IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE
In April of 1829, Alexander Campbell, one of the leading lights in the movement to bring about a restoration of original apostolic Christianity as set forth in the New Testament, met Robert Owen, a Scottish socialist and atheist, in a public debate in Cincinnati, Ohio. In spite of their vast philosophical differences, the two men apparently became friends.
Sometime after the debate, Mr. Owen was a guest in the Campbell home in Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia). One day the two men were walking in the fields together. Owen turned to Campbell and said, “I have one advantage over the Christian.” “What is that, sir?” Campbell asked. “I am not afraid to die,” replied Owen. “If I had a few business affairs arranged, I could lie down and die without fear.” “Have you any hope in death?” Campbell inquired. “No, sir; I think that death is the end, and I am without hope and fear in death.” “Do you see that ox over there?” asked Mr. Campbell. “It has filled itself with the grass of the meadow, and now stands in the shade of the tree, without fear and without hope in death. Tell me, sir, what does infidelity do to elevate a man above the beasts?”
Hope is one of the great values of a Christian. The apostle Peter wrote:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5).
A brief analysis of this text reveals the following:
1. God has begotten His children to a living hope. He has created/ engendered in them an everlasting hope.
2. He did this motivated by His mercy for mankind and through the instrumentality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
3. This hope is to an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, one that is incapable of being corrupted.
4. This hope does not fade away. It endures.
5. This hope is reserved (literally, guarded) in heaven.
6. This hope is for those who are kept by the power of God through faith. Cease believing (being faithful) and the hope vanishes.
7. This hope will be revealed (made known) in the last time (at the end of all things at the second coming of Christ).
It is depressing to live without hope, to believe that things will never be any better. How unutterably sad it is to be among those “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Hope is what keeps us going. It is what makes life exciting. Hope gives us something to look forward to!
The Bible teaches that there is only one hope (Ephesians 4:4). But for the faithful Christian this one hope has several significant dimensions. It involves our resurrection from the dead. Before the Jewish Sanhedrin council Paul said, “. . . concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged” (Acts 23:6).
This hope of our resurrection, in turn, gives rise to the hope of eternal life. “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,” wrote the apostle Paul (Titus 1:2). Our hope therefore is of heaven where this eternal life will be experienced. “Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,” said the apostle (Colossians 1:5). “Reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).
Finally, this hope consists of becoming as Jesus now is.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I John 3:2-3).
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body . . .” (Philippians 3:20-21).
What about you? Is your life filled with hope or with despair? Only the person who is Christ and in whom is Christ has any real hope! Paul declared: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
March 22, 2016