A common argument used by futurist in both Amillennial and Dispensational camps is that a day with the Lord is a thousand years. By taking this verse to mean that a literal day is a literal thousand years, they offer it as proof that Christ could not return in the first century. In other words, it cancels out all imminent time statements. Is a Day a thousand years With the Lord? Note the following.
Suppose you gave someone your address at 123 Street, Anytown USA, and they said great, I’ll be sending your check in the mail. But before it arrives, someone calls the house movers, hooks your house up on the back of a large trailer and treks it 2000 miles across the country. So, when the mailman arrives, all he sees is an empty spot of where your house used to be. Each week your letter is returned to sender undeliverable. Each week they resend it through the mail. Each week the postman sees the empty spot where your house use to be.
Then, that postman retires, and dies, and another one comes and does the same thing. For 2,000 years, they try to deliver to that address but only find an empty spot. Yes, this story is a stretch of the imagination, but the next one is not. However, the story closely resembles the truth.
The Time Movers and Shakers
Did you know that someone has moved time? Well, you ask, how can they do that? It’s not easy to do, and it’s only imaginary, but they have done a very good job of getting other people to believe in the illusion. Here’s what we mean. Peter wrote in his first letter that the end of all things had drawn near, (1 Peter 4:7). By this he meant that the end of the age (see 1 Corinthians 10:11), commonly referred to as the end of the world had drawn near.
As the time of the end of the age equals the parousia (coming of the Lord), Peter by this declaration affirms that Jesus’ return was near. Also knowing that Christ’s second coming (presence) is his coming in judgment, Peter also tells told his readers that the time had come for judgment to begin, (1 Peter 4:17). Few sincere bible students if any doubt that Peter wrote these words to a first century audience.
However, because they are filled with the language of imminence, when taken at face value, they mean that Christ’s return would occur in the first century. This however, does not fit nicely in a futurist’s paradigm. There is tension, fear and a great feeling of loss if Peter’s words mean what they say. So, like the “house movers” above we have “time movers” who transport Peter’s language 2000 years down the road while they endlessly wait for Christ to come and deliver the mail.
To accomplish this, an appeal is made to 2 Peter 3:8, a text in context of the judgment and which reads as follows:
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
So how do the time movers take an event promised in the first century and move it to the 21st century? They argue from the verse above that a day with the Lord equals a thousand years. So, let’s examine this reasoning.
First, the text does not say that a day is a thousand years. Rather, it is a comparison, using the simile of like or as. Thus, it says a day with God is as a thousand years. Now if a day is a thousand years, then it must also be the case that a thousand years is one day! One would therefore be just as correct to affirm that Christ would come within 24 hours from the time Peter wrote as to affirm it would happen a thousand years later.
By the way, have you noticed that the text does not say a day is as 2000 years? Hmmm, what’s up with that? Aren’t we already past the 1,000 years mark? Oh well. But I digress, so back to the point.
Secondly, we must look for the meaning of the comparison. Why did God say a day is as a thousand years? What message did he seek to convey? The answer to that is in the next verse. It is about the promise of God, his truthfulness as a credible prophet. In other words, how does the passing of time, affect the veracity of God’s prophetic declarations? The answer is, it does not, (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:14).
With men, the passing of time seems to cause a bit of memory loss. Promises made tend to fade into oblivion. The longer it is between promise and delivery for some men erodes the value of their promise, thus demonstrating their lack of integrity. With God such is not the case. Whatever he promises is always delivered whether the time is short or long. Thus, it makes no difference to him whether the promise was for an hour, a day, a year or a thousand years, he will never renege on his word. There are ample examples in the Scriptures.
Examples of God’s Time Promises
God promised Adam the day (meaning a literal 24 hour day) that he ate of the forbidden tree, he would surely die, (Genesis 2:16). The serpent denied this. Yet, Adam ate, and the same day he died, not physically, as he was already dying, but spiritually, he was separated from God. That is sin-death. Others sometimes try to circumvent the simplicity of the statement and say that Adam died in one literal day because he lived to be 930 years, short of the one thousand years therefore in one day.
But it also stated that his eyes would be opened and he would be as God knowing good and evil? Did it take Adam 930 years for his eyes to open and for him to know good and evil. If so, why did God cast him out of the garden for becoming “like one of us,” long before his 930 years? Did God keep his promise in one day? Yes.
Following this event God promised to send Christ into the world, (Genesis 3:15). It was approximately 4,000 years before he delivered on that promise, but it came at the right time and place!, (Daniel 9:26; Micah 5:2, Matthew 2). There was no slack on God’s part. The passing of four millenniums with God’s promise is as sure as with 4 days.
God promised Abraham that after the 4th generation, he would deliver his descendants from Egypt and bring them back into the land he promised them. At the time of Moses, it is precisely in the 4th generation of their sojourn in Egypt when the Exodus takes place. Again, God did not allow time to affect the fulfillment of his word.
Christ promised he would die and rise from the dead after three days and three nights. Well, according to the “day is a thousand years” theory, he must be yet in the grave, awaiting the last thousand years before he rises. But with God, three days and three nights was no different than one day, or 400 years. The promise was made good. God was not slack. Christ rose after three literal days and nights by Jewish reckoning.
Application of Examples to the 1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, in the case of the judgment, announced as at hand, though it had been approximately 35 years since Christ made the promise, (Matthew 16:28), God would likewise fulfill the promise in the manner and time stated. The scoffers in Peter’s day were not mocking him about a coming that was 2000 years removed from their future. They mocked a coming that was promised in their lifetime. Had they understood the apostles to teach that coming was far removed from their generation, they would have said Amen, the temple is here to stay.
But, because they knew that Christ’s promised to come in their generation and destroy their temple, (Acts 6:14), the seemingly long delay made them both conceited and over confident that their temple would remain and all things would continue in Judaism as it had since the days of Moses. They soon learned otherwise when God fulfilled the promise and the temple fell. Judgment did in fact begin at the house of God as Peter stated (1 Peter 4:17). The mockers learned much too late, that God doesn’t forget when he sets his watch. He is not slack concerning his promise.
Summary and Conclusion
A day with Him is as a thousand years. A thousand years is as a day. Both are the same when it comes down to God keeping a promise. Few men can make such a boast if any. That is the simple meaning of the text. It cannot and should not be construed to teach that one can hook a trailer to the imminent prophecies of the end time and move them out of the first century to the 21st century.
All it does is creates endless work for the futurist mailmen. They rant, rage, scream and shout that Christ will come soon but they can never deliver that mail because they moved the time. While it is possible to move a house 2000 miles away, it is impossible to move the time of Christ’s coming 2000 years forward from the first century generation. For this reason, that letter will forever be stamped, “return to sender!”
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