Advent is a season of remembrance and expectation. It also points us to the second advent of Christ.
2 Peter 3:8 reads: “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Though this verse has been used in various ways, in 2 Peter it’s sage pastoral counsel. Why? The typical answer has been that the Christians are worried by the fact that Jesus has not yet returned to consummate the work begun in the cross and resurrection. The author thus says, “Don’t worry, what seems like a long time to us is not to God.” And there’s a truth to that.
But in its broader context, the counsel also reaches to the deeper reason why the Christians would wonder about Jesus’return: the world is a place of ongoing suffering, despite the work of Christ. Wasn’t the plan, the Christians ask, for Jesus to return and end this suffering? Well, why the delay? Is our hope to be disappointed? 2 Peter addresses these questions by counseling us to develop peace in our communities (2:14). The author doesn’t answer the questions directly but instead recommends the practice that he knows will address the deeper anxieties behind the questions. Practice peace together, he says, and the Lord’s appearance will be to you as sudden as a thief’s in the night.
The admonition to practice communal peace, of course, depends upon a certain understanding of time: we are here for the long haul (3:8). What is needed, therefore, is to live together in a way that develops patience while we wait for Christ to come again—in short, we need to practice peace.
C. Kavin Rowe, Associate Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School