Chapter 1

‘A Living Hope’

From the booklet The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope

Peter wailed violently after he betrayed Jesus Christ, according to one translation. He was in the depths of hopelessness.

He had told Christ that he would never forsake Him. Christ’s response was that Peter would betray Him three times before the rooster crowed. When the soldiers came to take Christ, Peter followed at a safe distance. Then Peter warmed himself in a courtyard and people recognized him. They accused him of being a disciple of Christ. He denied it, even cursing them. After he denied Christ the third time, the rooster crowed. At that point, Peter remembered Christ’s words and wept bitterly! (Luke 22:54-62).

Never was Peter more hopeless.

When this happened, Peter and the disciples had God’s Holy Spirit with them, but not in them. They would receive God’s Spirit in them on the day of Pentecost. It was at that point that the disciples became converted.

Before the day of Pentecost, Christ said to Peter, “[W]hen thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (verse 32). (This is Christ’s plea to the ministry in any era.) Peter followed Christ’s instructions as few men ever have. During Peter’s life, none of Christ’s disciples strengthened the brethren more than he did!

How passionately Christ wants His ministers to strengthen the brethren! Do we ministers have this kind of love for the brethren? Do we see how desperately they need to be strengthened? Do we ministers understand how much we can help them build their hope? Do we have the love to do it?

Peter was about to be martyred when he wrote his epistles. Then he was the epitome of hope. What a turnaround! Few—if any—of Christ’s disciples have ever had more hope.

His message is needed more today than at any time in the history of man!

Peter’s betrayal brought terrible shame on him! Think you will ever make it without God’s Holy Spirit in you? Look at Peter!

There is an important lesson here. No matter how hopeless you may think it is, wait on Christ and He will turn it around!

God’s hope never dies—it’s always there for us if we want it. But we must be patient to find that hope.

There is no such thing as hopelessness with God. In the depths of Peter’s despair, he found “a living hope”! And so can you.

Two-Fold Commission

God’s Church has a twofold commission: the great commission to the world and the secondary commission of feeding the flock—the Church. (One of our major responsibilities is to strengthen the brethren.)

That first commission is quite difficult today. We face the worst crisis in world history. Our task is to warn the world about the greatest disaster ever to afflict this Earth.

In the short run, this world has no future. It faces nuclear annihilation and a host of other deadly evils. The problems are so severe that men can’t face them. They ignore them and escape them any way they can—because they cannot solve them. Reality is bleak, and humankind has never been more hopeless. And it is becoming more hopeless extremely fast.

For God’s people to be unified behind fulfilling our commission—even in the shadow of mountainous difficulties—we must be filled with hope!

How can we have hope in the midst of such towering crises? And yet—how can we fulfill our commission if we don’t have hope?

You will never work diligently for God if you are not filled with joyful anticipation of the glorious future that awaits God’s Family.

If our mind is just on the things of this world, we will become mired in depression, stress and discouragement. But that is not how God thinks. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have those negative emotions—but, of course, we aren’t. We struggle with doubts. Like Jonah, in our weaker moments, we can even want to run from our responsibility to God!

But the Apostle Peter provides something we must understand if we are to fulfill our commission. He gives us the solution to those problems.

The two epistles of Peter focus expressly on the greatest crisis man has ever faced. Yet at the same time, no book in the Bible concentrates more on hope.

Peter spoke of a living hope—a hope that is alive in our minds!

Hope abounds in our commission—it is filled with hope! It contains a mind-expanding vision.

The world’s problems are real. But this hope is more real! This hope fills us with joyful anticipation and expectation. We anticipate and expect the most hope-filled future that our minds can imagine.

If we lose focus on our commission, our hope will vanish. We must have hope in order to function in a hopeless world! If ever there was a time when we needed this hope, it is now.

Trying Times

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. … Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:9, 12).

Satan is far more wrathful today than when Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, because his time is so short. (Mr. Armstrong died in 1986.) This age is worse—more dangerous. The devil is working on the moods, attitudes and feelings of mankind as never before. The world is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

God’s Church is going to face unusual problems. Knowing that Satan has been cast down and is feverishly laboring to attack us, we can be sure of that fact. He looks for every opportunity to attack. Since we are his number one target, we must prepare ourselves.

