Peter tells his readers in 2 Pet 3.8,9:
“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.” (ESV)
We have already been told things to remember and things to know, what scoffers are like, what scoffers say and how scoffers think. A critical issue in the modern secular worldview–the one embraced by the very people Peter is describing in this chapter–is the cavalier dismissal of the of the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood as mythical at best or moronic at worst. But Peter says they “deliberately overlook” these things so that they can convince themselves that “the present is the key to the past”–and therefore that Christ is neither our eternal Creator nor our returning Judge.
In the verses above, Peter warns, “Don’t you make the same mistake.” He uses the identical verb, “overlook” in exhorting his readers to understand what the scoffers refuse to understand. The gap between the promise and the reality of Christ’s return is not due to the fact that everything is as everything was. Regardless of all theories to the contrary, the world that existed before the Flood of Noah’s day exists no more. Natural processes in geology, meteorology and even biology were irrevocably altered by the first worldwide judgment by water.
The gap between the promise and the reality of Christ’s return is due instead to the love and forbearance of God, Who is eternal and unaffected by the passage of time. He is not unaffected, however, by the lost condition of people, and is patient toward us, desiring that all people repent of their sins (change direction) so they will not perish, as all but eight people did in the Flood.
When I was a child, our family vacationed each summer at a cabin in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. My father, a distinguished and well-dressed man, always took his oldest clothes to the cabin and we would sometimes conduct a ceremonial burning of these garments in the wood stove before we left. They were too tattered to be repaired and too dirty to be cleaned, so we did the logical thing. We burned them. Peter tells us in the rest of this chapter that God will do the same thing with the earth as we know it, and will create new heavens and a new earth “where righteousness dwells.” (vv. 10-13)
Righteousness is the crucial consideration here. God the Creator is holy, and He demands that we, whom He created in His image, be holy as well. (1 Pet 1.16) But we’re not, and never can be, unless we receive the very righteousness of God by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. God judged Him so He would not have to judge us:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5.21, ESV)
If you’re one of the scoffers Peter identifies in this chapter, you need to understand that Christ hasn’t returned yet because He’s waiting for you–to acknowledge your sinfulness, to admit you want to live independently of Him, and to trust Christ alone to be saved from your just condemnation as a rebel against the Most High God. Shaking your fist in His face does not intimidate Him. Acting like He isn’t there does not change a thing. All the scientific hypotheses you can come up with will not make Him go away, and one day you will stand before Him and face the music.
But Peter doesn’t let Christians off the hook. Knowing what he has just taught us, he says, should dramatically affect the way we live:
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the day of God… Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. [There’s that righteousness thing again.] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Pet 3.11, 14-15a, 17-18 ESV)
The present is not the key to the past. The past is the key to the present. And the future.
The image of the hourglass is from MONOCHROME, a Dutch website where you can see some incredible timepieces.