A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
—I Peter 1:3

THE GREEK WORD in our text that is translated ‘lively’ is, according to Strong’s Bible Concordance, a primitive verb meaning “to live.” It is the same word which in five places in the New Testament is translated ‘quick,’ in the expression, “the quick and the dead” (II Tim. 4:1), meaning the living and the dead. The hope, to which Peter says we are begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is a living hope, not a temporary dying hope which vanishes with the passing of time, or changing of circumstances.

The begetting by the Holy Spirit of the footstep followers of Jesus is accomplished by the “word of truth.” (James 1:18) The ‘word of truth’ pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has had much to do with our becoming spirit-begotten sons of God. It would seem that this was particularly true of the Apostle Peter.

The full significance of Peter’s testimony in this connection is better understood and appreciated by recalling some of the circumstances which caused the resurrection of Jesus to assume such an important place in his heart and mind. Peter was one of the greatly beloved disciples of Jesus, and called to be one of the apostles. He was thoroughly convinced that his Master was the promised Messiah of Israel and of the world. When Jesus asked his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” it was Peter who responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”—Matt. 16:15,16

But prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, there was much concerning the promised Messiah that the disciples did not understand. They knew that the Messiah was to be a great king and that he would establish a government of peace and security through which Israel and the world would be blessed. Since Jesus was the Messiah, they were confident that this kingdom, or government, would be set up by him in Palestine, and without any undue delay.

The disciples knew that while Jesus was popular with many of the common people of the day, the religious rulers were jealous and were continually plotting against him. They had confidence, however, that since he was the Messiah nothing could interfere with the Divine purpose which was to be carried out through him. They rejoiced as they heard him preach the Gospel of the kingdom. The record is that Jesus went “throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.”—Luke 8:1

The ‘twelve’ heard the glad tidings of the kingdom as day-by-day, and from city-to-city, and village-to-village, Jesus both preached the message and demonstrated what the Messianic kingdom would do for the people. Peter must have become increasingly enthusiastic and more and more convinced, not only that Jesus truly was the Messiah, but also that the kingdom blessings were already being poured out to those who had faith to receive them.

What could the enemies of Jesus do against one who had power to heal the sick and raise the dead? Surely the Master had Divine power on his side to protect him from any harm that the scribes and the Pharisees might imagine they could inflict upon him. This was true! But what Peter did not realize in advance was that Jesus would voluntarily surrender himself to his enemies and allow them to put him to death.

Seemingly the first time Peter realized the possibility of such a tragedy as this was when Jesus announced to his disciples that this is exactly what he intended to do. Matthew records, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”—Matt. 16:21

This was disturbing to the disciples, especially to Peter, who endeavored to do something about it. The next verse says that Peter “took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” The word ‘rebuke’ is a translation of the same Greek word as that translated ‘charged’ in Mark 8:30, in which we are told that Jesus charged his disciples “that they should tell no man of him.”

It was not, then, so much a rebuke by Peter as a charge, a command, forbidding Jesus to go to Jerusalem where his enemies could lay hands on him and put him to death, which he had indicated his intention of doing. We can imagine Peter’s concern in the matter! The record says that he ‘took’ Jesus—that is, seemingly, took him aside, and possibly in his earnestness even seized his arm, and with emphasis told his Master that he simply must not do this thing, that no king had ever attained power and established a government by surrendering to his enemies.

But Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23) From the human standpoint Peter’s reasoning may have been correct, but he was not expressing God’s viewpoint. He did not know that Jesus had come into the world to die as man’s Redeemer, and that this sacrifice was necessary before his kingdom of glory could be established.

Addressing all his disciples, Jesus added, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (vss. 24,25) This was a challenge that the disciples were not then fully prepared to accept, largely because they did not understand its full implications. Jesus had indicated his intention of sacrificing his own life. To them this was serious as well as mysterious, but now he had invited them to die with him. He explained, furthermore, that those who embarked on such a voluntary course of sacrifice would lose their lives if they attempted to save them. How could the disciples understand this? It was quite beyond the comprehension of the natural mind.


The fact that Peter was severely rebuked did not turn him aside from following his Master. Later, after they had entered Jerusalem, and had partaken of the Passover for the last time, Jesus told his disciples that they would all be offended because of him, and that Peter would deny him. Peter answered, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.”—Matt. 26:31-35

It was in all sincerity that Peter said this. In fact, he intended to do his utmost to prevent Jesus from carrying out his plans of surrender and voluntary death. This becomes apparent as we consider Peter’s action when the mob came to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. Peter drew his sword in an attempt to prevent the arrest, and severed an ear from the servant of the high priest. He doubtless intended to sever his head.

But again Jesus thwarted Peter’s purpose, commanding him to put up his sword, explaining that if he wanted protection he could ask his Heavenly Father, and “more than twelve legions of angels” would be sent for the purpose. (vs. 53) But Jesus did not request the angels, and Peter could see that his Master was intent upon his program of surrender. Later he denied his Master, and was again rebuked by him.

