As I have written before, about a hundred years after Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection (and probably earlier), the early church began to be concerned about the Second Coming of Jesus. Some expected this event to occur while Christians who had been alive during Christ’s ministry to still be alive when he came the second time. In any event, they did not expect the Second Coming to take a hundred years. The teachings of both Jesus and Paul seemed to assure early Christians that the Second Coming was imminent.
In Peter’s second letter, he addressed this concern: “Dear Friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised?'”(II Peter 3:1-4, NIV)
Then Peter tries to allay the concern of early Christians, sown at least in part by these scoffers. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (II Peter 3:8) It’s a good thing Peter inserted the language about a day being like a thousand years as far as the Lord is concerned, because he had just said that these scoffers are doing what they’re doing “in the last days.” If Peter had not qualified the meaning of a day, early Christians receiving Peter’s second letter would have still thought the Second Coming was just around the corner.
Peter goes on to write that at the Second Coming, Jesus will comes like a thief in the night, so be ready. Live holy and godly lives. He also writes something at least of equal importance: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
Some have wondered if this means that God changed his mind about the timing of the Second Coming. The Second Coming has certainly not been imminent. So far, it’s been 2,000 years or so. Sometimes, we still hear sermons about the Second Coming and the end of time, which, as Peter says, will bring destruction. Jesus will come quickly, catch us off guard, and impose firey punishment on those who aren’t ready.
But Peter says that’s not what God wants for his children. Instead, as noted above, Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
As we have discussed in several posts (some recent) God is a merciful God. He doesn’t want us to perish. He wants us to repent. He wants us to be saved. And he keeps waiting.