Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Faith, Hope, and Love at Work in the Church: Hope

The Place of Our Hope
"because of the hope laid up 
for you in heaven...."
Colossians 1:5a

First lets talk about what hope is.  The Greek word 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, the concept of 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, not something dreaded, but a joyful knowing anticipation of something yet future.  It is like the picture of the watchman in Psalm 130.  Here we see the watchman as he 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 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 punishment for sin and the death that was rightfully ours, and it was at the cross that the great exchange took place.  Paul explains this in II Corinthian 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 was the grave 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 who looked to Christ and Christ alone as the Savior, it has made salvation certain and heaven our sure and eternal destination.   This is the ground of our hope, and this present reality of our future place and position 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.”  Only in Christ is there a hope, a sure and confident expectation for the future, and our future is eternity.  Through Christ God has given us a future to hope for, a future to desire, and a future to look forward to with joyful anticipation.

In verse 5, the words laid up are one 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 in Psalm 130.

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.  First Isaiah 25:1O 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 Jeremiah 29:11For 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 it has been His plan to do this for us in Christ, not because we deserved it or could somehow earn it, but because of His great love for us; and because of the abundance of His lovingkindness 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.  So we can rest assured that God will completely perform His purpose and fully carry out His plan.  In Psalm 138:8 God tells us that He will accomplish what concerns us.  What concerns us most is our salvation and our redemption, not just of our soul, but of our entire person, both the inner and the outer man.  Let’s look at I Thessalonians 5:23-24.  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.  This is what John was referring to in his epistle chapter 3 verses 2-3.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, that we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure.  What makes this possible, rather, what makes this certain?  It is the finished and complete work of Christ.  This is our joyand our delight, to look forward with confidence to the completion of our salvation as we stand before the Lord holy, blameless, and complete in the completeness of Christ.

Finally, our hope is laid up for us in heaven because Jesus is there.  Let’s look at John 14:1-6.   Here we have one 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 which 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 8:12 tells us that we have such a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. The fact that Jesus has taken His seat signifies that His work is completed, and the fact that He is seated at God’s right hand shows us that His work has found favor with God and has pleased God.   So we see that His work of accomplishing our salvation was finished, and the purpose and pleasure of God was completed when He passed through the heavens into the very presence of God Himself.  There is nothing left for Him to do to ascertain our salvation.   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.  It is for us, those who believe in His name, that He has done all of this.  Christ has not done this for those who spurn Him, for those who have Him in low regard, for those who have not trusted in Him as their Savior, but He has done this for those of us who love Him and cherish Him, for those who are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 

Hebrew 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 used in times 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, keeps our life and faith from being blown off course.  When our life is the darkest, when we have the times that we are tired and disgusted of dealing with the sin that so easily entangles us, we can joyfully and confidently anticipate our arrival in heaven, we can look forward to the freedom from the travails of this world and the struggles with our own flesh.  We know that this is coming just as sure as the dawn. We also see that our hope is one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.  What does this tell us?  First 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 over the mercyseat), was partitioned by a veil and only the High Priest could enter once a year on the day of atonement.  When Christ was crucified the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom signifying that the way to the presence of God was now open, and 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.       

Hebrews 12:22-23 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.  .  . Now we also see from this last verse that we are enrolled in heaven.  This word enroll means to record, to register, as on a roll or census.  So we see 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 can have that sure and confident expectation that their name is on that roll.

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 that 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.  Oh friends, take your eyes off of the world and look to heaven, where Jesus awaits.  Let the reality of heaven, the eternal blessing of being in the presence of God, be your confident and joyful anticipation.