Do you know that if you died today you would go to heaven? Do you know that if Jesus came today in all His glory that the angels would gather you to Him and that He would receive you with a smile, exalt, and honor you? It’s sad that the answer of so many Christians to that is, “Well, I hope so. I think I might be going to heaven. I’m not sure, but I’d like to think so.” It tends to make for weak, apathetic, worrisome, and unhappy Christians when we doubt where we are with the Lord and His promises. But assurance of our salvation makes for Christians who are strong, zealous, fearless, and joyful.
Think about driving somewhere and the road takes you out into the country, through the mountains or through some scenic area. The only way you can really just enjoy the ride and the scenery is if you know you’re on the right road, headed to the destination you want. If you’re thinking that you may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and you may not be headed toward the destination you want, your anxiety about that keeps you from enjoying the scenery. Or if you ever go repelling, you know, in a harness with a rope attached and you leap backwards off a cliff and bounce yourself down the cliff-side to the bottom. That can be a really enjoyable experience, the bird’s eye view of the valley below and the feeling of floating as you bounce down the cliff… as long as you know that the rope and the bolt it’s attached to are going to hold and you’re going to be alright. The less sure you are about that, the less enjoyable the ride down to the bottom is going to be. The only way to truly enjoy the ride through life is to have confidence that you’re on the right road and you’re going where you want to go and you’re going to be alright.
And probably, you’ve experienced how hard it is to fully commit yourself to an endeavor if you’re not sure it’s going to yield the results you are hoping for. The less sure you are that your diet and exercise plan is going to work, the less committed you will be to it. Your commitment and enthusiasm about following Christ depends largely on how sure you are that it will yield the promised results. Hebrews 6:11-12 is a passage that shows this. It says “we want you to realize the full assurance of hope… so that you will not be sluggish…” Sluggish, apathetic, lukewarm tend to be Christians who are not sure that following the Lord is worth it, and not just sluggish, but weak Christians. Hebrews 10:35-36 speaks of how confidence or assurance is what gives us the strength to endure the difficulties we can encounter in doing the will of God.
Suppose you got a phone call from the manager of the assets of a very rich uncle of yours. And the manager told you that you’re uncle had died and he’s left you all of his millions and millions of dollars. Let’s say 500 million. But to claim it you’ve got to be in Seattle, Washington by tomorrow. Would you say, “O, well, that was nice of him, but that’s too far. I don’t feel like traveling right now. But thank you for calling”? No, you probably wouldn’t even hang up. You’d be out the door on your way, wouldn’t you? Say you’re half way there and your car breaks down, would you say, “Ah, it’s just too tough to get to Seattle now. I’ll just give it up.” Oh no. You’d get out on the side of the road and start holding your thumb out, wouldn’t you? Say the person who offers to pick you up has a bunch cats in the car and you’re allergic to cats. They make you sneeze and itch and swell. Would you turn down the ride? Oh no, you’d hop in and endure the cats. Say he drops you off 6 miles from where you need to be. Then would you quit? You’d walk if you had to. You’d crawl if you had to. What if it’s raining? You’d crawl through the rain with a smile on your face if you knew you were going to make it on time. Because you know you’ve got 500 million waiting for you. If you know that Jesus is risen, alive, and Lord of all, and that He is truly just as compassionate, merciful, generous, dependable, and powerful as we find Him in Scripture and that He truly will give eternal life, new bodies, and new creation to those who trust and follow Him, if you know that, then there is nothing that will deter you from following Him in your life.
Assurance truly is as we sing “Blessed Assurance” and “a foretaste of glory divine” and it’s empowering.
So in I Peter, Peter writes a few things, I think, for the purpose of giving Christians greater assurance in the salvation we have in Christ. Here’s what he says, I Peter 1:8-12, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things into which angels long to look.”
I see in this, four assurances of our salvation. The first is in verse 8 and 9.
We love and trust Him though we’ve never seen Him.
I think Peter is assuming when he writes, that his readers understand a certain principle about trust and love for the Lord. And that principle is not having to see, not having to have more proof; it makes our trust and love for the Lord more precious in His sight. The more we have to see to believe and love, the less commendable our faith and love is. Think of some occasions in the gospels.
The Scribes and Pharisees came up to Jesus, after He’d been doing lots of miracles to confirm that God’s with Him and He should be trusted,and they said, “We want to see a sign from heaven.” In other words “What we’ve seen you doing is not enough to convince us to listen to You. We want to see something more spectacular. We want a sign from heaven before we’ll really trust in you. We need to see more.” And Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign…” He’s telling them that if you’re asking for more evidence, asking to see more before you will trust me, when God has already given you plenty, it reveals evil in your heart; it reveals a reluctance to submit to God and change your ways.