And then Jesus was put to death. He who had done no wrong, who had spent his time and his strength “preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom,” (Luke 8:1) was dead. What now would become of their kingdom prospects? Peter had failed to prevent the death of the Messiah, a death which he looked upon as a tragedy, since, as he saw it, it brought to an abrupt end the hope of seeing the kingdom established, and of participation in that kingdom.


The darkness that settled over the land as Jesus died was equaled only by the gloom and despair that filled the hearts of the disciples when they realized that their Master was dead. During the hours that followed, their minds probably turned from one happy event to another that they had experienced with Jesus as they witnessed the joy of those to whom he preached and showed the kingdom. Was this just a dream, pleasant for a while but now turned into a nightmare?

Thus a night and a day and another night passed, with no explanation to soothe their perplexed and broken hearts. But then, startling news reached them. The women who went early to the tomb learned that Jesus had been raised from the dead. “Go quickly and tell his disciples” they were instructed. (Matt. 28:7) Then a special commission, “And [tell] Peter.” (Mark 16:7) When they heard the news, Peter and John “ran both together” to the tomb to verify the report.—John 20:3,4

Verse nine gives us the amazing information that the disciples did not yet know the scripture that Jesus would rise from the dead. Actually, Jesus had told them several times that he would be raised from the dead, and that it would take place on the “third day.” (Matt. 16:21) Apparently they had been so shocked by Jesus’ announcement that he expected to be put to death that they did not take seriously what he had said concerning the resurrection. Their hopes were dashed when he was crucified! No wonder they ‘ran’ to the tomb when they heard the report that he was raised from the dead!

Some of them seemed to have a vague recollection that Jesus had said something about the resurrection. When he met two of them on the way to Emmaus and they told him the cause of their sadness, they added that it was now the “third day” since these things had happened, as though they had thought it possible that he might return on the third day. (Luke 24:21) But this hope was not a bright one. To them the Messiah was dead, and with his death their hope of the kingdom had been snuffed out.

They soon became convinced, that Jesus actually had been raised from the dead. But their association with him was far different than it was before. They seldom saw him, and when they did, he did not remain long with them. During one of his appearances he had a heart-searching talk with Peter, commissioning him to feed his sheep and his lambs. But just how to do this Peter did not seem to know, nor did Jesus explain.

Previously, and soon after they were called to follow Jesus, he had sent them out into the world to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom, even as he was then doing. But now what were they to do? He gave them no instructions—not until he appeared to them for the last time before his ascension. Then his commission was to tarry at Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, after which they were to be his witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth.—Acts 1:4-8

This was fairly definite, but even then they were to tarry. However, they did not tarry long. Jesus fulfilled his promise. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, and almost instantly they saw the meaning of all that had happened during the last fifty days. Peter acted as spokesman—the man who charged Jesus not to go to Jerusalem to be arrested and killed; Peter, who drew his sword to make sure that his charge was carried out; whose hope in Jesus and in the kingdom was blasted by the crucifixion—stood up on the Day of Pentecost and explained the necessity for Jesus’ death, and quoted a prophecy from the Old Testament, which foretold both the death and resurrection of Jesus.—Ps. 16:10


In the upper room on the night before Jesus was crucified he said to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32) Peter was now ‘converted.’ The Holy Spirit had revealed to his sincere heart and mind the completely wrong viewpoint he had entertained which had caused him to oppose his Master and endeavor to hinder the carrying out of the Divine plan. And now that he saw the true meaning of Christ’s suffering and death, and grasped also the intent of Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to take up their cross and follow him, he was prepared to fulfill the commission to ‘strengthen’ his brethren.

In Peter’s first epistle we find one of his outstanding efforts to strengthen his brethren, not merely in a general way, but particularly in connection with their privilege of suffering and dying with Jesus. In verses ten and eleven of the opening chapter he establishes the fact that the “sufferings of Christ” had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets, and throughout the epistle he emphasizes that the followers of Jesus participate in these foretold sufferings—that this is the will of God for them.

How appropriately and effectively he introduces this subject! This fearless disciple, whose whole being rebelled against the idea of his Master suffering and dying when he had done no wrong, speaks of the “abundant mercy” of the Heavenly Father in continuing to deal with him despite his error and his opposition—mercy manifested in begetting him again to a living hope “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”—I Pet. 1:3

When we are begotten by the Spirit as New Creatures, it is, of course, a begetting “again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.” (vs. 23) But the word ‘again’ is especially fitting in Peter’s experience. True, he was not a New Creature until he was converted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. But he did have a hope, the hope of the kingdom, the hope of sharing with his Master, the Messiah and King in that kingdom. But that hope died when Jesus was crucified, and only the resurrection of Jesus, together with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, gave it to him again.

Now it was a better hope. It was a living hope that would continue to live and shine the brighter amidst the storms of persecution and the death-dealing opposition of the children of darkness. This glorious kingdom hope was not now dependent upon temporal success and earthly glory. It was a hope that shone the brighter as the joys and comforts of life faded, a hope that could no longer be dimmed by the darkness of circumstances which might settle down upon his life.

