The Patience of Hope

IN I THESSALONIANS 1:3 the Apostle Paul uses the expression, “The patience of hope.” Hope is based on the assurance we have that in the outworking of God’s grand design for the recovery of the world of mankind from sin and death a glad new day of peace and happiness is to be ushered in, and that sin, suffering, and death will be destroyed. It is the hope of the church in this age to have a share in bringing about this glorious consummation of the divine plan. It is a glorious hope that is based upon the promises of God and the ability to see these glorious things of the future, which are as yet invisible except through the eye of faith.

We need the patience which is one of the blessings accruing from our hope, because the sin and selfishness of the world is opposed to our stand for righteousness, and will do all that is possible to discourage us from continuing in the narrow way of separateness from the world, and in the way of sacrifice. This opposition of the world has existed in every part of the age. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33

The “world” in Jesus’ day—the world that hated and persecuted him—was made up principally of the religious leaders of Israel, and of course, all Israel, to the extent that this nation to which Jesus came joined with their leaders in their hate and persecution of him. Their very spirit was contrary to his spirit of love, mercy, and justice, which is the spirit of the Heavenly Father.

Following the death of the apostles there came a great falling away from the faith of the true Gospel of the kingdom, and in time false religious leaders became the persecutors of God’s true people. These leaders formed powerful church-state governments of one sort or another, which in a general way are symbolically described in Revelation as beasts. Those who did not subscribe to the views and practices of these unholy institutions became special objects of persecution. Those who “worshiped the beast and its image,” received the plaudits of men, but the disfavor of God.

John writes about this, and speaking of the test that this situation places upon the true followers of Jesus, said, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12, RSV) A prototype of this unholy system of persecution is described in Daniel 7:25 where we read, “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High.”

This system has had its various aspects, but the spirit of all its manifestations has been sinful, selfish, and against the truths of God’s Word and those who adhered to these truths. The “wearing out” process in reality began early in the age, and still continues, although today the animosity and persecution has, by force of the measure of enlightenment the world has received, abated to a considerable extent. But the world is still opposed to the Lord’s people, so that they continue to need the encouragement which they receive from the glorious hope set before them in the Gospel—the hope of one day being delivered from “this present evil world” into the spiritual phase of the messianic kingdom, that kingdom which will deliver all mankind from the thralldom of sin and death.

The Test of Time

Time has been one of the severe tests of the patience of God’s people in all ages—the time all have had to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises concerning the Messiah and his kingdom. Abraham had faith in the promises of God, but it was his patience of hope—his endurance while waiting for the fulfillment of these promises—that sustained him throughout his life of service to God. Abraham desired a better country; he had hope that he would receive a better country, and this hope enabled him to endure all the hardships which were involved in his long wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Indeed, he died without receiving their real fulfillment.

It was Moses’ patience of hope that enabled him to endure all the hardships incident to his deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage. It was the messianic hope contained in the promise God made to Abraham (and without doubt relayed to him by his mother) that caused him to cast in his lot with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, or the short period of this life. He knew that what God had promised would endure for eternity, so he patiently waited for the fulfillment of these promises.

James wrote, “Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. We have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.”—James 5:10,11

It was Job’s hope that gave him much of his patience. He wrote, “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, [in death] till my change [from death to life] come. Then thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” (Job 14:14,15) Job was grateful for whatever blessings the Lord had for him in the present life; and he knew also that there was to be an awakening from death. (Acts 24:15) It was the hope of enjoying the enduring blessings of the life to come that sustained Job; so the patience of Job was the patience of hope.

New Testament Times

Beginning with the times of the New Testament we find that the Lord’s people still needed the patience of hope. Their main hope was centered in the promises of God concerning the Messiah. Jesus was accepted by a small number of the Jewish nation as the Messiah, but their faith was severely tested when he was taken from them and crucified. However, on his resurrection, their hope in the messianic purpose revived, and just before Jesus left them his immediate followers made bold to ask, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”—Acts 1:6

Jesus did not answer this question, explaining that this time feature of the divine plan was in the hands of his Heavenly Father. Instead, he told them that when they received the Holy Spirit they were to be his witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”—Acts 1:9,11

Soon came Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit came a deeper appreciation of what was now a glorious hope which was set before them—the hope of Jesus’ return. This became the central hope of the brethren in the Early Church. They needed this hope, for they had to endure the scorn of the world and the persecution of Israel’s leaders. They still had the Master, but he was now in heaven, and it was their hope in him, and in due time of being associated with him in the kingdom, that enabled them to continue on as his witnesses in the face of whatever opposition arose against them—and there was much.

