Living in Hope

 

Living in Hope

Richard Hollerman

Would you say that you are a hopeful person? Do you live from day to day with a great hope and expectancy for the future? Or are you weighed down with a feeling of dread, defeat, and despair? Are you hopeless about the future?

As we look out on our world, we see many things that could bring a spirit of pessimism for the future.  The mounting astronomical debt of America as well as other countries weighs us down.  The plague of disease provides us a daily reminder that we are living in a cursed world, whether we speak of heart disease, diabetes, COPD, or the dreaded cancer. Common illnesses are all too widespread for all of us. Every time we look into the mirror we are reminded that each of us groans under physical degeneration and increased age, with multiple disabilities and even mental decline.

Along with all of this, the problems of poverty, crime, lack of education, and joblessness remain. When we add to this the extent of sin all around us—whether it be drunkenness, drugs, murder, abortion, adultery, sexual immorality and perversion—we are reminded that we live in a less-than-perfect world. What began as a “very good” world is anything but a good earth at present (Genesis 1:31). Today, cruelty, selfishness, unkindness, and lack of love abound (Romans 1:29-31; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). How can we have hope in such a degenerate culture and such a defective environment?

Hopelessness Abounds

We know that many people try to “whistle in the dark” and imagine that everything is fine or will be okay, but deep down they must know that something is missing. In every person’s life, there are losses, disappointments, pain, anguish and unfulfillment. If we are honest with ourselves, we must look at life and have a pervasive feeling of hopelessness.

We know that illness, injury, disease, and pain do not exhaust the factors that bring this hopeless feeling. Beyond all of these temporal things, we must face the dread of death itself.  Scripture says that death is an “enemy” that all of us must face (1 Corinthians 15:26). Maybe this is why death is called “the king of terrors” (Job 18:14). If we remove God from our thinking, and then look into our heart, we must admit that we have a “fear of death” that brings us into bondage to this “king of terrors” (Hebrews 2:15). We feel helpless and hopeless in light of this inevitable end to life as we know it. 

Some try to deceive themselves with a false religion that claims that we can expect a reincarnation into a different body after death, but this is a false hope that rests on a faulty theology. Others somehow think that they will enter an undefined “place of light” and be welcomed by a “being of light” after death, but this too is unfounded and mere wishful thinking. And then there are still others who try to convince themselves that when they die, they will be like their dog or cat, and simply cease to exist. Opinion surveys indicate that most people somehow think that they will go to heaven when they die—but, as Jesus revealed, most people are on the broad way that leads to destruction rather than the narrow way that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14).

These deceptive beliefs still leave the discerning person with a feeling of hopelessness.  They don’t rest on solid evidence, thus aren’t really reasonable.  The Word of God says that He has “set eternity in their heart” so that “man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That is, God has so constituted our mind and conscience that there is “a sense that life continues beyond this present existence” (ESV Study Bible note). But knowing that we are prepared to die and realizing that eternity is before us can’t really bring a hopeful outlook since we know, instinctively, that we have sinned and are unprepared to meet God beyond death!

When a person dies without God or without the hope that Christ brings, there must be a sense of dread and hopelessness.  Scripture refers to those in sin and without Christ as having “no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Although most people think that they will go to heaven when they die, this is a vain and empty hope, for one is unprepared to meet God “on the other side” unless the sin problem has been solved!  As Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). In light of this sad state of hopelessness, we can see that people would grieve with a sense of hopelessness.

The Bible speaks of the unsaved person as being “excluded from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). Without this experience of God’s life in the soul, the Bible says that we are “dead” in “trespasses and sins” (2:1). We dwell in spiritual death through sin (Romans 6:23) and this spiritual death will be accompanied by physical death (1 Corinthians 15:22) and eventually the dreaded “second death” of the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14, 15; 21:8). When one dies in sin, it is not a pleasant prospect to think of one’s future. The eternal future is sorrowful and filled with anguish!

The Scriptures describe the condition of one who is living with unforgiven sin and without God. Notice this depressing description: “You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  How tragic!  When a person is separate from Christ, without the life of God, and without God in the world, we can understand that he or she would be “without hope.” Such a person would literally be hopeless!

