One of the more tender ways our heavenly Father has revealed Himself is as the guardian of His people. Psalm 121, a Psalm of Ascents, describes God’s watchful guardian care. His pilgrim people apprehensively lift their eyes to the hills, asking, “From where does my help come?” The resounding response: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (emphasis mine). The word “keeper” refers to the guarding protection and power of God, and what better keeper could there be than the very One who made heaven and earth?
The Apostle Peter speaks of this guarding power of God in his first epistle when he writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5; emphasis mine). But even as Peter writes, he does not write as an unaffected outside observer to God’s power; rather, he writes as one who himself had experienced God’s guarding power at work in his own life. So, what does Peter, speaking by the inspiration of the Spirit, teach us about God’s guarding power, and how does his own experience inform what he writes?
First, Peter tells us that there are two ways that God exercises His guarding power in the lives of His people. On the one hand, there is a heavenly inheritance that is being guarded for us, and on the other hand, we are being guarded for that inheritance. This language of inheritance would not have been lost on those in Peter’s original audience who were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. Abraham was promised that he would inherit a land and that his children would be made heirs of that promise. Indeed, this is why we speak of the “Promised Land.” But we also know from Scripture that in looking for the inheritance, Abraham did not look simply for an earthly plot of real estate. He looked beyond any earthly country to a heavenly one (Heb. 11:8–16). And it is this heavenly inheritance that Peter says is being guarded or kept for us.
We know that this inheritance is the heavenly inheritance because of the other terms used to describe it. In fact, Peter says that this inheritance is nothing less than “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5; emphasis mine). And in place of the earthly land of Canaan, which might perish and fade away, defiled by the sin of God’s people, this ultimate heavenly inheritance is characterized as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (v. 4; emphasis mine). Whereas the earthly inheritance might be lost, and was lost by the generation sent into exile, the heavenly inheritance has been secured “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v. 3) for all those past and present who share the faith of Abraham.
But it is not just that the inheritance is being guarded for us. No, the more salient point is that we are being guarded for the inheritance. It’s one thing to know with certainty that an inheritance is there, but it’s another thing to know with certainty that we will inherit it. This inheritance is “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed” (vv. 4–5). Peter is clear that we are being guarded for salvation by God’s power. It is God’s sovereign power that is on display in this work of salvation, and yet that power is being exercised through the instrumentality of faith.