Please comment on 2 Peter 3:11 and 12. Does the verse mean we can actually cause Christ to come back earlier than otherwise divinely planned?
The verse reads, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”
Bible scholars, including those who are especially astute in the original languages, have debated and will, no doubt, continue to wrestle with the meaning of this passage. On one hand, we know that God occasionally seemed to change His mind, as with mankind before the Flood and the extension of Hezekiah’s life. Also, various Bible teachers have maintained that the sooner we evangelize and reach that last person who is to receive Christ, the sooner the Lord will come for us. On the other hand, we know that finite, puny mankind is unable to force God’s hand. To arrive at an understanding here, as when we look at the Scriptures as a whole, we must look at the context while defining words and phrases. Here in chapter 3, what do “hastening” and “the day of God” mean?
We often think of hastening as speeding up something or someone, as you mentioned in your question. For example, a wife might speed up her husband’s return home from work by phoning him to say that their child is sick.
But “hastening” also carries the idea of an earnest desire for something and an involvement with it. “Hurry and get busy,” or “be diligent,” might be the way to describe this desire and involvement. Verse 14 talks about being diligent.
“The day of God” (v. 12) refers to the day of Christ’s complete and final victory. It differs from “the day of the Lord” (v. 10). The Day of God will follow the final events of the Day of the Lord, when the heavens and earth are destroyed. The Day of God cannot, therefore, refer to the time when the destroying takes place, nor to the coming of the Lord. Peter was pointing his readers to a time beyond the Millennium and Satan, to the wonderful day when the new heavens and the new earth will be reality (v. 13). Some people refer to this day as the eternal state, or eternal bliss. When we keep these truths in mind, our diligent service should increase and flourish. Often we forget these truths as we battle the everyday trials of life. Instead, we need to remember eternity’s values and joys.
As we look at the verses surrounding verse 12, we see a great emphasis on holiness of life, diligence, and godliness. This emphasis suggests that while the verse doesn’t necessarily mean we can alter or have a final word on the timetable of the Lord’s coming, we surely should live as though we could. And we surely need to “hurry and get busy,” with excitement and anticipation, doing what God wants us to do.
As we serve the Lord gladly and perseveringly, we are truly having a part in God’s program and in the fulfillment of prophecy. What we do today will count for all eternity.
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