A few years ago, our daughter’s family went on a vacation to Florida. Instead of enduring the seventeen hours of drive time they decided to fly. At the appointed time Asher, Eli, Mom, and Dad were all seated on the plane and ready to go. Four-year-old Eli clutched his favorite plush penguin while seven-year-old Asher looked just a bit nervous. Did I mention that the boys had never flown before?
Then there was a bump as the plane pushed back from the gate. “Are we flying?” Eli asked. “Not yet,” Mom replied. The airliner turned and taxied a bit faster. “Are we flying?” Eli asked excitedly. “Nope,” Mom replied. Soon the plane lined up, revved up the jet engines and began to bolt down the runway. “Are we flying? Eli asked. “Not yet, you’ll know,” Mom replied as nearby passengers chuckled. A few moments later the plane rotated up from the runway and gained altitude. “Are we flying? Eli asked. “Yes, we’re flying Eli.” Mom replied as Eli squeezed Penguin just a bit tighter.
The next step in our walk through 1st Peter reminds me of Eli’s little adventure of flying for the first time. Peter wrote, “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, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5, NASB95)
God’s Great Mercy
Eli’s parents purchased the tickets in a similar way that God purchased our salvation through Jesus Christ. We did not “cause” or originate our new birth in Jesus, God in His mercy did. As Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB95) And, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10, NASB95) While we participated in being born again by choosing to receive God’s gift there is nothing that we have done to cause it. Being born again, redeemed, saved, experiencing new life are completely and utterly a gift of mercy to us from God.
A Living Hope
Eli waited with anticipation and expectation that grew as the moment approached. Peter reminds us that we were born again to a living hope because of Jesus’ resurrection. We are not following a dead or static hope but one that we continue to grow as we grow in Christ. It is a sure hope. The Book of Hebrews states, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,” (Hebrews 6:19, NASB95) When something is alive there is a vibrancy, a vitality, there is change, growth, and reproduction. Just like any seed, one seed of hope can grow and replicate over time to fill an entire field.
An Inheritance Reserved in Heaven
When Eli arrived at the airport he had a reservation; there was a seat set aside just for him. Our new life in Christ is both living and active today and looks forward to eternity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB95) Peter described our inheritance in Christ as imperishable, undefiled, steadfast (will not fade away) and reserved in heaven for you. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2–3, NASB95) At this point we could speculate about what that will be like, but won’t it be fun finding out for real?
Protected by the Power of God
There were many safety features in the airport and the airplane that Eli knew nothing about. Security screenings, x-ray machines, locked doors, seat belts, checklists, and FAA certifications down to the very fabric that covered his seat. We too as a follower of Jesus are protected in ways that we don’t see or even understand. John wrote, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, NASB95) And also consider, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10, NASB95) This doesn’t mean safe from struggles, trials, or persecution but that our very souls are safe in Christ. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27–28, NASB95) Many things may come our way, but God is greater still. Peter connects this protection to our faith in salvation and its final revelation.
A Revealed Salvation
Eli didn’t fully understand what flying would feel like until it happened. We do experience God’s kingdom today as we live life. We feel the release of forgiveness, the joy of new birth, the compassion stirred by love, the grief for a dying world, and the expectancy of Christ’s return. We see flashes of changed lives and sparks of God’s healing touch. The kingdom is here but, not yet fully here. Our salvation is likewise here, but not yet fully revealed. Don’t get me wrong; we are fully saved, but we have not yet fully entered into all that means. Nor can we fully enter in to our inheritance until Christ returns.
As I was studying this out, I noticed that God is the active party and we are grateful yet passive participants. We are just like Eli on the plane. As Paul wrote to Titus, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5, NASB95) We didn’t cause any of this, our role is only to receive what God did, is doing, and will yet complete. As we’ll see in future lessons, this is foundational to Peter’s pastoral encouragement to his scattered and persecuted readers. It should also be foundational for us whether we live in plenty or want, in health or brokenness, in happiness or despair, or lastly in safety or very real danger.