The apostle Peter opens his letter with words of praise for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, reminding readers that salvation is a gift of God’s mercy. Then Peter states that believers are given “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” What exactly does Peter mean when he speaks of “a living hope”?
Peter states that it is the “new birth” that provides our living hope, affirming that salvation is a gift from God. Just as an infant does nothing to be born, we experience rebirth not because of who we are or anything we have done. We are born of God (John 1:13) through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Salvation changes who we are (2 Corinthians 5:17), making us dead to sin and alive to righteousness in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5). This new birth serves as our reason for hope—the assurance of salvation.
Bible commentators often call Peter the apostle of hope. In this passage, Peter links our new birth—our salvation—with the idea of “a living hope.” The hope Peter speaks of is not the wishful thinking usually associated with the word hope today. We might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain,” or “I hope I pass the test.” But this is not the kind of hope Peter has in mind.
The Greek term for “hope” in the passage means “an eager, confident expectation.” This hope of the believer is not only “living” but “lively.” The CEV translates the phrase as “a hope that lives on.” Unlike the empty, dead hope of this world, this “living hope” is energizing, alive, and active in the soul of the believer. “We live with great expectation,” as the NLT puts it. Our living hope originates from a living, resurrected Savior. Peter’s living hope is Jesus Christ.
The apostle is speaking to Christians who were suffering persecution in Asia Minor. His words were meant to encourage them in their troubles. Their future was secure because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their hope was in His victory over death and His resurrection life. Whatever the persecuted believers would face in this world could not compare to the blessings of the future resurrection and the life to come in eternity.
Living hope is anchored in the past—Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6). It continues in the present—Jesus is alive (Colossians 3:1). And it endures throughout the future—Jesus promises eternal, resurrection life (John 3:16; 4:14; 5:24; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 15:23). Living hope also enables us to live without despair as we encounter suffering and trials in this present life: “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, CSB).
The object of our living hope is described in 1 Peter 1:4 as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (CSB). We have an inheritance that will never be touched by death, stained by evil, or faded with time; it is death-proof, sin-proof, and age-proof. This inheritance is also fail-proof because God guards and preserves it in heaven for us. It is wholly secure. Absolutely nothing can undermine the certainty of our future inheritance.
People cannot survive long without hope. Hope keeps us going through painful experiences and fear of what the future may hold. In a fallen world where people face poverty, disease, hunger, injustice, disaster, war, and terrorism, we need a living hope. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:12 that those who don’t have Jesus Christ do not have hope. Believers are blessed with real and substantial hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By the power of God’s Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this living hope quickens our minds and souls (Hebrews 4:12). It changes our thoughts, words, and actions. Once dead in our sins, we now live with the hope of our own resurrection.
The believer’s living hope is solid and secure: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19–20, CSB). Jesus Christ is our Savior, our salvation, our Living Hope.