It’s been said by some biblical scholars that the three most important rules for a proper and thorough understanding of the text of Scripture are Context, Context, & Context. By that we mean:
- The immediate context in a section or chapter of Scripture
- The larger context of a particular book in the Bible
- The broad context of the entire Bible and God’s plan for his children
I freely admit that some passages of Scripture can be valuable in and of themselves as precious promises, words of comfort, or even admonition or warning. They can also be used to ‘prove’ one’s personal opinion or preferred interpretation. Examining context can therefore be not only profitable, but extremely edifying.
With that said, let’s examine 2 Peter 3:9.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (“willing”, KJV) that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. (2 Pet 3:9, ESV)
We are not concerned so much with what we think it means or what we might want it to ‘prove’, but only what it is actually telling us in the three contexts mentioned above (chapter, book, the entire Bible). We can ask a few simple questions to accomplish our goal.
1. To whom is it written?
First of all, we know that the Apostle Peter wrote it, along with another, earlier letter (1 Peter) to a person or group of people called “you”. (The KJV and a few other translations use the term “us-ward”, or simply “us”.) If we look at the first chapters of 1 & 2 Peter letters’ greetings to his hearers, we are told exactly to whom they were written:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” (1 Pet 1:1)
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”(1 Pet 2:1)
From those two greetings we know that Peter was writing to a group of God’s chosen people scattered across Asia Minor (1 Pet 1:1) and that they were fellow believers (2 Pet 1:1). That’s important.
2. What does it mean that “God is not slow to fulfill his promise? What promise?
In addition to our subject verse (2 Pet 3:9), Peter also writes:
“. . .you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your
apostles, 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.”(2 Pet 3:2-4)
“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.” (2 Pet 3:10)
When Peter said “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise” he was referring to the day of the Lord, and not wanting any of God’s chosen people (elect exiles) to perish, but that they all would come
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:3-5)
The Apostle Paul also summarized it even more succinctly:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6)
So regardless of what you have believed about 2 Peter 3:9, now you have. . .
. . .the REST of the verse!