Few things are as essential to mankind as hope, for the greatest difficulty can be borne while men have hope. The strongest man becomes discouraged under hardships when hope fails. We cannot live without hope. We need to know that better things lie in the future. This is even more true of the spiritual than it is of the physical side of man. No one can be truly content who does not have hope, which projects into the next life.
In the awful splendor of the cross, the Gospel of Christ holds out to man the promise of eternal life. Like a beckoning hand, the great hope set before us leads to the haven where the soul’s every need is met. On that cross, we see the love of God, who gave his own Son so that we might have hope. In it, we realize the terrible effect of sin because it was sin that crucified the Prince of Life.
There Is One Hope
According to the Bible, one hope and one alone is held out to men. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” (Ephesians 4:4). The one hope mentioned is eternal life, as Paul plainly states, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Titus 1:2). Since the one hope held out by God is eternal life, it is neither wise nor scriptural to appeal to men by recounting the physical blessings which are enjoyed by the Christian. The sole promise, the sole hope, has to do with the eternal rather than the temporal. While God does care for his own even in this world, such care is not held out as a motive to induce men to obedience. We must set our affection on things above and not on things on the earth. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
The Hope Is Of Great Value
When we consider the magnitude of God’s promise to us, it becomes almost incomprehensible that man could neglect it as if it were of no consequence.
The home is eternal in character; it is not like the fleeting promises of this world, which vanish before they have scarcely been experienced. The longest life leads but to the grave. The greatest of treasures flit from our grasp as quickly as the spirit forsakes the body. The wisest plan of men eventually fails to meet the problem it was designed to solve. The greatest honor a nation can heap upon a man is soon forgotten and vanishes away. “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.” (I Pet. 1:24). The promises of God are not transitory, neither are they subject to depreciation. “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (I Peter 1: 4).
Almost everything loses the freshness of its appeal after it has been enjoyed for just a little while, but in the promised home of the children of God, nothing will fade, nothing will become less enjoyable, and nothing will be less delightful through the ages roll by like the waves of a mighty ocean. God’s promise is permanent, unchanging. He will never remove that offer, neither will he alter the conditions upon which it is offered to us. Man often becomes weary in a very short time and fails to fulfill all that he has promised to others. This is not true of the Eternal Father, who will never forget his promise, nor will he become weary of his word. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Realizing that the hope in Christ is an everlasting hope, we become more aware of its importance.
God offers to completely undeserving man a hope that is so great the tongue of man cannot adequately convey it. The Christian becomes a son of God and will occupy that relationship to God in the eternal state if he remains faithful unto death. “Having predestined us unto the adoption of children (sons RSV) by Christ Jesus to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1: 5). Again Paul writes in the same vein in Romans 8:16-17,
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, their heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.
From this, we understand that the Christian who is faithful unto death will enter the inheritance of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. At great cost, Jesus prepared the way for us, now, we can have participation in the riches of his reward. Our minds should be filled with awe and humility when we consider the extent of the promises of God to a man who does not deserve the least of these mighty blessings.
Let us humbly acknowledge that there is no reason why God should have chosen man to the exalted position to which he has been assigned except that it is God’s good pleasure. As Paul wrote in Hebrews 2.5-7,
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands;
Again, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”—II Timothy 2:12.
The promise held out to us is of life eternal in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, his Son. We need do no more than consider the words of Jesus to his disciples to realize this. John 14:2-3,
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
The promised life is to be in the home of God, surrounded by the living beauty of the Giver of Life and overshadowed by his everlasting glory.
In his inability to state the grandeur of the promise of God in human terms, Paul wrote, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). It is impossible for man to comprehend more than a faint shadow of the greatness of the glory and honor reserved for the faithful Christian in that eternal heaven where he shall dwell with God. The mightiest paeans of men cannot in the slightest degree express the mighty joy and supreme content that shall be in the heart of those who receive the hope that is even now being held out to men through the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation gives us a little insight into the beauties of the eternal home, but it is safe to say that only a very dim glimpse of the glories can be conveyed to us. We will need to experience it in order to comprehend it. God grant that we shall so live that we can inherit that great city which will be filled with the righteous people of God.
