1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) For the time is come.—The “for” (literally, because) seems to substantiate the whole of the former part of the section, from 1Peter 4:12 onwards, but with special reference to the injunction to glorify God on the ground of bearing the name of Christians, upon which it follows in much the same way as “for the spirit of glory” followed upon “if ye be reproached . . . happy are ye.” The judgment is just about to begin, and all those who bear the name of Christians may well be thankful that they do.

That judgment.—It should be, that the judgmenti.e., the great judgment which we all expect. The word “begin,” however, shows that in St. Peter’s mind it would be a long process; and he probably does not distinguish in his mind between the “burning which is befalling for a trial” and the final judgment, except that that “burning” is but the beginning. (Comp. 1Peter 4:5.)

Begin at the house of God.—The phrase contains an obvious reference to Ezekiel 9:6 (comp. also Jeremiah 25:29). Who are meant by the “house of God” is clear, not only from such passages as 1Peter 2:5; 1Corinthians 3:16; 2Thessalonians 2:4, but also from the immediate addition, “and if first at us.” We who are Chrestiani, who bear the mark of the Christ’s shame upon our foreheads, and are not ashamed of it, are quite safe in this judgment: “come not near any man upon whom is the mark.” The sense is a little closely packed. It seems as if St. Peter meant at first only to say, “Thank God that you are ‘Christians,’ for the judgment is just about to begin,” as something which only concerns the unbelievers; then, as an afterthought, he adds, “and begin, too, at the house of God,” by way of making the believers also feel the need of care.

And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be . . .?—It is more expressive to omit, with St. Peter, the verb “begin “: and if first at us. The argument is: “If we, who are the very household of God, must undergo this searching investigation first, what will happen, as the judgment nears its climax, to those who,” &c.? When he says “the end of those that obey not,” he does not mean exactly “the final doom of those that obey not,” as contrasted with “the end” of those that obey, or as contrasted with their own earlier opportunities: rather, “the end” is the end of the great process of judgment, as contrasted with the “beginning first at us.” The judging of the house of God has now gone on for eighteen hundred years, but it has not yet touched those who are without.

That obey not the gospel of God?—Rather, that disobey the gospel of God?. The word is the same which we have noticed several times (see Note on 1Peter 3:1) as being peculiarly applied to the Jews. Now the object of this mysterious threat (which is made more terrible by being thrown into the form of a question) is not only to solace the persecuted by the thought of God being their avenger, but to warn them against slipping into the position of those thus threatened. The recipients of the Letter, we must recollect, were Jewish Christians, who were in a two-fold danger—either of relapsing sullenly into Judaism, or of plunging into heathen excesses, like the Nicolaitan school, under the notion that such things could not hurt the spiritually-minded. To meet these two forms of danger, the Apostle hints darkly at the punishment of the two classes in this phrase and in the verse following, precisely as St. Paul, in 2Thessalonians 1:8 (see Note there), divides the wicked to be punished into Jew and Gentile, or, in Romans 2:9, still more particularly. And that he is thinking specially of unbelieving Jews in this place appears from the context in Ezekiel 9:6 (especially 1Peter 4:9), where the separation to be effected is not between Jew and Gentile, but between Jew and Jew—those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations” committed by Israel, and those that commit the abominations. As Bengel remarks, “The persecution of Nero was but a few years before the catastrophe of the Jews.”

