CDPCKL · The Last Days of Earth 1.0 (1 Peter 3:15-22)

The Last Days of Earth 1.0 (1 Peter 3:15-22)

In the beginning, we are told, God created the heavens and the earth: he created the universe and all it contains.

And the Spirit of God — the living Breath of God — was hovering over the turbulence of that primordial universe.

Then God used his living Spirit to speak a living Word: “Let there be light,” and there was light

And these words capture the beginning of the story of earth. And if you are familiar with those first pages of Genesis, then you know that it is the story of how God uses his living Word to bring increasing levels of order and life into being on this planet.

What Moses — the writer of Genesis — only hints at in those earliest pages of our scripture is the fact that there is intelligent life in other parts of God’s universe.

And the bible never does go into any real detail about these creatures. All we really know is that they are multi-dimensional beings, very ancient — much older than mankind — and apparently immortal. It appears that they come in a variety of species, designed by God to accomplish a variety of tasks, and they have varying levels of power and knowledge. At least some of them have direct access to God’s presence. Some of them have access to earth. And it is evident that at least some of these creatures have rebelled against God’s order, and are experiencing various levels of judgement for their rebellion…

And there is not much more we know for certain about these creatures. And there are two main reasons why our scriptures do not tell us more about them:

First: our bible is primarily the story of God’s relationship with mankind. As such, angelic beings are only mentioned at those points where they are somehow involved in that relationship. Whatever else they might be doing in the universe is not relevant to our relationship with God.

Second: our bible makes it clear that too much information about angelic beings would actually be bad for us, because such information could distract us from the pure worship of God. In fact, in just a few weeks, when we come to Peter’s Second Letter to the churches, Peter is going to show us that one of the marks of a false teacher is an unhealthy obsession with angels and spiritual powers.

…so now, of course, you are all wondering why we are talking about angels, if this kind of talk is so dangerous!

Well, there are two reasons:

First, because our passage today is one of those rare places in scripture where we are given a glimpse of how angelic beings have interacted with God and mankind in the past.

Second, because our passage today also serves as a warning to us about the dangers of obsession with angelic beings — a warning, and a great encouragement.

Okay. So, to set the stage here for what Peter is about to say to his friends in Roman Asia, we need to go back to the start, when God first planted the garden as a sanctuary for Adam and Eve. As we discussed last week, from the beginning God had built a structure of “inside” and “outside” into the world: inside the garden was peace and plenty in the presence of God; outside the garden was an uncultivated wilderness, full of wild plants and wild animals, waiting for mankind to grow up and fill the earth and bring all these things into perfect order for the glory of God.

And one of these wild animals was the serpent. The serpent — as a creature — was not evil, but it was a creature of the wilderness outside the garden. It was a “wild animal”, not a “domesticated animal“, which means it was not yet submitted to Adam’s rule: this is one of the animals God had commanded Adam to subdue, to bring into proper submission and order.

But as the story goes on, it becomes evident that this serpent is not just an animal from outside the garden, it is somehow also an expression of yet another creature from some other dimension of the universe. And this creature, this angelic being — unlike the serpent — is self-consciously evil, self-consciously committed to chaos, self-consciously committed to resisting and destroying God’s order.

And the bible does not tell us when or why or even how this angel rebelled against God. It is not for us to know what crimes or sins an angel can commit — that is none of our business. All we know for certain is that this angel, in his rebellion against God, took a special interest in mankind, in these new creatures that God had made in his own image.

And — we have to be clear about this also — God permitted him to take a special interest in mankind. God is the perfect Father, and like all good fathers, he knew that his children would need to be tested if they were going to grow up into proper order and maturity.

So, from the very beginning, God was preparing Adam for the serpent’s test. He told Adam — he warned him — to protect the garden from outside forces. He trained Adam — he gave Adam a practice exam — by asking him to name and categorize the animals, and assign them to their various places inside and outside the garden. He told Adam, very clearly, that the test was coming, and told him very clearly what to do when the moment of testing came.

If you are familiar with the story from Genesis, then you know how this rebellious angel — this serpent-spirit — used his breath and his words to corrupt the order created by God’s Breath and God’s Word. Adam had the authority, through God’s Word, to rule over the serpent — and even rule over that fallen angel! — but instead he submitted to the serpent’s word.