Peter explains further in the verse following our text, this ‘begotten’ again hope was “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us.” (vs. 4, Marginal Translation) When Peter was following Jesus up and down the country, as he went from city-to-city and village-to-village “preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom,” (Luke 9:1) he knew nothing of the heavenly inheritance. He thought of the kingdom as being entirely earthly. He visualized himself associated with Jesus as a man—a fisherman exalted to the rank of an associate king.

But now the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit had opened up this entirely new, heavenly vista before him. He knew now what Jesus meant when he spoke of saving his life by losing it. Jesus had sacrificed his life, but had been raised from the dead and highly exalted to the Divine nature, above angels and principalities and powers. And now Peter was setting his affections upon the same glorious things above, rejoicing in a living hope, the hope of ‘an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.’


Now Peter could understand why Jesus was put to death although he had done no wrong. If Jesus had done wrong, his death would not have been acceptable for the redemption of the world. He had to die “the just for the unjust,” (I Pet. 3:18) otherwise he could not bring us, and mankind in general, into at-one-ment with his Heavenly Father. Now that Peter understood this, his whole viewpoint on Christian suffering had changed. That against which he once rebelled, he now accepted with thanksgiving.

In chapter two, verses twenty and twenty-one, of this first epistle, we read, “What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” When Peter heard Jesus’ invitation, “Take up your cross and follow me,” he was not impressed. In fact, he was so intent upon preventing Jesus from bearing the cross that he gave little consideration to the invitation. To him, the whole idea of suffering and dying for doing good seemed wrong and unnecessary.

But now he was converted. Not only did he see this matter in its true light, but because of his own experiences he was able, as Jesus had commissioned, to strengthen the brethren. He writes, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.”—I Pet. 3:13,14

No longer did Peter see the death of Jesus as a tragedy. He knew, of course, that his enemies had spat upon him, placed a crown of thorns upon him, and flogged him. He knew that they had hung him upon a cross until he died. But Peter also now knew that they had not harmed Jesus. He had surrendered to his enemies, and they had put him to death, but God had raised him from the dead. He had lost his life; but in losing it sacrificially he had gloriously saved it.

Peter knew that this also would be true of every faithful follower of the Master. As a New Creature in Christ Jesus, no one can harm you is Peter’s assurance. They may “say all manner of evil against you.” (Matt. 5:11) They may threaten, even imprison you, or put you to death. But that will not harm you. It will only help you enter into your inheritance that fadeth not away with the loss of earthly joys and life. But with such loss, your living hope is translated into a glorious reality.


“Beloved,” wrote Peter, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Pet. 4:12,13) How this must have strengthened the brethren of the Early Church, even as it encourages us today! It is only as we lose sight of our living hope of the inheritance that is reserved in heaven for us that we think our suffering as Christians is strange. Otherwise we rejoice in this evidence that the “spirit of glory and of God” is resting upon us.—vs. 14

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,” Peter continues, “that he may exalt you in due time.” (chap. 5:6) What height of salvation is involved in entering into our glorious inheritance for which we now have such a living hope! “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” Jesus said. (Rev. 2:10) “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,” he also promised. (Rev. 3:21) But this exaltation is conditional upon humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God.

What a strengthening thought this is! Our sufferings are not due to the individuals or circumstances with which they may seem to be directly associated. When the plan of one of Judah’s kings was thwarted, God said, “This thing is from me.” (I Kings 12:24) So it is with all of our experiences as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. It is God who is permitting our fiery trials; his hand that is pouring the cup of which we have the privilege of partaking. His mighty but loving hand was upon Jesus to test him; and it is so with us.

‘Think it not strange’ then when the fiery trials seem to increase and become greater than we can bear. Let us remember, rather, that it is under God’s hand that they come upon us. ‘This thing is from me,’ he is saying; and realizing this, let us humble ourselves and accept his providence in the spirit of thankfulness, knowing that the ‘spirit of glory and of God’ resteth on us.

It is not without reason after admonishing us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that Peter writes, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (chap. 5:7) Since, by faith, we are endeavoring humbly to accept every experience of life as being by Divine permission and overruling, we also are privileged to claim his promises of grace to help in every time of need.

The Lord tries us, but knows that in order to pass through the tests victoriously, we will need his help. He is not testing our endurance according to the flesh. He is trying our hearts. Our flesh shrinks from these fiery trials, but if we continue to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, we can also cast all our care upon him. David wrote, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”—Ps. 27:14

We do not cast our care upon the Lord with the expectation that he will protect us from trials. We know that our outward man must perish ere the living hope of our inheritance, which is reserved in heaven for us, can mature into reality. It is not pleasant for the flesh to perish, but in casting our care upon the Lord we do so with the assurance that his wisdom knows just how to regulate our trials, and to temper the heat involved.

Most important is the fact that in casting our care upon the Lord we keep our minds and hearts alert to his abundant mercy in begetting us to such a living hope, a hope that fadeth not away, a hope of joys to come which in itself will give strength to endure the “light affliction[s]” which are “but for a moment,” knowing that if faithful we will soon enter into an “eternal weight of glory.”—II Cor. 4:17

Dawn Bible Students Association
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