1 Peter 4:12, The Fiery Trial

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.

//In Jewish tradition, driven a great deal by the Old Testament, there were considered to be two eras of note: the current, sinful age, which was spiraling deeper and deeper into chaos, and the coming messianic age, where God would again take an active role in the governance of earth and justice would prevail. Jewish thought was that the righteous were suffering in this age, but in the age to come, the righteous and the unrighteous would trade places. The unrighteous would be the sufferers throughout the age to come.

Between these two ages was to be a period of intense tribulation, sometimes called the “woes of the Messiah.” In today’s verse, the author of 1 Peter is encouraging his audience to stand firm throughout the tribulations they are experiencing, because these tribulations will birth a new age of joy. Thus, when we move on to the next verse, the author promises that when Christ returns and governs the earth with the authority and glory of God, all oppressions would be lifted:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

But it makes you wonder: what exactly is the fiery trial that Christians were experiencing, and that this epistle was talking about? When 1 Peter refers to gold being tried in the fire (1:7) does he have something specific in mind?

Possibly. He may be referring to the events of AD 64, when Nero Caesar (the beast of Revelation) persecuted Christians by setting them aflame, using them as torches to light his gardens at night. If so, the language of a “fiery trial” was anything but figurative to his readers; it was disturbingly literal.

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