Hope is a word that is used frequently in the New Testament, with at least a couple of different uses. Hope might mean a desire for something to happen but with no assurance of it. And that is how we commonly use this word today. But at other times, it seems to have a much different meaning, a confident expectation of something that lies in the future.
This article will take a look at the doctrine of hope. Looking into how hope is used in the Scriptures, in particular, this second usage.
Hope Is About the Future
Implicit in hope is that we are dealing with something that has not yet happened, or at least that it is something that we do not currently recognize as having happened; it is something that I am looking forward to. Paul expresses this idea in Romans 8:25 when he talks about waiting patiently for what we are hoping for. For something that we do not yet have.
Paul prays that we “may know the hope to which he has called us” in Ephesians 1:18. And he tells us that we “were called to one hope” in Ephesians 4:4.
Believers are not called to hope. We are called to ‘a hope’. Hope can be a kind of vague thought about what the future may hold. But we are called to something much more specific than that. And knowing what that hope is, will help us to keep our focus during this phase of our life.
What is our hope?
So what is this hope we are called to? When I ask this question of other believers it often amazes me the silence I get in response. Most will eventually get a response out, but it is apparent that it is not something that they are eagerly anticipating. It seems rather to be something that is so far removed from their daily lives that it has little impact. But it is clear from reading the New Testament, especially Paul, that this hope was a major motivating factor in his life.
Hope and Salvation
It is not uncommon to hear believers talk about salvation as an event in their past, the specific time when they surrendered their lives to the Lordship of Jesus. But it means so much more than that. The New Testament talks about salvation in the present tense, “work out your salvation“, as well as in a future sense, “now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul tells us to put on the hope of salvation as a helmet. We will be delivered, or saved, out of this corrupt and failing body and world. And we should hold onto that expectation as a helmet, protecting us from the struggles and trials of this life. As well as the pleasures and distractions of life here.
Hope and Resurrection
In both Acts 23:6 and Acts 24:15, Paul expressed that his hope concerns the resurrection of the dead. That this life here is not the end of the road, but only a step along the journey. He also expressed this thought in 1 Corinthians 15:19; that this life is not all there is. If it is; if only for this life we have hope; then we are to be pitied.
While my resurrection is not all of the hope I have, it is a critical part of it. Without the resurrection, when I die in this life, it is over. There is nothing to look forward to.
Hope and Eternal Life
In Titus 1:2 and Titus 3:7, Paul expresses our hope as concerning eternal life. Resurrection does not just lead to another temporary step, or series of steps, that eventually come to an end. Instead, we look forward to an eternity in fellowship with God.
Often we think of eternal life as simply living forever. But Jesus defines it in John 17:3 as knowing the Father and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not simply living forever; it is living in a relationship with our creator and God.
The Hope of Glory
And, finally, in Romans 5:2 & Colossians 1:27, we see the expression “the hope of glory.” I am looking forward to experiencing the glory of God, and not merely as a spectator. My experience with the glory of God will be very personal and firsthand as a child of God and in intimate communion with him.
The hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection, the hope of eternal life, and the hope of glory; all of these are really aspects of the same hope. Death in this life is really the entrance into the life that God is even now preparing me for. I do not know nearly as much about that life to come as I would like to. But I look forward to it with a confident expectation. And that expectation should have a dramatic impact on life today. The more I look forward to that day, the more it will affect today.
What difference does it make?
If I have no hope for the future then I might as well enjoy this life to the fullest (1 Cor. 15:32). But as believers, we do have that hope, and it should impact today. If it makes no difference to the way I live today, is it really hope?
Hope Enhances Faith and Love
Colossians 1:3-6 describes two impacts that our hope for the future has on us today. The first is that it enables me to have faith in Christ. Sometimes there is some overlap in faith and hope, but here I believe Paul is saying that because of the hope we have, we are able to walk by faith today. I can trust him now because I know he has my future.
My hope also enables me to love my fellow believers. We should be drawn together in love because of our common hope. And because we will spend eternity together, it behooves us to learn, not just to get along, but to be one in heart and mind.
An Anchor for the Soul
The author of Hebrews (6:19) describes this hope as an anchor for the soul. An anchor that is in the most holy place where God dwells. No matter what storms of life may blow, that anchor will not drag and will keep us secure.
We might be tempted to put our hope in many other things. But all of them will ultimately let us down and lead to shipwreck. However, if our hope is in God and what he is preparing us for, then we are secure. Even if we lose everything in this life, it is nothing compared to what is to come.
Living with Hope
Peter, in 1 Peter 1:13, tells us to set our hope fully on the grace to be given us. And to do this with minds that are fully alert and sober. The hope I have should not be something I keep on a back shelf and just pull out when I need a little boost. Rather, it should always be at the front of my thoughts.
It is easy to get caught up in the things of this world. But if my hope is ever before me I will realize that they are only temporary. At most, a faint imitation of what is to come, They are nothing to hold to or trust in.
Hope When Faced with Death
One of the challenging things in life is dealing with the death of someone close to you, and for me, that has been my parents. Their loss caused me sadness. And I still miss them. But our shared hope enables me to rejoice. Because they are, as my dad frequently said, “Safe in the arms of Jesus.”
The church in Thessalonica was grieving because some of its members had died before Jesus returned. But Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, told them not to grieve over them. Their future is secure. Death is not the end. It is a transition into something even better.
Living with Hope
My hope should not keep me from living in this world and making a difference. But it should help me to keep from getting too attached to the temporary things of this life. And to put my trust in what God is preparing me for. If my hope is firmly fixed on Christ and what he has for me, then the things that trouble me during the course of a day will fade in significance. They will not have nearly as much impact on my life and attitude. All that goes on in this life is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
- The Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God (7/2/2015) - God is sovereign, and has a plan and purpose for his creation that will be accomplished. But his plan takes into account his foreknowledge of our choices.
- The Doctrine of the Trinity (12/26/2016) - The Trinity is a uniquely Christian doctrine, teaching that there is only one God, but in three persons having one essence.
- The Doctrine of Election: Who Are the Elect? (2/8/2019) - The doctrine of election is confusing and lies at the heart of many theological disputes. It simply refers to God's choosing of his people.
- The Doctrine of the Kingdom of God (2/22/2019) - What is the Kingdom of God that is spoken of so much in the New Testament. It is the spiritual rule of God in the life of believers.
- The Doctrine of Prayer: What Is Prayer? (9/6/2019) - The doctrine of prayer looks at what the Bible has to say about prayer. Why do we pray? Does it accomplish anything? What is its purpose?
- The Doctrine of Hope: What Is Our Hope As Believers? (5/22/2020) - The doctrine of hope is an important one for believers. Hope is the earnest expectation of what God has in store for us. And hope holds us steady today.
- Aseity, the Self-existence and Eternally of God. (9/4/2020) - One of the attributes commonly associated with God is aseity. That God is a self-existent necessary being who is eternal.
- The Doctrine of Predestination? (9/3/2021) - The doctrine of predestination is hotly debated. But it is not really that complicated. It simply refers to what God has decided beforehand.
- The Doctrine of Corporate Election (10/21/2023) - The doctrine of corporate election teaches that we are elect when we are in Christ. Election is not an individual matter.