Living Now with the End in View
1 Peter 4:7-11 (focal: v7)
During a football game, the teams get a ‘two-minute warning’ at the end of each half of play. A whistle sounds and it often seems that both teams put forth an extra effort when the end of the half is near; the offense tries desperately to score points and the defense is especially cautious in not giving ground to their opposition. One person recalled a time some years ago as he and a friend were watching a team make a noticeable surge after the two-minute warning, the friend asked, ‘Why don’t they always play like there’s two minutes left?’
If this is true for football, perhaps we too need to ask, ‘How would I live if I knew I only had a short time left on earth?’ Peter reminds his readers that the end was drawing near. And just like modern footballers, Peter’s people are not to give up or relax in their efforts to live faithful lives. On the contrary, they are to keep the focus on living faithfully as a colony of exiles in these last days.
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “There are two days in my calendar. This day and that Day.” Several texts in Scripture express that sentiment, but few are quite as clear as 1 Pet 4:7-11. Here the Apostle tells us explicitly to live now in view of the end of all things. As we look closely at the details, Peter’s remarkable vision emerges with a sense of urgency.
He told us earlier that Christ appeared in these last times for our sakes (1:20), and now he tells us that the end-goal toward which all historical events are headed is at hand (4:7). We live at the culminating point—a point of unparalleled privilege—in the history of revelation and redemption. Though we’re exiles in this world, we’re to live as those upon whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor 10:11). We live in the final phase of God’s redemptive process, in the days of Christ’s reign from heaven on earth. Because we benefit now from His past victories (3:18–4:4), and we will be vindicated in the future (4:5-6), our past conversion to Christ and our future vindication by Him reshape our present attitude and actions. In that light, Peter exhorts us: take seriously, right now, four duties that will ensure your endurance as the colony of exiles in these times of test and trial. This coming Lord’s Day we will look at these four duties to ensure our endurance as a colony of exiles.
Jesus, knowing both our impatience and how quickly we lose heart, taught:
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:35-37).
When he comes back, Christ will serve those who have patiently anticipated that day. But he also warned believers to be alert and prepared for that event, because they do not know the precise time of his appearing.
As is the goal of everything for believers, the purpose of their fulfilling the obligations of Christian duty in the midst of a hostile world is that God may be glorified. The final clauses of this passage (v11) constitute a doxology – an expression of praise and glory to God, which Christians can correctly utter only through Jesus Christ. Peter then closes this passage with the familiar ‘amen,’ a term of affirmation that means ‘so let it be.’
J. C. Ryle’s observations on holy living still apply to all believers living in a world hostile to Christianity:
A holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim traveling to his home. (from Holiness, p37).
I look forward to joining you in worship this Lord’s Day, pilgrim.
Just passing through,