by Steven Chan
When the early Christians were scattered abroad, the apostle Peter wrote a letter to them addressing them as “pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). That letter contained words of comfort and encouragement to the Christians. It is also a source of great comfort to us today as well. Let’s consider his words of encouragement as found in his opening statements in verses 3 to 8:-
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love.”
1. “According to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope.”
It is God who initiated the effort to give us such a great blessing. Peter declared that it was because of His abundant mercy that He has begotten us. John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Recalled that Jesus had said that unless one is born again of water and of the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5).
In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter explained that Christians “have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” When the seed which is the Word of God is planted in our hearts (Luke 8:11; 1 Cor 3:5-8), those who embraced the truth that is sown in their hearts so as to be saved (2 Thess 2:10) are “born again” when they are baptized into Christ, thereby putting on Christ (Gal 3:27) as they are raised to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4) and have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Through that process, God has caused us to be born again or anew.
God has done more than just enabling us to born again and having our past sins forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Most importantly, He has given us a living hope. What is that one hope (Eph 4:4)? In his defence before Governor Felix in Acts 24:15, the apostle Paul explained the hope as follows: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” The Hope of the Resurrection from the Dead (both of the just and unjust) is the one Hope that Paul declared in his preaching here as well as everywhere (Acts 26:6) as also in Acts 26:7-8 before King Agrippa: “To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”
This is the Hope that should comfort all Christians – especially when we lose our loved ones. 1 Thess 4:13-18: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Although there are aspects of His Coming that may not be clear to us today, the apostle John nonetheless made this important observation in 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Let’s not lose this hope.
2. “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
Our Hope is a Living Hope because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then our hope would be a dead one! But because He lives, we have a living hope: 1 Cor 15:13-19: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up–if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
Our hope is premised on the fact/reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Christ was not raised then our faith would be in vain and our hope is misplaced – and we are of all men most to be pitied indeed.
In John 6:39, Jesus declared thus: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” In John 10:17-18, He said: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
So, when Jesus was raised from the dead, He demonstrated that He was indeed the Son of God and He had overcome death and therefore His promise that He will raise us up in the last day gives us a living hope! Heb 2:14: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,…” Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by His Resurrection: Rom 1:3-4: “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
3. “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”
Beyond just forgiving us of our past sins and giving us the hope of the resurrection (victory over death), our Lord has also prepared an inheritance that far exceeds any that one can possibly wish for – an inheritance that is “incorruptible, undefiled, does not fade away” and the Holy Spirit used the word “reserved” in heaven for us. It’s ready and awaits our arrival. No wonder Jesus said in John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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.” In this place where God dwells, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Rev 21:4). No wonder the apostle Paul wrote in Phil 1:21-23: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
4. “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
God has not just made us these promises and then left us to our own devices to make our way there. The apostle Peter informed us that we are “kept by the power of God”. God is using His Power to actively help us “to keep on keeping on” so that we can reach the shores of heaven safely. Rom 8:31-32: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Rom 8:37: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Heb 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
But very importantly, inasmuch as nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39), we must still keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). We are kept by God’s Power “through faith”. We must keep our faith and trust in God. If we lose our faith, then we will not be kept by God’s power for salvation. Heb 3:12-13: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
5.“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials”
In John 16:33, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In this world we will have “tribulation”, trials and troubles of all sorts. But the Bible assures us that all these tribulation and trials are a “little while” and that they are not comparable to the glory that awaits us: Rom 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
So, because we have received such wonderful blessings from God (born again into God’s family, given a living hope and promised an inheritance in heaven that will never fade), we should rejoice greatly even though in this life we are grieved by various trials. The Bible assures us that such grief would be “for a little while”. So, we ought not to allow feelings of grief to deprive us from the joy that awaits us. In all these trials, we must remember the assurance of God: 1 Cor 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Heb 2:18: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Phil 4:4-7: “Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The apostle Paul wrote thus in 2 Cor 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” and in Heb 12:1-2: “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” May we not lose heart but keep on keeping on (Gal 6:9)