The Lord Has Patience: 2 Peter 3:9

Lord has patience (2)

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d) 2 Pet 3:9: In this verse, the author of 2 Peter continued his theme of God’s purposeful delay (2 Pet 3:3–9).[1]

He wrote, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some consider slowness, but he has patience toward you, not desiring anyone to be destroyed but all to come to repentance.”

The beginning of this verse alludes to Hab 2:3, a passage in which God responded to the prophet’s cry for deliverance from ongoing injustice.[2]

Just as the Lord assured Habakkuk that he had a reason for the delay, the author of 2 Peter urged his readers not to misunderstand their long wait.[3]

Contrary to the mockers’ claims, the lag does not mean that God reneged on his promise.[4] Christ shall return when the time is right (Acts 1:6–8).[5]

The author did not merely contradict the scoffers. He provided his readers with a theological explanation for the reprieve.[6]

Long-suffering as an attribute of God has a rich Old Testament tradition (Exod 34:4–7; Ps 86:1–5, 14–17; Ps 103:6–14; Jon 3:10–4:2; Neh 9:16–17).[7]

Therefore, one should not misconstrue the Lord’s restraint with those who oppose him as negligence.[8]

He withholds judgment to give them time to experience a change of heart (Acts 3:17–26).[9]



Concerning the people who lived while Noah was building the ark (Gen 6:1–4), the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC–40 AD) wrote:

But perhaps a hundred and twenty years are not the universal limit of human life, but only of the men living at that time, who were later to perish in the flood, after so great a number of years, which a benevolent benefactor prolonged, allowing for repentance for sins.[10]

Philo believed that God granted wicked people long life-spans to give them more opportunities to regret and turn away from their sins.



Jewish scholars in the third century AD engaged in similar discussions regarding the age to come. Citing Hab 2:3, one of them asserted:[11]

Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come.

But [even so], wait for him, as it is written, “Though he tarry, wait for him.”

Should you say, “We look forward [to his coming] but He does not.”

Therefore, Scripture saith, “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you.”

But since we look forward to it, and He does likewise, what delays [his coming]? — The Attribute of Justice delays it.[12]



This concept occurred in Greco-Roman thought also. Plutarch (46–122 AD) noted:

Much more becomes it us, beholding God, with whom there is neither dread nor repentance of anything, deferring nevertheless his punishments to future time and admitting delay, to be cautious and circumspect in these matters, and to deem as a divine part of virtue that mildness and long-suffering of which God affords us an example, while by punishing he reforms some few, but by slowly punishing he helpeth and admonisheth many.[13]

These extra-biblical authors recognized God’s delay in judging evil as an opportunity for contrition.



The author of 2 Peter then explained the rationale for God’s patience.

He is “not desiring anyone to be destroyed but all to come to repentance.”

In this instance, “to be destroyed” (apollumi) refers to eternal ruin (1 Cor 1:18–19; Matt 10:28; James 4:12).[14]

Christ’s delay reflects God’s deep concern for humanity, rather than his indifference to our plight (Joel 2:11–14; Rom 2:3–5).[15]

Repentance (metanoia) in the New Testament typically consists of a religious and moral conversion which inaugurates a new relationship with God.[16]

Total surrender to the way of the Lord results in forgiveness and a radical laying aside of evil. It transforms a person’s actions, thoughts, and words (Luke 24:46–47; Acts 5:30–32; 2 Tim 2:24–26).[17]

Only by such a change of heart can we receive eternal life and escape God’s wrath (Matt 3:1–12; Acts 11:15–18).[18]



However, the author did not refer to conversion in this verse.[19]

He wrote that God “is patient toward you,” meaning the recipients of his letter.[20] “Anyone” refers to those individuals,[21] not to everyone in the world (Cf. Matt 24:42–51).[22]

Thus, he addressed those in the church who vacillated under the influence of the scoffers.[23]

He admonished them to repent and to hold fast to their faith (2 Pet 3:14–18; 2 Cor 12:20–21).[24] God patiently gave them time to turn away from the destructive teaching of the mockers.[25]



This concept of God calling believers to repent appears frequently in early Christian literature.[26]

For example, in the Shepherd of Hermas (ca.100–160 AD), the author declared:

The Lord dwells in men that love peace, because He loved peace; but from the contentious and the utterly wicked He is far distant.

Restore to Him, therefore, a spirit sound as ye received it…what do you think the Lord will do to you, who gave you a sound spirit, which you have rendered altogether useless, so that it can be of no service to its possessor?…

Will not the Lord, therefore, because of this conduct of yours regarding His Spirit, act in the same way, and deliver you over to death?…

Do not trample His mercy under foot, He says, but rather honor Him, because He is so patient with your sins and is not as ye are. Repent, for it is useful to you.

All these things which are written above, I, the Shepherd, the messenger of repentance, have showed and spoken to the servants of God.[27]



This command to people in the early church reflects the call in 2 Pet 3:3–9 to turn aside from believing scoffers and take advantage of the delay in the Lord’s return. Someday, God’s patience shall come to an end (Isa 14:26–27; Rom 2:4–11).[28]

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Read 2 Pet 3:9. Do you think that this passage refers to the Lord giving all people or believers time to repent? Why? How does this admonition speak to you?




Go to The Day of the Lord Will Come (2 Pet 3:10)

[Related posts include The World Destroyed by Water (2 Pet 3:5–6); Reserved for Fire (2 Pet 3:7); God’s Perception of Time (2 Pet 3:8); The Day of the Lord Will Come (2 Pet 3:10);  Hastening the Day of God (2 Pet 3:11–12); Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Limiting Human Life Spans (Gen 6:3); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); Not Knowing the Day or the Hour (Matt 24:36); As in the Days of Noah (Matt 24:37–39); One Will Be Left (Matt 24:40–41); Continually Watch! (Matt 24:42–44); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]


[1]Whether the apostle or someone writing in Peter’s name penned this letter remains controversial, even among evangelical scholars.

[2]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 310.

[3]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 380.

[4]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 311.

[5]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 187.

[6]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 311.

[7]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 312.

[8]J. Horst, “μακροθυμεω” (makrothumeō), TDNT 4:374–87, 386.

[9]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 312.

[10]Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, Trans. Ralph Marcus (LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann, 1953), 1.91, 60,

[11]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 311.

[12]b. Sanhedrin 97b,

[13]Plutarch, “De Sera Numinis Vindicta,” in Plutarch’s Morals (ed. William W. Goodwin; Boston; Cambridge: Little, Brown; John Wilson & son, 1874), 5, 147–8,

[14]Albrecht Oepke, “ἀπολλυμι” (apollumi), TDNT 1:394–6, 395–6.

[15]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 187.

[16]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “ἀπολλυμι” (apollumi), BDAG, 640–1, 640.

[17]J. Behm and E. Würthwein, “μετανοια” (metanoia), TDNT 4:975–1008, 1000, 1002, 1004.

[18]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 381.

[19]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 382.

[20]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 188.

[21]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 313.

[22]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 382.

[23]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 188.

[24]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 382.

[25]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 188.

[26]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 313.

[27]J. B. Lightfoot, trans., The Shepherd of Hermas (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1891), 9.32–3, 480, Italics mine.

[28]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 312–3.