What is the significance of 2 Peter 3:9–12?

Peter says that the Lord has delayed his coming because “he is patient with you, not wanting any to perish” (vs. 9). We are encouraged to be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” [NIV: “speed its coming”] (vs. 12).

If the future is an eternally fixed reality, of course God would foreknow the exact day of his return. Hence it is deceiving to suggest that it could be delayed because of his patience or speeded up by the way we live (e.g. by evangelizing). If God is never deceptive, however, it seems we must accept that the day of Christ’s return is not fixed and thus that the classical understanding of the future which requires that it be fixed is incorrect.

Along these lines, we should perhaps note that when Jesus says “about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son of man, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), this can easily be taken as an idiomatic way of saying that it lies in the Father’s authority to determine this time. It need not entail that the Father has already set the exact date (see Acts 1:7).

This passage also proclaims the glorious truth that God doesn’t want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (3:9). On this note, one has to wonder why God would create people he knew from all eternity would end up in a hell in which they’ll consciously suffer forever. Even if one holds that hell is annihilation, as I’m inclined to do, one has to wonder why God would bother to create beings he foreknows with certainty will end up not existing anyway.

Now some may object that denying the classical understanding of the future does not solve the problem of hell. For even if God didn’t foreknow who would end up in hell he at least knows who is in hell once they’re there. Yet he allows them to go on suffering for eternity.

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