Who are the ‘USWARD’ whom God is not willing that they perish?
Opposers to Calvinism very often quote II Pet 3:9, “not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance”, and say, “Does not this verse prove that God desires the salvation of the whole human race?”
The first thing to be said upon the above passage is that, like all other scripture, it must be understood and interpreted in the light of its CONTEXT. What we have quoted in the preceding paragraph is only part of the verse, and the last part of it at that! Surely it must be allowed by all that the first half of the verse needs to be taken into consideration. In order to establish what these words are supposed by many to mean, viz., that the words “any” and “all” are to be received without any qualification, it MUST be shown that the CONTEXT is referring to THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE! If this cannot be shown, if there is no PREMISE to justify this, then the CONCLUSION also must be unwarranted. Let us then ponder the first part of the verse.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise”. Note “promise” in the singular number, not “promises.” What promise is in view? The promise of salvation? WHERE, IN ALL SCRIPTURE, HAS GOD EVER PROMISED TO SAVE THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE!! WHERE INDEED? NO, THE “PROMISE” HERE REFERRED TO IS NOT ABOUT SALVATION. What then is it? The context tells us.
“Knowing this, first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?” [vv.3,4]. The context then refers to God’s promise to SEND BACK HIS BELOVED SON. But many long centuries have passed, and this promise has not yet been fulfilled. True, but long as the delay may seem to US, the interval is short in the reckoning of GOD. As the proof of this we are reminded, “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” [v.8]. In God’s reckoning of time, less than two days have yet passed since He promised to send back Christ.
But more, the delay in the Father sending back His beloved Son is not only due to no “slackness” on His part, but it is also occasioned by His “longsuffering”. His longsuffering to WHOM? The verse we are now considering tells us: “but is longsuffering to US-WARD“. And whom are the “US-WARD“? – the human race, or God’s own people?
In the light of the context this is NOT an open question upon which each of us is free to form an opinion. The Holy Spirit has defined it. The opening verse of the chapter says, “This second Epistle, BELOVED I now write unto you”. And, again, the verse immediately preceding declares, “But, BELOVED, be not ignorant of this very one thing etc.,” [v.8]. THE “US-WARD” THEN ARE THE “BELOVED” OF GOD. They to whom this Epistle is addressed are “them that have OBTAINED [not “exercised”, but obtained as God’s Sovereign GIFT”] like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” [II Pet. 1:11]. Therefore we say there is no room for a doubt, a quibble or an argument – the “US-WARD” ARE THE ELECT OF GOD.
Let us now quote the verse as a whole: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Could anything be clearer? The “any” that God is not willing should perish, are the “us-ward” to whom God is “longsuffering”, the “beloved” of the previous verses. 2Pet. 3:9 means, then, that God will not send back His Son until “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Rom.11:25].
God will not send back Christ till that “people” whom He is now “taking out of Gentiles” [Acts 15:14] are gathered in. God will not send back His Son till the Body of Christ is complete, and that will not be till the ones whom He has elected to be saved in this dispensation shall have been brought to Him. Thank God for His “longsuffering to us-ward”. His decreed purpose is that ALL His elect will come to repentance, and repent they SHALL. The present interval of grace will not end until the last of the “other sheep” of John 10:16 are safely brought in,—THEN will Christ return.