I heard a recent sermon in which the preacher said, “Heaven is not the default destiny for all believers.” I held my breath in my disbelief. That’s a blatant contradiction of what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:16. “God so loved the world that He gave his only son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Then John writes in his first epistle, “I have written these things to you who believe so that you would know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). If we cannot have certainty regarding our heavenly destiny, Jesus did not bring “Good News.” Instead, he established another religion where a man could try to earn or deserve heaven through hard work. This is not something we can rejoice over. But Peter wants us to know that the truth of our destiny gives us joy. In 1 Peter 1:5-6, he says, “Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this, you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”

The Lord’s coming to us, or our going to Him, is something we should be confident of. Not because our faith is so strong. Rather, it’s because God is the one guarding the salvation of all believers. I’m not strong enough. I struggle at times with fear and even have sharp pangs of doubt. I do get over them, but they come. I could never rejoice over my own strength, but I have no problem finding joy in the Good News of salvation by grace through faith alone. It is based on God’s work on my behalf, not on my work on His behalf. I would not be able to find any joy in that. But I can rejoice in God’s power to secure my eternal destiny. I think McGee is right, “Every believer is eternally secure. But it is possible for a person to be saved and not have the assurance of it. May I say that a believer who is saved and does not have assurance is a subnormal or an unnatural believer. Certainly he can be a believer, but God does want us to have the assurance of our salvation.”[1]

Peter also knows that life’s trials, temptations, and pains can upset our joy in the present. We might even be shaken in our certainty of God’s love and begin to doubt. But Peter wants us to know that these trials are only for a short time. They will not last forever, but God guarantees and guards our salvation to last forever.  Richison concludes, “God guards us throughout our earthly pilgrimage. There is never a moment when God does not guard our inheritance. God always keeps those he saves. We can never lose our salvation. If we are a Christian, we are eternally secure.” He then adds, “The joy of the believer rests in God’s grace. Joy is independent of circumstances because the Christian life transcends circumstances. The Christian has an eternal future. He will never lose this joy no matter what comes his way. True joy comes from eternal possessions. Peter rejoices in his possession in Christ Jesus.”[2] We look forward to our joy with Jesus and all the saints. This helps us find joy even when we’re going through trials and hardships in life. The Epistle to the Hebrews writer insists that we gain motivation to be strong through life’s trials by following Jesus’ example. He writes in Hebrews 12:1:2, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”

[1] McGee, J. Vernon. 1996. Doctrine for Difficult Days. Thomas Nelson.

[2] Richison, Grant. 2006. Verse by Verse through the Books of 1 & 2 Peter. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems.