The word of the day is “slowness.” The Lord has promised to return in glory to judge the world and reign over a new heaven and a new earth. Today’s reading of 2 Peter 3:1-18 answers scoffers who question whether the Word of the Lord will occur since it has not happened yet. To rebuff their arguments, Peter says that the cynics are asking the wrong question. He writes that the most important thing is to answer, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (vs. 11). We cannot know the day or hour of the Lord’s coming. Yet, we can only look forward to it in faith and conform ourselves and our lives to its hope.
The Apostles’ Words Are Scripture
The apostle first lays the foundation of his response to the doubters of the Second Coming. He reminds them and us to be “mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (vs. 2). Note that the apostle puts the “commandments of us the apostles” on the same level of authority with the prophets. In the Greek text, the word “commandment” means an injunction or admonition given with authority (Strong’s #1785, 89). Because the term “commandments” appears in parallel with the prophetic writings of the Scriptures, we can say that the term has a wider meaning than specific commands. It refers to the teachings of the apostles. Both of these have the status of Scripture, the Word of God.
The Word of God Has Already Proven True
To those who deny the Second Coming, Peter points out that God’s Word has already proven true. At the time of Noah, God sent a flood that destroyed “the world that then existed” (vs. 6). If the Almighty obliterated the known world then, He can and will do it again. But this time, he will annihilate by fire (vs. 10). Therefore, those who scorn the Word of God make themselves liable to judgment when Christ the Judge comes, heaven will pass away, and the earth will be burned up (vs. 10).
The Time of the Lord’s Return Is a Secret
The time when all things will be “dissolved,” though, is deeply hidden in the mind of God, the Father. It is such a secret that He has not divulged it, not to the angels or even the Son of God (Matthew 24:36). God the Eternal is above the categories of time and space. Therefore, we cannot measure God’s ways by our human calendar. As the apostle says, “With the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day” (vs. 8).
Therefore, we cannot apply the words “slack,” “delay,” “slowness,” or “tardiness” to the actions of God in human history (Strong’s #1019, 56). The Lord acts in his own time. And He does not hurry. We do not know when He will fulfill His final promise. But we do know why it has not yet occurred. According to Peter, the Almighty is patient and longsuffering (vs. 9) (Strong’s #3114). He does not desire that anyone should perish. But He is waiting for all to come to repentance (vs. 9). The Orthodox Study Bible comments, “These words are not just for the false teachers, but for us all. We are granted more time primarily that we might achieve full repentance” (OSB fn. on 2 Peter 3:9, 565).
Some of us are preparing for Great Lent. Others are already observing this holy season of repentance. Our reading teaches that God is waiting for this very thing. We know that repenting demands an active changing of one’s heart and mind. But we should realize that we must demonstrate this conversion in our manner of life. Repentance requires the forsaking of sin and the adoption of a God-pleasing life. Therefore, the prophet and forerunner, John the Baptist, announced how repentance is perfected. He said, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Unless our spiritual disciplines produce the fruits of “holy conduct” and “godliness,” they are a waste of time (vs. 11).
Today’s reading teaches that at this moment, Christ is “delaying” his return to give us more time for repentance. His forbearance is the answer to those who say that He is unfaithful to His promise. Therefore, as we prepare for our observance of Great Lent, we should ask ourselves, “What manner of persons should we be?” and “What kind of life should we live?” to make use of the opportunity for deeper and fuller repentance?