In 1 Peter 2:12, what does the “day of visitation” refer to?
First Peter 2:12 states, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
The verse begins, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles.” The word “Gentiles” is also rendered “pagans,” indicating again our responsibility as believers toward the lost.
The word “visitation” simply refers to any time that God “visits” or “comes near” to someone or to a body of people. Luke 19:41–44 contains an excellent example of the use of the word. Weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus expressed His great sorrow that His own people had rejected Him. They did not know Him and were unaware of the occasion when He “visited” them.
Two possibilities exist for the time Peter referred to when he mentioned the pagans who had witnessed the believers’ lives. First, he may have been referring to the time when they would be converted and leave their paganism. The fact that God’s visitation goes hand in hand with His extended mercy and grace supports this view. On the day God visits sinners with salvation, they will glorify Him. And it will have happened because of the believers’ faithful witness!
The conversion of Saul might serve as an example: he witnessed believers’ lives, God “visited” him with salvation, and he glorified God, He had witnessed the powerful testimony of believers, including Stephen (whom he watched die). His “visitation” occurred on the Damascus road. Paul, the converted Saul, went on into a life of glorifying Christ.
The powerful witness of believers in Saul’s life paralleled the witness of the believers whom Peter wrote about. Consequently, they could expect people to be converted and to glorify God.
However, Peter may have been referring to unbelievers when they must stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment, In other words, the “visitation” Peter wrote about referred to a day of judgment. Many Bible students dismiss this view immediately by asking, How can unbelievers glorify God when they’re about to be cast into eternal hellfire and separation from God? A plausible answer exists: Somehow God is vindicated through the believers’ testimony to the unsaved. Even though lost people did not respond to the gospel and believe, somehow God receives glory—even through this rejection.
In either case, God will receive glory.
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