By Hoyt Wilson
Pastor, Flatwoods Baptist Church, Holladay
Some years ago a submarine sank off the coast of New England. Rescue operations began as soon as possible and divers located the vessel on the bottom of the ocean. As the divers approached the ship, they heard metallic clanging — someone was striking the inner wall of the sub with a metal object. The divers stopped to listen and realized that a message in Morse code was being tapped out from inside the sub — “Is there hope?” Peter wrote to God’s elect (Christians) who were scattered through five provinces to assure them that there is hope. Hope is a vital necessity for human life. Millions of migrants in the East are now risking their lives in hope of finding a new nation where they can have a better future. Hope is a powerful motivator. Peter wrote this first letter to give ancient Christian migrants hope in God for their present situation as exiles.
He identified himself with the exiles as he reminded them that God: “… has given us a new birth.” It was not just a new birth, but a new birth into a living hope. It was a living hope because they believed in a living Savior who had been resurrected from death. They had a new relationship with God through Jesus that made them new persons. They were exiles in strange lands because they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus, but they had a secure future ahead of them as people of God. It was God that said to Israel exiled in Babylon: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus opened the way for these exiles in foreign lands to have an inheritance which Peter said: “…can never perish, spoil, or decay” (NIV). Their hope would not be a living hope if it perished, spoiled, or decayed. A living hope is one that is certain to be fulfilled. So Peter said it is “kept in heaven for you.” How is it kept? “It is salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” That is reminiscent of Paul saying: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (II Timothy 1:12, KJV). When Israel was exiled in Babylon their captors demanded that they sing songs of joy, but Israel said: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land” (Psalms 137:4, NIV)?
Peter was writing to exiles that had good reasons to rejoice in foreign lands. God mercifully had forgiven their sins, given them a new birth producing living hope that cannot be taken from them and kept their inheritance in heaven for them. That was just cause for rejoicing. They rejoiced even as they suffered various kinds of trials. How could they rejoice under various trials? Peter reminded them that their trials proved the genuineness of their faith. Standing true to Jesus in a foreign land under various trials was sure to “… result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Peter had seen Jesus, but it is not likely that these exiles had seen Him, but they knew Him. Peter put it like this: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” That is a living hope and it is the hope Christians have in 2016.