“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”
Now Peter turns to a new subject – the effectiveness of the believer’s life in the middle of suffering (vv. 7-11). Do you have stability under any pressure? When disaster comes, do you know how to cope with it?
But the end of all things
Peter now presents a motive for facing trials. He appeals to the “end.” The “end” is the limit at which a thing ceases to be what it was up to that point. The “end” here probably refers to maximum disaster coming from persecution from Rome in Asia Minor (Turkey today).
Up to this time, these Christians were relatively free from persecution. Nero is about to persecute Christians. He used Christians for bate for wild animals and subjects for the gladiators to fight. He also used them for torches to light the streets of Rome. Therefore, this would be the end of a period of calm for Christians in Asia Minor.
Peter prepares Christians for a radical change of circumstance. This preparation demands a thorough understanding of God’s perspective on the purpose of suffering. It also requires an understanding of prayer.
“All things” is emphatic and refers to the conclusion of this era of history in the first century. The sweep of this statement is incredible. The next thing on the program of God for Asia Minor Christians is now at hand.
is at hand
The phrase “is at hand” means approach, come near, to move nearer to a reference point. Peter is talking about the imminent coming persecution on Christians in Asia Minor and uses these words to motivate them to hang in there due to this suffering they will face.
Some think that this statement by Peter is a claim for the imminent coming of Christ. Although the New Testament teaches this truth elsewhere, the context does not argue for imminency here. Imminency means that there is no prophetic event that needs fulfillment before Jesus comes again. He could come at any moment. This is why some think Peter can make the statement that the coming of Christ has drawn near. It is near in the sense of imminence.
Imminency is not immediacy. Immediacy means that Jesus must come shortly. Imminency means that the coming of Christ could occur at any moment. There is nothing prophetically preventing his coming. The next event in prophetic history looms ready to take place (Ro 13:11,12; 1 Co 15:51; 2 Co. 5:2; Phil. 4:5; 1 Th 4:17; Jas 5:8; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 18; Re 1:3).
Jesus may appear at any time. Do you have a constant expectancy of the coming of Christ? That appearing is hastening on. We do not know the hour or day when we shall meet him. We should live all life in the shadow of eternity.
“At hand” is also a formula for the rapture of the church, making another argument for this passage referring to the rapture (Ro 13:11,12; Phil 4:5; Jas 5:8,9). The rapture is seven years before the second coming. The rapture is an any-moment event. Jesus is right at the door. He may come momentarily. No prediction must be fulfilled before he comes. The signs of the times, such as the Jews going back to Palestine, the church’s apostasy, and the increase of violence, are all signs of the second coming, not the rapture. It may take place today, tomorrow, or sometime in the twenty-first century. Only God knows.
However, the meaning in this context is the coming persecution of Christians in Asia Minor. This persecution will momentarily come on these Asia Minor Christians. When it comes, Christians must have already prepared themselves for it.
God wants the Christian to be prepared for disaster.
If this verse refers to the rapture, God wants us to live in constant expectancy of Christ’s return. None of us know whether we will live to see the end.
Since this verse probably refers to coming persecution, the meaning is that Christians will come to the place of the end of calm in their lives. Each Christian will face maximum disaster situations at least a few times in his life. God wants us to prepare ourselves for the coming disaster. Each of us will face stark situations in life. None of us will get through life without severe problems.
Peter’s point is preparation. Are you prepared for trial when it comes? If you wait till the trial comes to prepare yourself, it will be too late. Under major duress, we do not think clearly. We cannot learn properly when emotionally upset. Therefore, we must prepare our souls before the trial comes. Do you know enough principles of God’s Word to face the bad times when they come?