Hope: the ability that God grants the believer, whereby enabling the Christian to face the future with optimistic certainty and unwavering confidence.
"...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 why does one also hope for what he sees? But we hope for what we do not see, with perserverance we wait eagerly for it."--Romans 8:23-25 (N.A.S.).
"While we look not at the things, but at the things which are not see, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."--2nd Corinthians 4:18 (N.A.S.)
"For we walk by faith, not by sight."--2nd Corinthians 5:7 (N.A.S.)
"Now faith is the assurance of (things) hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."--Hebrews 11:1 (N.A.S.)
Notice, if you will, the various comparisons between hope and faith. 1. Both are directed into the unseen. 2. Both are involved with eternal salvation. 3. Assurance, convictioin, and perserverance are congruent qualities of faith and hope.
The major difference between faith and hope is that hope has a future element, while faith has an aspect rooted in the past.
For examsple, Old Testament saints hoped in their Messiah, while we believers in the New Testament have faith in Christ Jesus. In other words, saints under the Old Covenant looked forward to the Lord's provision, which culminates at the Cross, so that we of the New Covenant look back at the Cross.
Having explored some of the various implications of the Biblical concepts of Hope, let us now turn our attention to some aspects of the greatest possible Hope of the Christian.
Paul the Apostle stated in his Epistle to the Colossians, verse 27 of chapter 1, "...Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Let's explore some of the ramifications of the truths contained in the aforementioned verse by comparing it to other scripture references, such as 2nd Corinthians 4:7, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (K.J.V.)
"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."--Romans 8:11 (N.A.S.)
"...beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."--2nd Corinthians 3:18
"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope (fixed) on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.--1st John 3:273 (N.A.S.)
Titus 2:13: "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus..."
1st Peter 1:374: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to (obtain) an inheritance (which is) imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."
Please consider these scriptural truths, as I recapitulate their significance for you as a Christian.
What is your greatest hope?
Is it, that one day you'll be reunited with your loved ones in heaven?
Is it one day you will be able to get acquainted with and enjoy fellowship with all the saints of heaven?
Is it that you'll receive a new, glorified body, one that will never age, wear out, suffer hunger, disease, tiredness, and such like?
Is it that you will finally, totally, and permanently be able to lay aside of your struggles, burdens, trials, and cares?
Theologically, the highest possible hope for the Christian is the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for when Christ Jesus shall appear all these things shall transpire.
I deem it necessary at this point to give a brief overview of the three major viewpoints of eschatology (study of end-time prophecies).
1. Amillennialism: the amillennialist does not believe in a literal Millennium (the thousand year kingly rule, here on this Earth, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, they have the tendency to allegorically spiritualize most of the prophecies concerning the last days.
Postmillennialism: "Postmillennialists believe in the actual return of Christ (the "Second Advent) at the conclusion of the Millennium by the general resurrection and judgment (See "Basic Theology, A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth," by Charles C. Ryrie--D.L.S.)
3. Premillennialism: the Premillennialist sees the Second Advent of Christ as coming in stages, primarily that of the Rapture (Christ returning for the church) and Christ's actual return to the Earth, whereby he is revealed as King of kings and Lord of lords.
This brings us to the concept of the Rapture. Although the word does not appear in our English-language Bible, it is however an English transliteration based on the Latin translation for the Greek "harpazo," meaning "to snatch up" or "caught away." (See 2nd Thessalonians 4:16&17)
The Premillennialists can be subdivided into one of three main viewpoints of the Rapture; that of Pretribulation, Midtribulation (or Partial Rapture Theory), and Posttribulation. The Premilllennial-Pretribulationalist believes that the coming of the Lord for the Church, at the Rapture, could be imminent and that the seven-year long Great Tribulatikon Period (prophesied by Daniel, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostle John) will follow shortly thereafter.
According to this position, at the conclusion of the seven years, the theocratic Millennial Reign of Christ shall commence (see Zechariah 12:10& 14:3-5; Isaiah 11:6-10 Isaiah 25:8,9; Acts 1:9-12; Phil. 2:9-11; Jude 1:14,15; Rev. 19:1-16; and Rev. 20:1-6.
As you can see, this view easily lends itself to various degrees of Dispensationalism (which is not germane to our present consideration) and requires a very literal or normative interpretation.
Midtribulationalism (or Partial-Rapture Theory): These two viewpoints are so juxtapositionally similar in nature, that for all practical purposes, they are almost synonymous.
The subtle nuances of the variations differ only slightly. It is for this reason, these views are listed together.
The Premillennial-Midtribulationalist and the Partial Rapture views both espouse the premise that only the most spiritual of Christians will be raptured. Partial rapture theorists base their concepts almost entirely on the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Ten Lamps, found in Matthew 25:1-13.
