Lessons 35 & 36—Looking Up and Living Right
Part B of the audio lesson
Part A of the Audio Lesson
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-8
Lesson Goal: To better understand the urgency of the fact that Jesus is coming again and to learn how we should live as we await His return.
Introduction: Today’s material covers two weeks of study. It will be at your teacher’s discretion to determine where Lesson 35 ends and Lesson 36 begins.
In verse seven, Peter writes concerning end-time urgency. Charles Swindoll offers a tremendous word concerning this verse: “When we know time is short, two otherwise neglected operating principles suddenly kick in: urgency and simplicity. When people discover that they do not have long to live, for example, their relationships with loved ones take center stage and their schedules become simplified. Or think about what happens when people hear that a hurricane or tornado is imminent. They do not pull out a croquet game or start landscaping the backyard. Instead, they grab the essentials and head for cover—immediately! Being short on time requires urgency and simplicity.” When we read in Scripture concerning end-times, we find this same principle. There is an ever-present theme of urgency and simplicity, which helps us understand the seriousness of preparing for the time.
(Verse 7) “But the end of all things is at hand”
The New Testament instructs and encourages believers to expect the return of Jesus. Christians in the early church expected Jesus to return during their lifetimes (see Romans 13:12 and 1 John 2:18). Because Jesus has not returned, some skeptics would say that theses verses should be rendered invalid. The skeptics’ conclusion is drawn from a gross misunderstanding of the Scriptures.
Peter writes, “the end of all things is at hand.” Does this mean Peter was wrong? Absolutely not! The key to understanding is to study the language and usage of Peter’s words. In verse seven, the Greek phrase containing the verb engizō is translated “is near.” These words literally mean “the goal of all things has come near, all things will be consummated, climax shall come.” For the early church, and even more so for today’s church, the reality is that Jesus’ return is imminent; it will be sudden and, for most, unexpected. Jesus has promised, and the Scriptures declare, He is coming again.
➢ How much thought do you give to the fact that Jesus is coming again?
➢ How does the scriptural truth and certainty that Jesus shall return affect the way you live your life?
In the light of the truth of the nearness of Christ’s return, Peter writes that because He could come at any moment, we should be prepared. “therefore be serious and watchful in your prayer” (verse 7b). Peter uses two words sophroneō and nepho, and when we put the meanings of these two words together, we understand what Peter is saying. We are to be serious and have a soundness of mind concerning the Lord’s coming. We are called to be alert, expecting, and always be ready for His return. We are to live as if Christ may come today; but knowing that it may be tomorrow or after we have passed from this life, we continue to live a God-glorifying life. This is the manner and approach given to us by Peter.
Today’s church should live in a far greater expectancy and anticipation of Christ’s return. It is all the more important that we be prepared and live with an absolute sense of urgency. See Mark 13:35-37; Luke 12:40, 21:36; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:14 and James 5:7-9.
➢ How should the fact of Christ’s return motivate us to live (read 2 Peter 3:10-11)?
➢ Why do so many in the church dismiss or disregard the teaching concerning the returning of Christ?
➢ Describe the spiritual climate of the United States and the world today.
➢ Remembering another occasion in Peter’s life concerning prayer (for a hint, read Matthew 26:40-41), how important do you think he takes these words: “be serious and watchful in your prayers”?
Peter follows verse seven by giving instruction to the followers of Jesus Christ to help them live in balance concerning the Lord’s return. “The attitude of expectancy must not turn us into lazy dreamers or zealous fanatics” (Wiersbe). Peter wants us to live in a truthful, spiritual balance as we expect Christ’s return. This helps us as we deal with those who set dates, make claims and act in a frenzied madness. We are to be sound in mind and thought.
(Verse 8) “And above all things have fervent love for one another”
“Above all things”—means the very importance of, the most important thing of all, that which has the greatest importance.
“have fervent love for one another”
“fervent”—earnest, straining, intensity. This kind of love does not come easily. The word “fervent” evokes the image of an athlete straining to reach the goal. This fervent love is not just a matter of emotional feeling, but of dedicated and deliberate will. This love is completely sincere. The word fervent is ektenēs. It is found in only one other occurrence in the New Testament, and it is connected with a happening in Peter’s life. Read Acts 12:5. Peter was imprisoned and awaiting execution the next morning, but prayer was made for him by the church without ceasing (ektenēs). The word fervent means the most sincere earnest. Believers are to have this kind of true love for each other.
The most important duty or responsibility true believers have for one another is to love with a fervent love. Fervent love is more than caring for one another; it is greater and deeper than warm or sentimental feelings or emotional stirrings. It is to be a fervent love put before all else. This means that we must love others when they oppose us, ridicule us, injure us, mock us, speak evil of us, or harm us in any way. Believers are not to war against each other. We are not to harm each other by action, deed or word.
➢ In your own words, describe what it means to love with a fervent love.
Most of us do not have a problem describing fervent love in the context of family and close friends, but it becomes more difficult in the context of “one another.”
➢ Why is it more difficult to have fervent love for one another?
When we (true believers) demonstrate fervent love for one another, something very special happens (a God thing). Verse 8b tells us: “Love will cover a multitude of sins.” Peter quotes an old Hebrew proverb (see Proverbs 10:12). This covering of sin is not speaking about the removal or covering of sin that only the blood of Jesus can accomplish, nor should this statement to be used to condone sin or to relieve or dismiss the church from its responsibility to stand against sin. What then does Scripture mean, and how is it to be applied in our lives? It means that if we truly have this fervent love for one another, we live with a forgiving spirit toward others. We do not keep a scorecard in our back pocket of wrongs committed against us. We do not keep a ledger of wrongs committed against us by others. We love with a fervent love that does not allow us to hold grudges, build bitterness and harbor resentment toward one another.
Questions for Life Focus
Is there someone in the “one another” category of your life (a fellow believer) to whom you have failed to give fervent love?
Because of your failure to love this fellow believer with fervent love, what has grown in your heart toward him/her—bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, perhaps even hatred?
Some love we must “strain toward” as a runner straining toward the finish line. Is there anyone that you have given up on or dismissed from your life? If so, did you truly try to love this brother or sister (one another) with a real fervent love?
The Apostle Paul tells us that in the last days people will be “lovers of self” (read 2 Timothy 3:2). Peter instructs us that as the last days draw near, we (true believers) should love in direct contrast to the lovers of self. We should love one another with a selfless fervent love.
Have you witnessed someone love with a fervent love? Write that person’s name and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for his/her example to you. If you are able, encourage that person by sharing how their witness has ministered to your life.
Can you recall a time in your life when someone blessed you with fervent love, extended grace and forgiveness to you, tore up the scorecard they had against you, or a time when you have witnessed love covering a multitude of your own sins? Amen.