Suffering and Glory.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 1It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. – 1 Peter 1:10-12 ESV

In verse nine of this chapter, Peter mentioned “the salvation of your souls.” In verse five he referred to “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” He said that we were being guarded by God’s power through the means of our faith until that day arrives. We have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” being kept in heaven for us. And even while we wait for that day, “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” we “believe and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”  Why? Because one day we will receive the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

But along with all the talk of a “living hope” and “the salvation of your souls.” Peter mentioned suffering, trials and the testing of our faith. Suffering and glory are both inevitable for the believer. In fact, glory is preceded by suffering. And it is our future glory that makes our current suffering bearable. In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that we are  “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17 ESV). And our suffering and glorification were modeled for us by Christ.

In continuing his discussion of salvation, Peter expands his thoughts to encompass both suffering and glorification as aspects of that salvation. The very writings of the prophets of God predicted both. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, these men penned the words of God that told of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:11 ESV). Isaiah predicted His birth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV). Isaiah also prophesied about His character. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-2 ESV). He wrote of Jesus’ ministry, even penning the words as if they were being spoken by Jesus Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV).

But Isaiah also predicted the sufferings of Jesus:

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:3-6 ESV

He would be like “a lamb that is led to the slaughter” and “a sheep that before its shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:7 ESV). He would be “cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people” (Isaiah 53:8 ESV). But Isaiah also wrote that the sufferings of the coming Messiah had a purpose behind them. They were intentional and providential. They were necessary. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 ESV). The sufferings of Jesus were as integral to the plan of God as all the miracles He performed and messages He gave. His crucifixion had to precede His resurrection. His physical death was required before He could offer mankind eternal life.

It’s fascinating to think about the incongruity of Peter writing about the sufferings of Jesus. He is the one who vehemently resisted any mention by Jesus the He would suffer and die. Matthew records a memorable moment in the life of Peter when Jesus had just shared some shockingly bad news with the disciples. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21 ESV). Peter, always the outspoken one of the group, didn’t like what he had heard. “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you’” (Matthew 16:22 ESV). He wasn’t going to have any of it. All the talk of suffering and death was unacceptable to him. And he basically told Jesus that, if he had his way, none of this would happen. To which Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23 ESV). At that point, Peter had become a adversary of Jesus, attempting to stand in the way of God’s will and Jesus’ desire to obediently finish what He had been sent to do.

So here we have Peter, the one who rebuked Jesus and who, in the heat of the moment at Jesus’ arrest in the garden, would cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, writing about “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” He had been at Jesus’ arrest. He had stood in the shadows in the courtyard at one of Jesus’ trials. When confronted about his relationship with Jesus, he had denied even knowing Him – three separate times. And yet, here he was encouraging his readers as to the reality of Jesus’s suffering and its necessity as part of the salvation of their souls.

For the believer, suffering in this life is inevitable, but so is glorification. Jesus suffered, but was glorified. And our glorification will be preceded by our suffering. The author of Hebrews provides us with some words of encouragement as we await the salvation of our souls:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. – Hebrews 10:32-36 ESV

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