VI. The glorified Christ in the Epistles of Peter

Michael Hardt

Fixing the eye on Christ glorified

Peter’s perspective

"…whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory." (1 Pe. 1:8)

Peter writes quite differently than Paul. His focus is not so much the present glory of Christ as a man in heaven. When Peter speaks of glory, he is usually thinking of the future. He often focuses on the time when Christ will appear and his glory will be presented to, and seen by, the world:

  • “That the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pe. 1:7).
  • "Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them pointed out, testifying before of the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these" (1 Pe. 1:11).
  • " But as you have share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that in the revelation of his glory also you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Pe. 4:13).
  • “partaker of the glory about to be revealed" (1 Pe. 5:1).

At the end of his first letter, he even expands the view to the eternal glory:

  • "But the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus" (1 Pe. 5:10).

Nevertheless, Peter also indicates in some places that Christians know something of the "Man in the glory" – of the One who is already there today. And not only that. Not only do they know about Him, but their heart beats for Him: " whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory" (1 Pe. 1:8).  

Some other examples will be briefly reviewed below.

 

30. Glory given

"Who by him do believe on God, who has raised him from among the dead and given him glory, that your faith and hope should be in God." (1 Pe. 1:21)

Peter writes to believers who had a Jewish background and were strangers in two respects: First, as Jews, they were persecuted in a pagan environment and were in the dispersion (Diaspora) outside the land of Israel. Second, they were strangers because they belonged to Christ and, therefore, they did not belong to the world. They were “in the world but not of the world” (cf. John 17:11.16).

Peter encourages these believers to live lives of holiness (1 Pe. 1:13-17). They should live the time of their sojourning (i.e. the time during which they were strangers) in fear, in the knowledge of having been redeemed with the precious blood of the lamb (v.18.19). Through Him, through Christ the lamb, they now believed in God. And that is the point made here: what God did they believe in? How did they know that they could trust Him, especially in their difficult situation? The answer lies in the verse quoted above: They believed in a God who raised Christ from the dead and gave Him glory. He had not left Christ in the grave. By raising Him from the dead, he had documented that Christ possessed all his good pleasure. In addition, He also rewarded Him richly and "gave him glory".

Peter does not enlarge on the present glory of Christ. This is, as we have seen, mainly the subject of Paul. But Peter draws the practical conclusion: If you believe in such a God, who is just, who has rewarded Christ and given Him glory, then you can be sure that you can also trust Him fully. Your hope will not be in vain. It is a “living hope”: After a “short while” (v. 6) you will take possession of the “incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance“ in the heavens (v. 4). 

 

31. The head of the corner

"To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient, the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner." (1. Pe. 2:7)

Peter mentions in the first chapter of his First Epistle that God raised the Lord Jesus and "gave Him glory" (v. 21).

Here in the second chapter, he mentions that the stone that the builders (an image of the leading religious class in the people of Israel, who should have known better) had rejected "has become the cornerstone" (v.7), the "head of the corner".

The previous verse also mentions a cornerstone: “Behold, I lay in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious”. This cornerstone refers to the foundation and reference point for the spiritual house consisting of living stones, i.e. of all true believers. It is the stone to which the whole building is aligned. The cornerstone in verse 7 is to be distinguished from that of verse 6. The expression used in verse 7 is a different one. It denotes the "head of the corner" (Gr. kephalē gonias). It is the last stone that is inserted in an exposed position when the building is finished (cf. Zech. 4:7). This is precisely what is emphasised here: Christ has been given the highest place. He is still rejected by the world, but God gives Him the highest place.

Peter alludes here to a passage in Psalm 118:22. The Lord Jesus had also used this verse. After He had spoken about the fact that the workers in the vineyard had refused to deliver the fruit, and had finally killed the son, the heir, He quoted this verse: "Jesus speaks to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the corner-stone: this is of the Lord, and it is wonderful in our eyes? " (cf. Mt 21:42).

Peter reminds the suffering believers of this fact: the rejected Christ is the "head of the corner", the rejected one has been given the place of honour! This stone is elect and precious with God – and also “to you who believe is the preciousness”. 

 

32. The Chief Shepherd with Reward

"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising oversight, not as lording it over your possessions, but being models for the flock. And when the chief shepherd is manifested you will receive the unfading crown of glory."  (1 Pe. 5:2-4)

In these verses Peter comes back to the glorified Christ – in connection with a special encouragement.

