Commonly Misused Bible Verses: 2 Peter 3:8

Both Christians and unbelievers are guilty of misusing Bible verses by ripping them from their original context.

It’s been a while since I’ve added to the commonly misused Bible verses series, so it’s time to get back to it. There are many reasons why people misuse verses. Oftentimes, they are well-intentioned and simply repeat what they’ve heard many times before, and they have never taken the time to make sure the Bible really teaches what they are claiming. Others are not so well-intentioned, and simply try to rip a verse from its context to justify their beliefs or behavior.

The goal of this series is to help you avoid making these types of mistakes when using God’s Word. It’s a serious matter to argue that God supports your position, so you need to make sure that Scripture really does line up with what you think it says.

Commonly Misused Bible Verse #5: 2 Peter 3:8

It would be difficult to count how often I have heard this verse misused. I have been involved in creation research and teaching for more than a decade, and those who seek to deny the plain meaning of the first chapter of Genesis often cite 2 Peter 3:8.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8, NKJV)

Obviously, the person misusing this verse is attempting to make the days of the Creation Week to be something other than normal-length days. Why do they do this? Because they have a desire to add millions and billions of years to the Bible. Not only is this unnecessary from a scientific perspective, it fails on biblical grounds.

The days of the Creation Week were clearly normal-length days. They are marked by the phrase “evening and morning.” They are listed in a series with ordinal and cardinal numbers (literally the text for days 1–6 would be “one day,” “a second day,” “a third day,” “a fourth day,” “a fifth day,” and “the sixth day”). Since “the sixth day” uses the definite article (“the”), it forces the other days in the series to be literal days as well—otherwise it would not have been “the” sixth day. Also, in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) God revealed that the Israelites were commanded to work for six days and rest for one because that’s what He did. There are many other biblical and theological reasons why the days of Genesis 1 were normal-length days that I won’t go into here.

So why is it wrong to quote 2 Peter 3:8 when discussing this issue? If you haven’t learned anything else in this series, you should have learned that we need to take a look at the context. As you’ll see in the verses below, this passage is not about the time it took God to create the world.

…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3–9)

Peter did mention Creation in this passage, but the point of this passage is the return of Christ. He stated that scoffers will come in the last days and they will mock three specific events: the Creation, the Flood, and the Second Coming. Then he told his readers that they shouldn’t lose heart over the fact that Christ had not yet returned. Even though it seems like a long time to us, God is not bound by time so the period between the first and second comings of Christ isn’t a long time to Him.

But doesn’t this passage say that God’s day is a thousand years long? Not at all! Remember, it also says that a thousand years are as one day. So if this is supposed to be a mathematical formula, you’re right back where you started from (1=1000 and 1000=1). The fact is, this passage is using these terms in a simile (a figure of speech that makes an analogy, thus showing that we aren’t supposed to interpret these words literally).

Furthermore, even if this passage could be used to say each day of the Creation Week was a thousand years, it doesn’t really help much if you’re trying to squeeze millions or billions of years into the Bible. At most, it would just add another six (or seven if you include God’s day of rest) thousand years. So that leaves you with an earth and universe that is 12,000–13,000 years old. That’s nowhere near the 4.5 billion years that is commonly (and mistakenly) cited as the age of the earth.

The Bible is very clear on this issue. God made everything in six normal-length days about 6,000 years ago and then rested from His work on the seventh day. There is no other way to interpret the clear words of Scripture without forcing numerous contradictions into the text. I’ve written about these problems in much greater detail in my book Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In (co-authored by Dr. Jason Lisle).

About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.


Commonly Misused Bible Verses: 2 Peter 3:8 — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you so very much for speaking the Truth. God’s Word is Truth. If we cannot stand up for His Truth, and believe it, then our whole foundation is sand. God is our Rock.

  2. Thanks you so much for this. When things don’t make logical sense then to me it is not right. There is no way the earth is only 6000 years old. It does not match the science and history of the world, plants, and animals.

    Like you said: According to verse 8:

    One day is with the Lord as a thousand years/
    and as a thousand years as one day
    so another words it is this:
    Earth time/God’s Time
    one day / 1000 years and as
    1000 years/ one day
    Makes so much sense to me now I know that Peter is saying God is not bound by time. Thanks you.

    • Hi Millie,
      Apparently, you misunderstood the main point of this post. It’s true that God is not bound by time, but to use this verse in an effort to increase the biblical timeline for the age of the earth is erroneous. The days in Genesis are not simply “God’s time,” they are also man’s time. They are marked by evening and morning and are in a numbered sequence. Exodus tells us that they are normal length days. Besides, even if you wanted to make each of the days of Genesis 1 a thousand years long, that would only increase the age of the earth by 6000 years, so that still wouldn’t get you remotely close to the 4.5 billion insisted upon by many scientists.
      The fact is that the Bible indicates the earth is only about 6000 years old, and actually this does match the science and history of the world quite well.

  3. It seems you don’t understand God’s ‘day is a thousand years and a thousand years is a day,’ either. It doesn’t mean that a day is literally a thousand years, that’s true. The second part of that verse flew past you, though. A day to God is immeasurable to man’s thinking, and so is God’s time. That’s what it means. The phrase is also in Psalms 90.

    One cannot look at the original ‘6 days’ from the perspective of man. The world was created by God, the world was not created by man. Man cannot begin to know or comprehend what a day is to God. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. ” (Isaiah 55:9)

    None of your arguments ‘prove’ that it is six literal days. Nor does it matter.

    Creationism is legalism. Beware. And people get way too hung up on the first chapter of the Bible (Christians, Jews, and Atheists alike.) Keep reading, and try spending more time on the Gospel of Christ instead. A lot of people’s salvation depends on it.

    Signed – A ‘well-intentioned’ person.

    • Brandt,
      Thanks for your comments. There are numerous flaws in your arguments. First of all, creationism is not legalism unless one makes it conditional for salvation, which no informed creationist does. However, I would certainly say that we should take Genesis at face value. It was written as historical narrative and should be read as such. So although it is not necessary for salvation, creationism is vital to sound doctrine.
      Second, it’s true that God’s ways are higher than our ways, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t understand anything about God. We can understand the things He has revealed to us. In the Bible’s first chapter, God revealed that He created everything in six days. These were normal-length days. They are marked by evening and morning, by ordinal and cardinal numbers, and are treated as such elsewhere in Scripture (Exodus 20:11; 31:17-18). Jesus said the creation of mankind was “at the beginning” (Mark 10:6; Matthew 19:4–5). If you insert long periods of time in the Creation Week then the creation of mankind would not have been at the beginning.
      Third, the second part of the verse did not fly past me. It doesn’t mean that “a day to God is immeasurable to man’s thinking.” The meaning of Peter’s statement is obvious when you look at the context. God is not bound by time. He is the Creator of time so He is not bound by it. Furthermore, you can’t just assume the days in Genesis are supposed to mean that they are “God’s time” (whatever that might mean). Obviously, He is fully capable of inspiring His Word to be written in a way that we can understand it.
      I could go on and on. In fact, I have already responded to every one of these arguments and many more in my book Old-Earth Creationism on Trial, so I won’t spend more time on them here. The reason people get “hung up” on Genesis 1 is that this is one of the main chapters that has been under attack in our day. If we aren’t willing to defend the faith when and where it is being attacked, then we aren’t really defending it at all.
      Thanks for reading.

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