The Hope of the Gospel Is An Anchor For The Soul Of Man
The hope which God has given us is a strong stabilizing force which enables us to be faithful to his commandments, though the period of time of our waiting might seem to be long. “Which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, ‘both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;” (Hebrews 6:19). While we have our eyes on the goal before us, we are not apt to become discouraged by the difficulties of the way, nor are we apt to become confused by the temptations of the world. We shall often be called upon to suffer as a Christian and can expect to face trials and tests because of our faith in Jesus Christ. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). If it were not for that great promise, we might become weak and faint-hearted, but with the assurance before us, we endure to the end. Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (I Corinthians 15:19). Certainly, the Christian must surrender all things for Jesus Christ and must be willing at any time to sacrifice even his own life, if it were necessary, to remain faithful to Christ. As long as the hope shines like a bright light in the soul, we, as Paul, will be able to say, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8: 18). When we compare the little that we must give up with the greatness of God’s gift to us, we can endure without faltering. That is why the scripture tells us that we are saved by hope (Romans 8:24).
There is really nothing mysterious in the process by which a man is drawn to God and delivered from the force of temptation by the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel provides the evidence which impels belief in Christ as God’s son, and convinced of that great truth, we know that his promises are sure and his commandments absolute.
We then very carefully compare the promise of God with the tinsel of the lusts of the world, recognizing the final consequence of each. From this contrast, we then make a definite choice of Christ or Belial. If we have respect unto the recompense of reward, we, as Moses, will choose the afflictions of Christ rather than the enjoyment of the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11: 24-26). This choice produces two great effects:
- We are delivered from the corruption that is in the world through lust because we will obey Jesus commands so, purifying our souls in obeying the truth, and we will recognize that sin separates us from God. The siren song of the world has no effect on the person who knows that it is but a lure to destruction; He will flee for his life.
- The Christian becomes a partaker of the Divine nature as he learns to be obedient in all things. As we walk in the Law of God, we will be exemplifying the nature of God; we will be walking in the light as he is in the light and so will have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son will cleanse us of all iniquity (I John 1: 7).
Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him.” Peter stated both of these consequences of the promises of God when they have been received. II Peter 1:3-4,
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called you to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
According to Peter, the hope of eternal life is a power sufficient to restrain from sin. As we consider the terrible effect of sin in severing us from God and entangling us in the temptations of the world, we learn to hate sin and avoid it. When we realize that participation in sin means that we will lose our hope of life eternal and that we must spend eternity in torment, we recoil from the enticing snares of the world. To be separated from God and from his promises is a price far too great even to consider paying. As we meditate on all that God has done for us, our love for God becomes richer and fuller day by day. We must live so that more and more we dwell in the heavenly realm—we must be pilgrims and strangers on the earth, looking for that “city that hath foundation whose builder and maker is God;” this is only possible when we keep our mindset upon the hope of life eternal.
This hope is an anchor to our soul because it restrains us from tampering with any of God’s commandments. We will not handle any command of God lightly when we realize that such an action might void our hope. We will consider all things against the rule of God’s Word.
The Hope of the Gospel Is Founded Upon Absolute Assurance
Hope is not a faint desire, nor is it a strong desire for the promised blessings of God, but it is instead the firm assurance which comes to the man who has obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you. It rests upon a two-fold basis:
- We have fulfilled the requirements of God and hence are fit subjects for that hope.
- We know that God will fulfill his promises without fail.
Thus, hope cannot be hope which does not rest upon the absolute knowledge of our faithfulness to God and of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his promises.
The Apostle Paul included both of the above grounds in his statement of faith to Timothy just before his own death. II Timothy 4:6-8,
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: And not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Since there is nothing lacking in the plan of salvation which God must supply before it is effective in ensuring the hope of eternal life, it becomes apparent that men are lost because they do not fulfill the conditions upon which this hope is offered to men. There can be no hope at all unless there is complete and unqualified obedience to all of the commandments of the New Testament. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Hebrews 5:9).
Partial obedience to his commandments will not be enough since Jesus said,
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
We must then do all things according to the will of the heavenly Father, if we wish to receive the hope of eternal life. All of the commandments of God have been given to us in the Bible. Therefore, hope can only be ours when we have very carefully followed the commandments in the New Testament.