I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I would bet that this year has been hard for you and your family. The struggles you’ve had may have been physical, emotional, financial, vocational or even relational. In a time of such uncertainty and even despair, people will put their hope in their jobs, parents, children, health or some other thing. What do we as Christians hope for? Before that, let’s define terms.
What is Hope?
The world defines hope as an optimistic expectation of something in the future that isn’t fully certain. Things like, “I hope I make new friends at my new school” or “I hope I get a job soon” or “I hope I don’t get coronavirus” or “I hope to get married this year”.
For most people, hope’s object is something or someone that isn’t fully reliable. Sadly, Christians too often define hope this way in their own lives. What we’re all searching for is hope that won’t disappoint us; that won’t leave us hopeless in the end. We all want to convince ourselves that what we have placed our hope in will deliver. The Bible’s definition of hope is different. The object of biblical hope is sure and completely reliable. Hope is not a thing, not a location, not a situation nor an experience. Hope is found in a person and his name is Jesus.
What is the content of the Christian hope? Jesus will come back and we will live with God forever.
Jesus Will Come Back
Paul talks about the first part of our hope. He says in his letter to Titus, that believers are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Paul’s great hope was for the second coming of Christ. And it’s not just Paul. Christians from the First century have had this hope as one of the major confessions of the church. All orthodox Christians have anticipated the future literal, bodily return of Christ as Judge and King. All believe in the physical, bodily resurrection of the righteous and the wicked, the former to everlasting life and the latter to everlasting damnation. And all hold to an ultimate restoration of creation in which only righteousness dwells. God will not rest from his redemptive work until every aspect of his creation has been made new again.
We Will Live With God Forever
You and I have been hardwired for eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares that God has placed eternity in every person’s heart. That means everyone hungers for paradise.
The Gospel Creates Hope
It is the gospel that creates this hope for eternity. All of us were dead in our trespasses and sins, and deserved God’s holy and just judgment because of our rebellion against Him, our Creator. But God, in His grace, sent His Son to live a perfect and sinless life on our behalf and took the punishment on the cross that we deserve. He died and was buried, but He was raised from the dead on the third day. And all who repent and believe will be saved from hell and saved unto eternal life with God. Christ is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25). And if Christ is the resurrection and the life, then in a sense the resurrection life is something Christians experience now because Christ lives in us. Why? For holiness, righteousness and hope. The Spirit creates a longing within us to say in hope that we are, “waiting for the blessed hope” (like Paul), or “even so, Lord Jesus, come!” (like John).
The Resurrection Fuels our Hope
1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most important texts in the Scriptures with respect to the theology of resurrection. The resurrection of a glorified body fuels our hope. The glory of our resurrected body will be different from the glory of our present bodies. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:48-49, “As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” In other words, Jesus has been resurrected and we’re going to be resurrected. Why? We’re united to Him.
The resurrection fuels our hope in the ultimate defeat of death. Paul later says, “O death, where is your victory?” and “O death, where is your sting?” What is the sting of death? Paul later explains, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). Sin and the law have been dealt with by the active obedience of Christ. That’s why the sting has been taken away.
Our hope as Christians should be firmly rooted in these two facts: that Jesus will come back and that we will live with God forever. Our hope is to be rooted in eternity with Christ and not in our present circumstances. My encouragement to Christians is: don’t look to the present to give you what only eternity can give you. If you do, you will find yourself very frustrated, and no wonder because that’s not how God made you. You will end up discouraged and disappointed. True lasting hope is never found horizontally, in other people or other things. It’s only ever found vertically, at the feet of the Messiah, the One who is hope. Place your hopeful heart in his hands. Remember, He is our future hope.