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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 4 - Verse 17
Verse 17. For the time is come. That is, this is now to be expected. There is reason to think that this trial will now occur, and there is a propriety that it should be made. Probably the apostle referred to some indications then apparent that this was about to take place.
That judgment must begin. The word judgment here (krima) seems to mean the severe trial which would determine character. It refers such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. It was to "begin" at the house of God, or be applied to the church first, in order that the nature and worth of religion might be see. The reference is, doubtless, to some fearful calamity which would primarily fall on the "house of God;" that is, to some form of persecution which was to be let loose upon the church.
At the house of God. Benson, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that this , refers to the Jews, and to the calamities that were to come around the temple and the holy city about to be destroyed. But the more obvious reference is to Christians, spoken of as the house or family Of God. There is probably in the language here an allusion to Eze 9:6 "Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; and begin at my sanctuary." See Barnes "Jer 25:29".
But the language used here by the apostle does not denote literally the temple, or the Jews, but those who were in his time regarded as the people of God—Christians—the church. So the phrase (
The sense here is, therefore, that the series of calamities referred to were to commence with the church, or were to come first upon the people of God. Schoettgen here aptly quotes a passage from the writings of the Rabbins: "Punishments never come into the world unless the wicked are in it; but they do not begin, unless they commence first with the righteous."
And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel God? If God brings such trials upon us who have obeyed his gospel, what have we not reason to suppose he will bring upon those who are yet in their sins? And if we are selected first as the objects of this visitation, if there is that in us which requires such method of dealing, what are we to suppose will occur in the end with those who make no pretensions to religion, but are yet living in open transgression? The sentiment is, that if God deals thus strictly with his people; if there is that in them which makes the, visitations of his judgment proper on them, there is a certainty that they who are not his people, but who live in iniquity, will in the end be overwhelmed with the tokens of severer wrath. Their punishment hereafter will be certain; and who can tell what will be the measure of its severity? Every wicked man, when he sees the trials which God brings upon his own people, should tremble under the apprehension of the deeper calamity which will hereafter come upon himself. We may remark,
(1.) that the judgments which God brings upon his own people make it certain that the wicked will punished. If he does not spare his own people, why should he spare others?
(2.) The punishment of the wicked is merely delayed. It begins at the house, of God, Christians are tried, and are recalled from their wanderings, and are prepared by discipline for: the heavenly world. The punishment of the wicked is often delayed to a future world, and in this life they have almost uninterrupted prosperity, but in the end it will be certain. See Barnes "Ps 73:1, seq. The punishment will come in the end. It cannot be evaded. Sooner or later justice requires that the wicked should be visited with the expressions of Divine displeasure on account of sin, and in the future world there will be ample time for the infliction of all the punishment which they deserve.
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