1 Peter 1:3, 4   |   Sunday, November 4, 2007   |   Code: 2007-11-04-PJ

 By Phil Johnson

      I have been thinking a lot recently about heaven, the hope of our resurrection, the security and comfort we find in Christ, and the glory of eternity in His presence. It's not easy to see beyond the experience of this life and try to understand what heaven will be. But Scripture commands us repeatedly to strive for that perspective—to set our affections on heavenly things, and to embrace the fact that our real citizenship and or true home is there. We're just strangers and pilgrims in this world. This life is temporary, and that is a blessing.

     So for this morning I have chosen a text that underscores all those things. It's a short passage filled with positive themes: divine mercy, hope, life, resurrection, heaven, and eternal security. The text is 1 Peter 1:3-4, and it says this: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."

     That passage is set in a context that is filled with some of my favorite biblical themes. You have the doctrine of election in verse 1, and the doctrine of justification in verse 2. Verse 2 also mentions sanctification, the atoning blood of Christ, and the principle of divine grace. In fact, take a look at verse 2. This is how Peter addresses the saints in Asia minor, and his greeting is like an outline of systematic theology. He calls them "Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure." Verse 5 goes on to speak about the security of our salvation and the promise of eternal glory. So every doctrine I love is either mentioned, implied, touched on briefly, or expounded in this passage. Its one of the richest opening passages in any New Testament epistle.

     Here's some background on this epistle: Peter is writing to believers in Christ who were living under the most severe kind of official persecution, a campaign against the church that had been personally initiated by the emperor Nero.

     Many of these people were exiles—people who had forfeited their homes and most of their possessions and were living in foreign lands at the extreme edge of the Roman Empire—because the closer you were to Rome, the more dangerous it was to be a Christian. That's why Peter addresses them in verse 1 as "those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." Some versions call them "pilgrims," and some call them "exiles." They were all those things—people dispossessed of all their earthly wealth and deprived of every earthly comfort, living in exile and still (from an earthly perspective) living in constant danger.

     Yet, in the words of verse 2, they were "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Therefore they enjoyed a spiritual security that was steadfast, unshakable, eternally fixed, and unwavering. No matter what insecurities were threatening them as strangers and pilgrims in this world, they had an inheritance reserved for them in the next world that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven."

     And Peter is also writing to remind them of their eternal security. He's teaching them some advanced doctrine, starting with the doctrine of election in verse 2, and culminating in the perseverance of the saints in verse 5. Let's just say Peter was no Arminian.

     In fact, verse 5 is one of the classic texts in Scripture about the doctrine of eternal security. Here is an unassailable answer to the false teaching of those who claim Christians are in danger of losing their salvation. Peter says we are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

     I'm absolutely confident I will never lose my salvation; I can never do anything to forfeit the eternal life that is mine in Christ. But I have that assurance not because I have any confidence in my own strength or my own faithfulness. My security not does not rest in my own devotion to Christ, but in His devotion to me. I am "kept by the power of God." His power is what energizes my faith and keeps me in the process of salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time.

     That's an echo of the truth of 2 Thessalonians 3:3: "The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil." And 2 Timothy 2:13: "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." Also, Jude 24: He "is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

     So on the authority of Scripture I believe absolutely in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But it's not because I have any confidence in the saints themselves. It is God who secures their perseverance.

     Look just once more at verse 5, and let me underscore this: We "are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Don't miss the significance of that. It means that even our faith is a work of God's grace in us. Our persevering faith is owing to His power, not any power of our own. And there's the greatest kind of security in that. It's a promise that will see us through every earthly tribulation. "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . .

37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thus wrote the apostle Paul in Romans 8:36-39. And likewise the apostle Peter writes to assure these persecuted pilgrims in Asia Minor that God Himself guarantees their perseverance. All the answers to their earthly troubles lie in this doctrine of eternal security.

     And that is what our passage is about. That's why it is full of hope, and life, and the promise of heaven.

     I'm always emphasizing the fact that doctrine is practical, and I can't resist saying so one more time as we look at this text. People tend to think of doctrine as something that is theoretical, abstract, speculative, and academic. But if you learn one thing here at Grace Church, I hope it's this: nothing is more practical or more important in our daily lives than sound doctrine. If you come to me for counsel about some dilemma or difficulty in your daily life, my answer to your question is most likely going to start with an explanation of some vital doctrine. Because sound biblical doctrine—starting with the truth about God Himself—is the foundation for every answer to every problem in life.

