Thursday, 27 August 2009

Heavenly hope, eternal life, resurrection

Continuing our study of the Christian hope according to the New Testament, we discover that our hope is stored up for us in heaven, our hope is for eternal life, and it is centred on the hope of the resurrection.

a) Our hope is stored up for us in heaven:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” (Col 1:3-6).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pe 1:3-9).

Any Christian suffering persecution for the sake of the Name needs to hear of the hope that is stored up in heaven for them, and be reminded of the return of Jesus Christ. As persecution in this country increases in the future, I am convinced that we will focus much more on these topics, as this is all that will enable us to endure.

b) Our hope is eternal life:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Tit 3:4-7).

The great news about the gospel is that not only are we justified before God, we become heirs too, by virtue of becoming adopted as sons of God, and sharing an inheritance with the Son of God.

c) Our hope is in the resurrection:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:19-20)
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Th 4:13-14).

This is the very centrepiece of our hope – that one day, in the twinkling of an eye, these corruptible bodies will be changed to incorruptible, and the dead will rise again. The historical fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead provides us with assurance on this point – if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is pointless. This hope should set us apart from the world when faced with death. To live is Christ, to die is gain.

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