Peter wrote to encourage believers who were living in the “last days” (v.3), the period of time between the first coming of Jesus (His birth and earthly ministry) and what we call the Second Coming. (Note: even though 2,000 years separate Peter’s lifetime and ours, we share the same period of time on God’s calendar, the “last days”. Peter lived at the beginning of that period and we must certainly live toward the end of it. It’s later now than it’s ever been!) These “last days” are leading up to “the day” when Jesus will return to judge the world (v.10, 12). “The day” (as I understand it) is a sequence of events that commences with the Rapture of the church (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), continues with the Great Tribulation (see Matthew 24:21), and culminates with the actual Second Coming of Christ at the Battle of Armageddon (see Revelation 16:16, 19:11-21).
Peter warned that in these last days “scoffers” will mock our hope for Christ’s return (v.3-4). They will say that it has been so long since He said He was coming back that He must have broken His promise. But Peter counters their mocking with a reminder that God is the Lord and Master of time. He is not bound like we are to exist in one place at a time. Instead, since God exists apart from and above time, He is infinitely patient. Being bound by time, we tend to get impatient as we mark our days and our years, but God’s patience is the same whether He waits one day or a thousand years (v.8).
The question remains, “Why is Jesus waiting so long to come back for us and to judge the lost?” For Peter’s original readers this question came from a place of desperation: they longed to be delivered from the persecution they faced every day; they longed for justice. The explanation for Christ’s long delay (from our perspective) is found in His grace. He is “storing up” His judgment even now (v.7), ready to release His wrath against a wicked world. But He is patiently delaying in order to give His church more time to evangelize and to give the lost more time to repent (v.9, 15). He could have unleashed His judgment centuries ago, but His restraining love has given us a “grace period”, a time of undefined duration in which to fulfill our mission.
Peter’s instruction to last-days believers like you and me is to not squander our time in this age of grace. We should be “diligent” to live godly lives (v.14), to protect the purity of the gospel message that is the only hope for the lost (v.17), and to continue striving to be like Jesus (v.18). Among other things, being like Jesus means following Him on His mission “to seek and to save the lost” (see Luke 19:10). Until He comes, we must go!