When the city of Rome burned in 64 AD, the Romans believed that their emperor, Nero, had set the city on fire, probably because of his incredible lust to build. In order to build more, he had to destroy what already existed.
The Romans were totally devastated. Their culture, in a sense, went down with the city. The people were homeless and hopeless. Many had been killed. Their bitter resentment was severe, so Nero realized that he had to redirect the hostility.
The emperor’s chosen scapegoat was the Christians, who were already hated because they were associated with Jews, and because they were seen as being hostile to the Roman culture. Nero spread the word quickly that the Christians had set the fires. As a result, a vicious persecution against Christians began, and soon spread throughout the Roman Empire.
Thus the Apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this epistle to strengthen them and to teach them how to live victoriously in the midst of that hostility: 1) without losing hope; 2) without becoming bitter; 3) while trusting in their Lord; and 4) while looking for His second coming. Peter wished to impress on his readers that by living an obedient, victorious life under duress, a Christian can actually evangelize his hostile world.
Peter stated the message of this epistle clearly: “Stand firm in the true grace of God” (5:12). The main purpose of this epistle was to strengthen the readers so they would persevere through their persecution with the right attitude. Peter did this by showing that God’s grace provided all that they needed for strength. In a larger sense, the purpose is to help Christians know how to live as “aliens” in the world. This epistle reveals, above all else, that God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs.
The lesson of 1 Peter is to push through the troubles, recognizing their temporary presence in our lives while walking in holiness and hope as people of faith.
So press on! It is in the darkest times that our collective light shines brightest.