By Mike Willis
The Christian’s hope is an anchor to the soul (Heb. 6:11); it is the Christian’s helmet in his defense against Satan (1 Thess. 5:8). The Christian’s hope for everlasting life is based on the firm foundation of the immutable promise of God (Tit. 1:2). The hope of everlasting life is a motive to cause us to purify our present lives (1 Jn. 3:2-3). Our is a “lively hope” (1 Pet. 1:3) for an inheritance “which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Pet. 1:4-5).
Yet, Paul warned of some who would move us away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23). Though not specifically prophesied by Paul, there are several contemporaries theologies which result in moving us away from the one hope (Eph. 4:4) of the Christian to some other hope.
Hopes Offered By False Religions
1. The Hope of Modernism. Modernism denies the inspiration of the Scriptures, the miracles of the Bible, the eternal nature of man, the judgment, and heaven and hell. The man who walks by faith in hope of eternal life is mocked by modernists as one who believes in a “pie in the sky in, the sweet by and by.” Commenting upon the manner in which modernism or liberalism destroys the hope of the Christian, J. Gresham Machen wrote as follows:
Very different is the “program” of the modern liberal Church. In that program, heaven has little place, and this world is really all in all. The rejection of the Christian hope is not always definite or conscious; sometimes the liberal preacher tries to maintain a belief in the immortality of the soul. But the real basis of the belief in immortality has been given up by the rejection of the New Testament account of the resurrection of Christ. And, practically, the liberal preacher has very little to say about the other world. This world is really the centre of all his thoughts; religion itself, and even God, are made merely a means for the betterment of conditions upon this earth (Christianity And Liberalism, pp. 148-149).
Modernism consequently has the hope of improving social conditions on this earth; it is not interested in a religion which preaches everlasting life in the world to come.
The program of work which is engaged in by Modernism reflects this program of work. They are interested in improving housing, providing proper education, eliminating poverty, and abolishing child labor. Many programs of social work have been initiated and supported by modernists who have rejected the one hope of the gospel in hope of making this life a “heaven on earth.”
Modernism was coupled with the belief in the inherent goodness of man. Tied to evolution, this doctrine assumed that man was constantly getting better and that this world was going to continue to be improved. World Wars I and II pretty well shattered the dreams of modernism as theologians were forced to grapple with man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
The comment which Paul made regarding those at Corinth who had denied the possibility of the bodily resurrection certainly seems appropriate to apply to modernists: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). Modernism confines the hope of the gospel to matters pertaining to this life. Consequently, modernism destroys the “one hope” of the gospel.
2. Judaism and Premillennialism. Both first century Judaism and twentieth century premillennialism have changed the hope of the gospel. A careful assessment of modern dispensationalist preachers will reveal that they are looking for the establishment and rise to power of Israel as a nation. The establishment of Israel as a nation is supposed to have occurred in 1947. Her rise to power is supposed to be in the process of being fulfilled at this time.
The old kingdom of Israel as existed in the days of David and Solomon becomes the hope of modern Israel and the premillennialist. The modern premillennialist believes that Jesus will come back to this earth, established an earthly kingdom, and reign over this kingdom for a thousand dears. Hence, the hope of the premillennialist is the establishment of the earthly kingdom of Israel and the one thousand year reign on this earth of the Messiah.
This is certainly not that for which the Apostle Paul hoped. He was not anticipating Christ to come to this earth to establish His kingdom; instead, he looked forward to the time when Christ would deliver us His kingdom to God (1 Cor. 15:24). Premillennialism, therefore, perverts the one hope of Christianity.
3. Atheism and agnosticism. Atheism and agnosticism destroy the belief in “one hope.” They replace faith with infidelity. The result is a philosophy which is properly described as being without hope. Atheism has nothing beyond this life to look forward to; agnosticism states that there is no way of knowing whether or not there is something beyond this life to look forward to. At any rate, both systems of belief destroy the “one hope” which the Christian has through Christ.
Atheism leaves man without a hope. To demonstrate that this is so, please consider some of these despairing statements of some atheists:
David Home: “Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? . . . I am confounded with all these quotations, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty (Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, pp. 44, 47).
Ingersoll: “Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word” (Cited by McClure, Mistakes of Ingersoll and His Answers, II, p. 147).
Woosley Teller, President of American Association For The Advancement of Atheism: “It is only by forgetting his place in stellar space that man can find the urge to continue his interest in things here below, for all his labors on earth are destined to be wiped out in the crash of things” (The Atheism of Astronomy, p. 63).
Atheism gives man no reason for living and no reason for striving to do what is right. It promises him nothing but the grave. Agnosticism has nothing to offer; it affirms that one cannot know that there is anything beyond the grave. Hence, infidelity leaves man in despair – without God and without hope in this world. It is a departure from the “one hope” of the gospel.
The Christian’s Hope
The hope of the Christian is tied to the second coming of Jesus Christ. We understand that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and will return again to receive us unto Himself that where He is there we may be also (Jn. 14:1-3). Hence, we await the second coming of our Savior (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28).
At the second coming, the saints of God will receive the blessed reward of everlasting life, eternal communion with God. Heaven is our everlasting home of our everlasting soul. There we will receive eternal life (Tit. 1:2; Mark 10:30). Our everlasting home of the soul is described as communion with God (Rev. 21:3). There “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Our faithful loved ones will have been raised from the dead with us (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and those who are alive at His coming will have been transformed. There with thousands of others, we shall lift our voices in praise to God who created the world and to the Son who gave His life that we might be redeemed.
Frankly, this hope stabilizes my life in Christ – it is the anchor of my soul (Heb. 6:18). There are times when conditions are such in life that a person would choose to commit suicide if there were no resurrection and no judgment to face. When the number of pleasurable experiences are significantly less than the number of painful experiences, the infidel has no reason for continuing to live. The Christian has hope – the hope of everlasting life – to sustain him through the dark clouds of life. When Paul and Silas had been beaten and placed in the jail at Philippi, their spirits did not despair; instead they sang praises to God (Acts 16:25). When Paul faced a certain death at the hands of Nero, he looked beyond the agonies of death to his crown of life and wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The hope of everlasting life sustained him as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
Be Not Moved Away From The Hope Of The Gospel
Paul warned the brethren at Colosse, “. . be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23). Inasmuch as the hope of the gospel is under attack, we need to be reminded to maintain our hope. Let us not be diverted to begin to hope for the conversion of the entire world to Christ, for we have no divinely revealed reason for expecting that to occur. Let us not be diverted to hope for the total improvement of social conditions to the point that poverty, ignorance, and crime are totally eliminated, for that is not the hope of the gospel. Let us not be diverted to watching the newspapers in anticipation of the political improvement of the state of Israel, for that is not the hope of the gospel.
Rather, let us be firmly fixed in the one hope of the gospel – everlasting life to be given to us in the world to come. Let us anxiously await the second coming of our Lord. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
Truth Magazine XXIV: 48, pp. 771-773
December 4, 1980