And it is because of this event that this particular fallen angel was later given the nickname “Satan”, which means “deceiver”, “false accuser”. Satan is a creature whose power lies mostly in his mouth, in his ability to use his words to distort God’s Word. It was through language that Satan set himself up as a kind of anti-God on this earth. It was through language that Adam lost his place in the garden, and was cast out to bring what order he could into the uncultivated wilderness.

And Moses makes it clear that mankind failed miserably to bring any kind of real godly order to the earth. Instead of seeking out God’s Spirit and God’s Word, human beings relied upon their own wisdom to shape and categorize creation to please themselves. And as we noticed last time, one of the first effects was the division of the one family of mankind. This division began with the first two brothers, and quickly grew into the great war of races and civilizations that is still going on today.

But Moses does leave us some hints that the family of mankind did not fall apart all by itself. In the story of Cain and Abel, as Cain is making his plans to murder his brother, God tells Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” In this language here, sin is not just an abstract concept: it is pictured as a living thing, a wild animal crouching at Cain’s door, ready to break in and devour him. And just as God warned Adam to protect the garden and rule over the serpent, here again God tells Adam’s son that he must rule over this serpent, he must rule over the spirit of sin.

Now, if you are familiar with the story, then you know that Cain, like his father Adam, fails the test.

However, unlike Adam, Cain does not repent. He does not return to God’s Word. He submits fully to the serpent, and to the fallen angel that inspired the serpent. Cain became the son of the serpent, a son of Satan.

And as a result, things quickly go from bad to worse. Cain builds a corrupt city, which grows into a corrupt empire, until — many generations later — Moses tells us that the earth was full of violence, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

But again Moses leaves us another hint that mankind did not become completely corrupt all by itself: he tells us that the Nephilim were on the earth in those days.

Now, this word “Nephilim” seems to mean “the Fallen Ones”. But the bible never explains exactly what that means. Where did they fall from: heaven? Outer space? Did they fall from grace into corruption?

Well, the most ancient explanation — the explanation accepted by ancient Jewish scholars — is this: these Nephilim, these Fallen Ones, were some sort of fallen angels, multi-dimensional beings that influenced mankind toward rebellion, disorder, chaos.

The point Moses is making is that, just as Cain once enslaved himself to the serpent-spirit in exchange for the power to murder his brother, so now Cain’s empire has enslaved itself to these fallen angels, to these Nephilim, in exchange for the power to conquer the world.

And Moses tells us that God looked at the situation and said, “This has gone far enough.” And he sets a countdown timer going: a doomsday clock, counting down to Judgement Day. And God sets the clock for 120 years.

But why? Why didn’t God just bring judgement right away? I mean: Moses is describing an earth that is being devoured by men who are being devoured by demonic forces. Why doesn’t God just stop it?!

Because there is one man left on earth who has not submitted to Satan or to the Nephilim: Noah, a prophet of God, a preacher of righteousness. That 120 year countdown leaves just enough time for Noah to warn everyone that Judgement Day is coming. That way, when the Day arrives, no one will be able to say that they did not get a chance to repent. 120 years also leaves enough time for Noah to build an ark, a new sanctuary — like the original garden — where those who do repent can come and enter and be saved from judgement.

And I think we all know the rest of the story: how only Noah’s immediate family listened to his preaching, and entered the ark. They were saved from the water, and they were saved through the water when the flood brought a complete and total end to the demonic civilization of Cain and his descendants.

But what about the Nephilim, the Fallen Ones? Angels are spirits, they cannot drown. What happened to them?

Well…this is interesting: ancient Jewish writers believed that, right at the beginning of the 120 year countdown, God imprisoned the leaders of the Fallen Ones that were on earth at that time. He bound them and cast them into an Abyss — a special spiritual prison — to wait for the final Judgement Day. He severely restricted their power and influence during the days of Noah’s preaching, during the days while Noah was building the ark.

In other words, God gave the people of that time every chance to hear his Word, to repent, and escape from their slavery to the serpent before the flood judgement came.

