God's Merciful Will

Bible Book: 2 Peter  3 : 8-9
Subject: Mercy, God's; Will, God's
Series: Our Precious Faith

See also Isaiah 55:6-11

After addressing the lost people mocking of God’s Word and the Lord Jesus’ seeming delay in returning to correct mankind in the previous verses (1–7), Peter goes on to speak about the restraint of the Lord in verses 8–9. God’s is holding back the establishment of His kingdom so that the multiplied billions may have a longer, and hopefully better, opportunity to hear the gospel, and come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

There is no doubt concerning the certainty of the second Coming of Jesus Christ. Since God promised another intervention of His physical presence in human affairs, the Second Coming must take place. Therefore Peter gives us two factors which explain why God is delaying the intervention of His coming for as long as He likes. First, God completely transcends time so the Lord counts time differently than does man since time is of no consequence to Him. The second reason the Lord’s return seems to be so long in coming is that God is giving time for as many people as possible to come to repentance so that they can be saved.

The day of the Lord is coming though. God always keeps His promises. He is always on time!

I. GOD’S TIME TABLE [For the Second Coming], 8.

In verse 8 God’s eternal perspective on history is contrasted with the short-term expectations of human beings. God does not count time in the same way that we do. “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”

Peter practices what he has been preaching. He has encouraged his readers to heed the Word of God which has come from the prophets and the apostles. In verse 8 he does just that by referring to the teaching of Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.” The psalmist has declared it and Peter believed it.

We who are called the beloved of God are to grab hold of this concept. There is one simple reality that the ungodly forget and that believers should never forget: time does not constrain to the one Who created time. His creation is confined to the continuing cycle of birth and death. However, this can never be true of the eternal God Who has no beginning and no ending. A hundred years, a thousand years, a thousand millenniums are all the same for the Creator of time and space.

So we are asked not to forget that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years.” People see time against time; but God sees time against eternity. In fact time only seems long because of man’s finite perspective.

A man was taking it easy, lying on the grass and looking up at the clouds. He was identifying shapes when he decided to talk to God. "God," he said, "HOW LONG is a million years?"

God answered, “In My frame of reference, it’s about a minute.”

The man asked, “God how much Is a million dollars?”

God answered, "To Me; it's a penny.”

The man then asked, "God, can I have a penny?” God responded, “Sure! Just give Me a minute.”

In 1896, H. G. WELLS published a book titled The Time Machine, an imaginative tale of a scientist who builds a machine that can transport someone through time. The time traveler is preoccupied with the future, not the past. Like many scientists, he believes "progress" will enable the human race to build. a better world. Yet in Wells' book, this science-fiction story does not have a happy ending.

The protagonist travels millions of years into the future. There the world has grown cold and dark. As a bleak snow falls, he sees the last remnants of life awaiting extinction. Thoroughly sickened by the twilight of life on our planet, the scientist returns to the time of his origin to report his anguish.

The biblical view of the future is very different. It tells us that God is Lord over time itself (v. 8). We can be optimistic about the future because God will replace our world with a new one. In that new heaven and new earth we will experience blessed fellowship with our Creator for eternity (Rev. 21:1-4). Even now, Jesus is preparing a place for those who love Him where "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying" (Rev. 21:4). [Dennis Fisher. Our Daily Bread] Jesus is preparing a place for us and preparing us for that place.

If God has made this world so fair,

Where sin and death abound,

How beautiful beyond compare

Will paradise be found! (Montgomery)

What to people may seem like a long time is to the Lord very short. Jesus is not limited by time as are humans. One day in the sight of God is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day. In God’s eyes it’s just been a couple of days since Jesus rose from the dead!

II. GOD’S PATIENCE [with Man], 9a.

The second reason the Lord’s return seems to be so long in coming is found in verse 9 is that God wants as many people to be saved as possible. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

God is not only in control; He is always on time. Scoffers attempt to make us believe God has fallen asleep or He is inept or He does not keep His promises. Unbelievers assert that since Jesus promised His Second Coming and has not yet come, He was either lying or is incapable of keeping His promise.

The Word insisting that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise.” Peter gives a better reason for the fact Jesus has not returned. He remembers well the teaching of his Master on this subject, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). Jesus had also said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Mt. 24:36).

Thus, Peter concludes, the Lord is not “slack” concerning His promise. He never stated the exact time in which He would return. It is in the Father’s hands. Not even the angels know the time of His return [because if He did the world we know would perish].