All of God’s people must understand that we are entering extremely trying times.

What we have faced to this point is minor compared to what we are about to experience.

But God always prepares us for such circumstances. This is where Peter comes in.

Hope in the Midst of Trial

Perhaps we think of the Apostle Peter as being bombastic—all personality. That is far from accurate.

Notice what Lange’s Commentary says about Peter’s first epistle: “No portion of the New Testament is so thoroughly interwoven with quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament. (It contains, in 105 verses, 23 quotations, while the epistle to the Ephesians has only seven, and that to the Galatians, only 13.)”

Peter knew the Bible—probably more than any of the other apostles. He was much more than just personality. A major reason why he excelled was because of his understanding of Scripture. His writings are filled with Old Testament quotes. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Peter had strong faith—based on a deep knowledge of the Bible.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter set them a marvelous example in always being ready to answer questions about our hope. He knew the Old Testament extremely well and quoted it frequently.

He set an example of hope, and his profound Bible understanding stirs and inspires us today.

Why was Peter chosen as chief apostle? One of the major reasons was that he knew the Bible! Are you known as a person who really knows his or her Bible? Christ said we would be held accountable for every word.

The Bible is Jesus Christ in print. What a mind-jarring blessing this book is for God’s very elect. We must know the mind of God and be deeply grounded in the Bible in order to have the hope we need.

As he wrote, Peter knew his own death was imminentChrist had told him. Peter faced death and other serious problems, yet his writing contains the greatest hope of any book in the Bible! Peter faced situations far worse than any we have faced. How could you know you were about to die and not be anxious about that? How can you have deep hope in the midst of fiery trials? Peter shows us how.

God’s chief apostle didn’t realize it at the time, but he was prophesying specifically for our time today—the last hour—the time of Satan being cast down, of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

So God inspired Peter to write about the ultimate hope. The Holy Spirit led Peter to dig that hope out of the Bible.

We must follow Peter’s example and it will reward us with the most ecstatic hope man’s mind could ever imagine! As Paul said, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! …” (Romans 11:33).

When people call us for a visit from one of our ministers, they tend to have a lot of questions. When they first come to Church, they usually have many questions. That is when God expects His people to really come alive! That hope within us should come bursting out—we should be ready for those questions! What an honor to be able to explain and teach the deep truths we have been taught.

Before long, all of God’s people will be surrounded by millions of people wanting to learn what we know. We must let Christ prepare us for that awesome job.

God wants us to be ready now to answer sincere questions. And you must answer according to “the hope that is in you.” This hope can’t be faked. It must be in each one of us. We must live our daily lives with this hope in us.

Why is this so important? God is preparing us to teach billions of people about this hope in the wonderful World Tomorrow! Throughout the Millennium and the period represented by the Last Great Day, we will teach billions. All humanity will be filled with living hope.

Our hope today is a vision of mind-staggering magnitude. God is going to have a hope-filled Family of billions.

Today, we see only a tiny beginning. We must work hard and study hard to etch this vision in our minds now. Are you ready to give an answer for that hope within you?

Like Peter, we can face severe persecution—even death—and still be filled with hope. We must have this hope to face the worst crisis ever on planet Earth.

As you watch television, you need to ask yourself: “Is this preparing me for the coming persecution? Is my hope strong enough to endure the future?” We must use our time wisely. It takes time to build hope.

For almost 2,000 years, people have heard about and read the prophecy regarding “Armageddon.” Very soon, this world will actually witness it! We can see events building to that point. Some religious fanatics in the past may have thought they saw those events, but they didn’t. Today we do: We are living in the time of Armageddon! And we can powerfully prove it.

So we must look beyond the time of Armageddon to the extremely good news. That takes in-depth Bible study.

The accelerated time frame demands that we be more urgent. Peter’s writings confirm that.

Every effect has a cause. There is a cause for hope and joy, and a cause for depression and discouragement.

