Our Hope in Christ

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” —I Corinthians 15:19

HOPE PERTAINS TO that which is not now possessed. Paul wrote, “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” (Rom. 8:24,25) Our hope in Christ pertains chiefly to our new life in the resurrection. It serves as “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast,” and “entereth into that within the veil.”—Heb. 6:19

Hope is a combination of desire and expectation. We may desire certain good things, but if we have no expectation of attaining them, we cannot properly hope for them. On the other hand, one may be convinced that certain undesirable experiences will come into his life, but he does not hope for those experiences, because hope partakes of desire and these are undesirable. The world today desires many things which are good and proper, such as lasting peace, health, and life. But the world has no real assurance that conditions throughout the earth will be any better tomorrow than they are today; so the people lack a basis for real hope.

But, as Christians who know the plan of God for human recovery from sin and death, we have a hope for the world. We know that during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom all the willing and obedient of mankind will be restored to human perfection, and that there will be no more sickness, pain, or death. We know, upon the authority of the Word of God, that all who have died are to be awakened from the sleep of death and are to be given an opportunity of sharing the life-giving blessings of Christ’s kingdom. We desire these good things for mankind, and the promises of God assure us that they will be realized; therefore we have a hope for the world, a blessed and glorious hope!


By nature we desire the good things of the earth just as does all mankind; but as followers of Jesus we are admonished to set our “affection on things above,” “where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1-4) In order that we might do this, the Lord has given us many precious and revealing promises pertaining to heavenly joys which serve to awaken in us a desire for them. Because we have faith in those promises and are assured of their fulfillment, we have a heavenly hope.—Heb. 3:1; 11:1

The natural fleshly mind has no desire for heavenly things. This was true of the disciples prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They heard Jesus say to the young ruler that if he would sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and become his follower, he would have “treasure in heaven.” Peter suggested to Jesus that insofar as possible they had complied with these conditions, and asked him, “What shall we have therefore?”—Matt. 19:21,27

The disciples expected Jesus to establish a powerful government in which they would have a share, and they did not understand what he meant by ‘treasure in heaven’. One of those ‘treasures’ will be the honor of joint-heirship with Jesus in the heavenly phase of the Messianic kingdom, but as yet the disciples did not understand this; so Jesus’ reference to heavenly treasure doubtless seemed vague to them. They were looking for earthly treasures of honor and authority in a powerful government which was to rule from “sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 72:8

Jesus realized the inability of his disciples to understand spiritual, or heavenly things, and to set their affection upon them. It was much the same with Nicodemus, to whom the Master said, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”—John 3:12

Nevertheless, Jesus did lay the foundation for a later understanding of spiritual things when the Holy Spirit would come upon his disciples. On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus said to Peter, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” Peter had no idea of Jesus’ meaning, as his question indicates: “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.”—John 13:36,37

Jesus then explained where he was going, and indicated when the disciples would have the privilege of going to the same place and being with him. He said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”—John 14:1-3

To this Jesus added, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” But Thomas disagreed, saying, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (vss. 4,5) No, the disciples at that time were incapable of understanding the heavenly promises Jesus made to them. But how different it was after they received the Holy Spirit! Then Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you [Margin, or, ‘for us’], who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”—I Pet. 1:3-5


Peter and the other faithful disciples, now knew what Jesus meant by ‘treasure in heaven’. They knew that one of those ‘treasures’ would be the precious privilege of being with Jesus in the heavenly phase of the kingdom. While they could not, nor can we, comprehend what a divine being is like, the many promises of God pertaining to the heavenly calling reveal sufficient insight into spiritual things to create a desire for them. And, since the Scriptures give us assurance that we can attain to such a glorious position, we have hope, a blessed heavenly hope.—Col. 1:5

The hope of being with our Lord Jesus includes the prospect of being like him. John wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” To this John adds, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”—I John 3:2,3


Paul wrote, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) Here Paul reminds us that while we do rejoice in the blessed hope that is set before us through the Gospel, the fruition of that hope depends upon our being faithful to all the conditions which are attached to it in the Word of God, and this means the necessity of being proven, or tested. Thus the necessity of being ‘patient in tribulation’.

This is set forth in more detail in Romans 5:1-5, where Paul spoke of our rejoicing ‘in hope of the glory of God’. We quote: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”

While Paul asserts in this passage that we rejoice ‘in hope of the glory of God’, it is not a hope which ‘maketh not ashamed’ until we have passed through tests of ‘tribulation’, and by this means have acquired a degree of patience. But if we have passed some of these tests, our hope is bound to be more firm, because we will realize more fully that the Lord is dealing with us, and that by the Holy Spirit his love is being ‘shed abroad in our hearts’.

That we should be honored with a knowledge of the divine plan, and invited to participate in the ‘high calling’, is an evidence of God’s love. If we have responded to the ‘call’ it means that God’s love is working in our hearts. We recognize, even as John did, that to be called the “sons of God” is indeed a marvelous manifestation of divine love, or “what manner of love,” as the apostle stated it.—I John 3:1

We also recognize the love of God manifested toward us in the various trying experiences of life. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” Paul wrote. (Heb. 12:6) The chastenings of the Lord are not necessarily designed for punishment, but rather for discipline. They are necessary as a part of our training, and to test our humility before the Lord, and our loyalty to him. Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) This is what it means to be ‘patient in tribulation’; and if we are thus patient we will rejoice in a hope which ‘maketh not ashamed’.


