Peter on the Revelation of Jesus

Peter exhorted Christians to persevere in sufferings and to live holy lives in the knowledge of Christ’s impending return

Last Sun Burst - Photo by MissMushroom on Unsplash
In his first epistle, Peter wrote to Christians in Asia Minor who were under pressure to conform to the expectations of the larger pagan society. Their situation was not unique, for they were members of a worldwide suffering community. One of the letter’s key themes is the summons for believers to remain steadfast through trials and persecution - [
Photo by MissMushroom on Unsplash].

His references to the future “revelation” of Jesus are intended to encourage Christians who are marginalized by a hostile society, reminding them of the rewards the faithful will receive at his arrival.

Peter begins his letter by applying language from 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 1:1-2).

But the church is not without hope, for it will receive the promised “incorruptible inheritance” when Jesus is revealed at the end of the age:
  • (1 Peter 1:3-6) – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who  according to his great mercy has regenerated us for a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, for an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you, who, in God’s power, are being guarded through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last season, wherein you exult, though for a little, just now, if needful, put to grief in manifold temptations.”
This “inheritance” was bequeathed to Christians through “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.” From the start, the Apostle anchors all that we will receive in the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus. His audience has not yet received their full salvation, and they are yet subject to trials and suffering. However, their final reward is assured; it is waiting for them, “reserved in the heavens,” and will be “revealed” at the proper “season.” That is, when Jesus is “revealed” at the end of the age – (Compare - Colossians 3:3-4).

Revealed” translates the Greek verb apokaluptō, which means, “to uncover, unveil, reveal” (Strong’s - #G601). It is related to the noun apokalupsis, the same noun translated “revelation” elsewhere in the New Testament. Here, the term indicates that the promised rewards are currently hidden in heaven, but they will be revealed when Jesus arrives “in the last season.”

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 follow Jesus.  Trials prepare and purify believers so 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”:
  • (1 Peter 1:6-9) – Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is proved by fire, may be found for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… and receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
The future “revelation of Jesus Christ” is linked to “salvation,” which will be received on that “last” day. Considering this hope, disciples 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.” Similarly, at least twice, the Apostle Paul described the return of Jesus using the term “revelation” or apokalupsis - (1 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
  • (1 Peter 1:13-16) – “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, keeping sober, perseveringly direct your hope unto the grace that is being borne along to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ. As obedient persons, not configuring yourselves unto your former lusts in your ignorance, but according as he that has called you is holy, do you yourselves also become holy in all manner of behavior, just as it is written: Holy shall you be because I am holy.”
Once again, Peter stresses the future aspect of salvation. It is received in all its fullness at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, believers must live soberly and persevere through all trials. Holiness is not optional. That does not mean that we are not “saved” at the time of our initial repentance, but it does mean that our completed salvation lies in the future.
  • (1 Peter 2:11-12) – “Beloved! I exhort you as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts, such as take the field against the soul; Having your conduct among the nations honorable, in order that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, owing to the honorable deeds they are permitted to behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Believers are “sojourners and pilgrims” who no longer belong to this present age. By living holy lives, their pagan neighbors may glorify God “on the day of visitation.” In this context, “day of visitation” is identical to the day of Christ’s “revelation.” That our pagan neighbors will “glorify God” at that time means that both believers and unbelievers will be present when that day arrives.

Visitation” translates the Greek noun episkopos, the word used elsewhere for “overseer” or “bishop,” and it is related to the verb episkeptomai, meaning “to examine, investigate, oversee, visit.” The change from “revelation” to “visitation” adds an aspect of judgment to the event.

Dusk on Puget Sound - Photo by MissMushroom on Unsplash
Photo by MissMushroom on Unsplash

Between now and that day, disciples will endure persecution because they are “
Christians,” but they should not be ashamed, and instead, they ought to “glorify God in this nameit is the season for the judgment to begin with the house of God” – (1 Peter 4:12-17).

The judgment that “begins with the house of God” is a foretaste of the judgment that will occur “on the day of visitation.” Christians undergo examination now for the purpose of purgation. 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 fate of the wicked will not be pleasant. Once again, the idea of the judgment on the day that Jesus is “revealed” is presented.
  • (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, you shall bear away the unfading crown of glory.”
Elders are to “shepherd” God’s flock, considering the “glory about to be revealed” 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.” Once again, “revealed” translates the verb apokaluptō. Peter also refers to the day when the “Chief Shepherd” will be “manifested.” In this context, “revealed” and “manifested” refer to the same event, “on that day.”

Peter does not delve into the finer details about the return of Jesus. Instead, his purpose is to encourage Christians to persevere in trials and live in the knowledge of Christ’s impending “revelation.” That day will mean rewards for the faithful, but also condemnation for the wicked.  Final salvation and judgment will occur when Jesus is “revealed from heaven.”


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