“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. 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” (2 Pet 3:8-9).
Christians have been anticipating the return of Christ since the moment of his ascension. Even the Apostles’ seemed to believe Jesus may come back any day. The last chapter of the Bible is all about this. Three times in the final eleven verses of Revelation, John records Jesus saying, “I’m coming soon!”
Did we miss it?
Did John mishear Jesus?
Is Jesus a liar?
Maybe we just don’t understand what God means when he says “soon.”
Repentance means to turn or change your mind. It is not a turn from sin to righteousness. It is a turn from sin to the righteous Son of God who has defeated all sin.
One of the highlights of my childhood winters was my father reading books to me and my brother. On those days when the sun went down early, and the air quickly turned cold, my dad would start a fire, sit down in his worn-out armchair with my brother and me sitting at his feet, and read chapter after chapter of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia out loud. I didn’t grow up with Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. I grew up with Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund. Sin is still Turkish Delight as far as I’m concerned. I know the world is saved because the stone table is broken in two. I learned about repentance from Edmund and Eustace. And I know what Jesus means by “soon” because Aslan told Lucy.
“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon,” said Aslan, and instantly he was vanished away.” (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
I cannot read Saint Peter’s words describing one day and a thousand years being the same to God as anything other than “I call all times soon.” And hopefully, that is helpful whether you’re familiar with Narnia and Aslan or not. It tells us that the eternal God is both outside of time and yet present in all times. All times are soon when you are eternal.
Nevertheless, Jesus said he is coming back soon, so why is this soon taking so long? Why is this promised soon so slow in arriving? Peter helps us with this by explaining that there is a difference between “slowness” in fulfilling promises and the patience of God. The love God has for a world of sinners is the reason for his delay. Every day 385,000 children are born that God desires to adopt into his family. He has a gift to give them. That gift is repentance.
Repentance is not simply something God demands we do; it is something he wants to give us. He gives this gift to the world as the gospel is preached, and we hear the good news that, in Christ, he has done everything necessary for us to escape death and hell and live forever as his children. Repentance means to turn or change your mind. It is not a turn from sin to righteousness. It is a turn from sin to the righteous Son of God who has defeated all sin.
God is not slow; he is patient. His heart desires that none perish, and the gospel reaches the ears of all people. This “soon” is long because of the longsuffering love of God that desires all to repent into his open arms.