Resurrection: Ever-living hope and glorious inheritance

Please read 1 Peter 1: 1-13 and then pray; Almighty God, may your Word which is living and active, speak into our hearts and empower us to live with sure and certain hope in your precious promises; to the glory of Your name. Amen!

During this joyful Easter season, we are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord from the dead and considering all that this means for our present living and future hope. As Christians, both our present living and future hope are built upon and empowered by the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection. The same power that raised Jesus from death to life is at work in us to bring us new spiritual life (1 Peter 1:3), new moral power for daily life and service (Ephesians 1:19-20), and a living hope and confident knowledge of our eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). These truths concerning new birth, new power and glorious unchangeable inheritance are important for all Christians to grasp, but they are especially needful for Christians facing a continual barrage of persecution for their precious faith.

This is the situation we find when studying 1 Peter. This is a letter of great relevance and significance for the persecuted Christian and Church – and the persecuted Christian is not unusual. Persecution is actually part and parcel of the Christian faith. Jesus said to his disciples just before he died;

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:20)

Jesus warned his followers that taking the gospel into the world and practising the gospel in the world would lead to conflict and persecution. The world would not welcome God’s truth in Jesus. Many in the world would react against it and reject it, and reject, intimidate and persecute those who lived in its power and wanted to share it. This is why Paul could write this to his young companion Timothy,

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (1 Timothy: 3:12)

The NT teaches again and again that the early Christians were persecuted – sometimes for sharing the truth of gospel (as we see in Acts many times), and sometimes for practising their faith (as we see in 1 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation). Being an obedient Christian was a dangerous and risky business then and it is now. The persecution of the Christian Church today is rife. This is not a little problem that applies to a few Christians in a tiny number of countries and situations. This applies to about 100 million believers scattered around the world, and it has now arrived in our western world. Christianity is by far the most persecuted religion in the world today. Around 80% of acts of violence perpetrated against religious groups are perpetrated against Christians. Time does not allow me to go into this in detail, but Open Doors UK annually publishes a list of countries where the persecution of the Church is particularly bad.

Currently, the worst 10 places to live and exist as a Christian are; North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria (currently the country where there are the most murders of Christians), Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of persecution and discrimination against faithful Christian believers. This persecution of Christians is now here in the West particularly as the personal freedom to believe, share and practise the bible are frowned upon by a growing and intolerant secular woke elite who exercise great power in the government, in the media, in academia, in health, education, business and even in the church. We regularly hear now of teachers, chaplains, street preachers, health workers, lecturers, and doctors losing their jobs simply because of holding Christian beliefs. Organisations such as Christian Concern and The Free Speech Union currently have their work cut out fighting for and defending the right of Christians to have and hold their beliefs in the work place and in the wider world. We live in serious times and “anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can be persecuted.” The West has quickly become anti-Christian even though its moral and social foundations have been built upon biblical truth and revelation. The foundations are being attacked and slowly destroyed – especially the foundation of the traditional nuclear family. As Christianity declines, mental health problems soar through the roof and identity politics and its intolerant ideology reign supreme in an ever-growing mass of confusion, delusion, and desperation.

Back to I Peter, which is a letter written for Christians under such pressure. How do you live in societies where Christian faith is openly attacked? Read 1 Peter! How can a Christian cope with persecution and the pressure to compromise or deny their faith? How can a Christian face undeserved suffering? Peter has much to write about living as a Christian (as an alien, a stranger) in a land that does not welcome the gospel and is offended and outraged by Christian beliefs and practices.

Peter wrote to Christians scattered throughout the five provinces of Asian Minor (modern Turkey) an area that had been heavily influenced by the Imperial Cult religious ideology of Rome which strongly encouraged but later demanded every citizen’s loyalty and worship. This was the area Paul and his companions had evangelised and established numerous Christian communities. When Peter wrote, the persecution was widespread and painful. It may not have been leading to the death of Christians (that was to come later), but it was leading to abuse, insults, discrimination, loss, and alienation from society. Christians were on the margins! It was proving to be very tough and costly following Jesus. How is one to face this kind of situation? 1 Peter is effectively the manual for the persecuted Christian, and its teaching is centred upon the teaching and example of Jesus. How did Jesus himself deal with unjust suffering? How did Jesus react to insults, rejection and physical assault? How do Christians maintain faith and “stand firm in the grace of God” when under pressure? (1 Peter 5:12). These are the sorts of questions 1 Peter faces square on.

In his introduction, Peter highlights the importance of the resurrection of Jesus when seeking to maintain faith in testing circumstances. The foundational belief of the resurrection is vital for standing strong in the Christian faith. Peter himself was to die a martyr’s death, and he was able to do so because he knew the truth and historicity concerning the resurrection of his Lord. He also knew how much Jesus had suffered for him that his salvation and forgiveness might be secured. Such love and sacrifice from Jesus inspired loyalty and sacrifice from his chosen apostles and other followers.

As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Peter writes with passion to Christians scattered around the world (as they are today) – people he describes as;

  • God’s elect – God’s specially chosen people, chosen by the Father from all eternity.
  • Separated and consecrated by the Holy Spirit.
  • For obedience to Jesus Christ who continually cleanses and washes them with his blood. The blood is over the door frames of their hearts.

These suffering saints have been set apart and blessed by God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Triune God has been graciously and lovingly at work in their lives to bring them salvation and hope. It is now vital to continue in the faith and maintain faithfulness during this time of opposition and persecution.

