I have heard 2Peter 3:8 argued by futurists that a day with the Lord is a thousand years, and a thousand years is a day. Therefore, the Day of the Lord is still at hand after two thousand years, because it has been only two days with the Lord. I know the person who said this meant well, and thought to defend the Lord’s tardiness from man’s point of view, but this is NOT what Peter said. Peter never said a thousand years is a day with the Lord. He said a thousand years is **AS** a day, and a day is **AS** a thousand years. That’s a simile, not to be taken literally. The use of the words like and as in such phrases make the phrase a figure of speech, such as “crazy like a fox” or ”sturdy as an oak”. It does not follow that people who are described this way are literal foxes or literal oaks or even having the literal strength of an oak. It is unbelievable how even educated people will try to use this phrase in 2Peter 3:8 literally.
The sad thing is, however, not only do these people misquote 2Peter 3:8, but they are actually making the scoffers’ argument. The scoffers, remember, were the ones who mocked at the coming of Jesus and his judgment upon Jerusalem in the first century AD (2Peter 3:3-4; 1Peter 4:5, 17). Don’t all futurists also deny Jesus came in 70 AD? The scoffers were denying Peter’s plainness of speech. Don’t all the futurists, who deny the Lord came in 70 AD, claim either Peter was wrong about the nearness of the coming of Christ, or they redefine the meaning of Peter’s words for nearness?
The point is, should modern disciples of Christ redefine the New Covenant in order to fit the claims of their own eschatology or should modern disciples of Christ redefine their eschatology in order to fit the claims of the New Covenant Scriptures? How we answer this question will ultimately express our value for the word of God.
How was Peter using the thousand years in 2Peter 3:8? Was he predicting a short period of time or a long period of time? If a thousand years can be viewed as a day, that’s a short period of time, but if a day drags on like a 1000 years, that’s a long period of time. How did Peter mean for his readers to understand this simile? Well, if we look at 2Peter 3:1, we would find that Peter meant for his second epistle to remind his readers about what he had already told them in his first epistle. What did Peter say in his first epistle that might elucidate how we need to understand the 1000 years in 2Peter 3:8?
In 1Peter 1:5-7 Peter told his readers they were living in the last days, and their persecution would last for only a little while, until the appearing of Jesus. Moreover, the prophets of the Old Covenant prophesied, not for their own day, but for the days in which Peter and his readers lived (1Peter 1:8-12), so it behooved that generation to be patient until the appearing of Jesus (1Peter 1:13). Because, Christ was then—at that time—ready to judge the living and the dead (1Peter 4:5; resurrection and judgment imminent), in that the end of all things was at hand (1Peter 4:7). And, judgment was already occurring at the House of God (the believers – who are the Temple of God) and would spread to the unbelievers and their “House” of God (1Peter 4:17).
Notice the theme of Peter’s claims about the coming of Christ. In order to put his claims far into the future, one must redefine the words “at hand” and “a little while” and “ready” and Peter’s generation. If one cannot justify redefining Peter’s words (inspired by God) then one must understand his reference to 1000 years in 2Peter 3:8 as a short period of time, because Peter’s first epistle put Jesus’ coming into that framework. One cannot read Peter’s first epistle and honestly say Peter was looking far into the future. There simply is no justification for such an understanding. Therefore, there is no justification for taking Peter’s 1000 years in 2Peter 3:8 literally or to mean a long period of time. In the context of the New Covenant writers, one must take the 1000 years to mean one generation of time (cir. 40 years) or the time of Pentecost in 31 AD to the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.