The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, now wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pet. 3:9).
Please allow me to skip my typical rambling and jump straight in (though if you would like an introduction, feel free to read the introduction to yesterday’s post and then come here).
The typical interpretation of this passage from the second letter of Peter is that God is not willing that anyone in the world who has ever lived should perish apart from Christ but that every person in the world should come to repentance. If this is true, this text is nestled quite precariously in a hostile context.
Before we come to this verse, we find the apostle exhorting the Church not to be discouraged by the seeming delay of the Lord’s Coming. We know that he is speaking to the Church because he calls them “beloved” in v. 3:1 and because he exhorts them to remember the predictions of the prophets and the commandment of their Lord and Savior (v. 3:2). He warns them that scoffers will come that will point out that the world in spite of Christ has continued just as it has since the Creation, but they deliberately ignore the fact that the world was destroyed by water in the days of Noah and that it will happen again, except this time it will be fire that destroys the ungodly (v. 3:4-6).
In the immediate context of v. 3:9, we find the apostle speaking of the Lord’s Return and how, to the Church, it seems a long time. Again the apostle demonstrates that he is speaking to the Church by calling them “beloved” in v. 3:8 and comforts them by telling them that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his Promise, for one day is as a thousand years to him and a thousand years is as one day. He then gives us phenomenal picture of the Coming of Christ:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed (v. 3:10).
It is within this context that we find the statement: “The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.” As we have already seen from the context, this “you” to whom he is speaking is the Church that is awaiting the Return of the Lord. The Lord’s patience towards the Church is manifested in his delayed Coming in order that none should perish but that all should reach repentance. This “none” and this “all” can be taken one of two ways—it can either be taken as none and all in the entire world at every point in time, or it can be taken as none and all in the Church. In the text it is quite clear that the latter option is the one that is to be taken.
What does it mean, then, that God delays his Return so that none in the Church should perish but that all should come to repentance? It means that God has a sovereign plan over the history of the world that has his saints providentially scattered all over its timeline. If the Lord were (this is theory, mind you) to return in the days of the Apostles, those who were elected by God before the foundation of the world in Christ Jesus who were to be born after this return would never exist though God had ordained that they exist (cf. Eph. 1). Also, if God were to Return before the fullness of his Church had come in, one who was ordained to come to repentance by the will of the Spirit the next day, would not come to repentance and would perish because of the Lord’s early return. Therefore, the apostle encourages the Church to be patient, for God has a sovereign plan over history and will not allow any of his saints to perish but will cause them all to come to repentance.
This text also demonstrates quite clearly that the Lord is willing that some should perish. The apostle mentions in v. 3:5 the event of the Great Flood in which many died and perished by the will of God apart from an opportunity to repent. Even now, God is willing that some should perish, for the apostle writes, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (v. 3:7). Within two verses of the text that supposedly demonstrates that God is not willing that anyone on earth should perish is the declaration that the heavens and earth are being kept for that very purpose.
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study