A Living Hope: Secure

plus-a-living-hope

Today we take a final look at these few verses from Peter’s first epistle. Before we dive into some closing thoughts, I’d like to offer a few more insights into this idea of inheritance.

Inheriting the earth or possessing the land includes the idea that we will reign and rule with Christ on the earth. Consider these verses from the book of Revelation.

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying…”

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:6-10

I think it’s important to note that the Bible doesn’t speak of the destiny or goal of those who are in Christ being that they get to go to heaven when they die. In the verses that we’ve considered just now, it seems clear that our destiny is the same as that of Abraham, to inherit the land of promise as an everlasting possession.

Jesus constantly promised his followers that they would inherit the Kingdom of God when he returns. The passage in Revelation that we just read confirms this promise of Jesus as well. Being heirs of the world and heirs of the kingdom are synonymous ideas. Eternal life, future reward, future glory are all terms that refer to our inheritance of the kingdom of God.

This leads us into the final sentence of the 1 Peter passage that we’ve been exploring together. Let’s read it again.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

It is reserved in heaven for you can be a problematic phrase if we come across it already believing that heaven is the goal and final destiny for believers in Jesus. It’s problematic because we read that phrase and understand it to confirm for us that heaven is where we will spend eternity with Jesus.

As mentioned earlier, the promise of eternal life means that we will inherit the land also promised to Abraham as an everlasting possession and reign and rule with Christ. This phrase about God’s gift of new birth and an inheritance being reserved in heaven for us is simply a way of telling us that it’s as good as done. Let it be said, let it be done! Period. This secure promise of God enables us to entrust ourselves to God and His protection and embrace our future destiny with a living hope.

A Living Hope: Inheritance

plus-a-living-hope

During this first week of advent this year I’m focused on the theme of hope. Remembering the birth of Jesus invites us to consider the hope of the people of Israel had long ago as they anticipated the coming of God’s promised Messiah. For us today, our hope is similar, but different. Our hope is in God’s promise that Jesus will make all things new when he returns to earth to establish the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and to offer his followers immortality as they join him in reigning on the earth.

Today we are going to look at the very next part of the passage in 1 Peter to continue to understand the hope that we have in Jesus as we await his second advent.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

Yesterday we focused on the first part of this passage where Peter talks about God giving us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Today we’re going to look at how Peter clarifies what he’s talking about by drawing our attention to the idea of inheritance.

When I think of inheritance I am immediately reminded of a recent opportunity I had to study Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with our home church family. I found myself drawn to the third chapter where Paul begins to explain in more detail the mystery that God revealed to him. And in verse 6 we are able to see how this idea of inheritance is key to Paul’s hope and his understanding of what is offered to us in Christ Jesus.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – Ephesians 3:6 (ESV)

The Gentiles are now heirs and members of the new family of God, the new covenant, and can now share in the promise of God through the gospel.

This was a big deal for the early church. It was a big deal for the Jews because they always thought of themselves as the people of God, separated from all the others, and now God was changing that. It was a big deal to the Gentiles because they now had the opportunity to belong to the family of God and to gain immortality when the Messiah returns, just like the Jews.

So Paul is telling us that because of Jesus, the Gentiles are now able to share in the promise of God. So, what is Paul referring to when he mentions the promise of God? Let’s take a look at some passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament to gain an understanding.

7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 (also consider 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18)

The promise of God that Paul is referring to has everything to do with the promise that God made with Abraham that he and his descendants would be given the land of promise as an inheritance, a possession.

The thing is that Abraham took up residence as a foreigner, but never had possession of or around any of the promised land. It is still a future acquisition for Abraham and his descendants…all who are in Christ.

“Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him…” – Acts 7:5

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – Galatians 3:29 (Also consider 3:18)

You and I are Abraham’s offspring if we are in Christ and will share in the promise as well.

Jesus himself spoke often about the kingdom of God and specifically about inheriting the earth.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

There is a lot more for us to unpack when it comes to our promised inheritance in Christ Jesus. Tomorrow we’ll take it one step further as we look at the remainder of our passage in 1 Peter. But before I pull this post to a close, I want to look at one more thing.

The description of this inheritance as imperishable, undefiled, and unfading reminds me of what is recorded in the gospel of Luke when the angel Gabriel appeared before Mary. Let’s read part of what the angel declared to her:

30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” – Luke 1:30-33

The description in 1 Peter of this inheritance is consistent with what the angel spoke of Jesus in his announcement to Mary. This new king would reign and rule forever and his kingdom would never end. Our inheritance is secure.

