I am presently considering Peter’s words at 2Peter 3:8, where Peter mentions that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. Lots of folks, all futurists with respect to the coming of the Lord, want to use Peter’s words to explain the long delay in Jesus coming, as perceived by them, due to their erroneous eschatology. By ignoring the specific timeframe Peter placed upon the coming of Christ in his first epistle (cf. 2Peter 3:1), they make grandiose eschatological claims for an end of the universe and the end of time. The problem is they have no Biblical support for their overactive imaginations, so, in an effort to seem Biblically sound they redefine God’s word to fit their failed eschatological system.
“A thousand years” is used several times in the Bible, but I’d like to focus attention upon its use in Psalm 90:
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. (Psalms 90:3-6)
This is where Peter gets his claim that with the Lord a thousand years is as a day (yesterday when it is past in the text above). Notice, as well, that a thousand years is as a watch in the night! So, it can mean even a shorter period of time, and the Psalmist is using this idea to express how short life is. In the morning of his years his life seems long, looking ahead it might seem like a thousand years, but in reality it is but a dream, like the grass that grows and flourishes in the morning, but in the evening it withers and dies. The whole Psalm is a lament over the shortness of life. Why would Peter quote from this Psalm in order to predict that the Lord would come far into the future? The idea simply doesn’t make sense, but this is how many interpret 2Peter 3:8.
The watch in the night simile is interesting, in that Jesus compared the time he would be away to a day when it is past and a watch in the night (Mark 13:34-37; cf. Psalm 90:4).
Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— (Mark 13:33-35)
Here Mark says a man (Jesus) went on a journey, but the context shows he would be gone for a day (as a thousand years – 2Peter 3:8), but he would return during one of the watches during the night. Mark seems to indicate that the period between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and his return to judge the living and the dead and reward his servants (1Peter 4:5, 17) would be a day (Mark 13:34-35) or as a thousand years (2Peter 3:8).
The context of the journey (Mark 13:33-35) or the time Jesus would be away is a short period of time. Therefore, the thousand years in 2Peter 3:8 must also point to a short period of time. Moreover, the text from which Peter draws his information for his epistle is Psalm 90 where the Psalmist laments over the shortness of a man’s life. How could any disciple of Christ abuse the word of God by changing Peter’s argument for the nearness of Jesus’ coming into a long, long drawn out affair which the Bible nowhere supports? Why would anyone want to do that?