Strangers And Aliens (19a): The End Of All Things

7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7–11; ESV) 7Πάντων δὲ τὸ τέλος ἤγγικεν. σωφρονήσατε οὖν καὶ νήψατε εἰς προσευχάς· 8πρὸ πάντων τὴν εἰς ἑαυτοὺς ἀγάπην ἐκτενῆ ἔχοντες, ὅτι ἀγάπη καλύπτει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν. 9φιλόξενοι εἰς ἀλλήλους ἄνευ γογγυσμοῦ, 10ἕκαστος καθὼς ἔλαβεν χάρισμα εἰς ἑαυτοὺς αὐτὸ διακονοῦντες ὡς καλοὶ οἰκονόμοι ποικίλης χάριτος θεοῦ. 11εἴ τις λαλεῖ, ὡς λόγια θεοῦ· εἴ τις διακονεῖ, ὡς ἐξ ἰσχύος ἧς χορηγεῖ ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν πᾶσιν δοξάζηται ὁ θεὸς διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἐστιν ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

Apocalyptic And 1 Peter
It is an article of faith among a certain school of critics of the New Testament that Jesus and his apostles had an apocalyptic eschatology, which believed that the end of all things was immanent. In this paradigm, Jesus is seen as a disappointed, failed, apocalyptic preacher. According to this view apocalypticism makes a sharp dualism between this age and the age to come. According to G. E. Ladd, this “age will finally come to its end, and God will inaugurate the new age of righteousness. However, this final redemptive act has no bearing upon the present” (G. E. Ladd, “Apocalyptic Literature,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–88), s.v., “Apocalyptic Literature.” Because of this disjunction and the loss of confidence in the divine work in history Jewish apocalyptic was pessimistic. According to Ladd, for these apocalyptic writers also see the course of this age as determined to fixed periods, which leads to what he calls “ethical passivity.”

There are ways in which eschatological NT discourses and language bear a certain formal similarity to Jewish apocalyptic. There are significant ways in which the NT (e.g., the Olivet Discourse) and 1 Peter’s eschatology in particular are distinct from Jewish apocalyptic. First, though Peter, like Paul, did distinguish between this age and the age to come but for Peter there is an intimate connection between the age to come and this age. The age to come has already broken in. It has been inaugurated but it has not been consummated. For Peter, as for Jesus and the apostles, we live in the present in light of the future. Peter’s was entirely confident in God’s saving acts in history. That is why he appealed to the analogy of Noah so strongly and frequently throughout this epistle and the next (2 Peter). Certainly Peter does not urge ethical passivity. Indeed, as we shall see, the Peter’s eschatology leads to the exact opposite conclusion.

v.7: The End Of All Things
The noun τέλος can signal a chronological terminus or it can signal a purpose or the reason for a course of action as in “the end of this decision is to improve understanding.” The ESV translation favors for first sense and that might be correct but one wonders of the second sense is not in view as well? Further, we may also translated the verb ἤγγικεν as “has drawn near.” In other words, rather than saying that the chronological end of history is approaching, Peter is actually saying that the end has already drawn near, i.e., it has already been inaugurated. There are good reasons for reading v. 7 this way. It is what he said in his sermon in Acts 2:17, in his paraphrase of Joel 2:28. Both the Hebrew text and the LXX (the Greek translation) say, “And after these things” or “And afterward” but Peter says, “in the last days” (ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις) in Acts 2:17. This paraphrase was deliberate and part of a pattern in the New Testament. Hebrews 1:2 describes the days in which they were living (about the same time as the Apostle Peter was writing 1 Peter) as “these last days” (ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων). With the advent of Christ and his kingdom, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with the mission of the church into all the world to announce the advent, obedience, death, and resurrection of Jesus of the Messiah, we are in the last days. We have been in “the last days” for a very long time.

In contrast to Jewish apocalyptic, the Apostle Peter did not counsel ethical passivity. He consistently exhorted believers to conduct their lives in light of the advent of Christ and here, as elsewhere in 1 Peter, we are to live our lives in view of the second advent of Christ. If, for Peter, we are building or boarding the ark, as it were, i.e., if we are united to Christ and anticipating his (second) advent in judgment of the world and salvation of his people—and there should be little doubt that is how Peter saw things and that he wishes us to see them that way—then we must live as those who are here now but looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth.

Because (οὖν) the end has begun, we whom Christ has redeemed for himself, must be self-controlled (σωφρονήσατε). In Mark 5:15 the same verb (σωφρονέω) indicates one who is in his right mind (2 Cor 5:13; Titus 2:6), in possession of his faculties (in contrast to being out of one’s mind or demon possessed). In Romans 12:3 Paul uses it to refer to a sound or sober (ESV) judgment about one’s self. We are to be self-controlled (νήψατε). Peter has already urged us to “gird up the loins of our understanding” (1:13) and to be self-controlled, so here he is returning to that theme and he will come back to it in 5:8, where he connects it (as Paul does) with being alert and awake (e.g., 1 Thess 5:6).

That the end has been inaugurated is not a reason to act unreasonably. Indeed, it is the best reason to act reasonably and to be alert. We know the outcome of history. We do not know the timing—no man knows the day or the hour (Mark 13:32) of Jesus’ return—but we do know that he is returning, how he is returning (bodily, visibly, in glory), and who is returning: our blessed Savior, who delivered us from the wrath of God.

Peter’s instruction is really quite different from that the typical ancient and modern apocalyptics. In the 19th century apocalyptic figures (e.g., the Millerites) and in the 20th and 21st centuries (e.g., Harold Camping) set dates for the return of Christ. Their followers sold their possessions and acted irrationally. There is a difference between alertness and paranoia. Date-setting is rationalism and the date-setters have done much harm to the credibility of the faith. They have made Christianity look foolish not for the sake of the gospel, as Paul and Peter did—the message of the cross is considered foolishness by those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18)—but because of their stupid and stubborn predictions about things that our Lord plainly said cannot be known. Their behavior (and their arrogant refusal to hear correction from the Word of God) is the exact opposite of the sanity and soberness to which Peter here calls us.

Let us live as those “upon whom the end of the ages” (1 Cor 10:11; Heb 9:26) has come. Let us be alert. Let us be sober and let us remember that we are already, by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), participating in the last days, just as it was in the days of Noah. They too were those upon whom the end of that age had come. They participated in the the end by faith as they lived alert and sober lives. When the end of the world that then was (2 Pet 3:6) happened, they were ready. The ark was built. Christ saved them just as he has saved us and shall save us when the rain, as it were, begins to fall again.

Here are all the posts on 1 Peter.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. ‘Let us be alert. Let us be sober and let us remember that we are already, by grace alone, through faith alone, participating in the last days, just as it was in the days of Noah’

    Thanks for that, am preaching on that very thing week after next, and while exhorting Noah’s mindset who lived a life of faith waiting for it to start raining (which in this age will be a deluge of fire instead of water), also want to emphasise our present responsibility toward those around us, especially to the household of faith. “Except your brother be with you, you shall not see my face.”

Comments are closed.