“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, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so 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.”
(1 Peter 1:3-7)
Living for Christ in these last days is both challenging and encouraging at the same time. For those of us who have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” there is a sobering realization that we are witnessing the unfolding events of the last days. In the passage above, the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to our generation through the Apostle Peter to remind us of some very foundational truths that are essential to our faith. There is a residing anticipation in the heart of every believer for the coming revelation of Jesus Christ.
Our Salvation To BE Revealed
All true believers in Christ have been justified by faith and brought into relationship with the Father through the Son (Romans 5:1-2), and at the same time we have been regenerated — born again of the Holy Spirit. Both of theses aspects of our salvation are past tense and must be understood as having been settled once and for all. But there are two aspects of our salvation that have yet to be fully accomplished. These are God’s works of sanctification and glorification. Peter reminds all believers that there is still work to be done and that our full redemption will not take place until the day that Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven in all His glory.
God’s work of sanctification is the process by which God’s people are being conformed to the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once a sinner is saved and justified before God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit has brought resurrection life to our mortal bodies, God begins the gradual process of transforming us into the likeness of Christ. This is why it is so essential for every believer to resist being conformed to the patterns of this world, while at the same time being transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2). The Apostle Paul reminds us that we have received the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), and therefore our growing process is learning how to believe, think, speak, talk and behave like Christ. Sanctification is a life-long journey that never ends this side of heaven. Thankfully, God has promised to finish this great work He has started “at the Day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). As Peter says, we” by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” meaning God will keep us and see us through to the end.
Sanctification Through Suffering
The Scriptures are unambiguous in expressing the reality that suffering and tribulation are among the primary means that the LORD uses to accomplish sanctification in the life of a believer. Peter says we are able to rejoice in spite of the grievous presence of various trials we face in this world. Jesus says, “in this world you will have tribulation, but take heart for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Even if our faith is tested through the fires of persecution, we are able to trust that God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. God never wastes suffering in our lives, using it to test our faith, purify us, teach us dependency, and keep us humble. Ultimately, suffering becomes the pathway that allows us to fully identify with Christ Jesus in His sufferings and become like Him even in His death. This is just one reason why I believe God will continue to use tribulation and persecution of the saints in these last days as the primary means to refine and reveal the true church.
If our justification and regeneration are past tense and our sanctification is ongoing in the present tense, then there still remains one aspect of our redemption that will be revealed in the future — our glorification. The glorification of God’s people takes place at the coming of Christ Jesus, at the first resurrection, when all of God’s children will receive glorified bodies and be like Christ forevermore. I understand justification as the moment God declares sinners righteous by grace through faith in Christ, who fulfilled all God’s legal demands. I understand regeneration as the moment we receive new spiritual life in Christ and experience spiritual union with the Holy Spirit. I understand sanctification as the process of willfully dying to our sinful nature and being conformed to Christ. And I understand glorification as receiving new, incorruptible, resurrection bodies fit to inhabit the kingdom of God forever.
Perhaps no one describes our glorification better than the Apostle Paul. He says …
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
With everything that is converging and accelerating in our world, there has never been a more urgent time for believers to be fully established in our faith and at the same time boldly sharing the gospel. When one adds the amount of intense persecution with the unprecedented spiritual deception of this age, it will be impossible to stand against the devil and the forces of evil without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ. Only those who hold to the testimony of Jesus and are found faithful in the end will “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Even so Lord Jesus, come!