Heavenly Hope: Part 2
The Hope of Heaven, True Treasure, pt. 2
3“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
When we think about the believer’s hope of heaven we quickly are forced to ask ourselves a series of questions. Does it really dawn upon us that heaven is our home? Do we truly stop to contemplate the truly transient nature of our earthly lives and do we stop to assess just how temporal the things of this world are? These questions will help us to determine whether or not our hope is really a heavenly hope and if we see heaven itself for the treasure that it really is. Heaven will test just how much we are hoping in this earth and consequently our love of this world will reveal how little of heaven we really long for. However, Scripture repeatedly sets forth a picture of the Christian life that is lived eschatologically. That is to say, living in the light of our eternal home. Its not knowing that heaven is for us; its living in such a way that shows that earth is not our true treasure, heaven is.
In the same way, if heaven is where our true treasure resides, we see our lives in this world as the great transitional existence that it is. Paul called his life a course (2 Tim. 5.7). He saw his life as a race (1 Cor. 9. 24-27), a competition to be pursued in such a way that we do not find ourselves disqualified when the final results are in (1 Cor. 9.27). For the believer, finishing the course is cause for a great celebration, a coronation of God’s holy athletes who ran to win. But the means to that end is the willingness to put in the work to run in such a way as to win (cf. Phil. 2.13).
The athlete lives in a mindset of hope, future reward, ultimate victory and for the believer, what we see in all athletic games such as in the Olympics is a living parable of the fact that we do not race for a perishable wreath but an imperishable crown of glory (1 Tim. 5.8; Jam. 1.12), we ought to all the more treasure and long for our moment of final glory. Peter’s theology and Paul’s theology coalesce at this point perfectly since both Peter and Paul labored under the glorious expectation of final reward:
1 Peter 5:1–4 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
To look forward to an unfading crown of glory for a life spent in the ministry (1 Pet. 5.4), or the crown of life for a life of perseverance (Jam. 1.12; Rev. 2.10), or a crown of righteousness for having kept the faith (2 Tim. 5.7)— all crowns of which will simply be cast back at Jesus’ feet (Rev. 4.10); but all these crowns testify of a life lived treasuring our heavenly hope. This is exactly what Peter wants us to do, treasure the perfections and supremacy of our heavenly hope above the imperfection and inferiority of our earthly treasures (cf. John 12.25; 1 John 2.15-17).
TREASURING THE PERFECTIONS OF HEAVEN
4“to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,”
This verse gives us a final purpose for God having regenerated us and granting to us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; namely, so that we might come into possession of that heavenly hope. This is Peter talking about our heavenly hope being actual and not just possible. God’s sovereign mercy therefore is the basis of our hope. Regeneration is the means by which our hope is realized, and the actual obtaining of our hope is the purpose for which God saved us in the first place. So there we have the basis, the means, and the purpose of our heavenly hope. I want to show us three principles of our hope that emerge from this text and demonstrate that our hope consists in true treasure.
True treasure can only be obtained by faith
The first observation begins with an exegetical connection that we need to make. Verse four is an extension of “the hope” introduced in verse 3, “a living hope” (εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν). This is the second effect of regeneration. Not only were we born again so that we might have a “living hope”, we were born again “to obtain an inheritance” (εἰς κληρονομίαν) Lit. “for an inheritance” (so, ESV) (note the double use of εἰς for a dual purpose). What this means is that our treasure our hope is given to us as a free inheritance by God’s sovereign mercy. Thus, our inheritance can only be obtained by faith.
But this is how all salvation works, it is always on the basis of God’s grace and it is obtained and procured by faith:
Romans 4:16 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
When Paul makes the distinction that some people receive the promise or inheritance, or the salvation in the gospel because they are of the Law and others are simply described as those who are of the faith of Abraham; he is describing everyone else who is not “of the Law” i.e. the whole Gentile world. That is why Paul says that Abraham is “the father of us all.” His inheritance becomes our inheritance and just as his inheritance was based on grace through faith, so is ours (cf. Gal. 3.9, 14).
True treasure is that which is obtained not by the sweat of your brow what will inevitably slip through your fingers but that which is obtained by faith. Notice also then that faith is a consequence of the new birth, we are born again so that we can inherit the land, “according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance” (ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν). This is a perfect picture of regeneration before faith (cf. 1 John 5.1).
What faith does is it connects us to the world to come. When we believe to salvation and when we are granted our inheritance in the here and now, we are given a guarantee that we cannot fully see yet. It is a guarantee of the life to come. Our inheritance now will determine our life in the land later.
Speaking of this very thing, Richard Baxter writes in such a way as to protect us from thinking that all that matters is the life here after when in reality, our life in this world will determine the quality of life in the next. This will keep us from skipping over the significance of this life and moving too quickly to our heavenly possession of our inheritance. As Baxter put it, “the possession is there, but the preparation is here”:
“The life to come depends upon this present life. As the life of adult age depends upon infancy, or the reward upon the work; or the prize of racers or soldiers upon their running or fighting; or the merchants gain upon his voyage. Heaven is won or lost on earth.” (Richard Baxter, Dying Thoughts (Edinburgh/Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust) p. 4).
True treasure cannot be tarnished
In a sermon entitled, “That This Present World Shall One Day Come to an End” Jonathan Edwards preached on the transient nature of this life out of Psalm 102. He preached not only that believers should fall out of love with this world but also that, “The world being about to come to a dissolution, the earth should be terribly shaken.”
