The Bible teaches that God saves those whom He chooses but in 2 Peter 3:9 the Bible says that God does not want any to perish. Does God want everyone to be saved?
If we try to apply Peter’s statement in this passage to the question of salvation, we are taking Peter’s words out of context and thereby misinterpreting them.
The context of Peter’s statement in 2nd Peter 3:9 is a discussion about the Lord’s promise to return for the Church. Let’s look at the full context:
2 Peter 3:1-10 (NKJV)
God’s Promise Is Not Slack
3 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition (destruction) of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The Day of the Lord
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
First, notice that the point of Peter’s passage is given in verse 4: he is addressing those who cast doubt on Jesus’ promise to return for His Church. Remember, Jesus didn’t promise to return for everyone. He promised to return for His Church. Remember His words spoken to the disciples in John 14: Does God Want Everyone To Be Saved
John 14:1-3 (NKJV)
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions (dwellings); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
This is the promise Peter is discussing. Peter says in the last days, many will come scoffing/mocking Jesus’ promise to return. Scoffers/Mockers will claim that He is not returning for His Church. These scoffers/mockers will base their accusations on the fact that so much time has passed since Jesus’ made the promise. They claim God’s promise isn’t trustworthy merely because so much time has passed since the promise was given.
In responding to that accusation, Peter reminds us that time doesn’t pose a threat to God’s promises because God lives outside time. A long passage of time (i.e., a thousand years) is no different to God than the passage of a day, and therefore God’s promises are no less certain after thousands of year than they were in the day they were spoken. Does God Want Everyone To Be Saved
The scoffers/mockers will claim that the long delay in Jesus’ promised return is evidence that His promise isn’t trustworthy, but Peter offers a different reason why God has waited so long to send Jesus back to Earth. The answer is because God doesn’t want any to perish. The fundamental question in understanding this passage is who are the “any” in this statement? Based on the context of Peter’s discussion, “any” is the church, those who believe. In other words, God will ensure that before Jesus returns for the Church, God has called every person intended for faith into the Body of Christ.
From Peter’s teaching (and others in the New Testament), we come to understand that God has a plan for an appointed number of believers in the church, and God has set that number from the foundations of the Earth (see Ephesians 1:4). God has an appointed number of believers He intends to save (see Acts 13:48; 22:14), and these believers are scattered across many nations and throughout the course of history. God is patiently waiting, Peter says, for those elect to be born and to believe in their appointed day. Only after the last appointed believer comes to faith will Christ return for His Church, thereby ensuring that none (of His children) perish.
In summary, Peter’s context in 2nd Peter 3 is clearly talking about Jesus’ promise to return for His Church, and Peter says God does not want any (of His Church) to perish. Once the Lord returns, the opportunity for the world to believe during this age comes to an end, so if the Lord were to return “early,” some of those among future generations of believers would perish in the sense that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be born and believe.
Some have taken this statement in 2nd Peter to mean God is patient because He doesn’t want any human beings to perish. This interpretation is literally impossible. First, people are perishing in their unbelief every day, so if God were “waiting” for all to believe, then God’s waiting would be in vain and would never end. Jesus’ Second Coming could never happen if God is waiting for none to perish! Clearly, Peter cannot mean that God is waiting for the world to believe. God knows many will not believe, so the timing of His return is not dependent on their coming to faith, just as Paul said:
2 Corinthians 4:3 (NKJV)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
Furthermore, such an interpretation is self-contradictory. Peter’s second letter teaches that one day the Lord will return, and when He arrives, He destroys all who have not believed (see 2nd Peter 3:7 and Revelation 19-20). So if Peter were teaching that the Lord is waiting because He wishes no human beings would perish, then Peter’s teaching that the Lord returns to destroy the ungodly would be contradictory! Peter would be teaching that the Lord is planning to act against His own wishes, which is impossible. Clearly, God will not hesitate to destroy the wicked in the day of judgment, therefore He has not delayed that day for their sake. Instead, He has delayed it for the sake of the elect. Does God Want Everyone To Be Saved
Consequently, we cannot assume that the word “any” means “all human beings.” Instead, the context of Peter’s letter makes clear that “any” means “all of God’s elect.”
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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