And all this is why the ancient Jewish people saw Noah’s flood as a major turning point in the history of our earth. They really did see the world before Noah’s flood as sort of an ”Earth, ver. 1.0”, a world dominated by fallen angels and corrupted empires that will never be seen again until Judgement Day, because those people are dead and those angels have been bound with everlasting chains. And the ancient Jews really did see the world after Noah’s flood as a sort of “Earth, ver. 2.0”, a new beginning, a new chance for mankind to bring God’s order into the world.

So…in that case: what went wrong with Earth, ver. 2.0?

Well, for one thing: people are still people.

But, for another thing: it is clear that God did not imprison all of the fallen angels before the flood. We know this because we find them mentioned again in the bible when the people of Israel first arrive outside the land of Canaan and send spies in, and the spies come back saying, “We saw the Nephilim there!

And what we are supposed to realize is that, just as Cain’s civilization enslaved itself to the Nephilim before the flood in exchange for the power to conquer the world, so also the Canaanite civilizations had enslaved themselves after the flood to the same kind of fallen angels for the same reasons.

And at various other places throughout the Old Testament we find fallen angels and powers and authorities mentioned, enough to make it clear that human civilizations, human cultures, are not merely human creations. It is clear from scripture that the powers and corruptions of our physical world are deeply influenced by darker and far more ancient powers: rebellious multi-dimensional beings that continue to take a special interest in God’s relationship with mankind.

Okay. So all this is what Peter has in mind as he writes to his friends in Roman Asia today.

From the beginning of his letter he has been reminding them that, as Christians, they are foreigners now, refugees among the nations. And for the last few weeks he has really zoomed into the details of what it looks like to live as a foreigner in the Roman empire.

But today, as we reach the middle — the turning-point — of Peter’s letter, Peter is zooming back out to the big picture of what is really going on in the world:

From the beginning of this letter, we have understood that these Christians of Roman Asia have been caught up in these massive currents of history: they are living in the most aggressively colonized corner of the Roman empire, where the pressure to conform to the culture of Rome is just immense. And that is scary enough!

But behind this terrifying physical reality is an even more terrifying spiritual reality. Peter, guided by God’s ancient Word, understands that the corrupted physical empires of the world are themselves ruled by other, greater, spiritual empires. And Peter understands that just like Cain’s empire, just like the Canaanite civilizations, the Roman empire has enslaved itself to ancient and corrupted spiritual powers in exchange for the power to conquer the world.

Basically, Roman culture, Roman civilization, Roman colonization, is not just an abstract concept: it is a living thing, animated by a living, demonic force that is crouched at the door of the Church, ready to break in and devour and destroy.

These Christians of Roman Asia are not simply involved in a conflict between human cultures, they have been caught up in a war between spiritual cultures: the ancient war between the sons of the serpent and the sons of God, this ancient war that has been going on ever since the day Adam was cast out of the garden.

And the question is: how are these Christians supposed to resist such overwhelming forces of darkness? It is one thing to respond with love to the neighbor who is filled with hate; but how are Christians supposed to respond to the demons that drive that hate? It is one thing to resist the colonizing might of the Roman empire; but how are Christians to resist the colonizing might of Satan himself?

Well, Peter begins today by going back to the beginning and reminding his readers that, from the start, this war has been a war of words: God’s life-giving Word against Satan’s deceptive word. Their neighbors are children of the serpent because they have believed the serpent’s lies, because they believe the illusion of ultimate Roman power. Which means that Christian resistance to the overwhelming forces of darkness must begin with the faithful preaching of God’s Word. Only God’s Word, carried upon the living breath of God’s Spirit, can break through Satan’s deception and set people free.

And so, here, for the first time in his letter, Peter tells his friends to speak.

Until now, Peter has focused on preaching the truth through behaviour alone. The only speech he has commanded so far is the speech of blessing for enemies. But now he says this: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

And I want to be very clear about something here: Peter is not talking about casual evangelism. He is not talking about sharing the Gospel with friends over dinner.

He is talking about how Christians should respond to a very specific question in a very specific circumstance:

After your neighbors have insulted you, after they have destroyed your reputation and your career, after you have been cut off from your previous relationships, after your family and your nation has rejected you, and after you have responded to all this with a stubborn faithfulness to Christ and his Church, after you have responded to all this with blessings instead of curses…then those who are trying to destroy you are going to ask, ”hey, you crazy ah?” Then they are going to ask you why you do not repent and come back to your former gods and your former way of life, why you do not rejoin them. They are going to ask you what hope you can possibly have for the future now that you have rejected the Roman way of life, which is the only true source of life.

