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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 Bigbee Dec 10 '15 at 2:30

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 Bigbee Dec 10 '15 at 2:24

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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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.


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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