You will not find hope outside the source in which Peter found it. We must search deeply into God’s Word—because within it there is boundless hope!

Living Hope

Peter thought everything he was warning about would come to pass shortly after he died, which gave his writing an urgency and intensity. The crisis on the horizon at that time was the holocaust of a.d. 70. That was a terrifying chamber of horrors filled with atrocities like human cannibalism—so awful it drove people mad!

Peter didn’t realize that those horrors were only a type of the holocaust that is about to occur today!

Peter’s first epistle begins, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). The “strangers” he is speaking to are the scattered saints of God, whom God considers “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). The Revised Standard Version translates this, “To the exiles of the Dispersion.” God’s people were scattered all over—many of them were exiled for doing God’s Work! They lived in exceedingly difficult times.

We are not called into a plush life with no problems.

The word scattered is from the Greek diasporos, which literally means “scattering of seed.”

In the first century God allowed His Church to be scattered around the world to spread the gospel. They had no television or printing.

This “scattering of seed” produced growth in God’s people all around the known world.

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father …” (1 Peter 1:2)—or “chosen and destined by God the Father,” as the rsv says. Chosen and destined by God the Father means chosen and destined to be His son! That is our destiny!

The Father is building His Family.

Verse 2 continues, “through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ ….” This is the same message contained within the first verse of Jude: God set us apart and worked with us long before bringing us into His Church. (Our booklet on Jude, which explains this process in detail, is available free upon request.)

Each one of us must be selected by the Father (John 6:44). But how does God know who to make a part of His elect?

The word foreknowledge is from the Greek prognosis, which also became an English word. Webster’s Dictionary defines prognosis as “to know before … forecast—something that foretells.”

That means that the Father had to know us so well that He could forecast our chances to become a born son of God—before selecting us!

God had to know us profoundly to make such a forecast. Then He decided whether or not to select us. If the prognosis was good, we were invited to become part of His elect. If not, these people were not to be selected in this age of man ruling over man.

There never is a selected person without this in-depth foreknowledge of the Father. Never!

There were undoubtedly many, about whom God gathered “foreknowledge,” who were not chosen to be God’s elect. But all of those who were chosen have an excellent chance to be born into God’s eternal Family!

Then we become the Bride of Christ to help Him rule the world and the universe.

If any of these firstfruits fail, they have only themselves to blame.

We are begotten by the Father—not Christ. A few people leave the Philadelphia Church full of wrath. Sometimes they will then work to destroy our Church. They are outside of God’s Family, and they know it. This causes them to become enraged. Satan then recruits them to do his dirty work.

After this short introduction, Peter hits his primary theme: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope [‘a living hope’—rsv] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Commentaries miss the whole point here. Where do we get this living hope? Please carefully ponder this truth. The Father begets us into a living hope. So where is the hope? The living hope is in the begettal! Christ is the Father’s Son. Now we too are begotten as God’s sons. If we are loyal to God, we will be born into God’s Family at Christ’s return.

This is so awesome that the world can’t get it!

Imagine this metamorphosis from a human to God. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are born as sons into the Father’s Family!

Instantly, we become Gods of the universe—sons of God. This majestic goal makes anything physical seem trivial! Do we really fathom our mind-stretching potential? Only here do we find the living hope!

There is hope no place else.

Imagine: Peter knew he was about to die. But he still had a living hope—a hope that lives!

This is what we need in this end time: a hope that lives. Certainly God’s people need it—but the whole world needs it as well.

Though people may not realize it, they have no hope outside our Father’s begettal, which leads to our being born into His Family. People in this world are living in the most hopeless times ever. God wants us to be giving the world living hope.

In order to do that, this hope must first live in us! If it is going to be in God’s Church, it must start with God’s ministry. If it is to be in this world, it must start with God’s Church.

Our ministers must ask themselves some searching questions: Am I living and teaching this hope? Am I really showing God’s people what they need to see?

Though Peter discussed the worst problems ever on Earth, he set a marvelous example of wrapping his life and everything he did in the hope of God.

Even when facing personal difficulties, we can be people of phenomenal hope.

