Reading 2 Peter 3: 12 in some modern English Bibles and commentaries may suggest that human effort can hasten the coming of Jesus. For example, the NIV Bibles (1973, 1978, 1984, 2011) reads, “as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” Also in the New Living Translation, “looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.” Can we hasten the coming of the Lord? What does the text say for itself?
The Greek root translated “to speed” or “to hasten” here (as in other translations) is the verb σπεύδω (speudó in the accusative case). When the term is used intransitively (i.e. without a direct object), it means “hasten” or “press on.” “When used transitively (i.e. with a direct object), it means to urge on, be eager for, cause to happen soon, seek eagerly (See Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Friberg Lexicon, and Barclay Newman Greek-English Dictionary).
2 Peter 3: 12 is the only place where the verb σπεύδω seems to be used as a transitive verb. Hence, the translation would better read, “earnestly await” or “be eager for.” The Orthodox New Testament reads, “expecting and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of the Lord…” Believers are not only to anticipate Christ’s return but to also desire it (2 Tim 4: 8).
More strikingly, the apostle used the imperative σπουδαίως “be eager” or “be diligent” in 2 Pet 3:14. The word comes from the same Greek root σπεύδω. Peter brings the two verbs in verse 12 again, “ye look for… be diligent that ye may be found of him.” (KJV) This throws more light on verse 12 that believers are to look forward to the day of the Lord but with prudence to earnestly desire for it.
Several of the English Bible translations followed this understanding of translating σπεύδω as “hasten unto” (i.e. striving for or desiring)1. Several others also seem to ignore the transitive verb by translating σπεύδω as “to hasten” 2.
To use 2 Pet 3: 12 to justify that human effort can speed the coming of the Lord may contradict other passages of scripture. In Acts 1: 7, Jesus cautioned His disciples against false speculations about His coming. He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own hands.” This affirmed His earlier statement to them in Mathew 24: 36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Paul later made the same assertion in Acts 17: 31 that God “…has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness.” The determinant of the end time appears to be exclusively God.
2 Peter 3: 12 has its contextual background from verse 3, the coming of mockers against the certainty of the end time. Peter challenges them against the fact that the Earth was destroyed by flood (3: 5-6) and that the present world is reserved for fire against the ungodly (3: 7). In verses 8 and 9, Peter argues that God’s time is different from our time, and He has tarried because He is willing to save all on that day. He further makes a strong argument for the certainty of the coming of the Lord (verse 10) which in effect, the apostle writes, “11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 looking for and hasting unto [earnestly desire for] the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” Believers are to wait patiently and not to be drifted away by the mockery of others. The apostle continued to emphasize the idea of “looking forward” to the coming of the Lord; “… in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth” (verse 13); “… seeing that you look for such things, be diligent.” (verse 14) The Greek root for looking forward could also mean waiting for or expecting something.
Peter made reference to Paul for speaking about these things (verses 15-16). Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1: 7). In his epistle to Titus, he reminded him, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2: 13).
While some modern Bible translations and commentators think “hastening” is directly to “the coming of the day of God,” textual evidence suggests otherwise. The apostle is in fact, admonishing believers to look forward in anticipation by being earnest to live a life of holiness as the day of the Lord will come like a thief. And since God’s time is not our time, and He will haste to come as appointed but not according to our time (2 Pet 3: 8-9), we should haste (earnestly wait) to meet Him. This agrees largely with the New Testament admonishment concerning believers’ attitude towards the coming of Christ—waiting in anticipation.
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