The Meaning of Hope

Today, people use “hope” in a general way that often is removed from the Biblical definition.  People may say, “I hope it will rain today,” or, “I hope the sun will shine today!” They may say, “I hope the boss will give me a raise next month.” Or someone may comment, “I hope to visit you next year.”

Paul sometimes did use “hope” in this type of way.  For example, the apostle writes, “I hope to see you in passing” (Romans 15:24). Again, “I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:7). He also wrote, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly” (Philippians 2:19).

But Paul uses it in a much deeper way as well, and this is what we wish to examine.  The noun elipis mans, “favorable and confident expectation” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).  It is (a) the happy anticipation of good, as well as (b) the ground upon which ‘hope’ is based” (Ibid.). Mounce says that in the New Testament it generally means “confident expectation” or “solid assurance” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).

For example, in Hebrews 11:1, we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things now seen.” Here faith and hope are linked and they relate to the future. This is why it may be defined as “expectation of good, hope” and in a Christian sense, “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). “In the NT, ‘hope’ is always the expectation of something good. It is also something we must wait for” (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words). As we continue our discussion of hope in the New Testament, this hope or confident expectation will become plain.

Our God of Hope and Christ our Hope

Without the Lord, one is hopeless.  Archaeologists have excavated tombs from the time that the New Testament was written, and the pagans would generally have depressing inscriptions of hopelessness on their tombs. Death and what existed after death was a mystery and they imagined only gloom and despair. In contrast, the followers of Christ were filled with hope and anticipation for the future. The inscriptions on their tombs were characterized by great comfort and hope!

As we read through God’s revelation in the Scriptures, we see repeated reference to the hope that we have through Christ.  Paul the apostle quotes Isaiah 11:10 to the effect that in Christ “shall the Gentiles hope” (Romans 15:12), then he refers to “the God of hope” (v. 13). God alone can give a hope—a genuine, true hope that rests on solid evidence and not on wishful thinking that we often find in the world.

But how is it that we have hope from God in Christ? As we have seen, apart from Christ a person lost in sin can only expect to be judged by a holy and just God and then be sent to a Godless and Hopeless hell for all eternity (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8). Sin brings death “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Christ Jesus was willing to die on the cross for us and for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:6-8). He died “once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Through Christ’s sacrifice of Himself, the sin-bearing substitute, we may escape the sentence of death and be given life—eternal life—in Christ Jesus.

Not only did Christ suffer death on our behalf, but He also was raised from the dead and now lives.  After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus was able to declare, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). Because Jesus is alive now and forever, having conquered sin and death and hell, He now has the “keys” of death and Hades.  Through this living, loving, victorious Savior from sin, we may have great hope for the future!

If we need not face the dread of death (John 11:25-26), the dread of alienation from God for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), the dread of eternal fire and eternal destruction (Matthew 25:41, 46), we can find great hope for the future!  This is why we set our hope on Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 1:10). In fact, Scripture says that Christ is our “hope” personified (1 Timothy 1:1). Paul wrote of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Those who are separate from Christ have no hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12). But those in Christ do have the greatest of hope!

This hope goes beyond the Lord Jesus to God Himself.  As we noticed, God is called the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13). We read of certain ones who “hoped in God” (1 Peter 3:5). Women who have lost a husband and are “left alone,” may fix her hope on God, who gives her hope (1 Timothy 5:5). Paul also commands us to fix our hope on God (1 Timothy 6:17). Peter also says that “your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). And Paul, again affirmed with confidence, “We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Timothy 4:10).  We can see that the God of hope is the source of our hope, a hope that is centered on Christ our hope! Hope can fill our heart if we know God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Our Future Hope

We have seen that the God of hope gives us hope through the Lord Jesus Christ who has delivered us from the disaster of sin, death, and hell.  Actually, hope is one of the three virtues in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “Now faith, hope, love, abide these three.”  The New Testament often combines the virtues of faith, love, and hope (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Romans 5:2-5; Galatians 5:5-6; Colossians 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:10-12; 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-8, 21-22). We can’t have hope unless we trust or have faith in God, and we won’t have love unless the Holy Spirit dwells in us by faith (Galatians 3:14). Hope is central to our life in the Lord Jesus.

