Read I Peter 3:8–16; 4:7–11; 5:8, 9
There are those who maintain that the study of the doctrine of the last things takes us too far away from our duty in the here and now. This need not be true. In fact, if these truths are seen in their proper, biblical contexts they become a mighty power for good in this present life.
The apostle Peter, in the section read, was thinking about “the end of all things” (I Peter 4; 7). This did not in any way cause him to lose contact with present duty. On the contrary, it served as an incentive to arouse in the hearts and minds of the readers a sense of urgency in the fulfillment of their present spiritual tasks.
The practical significance of Scripture’s doctrine concerning the future may be summarized as follows;
1. THE TEACHING CONCERNING THE BLESSING TO BE INHERITED (HERE AN D IN THE HEREAFTER) ENCOURAGES MEN SO TO LIVE THAT THIS REWARD WILL BE THEIRS (READ I PETER 3:8, 9).
It is entirely proper for the believer to seek the reward (Matthew 19:29; cf. Hebrews 12:1, 2), provided that it be his purpose to use that reward to the glory of God (in the spirit of Revelation 4:10, 11).
2. THE TEACHING WITH RESPECT TO HEAVEN’S REWARD AND HELL’S PUNISHMENT FURNISHES A STIMULUS AND A THEME FOR CHRISTIAN MISSION-WORK (READ I PETER 3:10–12). Cf. PSALM 2:12; MATT. 10:28; ACTS 2:40; 11:30, 31; ROMANS 5:9; 11 CORINTHIANS 5:20, 21; AND REVELATION 21:7.
3. THE STUDY AND PRACTICE OF tHESE BIBLICAL TRUTHS HElPS ON E TO ANSWER INQUIRERS AND TO PUT TO SHAME REVIlERS (READ I PETER 3:15, 16).
4. MEDITATION UPON THESE THINGS STIMULATES PRAYER (READ I PETER 4:7).
Without prayer it will be impossible to be “of a sound mind,” ever ready to meet the adversary. Without prayer it will also be impossible to live the sanctified life or to carry on the great work of missions so that others may be rescued from the power of Satan and may inherit that everlasting bliss in which they will glorify and enjoy God forever.
5. REFLECTION UPON THESE TRUTHS STRENGTHENS LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER (READ I PETER 4:8–10).
Yes, we shall know each other there, and we shall live in the sweetest fellowship with one another. Is the statement too strong that those, and those only, who love the fellowship here (see Psalm 133) will partake of the fellowship there? See also Genesis 25:8; Matthew 8:11; Hebrews 12:1, 23.
6. BY MEANS OF EARNEST CONSIDERATION OF THESE MATTERS AND BY LIVING A LIFE THAT RESULTS FROM SUCH CONSIDERATION GOD IS GLORIFIED (READ I PETER 4:11).
The goodness of God leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). Contemplation of the wonderful things which God has in store for his children inspires gratitude and adoration. Thus God is glorified.
7. THE INNER CONVICTION THAT HELL 15 REAL AND THAT IT IS SATAN’S SINISTER PURPOSE TO OEVOUR AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE IS AN INCENTIVE TO STEADFASTNESS IN THE FAITH (READ I PETER 5:8, 9).
We see, therefore, that these truths, far from being impractical, are of inestimable value for our present life. To neglect them would be a great error. Surely, every person who has his hope set on Him who one day will be manifested in glory purifies himself even as he is pure.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. What objection is sometimes advanced against the study of the doctrine of the last things?
2. In generaI, how would you answer that objection?
3. What is the relation between the study of Eschatology and the work of Christian Missions?
4. What is the relation between the study of the doctrine of the last things and prayer?
5. Mention some of the argument which show that such a study is of real value for life in the here and now.
B. Additional Questions
1. The apostle Paul surely busied himself with the doctrine of last things. See, for example, his epistles to the Thessalonians. Prove from these epistles that they have great value for practical life from day to day.
2. What is the basic error of those whose heated arguments about the future seem to exert no wholesome influence upon daily living?
3. Is fear of hell, standing alone and by itself, a sufficient incentive to really consecrated living?
4. How would you deal with earnest individuals who are disturbed because they believe that fear of hell or of the coming judgment is the real and only reason for their religious practices?
5. Dr. H. Bavinck states, “Grace and salvation are the objects of God’s delight; but God does not delight in sin, neither has he pleasure in punishment” (see H. Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, my translation, p. 390). Do you agree?