The Hope of Heaven

FROM Christianity Magazine: March 1987, Volume 4, Number 3

Thanks, I Needed That!

(The Hope of Heaven)

by Ferrell Jenkins

WHAT WOULD LIFE be without hope? The farmer plants in hope. The worker toils in hope. Parents bring up children in hope. Without hope, the Christian’s life would be bleak indeed. But the Christian’s life is not bleak; it is filled with hope. In Colossians 1:5, Paul speaks of “the hope laid up for you in heaven.” The focus of this article will be on “heaven” and on the “hope” which the Christian can have.

Heaven

The term “heaven” is generally used in three senses in Scripture. (1) The atmospheric heaven, the space immediately above us where the birds fly and from which the rain and the snow comes (Genesis 1:26, 30; Isaiah 55:9–11). (2) The celestial heaven is the location of the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14). (3) When we talk about “going to heaven” and “the hope of heaven” we are speaking of the abode of God—the dwelling place of God. This must be what Paul had in mind when he spoke of being caught up into the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Heaven is the dwelling place of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). When Christ came to earth, He came from heaven (John 3:13; 6:33–51). After He completed His work here, He returned to heaven (Hebrews 9:24; 4:14), and when He comes again to receive His saints He will come from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16). The Holy Spirit, likewise, came from heaven (1 Peter 1:12). These references allow us to see that heaven is the abode of all members of the Godhead.

The Christian’s Relationship to Heaven

As Christians, we sustain a unique relationship to heaven. It is the place of our citizenship (Philippians 3:20–21). The word for citizenship came to mean “a colony of foreigners who, in the environment of their present residence outside of their native country, were living according to the laws of the country in which they were living” (Smith, “Heaven,” Zondcrvan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, III:63). Some religious materialists, who do not believe in an afterlife, have asserted that the New Testament does not teach that we will “go to heaven.” While it is true that the exact terminology may not be found, the New Testament does clearly teach that the saved will “go to heaven.” Jesus taught that our reward is in heaven (Matthew 5:10–12), and that we may lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–21). Peter says that our inheritance is in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). Paul says our hope is laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:5), and that we should seek the things of heaven (Colossians 3:1).

Hope

The word hope (Greek: elpis) is defined as “favorable and confident expectation” (Vine). Another writer says that hope is “an interest or desire whose fulfillment is cherished” (Monsma, ZPEB, III:198). The simplest definition is that hope equals desire plus expectation. We desire many things we do not expect, and we expect many things we do not desire. Hope does not consist of desire alone or of expectation alone. We certainly desire to go to heaven, and as faithful Christians we have the right to expect to go there. Hope also involves some future realization; we hope for what we do not have (Romans 8:24–25).

The Basis of Our Hope

It is only through Christ that one can have hope (Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 4:4), and prior to His coming the Gentiles were “without hope” (Ephesians 2:12). There can be no more terrible predicament for man. In The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde described the spirit of the prisoners in a turn-of-the-century British jail: “We did not dare to breathe a prayer / Or to give our anguish scope! / Something was dead in each of us, / And what was dead was Hope.”

We learn of hope in the gospel (Colossians 1:5, 23). In the great commission, Jesus spoke of being saved. There are two aspects of this salvation: we are saved from past sins, and saved with a view toward heaven (Mark 16:15–16).

The Nature of Hope

Hope keeps us looking forward as we anticipate the future salvation (Titus 1:2; Romans 8:24–25), and hope sustains us in dark hours. Perhaps no words are more sad from an earthly view than when the physician has to say, “There is no hope.” But it’s even more sad to think of one having no hope of heaven. When we feel like giving up, hope sees us through. Hope causes vis to put forth effort. Samuel Johnson is credited with the saying, “Where there is no hope there can be no endeavor.” The writer of Hebrews likens hope to an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:18–20). If we cast our anchor into heaven and hold on tightly, hope keeps us from drifting too far away.

Even in time of trial and persecution the Christian can be sustained by his hope of heaven. In the words of the beautiful song he can say, “Heaven will surely be worth it all.”[1]

 

[1] Jenkins, F. (1987). Thanks, I Needed That!: The Hope of Heaven. In B. Lewis (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: March 1987, Volume 4, Number 3 (B. Lewis, Ed.) (22). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

 

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