The Apostle Peter wrote to a people who were enduring persecution. They needed to be strengthened and encouraged to continue living Christ like lives.
He wrote to them about a "lively" hope: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3).
The Apostle Peter used the word ελπις about Christ. The word is translated as "hope." Thayer defines the word as, "1) expectation of evil, fear 2) expectation of good, hope 2a) in the Christian sense 2a1) joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation 3) on hope, in hope, having hope 3a) the author of hope, or he who is its foundation 3b) the thing hoped for (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).
In the text under consideration, the word is in specific reference to the resurrection of Christ (Kittle and Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; p. 518).
Peter himself, as well as other disciples, had hoped in Christ as he taught them daily. Their confidence in him is seen many times in the New Testament until the cross. It was here their faith was really put to the test.
Peter told the Lord that he would die for him (Matt. 26:35). At the arrest of Jesus, Peter showed his faith by striking out with a sword (John 18:10). Yet hours later when his faith is challenged again, he denies the Lord three times (Matt. 26:69-75), as the Lord had told him earlier (Matt. 26:75).
Now with his faith weak, he watches as the "hope" he trusted in is beaten and then led away to be crucified at Calvary (Matt. 27:26-50).
The "hope" first placed in Jesus was not the "hope" of the resurrection. It was the hope that he and the other disciples had in Jesus ridding Israel of the Romans and returning the Jewish state to power, with Jesus being on the throne ruling (Acts 1:6). When Jesus was arrested and crucified, Peter’s hope and the hope of other disciples was lost.
This is seen in the conversation of the men whom Jesus walked with on the road to Emmaus: "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done" (Luke 24:21).
Hope seemed to be lost. Peter was ready to go back to his fishing. Paul wrote of what it was like not to have hope in his letter to the Corinthian brethren, he said those without hope "are of all men most pitiable" (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
When Peter writes in his epistle, he states that God by his mercy begat them again. Guy N. Wood, in his commentary on First Peter, points out that in verse 3 the emphasis is on the word "again." God had given them another opportunity to renew their faith in Jesus. This was a "new hope." It was and is a hope all mankind should have – the hope of a Savior.
Peter’s hope had been dashed when Christ was crucified. Just as a campfire, left throughout the night only has embers barely glowing, can be rekindled to a roaring fire, his faith had been rekindled to the point of his undying devotion to Christ the Lord, by the resurrection of Christ.
This faith brought back his hope, and he is reminding the Christians to whom he is writing (1 Peter 1:1), of this great hope. It is a hope that is living, and one capable of sustaining them in the persecutions they were suffering and were going to suffer.
Next week we will continue to look at this passage to see more about this hope.