What does the word "visitation" mean in the verse 1 Peter 2:12?
This examination of the Greek word translated "visitation" establishes that its use here may have two meanings – one temporal (earthly visitation) and the other eschatological (final visitation or Judgment Day). Each of those meanings can have two purposes – visitation for blessing or for punishment. Commentators take both positions. Translations take both positions. For instance, the New Revised Standard Version renders the verse, "Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge." A good translation would not force a conclusion on the reader by eliminating one of the possibilities. It would use the more general word that includes both possibilities and let the reader determine which of the two is correct. In this case either of the two meanings may possibly be correct, and there are good arguments supporting both.
Some suggest that the reference is to the time when God extended salvation to the Gentiles. This position, however, requires the "day of visitation" to have already occurred when Peter wrote his first epistle, which is generally set between 63-67A.D. Paul had already been converted (32-33 A.D.) and made his first (35-36) and second (46-47) visits to Jerusalem. Other events could be listed, but his clearly demonstrates that "visitation" in this text does not refer to the first Gentiles converted (Acts 10). Moreover, most commentators conclude that Peter's first epistle was written primarily to Gentile Christians.
Thus, if the reference is to be taken as a reference to Gentiles it must have in view Gentiles who are persecuting and belittling Gentile Christians whom Peter is encouraging to live so as to impress unbelievers so that when they do in fact hear the gospel they will recognize their "day of visitation." Jesus seems to use "visitation" in this sense in Luke 19:44, "and shall dash thee to the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." Read once more the above comment from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament that the "time of thy visitation" of Christ to which Luke 19:44 refers is Jesus' coming to Mt. Zion or Jerusalem. Their refusal and rejection the Christ and his message, i.e., not recognizing the time of their visitation of grace, would lead to another visitation of judgment and punishment, i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem when not one stone would be left upon another.
While this argument is strong, it does not eliminate the possibility that Peter Had in mind an eschatological occurrence, i.e., final judgment. The holy lives of God's people demonstrate that God's judgments are righteous. It was in this manner that Noah "condemned the world."
A third possibility is that Peter used an ambiguous term because he had both "visitations" tin view. Both "visitation" are clearly taught in scripture. Those who reject the visitation of grace will surely suffer the visitation of punishment.
Following the principle that the Bible is its own best commentary, a similar statement by the same author in the same book is pertinent:
"13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? 14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; 15 but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear: 16 having a good conscience; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. 18 Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, 20that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: 21 which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; 22who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." 1 Peter 3:13-22.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)