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11 April 2020

Revelation of Jesus in 1 Peter

SynopsisPeter exhorts Christians to persevere in suffering and persecution, and to live holy lives in the knowledge of Christ’s impending return.

glorious sunrise Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash
By Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash
In his first epistle, Peter addresses Christians in Asia Minor who are experiencing pressure to conform to the expectations of pagan society. Their situation is not unique; they are members of a worldwide suffering community. A dominant theme in his letter is the call to persevere through suffering and persecution.

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. His references to the future coming of Jesus are intended to encourage Christians who have been marginalized by a hostile society, reminding them of the rewards to be received by the faithful at the arrival of Jesus (1 Peter 1:14-18, 2:9, 4:3, 5:8-9).

(1 Peter 1:1-2) – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, unto the chosen pilgrims of the dispersion throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia — Chosen according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, Favour unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

Peter applies the language from the story of Israel’s wanderings in the Wilderness to his largely Gentile audience. They are the “elect sojourners of the diaspora,” alienated from the surrounding society, “strangers in a strange land” and resident aliens on their way to the New Promised Land (1 Peter 1:17, 2:11, Deuteronomy 23:7, 28:25, 30:4, Psalm 39:12).

(1 Peter 1:3-6) – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to his great mercy, hath regenerated us unto a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, Unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you who, in God’s power, are being guarded through faith unto salvation — ready to be revealed in the last ripe time: Wherein ye exult, though for a little, just now, if needful, put to grief in manifold temptations.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Apostle gives thanks for the incorruptible “inheritance” and glorious promises God has bequeathed to Christians through “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.” From the start, Peter anchors all that Christians will receive in the past death and resurrection of Jesus.

They have not yet received their full salvation and are yet subject to trials and suffering. However, their final rewards are assured and “reserved” for them “in the heavens” to be “revealed” at the proper “season”.

Disciples of Jesus 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:

(Colossians 3:3-4) - “For ye have died and your life is hid together with the Christ in God — As soon as the Christ shall be made manifest — our life, then ye also together with him, shall be made manifest in glory.”

Revealed” translates the Greek verb apokaluptō, which means, “to uncover, unveil, reveal” (Strong’s #601). It is related to the noun apokalupsis from which the English terms “apocalypse” is derived, the same noun translated “revelation” elsewhere in the New Testament. The idea is the uncovering of something previously hidden.  An inference is that what is currently hidden in heaven will be revealed when Jesus arrives to reward his people.

(1 Peter 1:6-9) – “Wherein ye exult, though for a little, just now, if needful put to grief in manifold temptations, In order that the proving of your faith — much more precious than of gold that perisheth even though by means of fire it is proved — may be found unto praise and glory and honour in the revealing of Jesus Christ — Whom not having seen ye love, on whom, though at present not looking but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with glory, Being about to bear away the end of your faith — a salvation of souls” – (The Emphasized Bible).

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For the present, Christians find themselves enduring trials that test their faith. Suffering for the faith is not an abnormal experience but an integral part of what it means to be a Christian.  Trials and persecution serve to prepare and purify believers so that they may stand in the proper condition at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Here “revelation” translates the Greek noun apokalupsis related to the verb “revealed” (Strong’s #602).

Peter links the future “revelation of Jesus Christ” to Christian salvation and the 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.”

At least twice, the Apostle Paul described the return of Jesus as his “revelation” or apokalupsis:

(1 Corinthians 1:7) – “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) – “And unto you that are afflicted release with us — by the revealing of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his messengers of power, In a fiery flame; holding forth vengeance — against them that refuse to know God and them who decline to hearken unto the glad-message of our Lord Jesus, Who, indeed, a penalty shall pay — age-abiding destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might — Whensoever he shall come to be made all-glorious in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all who believed — because our witness unto you was believed — in that day.”

The passage from 2 Thessalonians includes several conceptual parallels to Peter’s description of the “revelation” of Jesus. This includes the idea of suffering Christians receiving their reward, release, and vindication on that day. Note well Paul’s statement that Jesus will be revealed “from heaven,” which suggests strongly that this event does not take place in heaven. Like Christian salvation, at present, Jesus is kept “hidden” in heaven until the appropriate time.

(1 Peter 1:13-16) – “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, keeping sober, perseveringly direct your hope unto the favour being borne along to you in the revealing of Jesus ChristAs obedient persons, not configuring yourselves unto your former covetings in your ignorance: But according as he that hath called you is holy, do ye yourselves also become holy in all manner of behavior — Inasmuch as it is written — Holy shall ye be, because I am holy” – (The Emphasized Bible).

Peter again stresses the future aspect of salvation – it is received in all its fulness at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” In consideration of this, the believers in Asia Minor must live soberly and persevere through their trials and persecutions. Holiness is not optional. This does not mean that Christians are not “saved” at the time of repentance; it does mean their completed salvation lies in the future and is received when Jesus is revealed from heaven.

(1 Peter 2:11-12) – “Beloved! I exhort you as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly covetings, such as take the field against the soul; Having your behaviour among the nations honourable — in order that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, owing to the honourable works they are permitted to behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The Asian 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.” In this way, 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; both groups will be impacted by it, one way or another.

In this passage, Peter labels this future event the day of “visitation.” This translates the Greek noun episkopos, a word used elsewhere for “overseer” or “bishop” (Strong’s #1984. e.g., Acts 1:20, 1 Timothy 3:1). It is related to the verb episkeptomai, “to examine, investigate, oversee, visit.” The switch from “revelation” to “visitation” adds an aspect of judgment or examination to the event. But it also prepares for the verse at the end of this section where Peter labels Jesus the “shepherd and overseer of your souls.

(1 Peter 4:12-17) – “Beloved! be not held in surprise by the burning among you which for putting you to the proof is befalling you, as though a surprising thing were happening unto you; But, in so far as ye are taking fellowship in the Christ’s sufferings, rejoice! in order that, in the revealing of his glory also ye may rejoice with exultation: If ye are being reproached in the name of Christ, happy are ye! Because the Spirit of the glory and the Spirit of God unto you is bringing rest. For let none of you be suffering as a murderer or a thief or an evil-doer or as one prying into other men’s affairs; But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but be glorifying God in this name. For it is the ripe time for the judgment to begin with the house of God; but if first with us, what shall be the end of them who yield not unto the glad-message of God?” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Disciples who endure persecution because they are “Christians” should not be ashamed of their suffering but, instead, ought to “glorify God in this name…it 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?” Presumably, the lot of the wicked will not be a pleasant one. 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.

(1 Peter 5:1-4) – “Elders, therefore, among you I exhort — I who am their co-elder and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also in the glory about to be revealed have a share; — Shepherd the beloved flock of God which is among you — not by compulsion but by choice, nor yet for base gain but of a ready mind — Nor yet as lording it over the allotted portions, but becoming ensamples to the beloved flock; And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, ye shall bear away the unfading crown of glory” – (The Emphasized Bible).

Peter exhorts church elders to shepherd God’s flock considering 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).

Once again, “revealed” translates the verb apokaluptō. Peter also refers to the day when Jesus, the “Chief Shepherd,” will be “manifested.” Note well, he will appear at a specific point in time or “day.”

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, whether he labels it “revelation” or “appearance.” This is an event that impacts both believers and nonbelievers.  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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