He calls the elders[1] to pastoral ministry: "shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (v.2). He knows that this work can be arduous (he himself was a "fellow elder"). Shepherding the flock involves protecting it from various dangers (cf. Acts 20:28-30). This requires constant vigilance. To exercise “oversight", as Peter also calls this ministry, is not always welcome, since sometimes rebuke and exhortation are necessary. Nevertheless, Peter encourages us to take on this important task. It was important to Peter that this should be done in the right attitude and disposition: not out of compulsion, but voluntarily, not as rulers, but as examples.

Here, too, it is helpful to look at the glorified Christ: he is the chief shepherd (v. 4). At best they were lower shepherds under Him. Nevertheless, if they were to carry out this task, they would be engaged in an activity that Christ still pursues from heaven.

The chief shepherd was still hidden (cf. 1:8), but one day He will be revealed, He will be seen! Then the elders, too, would receive a crown, an "unfading crown of glory". This should give them courage for all the efforts and trouble they took in carrying out their task.

It was still time to serve, not to rule. Christ was still hidden (although in glory). This glory would one day become visible. This is the perspective we so often find in Peter (1 Pe. 1:7,13; 4:13; 5:1): the glory is now hidden but will be revealed. And the coming glory sheds light on our journey today and spurs us to live to the glory of the Lord and to serve Him.

 

33. The Day and the Morning Star

"And we have the prophetic word made surer, to which you do well taking heed (as to a lamp shining in an obscure place) until the day dawn and the morning star arise in your hearts." (2 Pe. 1:19)

In his second letter, Peter grants us another look at the glorified Christ, this time as the morning star[2]. Let us briefly consider the background of this letter:

  • As Peter wrote this letter, he knew he was approaching the end of his life. That’s why he mentioned the "putting off of the tabernacle" (1:14).
  • As long as he was alive, he wanted to encourage the believers among whom he worked and to establish them in the Christian truth (v.12). Even after his departure they should be able to remember "these things" (2 Pe. 1:8,9,10,12,15) and practise them so that they would not fall ("stumble", v.10).
  • Moreover, they were already allowed to rejoice that things would one day change, and that this would happen when Christ reigns publicly. So "the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" would already be "richly furnished" to them by anticipation (v.11).
  • That this kingdom will one day come is not a fable, but a fact. It has been confirmed twice: first by the prophets of the Old Testament and secondly by the "preview" of this kingdom that Peter, James and John received on the mount of transfiguration (Mt. 16:28-17, 8). In this sense, Peter had become an eyewitness of the kingdom in this glorious form.

Peter is concerned with the practical consequences: (How) can the fact of the coming kingdom already have an effect on everyday life today? He answers with a comparison. The prophetic word, he says, is a lamp that shines in a dark place. They would do well to pay attention to this lamp, that is, to let the light of prophecy shine into their life situation. This would have positive consequences for their spiritual lives:

  • The day would dawn in their hearts (the Day of the Lord includes the appearance and reign of Christ);
  • The morning star would rise in their hearts (the morning star has to do with the proper Christian hope, i.e. with the rapture of the believers).

Both events, the day and the – previously occurring – rapture were still future. But in their hearts they would already now become reality. The thought of the day would make them realize that the world will be judged and that, following this, Christ will rule and share his dominion with them. The thought of the morning star would show them that they have a heavenly hope: before daybreak, they would be taken out of the world.

Both events are connected with Christ. The Person who was now hidden from their sight (1 Pe. 1:8) was their hope, their morning star. And they could be absolutely certain that his day would one day come – like the sun rises after the night.

Again we notice that Peter does not so much describe the present glory of the Lord in heaven, but he shows that the faithful know Him and hope in Him. They may already now live in the light of the glory of the coming day.


 


[1] The expression "elders" is not to be understood here in the sense of an office with official employment. This is clear from several considerations: the letter is addressed to believers from among the Jews. In verse 5, the same expression is clearly used in the sense of "older persons". Further, there is no article before ”elders” in verse 1. Furthermore, Peter was an apostle, but calls himself "fellow elder" here. These “elders” were - similar to today - men with spiritual maturity and the necessary qualifications who carried out tasks that (where they existed) were carried out by appointed elders.

[2] Here the “phosphoros”, i.e. the light-bringer. See the comments on Revelation 22.

« Previous chapterNext chapter »