In our commission to “prophesy again” (Revelation 10:11), we need this living hope. It must radiate from our television programit must saturate our publications. We must keep refining our articles to ensure that they are saturated with hope. People must see that we are not just doomsayers trying to scare them into living the way we do! We must show them living hope—how they can solve and conquer their problems.

We will never finish our commission without that living hope.

Why is God revealing more from Peter now? Because this is the most hopeless time in man’s history!

We were called to give the world hope. To do so we must be filled with the exhilarating hope of God!

God’s people are training to regenerate all of mankind! Our commission is intended for the largest audience possible: We are to “prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11). That means we must convey God’s hope to them! Our commission is not a negative commission. Yes, we warn—but if people heed the warning, what hope they have! We can give them solutions to the evils they suffer.

Herbert W. Armstrong often said that “if your heart is not in God’s Work, you’ll fall by the wayside.” Why is that? Because God’s commission is a vision of hope. Lose that hope, and the Work becomes too hard to do.

Revelation 10 is about the mystery of God, which is filled with hope. Our book Mystery of the Ages makes that abundantly real. But the same chapter is also about the little book, or Malachi’s Message. This book tells us how 95 percent of God’s people fell away from proclaiming Mystery of the Ages. They lost our transcendent vision of hope and turned back to the vomit of this world. So God had to raise up another Work to prophesy again.

Our commission is filled with hope. It keeps us looking to a fabulous future of endless hope.

Peter was with Christ when many of His disciples turned away. But Peter didn’t. Why? “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66‑69). Peter gave no thought to leaving. There was no place to go. Rebellion meant a dead end forever—eternal death. These are words of eternal life—I repeat, words of eternal life! There is hope no place else. And the hope in eternal life is far too awesome to ever turn away. We must not let that happen!

Some 95 percent of God’s people are headed into a black and dangerous future—a hopeless future. Their only hope now is repenting and coming back to Christ.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 11 million children orphaned by aids. Those poor children did nothing to deserve that—yet they are born into a black nightmare without hope! No one on Earth can provide even a hint of a solution to a problem of such magnitude—except God’s people! There is a solution! When people look toward the message of God, they end up recognizing within it a wonderful hope!

All of the problems of this world would be eliminated if the people heeded our message.

Where else is there any hope for Africa? Or for the United States, or Australia, or Britain, or South America, or the Philippines? There is none. It can only be found in God’s true Church.

Spiritually, the greatest crisis on this Earth is that most of God’s people have turned away from that hope! They are no longer honoring their Father (Malachi 1:6). But honoring the Father is at the heart and core of real hope! Why? Because God the Father is going to bring all people into His Family! That is why humankind was created! Everyone who repents and turns to his or her Father will have that transcendent opportunity!

Most of humanity doesnt have an inkling about this mind-splitting, wonderful future.

If we love this hopeless humanity, as Christ did, we should be willing to die for them. And if we are filled with God’s living hope and love, we will want desperately to convey this hope to them.

How could we see the hopelessness in this world and not feverishly desire to help them? Getting this hopeful message out is the only way to express our love and hope. If you really love the people in this world, you will love supporting this message!

The Last Time

Here is our future: “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Our hope is in that inheritance—it’s for “you”! Put your name there. Colossians 1:5 talks about “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” No matter the trials we face on Earth, nothing can damage our hope—because it is laid up in heaven, where God the Father and Christ reside. If we look to them, our hope never dies. Nothing can steal it—though we do have to guard it.

No trial or tribulation can quench our hope, if we guard it.

“Who are kept [or guarded] by the power of God through faith …” (1 Peter 1:5). “Kept” would better read guarded, which is a military expression. Our hope must be guarded with a military spirit—eternal life and eternal death are at stake. Satan, who is totally hopeless, is a master at destroying people’s hope.

Have the Laodiceans lost their living hope? Peter says that if you understand that hope, you will guard it with your life—you won’t let anyone steal it from you. That is the theme of his epistles. Study them to see how to build that hope and guard it!

Verse 5 concludes, “… unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Here Peter talks about “the last time.”

