First Peter 4:7-11
The End Of All Creation Is Getting Closer
1. I would like to study with all of you on the topic of "The End Of All Creation Is Near." Although the new year has just begun, there may be some believers who have doubts about why I chose such a topic. Nevertheless, as everyone knows, no matter how we bring in the new year or with how much hope and expectancy we await it, and no matter what a person does, he or she cannot change the life span of a human being which God has set, or even the order of the universe or one's circumstances. According to the Bible, the one and only hope of humankind is only in God. It teaches that only God is eternal and that except for him all created things are finite. It is a matter of course that everyone who is born will certainly die. We understand that, too. New things never stay new. According to this principle, all creation (the entire universe) is not new like it was. If put in other words, it is ever in decay, dissipating, and coming to an end.
2. What was the background and motive for the author Peter when he wrote the contents of this passage? The Christians at that time were under a terrible persecution. Also, since it was a time period when morality was depraved, the author encouraged them to endure with hope and courage, and he encouraged them to preserve the teachings so that they would do good deeds consistently even though in the midst of hardships. There is a passive teaching from chapter four and verses one to six and there is a proactive teaching from verses seven to eleven.
3. In regards to the teaching from verses seven to eleven, what is there for us Christians that we are obligated to learn? He warns us with "The end of all creation is near" in two ways. First, it is how that the time of the end of "all things" is getting closer. It is how that all the deeds of the wicked, the hardships of Christians, a person's life, and every single other thing in the created order has an ending. In regards to the last judgment Peter writes in verse five that God is patiently putting it off. This end will be the last day of the history of the entire world. The Lord will raise the dead back to life and will judge the world according to his righteousness. Phenomena will appear in the world as recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew's Gospel and we await a completely new heaven and earth. It is not humanity who will set the time and the place, but the creator of the world and all in it. As Christ was born into this world two thousand years ago, he will come again and bring the kingdom of God upon the earth. For believers in God, this is good news instead [of bad].
4. Secondly, it is that the last day is getting "close." Whenever something is far off, we may not feel too strongly about it, but we always feel strongly when something is near and dear to us so that we have to fret no matter what. This "end" is an urgent situation as something that is imminently upon us. In the New Testament book of the Revelation Of St. John in chapter three and verse eleven, it gives the advance notice that "I am coming soon." In regard to "time" we Christians should know that God's way of looking at time is different from the human way. For example, humans set the units of time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. But, what is the biblical teaching regarding God's time? In the Second Epistle Of Peter in chapter three and verse eight it reads that "O beloved, do not forget this one thing. In the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day." Thus, when it says "the last days, the end of days," if we go by the focus of God's thoughts on it, the last days began at the same time of the birth of Christ, (First Peter 1:20; Hebrews 9:26), and it teaches that danger and hardships would come one after another. (Refer to First Peter 1:20: Second Timothy 3:1-5).
5. Since the end of all creation is nearing, what should we Christians do? We want to study together four themes from this scriptural passage.
6. The first is "be careful to prepare your hearts." The meaning of this phrase is "become a person who is free from "the madness" and is able to maintain control of himself or herself. It is like the miracle story of Luke chapter eight and verses twenty-two through thirty-nine, a person possessed by a defiled spirit is saved and returns to his true self. In the Chinese Bible this reads as "his heart became clear." In other words, the first thing a Christian ought to do is have a balance between faith and works with a head that is clear and a heart that is calm. To be brief, it is necessary to have a pure heart against the many different heretical forms of paganism. Is today's Christian being careful to prepare his or her heart? It is said that as we welcome in the year two thousand [in the Western calendar] some kind of mysterious year, a dangerous year has come. Do we have the confidence that we are prepared and sufficiently ready for the time of judgment at the second coming of the Lord Jesus when it comes to our faith so far right now?
7. The second [theme] is to "pray diligently." In the Chinese Bible it again expresses it in a different way. It uses the expression "wake up." [Wake up] because the end of all creation is coming closer. So then the second thing we ought to do is pray. For Christians prayer is one of the fundamental expressions of our faith life. We don't need to study again about prayer here, but in this biblical passage this matter of prayer is especially emphasized. What we ought to learn here is that we should pray more. He is telling us this because hard times have come. In Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38 and elsewhere we are taught that prayer is the best method to deal with hard times. In First Thessalonians 5:17 as well Paul teaches "pray without ceasing." Especially in the unpredictable last days we must all the more pray. [We are to pray] with the mind and manner of the five wise virgins in the parable in Matthew's Gospel in chapter twenty-five. It means a prayer where [we are awake]. The original meaning of the word "be awake" is to be perceptive and not drunken. Just as a person is drunken with alcohol, one is drunken with all the events in the world, or on pride, self-absorbence, or on materialism and covetousness. Such a person paralyses his or her heart, ruins his or her knowledge, and is lost spiritually. Shouldn't you be waiting expectantly and guarding your hearts for the day when the Lord will come back?
