By Peter Amsterdam
November 7, 2017
(Some points for this article were condensed from the book Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, by Randy Frazee.1)
When we read the Gospels, it’s apparent that Jesus knew beforehand that He was going to suffer and be killed, and also that He knew He was going to rise from the dead.
Taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”2
The confidence that Jesus had that He would rise from the dead is referred to in biblical terms as “hope.” Nowadays, when we use the word “hope,” it is generally understood as referring to something that someone would like to see happen. It conveys the idea that one doesn’t know what is going to happen, but they wish for a certain outcome. Scripture sometimes uses the word “hope” in this manner as well, but more often this word conveys a different and much more substantial meaning. The biblical understanding of the Greek word elpis, which is translated as hope, is “a desire of some good and an expectation of obtaining it.”
The meaning of “hope” and its cognates in the New Testament is radically different from that of the English word hope. Rather than expressing the desire for a particular outcome that is uncertain, hope in the New Testament by definition is characterized by certainty.3
The expectancy of biblical hope is akin to surety or certainty because it is rooted in the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. His death, followed by His rising from the dead, is what gives us the surety—or certainty—that we too will one day be raised from the dead. Thus our hope, our expectation, though not a reality right now, is a certainty. Our expectancy of obtaining God’s promise of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life with God are certain based on the promises of God.
When Jesus spoke of rising from the dead, He was expressing the biblical sense of hope, as He was assured that this was going to happen. Faith and hope are closely connected, as the certainty of hope is based in our faith in God. Hope, in the biblical sense, relates to the future, as it is the certainty that something promised by God will happen. It may not have happened yet, but we are assured that it will. For example, the apostle Paul speaks of the grace of God which teaches us to live godly lives in this present age, while we are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.4 The hope spoken of here is not hope in the sense that we wish for something to happen; rather it is the surety of expectation, knowing that Christ will appear in glory.
In the same way that Jesus was certain that He would rise from the dead, so we as Christians have the certainty that we will be raised from the dead. Having the certitude of biblical hope is part of growing in Christlikeness. Because we have the certainty of hope, we have trust in God and His promises. We know that His promises are true, even though we haven’t seen the complete fulfillment of them yet. These include the promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternity with God.
An example of a person having such hope is found in the biblical descriptions of the patriarch Abraham. He and his wife Sarah had reached old age, and she was past the age of childbearing, yet God had told him that within a year Sarah would bear a son. The apostle Paul wrote of him:
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.5
Abraham was unwavering in hope, in belief, in the sure knowledge that God would do what He said. He wasn’t wishing that what God said would come true; He knew it would. That is what hope in God means.
Another example of the surety of hope is found in the book of Job. Job suffered immensely—he lost all his children, his wealth, and his health. Without specifically using the word “hope,” Job expressed the concept of biblical hope when he said:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold.6
Despite his suffering, Job had the assurance that he would see God, which was the basis for his extraordinary perseverance—his hope.7
In the book of Hebrews, we see the concept of biblical hope expressed when we read of Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.8 Our Savior had surety (hope) of the joy that awaited Him when He returned to His Father, so He was willing to endure pain and suffering for our sakes.
God’s Word is the foundation of our faith and of the final outcome of our faith. Paul wrote about the hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.9 Paul speaks of this hope of eternal life as a future possession, as a certainty which is promised by God. Since God does not and cannot lie,10 we know without any doubt that we will be the beneficiaries of His promise. This is our hope, our surety.
When we understand hope in this biblical manner, we can find strength to endure life’s tests and trials. Sometimes the pathway of life leads us through trying and difficult times, but when we have hope, we have the assurance that the Lord will help us along that path and eventually we will overcome—if not in this life, then in the next. We place our hope, our surety, on the promises of God. We are able to endure hardship in the knowledge that we will live in the presence of our Lord forever. We have the conviction that whatever we face, no matter how difficult and trying it might be, in the end we will be forever with the Lord.11
When we understand the basis of our hope, we can better understand those who have chosen to die a martyr’s death. Author Randy Frazee wrote:
Why would someone choose to die rather than renounce Christ? Why would anyone suffer torture at the hands of evil dictators because of a belief they will not rescind? Why would people suffer from a lack of food, water, and medical care solely because they are Christians? What drives them to place their faith above anything else in life? The answer? Hope. What else could be the answer to these questions? For millions of Christians, the hope of Christ has driven them to survive mind-boggling odds and die peacefully under unspeakable circumstances. The longing to see their Savior on the other side fueled their hearts to endure to the end.12
They have been willing to die for their faith, as their faith was based on the surety of hope, which Scripture calls a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.13
While the challenges we face day by day may inevitably take up much of our time and attention, having hope can keep our minds and hearts focused on the Lord and our wonderful future with Him. Such hope can give us the courage and fortitude to stay positive and praiseful through the tests and trials and the ups and downs we face. When we remind ourselves of what is ahead—the assurance of our salvation and promised blessings for eternity—we can face our challenges courageously, with the sure knowledge that no matter what the outcome, we have the hope of a future with God.
Regularly reminding ourselves of our hope—our knowledge that we are saved, that God’s Spirit dwells within us, that Jesus sacrificed so that we can be in relationship with God, that He is present in our lives each day, and that we are assured of eternity with Him—should affect the way we think and feel about our life. When we live with this hope, we know that the eternal outcome will be glorious, and therefore we can better face the difficulties of life. Regularly reminding ourselves of the assurance of our salvation and what it means to our eternity can cause us to be more positive about our circumstances. We are wonderfully saved, and will spend forever in love, joy, and peace with God. As the bearers of such hope, we are called to likewise share that hope of glory with others, to do our best to represent Jesus to them, to love them as He does, and to humbly help them feel His love and care through us. May we always consciously live with the hope we have through Christ, and share that hope with others, as Jesus shared it with us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.14
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.15
Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.16
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.17
Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.18
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.19
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014).
2 Luke 18:31–33.
3 Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, eds., “Hope” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 499–500.
4 Titus 2:13.
5 Romans 4:18–21 NIV.
6 Job 19:25–27.
7 James 5:11.
8 Hebrews 12:2.
9 Titus 1:2.
10 Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:18.
11 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
12 Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 190.
13 Hebrews 6:19.
14 1 Peter 1:3–4.
15 1 Peter 1:20–21.
16 Titus 2:13.
17 Hebrews 10:23.
18 Ephesians 1:18–19.
19 Romans 15:13.