The Expository Files

The One Hope

Number 6 of 12 in the Second Coming Series

Webster defines hope as, "The expectation of something desirable." In that definition we are able to see the three characteristics of hope: 1) It is pointed toward something, a specific object or goal; 2) That "something" is a desirable thing, a thing we admire and long for; 3) There is confidence that we will get the thing we desire.

Christians are people of hope; we are confident that the Bible's promise of something we admire and long for will be ours someday. And that is a fundamental difference between us and the unbelievers. Paul instructed the Christians in Thessalonica not to grieve, "as do the rest who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). "The rest" are without hope because they are "without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). You see, while this world is a place of despair and hopelessness, our God is the God of hope, who causes us to "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13). This world is a place of failed dreams and efforts, but our God is the God of "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3). This world is a place of disappointment galore, but the Bible's promise is that God gives the Christian a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

The Christian's hope is important. It makes faith pleasant (Romans 12:12). Faith is not just a belief that God is, but also that He is "a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). That is the pleasure of faith. It gives obedience its patience (1 John 3:2-3 and 1 Thessalonians 1:3). Hope causes us to focus on the thing we desire, not the things we must endure. It anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19). As the old song goes, "We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll." Nothing can sway us - not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not peril, not even death - as long as our hope is "grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love."

Hope is indeed one of the three great Christian characteristics, along with faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). We must "lay hold of the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18), and we must be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

Ephesians 4:4 tells us that, just as there is only one God, and one Lord, and one Spirit, and one faith, so there is only one hope. That means the Bible only points us to one thing as the object of our desire, and it means we can only expect one thing to happen at the end of this life. And so, what is the Christian's hope? Well, Titus 1:2 tells us that the Christian's hope is of eternal life.

Marshall Applewhite led his followers in the Heaven's Gate cult to a mass suicide in hope of catching a ride to heaven on a space ship following the Hale-Bopp comet. But that is not the biblical description of the Christian's hope. (And look out, because it is inevitable that we will be seeing more and more of that kind of cultist behavior as the year 200 approaches.) The Jehovah's Witnesses are looking forward to eternal life on a rejuvenated earth. But that is not the biblical description of the Christian's hope. (This earth is not being kept for the righteous, but for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men. It is reserved for the fire of destruction, not of purification. Note 1 Peter 3:7). The growing premillenial movement is expecting a "rapture" of the faithful, followed by a thousand year reign of Christ on earth. But that is not the biblical description of the Christian's hope. (Beware of movements teaching that God has cloaked the Christian hope in obscure Old and New Testament passages with double meanings.)

What is the one true hope? Rather than go to highly figurative scripture and try to "decode" its meaning, let us go to one specific passage that presents the Christian hope in plain terms. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, and notice three points about the Christian's hope. First, our Lord and Savior, having risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, will someday descend from heaven. And note that His descending will not be a secret descending ( as per the rapture teaching of premillenialism). He will descend with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. No one will have to wait to see unoccupied cars on the side of the road or unoccupied seats at school and work to know that Christ has come for His saints; we will all know the moment He descends.

Secondly, the dead in Christ will rise, join up with us who are alive, and we will together be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The one hope is not that Christ will descend all the way down to the earth to establish an earthly throne among us, but rather that we will ascend to meet Him above the destruction that He will inflict upon this earth.

And thirdly, we shall always be with the Lord. Our hope is not in a rejuvenated earthly home, but in a prepared heavenly home. Paul says that our hope is laid up in heaven (Col. 1:5). And listen to what Jesus said: "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). The Christian's hope is to see God face to face, to bask in His glory as we surround His throne in heaven forever, to sing together for eternity the song of Moses and the Lamb. (We know the words from Revelation 15:3-4; I suspect the tune will be easy to learn!)

That is the one hope of the Christian, and it is a wonderful desire and expectation. Do not ever be persuaded to hope for less.

By Jerry King
From Expository Files 6.6; June 1999