The Bible does not say Peter’s “thousand years” statement is about a timetable foretelling the years found in a dispensation of time. In context his statement is clearly speaking of the limited time span of a man’s life, and reminding them that though they may think they have an eternity, because they are finite, they only have a short span of time in this life. To see this is true, first look at the context surrounding Peter’s statement about a day being a thousand years.
2 Peter 3:3-14
(3) Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
(4) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
(5) For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
(6) Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.
(7) But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
(8) 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.
(9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
(10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
(11) Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
(12) Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
(13) Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
(14) Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Peter does not say “one day with the Lord ‘is’ a thousand years,” but that “one day is with the Lord ‘as’ a thousand years.” Peter is borrowing from Moses’ statement about a day being a thousand years. Here is the context of Moses’ usage of this expression:
(1) A Prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
(2) Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
(3) Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
(4) For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
(5) Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
(6) In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
(7) For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
(8) Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
(9) For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
(10) The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Brenton’s English Translation of the Greek Septuagint translates this even clearer.
A Prayer of Moses the man of God.
90:1 Lord, thou hast been our refuge in all generations. 2 Before the mountains existed, and before the earth and the world were formed, even from age to age, Thou art. 3 Turn not man back to his low place, whereas thou saidst, Return, ye sons of men? 4 For a thousand years in thy sight are as the yesterday which is past, and as a watch in the night. 5 Years shall be vanity to them: let the morning pass away as grass. 6 In the morning let it flower, and pass away: in the evening let it droop, let it be withered and dried up. 7 For we have perished in thine anger, and in thy wrath we have been troubled. 8 Thou hast set our transgressions before thee: our age is in the light of thy countenance. 9 For all our days are gone, and we have passed away in thy wrath: our years have spun out their tale as a spider. 10 As for the days of our years, in them are seventy years; and if men should be in strength, eighty years: and the greater part of them would be labour and trouble; for weakness overtakes us, and we shall be chastened. 11 Who knows the power of thy wrath? 12 and who knows how to number his days because of the fear of thy wrath? So manifest thy right hand, and those that are instructed in wisdom in the heart.
13 Return, O Lord, how long? and be intreated concerning thy servants. 14 We have been satisfied in the morning with thy mercy; and we did exult and rejoice: 15 let us rejoice in all our days, in return for the days wherein thou didst afflict us, the years wherein we saw evil. 16 And look upon thy servants, and upon thy works; and guide their children. 17 And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us: and do thou direct for us the works of our hands.
Neither of these “thousand years” passages speak about the number of years found in dispensations of time before the final “last days” arrive. Instead the context of these passages clearly shows that God is telling mankind to think about the shortness and the frailty of their lifespan, and to thereby live accordingly. Or to say it more simply, God is saying, “Life is short! If you want to live in harmony with God in eternity, then you better start doing it while you still can in this life!”
Peter referred to Moses’ words in effort to tell the men of that generation that they did not have forever to prepare for the coming prophesied judgment. Peter warned that same “untoward generation” to “save itself” from that same coming judgment (see Acts 2:40). And just as foretold, Jesus did bring fiery judgment against that generation in 70 AD.
The New Testament can be understood by looking into what’s found in the Old Testament. When a person does that, they discover the Bible to be very simple to understand. We do not need the marginal notes found in Study Bibles to interpret biblical Truth; we just need ‘the Word.’ This is the correct way to study the Bible, but it must be accompanied with an openness to leave behind any and all traditions that are found contrary to God’s Truth.
Copyright © 2008 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.