Blessed Hope of a Believer
Pr. K. A. John
Hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life. It can itself designate the essence of Christianity. In it the whole glory of the Christian vocation is centered. Biblical idea of hope is alien to the hope of this generation. It is Christ-centered and heaven-bound hope. The hope of this present generation is self-centered, materialistic, worldly and earthbound. It is focused on the here and now, and unmindful of life hereafter.
This is a fallen world. Just look at nature itself. What do we see? Men face earthquakes and floods and pestilences and accidents and disease and death. Take a look at the intellectual world - how difficult it is for man to find the truth; his judgments are partial and unfair; logic is ruled by pride; intellects are ruled by lust. Material gain makes liars out of men. Look at the emotional world – filled with grief and care and anxiety; envy stings him, hate embitters him; greed, like a canker, eats away at him; his affections are misplaced; prisons, hospitals and mental institutions mark the moral, emotional upheaval of man.
The spiritual world – the darkest with the thickest blackness of all; man is out of harmony with God; evil tendencies dominate man from his tainted, fallen ancestry. He may want to do right, but he feels pulled down by some irresistible gravity of evil. Man is faced with an overpowering evil. He is one who is prone to anything evil. We live in this fallenness. The hope of a believer is that this age will not continue as it is forever. Christian hope only finds meaning as a foretaste of something greater and more glorious in the midst of all these challenges. Hope is an encouragement to believers in the midst of suffering.
Those who forget God have no hope is what Job.8:11-13 summarizes. We see the proof of that statement in every sector of the society. The farther away we get from God, the less hope we have. The closer we get to God, the more hope we will have in our lives. The most hopeful people on the earth are those who live closer to God. People who put their hope in health and wealth are discouraged now.
There is expectant hope. There is some basis in reality for expectant hope. It is not wishful thinking. If I plant some seeds in the garden and say, “I hope it will sprout”, I have an expectation because I did something - I planted some seeds. Whereas, if expect to get some vegetable from my garden without laboring for it - it is mere wishful hope. Worthless! Much of our hope is worthless. There is legitimacy when a woman is expecting a baby, because there is a baby growing inside her. Sadly, even expectant hope does not always come true. There are possibilities that everything we expect can neither be assured nor guaranteed.
The hope that the Bible talks about is ‘certain’ hope. It is not a mere wish nor is it is a feeling. It is not simply expecting but knowing for certain. You are going to have what you are hoping for as in Heb. 6:19. Faith and hope actually go together (Heb. 1:1). We cannot have faith without hope. If you do not have hope for heaven, then you do not need to believe in heaven. Our hope is a certain hope, our entrance to heaven is certain, certain hope is sure and it is guaranteed.
If anything can dampen hope, it is the affliction and suffering that beset believers. Paul reminds believers that afflictions are God’s destined pathway for every believer. Relief from affliction will come only at the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven. In a paradoxical way suffering actually produces more hope, because when believers suffer and manifest godliness, they are assured that God is truly working within them. Their hope increases because they become convinced that God is actually working out his plan of salvation in them.
Paul’s thought of hope begins with salvation experience and he states in Romans 8:24 are saved by hope. Salvation is a term which has reference to the past, present and the future. We have been saved from the guilt which sin entails; we are being saved from the power which sin exerts and we shall be saved from the taint which sin involves. We were in grave danger of sin and death, we have been rescued by an act of mercy and grace. But the full blessing of that glorious salvation belongs to the future. So it is a matter of hope for which we must wait with patient expectation. Salvation includes faith which looks back to the finished work of Christ, and it includes hope, which looks forward to the unfinished work of Christ. It is a faith walk and it is a hope walk as well.
Christians live in the time between the resurrection of Christ and the ultimate realization of the kingdom of God. They are the members of an eschatological community determined by the reality of a future that has already begun, but is still awaiting its final consummation. They live in hope because God’s promises in Christ so often stand in contradiction to the reality around them. But they have promises about the future to give them hope. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit provides an experiential basis for hope in the present. The reality of Christian hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hope is the source of present strength for believers because it is grounded in what God has done in Christ, is experienced in the power of the spirit and moves towards the glory that is to be revealed.
There is a relation between the Spirit and Christian hope. Hope is inseparable from the gift of the Holy Spirit and the new life Christians have as heirs of God. The Holy Spirit guarantees Christians that their hope in Christ will be fulfilled. The suffering that Christians undergo is also part of this guarantee. Those who are joint heirs with Christ must suffer with him before they are glorified with him. The glory is as sure as the suffering and the Holy Spirit is a pledge that the suffering is not in vain. The suffering which is characteristic of this age is the result of being faithful to Christ in a world that is hostile to him.