But just what is the focus of our future? What does God plan for us in the coming days and into eternity? Scripture mentions several aspects to our future hope.

God promises a coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Repeatedly through Scripture, we read of Christ’s second coming to receive His waiting followers and to raise those who have already died.  On the last night of our Savior before His death, He promised, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). Christ promises to “come again”—to return for us—and this is a hope that has awakened our expectation ever since that momentous day.

Paul says that we who believe are eagerly “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). Ever since that time when Jesus gave this precious promise, believers have had this event as their “blessed hope.” The appearing of Christ in the clouds or this second coming of Christ is a promise that surely will be fulfilled.

God promises a resurrected, glorified body. When you look into the mirror, what do you see? No doubt you see a man or woman who is going older and whose body is not what it used to be. Your present body is not what it was during your prime.  Your internal organs are wearing out, your skin is losing its texture, your bones are not as solid, and your muscles are not as strong. Some vainly suppose that when this earthly body dies, they will be reincarnated in another body. But this is utterly vain and false. Instead, we look forward to a resurrected body! Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we also will we be.

Scripture says, “Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Romans 6:9-10). Since Christ has been raised, we can look forward toward a resurrection in the Last Day. Paul says, “Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

The apostle explains further what is involved in this resurrection: “We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:23-25). This means that our hope is for the “redemption of our body,” the resurrection of our body that will give us a wondrously renewed body. It is described as an “imperishable” body, a body of “glory,” a body raised in “power,” a “spiritual body,” a body of “immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53). We have a solid hope for what lies out before us, the redemption of our body.

When Christ returns to raise those who are His (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18), our bodies will be changed!  Christ Jesus “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21). Your body will be perfect in every way—and will last for eternity! Because Christ was raised from the dead, we have a “living hope” in Him (1 Peter 1:3). We now desire to be like Jesus in every way, and those who have “this hope fixed on Him” will purify themselves in expectation of this wonderful experience (1 John 3:3)!

God promises you eternal life! There is a sense in which one who “lives and believes” in Christ experiences eternal life right here and now (John 3:36; 5:24). But generally, eternal life is a promise for the future.  It is in “the age to come” that one receives “eternal life” (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). In this sense, one will “inerit eternal life” in the future (Matthew 19:29). When Christ comes to judge (Matthew 25:31-34), “the righteous” will go “into eternal life” (v. 46). Thus, eternal life may be experienced here but it will be experienced in its fullness and finality when Christ comes again.

We have seen that Christ Jesus is our hope.  He is the center of our hope. And Scripture says that we now live “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot life, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2; cf. 3:7).  We have a firm hope of experiencing eternal life in its fullness when our Savior returns in glory. Right now, God saves us and calls us with a holy calling, and this has been “granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). Note this carefully.  Jesus Christ—our very hope—has brought eternal life, a new spiritual life, life that will never end in fellowship with God to light through the good news of Christ! We can look forward toward eternal life and immortality given to us through Jesus!

God promises many spiritual blessings. Our hope is focused on Christ and all that He promises to give to us and do for us. But this hope is described in a variety of different ways. Paul refers to “the hope of the promise made by God” (Acts 26:6). But what all is involved in God’s promise? What is the object of our hope?

Scripture speaks of the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). We will be glorified along with Christ (Philippians 3:3-4; Romans 8:17-18). Paul also refers to “the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). The apostle further  refers to the “hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5). Although we seek to live righteously in this life (1 Timothy 6:11), a complete righteousness awaits our coming glorification at Christ’s return.  We also read that “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We will only be glorified because of Christ. 

In another place, we read of the “hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Although we are already saved from sin and alienation from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), we will be saved from God’s wrath when Christ comes again (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 5:9-10). We must not overlook the fact that our hope is also on the grace and mercy of Christ, manifested in His return. Peter says to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Our hope is also on the mercy of Christ, for we are “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 21).

