What is the living hope in 1 Peter 1:3?First Peter 1:3–4 says, "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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you."
These two verses open the formal body of the letter, after an introduction in verses 1–2. Here, Peter praises God for His great mercy. This mercy has manifested itself in the new birth. Jesus spoke of this in John 3 in His meeting with Nicodemus. When one is born into the family of God, it comes with rights and blessings. Peter highlights two of them: (1) living hope through the resurrection of Jesus and (2) an inheritance that can never deteriorate.
Peter goes on to explain the second of the two blessings, the inheritance, more fully. Given the context and what we find elsewhere in Scripture, we can arrive at a good understanding of the first blessing mentioned, the living hope.
First, we must have a biblical understanding of hope. Today people often use the term to describe some longed-for, but probably unlikely event—it is essentially wishful thinking. For instance, if a person lives out in the country and needs to go somewhere, he could walk down to the road and hope to hail a cab. However, that would be a long shot—wishful thinking. If that same person lived in downtown Chicago, he could walk out of his front door and hope to hail a cab, and he would have great confidence that he would be able to do so. This second situation is a good illustration of biblical hope. Biblically speaking, hope is confidence that something will happen, even though it has not happened yet. It is very similar to faith. In fact, the two are linked together in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
When we are born into the family of God, we are given a living hope. There are many people today who are hopeless. They see awful things happening in the world around them, or they contemplate their own inevitable death, and they are filled with despair. There are other people who are very optimistic. They look around them and see the beauty of creation and are filled with awe. They look for the best in others and try to help their fellow man; they try to make the world a better place, and in many cases succeed. They are confident that, in spite of it all, everything will turn out all right one way of the other. However, this is not a "living" hope because it is based on unfounded optimism. Apart from divine intervention, things will NOT turn out all right. Ultimately, every person on earth will die and will face judgment; for those apart from Jesus Christ, it will not turn out well (Hebrews 9:27; John 3:16–21). So, some people are hopeless; some are hopeful but they have no reason to be; and some have a living hope, that is, a hope that is founded in the reality of the promises of God.
Because Peter says that the living hope is secured by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, he may have in mind the resurrection of the believer as well. God has promised that the believer in Christ, the one who is born again by the Spirit of God, will be resurrected one day and will spend eternity with Him in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21). Christ's resurrection is the guarantee of this (See 1 Corinthians 15). However, the resurrection of believers has not happened yet. Beloved believers continue to die. Persecution is on the rise. In fact, one of the major themes in First Peter is how to live under persecution. All the "evidence" would seem to be contrary to the idea of the Christian's final victory. Based on all of our experience, suffering and death seem to carry the day. However, there is one overriding piece of evidence that cannot be excluded—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees that His sacrifice for our sins was an acceptable sacrifice. He beat death and He promises to give a new, glorified, resurrected body to all who trust in Him.
Because Christians have the hope of a future resurrection and an eternity with Jesus, they can live in hope now. What we know will happen in the future colors the way we view the present. Christians are hopeful and hope-filled people. Christ's resurrection is the gateway for everything else that God has promised. God has proven Himself in the past and guaranteed our future, so our hope is a present reality. The living hope encompasses everything that God has promised but has not yet come to pass.
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