The End Of All Things Is Near!
1 Peter 4:7 – 5:14.
The human consciousness makes it unlikely for most to satisfactorily handle the nearness of ‘the end of all things’ despite believers’ imagination of some glorified scenario (i.e., the return of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 4:7; c.f., Titus 2:11-15), simply due to the complexity of its ensuing events, including its inexact timing from a few sketchy Scriptural references (Matt 24:36). What is knowable is that man’s predilection for self-preservation would unconsciously kick in when we are caught by it suddenly! Nevertheless, the Apostle Peter, with reference to the ongoing persecution of believers, provoked his readers to earnestly consider their priorities in such a predicament in order to glorify God. To just engage with pure human effort to sustain a perennial internalised awareness of the Lord’s coming and to continue to possess a consistently sound judgment, a sober spirit for prayer, a fervent love for one another, being hospitable without complaint, together with the unswerving exercise of one’s special gifting is unsustainable given the level of distraction society presents (1 Peter 4:8-11). However, when the likelihood that one may loose one’s life as the price for remaining steadfast in Christ, in the midst of a state or religiously sanctioned persecution in these last days, a transformed heart would invariably purify the mind and enable believers to sharpen their focus on the Lord’s priorities (c.f., 1 John 3:2-3).
In that context, Peter delved into the reality of those testing times, and began to track with believers the fiery ordeal they were passing through as Christ’s disciples (c.f., Matt 10:16-42), where their apparent interminable suffering was for the sake of the kingdom of God in the proofing of their faith (1 Peter 4:13-16; c.f., 1 Peter 1:6-7). Therefore, juxtaposing between suffering and judgment, Peter counselled them to endure their travail without misgivings but with rejoicing, as God commences to judge and purify His church first, before He does so with the world at large (1 Peter 4:17-19). This confident joy in God’s judgment is available when believers are faithfully doing His righteous will in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty (1 Peter 4:19; c.f., Rom 5:3-6). This was the crux of Peter’s encouragement.
In his Epistle’s penultimate remarks, the Apostle specifically addressed the elders in the mode of their leadership approach with reference to a dissenting segment of their congregation – the younger men. We are not informed on the specifics of the issue(s), but possible generational or various programme tensions would not be abnormal. What was grating was the usual leadership’s heavy-handedness in dealing with such disagreements. Peter’s advice to them was for a measured oversight that would set an example for everyone in the church, just as Jesus would have done, where casting aside arrogance, both parties exercise humility towards each other (1 Peter 5:1-5; c.f., James 4:11). If the drift of Peter’s Letter as a whole was to be taken seriously, then his advice here would mean that their ‘internal relationship’ in the way they handled differences within the congregation would impact their testimony to outsiders, sufficiently to draw them into the faith community (c.f., 1 Peter 2:9, 12, 13-17, 19-20, 2123; 1 Peter 3:1, 13-17; 1 Peter 4:4-5, 14-16).
In his concluding exhortation, Peter reminded the believers that they belonged to God, as He is ultimately their Master and the One who cares for them, and their humility before Him is no different from that towards one another. Besides, to not cast their anxieties on Christ, which He had borne on the cross, was to deny His sufferings and the price that had already been paid for sin (1 Peter 5:5-7; c.f., Phil 4:6-7). Further, there is an imperative to be clear-headed (which the Apostle referred to twice previously: 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7) to discern and thwart the plans of their spiritual adversary (i.e., via their persecutors) who was seeking to destroy their faith. The Apostle had inevitably concluded that events unfolding around them prognosticated the proximity of ‘the end of all things,’ where God’s intent in their fierce ordeals was to make them whole, secure, strong, and to eventually share in His eternal splendour (1 Peter 5:10-11). They were undoubtedly not alone in their affliction (1 Peter 5:8-9; c.f., James 4:7; Eph 6:11-12), as Peter sought their empathy for their similarly suffering brethren elsewhere in the larger body of Christ. Their authentic vicarious identification (that was only possible at an emotional level) enabled them to draw strength from each other and from their Lord in a similar predicament (1 Peter 5:9). Hence, being in Christ as refugees in this temporal world would enable us to identify with the poverty-stricken, the disadvantaged, the wounded, and those who have been exiled, with deep empathy, love and ministrations. Without Christ, we will see nothing!