Hope: An Anchor To the Soul
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His promise, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20).
Friends, two things will never change: God's purpose and God's promise. God purposed heaven for mankind, and God promised it through his Word. With infinite grace, God's purpose and promise have been carried out through Jesus Christ in the offering up of his life for the sins of mankind. And people who understand this truth have fled to Jesus for refuge in the hope of heaven to come. You see, the hope of heaven is mankind's one and only possession that provides strong encouragement in this life; it is a true anchor of the soul, firm and secure.
Webster's defines hope as "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment" and uses the words trust and reliance as synonyms. The hope of heaven isn't just wishful thinking, Paul assures us, because this "hope does not disappoint" (Rom. 5:5). We're like Abraham when he was promised a son in his old age, who "in hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, 'So shall your descendants be."' As Abraham's spiritual children, we believe, in hope against hope, that "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:13). We desire, and expect, heaven to be our eternal home, though with reverence and awe we exclaim, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and unfathomable his ways!" (Rom. 11:33).
A Joyful Hope
The possibility of heaven is often too great for us to comprehend, but "by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope" (Gal. 5:5, NIV). Like Paul, "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2) and we try to obtain what Paul prayed we might have, that "the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13). Like the early Christians, "having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech" (2 Cor. 3:12). We take heed to Peter's command to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15). We are going to "obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven" (1 Pet. 1:4) and we want others to obtain it too. In this we "greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, (we) have been distressed by various trials" (1 Pet. 1:6).
In sickness or in health, in sorrow or in cheer, in abundance or in want, we are joyful. We stay positive, upbeat, optimistic. We know there is evil and sin in this world. We know life is difficult. We know people will hurt us, lie to us, gossip about us, be unfair to us, but it doesn't matter. We have a home with God awaiting us, and the only sorrow we never overcome is the awareness that so many of our friends, neighbors, associates, and family won't share that home with us. But we keep trying to show them our joy. We keep trying to interest them in the zeal, enthusiasm, peace, and joy that we have found in the hope of heaven through Christ.
A Living Hope
Brethren, we must be greatly affected by this hope of heaven that now dominates our thinking. Since "God . . . according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3), we had better let our hope live! Our hope must produce a way of life that truly reflects our eagerness for saying. Notice the general construction: Since we have this hope of heaven (19-21), . . . let us (1) draw near to God, (2) hold fast our confession without wavering, and (3) consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembly (22-25). Our hope has to have life! It has to work! Our hope has to produce something!
It has always amazed me that people who call themselves Christians and profess to want to go to heaven have a difficult time making the assemblies of the church a high priority in their lives. I wonder how often they think of heaven. I mean really think of heaven. What could be more important, after all, in respect to getting to heaven and seeing that others get there too, than worshiping God, encouraging brethren, and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord?
It equally amazes me that many Christians make little time during the week for prayer, Bible study, family devotion, meditation, or singing. Is our hope living, brethren? We often exercise our bodies more than we exercise godliness (which is best defined as "god-wardness" rather than "godlikeness"), even though Paul told Timothy "bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come," and went on to say that "it is for this that we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God" (1 Tim. 4:8-10). Is our "life to come" really what we labor and strive for? "Prescribe and teach these things," Paul concluded (1 Tim. 4:1 1), as he emphasized the need for Timothy to teach brethren to be godward, reverent, prayerful, studious, committed Christians who put their hope on heaven rather than on this life. Our hope must be a living hope.
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all good things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Our hope of heaven keeps our minds off of the pleasures of this world and puts them on the needs of our brethren. I wonder if some Christians in the USA are going to face the judgment seat of God trying to explain why they spent most of their "extra money" on expensive food, vacations, clothes, cars, etc., when there were so many opportunities to support the gospel or provide for the needy. "Gird your minds for action, be sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1: 13). We must have a living hope that works the works of God.
"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as he is pure" (1 Jn. 3:2-3). I wonder if some Christians are going to face the judgment seat of Christ trying to explain why they kept allowing so much impurity into their lives through the TV, movies, radio, and magazines, or why they maintained such a close friendship with worldly pleasures such as dancing, drinking, smoking, immodest clothing, and gambling. We can't just say we hope for heaven, we must live as one who truly has crucified himself to the things of this world.
A Persevering Hope
After speaking of the hope we have in the resurrection of an eternal spiritual body, Paul says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). Heaven gets us through the valleys. Heaven gives us the strength to suffer physically. Heaven helps us overcome temptation. Heaven keeps us preaching, teaching, or shepherding. Heaven gives us the courage to risk our livelihoods, comforts, friendships, and even our lives, for the cause of Christ. The song says it well, "Earth holds no treasures but perish with using, However precious they be; Yet there's a country to which I am going, Heaven holds all to me."
There's a bank in my area whose motto is "Whatever It Takes." That's what a Christian is willing to go through in this life to get to heaven. "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Whatever it takes. Suffering, sacrifice, servanthood, submission - whatever it takes. "But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it" (Rom. 8:25). Heaven holds all for us.
It is impossible for God to lie. He purposed heaven for mankind and he promised us a home with him there, and nothing will ever change God's mind. Strong encouragement. An anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. But only for those who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before them.
There is great joy in having fled for refuge because "though you have not seen Him, you love him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8-9). Joy in Christ overcomes sorrow in the world. This is the message of the book of Revelation. Hope is an anchor to the soul.
But we must flee for refuge in order to be anchored in the hope of heaven. We must have a living hope that flees from the lusts of this world and bears fruit for God. We must "deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:13). How easy it is for us to deceive ourselves, but "do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
And surely our hope must persevere. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life" (Rev.2:10). But it is the hope of heaven itself that allows us to persevere! "Just as it is written, 'For thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:36-37).
When we pray for others we try to pray for their greatest needs. Paul must have done this too, for he said in Ephesians 1:18-19, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." May it be so.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 629-631