The original question was:  In Peter’s second letter he says “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Doesn’t this mean the Genesis days are long periods of time rather than just 24 hour days?

Answer by Diane Eager

The verse referred to is 2 Peter 3:8, and it is often quoted by those who want to make the six creation days in Genesis long periods of time. Why do this?

Every person we have asked only ever has one reason, and that is they believe the world has been proven to be very ancient, so they try to read the Genesis days in a way that will accommodate popular beliefs in an old age for the universe and the earth. But such an interpretation of Scripture is no help to those who propose either an old earth or a god who used evolution. To make each of the Genesis days a thousand years, would at best add only six thousand years to earths age, so those who propose billions of years are never impressed by this ‘lack of logic. Those Christians who use 2 Peter 3 to argue the days can be any length of time, and therefore the world could be 4.6 billion years old, only make a mockery of any claim they make to actually believe the bible.

Make sure you never use the Bible as a source book of unrelated quotes, and always read individual verses and sentences in their context if you wish to understand what any passage is saying. The context of 2 Peter 3:8 is Peter’s answer to a challenge raised in Peter’s day that the Lord showed no sign of coming back as Judge as he promised he would. Peter answers this by reminding the church that God is not bound by time as we are, therefore we cannot accuse God of being slow at doing anything. To make his point Peter refers his readers to Moses’ statement in Psalm 90:4, which reads: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Then the Psalmist goes on to plead; “teach us Oh Lord to number our days as they are so few”

In Psalm 90 Moses was making the contrast between a brief time, i.e. a day or a “watch in the night” (4 hours), and a long time, i.e. a thousand years, to make the point that our lives are brief and bound by time, but God is eternal and not bound by time. Therefore, we humans need to carefully use time, as we don’t get much of it!

The key to understanding this contrast is in verse 2 of Psalm 90: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” i.e. God is Creator. God created time, just as he created space, matter and energy. Therefore, He is outside of time, just as He is outside the material universe. Peter springboards from this thought to make the point that the passing of time has no effect on God, and therefore He can use as much, or as little time as he chooses to do anything, including the time He graciously allows sinful man to repent before He comes back to Judge the earth.

But how much time did God use in creating? Is that what this psalm also tells us? Is that why Peter quotes it?

It is clear from the context of both Peter’s letter and Psalm 90 that neither Peter nor Moses were referring to the days of creation at all. Furthermore, Moses was there when God handed down the Ten Commandments, which does refer to the days of creation, as recorded in Exodus 20: “In six days God created the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them.”

Let us never forget that because God invented time, He is outside of time, so He did not need six days, six seconds, or any number of thousands or millions of years, to create the universe and all its contents. He chose to use six days because he was setting up a pattern for man to follow, as He explained to Moses: “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11) The context of Exodus 20 makes it clear that God is referring to ordinary 24 hour days, both for the Jews’ working week and the creation week.

For more information on the days of creation see the answers to the following questions:

Thousands or Millions? Why doesn’t Peter say a day is as a million years to make his point stronger? Answer here.

Creation Days: Were the days of creation, as described in Genesis 1, real 24 hour days? Answer here.

Genesis Days? Are they 2 parallel symbolic lists of 3 days of forming and 3 of filling? Answer here.

Did Jesus believe 6 day creation because he was fully man and therefore ignorant of modern science? Answer here.

Why do you claim Genesis days are 24 hours when Augustine said they are indefinitely long periods? Answer here.

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