You’ll be happy to be reminded that about 1000 years ago the Chinese were the first to use gunpowder in battle, the Norman conquest of England began, and Vikings were in the Americas. Obviously, a lot more was going on back then – kings reigning, empires falling, births and deaths, and a lot of normal, everyday people and living. Most of it is unrecorded and lost to history. You’re thinking, “So what? It’s a thousand years ago after all! Why does this matter?” It’s interesting to think about the meaning of a thousand years because, while it is a lot to us, it’s not a lot to God.
“…do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 NKJV)
Second Peter 3:8 has been misunderstood by a lot of people. It’s not a formula for calculating Biblical prophecies (days do NOT equal 1000 years and vice versa). And it’s not saying that sometimes God means one thing, but He changes what He means another time – in fact it means just the opposite! Second Peter 3 is talking about the certainty of God’s promise that Jesus will come again and judge the world. As time passes, “scoffers will come” (3:3) and say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (3:4).
We get caught up in time and it distracts us from God’s nature and ability to keep His promises. A thousand years is a long time for us. Two thousand years since Jesus was here and promised to return seems incredibly long to us. But the Spirit has Peter remind us that God isn’t bound by time like we are. That’s the meaning of “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
This isn’t a lame attempt at excusing God’s slowness or failure. If God is truly God, then He exists beyond and outside our experience and dimension. The Scriptures are claiming that God isn’t physical, but created and controls what is physical. Not only does that mean that God is bigger and stronger than what is physical, but it means that He isn’t bound by things we usually link to the physical world – and that includes time. Not being bound by time, being timeless, includes the idea that God is eternal (always has been, always will be, and does not age). But it also means that He is only “in” time when dealing with us and our world. It’s hard to imagine because we are so bound by time, but it is helpful to try to stretch ourselves in thinking of God in this way.
This is helpful in understanding how God can make prophecy possible. God can know all things that will happen because He is timeless. God’s plans can always work out according to His will because God is, in some sense God is already in the future. But more to the point of 2 Peter 3, God’s promises are certain to be fulfilled because God knows the future and time has no meaning as to whether it will or will not be fulfilled.
If your friend promises something, but a lot of time (maybe years) pass and they don’t do it, it is natural to doubt they will keep their promise. But we need to fight this inclination with God, reminding ourselves that God is infinitely different. He is not like us. He is not in our world with its time and measurements. It is certain: “…the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…” (2 Pe 3:10). “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be…” (3:11).