1 Peter 4:17. For the time is come — Foretold by Christ, Matthew 24:9; John 16:2; that judgment must begin at the house of God — In the Christian Church; God’s own family, which he first visits, both in justice and mercy. The judgment here spoken of is thought by many commentators to signify the particular distress which was to happen before Jerusalem should be utterly destroyed. the Christians were to expect to feel some of the first effects of that general calamity: it was to begin with them, as Christ had plainly foretold in the passages just referred to. It was God’s method of old to begin with sending calamities on his own people; and indeed a state of trial seems highly proper before a state of recompense. See 1 Peter 1:6. There seems to be an allusion in this passage to Ezekiel 9:6, and Jeremiah 25:29. By us here, the apostle meant the Christians of that age, whether formerly Jews or Gentiles; for they appear to have been now persecuted generally everywhere. And if it first begin at us — Who have truly turned to God, and are taken into his favour through Christ, his beloved Son; what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? — Who, through unbelief and obstinacy, reject the counsel of God against themselves? how terribly will he visit them! The words, who obey not the gospel of God, properly describe the unbelieving Jews: they were not chargeable with idolatry; they acknowledged, and in a sense worshipped, the true God; but they rejected the gospel which God had revealed by his Son, and therefore the divine wrath was executed upon them in so dreadful a manner. See on 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. Whoever compares the accounts in the Scriptures, or ancient fathers, concerning the persecutions which befell the Christians about this time, with the sufferings of the Jews, as related by Josephus, will easily see that the distress only began with the Christians, and was light compared with what afterward fell upon the Jews: for when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Christians escaped with their lives, and enjoyed more peace and tranquillity than they had done before.4:12-19 By patience and fortitude in suffering, by dependence on the promises of God, and keeping to the word the Holy Spirit hath revealed, the Holy Spirit is glorified; but by the contempt and reproaches cast upon believers, he is evil spoken of, and is blasphemed. One would think such cautions as these were needless to Christians. But their enemies falsely charged them with foul crimes. And even the best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in sufferings, when we bring them upon ourselves by our own sin and folly. A time of universal calamity was at hand, as foretold by our Saviour, Mt 24:9,10. And if such things befall in this life, how awful will the day of judgment be! It is true that the righteous are scarcely saved; even those who endeavour to walk uprightly in the ways of God. This does not mean that the purpose and performance of God are uncertain, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way; that they go through so many temptations and tribulations, so many fightings without and fears within. Yet all outward difficulties would be as nothing, were it not for lusts and corruptions within. These are the worst clogs and troubles. And if the way of the righteous be so hard, then how hard shall be the end of the ungodly sinner, who walks in sin with delight, and thinks the righteous is a fool for all his pains! The only way to keep the soul well, is, to commit it to God by prayer, and patient perseverance in well-doing. He will overrule all to the final advantage of the believer.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 (κρίμα krima) seems to mean "the severe trial which would determine character." It refers to 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 seen. 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 Ezekiel 9:6; "Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; and begin at my sanctuary." Compare Jeremiah 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 (בּית יהוה bēyt Yahweh) "house of Yahweh" is used to denote the family or people of God, Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1. Compare also 1 Timothy 3:15 and the note on that verse. 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 Rabbis: "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 of 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 a 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 be 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 Psalm 73:1-19. 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.

17. Another ground of consolation to Christians. All must pass under the judgment of God; God's own household first, their chastisement being here, for which they should glorify Him as a proof of their membership in His family, and a pledge of their escape from the end of those whom the last judgment shall find disobedient to the Gospel.

the time—Greek, "season," "fit time."

judgment must begin at the house of God—the Church of living believers. Peter has in mind Eze 9:6; compare Am 3:2; Jer 25:29. Judgment is already begun, the Gospel word, as a "two-edged sword," having the double effect of saving some and condemning others, and shall be consummated at the last judgment. "When power is given to the destroyer, he observes no distinction between the righteous and the wicked; not only so, but he begins first at the righteous" [Wetstein from Rabbins]. But God limits the destroyer's power over His people.

if … at us, what shall the end be of them, &c.—If even the godly have chastening judgments now, how much more shall the ungodly be doomed to damnatory judgments at last.

gospel of God—the very God who is to judge them.

For the time is come; or season, viz. that which is fixed by God: the afflictions that befall God’s people come in the time appointed, and so are never unseasonable. Or this may imply, that what the prophets spoke in their time, Isaiah 10:12 Jeremiah 25:29, doth especially agree to gospel times, viz. that judgment begins at the house of God.

Judgment; viz. temporary, and for good, in opposition to the destructive judgment he implies in the latter part of the verse; he means all those afflictions God brings upon his children for their correction, trial, instruction, mortification, 1 Corinthians 11:31,32.

Must begin at the house of God; the church of God, and the members of it, called here his house, as 1 Timothy 3:15 Hebrews 3:6, and typified by the material house or temple of God under the Old Testament.

