The Day of Visitation
In his first letter, Peter addresses congregations under pressure to conform to the expectations and values of the surrounding society. Their situation is not unique. They are members of a worldwide suffering community. A key theme of the Letter is the necessity for believers to persevere in tribulations and remain steadfast in holy living until the “Day of Visitation” when Jesus will be “revealed” from Heaven.
The reference to the “revelation” of Jesus is intended to encourage believers who have been marginalized by a hostile culture, reminding them of the rewards that the faithful will receive on that day.
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Peter begins by applying language from Israel’s wilderness wanderings to his largely Gentile audience. They are the “elect sojourners of the diaspora” alienated from the world, “resident aliens” on their way to the New Promised Land. The Assembly will receive the promised “incorruptible inheritance” when the Lord is “revealed.”
- (1 Peter 1:3-6) – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to his great mercy has regenerated us for a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, for an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you, who, in God’s power, are being guarded through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last season, wherein you exult, though for a little, just now, if needful, put to grief in manifold temptations.”
The “inheritance” was bequeathed to believers through “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter anchors all that his disciples will receive in his past death and resurrection. They have not yet received their full salvation, and they remain subject to trials and persecution. Nevertheless, their final reward is assured. It is “reserved in the Heavens,” waiting to be “revealed” at the proper “season” – (Colossians 3:3-4).
The Greek term translated as “revealed” represents the verb apokaluptō, which means, “uncover, unveil, reveal.” It is related to the noun apokalupsis used elsewhere for “revelation” in the New Testament. Here, it indicates that the promised rewards are currently hidden until they are revealed when Jesus appears.
PROOF OF YOUR FAITH
- (1 Peter 1:6-9) – “Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is proved by fire, may be found for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… and receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
For the present, disciples find themselves enduring trials that test their faith. Suffering is not an aberration but part of what it means to follow Jesus. Trials prepare and purify them so they may be found in holiness at the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Moreover, his “Revelation” is linked to the “salvation” that will be received on the “last” day. Considering this hope, the disciple must remain sober and direct his hope to the grace that is “being borne along to him at the Revelation of Jesus …And become holy in all manner of behavior.”
The faith taught by Peter is forward-looking. It remains fixed on the future day when the Lord of Glory will appear “on the clouds” to gather his “elect” to himself.
- (1 Peter 1:13-16) – “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, keeping sober, perseveringly direct your hope unto the grace that is being borne along to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ. As obedient persons, not configuring yourselves unto your former lusts in your ignorance, but according as he that has called you is holy, do you yourselves also become holy in all manner of behavior, just as it is written: Holy shall you be, because I am holy.”
Once again, Peter stresses the future aspect of salvation. It is received in all its fullness at the “Revelation of Jesus,” therefore, believers must live soberly and persevere through every trial. Holiness is not optional.
- (1 Peter 2:11-12) – “Beloved! I exhort you as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts, such as take the field against the soul; Having your conduct among the nations honorable, in order that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, owing to the honorable deeds they are permitted to behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Disciples of Jesus are “sojourners and pilgrims” who no longer belong to the present age. By living holy lives, their pagan neighbors may glorify God “on the Day of Visitation.” In this context, the latter term is identical to the day of his “Revelation.”
The Greek term translated as “visitation” is episkopos. It is used elsewhere for “overseer” or “bishop,” and is related to the verb episkeptomai, meaning “to examine, investigate, oversee, visit.” The change in terms from “Revelation” to “Visitation” adds the aspect of judgment to this final event.
Between now and then, disciples will endure persecution because they are “Christians.” For that, they ought to “glorify God in this name… it is the season for the judgment to begin with the house of God” – (1 Peter 4:12-17).
The judgment that “begins with the house of God” is a foretaste of the judgment that will occur “on the Day of Visitation.” Believers undergo examination now for the purpose of purgation. But if judgment begins with the house of God, “What shall be the end of them who yield not to the gospel of God?”
- (1 Peter 5:1-4) – “Elders, therefore, among you I exhort, I who am their co-elder and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also in the glory about to be revealed have a share. Shepherd the beloved flock of God, which is among you, not by compulsion but by choice, nor yet for base gain but of a ready mind, nor yet as lording it over the allotted portions, but becoming ensamples to the beloved flock. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, you shall bear away the unfading crown of glory.”
In the meantime, the elders must “shepherd” God’s flock while considering the “glory about to be revealed” in which they will have a share. Those who do so will receive an “unfading crown of glory.”
Peter now refers to the day when Jesus will be “Manifested.” In this context, “manifested” must refer to the same event as the Day of his “Revelation” and the “Day of his Visitation.”
The Apostle does not delve into the finer details about the return of Jesus or the events that will precede it. His purpose is to encourage believers to persevere in trials and live holy lives in the knowledge of the Lord’s impending “revelation.”
His “visitation” will mean rewards for the faithful and condemnation for the wicked. Thus, final salvation and judgment both occur when Jesus is “revealed” from Heaven to “visit” and reward his faithful saints.