1 Peter 1:20-21

1 Peter 1:20‑21  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The apostle next treats of the comforting truth, in order to establish the saint, that however new to them the gospel might be, it was all settled in God's mind and counsel before man fell, yea before creation. Redemption was no remedial afterthought, though of course implied in the sentence of Jehovah Elohim on the serpent in paradise, and shadowed in sacrifice ever after.
Hence we here read of Christ, “foreknown1 indeed before [the] world's foundation, but manifested at [the] last of the times for your sake, that through him believe on God that raised him out of [the] dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (vers. 20, 21). All the older English versions, save that of Rheims, add “who was” foreknown. But the absence of the article forbids this. It is assumed rather than asserted.
Such language is never employed about the divine dealings with Israel. Rich and large as are the promises to the fathers, they never go back into eternity as here. Men may reason in an abstract manner on prescience and omniscience; but the fact is plain, that God did not speak to the fathers nor through the prophets of blessings before the world's foundation. They were made in time, however enduring they may be.
Here we learn that which transcends the promises. Late in manifestation, Christ as God's Lamb was foreknown before creation. The gift of His Son to suffer and redeem was ever in the mind of God. He knew what the creature would be if put to proof, and that none could stand save those upheld by the word of His power. Meanwhile every means to instruct and to direct, to cheer and to restrain, to warn and to alarm, was tried; and this formally and fully in Israel separated from the nations for God's grand moral and religious experiment, vain as it must prove. God showed all along how thoroughly He knew the end from the beginning, though they believed it not, seeking to make their own righteousness out of that law which was meant to prove the impossibility. For through law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)), as salvation is only through the faith of the Savior.
“Foreknown” could not suffice. Christ was “manifested” in due time; and the due time was “at close of the times.” Long had been God's patience; manifold His dealings in moral government, if by any means there might be fruit from man for His acceptance. But the fall, though in one man, was of the race; and the sample of the race under the special care of God proved the tree to be worthless, producing therefore bad fruit. If any one could have been conceived to change the result, it was the Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. When He was sent, as He Himself puts it, the husbandmen said among themselves, This is the Heir: come, let us kill Him, and seize on His inheritance. And they caught and cast Him out of the vineyard and slew Him. But in Christ's rejection on the cross God made Him that knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in Him. For therein only was God glorified as to sin. The Son of man bore His judgment of evil, as He had already glorified His Father in the unfaltering obedience of a life devoted to do His will. Hence as it was God's righteousness to raise Jesus from the dead and give Him glory at His right hand, so it is to justify every one who believes in Jesus.
It is accordingly written “manifested at the last (or, the end) of the times for your sake.” The most ancient and best MSS. (ABC), many good cursives, and old versions give this sense; not “at the last time” according to earlier editors. It is similar in force to Heb. 1:11God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, (Hebrews 1:1). where the form is “at the last of these days.” In fact the gospel was sent out to Jew first, and to Greek. Among those who believed, the dispersed Jews to whom the apostles wrote received it as God's power unto salvation. When boasting is excluded, and ought to be silenced, God speaks, and speaks in love to all; for all are lost sinners. When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly men. Such as owned their guilt and ruin before God cast themselves on Christ and His precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless. Nothing else could meet adequately either God or man. And as these believing Jews submitted to the righteousness of God, they became entitled to the blessing of the gospel.
But it is an error often made to confound what is here annexed with the statement in Rev. 13:88And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8). For this scripture teaches no more than our text that the Lamb was slain from the founding of the world, a meaning only made possible by a mystical imagination. The comparison however of what is said in chap. 17:8 affords plain evidence that the name written in the book of life of the Lamb slain is the true connection with the world's founding, not that the Lamb was then slain. For the later scripture referring to the same truth omits “of the slain Lamb,” but affirms the writing in the book of life from that time.
Nor is this all. “From” the world's founding is not of the same import as “before” it. Let us respect and learn from the very words of God.