The verb translated as “not slack” [is bradúnō, which] means to delay or tarry [used only here in the New Testament]. God is never late. He is always on time. He is never delayed by outward circumstances or by others. He is always in control. His motive is always love. He so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. And it’s because of His love for the world that Jesus has not yet returned.

Again Peter gives a divine-human comparison. To say that God is “late” in fulfilling His promises is to judge by impatient human standards. God’s so-called “tardiness” as viewed by some people [as some understand slowness] is only a delay with respect to their time schedules, not His. In fact God’s time schedule is modified by patience, a major attribute of the heavenly Father (v. 15; Rom. 2:4; 9:22).

Another case of man’s ingratitude for God’s mercies is the fact that a mistaken sense of security developed from the observation that Christ’s return had not yet taken place (vv. 3, 4). The longsuffering of God is not due to slowness or failure but due to the love of God.

The delay is no cause for complaint but a sign of God’s grace by which He bears with sinners. God’s love is manifested in His longsuffering (makrothumeō) which denotes patience and forbearance. It has the idea deep concern and feeling for someone over an extended period of time. In his first letter, Peter referred to the longsuffering of God in the days of Noah before bringing judgment upon unrepentant people (1 Pet. 3:20).

III. GOD IS WAITING [for Repentance], 9b.

The reason God is delaying that last day is His patience and concern for men that they might be saved. His “longsuffering toward us” is because He is not willing for any to “perish but that all should come to repentance.” Again, Peter bases his teaching upon the Word of God from the prophets and apostles. Ezekiel recorded the Word of the Lord, “ ‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God,’ and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezek. 18:23).

The reason for God’s waiting is both negative and positive [as shown in the two complementary infinitives.] God is being patient because He does not want any to be lost, but wants all to come to repentance. “All to come to repentance” refers to the turning toward God and away from sin. Come (Gk. chōreō) to repentance or “make room” for repentance (as one would make room at home for a welcomed guest).

God wishes for all people to come to faith and be saved. Paul also states that God does not desire for any to perish, but wishes for all to be saved in 1 Timothy 2:4. Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for the sins of the whole world—every man, woman, and child who has, does, and ever will live.

Come to repentance indicates that it may take time for us to repent. God continues to deal with any and everyone as long as there is the possibility for a person to repent and come to faith in Jesus. As verse 9 indicates God’s display of patience is motivated by His desire that none be lost. The reason why Christ has not yet returned is that every day before He returns is a day of grace and represents the possibility of more people turning in repentance toward Him.

God desires that none perish; however, this will ultimately be a necessary consequence of the second Coming, as God will not force His good will upon those who resist it. God’s wishes, longs or desires that all would be saved but knows that most reject Him. God’s patience is seen in delaying the pouring out of His wrath on wickedness for the sake of those who will, through His calling and their obedience, become faithful followers. [The words not wanting (mē boulomenos) anyone to perish do not express a decree, as if God has willed everyone to be saved. Universal salvation is not taught in the Bible. Christ sacrifice was sufficient for all but efficient only for those who follow Him in faith. ]

Therefore, the Lord is not negligent in keeping His promise, as the ungodly would have everyone believe. Instead, the ungodly should thank God that He is allowing this period of time so that they can have further opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel message.

God bears with sinners in hope of their repentance. But so that sinners should not be able to presume on God’s forbearance, delaying repentance, the author then stresses that the Parousia will come unexpectedly, like a burglar at night in verse 10 (Mt. 24:43-44; 1 Thess. 5:2), which we will get to next time.


Unlike mankind who must always adjust his plans, God’s sovereign determination of all history is unchanging. God’s Word created the heavens and the earth. His Word destroyed the world in a flood. God’s Word became flesh and lived among His own creation, reconciling the world to Himself by His sacrifice on the cross. He will come again to judge the ungodly and to destroy this sinful world in a blazing purification. God’s Word has never failed nor will it ever fail. [Easy-To-Read Commentary Series. The General Epistles: A Practical Faith.]

Thus, Peter concludes, the Lord has not returned for the simple reason—it is not yet the Father’s time. And the reason it is not yet the Father’s time is because of His longsuffering. God is not willing that any should perish but desires that all should come to repentance.

But as sure as night follows day, “the day of the Lord will come.”

As Habakkuk prophesied:

“The vision will still happen at the appointed time.

It hurries toward its goal.

It won’t be a lie.

If it’s delayed, wait for it.

It will certainly happen.

It won’t be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3)