We will finish up this series on measuring a church by faith, hope and love by looking at the place of our hope, which is to be heaven. We are commanded so many places in Scripture to refrain from focusing on the things of this world. Instead we are told that this world is temporary and passing away, that the eternal things are not of this world, that we are aliens and strangers in this world, and that our citizenship is in heaven. Here in verse five Paul talks about the hope laid up, reserved and awaiting us in heaven. A church must be measured by where it has placed its hope. The true place for hope must be in heaven not in this world so as we look at the true place of hope, heaven, ask yourself where you have laid up your hope.
First of all lets see what hope is. The Greek work for hope means something different from our English word. When we use the word hope we mean a strong desire or a fervent wish for something, and we are not sure if we will get what we want; maybe we will, maybe we won't. However, the word for hope in the Greek conveys something different from our view of hope. The word for hope in the Greek is elpis and it means a sure and confident expectation, a joyful knowing anticipation of something yet future. It is like the picture of the watchman in Psalm 130. The watchman waits for the dawn with a confident knowing expectation that the dawn will come, no matter how dark or long the night. This is a firm ground of expectation. This is true hope.
Now lets see why we have hope, this confident expectation, for there must be a reason for hope, there must be a basis for hope, there must be a ground for our hope to rest upon. For us as Christians that ground is Jesus Christ; He is our firm ground of expectation. As the God-man He lived a sinless life in our stead. As the Psalmist says we are born in sin, and therefore we are incapable of not sinning, so Jesus lived a sinless life for us. He suffered a vicarious and substitutionary death on the cross by taking on the death that was rightfully ours, and it was at the cross that the great exchange took place. Paul explains this in II Corinthians 5:21 in that Christ became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He was then buried and descended into Hell and was there for three days until God raised Him up victorious over Satan and the grave with the keys of death and Hell in His hand. Then Christ ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession to God on our behalf. All of this has been done by Christ for us, and it is this, this finished and complete work of Christ, that has made our salvation not just possible, but for those whom God has called and drawn to Himself it has made salvation certain, and heaven our eternal destination. This is the ground of our hope and this present reality of our future place and postion has as its unshakeable foundation that which Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf. This is why we sing "Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand."
The words laid up are on word in the Greek and mean to be stored up, to await, to reserve. So we see that this hope is not for here and now, but for heaven. So we are to have a joyful knowing anticipation of heaven. This is what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 15:19 when he said, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." Friends, we should be looking forward to heaven just as the watchman looks forward to the dawn. Heaven should be a present daily reality for us, just as the coming dawn was an anticipated reality for the watchman.
Another reason for our hope is that this is the plan of God for us, and we know from Job 42:2 that no purpose of God can be thwarted. In thinking about our hope, our confidence in what God has done for us I am reminded of a couple of verses in the Old Testament. These verses are usually used out of context, but the underlying principle of both fit in with Ephesians 3:1-11 in understanding God's purpose in Christ. First we have Isaiah 25: 1 "O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You. I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness." And then we have Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." All that Christ has done for us has been in the mind of God from eternity past. From all eternity this was His plan to do this for us in Christ, not because we deserved it or could somehow earn it, but because He has chosen to set His great love upon us. He has done this so that we could spend the rest of eternity as His people and He as our God. We know from Philippians 1:6 that what God has started in us He will complete until the day of Christ. So we can rest assured that God will completely perform His purpose and fully carry out His plan.
Finally, our hope is laid up for us in heaven because Jesus is there. Lets look at John 14:1-6. Here we have on of the great promises in Scripture. Christ is preparing a place for us and where is this place? It is in heaven, in His Father's house. Not only is He preparing a place for us, but He is promising to come again and take us to Himself so that we can be with him in heaven. Next he says something heart catching; it is that we know the way, the way to heaven, and that He is that way, the only way. Do you want to go to heaven? Well then, are you following Christ? He alone is the way; He alone is that narrow way with the narrow gate that leads to heaven. No other way will take you there.
There are several verses in Hebrews that also speak to this. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us that this hope we have is an anchor of the soul, and it is sure and steadfast. What does an anchor do? it holds the ship and does not let it drift. It was also used in the time of a storm to keep the ship from being blown off course or to keep it from crashing on the rocks. That is the picture of what our hope, this sure and confident expectation, does for us in the times of storm in our life. It anchors us to keep our life and faith from blowing off course or being dashed on the rocks. When our life is the darkest we can joyfully and confidently anticipate our arrival in heaven, and know that it is coming as surely as the dawn. We also see in these verses that that our hope is one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. Next we see in Hebrews 8:1 that we have a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, and Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Hebrews 12:22 tells us that we have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. So we see that Jesus has passed through the heavens and behind the veil as our forerunner. A forerunner is one who goes before to make the path, to blaze the trail so that others can follow. In the OT tabernacle the Holy of Holies, which was where the presence of God hovered above the mercyseat, was partitioned by a veil and only the High Priest could enter once a year, on the day of antonement, first with a sacrifice for himself and then for the sins of the people. This painted a picture of God's awesome, and yes fearful, holiness and how a sinful man could not enter into His presence. When Christ was crucified the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom signifying that the barrier to entering the presence of God has been removed, and here in Hebrews we see that it is Jesus, the God-man who has entered the true heavenly tabernacle before us so that we might be able to come into heaven itself to be in the presence of God. We see also that Jesus has taken His seat at the right hand of God signifying that His work of salvation is complete, and it reached completion when He entered heaven into the presence of God as our forerunner. Now, from the last verse, we also see that we are enrolled in heaven. This word enroll means to record, to register, as on a roll or census. Our name is registered as one who belongs in heaven, and no one whose name is not registered can enter into heaven. It is like going to an invitation only event and having your name checked at the door to see if it is on the guest register. Only those who have trusted Christ as the only way to heaven have their name on that roll. This reminds me of a verse to another old song that says, "When the roll is called up yonder I'll be there."
Yes, our hope is in heaven because Jesus is there. Is this your hope my friends? Is this your joyful anticipation that is as sure as the dawn coming? Are you looking forward with a confident expectation to being with Jesus? Do you have hope today of seeing Jesus face to face because you know your name is on heaven's roll? You see heaven is ours, but it is not for those who have not trusted in Christ. For them this world is all they have. That is why they are so attached to the things of this world; that is why they act the way they do. This is the reason behind their greed, selfishness, jealousy, the storing up of treasures for themselves upon earth. This is why Christ tells us not to be like them, but to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. This is why we are not to set our mind on the things of earth, but on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. These are the ones who are separated from Christ, without God, who have no hope. Heaven is ours, it is where our hope is to be, and it is what God has given us through Christ. O friends, take your eyes off of the world and look to heaven, where Jesus awaits. Let the reality of heaven be your joyful anticipation.