What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? How miserable, how dreadful will be the end of all those that would not obey the gospel! Implying, that they shall be in a much worse condition if God take them in hand. If he spare not his children, much less will he his enemies. If the one sip of the cup of God’s wrath, the other shall wring out the dregs, and drink them, Psalm 75:8. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God,.... By the house of God is either meant the temple at Jerusalem, which is often so called, because it was built for God, and where were the symbol of his presence, and his worship; and now the time was come, or at hand, that God would begin at his sanctuary, and leave this house desolate, and not one stone should be left upon another, as Christ had foretold: or else the church of God, which is frequently called the house of God, because it is of his building, where he dwells, and grants his gracious presence, and which he beautifies, fills, repairs, and defends; and so may design believers in Christ, those that are of the household and family of God: and by judgment is meant, not punishment for sin, strictly speaking, because Christ has endured this in the room and stead of his church and people, and therefore in justice cannot be inflicted on them; but afflictions and persecutions, and which are fatherly chastisements, and different from God's judgment on the world, and condemnation with it; see 1 Corinthians 11:32 and these may be said to "begin" with them, because it is only in this life the saints have their afflictions; and which are in love to them, and therefore are early brought upon them to try them, and purge them, and make them partakers of his holiness: besides, wicked men are often made use of as instruments, by which God chastises his people; upon which account they are reserved till last, to be the objects of his vengeance, when they have filled up the measure of their sins; and then what is begun in love at the house of God, will end in wrath and severe punishment on them: and whereas it is said, "the time" is come, or at hand, it may be observed, that as God has his set time to favour his Zion, so likewise to chastise her; all his people's times are in his hand, as of comfort, so of temptation, affliction, and persecution. The first times of Christianity, or of the preaching of the Gospel, were times of trouble and distress; for as it was necessary the Gospel should be confirmed by signs and wonders, so that it should be tried and proved by the sufferings of the saints for it: and the phrase also suggests, that these sufferings and afflictions were but for a time, and even as it were for a moment, for a little while; and is a reason why the saints should glorify God, as these words imply, being introduced with the causal particle, "for"; that they have their sufferings now, and not with the wicked in the world to come, which will have no end:

and if it first begin at us; either us Jews, for Peter, and those he writes to, were such; or us Christians, who believe in Christ, have embraced his Gospel, and profess his name:

what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? of which God is the author, and which contains things relating to him; as the grace of God, the righteousness of God, peace with him, pardon from him, justification before him, and acceptance with him; and which he commits to men, and qualifies them for preaching it, and succeeds the ministry of it; and it being his Gospel, as it makes it the more valuable in itself, so it is to be had in the greatest reverence and esteem; and the greater is the sin of such who despise and reject it, as did the unbelieving Jews, who seem chiefly designed, here; it was first preached to them, but they disbelieved the doctrines of it, and submitted not to its ordinances, and rejected Christ, the Saviour, the sum and substance of it; and put it away from them, judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life: and what shall the end of such be? in this world wrath came upon them to the uttermost, ruin upon their nation, city, and temple; and in the world to come everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and eternal vengeance in flames of fire. The Jews have various phrases, and frequent expressions in their writings, which resemble these, and serve to illustrate them. When Noah told the old world of the flood, and called upon them to repent, they are represented as saying to him (o),

"where does punishment begin? , "at the house" of that man does it "begin?" when Methuselah died, they said unto him, does not punishment begin at the house of that man?''

and elsewhere (p), says R. Jonathan,

"punishment does not come into the world, but in the time that the wicked are in the world; and it does not begin (i.e. at them) , but it begins at the righteous;''

and again (q).

"when God executes judgment on the righteous, he is praised; for if he executes this on them, how much more on the ungodly?''

see Isaiah 10:11.

(o) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 79. 4. (p) T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 60. 1. Caphtor, fol. 70. 2.((q) Jarchi in Numb. 179. apud Grotium in loc.

{16} For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and {17} if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

(16) The third reason: because the Lord of all the world being especially watchful over those in his household, does therefore discipline them first of all, yet so that he keeps a measure in his greatest severity. As he always used to do until now, so he does now especially when he exhibited himself in person to his Church.

(17) Lest the godly should be offended and stumble at that vain shadow of happiness of the wicked, as though God were not the governor of the world, for that the wicked are in good case, and the godly in evil, the apostle teaches by an argument of a comparison of them together, that God who spares not his own, but nurtures them under the cross, will at length in his time handle the rebellious and wicked far otherwise, whom he has appointed to utter destruction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Peter 4:17. The apostle’s exhortation: μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δέ, is based on a reference to the judgment which threatens the unbelieving. The connection of thought is the same here as in 1 Peter 4:4-5.

