One day is as a thousand years:
God’s warning to those who deny creation and the worldwide flood
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. (2 Peter 3:8)
Have you ever spoken with people who point to this passage as evidence that God did not create the world in six 24-hour days? How should we address this claim?
When addressing biblical creation, professing Christians sometimes appeal to
2 Peter 3:8 as a reason for rejecting a plain reading of the six days of creation.
The argument usually goes as follows:
2 Peter 3:8 tells us that one day of God’s time is a thousand years of man’s time. Therefore, when we read Genesis 1, it is not telling us that God created in six 24-hour days. Each day in God’s time might just be a reference to long periods of time on the Earth.
How should we address this claim?
From the outset, we should note that this verse does not say that a day is a thousand years. It says that a day is as/like a thousand years. The word ‘as’ tells us that this is a figure of speech, which only makes sense if the word ‘day’ refers to a literal day—so this is actually the opposite of what creation compromisers claim—namely, that the day in 2 Peter 3:8 is not a literal day. As explained in 2 Peter 3:8—‘one day is as a thousand years’,
“the figure of speech is so effective in its intended aim precisely because the day is literal and contrasts so vividly with 1000 years—to the eternal Creator of time, a short period of time and a long period of time may as well be the same”. If the word ‘day’ in 2 Peter 3:8 refers to a literal day, how then can a person use this to say that the word ‘day’ refers to a non-literal day?
2 Peter 3:8 is not contrasting God’s time with man’s time. God is outside of time, and it is God Himself who created time. Consider Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is already there at the very beginning, before the creation and before time itself. God’s creation of the universe marks the beginning of time (also see: If God created the Universe, then who created God?). So it makes no sense to say that one day of God’s time is equivalent to a thousand years of man’s time. God is eternal, and any attempt to contrast His time with man’s time betrays an erroneous understanding of the eternal nature of God. If there is no such thing as ‘God’s time’, then when the Bible refers to time, it has to be a reference to man’s time. Thus, 2 Peter 3:8 cannot be contrasting one day of God’s time to a thousand years of man’s time.
In addition, each day of creation in Genesis 1 is marked by ‘evening’ and ‘morning’, so it is impossible to stretch the days out to millions of years on Earth. (See: The numbering pattern of Genesis for a more in-depth analysis of the Hebrew syntax in this regard). The days in Genesis 1 are clearly a reference to man’s time—or more specifically, a literal day on Earth—marked by an evening and a morning.
The order of creation in the Bible contradicts the evolutionary order in over two dozen places, and stretching the days out into long periods of time only makes the matter worse. For example, the Bible tells us that the plants were created on Day 3, but the sun, moon and stars were created on Day 4.
If you stretch out the days of creation to a thousand years each, you still only have six thousand years. This is still several orders of magnitude short of the billions of years required by evolution and the big bang. And if we stretch the days of creation into billions of years, we create an even worse problem. Now, you have plants (created on Day 3) growing for millions of years without the sun (created on Day 4).
Keep in mind that the motivation for adding millions of years into the biblical account is an attempt to reconcile the Bible with long ages. But stretching the creation days into billions of years, results in plants existing billions of years before the sun. This position is neither compatible with the Bible, nor with the big bang/old-earth view. The existence of days (i.e. evening and morning) before the sun is not a problem for the biblical creationist since God had already created a light source on Day 1 (but the actual sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day), all you need is a rotating earth for there to be evening and morning.
The biblical order of creation is irreconcilable with the evolutionary belief system. Stretching each day of creation into billions of years only serves to compound the contradiction further. It is so much easier to just take God’s word as it says: God created the heavens and the earth in six literal, 24-hour days.
To make matters worse, the second half of 2 Peter 3:8 says, “and a thousand years are as one day”. The creation compromiser is stuck. He claims that a day is like a thousand years, but he does not consider the rest of the verse which says that a thousand years is like a day. He is back to square one. Should we now say that one thousand years of God’s time is equivalent to one day of Man’s time? This would not leave enough time for evolution to happen (And we have already dealt with the problem of contrasting God’s time with man’s time). In other words, creation compromisers are not consistent with their own method of interpretation. They want to stretch the days in the first half of 2 Peter 3:8 to mean thousands of years, but they refuse to compress the thousands of years in the second half of the same verse into one day of Man’s time.
