We have spent quite some time now digging into 1 Peter 1:13–24 and I want to take one last look (I promise!) at these verses before we move on. We have considered the ethical exhortations that Peter offers in these verses—holiness (vv. 14–16); fear of God (vv. 17–21); and brotherly love (vv. 22–24)—and have observed that each of those ethical exhortations is rooted in the gospel. But as much as the Christian ethic look backward to the cross of Christ, it also looks forward to the judgement seat of Christ.
Peter reminds his readers of God “as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” and, in light of that truth, challenges them to “conduct [themselves] with fear throughout the time of [their] exile” (v. 17). God’s impartial judgement is frequently seen in this life but will ultimately be realised in the next when he raises the dead bodily to stand before the final judgement seat. For unbelievers, this will be a time of terror, sorrow, and anger. For believers, it will be a time of joy because our hope will then be fully and finally realised as we enter forever into the blissful presence of our Saviour. Christian hope is rooted, fully and finally, in the future.
But this future hope has implications in the here and now. It was in light of God’s full and final judgement that Peter exhorted his readers to holiness, fear, and love. A proper focus on the future—on the final judgement and eternity to follow—will radically impact the way that we live our lives. Christians are called to live life in light of eternity.
Living life in light of eternity will alter your approach to worldly goods. The recent riots in our country were blamed in many sectors on wealth inequality. Following the unrest, President Ramaphosa was quoted as saying, “The violence and destruction of the last two weeks has … exposed several of the social and economic faultlines in our society and underlined the urgent need to decisively address poverty, inequality and unemployment.” While we might be tempted to immediately dismiss such comments, placing the blame for the destruction squarely on the shoulders of opportunism, the reality is that South Africa is ranked by the World Bank’s Gini index as the world’s most unequal country in terms of material wealth. Most (not all) of us reading this are on the positive end of that inequality. While we are thankful for God’s providence in our lives in this regard, we do well to consider our material welfare in light of eternity.
Paul wrote of our “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Living in light of that eternal weight will surely impact the things that we prioritise in this life. When we remember that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7) it will surely put into perspective the way that we use our worldly possessions. It will spur in us Christian generosity.
Living life in light of eternity will also surely affect life’s plans. Jesus unfavourably portrayed those who plan without thought to eternity. In a parable dealing with this very matter, the farmer who planned without thought to eternity was deemed to be a fool (Luke 12:13–21). Planning for the future is both biblical and wise, but to preoccupy yourself with your plans without giving thought to God and eternity is a display of utter folly. Are the things that occupy your plans things that will have eternal value?
Finally, living light in light of eternity must also surely impact the way we think about death. Striving for good health and fitness is wise. Christian wisdom commends thoughtful precaution when it comes to viruses and bacteria. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and taking vaccines and medication to counteract medical threats is Christian behaviour. Solomon exhorted against folly when he asked, “Why should you die before your time?” (Ecclesiastes 7:17). At the same time, we must not be motivated in everything we do by sheer terror of death. Death is indeed an enemy to be defeated and its sting is still very real. But Christians live with hope beyond death because we believe in the promise of resurrection and eternal life. Peter’s readers faced the very real threat of bodily harm and death and he exhorted them to live Christianly in the hope of eternal life.
Believer, is your hope rooted in this life only: in your possessions, in your plans, and in your prosperity? If so, allow Peter’s exhortation to shift your focus to eternal thing. Live life in light of eternity and thereby live your life honouring to Christ.