06 April 2009

People for His Own Possession: "Imperishable, Undefiled and Unfading: Part 1"

Week 2 of our series on 1st and 2nd Peter.

Our lives are future-oriented in so many ways. Our depression, discouragement, and despair look ahead and see no reason for hope, and therefore, no reason for joy. Peter tackles this tendency in Christians in 1 Peter 1:3-12. Here he proclaims that God "has caused us to be born again to a living hope... to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you". Just as God has secured for us justification and forgiveness of sins, He has secured a living hope in a coming inheritance superior to any of the promises of sin.

Thus, Peter slashes at the root of a multitude of temptations by again reminding us that we are "elect exiles" and this world is not our home. We have a home waiting for us - a home without sin, suffering, or sadness. When we are tempted to give in to idolatry (finding some relief and life in this world), pride (looking out for self at the expense of others) or unbelief in any way, Peter steps in and proclaims "Give up on these temporary things. Look to your future!" It is here that we find a "living hope" that eliminates our urgency to find ultimate satisfaction in this life and protects us from giving in to God-abandoning and destructive temptations. For Peter, this is the foundation of Christian living; but he doesn't stop at proclaiming, he also gives us tangible evidence for this hope in 1) our changed lives and 2) the fulfilled promises of the past (prophecies of Christ).

[The prophets] were serving not themselves but you...
Peter, in the second of these two evidences, explains that the prophets who "searched and inquired carefully" to determine the time of Christ's sufferings were doing so to serve Christians. These fulfilled promises strengthen our faith in the future promise of heaven, serving to give us patience and endurance with joy until that day.

Maybe the most amazing prophecy of the "time of Christ's sufferings" was the prophecy of Daniel's 70 weeks in Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy describes a time period between a decree to restore Jerusalem and the arrival of the Messiah as 69 "sevens" (seven-year groups) or 173,880 days (69 x 7 yrs x 360 days/yr - the ancient convention). Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1-2) records that the King Artaxerxes decreed the restoration of Jerusalem on the first day of Nisan, 445 B.C. (which equates to March 14th, 445 B.C. in the Gregorian calendar).

On Palm Sunday, Jesus made plans and statements uncharacteristic of his public ministry to that point. Until that day, Jesus avoided any public proclamations that he was the Messiah, stating that his "time had not yet come". But on this day, he made preparations to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Luke 19:30-31) in fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy in Zech. 9:9. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, a nationalistic celebration ensued and shouts of "Hosanna" grew in intensity. The Pharisees, worried that the throngs of people praising Jesus and shouting Hosanna might arouse Roman aggression, asked Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus simply replied, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."


That very day was lamb selection day for the Passover in 32 A.D. on the Gregorian calendar it was April 6th. Counting the days between March 14th, 445 B.C. and April 6th, 32 A.D. and making the appropriate leap-year corrections reveal that there were exactly 173,880 days between Artaxerxes' decree to restore Jerusalem and the first Palm Sunday! Daniel predicted the exact day of Jesus' revelation as the Christ!*

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this...but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
As amazing as Daniel's prophecy is, it is not the first tangible evidence that Peter provides for our "living hope...kept for us in heaven".

His first evidence is that our faith, tested by trials, remains along with our love for God. Peter explains that the very reason we have trials is so that the substance of our faith may be revealed (1 Peter 1:7). This is simply amazing. Peter puts the proving power of a changed life and a growing love for Christ on a level similar to the miraculous proof of Daniel's fulfilled prophecy!

Their are two implications to Peter's claims.
1) When you are struggling with depression, discouragement, or despair you can look to the "living hope" of heaven with more than blind faith, but tangible evidence that God will deliver on that promise. That evidence exists in amazing fulfilled prophecy, but it also exists in your own changed life. Can you point to a changed life, an enduring faith, love or hope in the midst of hardship? Can you point to a genuine love for Jesus Christ even though you have never seen Him? That is miraculous! It proves that God's salvation is working in you now, and therefore, awaiting you in the future.

2) If we live in a way that clouds out our faith and love for Christ, it is more than sin. It is stealing our own confidence as a source of joy. To hold on to our "inexpressible joy", we must guard our hearts vigilantly (Proverbs 4:23). Pride, idolatry, and unbelief rob our memory and our sense of connection with Christ.

This "inexpressible joy" is real hope for the despairing. It is not a light, new age, hippy dippy hope. It comes with the tangible evidence of fulfilled prophecy and our miraculously changed life. This will be our ballast as Peter equips us for a life of Christ-exalting fruitfulness and joy in the midst of trials.


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