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In 2 Peter 3:8 (King James Version) is written:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

What is the meaning of 1,000 years as one day and one day as 1,000 years?

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I don't know of anyone taking this literally, except when attempting to calculate prophecies that have some time element, and those calculations are always questionable. – david brainerd Jul 24 '14 at 23:37

Peter is urging his audience to regard God as 'patient' in regard to bringing about the conclusion of His plan, rather than 'slow', and not to doubt His eventual arrival.

The 'scoffers' of earlier in the chapter are questioning whether God[1] will return at all, given the apparent delay:

3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” ESV

Firstly, Peter asserts they are wrong about the eventual outcome:

5For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ESV

Then he argues that they are myopic in their view of time:

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV

The logic of the specific verse in question is that using merely human standards of the comprehension of the passage of time and applying them to God is inappropriate. The exact timespans chosen ('one day' and 'a thousand years') are immaterial and symbolic of short and long periods in this context, making the point that God transcends time. In other words, He does not experience it in a linear fashion as we do, but is able to interact with time as He chooses.


[1] Peter could be referring to Jesus or to God. 1:16 refers to the earlier "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" and 3:12 to "the coming of the day of God" (a long-standing prophetic theme). My view is that these events are fully correlated in Peters mind and he means both equally.

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I think you did a great job answering the question in the title, the meaning of the verse. Unfortunately, the OP then asks the meaning of the thousand years, which @kenorb answered well I thought. Too bad the question is like that. – Joshua Dec 10 '15 at 2:30
    
@JackDouglas The "logic" of the passage is not "for God there is no time" but rather "God is patient and longsuffering". At least that is what the text says. The Platonic notion of God being timeless is not scriptural. – WoundedEgo Apr 11 at 13:03
    
@WoundedEgo "At least that is what the text says" the text says both "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years" and "and a thousand years as one day" — if Peter was only speaking about patience, would not the latter suffice without the former? – Jack Douglas Apr 11 at 20:34
    
@JackDouglas Please note that it doesn't say that a 1000 years is like zero days, which is what timelessness would be. The comparison is between a long time and short time, not a long time and no time: Psa 90:4 One thousand years in your sight are but a single day that passes by, just like a night watch. Likewise "patient" and "longsuffering" are different than "unaffected" or "imaginary", no? – WoundedEgo Apr 11 at 22:25
    
@WoundedEgo "Likewise "patient" and "longsuffering" are different than "unaffected" or "imaginary", no?" — absolutely, I don't mean to imply otherwise when I say that God transcends time. What I do mean to imply is that God is sovereign over time rather than subject to it. – Jack Douglas Apr 12 at 11:05

The text says ‘one day is like [or as] a thousand years’—the word ‘like’ (or ‘as’) teach that Lord (κυρίῳ) is outside of time as we know it.

Which means for the heavenly beings there is no distinction between a thousand years and a day, therefore the time is just an illlusion.


Some people teach that the days of Genesis might be 1000 years.

In any case, the meaning of ‘day’ in Genesis 1 is defined by the context there—the Hebrew word for day, yôm יום , is used with the words ‘evening’ and ‘morning’, and the days are numbered (first day, second day, etc.). Whenever yôm is used in such a context, it is always an ordinary day, never a long period of time.

But they forget the fact that the passage is actually contrasting a short and long period can be shown by the fact that Peter is quoting Psalm 90:4 (Peter’s statement ‘do not forget’ implies that his readers were expected to recall something, and this passage has this very teaching). This reads:

"A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night." (New International Version)


For further info, please read below commentaries:

God is eternal

his thought is not, like ours, subject to the law of time; and even we can understand that one day, as the day of the Saviour's death, may have far more of intense action compressed into it, and far more influence upon the spiritual destiny of mankind, than any period of a thousand years.

one day … thousand years—(Ps 90:4)