In the final analysis, I find that the Partial Rapture Theory is not one that I can recommend, for I see in it elements of ego and pride.
The Midtribulationalists believe that the Rapture will occur during the middle of the Tribulation Period and point to lst Peter 4:17 & 18 for support.
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the House of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the Gospel of God?"
Pre-Millenial, Post-Tribulationalism: this view holds that Christians of the epoch of world-wide persecution and judgment must persevere through the entire Great Tribulation. They cite such passages as Matthew 24:13, Matthew 24:21 & 22, Acts 14:22, Romans 5:3-6, and Phil. 2:12 & 13.
I submit for your consideration Romans 5:8 & 9, "...having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath throu8gh Him (N.K.J.V.)
An eschatology must take this verse into account.
It's probably obvious to you by now that I personally favor the Premillennial, Pretribulational position. I base my opinion mainly on two factors. First of all, I have total confidence in the grace and mercy of God and not in anything I have done, or can do.
Those who reject God's love, mercy, and grace will face God's justice and wrath. Therefore, God does not desire to torment the saints of Christ.
Secondly, the Church is not directly referred to after Rev. 3:22.
I tried my best to avoid the topic of eschatology, thereby averting controversy. It is my considered opinion that ones eschatological outlook is not a vital issue to ones salvation; therefore, it is not essential. The sole reason I decided to comment on this particular topic is that, currently, there is a great increase of interest generated by the best-selling fictional series, "Left Behind" by Tim LaHaye.
My suggestion is that people research for themselves the various eschatological viewpoints available to them and draw their own conclusions.
I think it is spiritually beneficial that every believer in Christ Jesus adopt for themselves the attitude that they live with the expectancy that the Lord Jesus could come back at any given moment; this will prepare all of us for any contingency.
But this has been a digression, however, from the topic of the blessed hope that we enjoy as believers in Christ Jesus.
Now I would like to explore with you in more detail, how belief in the blessed hope can affect ones sanctification. lst John 3:3 & 4 states: "...it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope (fixed) on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
In my opinion, the hope of the appearing of Christ (His physical return) is in all practicality equivalent to the revelation of Jesus Christ (a spiritual actuality or an epiphany) resulting in the purification of ones soul (an aspect of sanctification).
1. If there was such as Being as God, this Being would be so transcendent as to be totally incomprehensible--God, in other words, would constitute a Being much higher above us than we are when compared to the amoeba.
Besides all this, states the Atheistic Existentialist, this universe needs no God to explain it.
Therefore, it makes no practical difference at all, whether or not there is a Supreme Being.
2. Because of our complete dependence on sensory data for our perceptions, and our awareness of reality, there is no reliable way to verify truth, absolute or otherwise.
3. Therefore, life is absurd, for life has no intrinsic meaning; only that which is meaningful for the individual any given moment holds any meaning.
4. Furthermore, there is no past, no future; all we have is now, the existential now.
If something, or someone is unacceptable in your world, your personal space, you have no one to blame but yourself; you are the one responsible (this is known as existential despair).
I once joked with an atheistic friend of mine, saying, "If you're right and I'm wrong, I am out of nothing. But if I'm right and you're wrong, there will be hell to pay!"
What joy fills my soul, because as a Christian theist I can speak with complete confidence, knowing the extremely high degree of probability for the accuracy, dependability, reliability, and trustworthiness concerning all matters pertaining to the Christian Faith. Because of Christian Theism, I have good reasons to hope, and to continue to have faith.
Christian theists believe that life has meaning, direction, and purpose.
As I surveyed my life and the world in which I find myself, I discovered that there are only two objectives that are worthy enough to pursue with all diligence and dedication--only two important characteristics that make any sense at all, or have any enduring value, for one to endeavor to try to acquire for his own:
The first is, to love the Lord, My God, with all my heart and soul, and the second value is to try to reach out in order to help others.
As Christ said when quoting from Deuteronomy 6: 4 & 5, and from Leviticus 19: 18: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might...you shall love your neighbor as yourself...." --N.A.S.
Indeed, without God as the driving force in my life, my life would be like the Preacher of the Book of Ecclesiastes but without the concluding key verses, Ecc. 12: 13 & 14.
Instead, my life would be characterized by Ecc. 12: 8: "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "All is vanity!" --N.A.S.
Beside the motivating factors of loving God and loving others, I personally hold the philosophical premise that there is only one Absolute Truth, and that Truth is God. Everything is relative and contingent to that one Truth, whether it be in the fields of physics, philosophy, or theology. Amen.