For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? 1 Peter 4:17-18
B. you had an interesting outlook on this passage with some really cool thoughts. hahaha ... But ... I think that Peter had something a little different in mind when he wrote it. I ALSO reserve the right to change MY mind! :)
Now, I prefer the New American Standard for a few reasons so let me quote verse 18 from it:
And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the the godless man and the sinner?1 Peter 4:18 NASB
"with difficulty" is just as legitimately translated "through difficulty".
What was Peter leading to when he wrote these statements?
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, AS THOUGH SOME STRANGE THING WERE HAPPENING TO YOU; but to the degree that you SHARE THE SUFFERINGS of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.1 Peter 4:12
And what did he conclude after those statements?
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19
Consider that those who suffer according to God's would find comfort by entrusting GOD to do right.
Suffering was happening. And they were surprised by it's intensity. By the way Peter brought this up I'm certain they were troubled and discouraged by the events that God was bringing, or allowing to happen.
Isn't this EXACTLY how WE react as well?
Peter was reminding them of something that he knew was getting very confusing in the midst of "the fiery trial". Along with all of the other promises of Christ was the one that went,
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. REMEMBER the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted ME, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. John 15:18-20
Paul saw this whole thing about trials and difficulties as being so important that he...
returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, ENCOURAGING them to continue in in the faith, and saying, 'Through MANY TRIBULATIONS we must enter the kingdom of God.' Acts 14:21-22
Now, religions have taken that verse to mean all kinds of weird things having to do with CONDITIONS to meet in order to make it, but it has nothing at all to do with that. He was reminding them of something that would look like something else when it happened, and he didn't want them questioning "the will of God" when it did!
Paul's teaching on making it INTO the Kingdom was not being changed, for Paul taught clearly:
For He DELIVERED us from the domain of darkness, and TRANSFERRED us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we HAVE redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
that I may know HIM, and the power of HIS resurrection and the FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, BEING CONFORMED TO HIS DEATH; Philippians 3:10
This is what we should be EXPECTING to happen. But when it happens and we have been listening to the perversions of religion, the FIRST thing we do is question God's "will". "Why is He doing this?" "What hidden evils are we guilty of?" etc, etc. When it happens, know this: you are right in the middle of God's will ... you are suffering just like Jesus suffered at the hands of the world! This became the stuff of life for Paul.
And also for Peter ... for he caught hell from the world on account of Christ. But Christ was his JOY in the midst of all of it and he wouldn't have traded it for anything in the whole world!
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, YOU ARE BLESSED, because the Spirit of GLORY and of God RESTS UPON YOU. 1 Peter 4:14
They NEEDED to know this in their current situation because the circumstances were convincing them that these "fiery trials" had to mean something else.
By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him NOT FEEL ASHAMED, but in that name let him glorify God. 1 Peter 4:15-16
Because of the sin-conscious mindset our thoughts grab hold of these mentions of "sin" and make them the focus of the "judgment" written about in verse 17. No, no, no!!
The fact that Peter brings this up just in this spot is remarkable. They KNEW what it was to suffer from these things...
for the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles 1 Peter 4:3
They had most likely been trying to figure out how their current situation might be some kind of payback. Peter had already established how their contemporaries were
...surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you 1 Peter 4:4
The statement about suffering as an evildoer was put in there as a CONTRAST to cause them to see what this real suffering "as a Christian" was NOT (At the time, the designation "Christian" was a degrading term applied to those losers who followed Christ, while today we use it in attempt to define our set of beliefs, etc.). Of course, THAT kind of suffering is not to be desired, but suffering after the fashion of Christ is not a cause for SHAME but is a cause to glory that God has counted us worthy ... for our worthiness is HIS worthiness!!
The judgment that HAS ALREADY begun with the household of God is this present time where we share the sufferings of Christ ... it has nothing to do with sin! Sin is what brought shame in our old life, but there is no shame in Christ.
Now, the continuance of the contrast. If with us FIRST, who hold to the judgment of Christ, then what about those who don't? What will their end be?
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; my steps had almost slipped. FOR I WAS ENVIOUS OF THE ARROGANT, AS I SAW THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED. ... When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight UNTIL I CAME INTO THE SANCTUARY OF GOD; THEN I PERCEIVED THEIR END. Psalm 73:1-3,16-17
This has nothing to do with making scare tactics to use on unbelievers ... it has to do with OUR perception of OUR troubles in view of OUR perception of THEIR well-being. The end of sin is death. THEY aren't doing as well as we THINK they are. This is the root of our discontent. And our stinky perceptions cause us to say that "I would be better off if I didn't have anything to do with Christ!" when we find ourselves suffering on HIS account.
THIS is what Peter is dealing with.
For if those who belong to Christ are going through all of this suffering now, what's going to happen to those who don't have God and yet appear to be doing so well at this time? THEREFORE, know that your present suffering is no accident, or retribution, but is according to God's will, and you can entrust yourself to the faithful Creator that He is doing what is right. Jim's version :)