Believers in this age live in hope because they know that they will eventually enter into an inheritance of glory (Col. 1:5). This future glory exerts influence on the present through the hope it awakens. Hope is not defined by present realities but by God’s purposes for the future. When Paul writes about this future, it never becomes detached from the present experiences of life in Christ (Col.1:27). The future Christians anticipate is a consummation of activity that began in Christ’s death and resurrection and continues in the present experience of the spirit. The object of Christian hope is the coming manifestation of Christ. What now is the ground of Christian hope will then be fully manifested.
In Pauline writings, hope has the reference to the unseen and the future. Hope that is seen is not hope (Rom. 8: 25). Hope cannot be identified with sight, because something which has come to the point of sight is no longer a thing to be hoped for. The thing for which we hope is the full and glorious salvation which the gospel reveals. Salvation is in hope. We have not yet entered into the fullness of our salvation. Hebrews 6:19, "This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast." Real hope has certain characteristics. It is strong, trustworthy and dependable, an anchor of the soul. What is the purpose of an anchor? The Bible says hope is an anchor. It is to keep the ship from drifting bringing stability in storm – both of which we need in our lives. It is easy to drift away from god and from faith. We will be constantly drifting if we are not anchored.
Titus 2:13 says, "We are looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." We live in hope. We haven't yet entered into the fullness of our salvation. This is one of the great truths. We were saved in hope.
One of the components of salvation is the hope of what God has for us in the future. We haven't seen it. If we saw it, it wouldn't be hope. But verse 25, "If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it." When you really hope for something you don't have, you persevere. You wait eagerly. There’s an unseen element of salvation and it really is the great element of salvation. It's not wishful thinking. It's not guessing. It's a confident assurance. It's an absolute hope based upon the Word of the living God. We are confident of this very thing.
Real hope is based on God’s Word not my wishes. It is not based on what I sense, it is based on what God has said. It is not based on my emotions, it is based on what God has spoken.
The hope of a believer is clearly stated in Rom.8:19-25. One word that occurs repeatedly here is ‘groan’. Creation is groaning and we groan, indicating that the creation and we go through certain groaning, certain agonies, until the final realization of glory. The groaning of creation is a poetic personification. Paul personifies creation as if creation were a person groaning.
The groaning is some indication of an unfulfilled reality. All of creation feels the unfulfillment just as the believers feel the unfulfillment. The earth is groaning because it is in an undesirable condition and believers are also groaning because they too are in an undesirable condition. The earth and its environment in the universe, all the created order groans because of the impact of the fall and believers also groan because of the impact of the fall.The creation is waiting and the believers are waiting in anticipation of what is to come.
The whole of creation is subjected to futility and frustration. What does that mean? The whole creation has no ability to reach the goal of its intended design. It cannot achieve what it was intended for. It is not able to fulfill its purpose. It cannot be what God intended it to be. It's the sighing of a longing soul desirous to be relieved from present painful circumstances. There is a discontent with present circumstance and the whole creation and the believers are longing for a deliverance from the present circumstances. “The whole creation groans, and suffers the pains of childbirth”. Birth- pain is a positive pain, it has a positive result. There are many pains in life that anticipate nothing but death. Birth pain is a pain that brings forth life. The pain of creation is the pain in anticipation of the glorious life that will come at the glorious manifestation of the children of God when the Lord comes back to establish His kingdom.
We sum these up as the groans for glory. The creation groans for glory and believers groan for glory. So there is a hope for believers. They are hoping for the deliverance that is to come. We groan for the day when this mortal shall put on immortality, when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, when death shall be swallowed up with life. We groan for that experience.
When we came to Jesus Christ in saving faith, we received the redemption of our soul. The inner part of us is redeemed and fit for heaven. We have been made suitable for heaven. But we are kept in bondage like a prisoner incarcerated in a body. And along with that body comes all of its lusts and desires and thinking patterns and drives and all of that, and they keep that new creation sort of under wraps. We’re waiting not for the salvation of our souls, but of our bodies. That's not yet done. We have an unredeemed body. Paul put it another way in Philippians 3:20, ‘we wait for a savior and he will transform not our soul but “our lowly body into the conformity with the body of His glory that it may be fashioned like His glorious body’. We have a body that looks, basically, like everybody else's. There's no real way to tell the difference at this point because the glorious manifestation of the children of God has not happened. We are still subject to futility.
“Your salvation is nearer than when you believed.” What aspect of salvation is talked about? It is the fullness of our salvation that is nearer than when we believed. If you were saved yesterday, you're one day closer than you were yesterday to the full redemption of your body, which is the consummation of your salvation. And so, we wait for the final call to glory.