Calvin differently: Nam haec necessitas totam Dei ecclesiam manet, ut

Dei manu castigetur: tanto igitur aequiori animo ferendae sunt pro Christo persequutiones. But in this, as in the following verse, the chief stress is laid not so much on the first as on the second half. It is purely arbitrary for Pott to assert that ὅτι is superfluous.

ὅτι ὁ καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα] Luther’s translation: “it is time,” is inexact. The article before καιρός must not be overlooked; thus: “for it is the time of the beginning of the judgment, that is, in which the judgment is beginning;” ἐστί is to be supplied; the genitive is directly dependent on ὁ καιρός (cf. Luke 1:57), and not “on καιρός taken out of the subject, ὁ καιρός” (Hofmann). By κρίμα is to be understood the definite judgment (τό), that is, the final judgment, which Peter, however, here thinks of, not in its last decisive act, but in its gradual development. It begins with the Christians (Matthew 24:9 ff.) in the refining fire of affliction, 1 Peter 4:12, and is completed in the sentence of condemnation pronounced on the unbelieving world at the advent of Christ. In opposition to the apostle’s manner of expressing himself, Hofmann maintains that reference is here made only to the judgment of the unbelieving world, the beginning of which Peter recognised in the fact that God permitted it to persecute the Christians, to do unto them that which makes itself ripe for judgment(!).

ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ Θεοῦ] ἀπό is here pregnant: the judgment takes place first in the οἶκ. τοῦ Θεοῦ: thence it proceeds further on; with the construction ἄρχεσθαι ἀπό, cf. Acts 1:22; Acts 8:35; Acts 10:37.[259]

οἶκος τοῦ Θεοῦ is the church of believers; 1 Timothy 3:15 (chap. 1 Peter 2:5, οἶκος πνευματικός).

εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἀφʼ ἡμῶν] By these words the apostle passes over to the chief thought of the verse. Either τὸ κρίμα ἄρχεται may be supplied, and πρῶτον regarded as a pleonasm intensifying the idea ἄρχεται; or it may be assumed, with de Wette, that the expression arose from a mingling of the two thoughts, εἰ δὲ ἀφʼ ἡμῶν τὸ κρίμα ἄρχεται and εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἡμεῖς κρινόμεθα. The first is more probable; πρῶτον presented itself to the apostle, because he wished to lay stress on the fact that the Christians had to suffer only the beginning of the judgment, not its close.[260]

ἈΦʼ ἩΜῶΝ corresponds with the preceding ΟἾΚ. Τ. ΘΕΟῦ. The sense is: If God does not exempt us, the members of His house (His family), from judgment, but permits it to take its beginning at us, how should the unbelievers be exempted? (cf. Luke 23:31).

ΤΊ ΤῸ ΤΈΛΟς ΤῶΝ Κ.Τ.Λ.] sc. ἔσται.

τὸ τέλος, not: “the reward,” but: the final term, the end, to which the ἀπειθοῦντες τῷ εὐαγγ. (i.e. those who in hostility oppose the gospel of God) are going. Schott explains τὸ τέλος (antithetically to ΠΡῶΤΟΝ) as the final judgment itself, and the genitive ΤῶΝ ἈΠΕΙΘΟΎΝΤΩΝ as a concise, nearer definition (“the part of the judgment which falls to the lot of the unbelievers”). But as little as ΠΡῶΤΟΝ means initiatory judgment, so little does ΤῸ ΤΈΛΟς final judgment.

On the interrogative form of the clause, Gerhard rightly remarks: exaggeratio est in interrogatione; cf. Luke 23:31. The echo[261] in this verse of passages of the Old Testament, like Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12, Ezekiel 9:6, can the less fail to be recognised, that the words which follow are borrowed from the Old Testament.

[259] Schott thinks that Peter really intended to write: “for the time is come, that the judgment of the world must begin, but its beginning must be at the house of God.” But why then did Peter not write as he intended? Schott introduces an idea into the second clause, which Peter has in no way expressed.