Peter then begins his letter as he launches into a beautiful doxology ascribing praise to “the God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is Peter’s Lord and theirs! This was and remains the most basic and yet most bold Christian confession of faith. Jesus is Lord! This is worth suffering for!

What follows now is one long sentence of facts about the status and position of Christians. Amid suffering, they need to remember and rejoice in the following facts. I will mention those simply listed by Peter from verses 3-5.

  • Christians are recipients of God’s great mercy. Remember this when suffering!
  • Christians are recipients of the new birth. Remember this when suffering!
  • Christians possess a living hope. Remember this when suffering!
  • Christians possess a magnificent eternal Remember this when suffering!
  • Christians are kept and guarded by God’s power until Christ’s return. Remember this also!

Mercy, new birth, living hope, glorious inheritance, safe keeping – all built securely upon the foundation of the resurrection of Jesus. All these precious truths for believers spring up from and stand firm upon the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and has totally defeated death. These truths need to be remembered and cherished when facing pressure and persecution for one’s faith in this glorious Jesus – who is Lord: Lord of life and death – Lord of all heaven and earth.

The first thing to hold on to is the fact that the Christian is the recipient of God’s “great mercy.” All that God gives and God achieves for his children is based entirely on His generous mercy. God has literally poured out His great mercy upon us through Jesus Christ. Later Peter will write; Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10) The Christian is one who has humbly asked God for mercy and forgiveness, and subsequently received it in abundance; their sins are totally forgiven, and they are brought into God’s family and God’s kingdom. Our salvation is all due to God’s mercy and kindness. As Paul, Peter’s great companion wrote;

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we dead in transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4)

Christians, whether facing suffering or not must recall the intervention of God’s great mercy in their lives. This is the mercy that rescued and saved them but it is also the mercy that continues to be new every morning and available in every challenge of life. We access it through prayer. Thanks be to God!

Next, it is this beautiful mercy that gifts the Christian new birth. Christians have been graciously born again; they are given by God’s grace and mercy a totally new spiritual start in life. This new start leads them into the knowledge that God is their Father, Jesus is their Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit is their ever-present Comforter and Helper. This is the new birth that has given them a new heart with a new inexpressible joy, peace, and hope. The new birth has enabled them to enter the kingdom of God now. This Kingdom is in direct conflict with the kingdom of this world – hence the prevalence of persecution. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world. This is where the problem lies – the clash of the kingdoms and their values – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. Those who have been born anew must now live in the light and power of God’s Kingdom where Jesus reigns and leads. If our Lord faced significant opposition – this same will be true of those who are now in his family and kingdom. But this suffering will lead to faith being tested and proved genuine (v6) – which in turn, will lead to praise, glory, and honour for God. God has always been and always will be glorified through his suffering saints. This should help Christians to stay strong and maintain faith and resist compromise.

But further, this immense mercy, which had led the Christian into new birth leads directly to two enormous blessings; a living hope and a glorious inheritance. New birth stemming from Jesus’ great resurrection from death – leads to living hope and eternal life. As Christians we have a hope that is dynamically alive – in fact bursting with life and power. Our hope is alive because;

  • Jesus is alive and forever lives. Our hope is in the ever-living Jesus!
  • The Holy Spirit whose presence brings hope lives within us, filling us with God’s love! Romans 5:5 teaches that “hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.”
  • God’s word, which brought us into this new birth is alive and active within us. Peter writes; For you have been born again not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23) Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away declared Jesus. (Matthew 25:35)

Our hope is living and forever lives because Jesus lives forever, his Spirit lives within us forever, and the word of God forever lives and stands. (1 Peter 3:24) The Word cannot be overturned. This is why a Christian funeral service is full of hope and joy. The hope of eternal life in Jesus is alive and real on such occasions. Death has lost its sting and power. The difference between the hope within a Christian funeral and the hopelessness of the humanistic funeral is vast – chalk and cheese. Many of you have experienced this – the atmosphere of hope and celebration at one type of funeral, compared to the atmosphere of hopelessness and despair at the other. Outside of the resurrection of Jesus, people are left “without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

As well as a hope that is alive – the Christian has received (already) a glorious inheritance which Peter emphasises will never perish, spoil, or fade. Our eternal inheritance, our eternal life with God will not, cannot, be touched or taken away. It will never be corrupted. It will remain pure and perfect just as Jesus is pure and perfect. The Christian who is suffering badly or unjustly needs to hear and know this truth. We need to know this truth as we live, and as we approach death. We need to know for certain that, as Paul writes, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind had conceived what God has prepared for those who love – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). When we face suffering or persecution – remember the inheritance awaiting you, that cannot be taken from you, that is yours forever by the grace of God and because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

In the meantime, God’s power (which is immeasurable) will keep you and shield you until Christ is revealed to you either at your death or at his second coming. God’s power holds every follower of Christ safe and secure. God guards his children through periods of suffering and uncertainty. God keeps us in our salvation and within his love. No-one, nothing can snatch us from Christ’s hand. (John 10:28) Nothing, no-one can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:29) We are shielded forever, kept in the saving love of God forever, by God’s omnipotent hand – by God’s almighty power. What Peter writes here concerning God’s guarding power is what the Psalmist proclaims to be true, a truth that should constantly warm and encourage the heart of any Christian in any situation of danger or difficulty; (Read Psalm 121)

May we all know the reality of new birth into the living hope and an eternal inheritance through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we know God’s keeping and guarding power surrounding us always. May we know that our present sufferings and persecutions are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

To God immortal, invisible, only wise, and to His Son who is Lord of heaven and earth, be all the glory, praise, and honour, now and always. Amen


Revd Peter J Clarkson (16.4.23)