The Hope We Have
O. C. Birdwell
Kansas City 18, Missouri
Just as there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, there is one hope (Eph. 4:4-5).
Consequently, if religious people entertain different hopes, someone must be wrong. The many faiths have come about because of the failure of men to subscribe strictly to the Bible. The many hopes that are in the world exist for the same reason. If people will carefully examine the scriptures and accept New Testament teaching, there will be only one faith, and one hope.
Those who believe the Bible to be God's inspired Book will not array one passage against another, nor will they affirm that the Book is contradictory. If there are plain passages of unquestionable meaning on a subject, these scriptures are not to be cast aside in favor of speculative theories based on supposed teaching of prophetic utterances and passages of highly symbolic language. We are not fighting a straw man because this is a common practice, and often employed by members of the Lord's church.
A False Hope
It is not unusual for men to combine Revelation 5:10, and Revelation 20:4, and come up with the idea that saints shall reign on the earth in the physical presence of Jesus Christ for a thousand years. This is a false hope-- the passages do not teach any such thing, and those who claim they do pervert the scriptures. The first verse (5:10) says: "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." The reign here referred to was made possible by the slaying of the lamb (Jesus) and the redemption by His blood of the people "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation: " (see verse 9). Peter, speaking to the sojourners of the Dispersion," said, "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9). Thus we see that in the days of the apostle Peter, people were priests and were made such by the death of Christ on the cross. Since that time Christians have been "unto our God kings and priests," and in a sense, "reign on the earth." Also, you might notice that nothing is said about Christ reigning, in the flesh, on the earth with them, but only that He made their reign possible by His death on the cross. Hence, we conclude that Christians are now "kings and priests," this position having been made secure by the sacrifice of Christ.
The second passage says: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his wark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (20:4).
This passage does not teach that this reign shall be on the earth, nor does it teach that anyone except those beheaded for the witness of Jesus would participate. Neither can it be concluded that the time is a literal thousand years as we count time. What John did see was the exaltation of martyrs and Christ for a period of time.
He apparently had in mind the martyrs of the Roman persecution, such as Antipas (Rev. 2:13), who were put to death by the evil emperors. The thousand year reign was a spiritual reign (John saw the "souls" of them that were beheaded), and was a period when Jesus was placed above the kings of earth, even the Roman emperors, and with Him the blessed martyrs were exalted.
The One Hope
The hope of the Christian is based upon the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:13-14), and His promise, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). This place is the "new heaven" and "new earth" spoken of in Revelation 21, the "holy city, new Jerusalem." There may be much that we do not know about the future abode of the righteous, but we do know this: It will be a place Jesus has gone to prepare; it will be a new place; we will be received by Jesus to be with Him--He will not come to be with us; the place cannot be this earth on which we now live because the Bible says it "shall be burned up," and the elements shall "melt with fervent heat," and shall be "dissolved" (2 Peter 3:7-11). The new abode is heavenly and no flesh and blood shall enter, neither anything else that is corruptible (1 Cor. 15:48-50).
This "one hope" is a most blessed hope, but let all be reminded that this hope may be had by only those who with faith in Jesus as God's Son (Heb. 11:1), obey His commands, including the command to be baptized, and live faithfully in His service until death (Rev. 2:10). We plead with all men to enjoy this hope that may be had in Christ Jesus.
Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 8-9