8But, 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. 9The 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. (2 Pet 3:8-9)This passage, which is sometimes used against Calvinism, is in fact not a problem for the Reformed crowd. In addition, it supports postmillennialism.
The argument given here is from R. C. Sproul. There are two issues here to resolve. The first is what is meant by [God] is not willing. The second is who the "any" are that God is not willing should perish.
The will with which He is not willing might refer to any of the typically three types of will ascribed to God:
- God’s Sovereign will. This has to do with God’s decrees. Anything in God’s Sovereign will is absolutely certain to happen, such as when God willed the universe into existence.
- God’s Preceptive will. This has to do with what God desires but does not go so far as to decree. For example, he wills that we obey His law, but he doesn’t make us, and in fact we will fail miserably.
- God’s Permissive will. This has to do with what God allows but reflects neither a decree nor a desire of God.
Now for the any in not willing that any should perish. There are two possibilities here. One is that the any refers to all men. The other is that it refers to the immediate antecedent, which is found in the word us which occurs earlier in verse 9. Then it would be in reference to the group that includes both Peter and the intended audience of his epistle. This audience is evident from the letter’s salutation:
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2 Pet 3:1)
Clearly the us refers to the elect (believers). So the word any in verse 9 means either all men or the elect.
Three choices for wills. Two for any. Let’s enumerate the possibilities. In a given cell we place a paraphrase of what the text means if you accept the corresponding meaning for will and for any.
|Any = all men||Any = elect|
|Sovereign||God decrees all are saved||God decrees the elect are saved|
|Preceptive||God desires all are saved||God desires the elect to be saved|
|Permissive||God allows all to be saved||God allows the elect to be saved|
The interpretations based on God’s permissive will make no sense at all. Nor does God desires the elect to be saved —no doubt true but terribly redundant. God decrees all are saved is universalism, which the bible clearly rejects. No, it must be either God desires all are saved or God decrees the elect are saved. Arminians favor the former, which eliminates neither Arminianism nor Calvinism, while Calvinism favors the latter, which rules out Arminianism. Gramattically, the latter also has the more persuasive argument, given, that the text does not use the phrase any man (or person) and, as mentioned, the immediate antecedent is the word us.
Relationship to Postmillennialism
This argument is purely inference, but it is not without merit. A paraphrase of both verses, using the Reformed view of verse 9 as described above, might be:
Beloved, do not forget that God is not in a hurry, but will take the time, in spite of human rebellion, to fulfill His promise that all the elect should be saved.
The reason this supports postmillennialism is that, in this interpretation, it gives a sense of a long term plan. God will redeem His people on his schedule, not matter how long it takes. He has an elect to save, and He will lose none of them. Christ will not come until those elect have heard the gospel and have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, and only then will He return in glory.
Don't look to the newspaper to discern when Christ will return. Look to scripture.