     And that is why Peter—writing to comfort and encourage these people in the midst of trials and persecutions greater than any earthly inconvenience you and I are ever likely to experience—that's why he begins this epistle by reminding them of the doctrines of grace and election, the truth of their justification, the means of their sanctification, the abundant mercy of God, the reality of the new birth, the historical fact of the resurrection, the security of their salvation, and the sovereign power of God that guarantees their eternal inheritance. Those doctrines were the only solid foundation for them to stand on in order to endure their trials. It wasn't merely theoretical or academic stuff. This was the most practical help Peter could give them.

     And in our text (these two short verses I have singled out for this morning), Peter gives a comprehensive survey of the saving work of God. He looks back, he acknowledges the present, and he points to the future. And in each of those perspectives, he finds unshakable security and wonderful, heavenly encouragement for these beleaguered saints in the midst of their earthly difficulties. So let's look at this text from those three perspectives. We'll take it in chronological order, looking first at past history; then at present reality; then at future hope. And we'll let that be the outline you can hang all your notes on. First,


1. Past History

     Notice that everything Peter has to say here is rooted and grounded in the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. Verse 3: "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." The resurrection of Christ is a historical fact, and it is a fact that the apostle Peter, perhaps more than anyone else in the entire church, was qualified to speak with certainty about.

     Peter was an eyewitness to the resurrection. He was the first person anywhere to get a look at the empty tomb from the inside. John 20 describes how Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection and saw the stone rolled away from the entrance. She saw that the tomb was empty, so she ran to where Peter and John were and told them (John 20:2) "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

     John 20 records what happened next:

So Peter went out with the other disciple [that's John; he always keeps himself anonymous in his gospel account], and they were going toward the tomb.

4  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. [I like how John can't resist saying in passing that he outran Peter; he's a typical guy.]

5  And stooping to look in, he [John] saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

6  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,

7  and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

8  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

Peter personally saw and spoke to the risen Christ on several occasions after that, and several weeks later, after numerous encounters with the risen Christ, Peter was there to personally witness Christ's bodily ascension into heaven.

     He knew the bodily resurrection of Christ was a historical fact. He was an eyewitness. There was no doubt in his mind that this was true. It was history. And here he says that historical fact is the foundation for all our hopes.

     It's vital that we understand this. All the truth of Christianity is grounded in historical fact. The resurrection is not a fable. It's not a fairy tale. It's not an allegory devised as a vehicle for some great spiritual truth. If it's a fabrication—if it's a falsehood—then there is no real hope at all.

     The apostle Paul spent a whole chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians making that very point. He wrote (1 Corinthians 15:13-18),

if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

14  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

15  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

16  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.

17  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

18  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Then Paul added this in verse 19: "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." If the resurrection isn't literally and historically true, then there is no real hope at all. There's no eternal life. There's no bodily resurrection for me and for you. Death is final. There's no hope of heaven. And this world is all there is.

     What a miserable existence that would be! It would mean, in essence, that the trials and difficulties of this life are meaningless. You might as well grab all the gusto you can here and now, because this really is all there is to human life. That is exactly the philosophy that drives the current world, and that is why this world is such a dark and hopeless place.

     But Peter of all people knew the truth of the resurrection. That's why he was the human instrument chosen by the Holy Spirit to write this epistle. That's why he more than anyone was in a position to encourage these Christians living in exile. He was eyewitness to the historical fact in which all their hope was grounded.

     This is also why the truth of the resurrection is so well-attested in Scripture. Listen to the catalogue of eyewitnesses recorded by the apostle Paul. First Corinthians 15:3-8:

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

5  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

6  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

8  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

So even the apostle Paul was an eyewitness of the resurrection. He saw the risen Christ. I believe he is claiming that Christ appeared to him physically and bodily on the road to Damascus. Paul himself described that occasion in his testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26:15-16. He says Jesus spoke to him and said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you." And apparently Jesus did appear to Paul again on subsequent occasions, most likely during the time Paul spent in Arabia and Damascus, described in Galatians 2:17. That is when Paul said he received the gospel by revelation from Christ.

     Those weren't merely visions. Paul is expressly claiming that Jesus Christ appeared to him personally and bodily in His resurrected and glorified body. Paul also makes reference to this in 1 Corinthians 9:1, as one of the proofs of his own apostleship: "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"

     The eyewitness testimony of the apostles was vital to establish the historical fact of the resurrection.

