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20 July 2019

The Coming of Jesus in First Peter


Jesus Holds the World
In his first epistle, Peter portrays Christians as members of a worldwide suffering community. A dominant theme is a call for perseverance through suffering and persecution. His references to the future coming of Jesus encourage Christians marginalized by a hostile society by reminding them of the rewards to be received by the faithful at the arrival of Jesus (1 Peter 5:8-9).
The congregations addressed by Peter include Gentile believers. They had inherited “futile ways” from their progenitors and lived in “darkness.” Previously, they were a “no people” and idolaters that engaged in the sins and carnal excesses typical of their pagan neighbors (1 Peter 1:14-18, 2:9, 4:3).
Peter applies language from the story of Israel to his largely Gentile congregations. They are the “elect sojourners of the diaspora,” alienated from the surrounding society, “strangers in a strange land,” and resident aliens in their homeland (1 Peter 1:1, 1:17, 2:11, Deuteronomy 23:7, 28:25, 30:4, Psalm 39:12).
The Apostle gives thanks for the incorruptible “inheritance” and glorious promises God has bequeathed to Christians, “according to His great mercy, having regenerated us unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.” From the start, Peter anchors all that Christians receive in the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3-12).
Disciples will receive their full salvation “in the last season,” that is, when Jesus returns from heaven.  In the interim, the promise is “reserved in the heavens” waiting to be “revealed in the last time.” The Apostle Paul expressed a similar idea to the Colossians:  “For ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ our life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).
In the meantime, Christians find themselves “in manifold tests that the proving of their faith…by means of fire may be found for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Peter links the future “revelation of Jesus Christ” to Christian salvation and rewards to be received on that day by the faithful; therefore, Christians must remain sober and direct their hope to the grace that is “being borne along to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ…and become holy in all manner of behavior.”
Peter’s congregations are comprised of “sojourners and pilgrims” who no longer belong to this evil age; therefore, they must “abstain from fleshly lusts” and reflect “honorable behavior among the Gentiles.” Thus, their pagan neighbors may “glorify God on the day of visitation.” This indicates that both believers and unbelievers will be present when that day arrives.
Christians should not be surprised by trials and sufferings. By persevering through them, believers participate in Christ’s sufferings and, so, should rejoice. The “revelation of his glory” will be a time of glory and joy for the faithful.
Disciples who endure persecution “as Christians” should not be ashamed of their suffering but, instead, ought to “glorify God in this nameit is the season for the judgment to begin with the house of God.”  This is the judgment that will occur at the end of the age; Christians undergo judgment now for the purpose of purgation, the examination of their faith. But if judgment begins with the house of God, “what shall be the end of them who yield not to the gospel of God?” Once again, the idea of the judgment of the wicked on the day Jesus returns is presented. Peter does this to motivate Christians to holy living.
Peter exhorts church elders to shepherd God’s flock in light of “the glory about to be revealed” and in which they will have a share.  Elders who do so will receive an “unfading crown of glory” on the day when “the Chief Shepherd is manifested” (see also Colossians 3:4; 1 John 2:28).
In this letter, Peter does not delve into the finer details of the coming of Jesus; that is not his purpose. He writes to encourage Christians to persevere in suffering and to live holy lives in the knowledge of Christ’s impending return. The Apostle’s faith is forward-looking; rewards and salvation are received when Jesus arrives.  That day means rewards for the faithful but condemnation for the wicked.  Final judgment occurs when Jesus is revealed from heaven.
Peter refers to only one future coming of Jesus, not two, an event that impacts both believers and unbelievers.  There is no discussion of the church departing from the earth to escape tribulation; rather, believers must persevere in sufferings, until the day Jesus is unveiled from heaven.

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