God is not Late

In the interim between Christ’s ascension and return, God has granted humanity the opportunity to repent

Peter explains the apparent “delay” in Christ's return. God is merciful with no desire for anyone to perish, and, if anything, the conduct of the church may “hasten” its onset. The relationship of men with God is dynamic, not static, and He responds eagerly to repentance.

In his letter Peter is reacting to false information about the return of Jesus, claiming either that his “coming” is delayed or will never come at all.

That hope was a fervent expectation in the early church. But as time progressed, the surrounding world remained the same, and seemingly, things and conditions remained essentially unchanged.


Wars, earthquakes, and other disasters continue to occur, and the earth remains intact. The great “beast,” Rome has not fallen, and the stars and planets are moving in their respective courses.

Thus, it is easy to assume that Christ’s return has been delayed. And this causes “scoffers to scoff, saying, where is the promise of his coming?” - (2 Peter 3:1-4).

In defending his position, Peter explains why Jesus has not appeared in glory. Rather than “delay” or failure, the apparent “postponement” is in accord with God’s plan and mercy, His desire for all men and women to repent and receive salvation.

  • (2 Peter 3:5-7) – “For this, they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of the water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Deceivers “scoff” at the idea of his return and final judgment on the disobedient, and they point to the routines and regular rituals of human society continuing daily as evidence that God is not about to judge the world.

Did not the apostles promise the soon return of the Lord, a claim now falsified by the passage of time and history?


But these deceivers have “willfully forgotten” that God previously destroyed society “by His word” in the Great Flood.  Rather than prove that life simply continues as before, history demonstrates the opposite.

Not only have natural and manmade catastrophes occurred with regularity, but God has intervened more than once to bring destruction to sinful nations.

And by that same “word” that brought the Flood, the universe is being kept for the “day of judgment and destruction” yet to come - (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Peter quotes the ninetieth Psalm to demonstrate that what men consider “delay” is no such thing. God does not account for the passage of time in the same manner that men do, and He is not subject to human timetables and expectations - (Psalm 90:4).


Moreover, the non-arrival of Jesus is not due to delay, but instead, to the mercy of God. Peter gives a rational explanation for the present situation – GOD DESIRES ALL MEN TO REPENT AND BECOME SAVED. In the end, His “delay” will mean salvation for many.

Men and women must not deceive themselves and take advantage of His patience.  The “Day of the Lord” will arrive at the appointed time, and “like a thief in the night.”

The simile of a “thief in the night” is from a saying of Jesus, and it stresses the inability of men to know when the Lord will arrive - (Matthew 24:42-43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Revelation 2:2, 16:15).

Peter links the return of Jesus to the “Day of the Lord,” a belief found elsewhere in the New Testament. When that day does “arrive,” the heavens and earth will “pass away and dissolve,” making way for the New Creation where “righteousness will dwell.”

Thus, the “Day of the Lord” will mean the destruction of the disobedient but also the vindication of the obedient.  Considering this, “what manner of persons ought you all to be in the interim in holy ways of behavior and acts of godliness?


  • (2 Peter 3:11-14) – “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.

Not only should Christians live holy lives in this expectation but doing so may “hasten” its arrival. “Hasten” translates the Greek verb speudō (Strong’s - G4692). It is used here as a present tense participle. It means to “urge on, hurry along, quicken, cause to happen soon, act quickly; to accelerate” something. And the present tense stresses that this is an ONGOING PROCESS.

The implications are profound but easily overlooked. Not only does Peter state why Jesus has not returned, but he indicates that CHRISTIAN ACTION CAN ADVANCE THAT DAY’S ARRIVAL. And this also suggests that WRONG ACTION AND INACTION by the saints may delay it.

Thus, the arrival of Jesus on the appointed day is certain. There has been no “delay.”  Things have not continued as they did in the past, and normalcy has not characterized human history.

Instead, history is punctuated by disasters, catastrophes, wars, destruction, and divine judgments on sin. That record should caution us not to assume things will continue as they always have.

And Peter has introduced a revolutionary idea that ought to change how we live. Christian action will impact the timing of the end, and our conduct will hasten or delay that day.

Similarly, Jesus links the timing of the “end” to the completion of the church’s mission to proclaim the gospel throughout the “whole habitable earth.” And her failure to complete that task explains just why Jesus has not yet appeared “on the clouds.”


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