     Now, you're aware, I'm sure, that there have always been people who have suggested that the apostles conspired together to lie about the resurrection. In fact, the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time understood that Jesus had promised to rise from the dead, and according to Matthew 27:64, that is why they had His tomb sealed with a massive stone and guarded by soldiers in the first place. They said to Pilate, "Order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,'"."

     But when you remember that all the disciples and many of the hundreds of eyewitnesses to the resurrection were ultimately killed for their faith, and not one of them ever recanted his testimony about the resurrection, it becomes impossible to maintain the myth that this was all a conspiracy and a lie. Remember, the disciples all fled for their lives on the night of Jesus' arrest, and Peter even denied that he knew Christ. There's no rational explanation for their subsequent courage and the persistence of their preaching about the resurrection—except that they had indeed been eyewitnesses of the risen Lord.

     They saw Him physically. The apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:1: "we have seen with our eyes . . . we looked upon [Him] and have touched [Him] with our hands . . . the Word of Life." The bodily resurrection of Christ is a historical fact, and here Peter, in the midst of great danger and intense persecution, boldly proclaims that truth and draws comfort and courage from it.

     There are many today who want to call themselves Christians and yet deny the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. They are actually unbelievers masquerading as followers of Christ, and modern theological libraries are filled with their books. They claim the fact of the resurrection is unimportant. They say it's the moral teachings of Christ that really count. And they say that the notion of bodily resurrection isn't really essential. They argue instead for a kind of spiritual, ethereal immortality. Some of them would try to tell you that the appearances of Christ after His crucifixion were only "spiritual"—that this was not really the same body that was crucified. It was a spirit—a phantom, an apparition of Christ—that appeared to the apostles.

     Peter said otherwise. He regarded the historical fact of Christ's literal, bodily resurrection as the necessary foundation for all authentic hope. Without that historical fact, as the apostle Paul said, "we are of all men most miserable."

     And any doctrine that refuses to recognize the historicity of the resurrection is false doctrine. It's a lie that destroys all hope. That conviction underlies everything Peter has to say in this passage. Do away with the historical fact of Christ's bodily resurrection, and you have no basis for any hope whatsoever. You have no grounding for any Christian doctrine at all. That sort of doctrine is no better than spiritism—which is demonic.

     So that sets in perspective what Peter is talking about here. If you're one of those who are tempted to think of doctrine as abstract, theoretical, and academic, please notice that Peter is saying just the opposite. All the truth of Christianity is grounded in historical fact—reality, not illusion; a certainty, not a theory; the actual, physical, bodily resurrection of Christ, not just an illusion or an ethereal vision.

     By the way, this is the very thing that made Christianity so controversial in the first century. It wasn't just the notion of life after death. Even the pagan Roman religions taught that the soul lives on after the death of the body. Those who embraced Roman and Greek mythology had always believed that the souls of men would exist after death in a spiritual place called Elysium. I hope you understand that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body is more than that.

     That's why Paul's sermon on Mars Hill ended almost as soon as he said (Acts 17:31) that God "has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." The next two verses say, "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, 'We will hear you again about this.' So Paul went out from their midst."

     It wasn't the notion of life after death that offended the philosophers on Mars Hill, but the idea of bodily resurrection. That's the very thing Peter is proclaiming here. When he says God "has caused us to be born again to a living hope"—he's talking about the hope of our bodily resurrection—the promise that even Job understood (Job 19:26): "After my skin has been . . . destroyed [or in the picturesque wording of the King James Version, though worms destroy my body], yet in my flesh I shall see God." That is the living hope of every Christian. Philippians 3:20-21: "Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

     Peter had seen the glorified resurrection body of Christ with his own eyes. That is the historical fact on which everything else he has to say is grounded. Now look at another perspective that's found in this passage. We move from past history to—


2. Present Reality

     In a time of trouble and persecution, it's easy to become so focused on the trials that discouragement and despair overwhelm us. So Peter reminds them of a different, still-present reality from which they could draw comfort and encouragement: "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."

