Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV
Peter was writing to a church that was facing persecution. He was trying to encourage them in their faith by reminding them of who they were in Christ. And it is interesting to note that the very first thing he emphasizes is their inheritance. As they were going through earthly trials, he attempts to redirect their attention to their heavenly hope. He calls it a “living hope” because it is unending and undying. It is unstoppable and, therefore, inevitable. And it is a hope based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was once dead, but was raised to life again by the power of the Holy Spirit, and He now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is where we should long to be. He told the disciples that He was leaving, but that He would be returning for them one day. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV).
Peter reminded his readers that their inheritance was “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” and “kept in heaven” for them. It is for that hope we wait. It is for that future hope our bodies groan. Paul said it this way, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23-24 ESV). As we live in this world, it is very easy to forget about the world to come. Heaven can become an abstract, somewhat ethereal concept that is hard to imagine, let alone long for. We can tend to view it as some kind of nebulous reward that we will receive after death. But in the meantime, we live with our attention and our appetites firmly rooted in the here and now, and attempt to place all our hope in this life. But Peter would want us to remember that we are “exiles” here. This is not our home, no more than Babylon was the home of the Israelites for the 70 years they were captives there. Egypt was not the home of the descendants of Abraham, even though they had lived there for more than 400 years. God had promised Abraham that the land of Canaan would be their home. The Promised Land was to be their inheritance. And while they had to suffer and wait for the day God’s promise would be fulfilled. they were to keep their hope firmly focused on what God had promised. The author of Hebrews, in his great chapter on faith, reminds us of those Old Testament patriarchs who lived their lives with a future-focused faith, hoping in and waiting for the promise of God.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. – Hebrews 11:13-16 NLT
They were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. There were expecting more. But if we are not careful, we can become like the Israelites who, after being set free from bondage in Egypt and making their way to the promised land, began to look back. At the first sign of trouble, they started longing for Egypt. When the journey got rough, they found themselves viewing a return to slavery preferable to enduring hardship on the way to that which God had promised. When we lose sight of heaven, we make earth our hope. When we take our eyes off the prize, we tend to seek rewards that are temporal in nature, rather than eternal. We settle for less. Unwilling to suffer in this life while we wait for what God has in store, we seek to find our satisfaction and contentment in this life. But Paul had a different outlook. He said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 ESV). He was heavenly-minded and it gave him a much more healthy perspective on his earthly life.
God has something incredible in store for us. The problem is that we can’t see it. It’s invisible to our eyes. We don’t know exactly what heaven looks like. We can’t make out what our experience there will be like. So we tend to focus on what we know and what we can see. We begin placing all our hope in this life, demanding from God that He give us our inheritance NOW. We want heaven on earth. But again, Paul would have us consider that hope is not hope if it is based on what we can already see. “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25 ESV). Heaven is invisible to us. It it outside our range of view and beyond our faculties of comprehension. Yet Peter tells us that God is guarding and protecting us in this life so that we might enjoy that which we can’t see – “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our salvation has an ending, a completion point. It culminates in heaven. We have been born again to a living hope – the hope of eternal life.