Something I read from 1988 reminded me of the hopelessness that many face today:
Present hurts and uncertainty over what the future holds create the constant need for hope. Worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, and human potential to generate terror and destruction create a longing for something better. Historically people have looked to the future with a mixture of longing and fear. Many have concluded that there is no reasonable basis for hope and therefore to hope is to live with an illusion.1Paul K. McAlister, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v., “Hope.”
What is hope? And why are so many hopeless today? Maybe it’s because people are putting their hope in all the wrong things.
The Bible warns us against false hope.2E. F. Harrison, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, s.v., “Hope” and Nelson, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, s.v., “Hope.”
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in people (Jer 17:5–8; Mic 7:3–5; Ps 118:9; 143:3–7). Whether princes, great men, neighbors, friends, spouses, children, or parents—people can dash our hopes in them.
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in riches (Job 31:24–28; Ps 52:1–7; Prov 11:28). They will perish with us in the end (Job 1:21; Ecc 5:15; Luke 12:13–21; 1 Tim 6:7).
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in whatever saves our physical lives (Ps 33:10–11, 16–17; Isa 30:15–16; 31:1–3; Hos 10:13). Personal strength, an army to bid, our resources and greatest plans—none of these will deliver us from death and take us into heaven.
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in false gods (Ps 115:4–8; Hab 2:18–19). They are made and make nothing themselves. They give no profit to those who worship them but bring woe from God instead.
If our hope is in any of these things, we have “hope in this life only” and “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). We will “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). We may even show that we are “separated from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Our hope would thus be eternally deferred, and our heart forever sick (Prov 13:12). “Hope that is seen”—people, riches, resources, or gods made by men—“is not hope” (Rom 8:24).
True hope does exist. Let’s remind ourselves of that eternal hope today.
The Bible tells us what true hope really is.
There is only “the one hope” (Eph 4:4) which comes from “the God of hope” (Rom 15:13), which is in “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). More specifically, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Here’s the story of that hope.
First, there was once a day when hope was unknown and unnecessary to man on earth. God created all things, man included, and walked and talked with him (cf. Gen 3:8). Everything was perfect. Faith was sight and hope unknown, and man knew only love (cf. 1 Thess 1:3; 5:8; 1 Cor 13:13; Gal 5:5–6; Heb 6:10–12; 1 Pet 1:21–22).
But then, man sinned, and the human race sinned in him (Rom 5:12). Spiritual and physical death came as a result along with a cursed creation (Gen 2:17; 3:17; Rom 3:23). Instead of getting better, things were worse, and the end for this world is destruction and fire forever (2 Peter 3:10–12; Rev 20:10, 14–15). This is the opposite of hope.
And without God, it’s just as hopeless for us. Like man in that moment, we, too, have sinned and deserve eternal death. We fail to love God and worship ourselves or other things instead. We take His name in vain. We fail to worship Him. We disobey our parents. We hate others and murder them in our hearts. We are immoral in thought and action. We steal, we lie, and we covet, lusting for what is not ours.
As God gave hope to man’s first couple, so also our hope is now. God promised that one of man’s descendants would undo everything of sin (cf. Gen 3:15). He spoke of something future that all people desire and, by virtue of His word, gave certainty of its coming.
In the course of time, God sent His Son Jesus, both God and man, to live and die for us. Sinless, He could die for the sins of others and provide forgiveness to those who repent. Perfect, He could give His righteousness to those who placed their faith in Him.
All those who trust and hope in Christ know that God raised His Son from death and brought Him to His heavenly throne. Christ will come again, and His return is our “blessed hope” because He will completely undo sin and make all things new (Titus 2:13; cf. Rom 8:19–25).
For the Christian, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9; cf. 1:13).
For all of creation, it will be perfect again, ourselves included, and, unlike when man first fell, we can never fall again. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). So, “We hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). Our faith tells us these things are so. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
This hope is not “escapism, futility, indifference,” as some might say.3McAlister, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v., “Hope.” It is true hope in God in contrast to all the false hopes of man (cf. Rom 4:18).
Until the fulfillment of all our hope in Christ and what shall come, our hope will change us and influence those around us in turn. Our hope gives us joy and boldness and love for our fellow man (Rom 12:12; 2 Cor 3:12; Col 1:4–5). Our hope purifies us even now (1 John 3:3). Our hope pulls us through adversity (1 Thess 1:3) and even helps us to abound (Rom 15:13). Hoping in heaven, we are sojourners, exiles, and strangers in this world (1 Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13) and stand out among hopeless men. They will ask us for the reason of hope within us, and we must speak of hope to them (1 Pet 3:15).
Pictures of Hope to Persevere
The Bible gives us two pictures of hope to help us persevere.
First, knowing that life will bring adversity and God’s full wrath will surely come, we “put on … for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:7; cf. Eph 6:17). Hoping in Christ now and in His soon return, we battle through the hopelessness of a hopeless world.
Second, whatever storms of life might come our way, we are like steady ships with “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Heb 6:19–20). So, hope in Jesus Christ and His salvation. Steady yourself by placing your anchor with Him in heaven. Protect yourself from the enemy and wrath to come by wearing the helmet of salvation. Have hope in a hopeless world by trusting only in Him.