God’s Word for You
1 Peter 4:12-13 the front porch of Paradise
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 13, 2022
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (NIV)
Peter’s audience was most of the provinces of present-day Turkey. They were about to suffer even more than the pains they had previously endured. They had “suffered in the body” (4:1), “suffering grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6), being tempted by sinful desires (2:11), submitting to every authority, even an authority that hated them (2:13), enduring the ignorant talk of foolish men (2:15), bearing up under the pain of unjust suffering (2:19), suffering for doing good (2:20; 3:17), for what is right (3:14), and being insulted (3:9). By now, Emperor Nero had proclaimed Christianity to be an illegal religion, and submitting to such an authority must have been unbearable for the Christians under his rule. Many might die; all would have their faith tested. But, Peter asks, should this seem strange? Wasn’t Jesus subjected to all of these things, and more? Much more?
So Peter phrases his encouragement this way: “You participate in the sufferings of Christ.” In what way? They stem from the same evil root, which is the devil. The tendril of this wicked root is the fallen and corrupt world, which has learned to be terrified of God and to hate God. The many stalks, twigs, and thorns of this root and tendril are the various enemies that surround God’s people. They despise Christ, and therefore they despise anyone and everyone who does not despise Christ as they do. This is the same double-standard the world still shows. “Give me permission to worship or not to worship as I see fit,” the world insists, “and don’t dare challenge my faith or unbelief. But I will mock your faith. And you are worthless in my sight because I have decided so.” The world suffers on account of this rabid unbelief and because the devil was thrown into the world to thrash around and writhe and roar. “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). He spews false doctrine, trying to disguise it as a tasty river of fresh water (Revelation 12:15). But God’s people drink only from the pure water of the gospel that comes from the Lamb of God. And while the devil’s time left in the world is short, so is ours. Each Christian has only one lifetime in which to suffer the devil’s torments, after which we can rest until the end will come.
When Peter tells us to rejoice when we participate in Christ’s sufferings, he does not mean that there will be no pain. Pain is part of the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16,17). But David teaches: “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me” (Psalm 69:29). Peter means the same thing. Physically, we suffer in our pain, which doesn’t last only a moment but lingers and sometimes grows worse over time. But spiritually we can rejoice that we suffer on account of Christ, that even the world and the devil acknowledge that we are connected to Christ! “For this joy,” Luther preached, “begins here in suffering and lasts forever. Otherwise he who does not bear his suffering with rejoicing, becomes sullen, and wants to be angry with God, will suffer here and will suffer there forever” (Luther, Sermon from 1522, LW 30:127).
Peter gives us a little glimpse of the resurrection in verse 13 when he says: “you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” This is one of the many blessings of the resurrection and of eternal life. Those who have had faith in Christ will rise to be blessed:
- The complete and radical release from sin. Death is the final evil to be abolished, and with its end comes the absolute release from sin and its wages, which is death (Romans 6:23).
- Man is released from the causes of sin. The sinful temptations from the devil, the world, and our own fallen flesh are removed in the resurrection to eternal life. Jesus said: “In me you have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
- Man is further released from the consequences of sin. “Everything disagreeable, wretchedness, suffering, pain, and death in its double form as temporal and eternal death” are taken away forever (Hoenecke, IV, 334). “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
- Seeing God will be a blessing for both soul and body. There is an unanswerable question as far as this lifetime is concerned as to whether this will be through spiritual sight or physical sight, or both. But I have found that the discussion of this question leads to strong emotions and strong words on the part of many Christians, just as the question about whether we will have the need or desire for food any longer, and therefore the usual arguments about such things I will omit here, since they are arguments both in the rhetorical as well as the conversational and emotional sense.
There are many other blessings we will enjoy in heaven; union with God, reunion with one another, the release from physical imperfections and the acquisition of the highest perfections that are consistent with remaining God’s creatures. Many unexpected blessings are discerned from a careful study of 1 Corinthians 15:43-44. The analysis of these things should wait for that study (a new series of devotions on 1 Corinthians are planned to begin later this year).
For some, the sufferings of this lifetime shed an opposite light on the anticipated joys and peace of heaven. The more one withstands here below, the more one looks forward to what will be, there above. But leave it to Paul to dash even that see-saw: “I consider,” he said, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). What we anticipate in eternity will surpass all expectations. For just as the creation in general waits for the glory of us, the sons of God, to be revealed (Romans 8:19), so also we await the restoration of God’s creation to its perfection and peace, which we will enjoy from the front porch of Paradise.
Pastor Timothy Smith