VI. The glorified Christ in the Epistles of Peter
The perspective of Peter
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 honor in the revelation of Jesus Christ:" (1 Pet 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 Pet 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 Pet 4:13)
- I, the … who also am partaker of the glory about to be revealed," (1 Pet 5:1)
But at the end of his first letter he 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 Pet 5:10).
Nevertheless, Peter also indicates in some places that Christians know something of the "man in 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, though you have not seen him, you love; believing in whom, though you do not see him now, you rejoice with unspeakable and glorious joy" (1 Pet 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 Pet 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 scattering (Diaspora) outside the land of Israel. Second, they were strangers because they belonged to Christ and were therefore in the world but not of it.
Peter encourages these believers to live lives of holiness (1 Pet 1:13-17). They should live the time of their alienation in fear, but with the awareness 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 what it is all about now. What God did they believe in? How did they know that they could trust Him, especially in their difficult life 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. And as if that were not enough, He also rewarded Him richly and "gave glory to Him".
Peter does not go into details. This is, as we have seen, the subject of Paul. But Peter draws the 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 give Him full trust and that your hope will not be in vain: "that your faith and your hope may be in God".
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. Pet 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), i.e. the "head of the corner".
This expression must be distinguished from the one in the previous verse. The cornerstone in verse 6 denotes the foundation and reference point for the whole building. It is the stone to which the whole building is aligned. The cornerstone in verse 7 is, as the note in the Elberfelder translation shows, the "head of the corner". It is the last stone that is inserted in an exposed position when the building is finished (cf. Zech 4:7). This is precisely the instruction: He has been given the highest place. He is still rejected in 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 quotes this verse: "Jesus speaks to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone that the builders rejected, this has become the cornerstone. From the Lord it has become this, and it is wonderful in our eyes"?" (cf. Mt 21:42).
Peter reminds the suffering believers of this: Remember that the rejected Christ is the "head of the corner", the rejected one has been given the place of honor!
32. The Chief Shepherd with Reward
"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 Pet 5:3,4).
Here Peter comes back to the glorified Christ - in connection with a special encouragement.
In the first verse of this chapter, Peter calls the elders to pastoral ministry: "Watch over the flock of God that is with you (V. 1). 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 be "watchful", as Peter also calls this ministry, is often not a grateful task, since sometimes rebuke and exhortation are necessary. Nevertheless, Peter encourages us to take on this important task. Not only should it be done, but it must be done with 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. Chapter 1:8), but He will be revealed, be seen! Then they too would receive a crown, an "unfading crown of glory". This should give them courage for their work.
It was still time to serve, not to rule. Christ was still hidden (but in glory). This glory would one day become visible. This is the perspective we so often find in Peter (1 Pet 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.
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 Pet 1:19).
In his second letter, Peter allows us another look at the glorified Christ, this time as the morning star. Briefly on the background:
- As he wrote this letter, he was approaching the end of his life. He knew this and spoke of "leaving the tabernacle" (v.14).
- As long as he was alive, he wanted to encourage the believers among whom he worked and to strengthen them in Christian truth (v.12). Even after his departure they should be able to remember "these things" (2 Pet 1:8,9,10,12,15) and do them so that they do 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. So "the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" would already be "abundantly presented" (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). 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 consequences:
- 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 typical Christian hope, i.e. with the Rapture of the faithful).
Both events, the day and the - previously occurring - Rapture were still in the 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 once and that Christ will rule after that and share his dominion with them. The thought of the morning star would show them that they have hope: that before daybreak, they would be taken out of the world.
Both events are about Christ. The man who was now hidden from their sight (1 Pet 1:8) was their hope, their morning star. And they could be absolutely certain that his day would one day come - like the sun 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.
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