Although the word “hope” may not be found in every passage, we know that there are many other blessings promised to the faithful child of God. For instance, we will inherit the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5), the “kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (James 2:5), the “eternal kingdom” that will be “abundantly supplied” to us (2 Peter 1:11).

We will have a part in God’s coming new creation. “According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; cf. Revelation 21:1). Are you tired of the sin, corruption, pain and death characterizing this world? Place your hope in the future, for you will “inherit the [new] earth” (Matthew 5:5). We will also have a part in “the holy city, new Jerusalem” that will one day be revealed to our anxious eyes (Revelation 21:2; cf. Hebrews 11:10; 13:14). We will have a part in the coming “Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7; cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4), and be able to partake of the “springs of the water of life” (Revelation 7:17; cf. 22:1) and “the tree of life” (Revelation 22:2). We will have white robes (Revelation 7:13) and the crown of glory and righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4).

We will have blessed fellowship with others who have been redeemed (Hebrews 12:23; Revelation &:9-10) and with all the holy angels (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 7:11-12). There will be a perfect environment and perfect surroundings (Revelation 7:13-17).  There will be no more mourning, crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4; 7:14-17).

Besides all of these amazing blessings, surely the greatest of all will be the blessed fellowship with God Himself (Revelation 7:15; 21:3, 7) and with Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:17). At that time and on that special Day, “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and with this we will be comforted, encouraged, and built up (v. 18; 5:11). Scripture says that God “will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

When we consider all of these aspects of our hope in Christ, we can see how the hope set before us is called an “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:18-19). When the storms of life beat over us and it seems that the “ship” of our life is about to be destroyed, our hope is anchored well and deeply in God’s grace and is supported by God’s faithful promises. On this we can fix our ultimate hope!

Let Hope Sustain and Comfort You

When it seems like our life is falling apart and everything earthly is failing, what do you hold to? What sustains you? What can pull you through? It is a firm hope on the promises of God! These promises that God gives are rooted in God Himself (2 Corinthians 1:20). And it He who “has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises” (2 Peter 1:4). We can’t find promises from God or a hope that rests on such promises in the world or from the world!

We have quoted many passages of Scripture in our discussion of hope and there is a reason for this.  Paul says that “through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Only through the Word of God can we have true hope in God for the future. But, tragically, most people never consult the “promise book of God”—the Bible! We can’t really have a solid hope unless we read, study, and believe the Word of God with its manifold promises!

With this solid hope for the future, we can not only find encouragement (Romans 15:4), but we can rejoice!  As Paul writes, we can rejoice in hope (Romans 12:12). As we meditate on the objects of our hope, we are lead to have a deep and abiding hope for what lies ahead. We need not despair for we have a hope that won’t disappoint us. We are “called in one hope” (Ephesians 4:4). and this one hope is rooted in God through Christ, but it is focused on the fulfillment of God’s promises to us.

It is impossible to be hopeful about the condition of the present world.  In almost every way, the world and everything in it will fail us.  We must look beyond this present earth to something greater and higher, something beyond the present.  As Paul put it, “We do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  If we only look at our earthly life in this fleshly body, we could “lose heart,” but we must look beyond this life to the next life. We must look with hope to the eternal weight of glory that will be revealed.  We must focus on what is not seen and what is eternal. On this we must place our hope. And in this we will rejoice.

Look with hope today

We’ve seen that our focus in life must not be this earthly existence but the life to come.  We must focus our hope on the future and what God intends for our eternity.  Even now, we can lift our heart to the eternal realm. As Paul put it, “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Instead of seeking the things below, we are to seek the things above. Instead of focusing our mind on things on earth, we are to set our mind on heavenly things.  As we hope for God’s coming day of fulfillment, we will find our hearts filled with joy and expectation. Yes, the future will be one of blessing, joy, love, peace, and ultimate fulfillment. Will you experience this hoped-for event and coming time of promised fulfillment? The “God of hope” calls on you today to enter a life of hope!

“Now may the God of hope

Fill you with all joy and peace in believing,

So that you will abound in hope

By the power of the Holy Spirit”

(Romans 15:13)

 

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