1 Peter 4:7-19 Lesson Ten – End Times and Suffering
7 Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?
18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
19 So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator. (HCSB)
As we look at this passage, it is split into two parts. The first part contains verses 7-11 and deals with the end times. The second part contains verses 12-19 and deals with suffering.
Part One – verses 7-11
First, we need to define the concept “end of all things is near.” The birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus have ushered in the “last days.” Although we don’t have any idea when Jesus will return, and even He said only the Father knows, we do know His resurrection begins the last period before His second coming.
- 1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
- 1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour.
- Romans 13:11-12 Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
- James 5:7-8 Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.
Peter’s exhortations in this paragraph all revolve around the idea of the return of Jesus. Because He is coming back, and we don’t know when believers should live in a spirit of obedient expectancy.
Another point to remember about New Testament eschatology is that there are no passages that encourage the setting of dates or any charts that predict the future. Instead, eschatology is used to encourage believers to live in a godly way. Nor does Scripture encourage believers to withdraw because the end is near and look to the sky for Jesus’ second coming.
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 About the times and the seasons: Brothers, you do not need anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in the dark, for this day to overtake you like a thief. 5 For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. 6 So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be serious. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
The truth that the end could happen at any moment has led some believers to act foolishly. Instead, we should focus on God and think about how short our physical life is compared to eternity. We should spend our time in prayer, realizing that at any moment, Jesus could return. Prayer also demonstrates our dependence on God and that any good that happens in the world is due to God’s grace.
Peter encourages the reader to maintain a spirit of love with each other, especially as the “end of all things is near.” Jesus also warned the disciples about this. Matthew 24:12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.
The theme of love continues here in the form of hospitality without grumbling. Hospitality was, and still should be, a central characteristic of Christians.
- Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
- Titus 1:8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled,
- Hebrews 13:2 Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.
Hospitality was also a requirement for the early church as it often met in homes.
- Romans 16:3-5 Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Not only do I thank them, but so do all the Gentile churches. 5 Greet also the church that meets in their home.
- 1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home.
Those who open their homes may become tired after a period of time. Therefore, Peter encourages hospitality “without complaining” to encourage continued hospitality.
Here Peter switches to a discussion on spiritual gifts. These gifts are bestowed by Holy Spirit through the grace of God to enable believers to contribute to the work of ministry. The verse also implies that every believer receives at least one spiritual gift after placing their faith in Jesus. These gifts should not be viewed as a privilege. Instead, we should view it as a responsibility on our part to utilize the gift(s) that we are given to build up the church and edify others. They are not to used to build up our self-esteem or make ourselves look good. Neither should we look at gifts in a hierarchal mentality, with certain gifts being viewed as better than others. Each of us should be thankful for the gift(s) that we are given and use them for God’s glory.
Peter continues his discussion on spiritual gifts. Here he breaks them down into two categories.
- Speaking (Romans 12:6-7, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-30, Ephesians 4:11)
- Serving (Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28-30)
All of us must utilize our gifts through the power of God and not in our own strength.
Peter then adds a doxology, which has led some to believe the letter actually ended here. However, there are other New Testament letters that have a doxology before the ending of the letter:
- Romans 11:36
- Galatians 1:5
- Ephesians 3:21
- Philippians 4:20
It makes more sense to view the doxology as the end of a major section of this letter, 2:11-4:11.
Part Two – verses 12-19
The theme of suffering is central to this section. Peter uses “suffering” or “suffer” four times in this section. The term “fiery ordeal” is vague and could be interpreted in a couple of ways.
- God uses trials to shape and mold believers for further service. This idea would follow Old Testament theology.
- Proverbs 27:21 A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and a man for the words of his praise.
- Psalm 66:10 For You, God, tested us; You refined us as silver is refined.
- Zechariah 13:9 I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God.”
- Malachi 3:1-4 “See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye. 3 He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by.
- It could also be referencing the persecution that began under Nero. In Rome, Christians were being pulled from their houses, dipped in tar, and then lit on fire to provide light in Nero’s gardens.