In II Corinthians, chapter 3, the Apostle Paul contrasts the glory associated with the inauguration of the Law Covenant—particularly as it was seen on Moses’ face—with the still greater glory to be displayed at the inauguration of the New Covenant. (vs. 8) He explains that we are made “able ministers” of that New Covenant, and will share in that future resplendent glory. (vs. 6) That our association with the ‘glory’ of the New Covenant is still future, is indicated in verse 12, which reads, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.”

We do not ‘hope’ for that which we already possess. So, the fact that we hope to share in the glory of the New Covenant, as its ‘able ministers’, means that this covenant is still future. Our hope in connection with the New Covenant is one aspect of our “hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) We not only hope to be ‘able ministers’ of the New Covenant, but we also hope to be “kings and priests unto God” and to reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6


Our hope which ‘maketh not ashamed’ is not the outgrowth of emotion, but is based upon the sure promises of God. Peter wrote, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [Margin, reverence].” (I Pet. 3:15) We should know the promises upon which our hope is based, for the promises of God are the ‘reason’ for our hope. If the promises of God have assured our own hearts, then we should be able to give a ‘reason’ for our hope to others.

And that ‘reason’ of necessity implies faith in the divine promises. Paul wrote, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)” (Heb. 10:23) Yes, ‘he is faithful that promised’. We can depend upon him to fulfill abundantly every precious promise he has made; and this includes his promises of grace and strength to help in every time of need. (Heb. 4:16) Truly we do have a firm foundation for our faith and hope!


Hebrews 3:6 speaks of Christ being a “Son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” The hope in which we rejoice will be translated into reality only if it is maintained, or until we have proved our faithfulness even unto death. (Heb. 3:14) To have a rejoicing hope for a few months, or years, is not enough. Will our hope mean as much to us tomorrow, and throughout all the tomorrows, as it does today? Only if it does can we expect to maintain our standing in Christ’s house of sons, and, in the kingdom, to live and reign with him.

Paul enlarges upon this thought, saying, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:10-12

In this passage Paul associates diligence in the service of the Lord with a full assurance of hope. This relationship is apparent. As our theme text declares, if in this life only, we have hope, we are ‘of all men most miserable’. As disciples of Christ we have given up those interests in life which in the experiences of natural men and women ordinarily contribute to human happiness. To those who set their affection on things of the earth there is a certain expectation of rewards and successes, which in a measure compensate for the disappointments of life.

But followers of the Master do not strive for these earthly goals. Instead, they set their affections on things above, and their faithfulness to the Lord often places them in positions of disadvantage so far as earthly good things are concerned, especially if they are faithful in bearing witness to the truth. Therefore, their hope of eternal future joys with their Lord in the kingdom is their great consolation. If they maintain this hope confidently and with rejoicing firm unto the very end of the narrow way of sacrifice, they will inherit the promise.

In his letter to the brethren at Thessalonica, Paul speaks of the ‘patience of hope’. We quote: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.” (I Thess. 1:3) Faith works, and love labors, if supported by a patient and rejoicing hope. If, through impatience, our hope fades we will lose our zeal for the service of the Lord.


To the Hebrew brethren Paul wrote, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”—Heb. 10:32-37

Probably most of the Lord’s people can recall the ‘former days’ of their early Christian walk and remember the enthusiasm of their ‘first love’ (Rev. 2:4) for the Lord, for his people, and for his service. Paul indicates that if we do not now possess that same zeal it is because we have ‘need of patience’. Through full consecration we were made “partakers of the heavenly calling,” and through the promises of God were given a glorious heavenly hope. (Heb. 3:1) This was the will of God for us, but to enter into our inheritance requires more than to make a consecration to do the will of God. It calls for the carrying out of that consecration regardless of the cost.

Paul reminded the Hebrew brethren that in the beginning of their discipleship they ‘took joyfully’ the spoiling of their goods. Some had been locked in ‘gazingstocks’, while others were the companions of those so used. These were severe experiences, and the reason they could endure them was that they knew that ‘in heaven’ they had ‘a better and enduring substance’.—I Pet. 1:4

The fruition of our hope is directly associated with the return and second presence of Christ. Paul wrote, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) Throughout the age the patient waiting for the Lord’s return has tested the faith of all the Lord’s true people. Paul wrote, “Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:37) Actually that ‘little while’ turned out to be more than eighteen hundred years.

But now he that was to come has come, yet the patience of the consecrated is still being tested. There has been no delay in the outworking of the divine plan, although from the standpoint of our understanding of the time for the glorious appearance of Christ, and the establishment of his kingdom, the “vision” has seemed to tarry, although not actually so.—Hab. 2:3,4

James also associates the test of our patience with our waiting for the outworking of the divine plan in connection with the return of Christ. We quote: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming [Greek, parousia, presence] of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:7,8) Even though our Lord is now present, we need patience, and we still need to have our hearts established, else we will become weary in well-doing, and will fail to reap the fruition of our blessed hope.

May we continue to set our affection on things above, and with full faith in God’s promises, continue to rejoice in the hope that is held out to us! We know that our loving Heavenly Father has made every necessary provision whereby we may attain the prize of the high calling. He has given us his Word for our comfort, strength, and guidance. We have been provided with “the whole armour of God” (Eph. 6:13) to protect us against our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the Devil—so we know that no evil can befall us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus.

True, we will have trials and tribulations. So did Jesus. They crucified him, but he was not harmed as a New Creature. And Peter wrote of us, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Pet. 3:13) Our trials might well make us miserable were it not for our blessed hope. But with that hope of attaining the unseen things above, it matters little what may happen to us in the flesh; for nothing will really harm us as New Creatures. How blessed is our hope, and how it enables us to rejoice in the Lord as we press on toward our inheritance which is eternal in the heavens!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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