As I consider my hope this advent season I find myself longing for the God who is making this all possible. Perhaps for the first time in my life my heart is filled with joy and excitement as I anticipate Jesus’ return, instead of being indifferent or fearful. The author of the book of Hebrews captures how I’m feeling right now:

“So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe.” – Hebrews 12:28 (NET)

I pray that your hope is being stirred as you continue to journey with me.

A Living Hope: It’s All Because of Jesus

plus-a-living-hope

Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, I wrote a very brief introduction to the season of Advent and the journey that I am on. The passage of Scripture I focused on in that post, 1 Peter 1:3-5, is below. I simply highlighted and talked about the two words, Living Hope.

Today, I’d like to take a closer look at the first part of this passage that is bold and italicized below to see what we can discover about the importance of this living hope and how it can help us to focus on and anticipate Jesus’ second advent.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

The Apostle Peter, who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, begins by making a simple statement of praise and blessing to God. As simple as this may be, it’s a great reminder to us today that from Peter’s perspective the one true God was both God and Father of Jesus.

Peter goes on to talk about God’s great mercy, his kindness, love, and father’s heart all wrapped together,  leading God to give us something that no one else could ever give…new birth into a living hope. At first glance this sounds a bit like something that is too good to be true, even if a complete understanding of its meaning is just out of our reach. It certainly doesn’t sound like anything that I can do on my own, or that I can earn or deserve in any way. And so, in many ways, that’s why it’s such an incredible gift from God.

What helps me to understand this idea of being given new birth into a living hope is understanding that God did this through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This phrase reminds me of the title of a Fee song called, It’s All Because of Jesus I’m Alive. That song title speaks such truth, especially in light of this verse. Jesus’ death was the pinnacle of his faithfulness to God. Therefore, God required nothing more from him and so he was given all authority and is now king, the head of the new humanity, and those who walk in faithfulness to him get to be a part of this new humanity.

The Apostle Paul writes about this incredible faithfulness of Jesus in Ephesians 3:12 (NET)…we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness. Our hope is that a faithful Creator will bring us back to life, just like Jesus. Consider these few verses below:

20b But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. 21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. – 1 Peter 2:20b-23 (NET)

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. – 1 Peter 4:19 (NET)

So here’s to entrusting our souls, our very lives, to a faithful Creator who offers us not only new birth into a living hope that has implications right now, but, as we will see in the next day or so, is directly related to the promise of immortality and a place in the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns.

A Living Hope

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a fancy word that means “coming” or “arrival.”

For some, this is the beginning of a 29 day journey of reflection, preparation, and celebration. For others, this is an unknown tradition that seems to get in the way of Christmas.

For me, I have fond memories of advent as I grew up in the tradition of the Lutheran church. I don’t recall a lot of specific things, but I do remember having a sense of wonder and awe. It was almost as if advent was a way of extending Christmas by starting it four weeks early.

As I’ve been reflecting on this over the past week or so I realized that advent was solely focused on the anticipation of Christmas Day and remembering that Jesus was born without much attention given to our hope that Jesus is coming again.

I am more an more aware that we are now living in an in-between time. In our past is the birth of Jesus (his first advent), and in the future is Jesus’ return to establish the Kingdom of God in all its fullness (his second advent).

As important as it is to remember the birth of Jesus, I find myself this year desiring to step back enough to be aware and join in the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, but to also engage my mind and the hope that is within me that all of God’s promises will be reality in the age to come so that I can embrace this time of preparation for Jesus’ second coming.

Advent is filled with a variety of themes. Typically the theme of the first Sunday of Advent and the week that follows is HOPE. When I consider this idea of hope within the story of God I can’t help but be drawn to the hope that God continuously stirred in the hearts of his people as they awaited God’s Messiah, the Anointed One, who would come and lead them out of darkness and into a glorious light where he would reign and rule as King.

Consider the following few verses from Peter’s first letter found in the New Testament:

plus-a-living-hope“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

These three verses are filled with a ton of exciting things for us to unpack together. I’m hopeful in the days to come to take a look at some of these themes in a more detail. But for today we’re simply noticing that because God raised Jesus from the dead we too can have hope, a living hope, that we too will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns.

Today I am asking God to stir within me a living hope and an anticipation of Jesus’ second advent when he ushers in the fullness of the Kingdom of God and we, as the people of God, receive the promised inheritance.