8. The above two points are related to each other and emphasize somehow to pray diligently. To be careful and to be awake are helpful to prayer. My dear brothers and sisters, are our prayer lives good enough for the end of the world?
9. Thirdly, we are to "keep your love for one another." Peter repeatedly cried out to the church at that time to "love one another," (1:22; 2:17; 3:8). I don't think that he is encouraging them all over again here to "love one another." Peter certainly believes that everyone is putting that to practice, but only God and we know how much we are practicing it. Peter is just emphasizing here that "loving one another" is more important than anything else.
10. All of you brothers and sisters, isn't there something which the church ought to be known for more than in any other organization and association in society? Isn't it "love," which Paul also taught? The love in the church is not emotional, temporary, or conditional. It is the love of God which goes beyond all the different circumstances on this earth, and is nondiscriminatory, eternal, sacrificial, and unchanging.
11. Why are we supposed to "love one another?" The reason is "love covers a lot of sin." People want others to admit their weaknesses. People want someone to forgive them of their sins. Also, loving others includes practical deeds like "without complaining make others welcome." If we had a church like that, wouldn't a great deal of people, regardless of who or what they are, be able to come to church? God loved the world, came down to earth, and ordained the institution of the church in order to save everyone. The church does not only satisfy itself nor is it a place where only the people we like get together. God has commanded that we preach the gospel to the ends of the earth until he returns so that he might save every sinner. The way things are right now is that even though the Lord is soon returning, not very many churches are growing. Will God say about the way things are "Thanks for the hard work. You did well. I am satisfied."? What is the reason that hardly any churches are growing today? Is it because they have no sense or charisma? Or, isn't it because they have no "love?"
12. Fourthly, we are to "make use of the various spiritual gifts we have received." The fourth thing we're supposed to do is to utilize sufficiently [our] gifts to become good managers. In regards to gifts, God has typically bestowed upon each believer different gifts on behalf of the church. Since these gifts are not humanly made, there is no need to be arrogant, secretive, or even aflame with jealousy over one another. The gifts are bestowed equally upon all whether great or small, and each person should become a good manager serving in the church responsibly.
13. "The manager" that Peter is talking about here is slightly different from the idea of "manager" that Paul mentions. The manager that Paul is pointing to is what we might call a staff member of the church. Please refer to Ephesians 3:2 and First Corinthians 4:1. [But,] it is all Christians to whom Peter is pointing here in this passage. It is every believer who believes in God. It is so wonderful when everyone serves responsibly in the church [as stewards of their gifts]..
14. All of you brothers and sisters, you might have thought that a message on "The End Of All Creation" was not appropriate for the beginning of the year two thousand. But, in relationship to "time," isn't it a rather appropriate theme at the start and close of a year? This is now the beginning of the month of this [new] year, but isn't it at the same time at the end of an era?
15. If seen from God's perspective, "time" is no more than one of the points in perpetuity. Are we, who are bringing in the end times, living in a time that is human centered or God centered? If we are living day to day in a human centered life, then today's biblical passage will not make much sense. If we are living day to day in a God centered life, there will be major meaning in this admonition.
16. According to the Bible, the church has the responsibility to rebound glory to God. Let's seriously practice the teaching of today's biblical passage. Let's be diligent so that everyone will be saved. I pray that whenever the Lord Jesus comes down again for the judgment that we will already have been careful in preparing our hearts.
O Father In Heaven
We truly thank you that we can welcome in the year two thousand with your blessing and guidance.
In entering the year two thousand, we remember our past sins we did, and we feel anxiety in walking into a new year and are lacking in confidence. Please let us reflect in your light upon the sins we did and let us repent at the start of the new year. In addition, please let us have a strong faith through your Holy Spirit. As the day of your return is soon coming, please make us filled with peace and joy.
Lord Jesus, until you come, please let us steadfastly put into practice the teaching of your disciple Peter. Please command the works we ought to do, which will bring many many sinners into your presence and will rebound all glory to you. Thank you for guiding us from the beginning to the end of this worship service. We pray in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.