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2 Peter 3:3-13 (ESV):

3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They 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.” 5 For 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, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But 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.

8 But 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. 9 The 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. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

There are several interesting points that Peter raises in this passage:

  • He mentions end times scoffers who will point out the delay in the Lord's (second?) coming, to which Peter counterargues with God's perspective on time: with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (v8). This appears to suggest that long delays of thousands of years shouldn't be something to be surprised about.
  • He also mentions a day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly (v7).
  • He says that the day of the Lord will be sudden and unforeseen, like a thief (v10), followed by cataclysmic events affecting the earth and the heavens (v7, v10, v12).
  • These destructive events would be followed by new heavens and a new earth (v13).

To what extent is it possible to interpret these prophetic predictions by Peter as already historically fulfilled?


Related: Is there any interpretative room for considering the prophetic predictions of Matthew 24:29-31 as already fulfilled?

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They are partially fulfilled. However, the part of the prophecy that most people see in this passage is as the tip of the iceberg: there is a trove beneath the surface.

For those interested in doing a little digging into the treasure of 2 Peter 3:1-13, I would point out the following clues to get started:

  1. Notice what Peter speaks of in verse 4: "creation."
  2. Look at what Peter says in verses 5 & 6 with respect to creation.
  3. Ask yourself if the Flood happened during creation. It didn't? Then what is Peter saying?
  4. Now look at the big prophetic clue that Peter gives in verse 8 to help unpack what he is referring to.
  5. Go back and read the creation account, looking at the symbols God placed within each day of the week as prophetic representations. For example, what do light, water, grass, etc. represent in prophecy.
  6. Piece together what God was prophesying toward the future of the earth from its very beginning.

Once one understands Day 4 of the prophecy, one will understand, perhaps for the first time in his or her life, why God made light on the first day and waited to create the "greater light" (sun) and the "lesser light" (moon) on the fourth. Remember that each of these literal days of creation are symbols of a thousand-year period to come, and look for what happened in that period of earth's history to match the prophecy, following 2 Peter 3:8.

Once one understands the meaning of Day 6 in this prophecy, and realizes that it applies to our day, one will see that this part is not yet perfectly fulfilled. Yes, there are scoffers today. The Lord's coming appears to have been delayed. But the prophecy is not yet complete; and when it is, as it will be soon, then Christ can come.

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The answer to this depends on which prediction in 2 Peter 3:3-13 one wishes to discuss. Let me enumerate them:

  • V3, 4 - scoffers who assert uniformitarianism (as distinct from catastrophism as taught in the the Bible, eg, the flood, V5-7) - this doctrine was first officially propounded by James Hutton in the 18th century and has had significant influence ever since in scientific circles. This prediction has been fulfilled.
  • V10 - The day of the Lord or "that day" or, "last day" is a technical phrase in the NT for the second coming of Christ (Matt 24:36, Mark 13:32, Luke 10:12, 2 Tim 1:12, John 6:39, 40, 44, 54, 11:24, 12:48, Heb 6:2) and the associated judgement and resurrection. This has NOT been fulfilled.
  • V10 - heavens disappear, elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and its works laid bare on the "day of the Lord". This has NOT been fulfilled.
  • V13 - new heavens and a new earth (compare Rev 21) - This has NOT been fulfilled.

Thus, some of the predictions in 2 Peter 3 have been fulfilled.

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Is there any interpretative room for the predictions of 2 Peter 3:3ff as fulfilled?

Answer: Yes, and No.

I. Yes, Peter states that scoffers will point out the delay in the Lord's return. The scoffers have a valid point.

II. God is eternal. As you noted in the OP, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (v8). This is hyperbole for the timelessness of God. It has very little to do with us, living in a world of finite time.

III. No. This is not suggesting that long delays of thousands of years "shouldn't be something to be surprised about." It is definitely something we should be surprised about! "Scoffers" would have every legitimate reason to scoff if Christ truly has not done what He promised. After all, there are over 300 instances where we are told He will return to the saints in the N/T. (Hint: We go to Him, He will never again set foot on earth.)

IV. Yes, there will be a day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly (v7). That occurs to all the faithless at the moment of death where they now reside in Hades (in time). Their ultimate judgment occurs at the end of time, when they will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Matt. 25:41). This is not the "path" of the righteous; theirs is a detour out of time altogether.

[Note: While Matthew 25:34 and 25:41 paint a picture of the sheep and the goats together, this can never be the case. The simple reason is that Matt. 25:34 is the same reward as that described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (and 2 Cor. 5:8: "absent from the body, at home with the Lord," Jas. 5:7-8, Heb. 10:25, etc.). Lazarus was in "Abraham's Bosom," a metaphor for God and eternity. These two circumstances (Matt. 25:34 and 41) are utterly antithetical to one another: they could never occur in sequence. The first is immediate, everlasting paradise; the second is absolute condemnation at the end of time, something the faithful will never encounter.]

V. Indeed, Christ has said that His return will be sudden and unforeseen, like a thief (in the night) (v10). Our individual deaths are that day! It is the day we step into His Presence, out of this world of finite time to the end of time: timelessness.

VIa. At the moment that we do this, we have "stepped to the end of time."
VIb. Yes, there will be cataclysmic events affecting the entire material universe (v7, v10, v12). Everyone will be witness to these events.

VII. Yes, there will be "new heavens and new earth" (v.13). (I tend to believe that the "new earth" is an anthropomorphism that helps us understand what things will be like in the hereafter.) It's my opinion that there will simply be heaven: paradise.


Here, suppose we consider a Christian named Tom. He is very aged and on the brink of death in a hospital. Then, one day, "like a thief in the night" Tom finally dies. If we could see through Tom's eyes, he has just crossed the threshold of this world into the eternity of God. He is standing in the immediate Presence of Christ. But, when Tom looks around, he also sees all the faithful he has ever known, right there, standing with him. And, he sees Adam and Eve (presumably they were saved) along with Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, you (if you're faithful), and me -- all the faithful are there. Where is that? The "clouds of heaven" (1 Thess. 4:17, Acts 1:11).

This is identically the same encounter that all the faithful will have, and they will have it in the same timeless instant as far as they see it, like Tom. That is because there is no waiting, no passage of time as we now perceive it in our finite world.

The story of Tom is a rough depiction of how we might be able to differentiate between our world of time and the timelessness of God. It is only then that dozens of passages in Scripture begin to make sense. Otherwise, "scoffers" have every reason to scoff. This discernment is crucial if we are ever to understand the answers to these questions and many more like them.


So, "To what extent is it possible to interpret these prophetic predictions by Peter as already historically fulfilled?"

It is entirely possible to interpret these predictions if we allow ourselves to view them through the lenses of eternity, where time ceases to exist. We can then begin to understand how all of this occurs -- exactly as described. There are no contradictions or errors: Our individual death is synonymous with Christ's return, the end of time, and the destruction of all Creation.

(I never suggested my answers would be easy to understand. This is an incredibly difficult concept to convey to others. I've actually answered just about all of your questions here, along with graphics to describe the concepts.)

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