And that is when you are going to answer them. That is when you are going to tell your persecutors that the great Roman empire that they serve is actually nothing but a breath, nothing but an illusion, nothing but a source of slavery and death. Careers fail, family members die, economies collapse, the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. You are going to tell your persecutors that it is through that living and enduring Word that you have been born again of imperishable seed. You are going to tell your neighbors that you are going to live forever, that you are not worried about your future! — but they should be worried about theirs…

In short: you are going to tell your neighbors why you have hope, and why they actually have none.

But you are going to do this with gentleness and respect, [16] keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Even as you warn your neighbors about the Judgement Day that is coming, do so as a blessing, not as an insult, not as a threat. No matter how they have dehumanized you, you do not dehumanize them. No matter how they have shamed you, you do not shame them — so that on Judgement Day, they will be put to shame by God himself. It is God alone who created them human; it is God alone who has the right to dehumanize them, if he so chooses.

This is why Peter goes on in verse 17 to say: it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

As Christians, we are called to repay evil with blessing in this world, so that we might inherit a blessing in the next world. That is better than what will happen to those who spend their lives repaying evil with evil. They may look like they are prospering in this world, but in the next world they will suffer God’s judgement.

In other words, Peter is saying, it is better to suffer man’s judgement for a little while, than to suffer God’s judgement for all eternity.

So, this is the answer to the question, “What is the reason for the hope that you have”: our hope lies in the reality of Judgement Day. On Judgement Day all illusion will be destroyed, all truth will be revealed, and all our suffering will be proven to be worth it.

But how can we be sure that this is true?

Because…here’s the thing: suffering is now. Rejection is now. Humiliation is now. The crushing weight of the Roman empire is now. And Judgement Day is…when?

It seems like a lot to ask. It seems like a lot to risk. And that is what Peter’s friends are wondering as they read this. They have been sucked into a war of cultures, and to be very honest: it looks like they are losing. It looks as if the dark spirit that animates the Roman empire is greater than the Spirit that lives within them. Peter is saying that it is better to suffer for a little while now than to suffer on Judgement Day, but — it would be nice to know for sure that Judgement Day is a real thing, yeah? — more real than the powers of the Roman empire.

And this why Peter now goes back, deep into history, and shows his friends that there has already been one Judgement Day, a real Judgement Day, that was also just a foreshadowing of the final Judgement Day.

“So,” Peter says, “yes, I am sure it is better to suffer for doing good in this life, because that is what Jesus did!” Verse 18: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Peter starts his history lesson by saying again what he has said before: that when Christians respond to suffering like Jesus did, they do help bring people to God.

However, there is an important difference. A Christian’s suffering does not bring people to God the way Jesus’ does. Jesus’ suffering paid for the sins of mankind. A Christian’s suffering only brings people to God by pointing to Jesus’ suffering.

But there is more: Jesus did not just suffer: He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

He suffered. He died. He was buried. But then he rose again: he was resurrected through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And then, [19] after being made alive — after being resurrected — he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— [20] to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

And here we are: Peter is pointing back to the last days of Earth 1.0, pointing back to that 120 year countdown when God waited patiently for Noah to finish building the ark. That judgement cycle began with God casting disobedient angels into prison to wait for Judgement Day. That judgement cycle ended with the flood, when God cast the souls of disobedient humans into the death to wait for Judgement Day.

And so what Peter is saying here is that, ever since that first Judgement Day, those fallen angels have been bound in darkness, held for the final Judgement Day — a bit like prisoners waiting for the day of their execution. And it seems that, just like human prisoners, these imprisoned angels were hoping that some other greater force in the universe might come along and break them free to continue in their corruption. But when the resurrected Jesus ascended to take his place at his Father’s right hand, he made a proclamation — an announcement — of his victory to every creature in the universe, to every creature in every dimension of existence, including these imprisoned angels.

