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"The End of All Things Is at Hand"

Nearly 2,000 years ago Peter wrote, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7, ESV). What did he mean by that?

Jesus Was Coming Soon?
Was Peter predicting an imminent return of Jesus? At first glance it may seem so, but if that was his meaning he was obviously wrong. Besides the fact that Jesus has not yet returned, there are several reasons for taking Peter’s language another way. For one thing, Paul had earlier foretold an apostasy which would occur first (2 Thessalonians 2); Peter surely knew about that. Another consideration is that later, in 2 Peter 2, the Apostle predicted that in the future mockers would deny the promise of Jesus’ coming because it was taking so long. What, then, did Peter mean in our text?

The End of Judaism?
One view of Peter’s words is that all things refers to Judaism. Peter evidently wrote this letter just a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. That event would affect Christians everywhere. In a way it would be positive because Jewish opposition to Christianity would subsequently wane. But in another way it would be negative: opponents of Judaism often made little distinction between Jews and Christians, therefore opposition to Jews would adversely affect Christians as well. Peter therefore cautions his readers to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”

The Potential End of All Things?
Most Bible students take Peter’s words as referring to the final judgment. He had just spoken of God’s readiness to judge (v. 6). In what sense was that event near or at hand 2,000 years ago? In the sense that all was in readiness for it. Everything else in God’s plan had been accomplished. The second coming (and its accompanying judgment) is all that remained. The word end often carries the idea of a goal or culmination, not just cessation. (Compare Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”)

Peter did not know when Jesus would return, and neither do we. Therefore, he, his initial readers, and we must live in constant readiness—as though the event is at hand, in view of the fact that it is always possible. That is exactly what Jesus taught: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming”  (Matthew 24:42; cf. 25:13).

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