Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Peter talks about God’s view of time

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing,

that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,

and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

I across some interesting differences in the JST for the above verse:

But concerning the coming of the Lord, beloved,

I would not have you ignorant of this one thing,

that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,

and a thousand years as one day. (JST 2 Peter 3:8)

First, I notice that the JST turns Peter’s saying from “don’t be ignorant” to “I would not have you ignorant,” which is a substantial alteration of tone from commanding to charitably solicitous for the saints to learn something that he believes will help them a lot. (This for me hints that the concept will have more importance to us than we think.)

The second change seems inconsequential, but when plumbed, it yields intriguing suggestions. We are used to this idea that one day to the Lord is a thousand years and a thousand years as one day, but the JST seems to take away the sense that this conception of time for the Lord is general, and instead applies it only to the COMING of the Lord. How can that be, if the coming of the Lord is only one point in time?

But concerning the coming of the Lord

one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,

and a thousand years as one day.

To me this seems to say that when the Lord comes, the changes of a thousand years will be packed into one day and wickedness of the past thousand years will seem like a bad dream of a day, and going forward into the Millennium, it will seem each day as if we’d always been doing things that way for a thousand years.

How might this help us? The context of this verse shows that Peter was addressing those who doubted the second coming and who thought that history would just continue on unchanged as it had for centuries, since they had not seen anything change the whole world so abruptly. This verse helps by explaining that whether the state of things has been a thousand years long or one day long, the Lord can work such marvelous changes that one thousand years of habits and traditions seems like one day, a tale that is told.

I know there are also people who prefer to think that God is not governed by the linearity of time passage. We tend to want to think of God as a time traveler when we doubt His ability to plan so far in advance and doubt His power to work His will among men, especially among the stubborn and unbelieving. However, any of us who have seen the Lord’s tender mercies in our lives and who have considered all the little conditions that had to be put into place so far in advance to bring them about know that if the Lord can be so merciful in such subtle ways to us, then He does indeed know all and have all power to work His will, preparing far in advance for the changes to come.

This verse could also be a statement about how the Lord explains the second coming in the scriptures, which, if we have been alert, we will have noticed. The Lord dwells upon the good, the anticipated events with such great detail that it is as if one day lasts a thousand years. He also brushes over the evil days, such as the time that Israel has been scattered, as if it were only a short time, packing a thousand years of history together and speaking of it as if it were only one day. If we were to put a name to this, we could call it “the accordion time model,” stretching out the good and collapsing the bad. I've seen this in the Book of Mormon too, such as when Nephi explains to his brothers that Israel will be scattered, but then will be gathered again. We see it in the Book of Isaiah as well, where the scattering of Israel is predicted and then the gathering of Israel is predicted in the very same chapter.

How does this help us? It helps us not feel cheated if bad times seem to last longer than the scriptures seem to give us an idea of. It also gives us an idea of the Lord’s way of thinking—He dwells upon the good times and anticipates them centuries and even millennia in advance, rather than dwelling upon the bad.