Basically, before Jesus’ death and resurrection, these imprisoned spirits had some hope that the final Judgement Day would never come for them, that one day the forces of darkness might somehow triumph over God and set them free again to be the Lords of Chaos.

But Jesus’ ascension and Jesus’ proclamation that he is now the Lord of All ended that hope, and guaranteed the damnation of those disobedient spirits on the Judgement Day that is to come.

So Peter’s answer to the question is: yes, Judgement Day is a real thing, more real than the powers that animate the Roman empire. We know it is real because it already happened once, and because at this point — through the resurrection and the proclamation of Christ — even the imprisoned powers that once animated Cain’s empire now know the truth.

However, going back to those last 120 years of Earth 1.0, Peter wants his friends to remember that God was not the only one who had to wait patiently for that first Judgement Day: during those years Noah also had to wait patiently.

The difference between God and Noah is that Noah suffered while he waited, just as Jesus did during his years of life on earth. During those years of preaching and building, Noah suffered because he was a righteous man in the midst of unrighteous men: Cain’s corrupt empire hated Noah and persecuted him for his righteousness.

But we could also say that Noah, just as Jesus did, suffered patiently — as a righteous man — for the unrighteous, to bring them to God. Noah suffered patiently knowing that each year of his suffering was another year of opportunity for his neighbors to hear his preaching, repent, and join him inside the ark when the countdown reached zero.

But, Peter says, despite God’s patience — and despite Noah’s preaching and building and suffering — in that ark only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.

God gave the people of Earth 1.0 every chance to repent. He limited the power of their demonic overlords. He sent them Noah, a preacher of God’s Word, to break through the illusion of Cain’s evil empire. But they were hardened in their sins. They refused to listen. And so, in the end, the clock ran out. Judgement fell. And water saved Noah’s family by destroying their enemies, by wiping out the corruption of Cain’s all-consuming civilization.

During those last 120 years of Earth 1.0, if one of Noah’s neighbors had asked him to give the reason for the hope that he had, Noah would have said, “My hope is in the waters of Judgement Day that are going to save me from you!” And Noah would also have said, “But it’s not too late, neighbor. The door of the ark is still open. The countdown is not yet complete. There is still time for you to come in and join my family and be saved yourself.”

So Noah’s family was saved through water.

And now Peter goes on to say that Jesus’ family is also saved through water: [21] This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.

Just as the waters of the flood set those inside the ark apart from the rest of the dying world outside, so also the waters of baptism set those inside the Church apart from the rest of the dying world outside.

Baptism, for Christians, is a bit like the doorway into the ark that is the Church. Baptism is the dividing line between those who are safe inside Jesus’ family, and those who are not. It is the dividing line between people who have a future in God’s presence after they die, and people who are going to be bound in dreadful darkness to wait for Judgement Day.

But Peter wants to make it clear that baptism is not some kind of magical thing that makes you perfect in this life. ”Baptism,“ he says, “is not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.”

Baptism is not some kind of physically transforming thing where suddenly you become this perfect saint who never sins or never suffers again. No: baptism is a pledge. It is the Christian’s signature on God’s adoption papers. It is the mark that seals a covenant agreement.

When a Christian passes through the doorway of baptism into the ark of Jesus’ Church, they are not saying, “I am now perfect! Life is now perfect!” — they are saying, “from this point on I belong to God. He is my Father. I am his child. And when I sin, I will trust him and turn to him for correction, and instruction, and salvation, instead of trying to jump overboard and save myself by swimming!”

“Look,” Peter is saying, “baptism does not save you through your own efforts. It is not you saving yourself by signing the covenant with God. It is God who saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”


But how does the resurrection of Jesus Christ connect with the concept of baptism? How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make baptism “work”?

Like this: Jesus [22] has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Just as God restrained the dark forces of evil during the last days of Earth 1.0, protecting Noah’s ark and Noah’s family from their deception and from the waters of judgement — so now, during the last days of Earth 2.0, Jesus Christ has triumphed over the dark forces of evil. Through his resurrection, his ascension, and his enthronement, Jesus Christ has been proclaimed the Lord over all. Even now, from his place at his Father’s right hand, Jesus is protecting his Church from the crushing weight of the Roman empire, from the rage of the ancient dragon that animates the Roman empire.