Lange’s Commentary says about this phrase, Peter “thought immediately impending” was that last time, which is actually the time in which we now live. The International Critical Commentary says, “The exact phrase … is not elsewhere found. [It] means not ‘time,’ but ‘the time,’ the … appointed time or season for some particular thing, whether it be a period or a moment”—or an hour, or less than an hour. That is what Peter means.

Thayer’s Lexicon says of this phrase, “Extreme, last in time or in place, talking about the last time. The trumpet after which no other will sound. Of the time nearest the return of Christ from heaven. In phrases of the time immediately preceding Christ’s return from heaven and the consummation of the divine kingdom, the uttermost part.”

Peter’s mind was on the end time—the same time John and Jude spoke of when they talked about antichrists and false prophets inside God’s Laodicean Church. The very last little hour of time on Earth after God’s true Church has turned away from Him! The critical time in which God reveals these epistles.

The International Critical Commentary also gives one definition for “in the last time” (verse 5) as “in a season of extremity” or “the direst peril.”

This expression—“in the last time”—actually has a double meaning. First, it refers to the most extreme and deadly danger man has ever faced, just before Christ’s return. It is the worst time of suffering ever on this Earth (Matthew 24:21‑22; Daniel 12:1). Second, the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible adds another meaning to “in the last time.” The word time is from the Greek word kairós (2540 in Strong’s Concordance): “season, time, but not merely as a succession of moments which is chrónos (5550). Kairós implies that which time gives an opportunity to do. [Or] opportune time, opportunity.”

This last hour presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to introduce Christ to the world, as it faces a nuclear nightmare.

Never has so much happened so fast. And we have been given an open door to tell the world what is happening and how it will end.

The Yearning of Angels

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). In the midst of severe trial, remember that it is only “for a season,” or “for a little while” as the rsv says, and that there is a tremendous payoff!

We have an opportunity to gain a fabulous reward for serving God in the last time. God is offering the Philadelphians an opportunity to rule with Him in His headquarters forever. Only about 5 percent of God’s people today will receive such a noble honor! The Laodiceans will lose that reward.

In this last hour before Christ returns, it will be a trial for all of God’s people. It is a time when the world faces nuclear annihilation and many of God’s own people become antichrists and fight against the very elect! We are persecuted both by the world and God’s own Laodicean Church. But don’t forget our magnificent hope: It leads directly into “the appearing of Jesus Christ”!

So let’s make certain that our faith “might be found unto praise and honour and glory” when that time comes very soon. We must grow in faith.

“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy [Spirit] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (verse 12).

The angels far exceed us in power and brilliance today. They possess a dazzling fiery radiance—to see one in its glory would probably make us faint! Yet Peter tells us that those great beings yearn to look into the process we are going through—in which God is re-creating Himself! They yearn to know what He plans for mankind. They yearn to better understand what God is doing with you!

Human beings becoming God—that is truly staggering!

The word desire is present tense. The angels are still fervently impassioned to learn more deeply about God re-creating Himself in mankind as the plan unfolds.

This is God’s ultimate master plan.

If the angels, who will never be gods, have this intense interest, shouldn’t the depth of our passion at least match theirs? We are going to be Gods—sons of God!

The word translated look implies that the angels are bending over, stretching and straining, trying to figure out what God is doing.

And yet, most of God’s people today are not even interested in this mystery because they are so blind!

Imagine the angels watching this process transpiring and saying, What is God doing? How magnificent! He is re-creating Himself! They are simply staggered and inspired by the greatness of God and His plan!

Set Your Hope

“Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13; rsv). Set your hope! Get it locked in; set it in concrete. Never forget what magnificent plans God has for you.

God clearly shows us how to build that hope. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct]” (verse 15). The God who called you is holy. That means He wants you to be holy as He is holy!

God’s sons must think and act like their holy Father. What a regal and majestic standard!

What capacity we have to grow!

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Peter 2:1). We must get rid of malice, deceit and hypocrisy—talking one way and acting another. Are we guilty of evil-speakings or backbiting, slandering, putting other people down?

