His Return


Peter exhorts Christians to persevere in sufferings and to live holy lives in the knowledge of the impending day when Jesus will be revealed.

In his first epistle, Peter wrote to Christians who were under pressure to conform to the expectations of the surrounding society. Their situation was not unique, for they were members of the worldwide suffering community of believers. One of his themes is the necessity to remain steadfast through tribulations until the “day of visitation” when Jesus is “revealed.”

His references to the “revelation” of Jesus are intended to encourage Christians who are being marginalized by a hostile society, reminding them of the rewards that the faithful will receive on that day.

Peter begins by applying language from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness to his largely Gentile audience. They are the “elect sojourners of the diaspora” alienated from the rest of society, “resident aliens” on their way to the New Promised Land. But the church is not without hope, for it will receive the promised “incorruptible inheritance” when Jesus is “revealed” at the end of the age:

  • (1 Peter 1:3-6) – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who  according to his great mercy has regenerated us for a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, for an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you, who, in God’s power, are being guarded through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last season, wherein you exult, though for a little, just now, if needful, put to grief in manifold temptations.”

That “inheritance” was bequeathed to believers through “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” From the start, Peter anchors all that we will receive in the future in the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus. His audience has not yet received their full salvation, and they are yet subject to trials and persecution, but their final reward is assured. It is waiting for them, “reserved in the heavens,” and will be “revealed” at the proper “season” when Jesus is “revealed” – (Compare – Colossians 3:3-4).

Revealed” translates the Greek verb apokaluptō, which means “to uncover, unveil, reveal.” It is related to the noun apokalupsis, the same one translated “revelation” elsewhere in the New Testament. Here, it indicates that the promised rewards are currently hidden in heaven, where they wait to be revealed when Jesus arrives.

  • (1 Peter 1:6-9) – “Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is proved by fire, may be found for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… and receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

For the present, Christians find themselves enduring trials that test their faith, and suffering is not an abnormal experience but an integral part of what it means to follow Jesus.  Trials prepare and purify believers so they may stand in the proper condition at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The “revelation of Jesus Christ” is linked to “salvation,” which is received on the “last” day. Considering this hope, disciples must remain sober and direct their hope to the grace that is “being borne along to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ…and become holy in all manner of behavior.”  The faith taught by Peter is very much forward-looking.

  • (1 Peter 1:13-16) – “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, keeping sober, perseveringly direct your hope unto the grace that is being borne along to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ. As obedient persons, not configuring yourselves unto your former lusts in your ignorance, but according as he that has called you is holy, do you yourselves also become holy in all manner of behavior, just as it is written: Holy shall you be, because I am holy.”

Once again, Peter stresses the future aspect of salvation. It is received in all its fullness at the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, believers must live soberly and persevere through all trials. Holiness is not optional. This does not mean we are not “saved” at the time of our conversion, but it does mean that our completed salvation is in the future.

  • (1 Peter 2:11-12) – “Beloved! I exhort you as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts, such as take the field against the soul; Having your conduct among the nations honorable, in order that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, owing to the honorable deeds they are permitted to behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Believers are “sojourners and pilgrims” who no longer belong to the present age. By living holy lives, their pagan neighbors may glorify God “on the day of visitation.” In this context, the “day of visitation” is identical to the day of Christ’s “revelation.” That our pagan neighbors will “glorify God” at that time means that both believers and unbelievers will be present on that day.

Heavens Opened - Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Visitation” translates the Greek noun episkopos, which is used elsewhere for “overseer” or “bishop.” It is related to the verb episkeptomai, meaning “to examine, investigate, oversee, visit,” and thus, the change from “revelation” to “visitation” adds the aspect of judgment to that future event.

Between now and that day, disciples will endure persecution because they are “Christians,” but they should not be ashamed. Instead, they ought to “glorify God in this nameit is the season for the judgment to begin with the house of God” – (1 Peter 4:12-17).

The judgment that “begins with the house of God” is a foretaste of the judgment that will occur “on the day of visitation.” Christians undergo examination now for the purpose of purgation. But if judgment begins with the house of God, “what shall be the end of them who yield not to the gospel of God?” Presumably, the fate of the wicked will not be pleasant.

  • (1 Peter 5:1-4) – “Elders, therefore, among you I exhort, I who am their co-elder and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also in the glory about to be revealed have a share. Shepherd the beloved flock of God, which is among you, not by compulsion but by choice, nor yet for base gain but of a ready mind, nor yet as lording it over the allotted portions, but becoming ensamples to the beloved flock. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, you shall bear away the unfading crown of glory.”

Elders are to “shepherd” God’s flock, all while considering the “glory about to be revealed” in which they will have a share.  Elders who do so will receive an “unfading crown of glory” on that day. Peter now refers to the day when Jesus will be “manifested,” and in this context, “manifested” must refer to the same event as  “revealed” and “the day of visitation.”

Peter does not delve into the finer details about the return of Jesus. Instead, his purpose is to encourage Christians to persevere in trials and live holy lives in the knowledge of Christ’s impending “revelation.” His “visitation” will mean rewards for the faithful and condemnation for the wicked.  Final salvation and judgment will occur at that same time when he is “revealed from heaven.”

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