2 Peter 3:8 and the End of the World
But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).
Ever since Jesus promised that He would return there has been no lack of people who have trying to predict precisely when that will be. Most recently the group at “Family Radio” has made well-publicized and provocative claims that the time of judgment will begin on 21 May 2011 in the evening. They base this conclusion on Genesis 7:4, declaring that the seven days before the flood are parallel to the seven days before the judgment day, we are to understand from 2 Peter 3:8 that each day represents a thousand years, and voilà– 7,000 years would pass between the flood and the end of the world. They date the flood to 4990 BCE; hence, the world will end in 2011 CE.
They want to make this scheme look persuasive and Biblical, but they are not the first people who have attempted to make an equation out of 2 Peter 3:8. The Epistle of Barnabas, most likely written between 70 and 132 CE, attempted to say something similar on the basis of the creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3:
Give heed, children, what this meaneth; “He ended in six days.”
He meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years; and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; “Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years.” Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end.
“And He rested on the seventh day.”
This He meaneth: when His Son shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day (Epistle of Barnabas 15:4-5).
Even though the date of the creation is somewhat disputed, most chronological analyses (including the one by those behind “Family Radio”) place it more than 6,000 years ago, thus invalidating the claim of the Epistle of Barnabas. If this type of thinking was inaccurate regarding the days of Creation, why should we expect a prediction involving the seven days before the Flood in Genesis 7:4– a detail for which there is no explicit association with the judgment day, even in 2 Peter 3:1-13– to fare any better?
God’s judgment will come quickly upon this prediction. Nevertheless, the major methodological problem will remain: Peter never equates one day with a thousand years. He says that for the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day (2 Peter 3:8). Peter does not want anyone to think that God is “slow” in fulfilling His promises, and he does so by showing that time has no meaning to God. Two thousand years, to God, is no different than two days!
We know that the Lord will return when no one expects Him (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10). That, in and of itself, likely invalidates any expectation of His return on 21 May 2011. But let none be deceived: He will return. It may come before May 21, or it may come long afterward, so let us be prepared for His return at all times (Matthew 25:1-13)!
Ethan R. Longhenry