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (verse 2). Newborn babes hunger and thirst for their mother’s milk. That is how we must desire and yearn for God’s truth and character. That is how we grow and mature. We need spiritual growth to face the future and make it into God’s Kingdom.

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” (verse 4). We come to Christ—the living Stone. He was rejected by men, but always remained a Rock. He was always precious to His Father.

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (verse 5). 1 Peter is very Church-oriented, but Peter never uses the word Church. Why? We can use the word church so often, and without thinking, that it loses its true meaning. I believe Peter used words that would have greater impact on people who were struggling spiritually or who were falling away. He was doing all he could to stir them. He called them “lively stones” or followers of the Rock, Jesus Christ—not a church.

We are living stones who are becoming like the Rock.

We have to be “built” into a spiritual house—again he didn’t use the word church. He wanted them to vividly see that we must be building with the Holy Spirit.

Our religion can’t be built on emotions—the Rock must live in us! Christ must rule the spiritual house. The God Family lives in that house—that means we must be united.

We are “an holy priesthood”—not just a church. We are a temple of kings and priests (Revelation 1:6) to serve God. We offer spiritual sacrifices to the world and each other. It all emanates from the Father and Christ.

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6). If we truly believe this Cornerstone (Christ), we will never be confounded or ashamed.

We live in a house of faith. We follow the Master of that house. It brings only honor—never shame.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (verse 9). We’re a Father-chosen people—not just a church. We’re a royal priesthood, a holy nation—not just a church. We are spiritual Israel, a nation of priests getting ready to teach and rule the world—not just a church.

A spectacular, new nation—unseen by the world—is about to burst on the scene. We’re getting ready to help Christ rule the nation you live in.

We’re not just a church!

Why are we here? To “shew forth the praises of him” who called us. We have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Now we must declare the Father and Son Family light to this dark world. We must be bursting with energy to show the praises of our loving God.

We grow spiritually by declaring the omnipotent God to this hopeless world.

In the time past, we were not a people. Now we are the people of God—lively stones, helping our Father and Christ give spiritual life to a lifeless world (verse 10).

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (verse 11). We are strangers and sojourners just passing through. The elect. Not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are pilgrims on the way to the promised land.

We’re not just a church. We’re the brotherhood (verse 17), sheep (verse 25), the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2); we’re the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah (1 Peter 3:6).

How God honors His nation of priests!

Peter records a good example of what it means to “set your hope.” “So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands” (1 Peter 3:5; rsv). These women set their hope in God. They trusted Him and believed in His family plan. They were so exemplary that God saw fit to record their example in His Word for all time.

Watch Your Prayer Life

Peter firmly believed he was living in these last times (1 Peter 1:20). But that time is now. Most of all, he wrote for us.

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). Christ has suffered for us and now we must arm ourselves with the same mind.

Are you armed with the mind of Christ, who suffered mightily for each one of us? We must be armed with His mind to endure our fiery trials.

“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (verse 7).

Again Peter stresses the urgency of the times. The Companion Bible says the phrase at hand means it has drawn near. Thayer’s says it is “concerning things imminent and soon to come to pass.Vincent’s Word Studies says it means, “literally, has come near.”

This end doesn’t mean the final death of man and all things. It is referring to the end of man’s rule and the beginning of a new age, ruled by Jesus Christ.

This worst crisis ever is about to give birth to a new and splendid age. There is intense pain, but what a birth!

Why did God allow the apostles to think Christ was coming in the first century? I’m sure it was to ensure that we all focus on Christ’s return! That is our hope! All human history points to that greatest of all events. God let those great men believe it was imminent in order to prod them to bear down and concentrate on Christ’s return.

Today, the end of all things truly is at hand! So we must take Peter’s point to heart: Because time is so short, we must be sober and watch unto prayer.

The fact that Christ’s return is so near should change our behavior.

Because Christ is almost here, we must be very concerned about our prayer life. Carefully watch your prayer life and keep your mind on the return of Jesus Christ. Get your prayer in. Make certain you are talking to God—getting through to Himevery day. Pray until you have living hope! Pray yourself into that living hope, day after day!

