The word hope can be used in several ways. It can be used as a verb, to hope that something will happen, or as a noun to define the belief one has that something will be done. Hope can also be used to label a person or a thing into which someone places his or her hope. Society at large usually uses hope to describe some future desire one wants to see happen or fulfilled. Scripture’s use of the word is somewhat different. R.C. Sproul said that “Biblical hope is a firm convection that the future promises of God will be fulfilled.” This hope is of the strongest form, because it is based on the promise of God and not on human desires or abilities. The Christian hope is Jesus and the promise of believers’ eternal reign with Him.
The Christian Hope
Many believers get too infatuated with trying to figure out exactly when Jesus is coming back and what will happen during the tribulation. They often forget that in Scripture, the focus of the Christian hope is the return of Christ; everything else (Antichrist, tribulation, timing, etc.) is in the background. Romans 15:8-13 quotes the Old Testament, connecting it to Christ as the hope of both Jew and Gentile. Romans 8:23-25 speaks of believers’ longing for the hope of redemption bodies when their salvation will be made complete upon Christ’s return. Galatians 5:5 says that believers “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” that is gained by faith in Christ. Titus 3:4-7 reminds believers that salvation and the hope it gives comes from the work of Christ, so “we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Hebrews 6:19-20 describes the Christian hope as an anchor that is secured to Christ. The only true and steadfast hope we have is that of Christ’s return and His promise to believers of eternal life with Him.
It cannot be known when Christ will return, but it is certain that He will come back. Jesus said, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:44). Christ’s return will be sudden, so believers must carryout the Great Commission while being prepared and expectant. Jesus also said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). Only God the Father knows the exact time that the Hope of the World will come, so it is best that humans not waste time trying to figure it out.
There’s ample disagreement on the details of the end times. Some say that Christ could come back at any time. Others say that certain things have to happen before Jesus returns. Still some hold that Christ will return partly for some before He returns finally. Despite these differences, all believers hold that the return of Christ will result in the judgement of all people. Believers will be given their reward and will live with Christ for all eternity.
What Does This Mean for Christians Today?
The hope that believers have in Christ’s return and eternal reign gives them strength to face earthly trials. Christ never promises that following him would be easy. In fact, he states the opposite, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you […] If they persecute me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18,20). Scripture is full of statements regarding persecution of believers. 1 Peter talks of suffering as a good and expected thing, because it shows that you’re doing the work of God and will be blessed because of it. 2 Timothy 3:12 affirms that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Scripture records the stories of many Christians who were killed for Christ’s name. Revelation 6:9-11 states that those who have been slain are given white robes and are promised that they will be vindicated. This passage also reveals that before Jesus returns, more believers will be killed for spreading the Gospel, a fact that is a current reality for many Christ-followers around the world today. Many times when persecution is mentioned in Scripture it is done so in a glad or joyful tone; the bearer welcomes persecution when he knows it is a direct result of spreading the name of Jesus. It may seem strange to unbelievers for one to speak joyfully of hardships, but “when you know the truth about what happens to you after you die, and you believe it, and you are satisfied with all that God will be for you in the ages to come, that truth makes you free indeed” (Future Grace, John Piper).
Jesus Christ is the Christian Hope
Jesus Christ is the Christian hope. It is because of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension that believers have the assurance of eternal life with God. No one knows when or exactly how this present world will end, but it is certain that Jesus is coming back, judgement will happen, and believers will reign forever with Christ. This is a promise that is taught by Jesus Himself and is found throughout Scripture. The command now is for believers to hold fast to the faith at all costs, even unto death. Persecution is a definite reality for followers of Christ, but Paul reminds believers in Romans 8 that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”