God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:3-5 undying, undefiled, and unfading
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 17, 2022
A Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 into an inheritance that is undying, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
In this first chapter, Peter proclaims the gospel in bold terms: We have a new birth, a living hope, through the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This hope is presented here as being certain in our future (1 Peter 1:3-5), but also a sure and certain hope in the present moment (1 Peter 1:6-9), and this was proclaimed by the prophets in the past (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Our hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead, as will all of our loved ones who have gone before and who follow after us, which is why we want to share our faith with everyone around us. When Peter calls this hope “a living hope,” he means that it isn’t a dead hope, or a hopeless hope, and that it never will be. Our hope in Christ lasts our whole lifetime. This kind of hope is really a certainty, but we call it a hope because it hasn’t fully come to us yet. That will finally happen when we rise from the dead: our own resurrection is certain because of Christ’s resurrection, and that’s the inheritance that is “undying, undefiled, and unfading.”
This is also an inheritance that can’t be stolen away from us, because it is “kept in heaven for you.” The devil has no access to heaven. The sinful world cannot approach God’s throne. Our sinful human nature must be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51), and we will certainly be changed “in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The resurrection of Jesus assures us that he is the Son of God. If he had not been raised, if he had remained in the grave, then our faith would be futile; we would have no hope at all. Why? Because we would still be in our sins and we would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17). But Jesus was delivered over to be put to death for our sins, “and he was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). And Jesus himself assures us: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). So Peter describes this hope we have as “undying, undefiled, and unfading.”
Undying. This word can also be translated “immortal.” God created man to be immortal, and our love for Jesus is also an “undying love” (Ephesians 6:24). Our inheritance will never perish, never end, because God himself is without end (Hebrews 7:3).
Undefiled. Also “faultless” (James 1:27). Our inheritance in heaven is perfect in every way, having never been spoiled in any way by anything. It is not just that heaven will not spoil in the future, but it has never been marred or sullied by anything. It has been kept holy and pure as God’s throne and our eternal rest.
Unfading. This is like the unfading radiance of the sun or the stars; our eternal home is a constantly shining light ahead of us to guide us and encourage us throughout our lives: Our home is there. This is the comfort for the aging Christian, the persecuted Christian, the grieving Christian, and the Christian who knows that death is fast approaching: Our home is there.
5 Through faith you are being protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.
Our salvation, the ultimate completion of it, will be revealed to us in the very last extremity of time, the last possible moment of the existence of the universe, which will finally and at long last place the period at the end of the sentence, when God said, “Let there be,” and “there was.” For after that final moment, as the echo of the last trumpet resounds and resounds through the hills and valleys of all creation, the arch of time will be broken and undone, and the dead will rise, the nations will be judged, and we will enter into everlasting life with no accounting of time passed or of how long the judgement will take. It will happen, that is all. We will rise, we will ascend as Christ ascended. And until that day, we are protected by the power of God through faith, which is the gift God offers to all. Treasure your faith, and be filled with the certainty of everlasting life.
PLACE OF WRITING
In 1 Peter 5:13, the Apostle sends greetings from “she (the church) who is in Babylon.” This Babylon is generally held to be a symbolic or cryptic name for Rome. There was a Roman outpost called Babylon in Egypt, but there is no record or tradition of Peter going to Egypt, or going to the Babylon in Mesopotamia, which by this time was in ruins. There is, however, a lively tradition in the church that associates Peter with Rome, although there is no account of Peter beginning any churches there. The names of the earliest bishops of Rome are not all preserved, but there are indications that the church was served by Linus (64-68?), Anacletus (during the 70s), and Clement I (26 April 88 - 23 November 99). Peter’s name is often added by the Catholic church to the list of popes as a sort of honorary title.
Peter is writing to Jewish Christians in “the diaspora,” or dispersion. Many Jews, including Jewish Christians, had fled from Jerusalem and from Judea because of the increasingly intolerable state of things under the Roman occupation.
The Christian of Asia Minor are all addressed in the phrase: “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). Pamphylia in the south, where Paul had preached and some difficulty had taken place (Acts 13:13, 14:24, 15:38) might possibly be included under “Asia” just as Pisidia (Acts 13:14-51) might be included under “Galatia.” Peter was writing to all of the Christians who were scattered all throughout Asia Minor, from the River Halys in the east to the Aegean in the west, from the Mediterranean in the south to the Black Sea and the Bosporus in the north. But Peter’s letter is not just for them nor just for their time. It is for all Christians for all time.
REASON FOR WRITING
Peter writes to give comfort, strength, and hope. This letter is often called “The Epistle of Hope.” Peter sends comfort to believers throughout the letter. He comforts us about the efficacy of baptism “that saves you” (1 Peter 3:21), he comforts us that the suffering we undergo “participates in the sufferings of Christ” (4:13), and he comforts us with the promise of the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3, 3:21). Peter strengthens his readers with the gospel and makes it clear that this is one of his main goals with the letter, because true strength is what “God provides” (1 Peter 4:11); God is the one who will “make you strong, firm, and steadfast” (5:10).
Our hope, Peter proclaims, is “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3), based fully on the grace of God (1 Peter 1:13), and God is the source of our hope just as he is the basis of our faith (1 Peter 1:21). He encourages women to put their hope in God just like “the holy women of the past” (1 Peter 3:5), and he also commands all Christians to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter intended for this letter to be read by churches in Galatia and throughout Asia Minor. He knew it would be copied, read, and re-read by Christians (he doesn’t make any personal, individual greetings, perhaps following Paul’s pattern with his letter to the Galatians). He makes his points with many Old Testament passages, filling God’s people with God’s holy word.
Pastor Jeske (People’s Bible) writes that Peter’s letter is written in three cycles. “Each cycle proclaims the mighty, saving acts of God and then describes the believers’ faith-and life-response” (James, Peter, John, Jude p. 64).
Pastor Timothy Smith