Sober means to be of a sound mind, having curbed one’s passions and exercised self-control. Is there a single one of us who couldn’t do a better job of curbing our passions and exercising self-control?

The rsv renders this verse, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Keep yourself stable so that when you talk to God, you don’t waste your prayer life! We can do that! God wants us to be in good condition and focused in prayer, so we can get up from our prayers filled with hope!

Peter admonishes us to examine our lives to see where we can do more. The knowledge of Christs imminent return should make us urgent spiritually.

Look at the time frame: Have a sense of crisis—and a sense of hope!

We are facing the worst crisis ever—never has there been anything like it in mankind’s history. Never have men needed God’s warning more than now. And we only have a tiny time span to do this Work.

We need to watch world news and our prayer life. If we aren’t praying properly, we won’t see what is really happening and be urgent about it.

If we are going to become more urgent, we must get our minds on the end of all things—concluded by the return of Jesus Christ.

If we don’t have a sense of crisis, we are out of touch with reality.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse are galloping toward us. The build-up to Armageddon is racing toward its conclusion!

If we aren’t praying intensely in the Spirit, we will get our minds on things and off the trunk of the tree. That will cause us to fall into a panic—terror as the crisis intensifies. Putting things ahead of God is an ineffective escape to help us hide from Armageddon.

Peter shows us how to face man’s worst crisis with abundant hope. Study his book carefully.

We can’t do this job without the power of God. Peter endured trials not through physical strength, but by the power of God. Though we are naturally cowards, we must become great leaders for God. If we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will be far different from what we are humanly.

How do we endure trials? Peter says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (verses 12-13).

Trials are meant to try us. When Christ’s glory shall be revealed, we could add that His glory will be revealed in you, according to 2 Peter 1:19. Endure the trial—because when you see the result of it and the wonderful change that will come over you, you will be glad with exceeding joy that you learned the necessary lessons through that trial!

Remember, when God tries us, we are “partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” That is how we need to think of our fiery trials.

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). Are we aware every minute of every day that God is judging us now? Every minute we are under God’s careful scrutiny.

This world is not being judged today. So we can’t think like the world. God is preparing us to teach them in the near future, when all people will be judged.

Fervent Love

“And above all things have fervent charity [or love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). There should be fervent love among the people of God, between husbands and wives, between ministers and members. God’s Family should be filled with love. The love of God is the foundation of our hope.

“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). God’s ministers are not to “lord it over” God’s people, but to be examples of hope. Lording it over someone causes them to lose hope! The government of God is a service-oriented government; that means serving and loving the brethren and being “helpers of [their] joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). But it cannot become a permissive government.

And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:4-8). Over 95 percent of God’s people today have been devoured by the devil. Most of God’s people are Laodicean or worse. What greater evidence do we need of Satan’s devouring power?

“Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (verse 9). Are you having some rough trials? So are your “brethren” in the world. All of these people are potential sons of God, the same as you are.

God looks upon the world as our brethren—our future Family of God.

We need Christ’s sacrificing love for this world (John 3:16).

Without this love, Satan will stir up hateful emotions in us, as he does in the world. Then we will be seriously distracted from this noble calling.

“By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand” (1 Peter 5:12). We are about to enter a black night of suffering. We stand by focusing on our hope-filled inheritance.

Herod Agrippa cast Peter into prison, from where he was miraculously delivered by an angel (Acts 12:1-11). Shortly after Herod died, Peter reappeared in Jerusalem to continue God’s Work. He relied on God’s power and hope to stand.

God’s ministers must make God’s living hope a part of everything they do. What value is it if it’s not part of our thinking, our counseling, our preaching, our teaching? God’s people must see hope in us! The best way to teach hope is to be an example of hope.

How can you teach hope if you don’t have hope?

Without God’s trials we would not dig out this living hope—the only one there is.

We need what Peter had. In his epistles, he shows how to get it and make it part of our lives. What God is offering is not phony—it is reality: the greatest, most exciting hope our minds could possibly grasp!

Continue Reading: Chapter 2: A Vision of God’s Majesty