That there is the greatest confusion of thought and belief among Christians concerning their Hope may readily be proven by questioning a number regarding the nature of their hope. Ask the average church-goer what his hope is, and he will say, Salvation -- he hopes to be saved when he comes to die. Ask another and he will tell you that Death is his hope, for it is then that he will be released from all the sufferings of the flesh. Ask a third and he would say that Heaven was his hope. Perhaps this last reply would better express the common and popular belief than either of the others. But to say that our hope is future happiness, is to say no more than any heathen would say. There are several Scriptures which distinguish between Heaven and the believer's Hope. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living 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" (1 Pet.1:3-4). Here the "living hope" unto which we have been begotten is separated in thought from the "inheritance" which is "reserved in heaven" for us. Though closely connected, Heaven and the believer's Hope are certainly not synonymous as is clear from Col.1:5 where they are again distinguished -- "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel." Heaven is not here said to be the believer's hope, for the hope is "laid up" for him "in heaven." What then is our Hope?
It is strange that there should be such ignorance and confusion upon this subject for Hope is made almost as prominent in the New Testament as is either Faith or Love. The Church epistles have much to say upon the subject. In the epistle to the Romans when setting forth the consequences or results of justification, the apostle wrote, "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" (5:1). And again in 8:24, 25 -- "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (R. V.). To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor.15:19). To the Galatians he wrote, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (5:5). For the Ephesians he prayed that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened, and that they might know "what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph.1:18), and in setting forth the sevenfold Unity of the Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (4:4-6), and there can no more be two different hopes than there can be two Lords, or two faiths.
To the Thessalonian saints the apostle Paul wrote, "Sorrow not, even as others which have no hope"(1 Thess.4:13), and again, "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace"(2 Thess.2:16). Unto Titus he wrote, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13). And unto the Hebrews he said, "And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. ** That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil" (6:11, 18, 19).
The apostle Peter found cause for rejoicing in that God had "according to His abundant mercy, begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet.1:3); and again, he exhorted his readers to "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" (1 Pet.3:15).
The apostle 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. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:2, 3). Thus we see that the New Testament abounds in passages which speak of the believer's hope."
In all ages God's people have had a hope set before them, and that hope has always centered in Christ. In Eden God gave to Adam the promise that the woman's Seed should come and bruise the Serpent's head and the anticipation of the fulfillment of this promise constituted the hope of the saints in those far-off days. Said Jacob, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen.49:18). The Hope that God set before Abram was that his "Seed" should be a blessing unto all nations, which hope, as we learn from Gal.3:16, had particular reference to Christ. The Hope which God set before Moses was expressed as follows, "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him" (Deut.18:18). For the fulfillment of this prophecy see John 12:49; 14:10, etc. The Hope which God set before David was stated as follows, "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy Seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His Kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His Kingdom for ever" (2 Sam.7:12, 13). And later, through His prophets, God again and again set before Israel the Hope of the appearing of their Messiah. This leads us to inquire now into --