Moses there says, Thy eternity, knowing no distinction between a thousand years and a day, is the refuge of us creatures of a day. Peter views God's eternity in relation to the last day: that day seems to us, short-lived beings, long in coming, but with the Lord the interval is irrespective of the idea of long or short. His eternity exceeds all measures of time: to His divine knowledge all future things are present: His power requires not long delays for the performance of His work: His long-suffering excludes all impatient expectation and eager haste, such as we men feel. He is equally blessed in one day and in a thousand years. He can do the work of a thousand years in one day: so in 2Pe 3:9 it is said, "He is not slack," that is, "slow": He has always the power to fulfil His "promise."

thousand years as one day

No delay which occurs is long to God: as to a man of countless riches, a thousand guineas are as a single penny. God's oeonologe (eternal-ages measurer) differs wholly from man's horologe (hour-glass). His gnomon (dial-pointer) shows all the hours at once in the greatest activity and in perfect repose. To Him the hours pass away, neither more slowly, nor more quickly, than befits His economy. There is nothing to make Him need either to hasten or delay the end. The words, "with the Lord" (Ps 90:4, "In Thy sight"), silence all man's objections on the ground of his incapability of understanding this [Bengel].

Source: Parallel Commentaries at Bible Hub

Further reading:

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Psalm 90 is absolutely key, you are right. The real focus isn't on how long a day or a thousand years are to God. It's on how he can perceive our next thousand years like we perceive yesterday. – Joshua Dec 10 '15 at 2:24

Peter is not saying:

  • time moves more quickly in the sky (relativity)
  • God can't tell the difference between 1000 years and one day
  • time does not exist in the sky (1000 years = 0)

Instead he's say:

  • in terms of wait stress, time does exist for God but 365,000 days = 1 day;

He's saying that God has no more difficulty waiting 1000 years than we would waiting overnight. That is, God experiences time (because God lives in the sky, not beyond it) but never becomes impatient, taxed by time the way the people who live on the earth do. For us a 1000 years is not only beyond our personal patience, it is also beyond our life spans. And 1000 years is even a heck of a long time for a people to wait the fulfillment of a promise such as the one made to Abraham or in the prophets.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent.

So Peter is saying that God's patience is not challenged by plans that span generations. He's patient.

He goes on to say that his patience is motivated by a desire to give everyone an opportunity to repent:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent.

There is a saying, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime". God is "the Kooler King" in that he can handle the time required to fulfill his plans. He has the patience:

2Pe 3:15 Think of our Lord's patience as facilitating salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him. 2Pe 3:15 Think of our Lord's patience as facilitating salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him. 2Pe 3:16 He speaks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in them are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.

Peter describes God's patience as the virtue of being willing to put up with an objectionable situation for a long period of time to reach a good end:

2Pe 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

So what Peter is saying is that patience is a virtue and God has that virtue and so should the believer.

I should also add that James also describes God's longsuffering and then calls the believer to emulate his patience:

Jas_5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Jas_5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Of course as in many scriptural admonishment the notion that the arrival of the long awaited promise is finally at the doors is given which rings a bit hollow this late in the game:

Jas_5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Or is that his point?

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This argument illustrates how the discussed verse 2 Peter 3:8 may be present in the Bible as a way to allow the reader to understand the timing of the second coming of Jesus (beyond other possible functions of this verse).

We read in Scripture that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4). Since the discussed verse 2 Peter 3:8 defines one year as one thousand days, it could have meant, besides its other possible interpretations, that at the dawn of the third millennium Jesus would come back.

To back this up, consider what pro-Israel Christian camp preaches, namely that before Jesus comes, Israel must be restored as a country after more than two millennia since it was overthrown by Babylonian kingdom, which happened several hundred years prior to the first coming of Christ (e.g. see the book The Restoration of Israel by Gerhard Falk). And if we look at the history, Israeli state was created in 1948. And it is clear that we are now early in the third millennium A.D.

