Thursday, July 8, 2010

II Peter 3:8 God’s Eternal Purposes Part I

My family just returned from vacation. We visited my family and my wife’s family over the 4th of July holiday. Now, the drive to my folks house from where I live is about 7.5 hours even if you drive “under grace, not under the law”. My kids take that trip much better than I took the drive to my maternal grandmother’s house, which was only about an hour and a half. I can, to this day, remember nagging my parents with barrages of Are We There, Yet’s. My perception of time was different then than it is now. Of course, when we consider God and His existence, we should remember as Peter tells us in this verse, that God’s perspective of time is not our perspective. As we examine the judgment Peter teaches about in this chapter, we would do well to consider that.

First of all, Peter has already taught us that, while they assert that God has never judged the world, it “escapes their notice” (v 5) that God has in fact judged the world. Furthermore, God has reveled that there is a judgment coming and if He did it before He’ll certainly do it again. The point that Peter makes here, then, is linked to his statement refuting their senseless claim. I think Peter is providing them ammunition as they are confronted with these mockers of the gospel and their mockery of God’s word so that they will be able to stand on the truth rather than being misled by false teaching. The truth of God’s word “escape[s] [the] notice” of these false teachers, but Peter says here that the true believers should not “let this one fact escape your notice”. In other words, this truth is essential. Don’t ignore it or neglect it. After reminding them in verse 2 to continue studying Scripture (and, just as an aside, he equates the New Testament [“the commandments of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles”] with the Old Testament [“the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets”]—in other words it is equally authoritative and inspired), Peter points out a particular truth to these Christians that is applicable to the claims of the false teachers.

Peter, alluding to Psalm 90:4, tells his readers that for God “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day”. Now, there is speculation as to what exactly Peter meant here by some people. People who do not believe in a literal 1,000 year period in Revelation 20:1-6, a view called “amillennialism”, see Peter as giving some kind of clue that the one thousand years mentioned in Revelation is not to be taken literally. However, I don’t think that is what Peter or the psalmist had in mind at all. Time doesn’t exist for God. We are finite beings—we have a beginning and an end. God, however, does not. I would submit to you that God exists outside of time (and I know this is going to sound all Star Trek) because He created time. In Genesis 1:1, we read “In the beginning, God…” What beginning? It can’t be the beginning of the universe, because it was after the beginning that God “created the heavens and the earth”. The “beginning”, then, is the beginning of time—the succession of one moment after another. Now, God existed before that “beginning”. Therefore, God exists outside of time. We can’t conceive of existence outside of time.

We don’t have any way to imagine moments not coming one after another. Therefore, when we see 2,000 years have passed since Christ was resurrected, we wonder “How much longer?” However, time has not passed for God. So from His perspective, there will have been no waiting from the time Christ ascended into heaven and when He comes back to take us to heaven with Him. The mockers, therefore, take this period of time as proof that God isn’t going to judge the world when, in fact, God doesn’t operate with the constraints of our space-time continuum (See, I told you it was gonna get all Star Trek-y). God is in control of time, space, and everything in it. As a result, when He executes His judgment on His timetable, it will be perfect.

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