Think of the two angelic birth announcement stories in Luke 1, the one to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and the other to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The same angel, Gabriel, came to both of them. He came in some glorious, clearly otherworldly, appearing way. It scared them both half to death when they saw him. But in Zacharias’ case, when Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his old wife were going to have a son and name him John and he’d be the forerunner for the Messiah, Zacharias’ response at first was doubt. He said, “Elizabeth and I are really old. How can I be certain this is true? What sign do you give me?” He was resistant to believe it. Gabriel said, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to bring you this good news, so here’s your sign. You’re not going to be able to speak until all these things have happened because you were reluctant to believe this word from the Lord.” But in Mary’s case, when Gabriel told her that she would bear the Messiah, her first response was to ask a question, but not a question of doubt, just a question about the way God was going to do this since she’d never been with a man. And Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Then she said, “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” She believed more readily than Zacharias. Then later when she met up with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” So Mary is praised because she more readily believed. Zacharias was more resistant to believing, he needed to see more to believe, and that’s less commendable.
Then remember about a week after Jesus’ resurrection. The other apostles were telling Thomas that they’d seen him alive and he said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And then Jesus came and said, “Thomas, reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Believing without having to see is more precious in the sight of the Lord. It says something about our hearts, our willingness to love and follow Him.
So in I Peter 1:8 I hear the apostle Peter saying, “You Christians ought to have total confidence that the Lord Jesus is going to save you, because I know Him very well. I spent a lot of time with Him. And I know that He’s going to save me and He’s going to save Thomas and the rest of us apostles who trust and love him because we’ve seen Him and because we interacted with Him for 3½ years. If He’s going to save us, I know He’s going to save you, because you haven’t even had to see Him to trust and love Him, and that sort of faith and love is all the more precious in His sight. I know that you are going to obtain, as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
So that’s the first assurance I see here. Here’s the second one from verses 10-12:
The prophets were guided to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow for our benefit, not theirs.
This is something that just really assures me of God’s love for us and impresses on me the truthfulness of the things we believe.
In the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, written long before Jesus was ever born, there are these descriptions, some of them even very detailed, about the suffering of this chosen, righteous servant of God and then the glorious things, the wonderful things that would result afterward. And the descriptions must have been very mysterious to people back them. Peter says they were even very mysterious to the prophets who wrote them. The Spirit of Christ would give a prophet one of these messages about Christ to write and then He’d ask God, “What did I just write about? Who is that about? When will that happen? What is this?” And God told them that what they wrote was not so much for them, but for the benefit of people in the distant future. God had things written in the ages past because He loved us and wanted us to have assurance of the truths of the gospel and of our salvation.
Let me just remind you of two examples.
Psalm 22. We know that this Psalm was written long before Jesus was born. Manuscript fragments of this Psalm have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls that predate the time of Jesus. The ancient superscription above the Psalm attributes it to David. And it’s written in the first person, so as you read it at first it sounds like David is talking about some experience in his own life. But then you encounter a problem with that as you read the Psalm. It really doesn’t sound like any experience in David’s life that we know of. This individual in this Psalm has been horribly, physically tortured by people who despise Him and He’s dying, and there’s no one to help Him and His enemies are mocking Him and people are staring at Him and His hands and feet have been pierced and some are dividing His garments among themselves and casting lots for His clothing. There is no indication that David ever experienced something like that. And then the Psalm describes, that as a result of this individual’s suffering and deliverance, all the ends of the earth and all the families of the nations and generations to come will turn to the LORD. It just doesn’t fit with David. We find in the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts that that’s an important thing to notice when interpreting the Psalms of David. The apostles in their preaching would quote Psalm 16 to people, which has that passage, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” And since it’s a psalm of David it sounds like it’s talking about David. But the apostles would tell people it can’t be about David because it doesn’t fit. David has been left in Sheol in the realm of the dead and his body has undergone decay. His grave is still with us today. So it can’t be about David. It’s about the Messiah. And that’s also the case, seems to me, with Psalm 22. It doesn’t fit David. It’s about Christ. And you can outline Psalm 22 into two parts: verses 1-21 is about the sufferings of the Christ and verses 22-31 is about the glories to follow.
Just notice some parts of it. Verse 1, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Remember that, from Jesus on the cross? Look at verses 7-8, “All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, ‘Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.’“ You remember the gospels tell us that’s exactly what people were doing and saying as He hung from the cross. “If God delights in Him, let God save Him, then we’ll believe in Him.” Look at verses 14-18, “I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.” Then notice in the section about the glories to follow, verse 22, “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” God is going to deliver Him and Jesus would go and tell His brethren of God’s greatness. Verse 27, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You.” People from all over the world of every nationality will be drawn to God because of this.