Psalm 102:25–26 25 “Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
On this verse Edwards labored to pry this temporal world from his people:
“Let us therefore turn off our eyes and our hearts from this degenerated and corrupted world from which Christ came into the world to redeem it. Let us not be of this world, seeing he and his kingdom are not of this world. Let our hearts sit loose to these things as those that don’t think themselves at home here, but look at heaven as their dwelling place, and hope at Christ’s coming to be caught up from the earth to meet him, an so to be ever with the Lord.” (Jonathan Edwards, The Glory and Honor of God, Ed. Michael D. McMullen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004) vol. 2; p.114).
Paul goes on to tell us that we ought to comfort one another with these thoughts (cf. 1 Thess. 4.18). And so, Peter’s discourse on our heavenly inheritance is just that— comforting if we have eyes to see and ears to hear what is at stake here.
The concept of our “inheritance” (κληρονομία) (Heb. נַחֲלָה) has a deep Biblical theological background. What is inherited by God’s people in the OT above everything is the land i.e. Canaan (e.g. (Nu. 32.19; D.t 2.12; 12.9; 25.19; 26.1; Josh 11.23; Ps. 105.11; Acts 7.5). Jesus extended the patriarchal promise through His messianic significance where believers will not only inherit the land in Canaan but they will inherit the earth (Mt. 5.5) — the heavenly country (cf. Heb. 11.14-16). It is not inconsistent to see this OT connection in Peter since this is a repeated theme in his epistles where OT themes find their ultimate fulfillment in the New Covenant people of God. Probably the greatest proof of that is in Ch. 2:
1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. Is. 43.20; Ex. 19.6; Is. 61.6)
While the Jews sit in Jerusalem weeping over their broken temple, God’s holy nation rejoices in a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12.27-28)! In fact, our inheritance cannot be tarnished at all. Peter labors to prove this. He uses three different words to express this, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον). I really believe Peter meant for this to be a sweet truth for the souls of the saints (cf. v.6). The reason I say that is because of the Greek text which contains the use of alliteration i.e. the repetition of a group of words that sound similar for rhetorical emphasis. In English it would be something like ‘un-perishable, undefiled, unfading.’ Each of these terms possesses an alpha privative (α) that focus on the same ultimate truth of what we can call the perfections of our heavenly hope.
The fact that it is “imperishable” (ἄφθαρτος) stresses the durability of our inheritance and the idea being that our inheritance unlike everything in this world will not be destroyed or undergo decay. It means that our inheritance is indestructible. The fact that it is “undefiled” (ἀμίαντος) comes from (μιαίνω “to defile”) and stresses the moral quality or our inheritance. This is another aspect of the perfections of our inheritance and a characteristic consistent with our heavenly home. John tells us that in the New Creation and in the New Jerusalem there will be “nothing unclean”:
Revelation 21:27 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The word “unfading” (ἀμάραντος) represents that aspect of this fallen world which is subject to the adverse effects of time. Heaven is where time will no longer have adverse effects on creation. With these three words, Peter covers the different problems that living in a sinful world present. Because of sin, the durability, the morality and the perpetuity of our earthly possessions are challenged. Peter is following Jesus here. For, it was Jesus himself that covered these three aspects of our worldly possessions:
Matthew 6:19–21 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy [durability], and where thieves break in and steal [morality]. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven [perpetuity], where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
But the problem with this world is that everything fades away, everything ultimately will perish and everything is subject of impurity. God has surrounded us with the inescapable effects of the fall even through our possessions so that we would not cling too tightly to those things which belong to the pattern of this present evil age. This is why Scripture tells us not to find our “all” in our things whether they are sinful or not. Two text should be considered here, one deals with those things which are defiled and morally impure, the other with those which are not necessarily sinful but temporal nonetheless:
1 John 2:15–17 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
1 Corinthians 7:29–31 29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
True treasure must be certain
Finally, Peter tells us that this indiminishable inheritance is not only given to us by the sovereign mercy of God (v.3) but is also being “reserved” (τηρέω) by the sovereign power of God. Peter uses the Perfect tense of the participle (τετηρημένην) to stress the finality of God’s protective work. He also uses the Passive voice for (τηρέω) making this a Divine Passive where God is the agent responsible for the action or activity. It is so comforting to know that our inheritance is under omnipotent protection that will not change and cannot be overturned by any power:
John 10:27–29 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Therefore, unlike the OT concept of inheriting the Promised Land, Peter is promising that our inheritance in the New Creation cannot fail because God is finished reserving it for us. The reservation is settled— all that remains is for us to take full possession of it. Wayne Grudem explains the contrast well between Old Covenant and New Covenant inheritance:
“The ‘inheritance’ of the New Covenant Christian is thus shown to be far superior to the earthly inheritance of the people of Israel in the land of Canaan. That earthly land was not ‘kept’ for them, but was taken for them in the exile, and later by Roman occupation. Even while they possessed the land, it produced rewards that decayed, rewards whose glory faded away. The beauty of the land’s holiness before God was repeatedly defiled by sin (Nu. 35.34; Je. 2:7; 3:2).” (Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) p.58).
The pastoral heart of Peter shines through here as he stresses to his hearers that this promise was for them, “reserved in heaven for you” (τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς). All the saints share in this inheritance (Col. 1.12). No one who is a recipient of divine mercy will fail to be a recipient of divine reward. This great promise is exceedingly precious for when we have been single out by some earthly trial or affliction we have the absolute certainty that we have also been singled out for heavenly joy.