1 Peter 1:3 – 12.
Hope! It is that mysterious, subconscious future-oriented ingredient that provides the motivation and impetus for life, bestowing significance to our preferences and conduct, and largely, enhancing our physiological, mental and emotional well-being. When hope is discarded, it is not uncommon to be faced with a state synonymous with Dante’s description – ‘like being in hell.’ What does the Bible say about ‘hope?’ The Apostle Peter addressed aspects of this in his First Epistle. Principally, to a believer, his hope has nothing to do with a desperate attempt at clinging on to something that had a slim chance of becoming real but it is a living hope; founded on reality and grounded firmly in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Peter 1:3; c.f., Rom 6:4-5; 1Cor 15). A hope based on what God has done will never fail. His resurrection formed the basis for the forgiveness of our sins, our gift of eternal life, with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and abiding hope for what is definitively imminent (2Cor 1:22; 2Cor 5:5; Eph 1: 13-14; c.f., 1Peter 1:23-25).
Our enduring faith in God sustains this hope, which at the end of time as we know it, hope’s objective, imperishable and undefiled, will be revealed as our inheritance in the new heaven (1Peter 1:4; c.f., Eph 1:18-21). This inheritance is safeguarded for the believer by God’s own power to be revealed only at the Father’s behest (1Peter 1: 5; c.f., Matt 24: 36-37; 1Thess 5:1-3). In view of this inestimable hope in our inheritance, Peter encourages his readers to rejoice in their present suffering! And the reasons for their rejoicing? Firstly, suffering is fundamentally transitory, even within the three score years and ten, in view of eternity (2Cor 4: 16-18). Secondly, the trials and tests will strengthen our faith enabling us to sustain our hope in Christ (c.f., Rom 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Thirdly, as our faith is proven genuine, all praise, glory and honour will be attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ when He is revealed at the end of time (c.f., 1Peter 2:9; 1Peter 4:11). The interactive reciprocity of faith and hope is obvious, where our faith in Christ enables us to persevere in hope, now and then through the most horrific vicissitudes of life in this world, that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead will likewise sustain us to the end (1Peter 1:6-9), and the future salvation of our souls in the last days is driven by our love for God. Should we not be filled with overwhelming joy? Amidst the suffering, our hope, nourished by God, will flourish and strengthen our faith too.
The salvation of our souls had been addressed by God continually through the Old Testament prophets. In hindsight, even though the references may have been vague, their symbolism was clear and certainty to its fulfilment beyond doubt (1Peter 1:10-12). When the Messiah arrived inconspicuously in the first century, neither the Jewish elite nor the disciples of Jesus were cognizant that Yahweh was among them prior to the resurrection. Nevertheless, the prophets comprehended a great deal about the grace of God, the sufferings of Christ, and the glories of the future; quite apart from the realization that they were the harbingers of hope for our benefit. They prepared the way for our Lord’s appearance in our time. Even the angels wondered in awe and amazement to know the mystery of the salvation of man. Jesus’ resurrection, His triumph over death’s power was the turning point in the gospel event and established that indelible ‘living hope’ in us. In every generation, as believers, as heirs of this divine salvation, we persevere in faith, living in the hope of the consummation of all things in Christ towards that final day (Eph 1:9-12). Come, Lord Jesus.