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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 4 - Verse 7
Verse 7. But the end of an things is at hand. This declaration is also evidently designed to support and encourage them in their trials, and to excite them to lead a holy life, by the assurance that the end of all things was drawing nigh. The phrase, "the end of all things," would naturally refer to the end of the world; the winding up of human affairs. It is not absolutely certain, however, that the apostle used it here in this sense. It might mean that so far as they were concerned, or in respect to them, the end of all things drew near. Death is to each one the end of all things here below: the end of his plans and of his interest in all that pertains to sublunary affairs. Even if the phrase did originally and properly refer to the end of the world, it is probable that it would soon come to denote the end of life in relation to the affairs of each individual; since, if it was believed that the end of the world was near, it must consequently be believed that the termination of the earthly career of each one also drew near to a close. It is possible that the latter signification may have come ultimately to predominate, and that Peter may have used it in this sense without referring to the other. Comp. See Barnes "2 Pe 3:8, seq., for his views on this subject. See Barnes "Ro 13:11, See Barnes "Ro 13:12".
The word rendered "is at hand," (hggike,) may refer either to proximity of place or time, and it always denotes that the place or the time referred to was not far off. In the former sense, as referring to nearness of place, see Mt 21:1; Mr 11:1; Lu 7:12; 15:25; 18:35,40; 19:29,37,41; 24:46; Ac 9:3; 10:9; 21:33; in the latter sense, as referring to time as being near, see Mt 3:2; Mt 4:17; 10:7; 21:34; 26:45; Mr 1:16; Lu 21:20,28; Ac 7:17; Ro 13:12; Heb 10:25; 1 Pe 4:7. The idea as applied to time, or to an approaching event, is undoubtedly that it is close by; it is not far off; it will soon occur. If this refers to the end of the world, it would mean that it was soon to occur; if to death, that this was an event which could not be far distant—perhaps an event that was to be hastened by their trials. The fact that it is such language as we now naturally address to men, saying that in respect to them "the end of all things is at hand," shows that it cannot be demonstrated that Peter did not use it in the same sense, and consequently that it cannot be proved that he meant to teach that the end of the world was then soon to occur.
Be ye therefore sober. Serious; thoughtful; considerate. Let a fact of so much importance make a solemn impression on your mind, and preserve you from frivolity, levity, and vanity. See the word explained See Barnes "1 Ti 3:2".
The word rendered watch, means to be sober, temperate, abstinent, especially in respect to wine; then watchful, circumspect. The important truth, then, taught by this passage is, that the near approach of the end of all things should make us serious and prayerful.
I. The end may be regarded as approaching. This is true
(1.) of all things; of the winding up of the affairs of this world. It is constantly drawing nearer and nearer, and no one can tell how soon it will occur. The period is wisely hidden from the knowledge of all men, See Barnes "Mt 24:36, See Barnes "Ac 1:7, among other reasons, in order that we may be always ready, No man can tell certainly at what time it will come; no man can demonstrate that it may not come at any moment. Everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented that it will come at an unexpected hour, as a thief in the night, and when the mass of men shall be slumbering in false security, Mt 24:37-39,42,43; 1 Th 5:2; Lu 21:34.
(2.) It is near in relation to each one of us. The day of our death cannot be far distant; it may be very near. The very next thing that we may have to do, may be to lie down and die.
II. It is proper that such a nearness of the end of all things should lead us to be serious, and to pray.
(1.) To be serious; for
(a.) the end of all things, regard to us, is a most important event. It closes our probation. It fixes our character. It seals up our destiny. It makes all ever onward in character and doom unchangeable.
(b.) We are so made as to be serious in view of such events. God has so constituted the mind, that when we lose property, health, or friends; when we look into a grave, or are beset with dangers; when we are in the room of the dying or the dead, we are serious and thoughtful. It is unnatural not to be so. Levity and frivolity on such occasions are as contrary to all the finer and better feelings of our nature as they are to the precepts of the Bible.
(c) There are advantages in seriousness of mind. It enables us to take better views of things, Ec 7:2,3. A calm, sober, sedate mind is the best for a contemplation of truth, and for looking at things as they are.
(2.) To be watchful unto prayer.
(a.) Men naturally pray when they suppose that the end of all things is coming. An earthquake induces them to pray. An eclipse, or any other supposed prodigy, leads men to pray if they suppose the end of the world is drawing near. A ship-wreck, or any other sudden danger, leads them to pray, Ps 107:28. So men often pray in sickness who have never prayed in days of health.
(b.) It is proper to do it. Death is an important event, and in anticipation of such an event we should pray. Who can help us then but God? Who can conduct us through the dark valley but he? Who can save us amidst the wrecks and ruins of the universe but he? Who can dissipate our fears, and make us calm amidst the convulsions of dissolving nature, but God? As that event, therefore, may come upon us at any hour, it should lead us to constant prayer; and the more so because, when it comes, we may be in no state of mind to pray. The posture in which we should feel that it would be most appropriate that the messenger of death should find us, would be that of prayer.
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