     There's a lot in that statement that I wish we could study in detail if time permitted. For one thing, I love the way he speaks of God—"the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." That's a common expression in the New Testament epistles, and this phrase seems to be an apostolic benediction that was familiar in the early church. Paul uses it a lot. In the opening verses of 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:3), Paul writes, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort." Later in that same epistle (2 Corinthians 11:31), he invokes the same phrase in an oath: "The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying." Near the end of the book of Romans, Paul urges the believers in Rome to be of one mind (Romans 15:6) "that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:3 is virtually a parallel passage to the verse we're studying: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Later in Ephesians 3:14, he writes, "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." At the start of his epistle to the Colossians, Paul writes, "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." So it's a common expression, and it seems to have been a favorite one of Paul's. But here it is echoed by Peter.

     "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It's a way of designating the Christian God in terms that are as specific as possible: God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, God was frequently referred to as "the God of Abraham" (Genesis 26:24); or "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:15 et al.). This expression, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," reflects the fullness of New Testament revelation, that "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son"—borrowing words from Hebrews 1:1.

     "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It's an important and powerful phrase. It affirms the deity and the lordship of Christ by describing the eternal relationship between Father and Son, who share the same essence. There's a world of theology in that name, and perhaps one day we can study it in depth.

     But what I want to focus on this morning is the central truth of our text, that "God . . . according to his great mercy . . . has caused us to be born again to a living hope."

     Notice, again, there is an implicit affirmation of the sovereignty of God in salvation here. God is the one who saved us, and not we ourselves. He caused us to be born again. Peter is saying the very same thing James said in James 1:18, where we read, "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth." God is the one who did this by his own will, according to His own mercy, and in His own sovereign power. We "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God"—John 1:13. God was the initiator and the Prime Mover in our salvation. He is in that sense both the Author and Finisher of our faith.

     Now, notice that our text is describing the new birth—regeneration—the same thing Jesus was speaking of when he told Nicodemus in John 3:3, "Unless [a person] is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

     In fact, notice our text: The King James Version and New King James Version say God "has begotten us again." The Greek expression literally means, "[He] has caused us to be born again"—and if you are reading this verse in the New American Standard Bible or the English Standard Version, that is exactly what you'll see. Even the New International Version, which I usually don't prefer, gives the literal sense of this verse: "In his great mercy he has given us new birth."

     So this is all about being born again. In fact, the identical expression is used in the Greek text once more in this same chapter down in verse 23: "you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."

     So this is about the new birth—regeneration. It's about the implantation of new life. Peter is speaking of a life-principle rooted in the resurrection life of Christ. It's a heavenly life-principle, and therefore it is not subject to the corruption and decay of this world—as we'll see in verse 4.

     It's not the life of Adam—fallen, fleshly, and in bondage to sin. This is the life of Christ, risen, glorified, and exalted to heaven. It is spiritual life, not carnal life. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." And yet as we have seen, this spiritual life-principle ultimately guarantees the redemption of our physical bodies as well.

     That's what the resurrection of Christ demonstrates. First Corinthians 15:20-21: "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead."

     So we're begotten unto a living hope. It's all about life, new birth, and ultimately our own bodily resurrection. And it's not something vague, shadowy, or elusive. It's grounded in historical fact, and it's manifest in our present reality. It's something solid and real and substantial and certain that we can lay hold of. A living hope, vibrant with life and energy.

     And that is how, at the very outset of this epistle, Peter sets the sufferings of his readers in proper perspective. Yes, they were suffering intense persecution, and Peter does not forget that fact or ignore it. In fact, he mentions their sufferings in every chapter of this epistle. He isn't denying or trying to minimize the significance of what they are going through. He's just helping them to see beyond that, to something even greater.

     He wants them to see their present reality as God sees it. In comparison with the blessings of eternity, it's a light, momentary affliction, working towards "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"—to borrow Paul's words from 2 Corinthians 4:17. Or, as Paul says in Romans 8:18, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

     Looked at on the scales of eternity, the worst things we could ever suffer in this world are—like this earthly life itself—fleeting and temporary, passing away quickly like the flower of the grass. In fact, toward the close of this epistle, in 1 Peter 5:10, Peter gives them this reminder as an encouragement: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."

     That means that our sufferings are not without a purpose. God is using them to conform us to the image of Christ, who also suffered. Look over at chapter 2, verse 21:

to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

22  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

23  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

That's the pattern we should follow. And that's the purpose of our suffering. It's temporary, and it leads to something indescribably greater and better, and more blessed. Suffering is one of the means by which we glorify Christ here and now by following Him, and it also makes us fit to glorify Him in eternity. Peter says so in the immediate context of the passage we're studying. In fact, this is one of his main points. Verses 6-7 (of chapter 1): "Now for a little while . . . you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

     So it's a privilege to suffer for Christ's sake. Instead of causing us to forget God's grace and compassion toward us, our sufferings ought to remind us of His abundant mercy, and keep us firmly fixed on the promise of an even greater future hope.

