Hope in Christ – 1 Corinthians 15:19

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV

Are the dead raised to life again? Or is this life all that there is for us? The church at Corinth was struggling with this question. And Paul emphatically affirms to them that Christ has been raised from the dead. And that those who belong to him will also be raised from the dead.

The importance of our coming resurrection is hard to overestimate. As believers, we are called on to deny ourselves the pleasures of this world, looking forward instead to a future in heaven in the presence of God. But if in reality there is no resurrection, then we are of all people, most to be pitied. To turn our backs on this world, and all it offers, for a non-existent future is foolish.

But Christ has been raised from the dead. And his resurrection points to our future resurrection as well. And because there is a resurrection, our hope in Christ is real, it is not in vain. In the end, those who have lost their lives for Christ’s sake, will find a new, and eternal, life in him. What we gain is infinitely greater than what we lose.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. – 1 John 3:2-3

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Gathering the Elect – Matthew 24:30-31

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. – Matthew 24:30-31 CSB

As a part of instructing his disciples concerning his return, Jesus has been talking about a time of tribulation that seems to start with the destruction of Jerusalem, or some similar later event, and leads up to his second coming. There are many ways that people have understood this passage, and similar ones, over the two thousand years since he uttered them. But Jesus clearly tells us that this time of tribulation, no matter how long, is of a finite duration, and he holds out hope for those who are his.

Jesus is returning for us. And when he does, the world will mourn, but his chosen ones will be gathered together from wherever we are, whether dead or alive, and will be caught up into eternal glory (1 Cor. 15:50-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). These words are encouraging, especially to those facing challenging times. This life is temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) and no matter how bad, or good, it may seem, it is nothing compared to what awaits us (Rom. 8:18).

As you live here, waiting for our Lord’s return, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer (Rom. 12:12).” Maranatha!

Heading to the Cross – Matthew 20:18-19

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised. ” – Matthew 20:18-19 CSB

This is the third time that the gospel of Matthew records Jesus talking to his disciples about his coming crucifixion. And this time it is not something off in the future. Instead the cross awaits at the end of their trip to Jerusalem. Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what is coming, but they seem steadfast in their refusal to believe it; until it happened. Jesus also offered hope to them, that he would return to life after three days; but this also never registered until after his resurrection.

It is, I suppose, understandable that the disciples failed to heed Jesus’ warning to them. After all, it did not fit with their expectations of who Jesus was (Matt. 16:21-23). They understood crucifixion as defeat, the end of all they had hoped for in following Jesus. It is really only on this side of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that we can begin to understand that rather than defeat, Jesus’ death and resurrection achieved victory over sin and death. Jesus went to the cross as an act of love, to enable us to have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

Harvesting the Earth – Rev 14:14

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. – Revelation 14:14-16 ESV

This extended passage, verses 14-20, is similar, although not identical, to the parable of the wheat and the tares found in Matthew 13:24-30. In that parable there are two harvests, one to gather the wheat and one to gather the weeds to be burned. They represented two resurrections, one of believers to heaven and the other of unbelievers to judgement.

Here, verses 14-16 describe the first of two harvests, this one starting with someone sitting on a white cloud wearing a golden crown and holding a sharp sickle. Who is this? John described him as ‘like a son of man’, a favorite description of Jesus for himself. So it would seem to be Jesus, coming on a cloud (Matt. 24:30, Acts 1:9-11), coming to gather his elect from across the world (Matt. 24:31). And when does he come? When the harvest is fully ripe. We don’t know when that will be, But God does and is patiently waiting (2 Pet. 3:8-9) for the harvest to be ready. While we wait for this reaping, we should also continue to labor in the fields (Matt. 9:35-38), working to increase the harvest.

The Last Trumpet – Rev 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15 ESV

The past few chapters of Revelation, as well as many of those yet to come, are filled with images of judgement and/or the activity of the evil one. But the five verses starting with this one are a bright ray of hope; at least for God’s people. The seventh trumpet blast announces a divine takeover of the earth and the beginning of Christ’s reign, not for 1000 years, but for eternity.

It is interesting that in three other places in the New Testament we see trumpets sounding at the end. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the trumpet call of God accompanies Christ’s return to gather his elect. In Matthew 24:31 a trumpet call also accompanies the gathering of the elect. And in 1 Corinthians 15:52, the last trumpet sounds to announce the resurrection of believers. Is the trumpet in this passage the same as the other three? Many will say no because the timing is contrary to their view of end times. But they sure seem to be the same to me. All four trumpet passages announce a transformation, the transformation from this life into eternity. The transformation of believers from mortal flesh to immortality, and the transformation of this earth from the old to the new (Rev 21:1-2).

And this is the hope that we have in Christ; a hope that we should be eagerly looking forward to; and a hope that can sustain us in the challenges and difficulties inherent in this life. Hold onto that hope. Never let it go.

The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25-26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26 ESV

Jesus makes a pretty remarkable claim here. He is the resurrection and the life. He tells Martha that the one who believes in him will live. Even if they die, they will live. This life that Jesus promises to those who believe is not affected by physical death; it goes on beyond death. He continues on and promises that those who experience the life that comes from believing will never die; that this new life is eternal and is not impacted by our physical death. I wonder; if I had been in Martha’s shoes when Jesus first said this, and then asked me if I believed him, would I have answered yes? Remember, she was on the other side of Jesus own resurrection, as well as the raising of her brother.

I am so thankful that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. That in him I have eternal life; life that will endure beyond the few short years I have left on earth. An eternity to spend united with God, experiencing his glory and love (John 17:20-26). Can anything be better than that? Lord, I believe! Do you?

