new creation...or to use the biblical language, a new heavens and a new earth. So let’s look at this very important passage from 2 Peter chapter 3 on the end of the world and the new creation. So 2 Peter 3, verse 8-14 says this:
But do not ignore 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 about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Alright, so what’s this describing here? Well, this is clearly a detailed description of the end of the world and the beginning of the new world, the new creation. And there are several elements to Peter’s teaching about eschatology in this passage that demand our attention. The first one is the question of what is famously in modern times been referred to as the “delay” of the parousia
—the apparent delay of the final coming of Jesus and the coming of Christ in judgment at the end of time.
And so there’s a debate about exactly how widespread this was, but there is very clear evidence in the New Testament that Jesus’ teachings on the imminence of His coming—the fact that He’s coming soon—led some Christians to believe that it would happen within their own lifetimes, within the first decades of the early Church. For example, at the end of the Gospel of John, you might recall that it tells us that some of the brethren—some of the believers—when Jesus spoke to the beloved disciple and says:
“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:22)
I’m sorry—when He said that to Peter, the rumor spread that the beloved disciple wouldn’t die until Jesus had returned. So it kind of reflects an implicit assumption that the parousia
is going to take place within the lifetime of the apostles. So as the decades pass...and the thirties pass, then the forties pass, then the fifties, and now you’re getting into the sixties, which is when Peter is martyred (sometime in the mid-sixties). Some Christians appear to have been saying, “What happened to the promise of the coming of Christ?”
And so in this letter, in 2 Peter, it’s addressing that question by pointing out that first and foremost that God does not see time the way that we see time. He doesn’t see it from the same vantage point. So he says:
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Here Peter is actually quoting from a psalm—a very Jewish thing to do if you want to make a statement, a theological statement, you quote from the book of Psalms, which is very familiar. So if you go back to Psalm 90, verse 4-5, he’s taking the language of Psalm 90, and if you want to understand how he’s using it, just go back and look at the context. In Psalm 90, verse 4, it says:
For a thousand years in thy sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream,
like grass which is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
Okay, so what’s the point there? That although a thousand years might seem long to us, from God’s vantage point—from the perspective of eternity—it’s like a watch in the night. It’s like a couple of hours. That’s the different watches they would have throughout the night.
So what Peter is doing is basically relativizing the vantage point of people who think God is slow. So yes, several decades have passed since the death of Jesus, but to God several decades are like the blink of an eye. It might seem long to us, but it’s not long from the perspective of eternity.
So that's the first point that whenever we feel...or whenever human beings experience, it seems like God is taking a “long time” to respond in whatever situation it might be, it’s important to keep in mind that God looks at time from a vantage point that’s very different from ours. So what seems so long to us is nothing to Him.
The second point that 2 Peter is making here is that God is not slow about the promise but that the reason—this is very important. The reason the second coming hasn’t happened yet—the reason the final judgment hasn’t happened yet—is not because God is slow, but because He’s patient with humanity. He’s forbearing with us, because He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but He wants everyone to reach repentance.
So the second doctrinal point is fascinating here that 2 Peter is making...is that the apparent “delay” of the parousia
is actually an act of mercy on God’s part. It’s a sign of God’s patience, because the more time He gives humanity, the more time there is for individual human beings to repent and be saved. Because once judgment comes, everyone at that moment, that judgment will be definitive and final. There’s not going to be any chance for repentance after the end of the world or after the final judgment. The judgment that’s rendered on the last day is definitive and irrevocable. It’s irreformable, so to speak. So whereas now, as long as we’re living in time, people have a chance to repent and to turn.
Now of course the qualification is there that if the end of your
world happens, i.e. through death, you have the particular judgment to make. So that’s also going to be irreformable and definitive. But here Peter is speaking collectively about the apparent collective
delay of the judgment of all humanity and the end of the world.
Okay, third...with that said, as soon as he mentions the apparent delay, he also hastens to add the teaching of the imminence of the end.
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