Those saints who are preserved from yielding to the Beast at the close of the age had their name written from the foundation of the world in the slain Lamb's book of life. With this we may compare the King's language to the blessed from all the nations, severed like sheep from the goats, to inherit the kingdom prepared for them “from” the world's foundation. But the phrase used in Eph. 1:44According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (Ephesians 1:4) as in 1 Peter 1:2020Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (1 Peter 1:20) is pointedly different. As Christ was foreknown and loved by the Father (John 17:2424Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)) “before” then, so did God choose in Christ us who now believe “before” the world's foundation, that we should be holy and unblemished before Him in love. It is easy for a Christian to understand Christ foreknown before time began; but how wondrous the grace that God chose us to such an association and for such a purpose I He was known before creation, as He had a glory in personal right above it; we by grace are objects of divine counsel which His work suits in order that we may enjoy all where He is, and with Him.
Then the apostle carefully defines who they are that are thus blessed, though in no way confined to the believing remnant of Jews, “for your sake that through Him believe on God.” The testimony of the gospel is quite unlimited. “Disciple all the Gentiles (or, nations),” said the Lord (Matt. 28:1515So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:15)); “preach the gospel to all the creation” (Mark 16:1515And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)); “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations” (Luke 24:4747And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)). Nor is He less explicit in the gospel of John: “for God so loved the world that He gave his Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have life eternal.” Here as we have the result no less plainly unlimited as in the other Gospels, so does the Lord restrict life and salvation to those that believe the testimony of God.
There is a difference in the reading but not in the truth. Three MSS. (A B 9), supported by the Latin Vulgate, say “that are through him faithful.” The great weight of copies, uncial and cursive, with the ancient versions generally, support the usual text “that through him believe.” Faithful often says more than believing, in no case less. The substance remains the same. Not a doubt can there be to a renewed mind that it is through Christ that we are faithful toward God. The question is, if this be intended here, where faith appears to be set before us, rather than the fidelity which springs from it. If so, it is a truth no less certain than interesting that through Christ we believe on God.
Men talk of rising “through nature up to nature's God.” But how could this, even if true of any, avail for a fallen soul whose sins morally compelled the Creator to become a Judge? And what could His providence, real and gracious and mighty as it is, do to cleanse the sinner from his guilt or to give him reconciliation with God and assurance of His love? The law again, righteous and holy and good as it is, could only aggravate his misery if his conscience rightly felt his evil state, and God's just and necessary displeasure with a creature, originally upright, but now so alienated, self willed, and rebellious. No, it is the Lord Jesus Who alone could and did meet the otherwise insuperable difficulty. It was His to conciliate what without Him was irreconcilable on any ground of truth; but He only by His sacrificial death for our sins. In His cross divine love and light, grace and righteousness, majesty and mercy, unite to bless those who repent and believe the gospel. Thus only are loving-kindness and truth met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Hence then through Him we believe on God as the Savior God, giving His beloved Son for our offenses and raising Him again for our justification. It is not said here, as once to us when mere sinners, that through the Father's drawing one comes to Christ; but now we through Christ believe on God in the deep, intimate, and enduring way that is revealed to us as saints.
No one hath seen God at any time: the Only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father—He declared Him. It is through Christ that we believe on God, as Light and Love, Savior and source of all grace, Who sent Christ and drew us to Him, made us His children, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. But we must not forget that by receiving God's testimony the soul believes on Christ. “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath life eternal” (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)). Christ being received makes God known more fully to faith, as in resurrection He could say, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God (John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)).
Here it is intimated of those “that believe on God that raised him out of [the] dead, so that your faith and hope are (or, should be) in God.” The resurrection of Christ from among the dead and the glory given to Him on high are God's mighty and distinct evidence that He is for the believer absolutely and forever. If anything could have made this doubtful, it was our sins. But they were laid—yea, He laid on Christ (Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)) the iniquity of us all. Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Where are they now? When He made purification of the sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Not one sin did God leave on the believer; not one did Christ carry into heaven; for what He thus did was the will of God; so that our faith and hope are in God. The teaching is thus far the same as in Rom. 4:24, 2524But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:24‑25). We can no more doubt God for the future than for the past, as the apostle so triumphantly declares in Rom. 8. If God be for us (and this He has proved irrefutably to the utmost), who against?