It would be worth taking time here to read the whole passage to determine its context. 2 Peter 3:3–10 says:
“knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
The point is this: we need to interpret a text within its context. We cannot simply take the word ‘day’ in 2 Peter 3:8 and randomly impose it on Creation week or any other unrelated passage. Why not, for example, also randomly impose it on the three days that Jesus was in the grave? To be consistent with their hermeneutics, one would then have to say that Jesus has not yet risen, and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).
When 2 Peter 3:8 is read in its proper context, it becomes clear that it is not even talking about creation, but rather, this verse is speaking of the patience of God. The passage tells us that God is patient towards his people, desiring that they all come to repentance, yet it does not stop there. It must be read in the larger context of how God will certainly judge the heavens and the earth with fire and bring judgment and destruction upon the ungodly. 2 Peter 3 is primarily a passage about the certainty of God’s judgment. Within this context, 2 Peter 3:8 explains that God is not slow concerning his promise, but is patiently waiting for his saints to be saved.
Who are the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7) who will be judged? What are their characteristics? 2 Peter 3:3 identifies them. The ungodly in verse 7 refers to the unrepentant scoffers who come in the last days following their own evil desires.1 These unbelievers exhibit several characteristics. They will:
- Say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)
- These scoffers hold to a form of deism or divine inactivity where God is thought to be inactive in our recent past. Similarly, uniformitarians today appeal to the naturalistic order of things, denying a recent creation and a worldwide flood.
- Deny that, “the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God …” (2 Peter 3:5)
- Similar to the scoffers in Peter’s day, many creation compromisers today deny that the Earth was formed out of water and through water. Instead, they insist that the Earth was previously a hot molten blob that cooled down over millions of years and only obtained water much later on.
- Deny that the Earth that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (2 Peter 3:6)
- Again, like the scoffers in the past, many consistent evolutionary or ‘Old-earth’ proponents deny the worldwide flood, since the whole idea of millions of years stems from an interpretation of the rock layers. These rock layers are assumed to be a record of millions of years. A world-wide flood would destroy most pre-existing rock layers and lay down its own set of rock layers. In other words, if you believe in a global flood, you can no longer appeal to the rock layers as evidence of millions of years. Thus, the consistent evolutionist/old-earther has to deny the worldwide flood if they want to insert millions of years into the Bible. In so doing, they commit the same error as the scoffers in Peter’s day.
2 Peter 3:5 tells us that these ungodly people “deliberately overlook” these three facts. But if they have to deliberately overlook them, it means that with the right presuppositions, we should be able to see evidence of a catastrophic worldwide flood all around us; evidence which refutes the idea taught by some, that the Global flood was a tranquil worldwide flood that left no evidence.
That brings us back to 2 Peter 3:8–10—“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.” We have already established that the context speaks about the certainty of God’s judgment of the ungodly. The ungodly will one day be judged with fire and destruction (unless they repent and believe the Gospel). These scoffers are those who believe in:
- a form of uniformitarianism;
- deny that the Earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God; and
- those who deny the worldwide flood.
Yet these very three beliefs are common among creation compromisers today who try to insert millions of years into the Bible.
Therefore, although 2 Peter 3:8 is often used by creation compromisers as a proof-text to reject 24-hour creation days, the passage actually ends up working against them. “ … One day is as a thousand years”, read in the larger context of 2 Peter 3, highlights the importance of affirming Biblical creation and the worldwide flood—lest we find ourselves in agreement with the very same scoffers that Peter said were going to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:7). As the Apostle Peter sums up in 2 Peter 3:16b–18:
“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
References and notes
- The last days mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3 probably began with Jesus (cf. Hebrews 1:2– … but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son). Peter was writing to his own audience in the 1st century, so the scoffers were already present during his time. But this does not exclude his words from being true in modern times as well. I am not saying that Peter addressed 21st century evolutionists. I am saying that creation compromisers today share all three characteristics common to the scoffers of Peter’s day. This should be a concern for those who compromise on biblical creation today. Return to text.