So baptism does not “save” in any kind of magical sense, as if the water is holy or something. Baptism “saves” because it is the doorway into a sanctuary that will never be crushed by evil, an ark that will never sink into the waters of judgement. And the reason our ark — Jesus’ Church — can never be crushed is because it is protected by the resurrected Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Peter wants his Christian friends in ancient Roman Asia to know the truth: they have been caught up in a war that is taking place on several dimensions of existence at once, involving creatures and intelligent beings that are beyond our comprehension for now. It is important for these Christians to know that their neighbors are not acting just on their own, they are motivated by powerful evil forces.

But it is also important for them to know that the war between angels in the spiritual world is not really their business. They do not need to know all the different types of angelic beings there are, their ranks and roles and how they control various parts of the Roman empire: that kind of obsession is actually unhealthy.

All they really need to know about that spiritual war is that Jesus, in his resurrection, ascension, and proclamation, has brought all these things into submission to himself. Just as in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built, the deceptive powers of evil have been bound, restricted, cast into the Abyss. The serpent’s head has been crushed to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore, so that the Gospel can be preached clearly to the ends of the earth, so that the Church can be built. In it only a few people will be saved.

But until that day dawns, these Christians are called to suffer as Noah did, as Christ did: the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring the world to God. The war they are called to fight is a war of words. Only God’s Word, carried upon the living breath of God’s Spirit, can break through Satan’s deceptions and set people free from slavery. They work, they endure, knowing that each year of their suffering is another year of opportunity for their neighbors to hear God’s Word, repent, and join them inside the Church when the doomsday clock counts down to zero.

This message is for us also. We live in a world that seems to have been conquered by science, by reason, by the intellect of mankind. In the last century our species has developed incredible god-like powers, and every year more and more of us are convinced that we are the only intelligent life that exists in this dimension or in any other. We look at our creations, our societies, our cities, our global civilization, and we proclaim ourselves to be gods over all we survey.

Even Christianity has been affected by all this. A lot of our modern missiology is obsessed with how to connect the Gospel with our world’s cultures, as if culture is nothing more than an abstract concept to be manipulated in the same way we manipulate our physical world.

But this too is an illusion. Human culture, human civilization, human colonization, is not just an abstract concept: these are living things, animated by living spiritual forces that lay crouched at the door of Christ’s Church, ready to break in and devour and destroy. And Peter is going to say more about this later on — !

But in the meantime, it is important for us to remember that all these institutions and the powers that animate them, have already been brought into submission to Christ. Yes, our Lord does allow evil some freedom of action among the nations of the earth; yes, the ancient serpent is still dangerous, even with his head crushed. But just as in the beginning, with Adam, he exists only as a test for us, God’s children, to help us grow up into proper order and maturity in Christ. The difference between us and Adam is that we are protected now by the One who passed every possible test, the One who guarantees that we will pass every possible test.

Which means that it is not our calling to defeat the dark powers, it is not our calling to transform the earthly institutions they possess. It is not our calling to fight against the spiritual forces of evil, or try to redeem the cultures they inhabit. All these things are destined for destruction or eternal imprisonment. However, is also not our calling to withdraw from the world. Our ark is still being built; the door of the Church is still open, still ready to welcome new refugees.

So, in closing here, getting very practical:

If you are here today and you are not yet baptized, if you have not yet passed through the door that is Jesus Christ, this is what you should do: come! Believe the living Word of God that you have just heard. Let our Heavenly Father rescue you from the dominion of darkness and bring you into the kingdom of the Son he loves. And you will be saved through the fires of Judgement.

If you are here today and you are already baptized, then this is our application: let us accept our calling to suffer as Noah did, as Jesus did — the righteous for the unrighteous — to bring people to God. It really is better to suffer now for doing good, than to suffer later for doing evil. So let us refuse to be distracted by spiritual mysteries that our Father has not revealed to us. Let us not turn aside to manipulating spiritual powers for our own glory and benefit. But let us trust our Lord to exercise his perfect control over such powers. Instead, let us keep our eyes fixed on the simple task we have been given: to love and endure, and then to give an answer to every bully who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have.

And what is our hope? Here it is: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere the name of Christ, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.” And so we will be saved through fire.

This is the Word of the Lord!

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