Peter was writing to a group of Christians who were going through a tough time. They could have been described as refugees – they had been forced to leave their homes and they had lost their possessions. They were suffering persecution on account of their faith.
His letter must have cheered them up considerably. He reminds them of what God had done for them. They were born again. The term ‘born-again Christian’ has become associated with narrow-minded, right-wing fundamentalists but it is Biblical (See John’s Gospel chapter 3). In fact, strictly speaking all Christians are born-again – it is impossible to be a true Christian unless we have experienced the new birth.
Peter’s letter to the refugees reminds us that there are two wonderful consequences of being ‘born again.’ The first is that we have hope for the future. When the Bible speaks about hope it is not wishful thinking. It is absolute certainty. 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, [1 Peter 1:3]. The resurrection made it certain that death was not the end for the believer in the Lord Jesus – they were guaranteed a future – eternal life.
I want to think in more detail about the second consequence from the new birth for these refugees and for us today – of being born again - to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you [1 Peter 1:4]. They may have lost their earthly possessions but they had a future in heaven for sure. Peter uses 3 words to describe this inheritance and they all begin with the same Greek letter and sound a bit similar in the original Greek. This inheritance is ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading.’
I have just finished volunteering at Keswick Convention and one challenge for us this year was to cope with the damage and devastation caused by the storm Desmond which flooded Keswick in the winter of 2015. The main building and the car parks were under several feet of dirty water and this caused considerable damage. Many local people lost their homes and their possessions. As we were setting up for the Convention, we discovered many items and materials were lost in the flood. Some things like tables and chairs had survived the flood and they were now stored in the former gymnasium but they were covered in filthy mud. It took a lot of effort to remove this silt and to hose them down and clean them with disinfectant so that they could be used again this year.
This reminded me of how everything in this world is very fragile – it is subject to pollution and decay. The flood had speeded up the natural process of decay and defilement. This is not just true of physical objects – it also applies to human organisations. I hesitate to mention specific examples but readers can provide their own examples of organisations (including political parties) where there has been moral defilement and the public have been shocked at the corruption and abuse endemic in so-called respectable institutions. There have been few institutions which have not been affected by the sinfulness of mankind – our moral storm ‘Desmond.’
It is good to know that heaven is completely different. Peter’s three words provide great comfort in a world that it subject to defilement and decay. We have an inheritance that is imperishable or incorruptible (not liable to corruption or decay) – the Greek word is aphthartos. Secondly, this inheritance is pure and undefiled or free from corruption (amiantos) – the same Greek word is used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ who was totally sinless. Thirdly, our inheritance is unfading or permanent (amarantos). There is a flower (the amaranth) which comes from this same Greek word and is used as a symbol of perpetuity.
If you ever watch the daytime TV programme called Heir Hunters, you will know the excitement there is when people discover that they have inherited a sum of money that they never expected. The money will not last for ever, its value will fluctuate and it will not guarantee happiness. What an inheritance the Christian has – not subject to the decay and defilement and deterioration that affects every aspect of life on planet earth. I am so glad that my future is in heaven. I have an inheritance – entirely undeserved. I could not earn it or merit it – it is entirely the product of God’s grace to sinners such as me. As a born-again believer, I have become a son of God and an heir to an amazing inheritance that will never be defiled or decayed, that is completely undefiled and will last eternally. Do you have this living hope in Jesus Christ?