(2 Pet. 3:11-12) Can we speed up Christ’s coming?

CLAIM: Peter writes, “[We are] looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12). Open theists argue that God’s knowledge of the future is uncertain because future events are contingent on human agency—specifically the agency of the Church. For instance, open theist Greg Boyd writes, “So too, it is not clear how Scripture could encourage us to speed up the time of the Lord’s return by how we live if the exact time of his return was eternally set in stone (2 Peter 3:11-12).”[1]

However, even orthodox interpreters like Michael Green write, “The timing of the advent is to some extent dependent upon the state of the church and of society.”[2] Likewise, even a strong Reformed theologian like Schreiner writes, “Peter clearly taught that believers can advance or hasten the arrival of God’s day by living godly lives. We think here of the prayer, ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matt 6:10). Surely the idea is that our prayer has some impact on when the kingdom arrives.”[3] Likewise, Gene Green states that this verb is transitive (“to hasten”), rather than intransitive (“make haste”), and consequently, it impacts the direct object which is the coming of Christ (tēn parousian).[4]

RESPONSE: It’s possible that these commentators are correct. Since the spread of the gospel is necessary for Jesus to return (Mt. 24:14), our ability to spread the gospel to all nations would need to be finished before Jesus’ return. This would fit with the context of 2 Peter 3:9 where Peter argues that this is the very reason for God’s patience in returning.

Does this view affect God’s sovereignty? No. While God knows the ends, he also knows the means to the ends. He knows that the Church will bring about the spread of the gospel, and predicted it as such. Thus, from God’s view, the date is set in stone (Mt. 24:36), but from our finite view, we know that we need to spread the gospel to all nations.

On the other hand, the term “hastening” (speudontos) could also be rendered “striving for” or “zealous for.” Hence, Bauckham writes, “‘Hastening,’ could perhaps mean ‘striving for.’” Though, he adds, “The Jewish background is decisive in favor of ‘hastening.’”[5] In context, the term seems to support the concept of “striving for.” Later in verse 14, we read, “Be diligent (spoudazō) to be found in him.”

[1] Gregory A. Boyd, “Chapter Four: God Limits His Control,” in Four Views on Divine Providence, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 199.

[2] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 164.

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 390.

[4] Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 333.

[5] Richard J. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1983), 325.