     And that brings us to the third perspective we want to consider from this passage. We've seen Peter's account of past history and his view of present reality. Now we turn to the issue he most wants to draw our attention to—


3. Future Hope

     God has mercifully granted us a whole new birth. He has given us a sure and solid living hope, and He has guaranteed that hope by the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. But there's something more—He has brought us into this new life and hope and set before us an amazing promise (verse 4): "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you."

     Now follow the grammar of our text and pay attention to the main clauses. Here is the central idea: "God . . . according to his abundant mercy has granted us a second birth into a living hope [the proof of which is Christ's resurrection] [and the fulfillment of that hope will be] an [eternal] inheritance [which is even now] reserved in heaven for you"—you who were once God's enemy, a willful sinner, having sold yourself as a willing bondservant of sin, and hostile to God.

     And yet God has done all this for you. There's not a word here about anything you did to deserve or acquire this, because it is purely a gift of divine grace—(v. 3) "according to his abundant mercy."

     God has given you this new birth, which makes you His own child; he has adopted you as a son, meaning He elevated you to a position of highest privilege in his family; and He has therefore given you an inheritance. Romans 8:17: "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Colossians 1:12: He "has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." He has given us a heavenly portion, guaranteed that inheritance, and reserved it in your name in heaven. If you're not amazed by that, you haven't grasped the truth of it yet.

     Notice the nature of this inheritance: it is "imperishable." Everything on this earth decays and ultimately is passing away. Given enough time, everything we known in this world will crumble and be destroyed. No earthly treasure is truly permanent. Moth and rust corrupts and thieves break in and steal. But in heaven, Jesus said in Matthew 6:20: "neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and . . . thieves do not break through nor steal." The decay and corruption that are universal in this fallen realm are unknown in heaven.

     Why? Notice the second adjective that describes our eternal inheritance: it is "undefiled." It is utterly untainted by sin. It is perfect in its purity. There is nothing in it that can make it perish. And therefore it is permanent.

     That's the third thing I want you to notice about our heavenly inheritance: it is "unfading." Its beauty never diminishes. Its glory never diminishes. It will be just as fresh and bright and lovely after a billion trillion years as it is the day we first set eyes on it.

     And here's the best part. It is secure. It is "kept in heaven for you." Your inheritance is being kept for you, and you are being kept by God for your inheritance (v. 5).

     Someone might think this is pie-in-the-sky theology. It is not. That's Peter's whole point. It is as sure and as certain as the historical fact it is grounded in. It is as real and as substantial as the work of God in you here and now. Remember, this is a living hope, and it derives its life and energy from the resurrection of Christ. That's the guarantee that your participation in heaven will be as real and bodily as the body of the risen Christ. It's the guarantee that the blessings of heaven will be as concrete and as tangible as the glorified flesh of the resurrected Savior. It's the guarantee that your heavenly inheritance will be as eternal and incorruptible as Christ Himself.

     If you can fix your hearts on that Peter says, you'll see that the troubles of this present life are fleeting and inconsequential, no matter how painful they seem for the moment. It is this life, with all its pain and sorrow and turmoil, that is transient and ephemeral. In other words, heaven is infinitely more real than what you are experiencing now.

     If you are in Christ—if He is your Savior and you are united with him by faith—you will be there. Not as a disembodied spirit floating in an ambiguous cloud of existence, but you will be there as yourself. In this body. Glorified, purified, and purged from every remnant of sin and corruption, slimmed down or (in some cases) bulked up, its youth renewed, and free at last to enjoy the goodness and the glory of God unfettered by guilt or shame or sorrow.

     That's the best part of your inheritance. That's what makes the sufferings of this present age not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. That is the great hope of every true Christian, and the promise of abundant mercy that is extended in the gospel message—given freely to all who embrace Christ.

     If you are in Christ, right there is ample reason for rejoicing in the midst of any and every difficulty this life may have dealt you.

     And if you are here without Christ, He offers the water of life to all who will turn from their sins and embrace Him alone as Savior.

     "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."