The Hope Set Before Us

Advanced Bible Studies, Lesson 8 of 8

There are two purposes for this lesson. For those of you who are not Christians, it is written to persuade you to become obedient to the faith. For those of you who have obeyed, it is written to comfort and strengthen you as you begin to live and grow as a Christian.

Becoming a Christian does not free you from all the difficulties, trials, and sorrows of this life, but it does enable you to live with them, become stronger by them, and eventually to rise above them. One of the ways it does this is by setting before us hope. As it is written, "...we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us… stedfast" (Hebrews 6:18-19). Here hope is compared to an anchor. In the midst of a stormy sea, the shipmen depend on the anchor to prevent the ship from being driven into the rocks along the coast. So also in the storms of life, the Christian finds comfort in the anchor of hope. Paul put it this way, saying, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward…For in hope were we saved…" (Romans 8:18, 24).

Concerning the things of this life, the Christian has the same kinds of hopes as do other men. The Christian has a natural desire for peace, comfort, happiness, health, and a long life. However, many have had to give up these things in order to become Christians. Paul wrote, "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable" (1 Corinthians 15:19).

The hope of a Christian is the return of Christ. The last time Christ was with His disciples on this earth, it is said: "…And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11).

A Christian must work for the necessities of this life as do others. However, he does not become overly concerned with the material things of this world, because it is written: "...the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).

Though a Christian sorrows at the death of a loved one, at the death of a fellow Christian he sorrows not as others who have no hope. Paul wrote: "...But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 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 that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up 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 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Christians have a natural desire to live and enjoy life, but they do not fear death as the final end. Paul assures the Christians, "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:49-53).

At the return of Christ there will be the great judgment. Paul wrote concerning this, saying, "...But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10-12). Christ said, "Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29). This judgement spoken of here is described elsewhere as a place of "outer darkness," where there shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30)—a place "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44).

Those who are condemned to hell are those who do not obey the Gospel. It is written: "...and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Those of you who have obeyed may take comfort in the precious promise of Christ who said,

"Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).

That is the hope set before us as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. And it is upon this hope that we must "lay hold." Once Christ was asked, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). The answer was, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27). Then Christ said, "...this do, and thou shalt live" (Luke 10:28). Love for God is not just an emotion we feel; it is also something we must "do." It is written, "...this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).

We are commanded to believe: "...whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16); to repent: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9); to confess: "...Every one who shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8); to be baptized: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27); and to be faithful: "...Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). If you fail in this, you are without Christ, without God, and have no hope (Ephesians 2:12). But, if you obey from the heart, you may "...rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).

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