Now, most of Christian theologians would agree with me that Bible contains symbols, which are subject to interpretation:

"... we should avoid attempting to find meanings in every minute object and allusion. Our best security is to keep closely to the analogy of biblical symbols and imagery as seen in a full collation of pertinent examples" (Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments by Milton Spenser Terry)

So, it is fair to draw a hypothetical parallel between the duration of Jesus' absence from being present among the people in the living form (while being dead for more than two days according to the Scripture), and the possible timing of his promised second coming, which the Bible asserts cannot be known with precision, but only roughly:

"Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door ... But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:33-37)

As for validity of this hypothesis, consider that in Biblical Hermeneutics, analogy (as was already mentioned) is used to connect various symbols each of which brings some more information to the overall picture that they promote as a whole. The connecting factor here is the fact that three days according to the definition of one day given in verse 2 Peter 3:8 is equal to three thousand years, which is the same as three millenia.

As for whether the second coming of Jesus can be compared to the resurrection, in one sense such allowance can be made, given that both, the resurrection of Jesus, as well as the second coming of Jesus, imply the reoccurring of the physical presence of Jesus on the earth in living form, as was already mentioned.

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2 Peter 3:8 is simply telling us that there was seven days in the creation and that after the 6000 year Christ will be here on earth for a thousand years, this takes place in Revelations chapter 20 it will be the 7000 year and this will be when the saints will reign with Christ in his kingdom this is the rest that spoken of throughout the bible and it was called from the beginning spoken of in in Isaiah 46:10. From the beginning he gave us a day of rest and that's why the Sabbath/seventh day has to be kept holy, because each day represent a thousand years and the seventh day God rested, so remember the Sabbath to keep it holy Exodus 20:8. The Israelites was tested in Exodus Ch 16 on keeping the Sabbath holy. Christ died in the middle of the week on a Wednesday Daniel 9:24-27 buried Wednesday evening right before the high day Sabbath which was the feast of unleavened bread St. John 19:31 the high day Sabbath that comes right after the Passover. Christ was our Passover here and he rose Saturday evening on the Sabbath which gives us three days and three nights. ST. Matthews 12:39-41 time in the grave Wednesday night, Thursday and Thursday night, Friday and Friday night than Saturday which gives us the three days and three nights the day of rest to be kept holy and represents the 7th thousand year where Christ will be on earth ruling from his kingdom given to him by the father God the almighty. We have to let the bible speak its all there but not in chronological order. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 tells us that Christ will deliver the kingdom to the father after his 1000 year reign on earth.

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May I “throw a spanner into the works” for consideration:

According to the word of God, recorded in the Holy Bible, there are DRAMATIC DIFFERENCES in the way that Heaven and Earth perceives time. We know this because there are at least two places in the Holy Bible WHERE WE ARE PROVIDED THE SAME INFORMATION regarding the DIFFERENCES.

We can see in Biblical references:

Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”

*2 Peter 3:8–*9 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

??? Is it not possible that the word ‘LIKE’ (or ‘AS’) demonstrate that “God is outside of time” (because He is the Creator of time itself).

So that “ONE DAY IN HEAVEN” does NOT necessarily correspond to human understanding of “DAY” because with the Lord the interval is irrespective of human ideas of long or short.

Keeping in mind that (even in modern Hebrew), the word “YOM” is often described in terms of EPOCHS, EONS, ERAS AGES TIMES etc (as well as in expressions like "in my grandfather's day"

Indeed some “days” may have needed to be longer and other “days” to be shorter as appropriate.

AND …

because for God “one day is LIKE a thousand years and a thousand years is LIKE one day”

perhaps even "DAYS" consisting of time-spans of BILLIONS of years were a NECESSARY requirement for the formation of the physical world (and because we now know that to enable these events to take place, the Laws of Physics, of Chemistry, of Thermodynamics, of Mathematics were already in operation having been set in place by God the Law-Maker / Law -Giver).

Since many parts of the Bible are written through the prism of poetry and metaphor, I see NO contradiction between Genesis and the latest findings in astronomy and science.

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