Straight Outta Context: 2 Peter 3:8
A day is like a thousand years to God, so when God created the world, it could have taken Him thousands of years.
First, I want to note that this is not going to be a blog post about the age of the earth. I believe the Bible is quite clear that the earth is only a few days (24-hour periods) older than man.
This blog post looks only to put this verse back into its proper context. The passage in question is 2 Peter 3:8, which reads:
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
So what is the context of this passage? Peter is putting some things into their remembrance. He wants them to know that people will doubt whether or not Christ is actually going to come back. Let us begin our study in the first verse:
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in [both] which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance...(2 Peter 3:1)
Recall that he already wrote First Peter to these people, and we will see later that it hadn’t been too long since they had received that first letter. Here he says that he is reminding them of something they had already heard.
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour...(2 Peter 3:2)
"The holy prophets" likely has reference to the Old Testament prophets, and perhaps has reference even to the New Testament prophets (cf. Eph. 3:1-5). He is reminding them of the prophets who spoke before and gave warning for the people.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts...(2 Peter 3:3)
It is my opinion that this phrase “last days” has to do with the Christian dispensation (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:1-2). So, during the Christian dispensation, notice what will happen:
He says that first there will be scoffers, walking after their own lusts. Without getting into a full discussion on how scoffers have walked upon this earth since time began, this has reference to a specific kind of scoffer. These scoffers will cast doubt on the fact that Christ is going to come again!
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.(2 Peter 3:4)
These scoffers think, “Well, all things are just continuing as they have always continued. I mean, night follows day, spring comes, then summer, then fall, then winter… and all things continue just as they always have.”
These scoffers proudly proclaim that nothing has changed; it is always the same, and so they conclude: “Well, that just goes to show that the Lord is not coming.” After all, He hasn’t come all these many years. Things have always been the same—so, maybe He is just not coming.
But notice Peter’s reply to their thinking:
For this they willingly are ignorant of...(2 Peter 3:5)
In the original Greek, this is a very harsh phrase. He is not saying that they are just ignorant of something, or that they simply do not know. In this case, they are choosing to be ignorant. They don’t want to know the truth. They would rather receive a lie than the truth. As I heard one preacher put it, “They are stupid on purpose.” They are intentionally foolish.
So, Peter says no! Things have not always continued as they are.
Notice what these people are choosing to be ignorant of:
...that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water...
The American Standard Version puts it like this:
For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God...
Notice the general time period he is referencing: Genesis 1.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.(Genesis 1:6-8)
So there was a division of the waters. "Firmament," of course, is sky, so it appears that there was water, then sky above the water, and then water above that. Some have suggested a water vapor canopy. However, that is beyond our discussion for this article.
But notice what happened in Genesis 7:
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.(Genesis 7:11, 12)
There had been no rain upon the earth up to this point, according to Genesis 2:5. Yet, comparing the world that was in existence from Genesis 1 to the world after the global flood, much had changed.
So Peter reminds them:
that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished...(2 Peter 3:5, 6)
"Whereby," that is, by the word of God! So, first of all, by the Word of God the earth and the waters were created. But also, at the very word of God, the flood came upon the earth, and forever changed it.
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.(2 Peter 3:7)
The phrase “kept in store” shows that He is keeping it—holding it in. But what is He holding back? Judgment by fire. Just as before Noah’s day, the waters had been kept in store and held back for judgment.
Peter says that just as back then He kept in store the waters of the flood before the judgment, now God is keeping in store a second judgment. So when time is done, this earth will be destroyed by fire.
The scoffers say, “Well, where is the promise of his coming? He has not judged us yet, so He isn’t coming." And in their minds, they have deceived themselves into thinking that God is not going to judge them. They have escaped! They say things have always been like they are now, and this is how things always will be.
But Peter says that simply is not so! There were waters above the earth that aren’t there any more. The Earth was destroyed by water, and these people know it, but they are happy to be blind about it.
With that as the backdrop, now we come to the verse in question.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.(2 Peter 3:8)
Now we need to understand this statement in its context.
Recall the scoffers' argument back in verse 4:
Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.
They were basically saying, “Look how much time has passed, and He still hasn’t come again." But Peter essentially says, "Wait! I need to remind you of something: that a thousand years to God is nothing. To a God who never had a beginning, and will never have an end, what is a thousand years? It’s like nothing." It is like a day. It is nothing to the God of eternity.
These scoffers think that since it has been so long, that God has forgotten about judgment. But Peter says, "You'd better understand this: He hasn’t forgotten; it is still fresh in His mind, as if He had said it yesterday. Because God does not forget no matter how much time goes by."
Peter is not giving some idea here that the creation took God thousands of years, as some would have it. To claim such is to pull words out of context and make them say what you want them to mean, and that is not what Peter is saying here at all.
Peter is stating that God’s promises are true, whether he made them yesterday or 10,000 years ago. He has not forgotten, and will not forget. Now Peter strengthens his argument even further:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness...(2 Peter 3:9)
God has not just forgotten about the judgment. So, Peter, why then has so much time gone by?
...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The reason God has allowed this much time to pass is because of His longsuffering, and His desire for all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3-4). He then begins his discussion of the final day, the day that judgment will happen.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.(2 Peter 3:10)
Just as in Noah’s day, there will be no warning besides God’s messengers preaching the truth! The earth and all in it will be burned up, and then comes the judgment of Christ.
Friends, when shown in proper context, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with the time period of the creation of mankind. To try to use this passage to prove that we can’t trust God’s word is a gross misuse of scripture.
Though this article is not meant to prove anything about the specific amount of time that God’s creation took, the fact is that Exodus 20:11 tells us the amount of time in which God created everything! I pray that now we understand that 2 Peter 3:8 is not discussing original days of creation.