Another example, Isaiah 52:13 – chapter 53. We know this was written long before Jesus was born, because in the Dead Sea Scrolls there was found a full manuscript of the book of Isaiah that dates to 125 B.C., almost 125 years before His birth! Isaiah 52:13 says it’s about a servant of God who will prosper and be high and lifted up and greatly exalted, He will be like king of all, highly exalted. But then the text talks about how His exaltedness will be so unexpected, so surprising to so many. Because he will have been marred more than any man. He was so tortured, so abused, so beaten and disfigured that people will gasp in astonishment at Him. And there won’t be anything really kingly looking about Him, no stately form or majesty or appearance that we should be attracted to Him; He was despised, forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. When he suffers people will esteem Him smitten of God. They will think God is displeased with Him and punishing Him. But that’s not at all why He will suffer. He will not suffer for sins that He had done. 53:5, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” Who considered that the reason He was killed was not for His transgressions? Who considered that the reason He was killed was for our transgressions? So His exaltedness will be so surprising. “9 His grave was assigned with wicked men…” Jesus’ grave was going to be with the thieves who were crucified next to Him. They would be thrown out like garbage somewhere and probably eaten by birds and dogs. “Yet He was with a rich man in His death…” Remember the rich man named Joseph of Arimathea, he took His body and bound it in burial wrappings with about a 100 pounds of expensive spices and buried Him in a brand new tomb. “Although He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” So much of that is about the sufferings of the Christ. And then guess what we read in verse 10ff about the glories to follow. “10 But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days.” He will be cut off of the land of the living, but then He’s going to see descendants (us) and prolong His days. Apparently He’s going to rise form the dead. And look at verse11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” Many will be justified, will be made righteous before God because this righteous servant will bear their iniquities. I imagine Isaiah asking God, “Who is this about? When will this happen? How could the death of one man have such power? Is this figurative or literal? Lord, what did I just write about?” “That’s not for you Isaiah. That’s for people in the distant future.”
God was thinking about us back there in Isaiah’s age. And God wanted us to know that the gospel we’ve heard and believe is true and our salvation is reality, and so He told us all about it long before it ever happened (even though people back then wouldn’t have understood it). He said those things through the prophets for us, because He loves us and He wanted us to know that the good news is true news!
Then we’ll just notice here real quick two more assurances in verse 12. Toward the end of verse 12 Peter also reminds his readers of…
The confirmation of the Holy Spirit.
He reminds them that those who preached the gospel to them did so by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. I really don’t think he’s informing them of that. I really think he is reminding them of that. I think it was evident to them that those who originally preached to them the gospel had the Holy Spirit of God with them and helping them to spread and confirm the message.
In the book of Acts we read of how when apostles and evangelists took the gospel to new places the Holy Spirit also worked with them to confirm the word they preached. They often were empowered to do miracles, to heal the sick and the lame and the blind and cast out demons or speak in other languages that they’d never studied. There are statements in the NT that confirm that the early Christians all over the world really did witness some incredible things from those who brought them the gospel. Statements like II Corinthians 12:11-12, “I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” Isn’t that fascinating? He reminds them of the signs and wonders and miracles that he did before them. How could Paul say that if he didn’t actually do some really incredible things to confirm His message? Hebrews 2:3-4 reminds early Christians, “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” The message was confirmed to them by these powerful workings of the Spirit of God. We probably haven’t witnessed the sort of supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit that they did, but these statements still give us greater assurance.
And also likely the Spirit of God has worked in some ways in your life to help confirm to you the truthfulness of what we heard and believe. I’ve heard some of your stories of incredible answers to prayers that you’ve experienced and incredible things that have happened in your life that are hard to attribute to just coincidence. That should give you further assurance.
Then one final assurance I see here, is at the end of verse 12.
The angels longed to know the things announced to us.
Did you know God did not let the angels in on what all He was up to with Jesus? Things that we have heard through the gospel, they didn’t know until God revealed them first to human beings who would follow Jesus in the first century.
This isn’t the only passage that mentions this. I want to read you one other one. Ephesians 3:8-10, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Those rulers and authorities in the heavenly places are powerful angelic beings. And Paul says the way they learned of some of God’s big secrets and His wisdom was through the church. God told men like Paul first, who then told other people, and then the angels found out about it.
Well, that is fascinating. But what’s the point? Why does Peter mention that? Well, it may be that he intends it as an indication of our high status with God as Christians. If you have a great secret that you’ve held on to for a while, when you want to break the news, who do you tell first? If you and your spouse find out that you’re going to have a baby, who do you break the news to first? Whoever is closest and dearest to you, right? You better tell your parents and immediate family first because if they find out about it after a bunch of other people already knew, they going to be offended… Well, God had some big secrets He held on to for a long time. And who did God let in on His big secrets first? It wasn’t the angels. It was human beings who would follow Christ. It’s, I think, an indication that God intends to honor and exalt us even over the angels. That’s what we hear in the gospel. Hebrews 2:5, “For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come…” God’s not giving the world to come to Angels. I Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?…” God’s exalting us over the angels. You know angels have lived for thousands of years at least. The book of Job tells us they were there when God created the world and shouted for joy over it. And they’ve lived a long time in the very presence God. These angles are so blessed, yet God let us in on His big secrets first. God intends to honor us even over them. We are going to live a long time in the presence of God and glory, beyond what we can imagine, awaits us who follow the Lord Jesus. I think that’s important. Do you see that? Do you know that’s true?
In 1:13 Peter says, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That means think about what we’ve been talking about. That means think about the fact that though you’ve never seen Him, you trust and love Him and that is a precious thing in His sight. God guided the prophets to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow for our benefit and the Holy Spirit has confirmed the message, and God has let us in on His secrets even before the angels. Recognize that God indeed loves you extremely and Jesus Christ is coming and He is bringing amazing grace for you and for me and don’t ever forget that. Live in total expectation of the grace that’s coming when we all see Jesus.