I believe the correct interpretation is to view the “fiery ordeal” as any trials that God allows us to experience in order to refine us for further/future service. Especially when we view the passage from Malachi 3:1-4 where God comes to purify His house (temple/church). When viewed in this light, the suffering should not be viewed as an absence of God but His purifying presence.
Peter is encouraging the readers to rejoice in present suffering so that later they will be able to rejoice when Christ returns. Acts 5:41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name.
Peter is also implying that those who groan and complain now don’t truly belong to Jesus.
This verse builds on the previous. We are called to rejoice in suffering, but we are actually blessed by God when we are insulted by people for being a follower of Jesus. Peter is echoing Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11-12 You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We are blessed because we have God’s favor through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Not all suffering qualifies for a blessing. The first three sins listed here are easy to understand. Murder, theft, and doing evil are clearly sins. The fourth one listed, “meddler,” presents an interpretive challenge. The original Greek word used doesn’t appear anywhere else in the New Testament, the Septuagint, or any Greek literature written before 1 Peter. The most likely interpretation of “meddler” would be words like “agitator,” “disrupter,” or “troublemaker.” Those who act in this manner disrupt peace and harmony in the church and the community. Suffering for being a “meddler” in the business of others is not righteous suffering.
Peter has an implied charge in this verse. Those who would act in a shameful manner are actually denying Christ before unbelievers. Peter viewed this action as apostasy.
- Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
- 2 Timothy 1:8 So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
The reference to “God’s household” is an Old Testament reference to the temple. However, under the New Covenant, there is no temple; each believer is the temple. God’s judgment will begin with His people to purify those who truly belong to God. There is also an unstated implication in this point. If believers, who fall under the grace of God, face suffering and trials before we receive our glorified bodies in the new age, how much worse will unbelievers suffer for all eternity as they face judgment and eternal separation from God? Unbelief leads to disobedience. Hence, those who disobey the Gospel display unbelief in the truth of the Gospel.
The “difficulty” Peter refers to here is not that the believer was saved at the last moment or that they barely escaped judgment. What he means is that believers must undergo trials and suffering to be purified. The salvation referred to here is an eschatological salvation. Just as in the previous verse, if the life of a believer is difficult due to suffering, how much worse will the eternal torment of those who disobeyed the Gospel be?
Peter states that the suffering we undergo in the refining and shaping process is all part of God’s will for our eternal benefit. Because God is the creator of everything, He is sovereign over it. We can take solace that God will not allow us to suffer beyond our limit and that He will provide the strength we need to get through it. We show our trust in God by continuing to do “what is good.”
This passage provides nine principles for us to follow.
- We should not be surprised when we suffer shame because of our faith.
- Suffering shame for Jesus should be viewed as a test in preparation for God’s final judgment.
- We should welcome the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Jesus.
- We should focus on the eternal rather than the temporal. Whatever we suffer through here is short in comparison to eternity.
- Regardless of our trials, we should be thankful for the Holy Spirit, who guides us through this life.
- When we suffer, we need to continue in our good behavior and not deny Jesus.
- We should focus on God’s glory and not our shame as we face persecution.
- Because we will be judged, we must strengthen our resolve to be obedient regardless of the suffering.
- When suffering in the name of Jesus, we must continue to do good works as an expression of trust.
- Do you live as if Jesus could return at any moment? Our lives should be covered in prayer, obedience to what is contained in Scripture (which means we read and now it), and loving others.
- Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) is/are? If not, you need to determine what they are.
- Do you use your spiritual gift(s) in serving others and glorifying God? If not, you need to start.
- Do you stand firm in the face of persecution? This includes both physical and verbal. We will never truly know how we will react when it comes, but if you prepare yourself, you will be much better equipped to face the trials. Spend time each day reading Scripture, praying, and serving each other.
- Do you trust God regardless of your circumstances? Although it can be challenging, we are called to trust God no matter how severe the trials we go through.