[260] Schott’s interpretation, that πρῶτον should be taken as a substantive (equal to “a first”), and that a general verb, expressive of what takes place, should be supplied out of ἄρξασθαι (ἀπό being at the same time zeugmatically repeated), contradicts itself by its artificialness.

[261] Calvin: Hane sententiam ex trita et perpetua Scripturae doctrina sumpsit Petrus; idque mihi probabilius est. uam quod alii putant, certum aliquem locum notari.1 Peter 4:17. That Judgment begins at the House of God is a deduction from the vision of Ezekiel 9. (cf. Ezekiel 7:4, the καιρός has come); the slaughter of Israelites who are not marked with Tau, is ordained by the Glory of the God of Israel; the Lord said, ἀπὸ τῶν ἁγίων μου ἄρξασθε and the men began at (ἀπό) the elders who were within in the house. The new Israel has precedence like the old even in condemnation; cf. Romans 2:8 f., τοῖςἀπειθοῦσι τῇ ἀληθείαὀργὴ ἐπὶψυχὴνἸουδαίου τε πρῶτον.—τῷεὐαγγελίῳ, cf. Mark 1:14. The Gospel or Word, which God spake in a Son, succeeds to the law as the expression of the will against which all but the remnant (Ez. l.c.) rebel.17. For the time is come that judgment must begin] Literally, It is the season of the beginning of the judgment. The words of the Apostle stand in close connexion with his belief that he was living in the last age of the world, that “the end of all things was at hand.” (See note on 1 Peter 4:7.) He saw in the persecutions and sufferings that fell on the Church, beginning “from the house of God,” the opening of that judgment. It was not necessarily a work of condemnation. Those on whom it fell might be judged in order that they might not be condemned (comp. 1 Corinthians 11:32). But it was a time which, like the final judgment, was one of separation. It was trying the reality of the faith of those who professed to believe in Christ, and dividing the true disciples from the hypocrites and half-hearted. The “house of God” is His family, His Ecclesia, as in 1 Timothy 3:15, and the “spiritual house” of chap. 1 Peter 2:5.

what shall the end be of them that obey not] The à fortiori argument reminds us in some measure of that of St Paul, “If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Romans 11:21). There, however, the contrast lay between Israel after the flesh that was rejected for its unfaithfulness and the new Israel after the spirit if it too should prove unfaithful. Here it lies between the true Israel of God and the outlying heathen world. With a question which is more awful than any assertion, he asks, as to those that obey not, What shall be their end? The thought was natural enough to have been quite spontaneous, but it may also have been the echo of like thoughts that had passed through the minds of the older prophets. “I begin to bring evil upon the city which is called by my Name, and shall ye”—the nations of the heathen—“be utterly unpunished?” Jeremiah 25:29. Comp. also Jeremiah 49:12; Ezekiel 9:6.1 Peter 4:17. Ὁ καιρὸς, the time) that is, now is.—τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα, that judgment should begin) It is one and the same judgment from the time of the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles until the last judgment. Ἄρξασθαι, a middle verb.—ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴου τοῦ Θεοῦ, from the house of God) that is, the Church, ch. 1 Peter 2:5. Judgment begins from this with a mild beginning: Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12; Ezekiel 9:6.—τί τὸ τέλος, what shall be the end) The judgment, which is more tolerable at the beginning, gradually becomes more severe. The righteous, having gone through their part, behold with security the miseries of the wicked: the wicked, while they afflict the righteous, fill up their own measure, and learn what their own portion will be; but the righteous better know this, and therefore they are patient.Verse 17. - For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. The house of God is the Church (see 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; and 1 Peter 2:5). The judgment must begin at the sanctuary (Ezekiel 9:6; see also Jeremiah 25:15-29). The beginning of judgment is the persecution of the Christians, as our Lord had taught (Matthew 24:8, 9, and following verses); but that judgment is not unto condemnation: "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32); it is the fiery trial, "which is much more precious than of gold that perisheth," the refining fire of affliction. And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? Compare the passage in Jeremiah already referred to: "Behold, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my Name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?" Compare also our Lord's question, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Gerhard (quoted by Huther) rightly remarks," Exaggeratio est in interrogatione." The question suggests answers too awful for words.
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