But do not let this one fact escape your notice, 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 patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NASB)
Previously in Scripture, God’s eternal nature has been expressed in a forward direction. Ps 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (NIV) This is expressed in human terms to emphasize that time passes quickly for God. However, as Peter expressed it, time can also pass slowly for Him. Again, this is put in human terms. If we examine this closely, we will understand that God is really outside of time. Time does not pass for Him. The beginning of creation is just as current to Him as the end. Every part of history and every part of the future is “now” to Him.
We can’t understand the concept of existence without time. When we speak of eternity, our minds think about living forever. We still think in terms of time. God says that we can’t really understand it. Eccl 3:11b He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (NIV) We think of time, life, existence as a string. It has a starting point and an ending point. I imagine that eternity is more like a soap bubble floating in the air. Always changing but no beginning or ending point. Perhaps God has stretched a string on that bubble that He calls time. As the bubble swirls and changes that string will disappear and no longer exist. In the mean time, we live our lives as if the string were the only thing that exists. We cannot fathom the rest of the bubble – eternity where God lives.
God’s eternality can’t be separated from His sovereignty, His omniscience, or His omnipotence. Isa 46:10-11 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. (NIV) He puts everything in terms we can understand, speaking of beginnings and ends. Not only does God know what will happen in the future, but He is also the one that makes sure it will happen since that is His plan.
We are usually comfortable thinking that God can cause animals to do what He wants as the bird of prey in the verse above. However, we often object to the thought that He gets people to do what He wants unless they know Him. There are many examples in the Bible where people accomplished His will without knowing it. Joseph’s brother sold him into slavery in Egypt in their desire to get rid of him. They were carrying out their own wicked schemes, but what did Joseph say about it? Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (NIV) Joseph’s brother didn’t have any idea that they were actually doing what God wanted.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the exodus from Egypt would occur as He promised. The people in Canaan fought against Joshua because it was God’s will. Josh 11:20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses. (NIV)
This brings us to the point of considering God’s patience. When we don’t understand His ways, it is easy to say that He isn’t keeping His promise. When Jesus doesn’t come back when we expect, we have to remember that He has a very specific reason. He knows exactly who is going to be saved from the beginning to the end. Eph 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ … (NIV) If God is delaying the time of Jesus’ return, it is only because there are still people who need to be saved.
They may not even be born yet, but He knows them as if they were alive today. Jer 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (NIV) Jeremiah had a specific job to do as a prophet of God. If God knew him before he was born, doesn’t it make sense that He knows each of us? If He had a plan for Jeremiah, doesn’t it also make sense He has a plan for us?
There is also a paradox in Peter’s statement. Peter says that God wants everyone to come to repentance and be saved. Yet it is clear that many people reject God and are not saved. This is a mystery that has no answer on our little string. If I could see the bubble, and someday I will, I would be able to understand. For know I know this. He saved me and it isn’t because of anything I did. I don’t deserve it. Because of this, I worship and adore Him.
Others are not saved. Some even use what I’ve said here to justify their rejection of God. But God is patient, He is waiting and He can wait longer than we can. What He has said still is true. John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (NIV) Regardless of our ability to understand, when we believe in Jesus, we will be saved. We will have jumped off the string onto the bubble even if we can’t see it or even understand it.