A Dead Man Named Jesus – Acts 25:19

Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. – Acts 25:19 NIV

Festus, the Roman governor, is discussing Paul’s legal case with King Agrippa and his confusion concerning the issues. The chief priests and elders of the Jews had accused Paul of many things, while Paul claimed innocence. From Festus perspective the issue is solely one concerning the Jewish religion, and in particular about Jesus who had been killed on a Roman cross. But inexplicably, at least to Festus, Paul claimed Jesus to be alive.

25-30 years prior to this Paul was in the camp claiming Jesus was dead. So what happened? He encountered the resurrected Jesus and it turned his world upside down. Few people in our world today deny that Jesus lived and then died on a Roman cross. For most though, that’s as far as it goes. But, praise God, he is alive and, like Paul, we can know him and find life in him. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15)!

He has Risen! – Luke 24:5-6

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! – Luke 24:5-6 NIV

What wonderful news the angels had to share with the women. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had risen. Death could not keep him. The news turned their world upside down.

And it is not just these women who were impacted by the empty tomb. All who place their lives in the hands of the risen Lord will also share in his victory over death. Hallelujah!

The Foolishness of the Cross – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

       “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
         the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NIV

The message of the cross: that mankind is sinful and estranged from God, that God took on human form in the person of Jesus, that he died on the cross for my sin and then rose from the dead on the third day, and putting my faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus is the only way to a right standing with God.  That humanity is generally disinterested in God, apart from some ritualistic lip service seems clear.  But a crucified messiah seems to be a pretty far fetched method for bringing people into a meaningful relationship with God.

If I was God, I am sure I could have put together a plan that would have been more appealing to a lost humanity, one that would have reached a larger audience.  Why the cross?  Why not a permanent physical presence someplace on earth where people could see you and come to you?  Why not provide us with a checklist of the things we need to do to be acceptable to you (oh wait, he did do that)?  Why not reward those who accept you now with physical prosperity and health (like some claim)?

Many people today, as well as in Paul’s day, rejected the message of the cross because it appeared to be foolish; it was weak and embarrassing; it did not make good sense.  And yet it was the way that God chose to introduce his salvation to us.  But why; why a criminal’s death?  Some seem to believe that it is the only way God could deal with our sin, by having a perfect substitute take our punishment.  And indeed the scriptures do express his death in terms of him being a substitute.  But I have a hard time accepting that God was forced to do it this way to accomplish his purpose from the creation.

I believe that God intentionally chose the way of the cross because it would appear foolish to us.  God desires faith on our part, not intellectual reasoning and an emotional response to miracles.  God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Humanly speaking, the message of the cross is foolish.  But the “foolishness” of God is wiser than anything humanity could have accomplished.  It has the power to transform mortal and sinful humanity into children of God.

Embrace the foolishness of God.  Enter into relationship with your creator.  Let him transform you into a new creation.  Reasoning will never get you there.  Only faith in a crucified and resurrected Lord.

Hope

Hope is a word that is used frequently in the New Testament, with at least a couple of different uses.  Sometimes it is used in the sense of something that we want to happen but have no assurance of, which is how we commonly use this word today.  But other times it seems to have a much different meaning, a confident expectation of something that lies in the future.  And in that sense, hope is a key concept in the New Testament, yet one that most believers I have encountered seem to struggle with.

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, what we do not yet have.

In Ephesians 1:18 and 4:4, Paul talks about the hope that we are called to.  As believers, we are not called to hope, but 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 that than.  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 for his life.

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 a 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.

In Acts 23:6 & 24:15 Paul expresses his hope as concerning the resurrection of the dead, that his life here is not the end of the read, 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 was, we are to be pitied.  While resurrection is not all of the hope I have, it is a critical part of it.  Without resurrection, when I die in this life, it is over; there is nothing to look forward to.

In Titus 1:2 & 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 relationship with our creator and God.

And finally, in Romans 5:2 & Colossians 1:27 we see the expression 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 first hand 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 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 effect 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 Corinthians 15:3).  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?

Colossians 1:3-6 describes two impacts that our hope for the future has on our 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.

The second impact mentioned in this passage is that I am enabled to love my fellow believers because of my hope.  Because we share a common hope we are drawn together.  And because we will spend eternity together, it behooves us to learn, not just get along, but to be one in heart and mind.

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.  There are many things in this world that we might be tempted to put our hope in, but all of them could let you down and cause a shipwreck in your life.  But 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.

In Peter’s first letter (1:13) he tells us to set our hope fully on the grace to be given us, and to do it 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.  If that hope is ever before me, the tendency I have to get caught up in the things of this world would be tempered by the recognition that they are only temporary, and at most a faint imitation of what is to come; nothing to hold to or trust in.

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.  But because of the hope that we all shared, even though I miss them, I was able to rejoice that they are, as my dad frequently said, “Safe in the arms of Jesus.”   1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us not to grieve over those believers who pass before we do, knowing that death in not the end, but rather a transition into something even better.

My hope should not not keep me from living in this world and making a difference.  But it should help me to keep from getting to attached to the temporary things of this life, and to put my trust in what God is preparing me for.  All the little things, and sometimes bigger things, that trouble me during the course of a day will not have nearly as much impact on my life and attitude if my hope is set where it needs to be.  All that goes on in this life is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

All passages below are from the NIV

John 17:3
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Acts 23:6
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”

Acts 24:15
and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Romans 5:2
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 8:18
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 13:11
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

1 Corinthians 15:19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:32
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Galatians 5:5
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

Ephesians 1:18
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Ephesians 4:4
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Colossians 1:3-6
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.

Colossians 1:23
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Thessalonians 4:13
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 5:8
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Titus 1:2
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

Titus 2:13
while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Titus 3:7
so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

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