It was shortly after Pentecost that Peter preached a sermon on “restitution,” based on the healing of a man who had not been able to walk from the time of his birth. John was with Peter at the time, “and as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.”—Acts 4:1-3

Peter and John were released the next morning, and such a favorable sentiment toward them had developed among the people that the rulers decided simply to forbid them to preach further in the name of Jesus, and then release them. This they did, “but Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”—Acts 4:19,20

In other words, Peter informed his persecutors that they had no intention of refraining from preaching in the name of Jesus. Being released, Peter and John “went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand; to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”—Acts 4:23-30

Like a mighty AMEN to this prayer, the Lord caused the place where the meeting was being held to shake, “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31) Here was endurance and boldness in the face of real opposition by the opposers; and it was their hope that Jesus would come again, and that he would establish his kingdom, and that they would be with him as a part of the Anointed, that gave them this courage—the patience of hope was again being displayed.

In the prayer of thanksgiving which these brethren offered, they quoted the first and second verses of the 2nd Psalm, and applied it to the opposition of the rulers of this world against the Lord’s Anointed. In the King James Version of the 2nd verse the word “saying” at the end is in italics, indicating that it has been added by the translators. The next verse continues, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (vs. 3) Without the added word “saying” in the preceding verse, it is obvious that those who say this are the Anointed class. Peter and John, in fact, had refused to permit the religious rulers of Israel to restrain them. They cast their cords of restraint aside. They were determined to hearken unto God rather than men. To them it was a call for the patient endurance of the saints as they continued to hope for the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom.

Rejoicing in Hope

Romans 12:12 speaks of those whom the apostle says should be “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” It is our hope that enables us to rejoice in spite of the trials which might come upon us. We do not rejoice in tribulation, but in hope, and it is our blessed hope of the future that enables us to be patient in tribulation. Elsewhere in this epistle Paul enlarges upon this thought beautifully. We quote from the Revised Standard Version:

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”—Rom. 5:1-5, RSV

Notice from this passage how hope and patience are interlocked, as it were. While the Revised Standard Version speaks of our rejoicing in tribulation, it is only because we know that tribulation produces endurance, and as we patiently endure Christian character is formed, and Christian character produces a strengthening of our hope. We have hope as we enter the narrow way, but it becomes a tried, a tested, and thus stronger hope as we endure patiently the trials which the Heavenly Father, in his love permits to come upon us.

Paul speaks of this strengthened hope as one which will not disappoint us; that is, it will not waver. It will stay with us, and give strength patiently to endure. As we thus progress in the narrow way the trials which once seemed so severe will become as “light afflictions,” and because of our hope, we will know that these are “but for a moment” by comparison with the eternal weight of glory to follow—the glory of God of which we have the hope of attaining.

Hope to Reach Fruition

While the patience of the Christian is tried along many lines, our chief test is in waiting for the fruition of our kingdom hopes, “when he who is our life shall appear.” Paul wrote, “Ye have need of patience, that, after having done the will of God, ye might receive the [fulfillment of the] promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”—Heb. 10:36,37

Waiting for the coming of the Messiah has been a test of patience for all the Lord’s people. Here we are assured that from the beginning of the Gospel Age until he did come would be but for “a little while.” Now that “little while” is ended; our Lord is present, but we must still patiently wait for our deliverance from this present evil world to be with him in the kingdom. This is our patience of hope.

James wrote, “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another.” (James 5:7-9, RSV) In this again we are in a more favored position than our brethren at the beginning of the age. We are not waiting for the coming of the Lord, for he is here, and the work designed by his Heavenly Father for the early years of his second presence is being accomplished.

But we have little or no conception of the manner in which a divine being carries on a work. He is invisible to us. So if we have different concepts of this, let us not, as James admonishes, “grumble” against each other; but let us patiently wait, and through the study of our Heavenly Father’s Word seek a clearer understanding of his works, and greater strength patiently to endure whatever tests may come upon us while we wait for our deliverance in the first resurrection to live and reign with Christ a thousand years for the blessing of all the families of the earth. (Rev. 20:4,6) Thus will the patience of hope have accomplished the work of grace in our hearts which the Lord designed.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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