Someone may take issue with a phrase like the one in the heading above linking hope and reality. How can hope, or something hoped for, be realized in the present? Is “hope” not by definition an expectation of an event or condition in the future that is not yet “reality”?
It is true that the man of this world would hear only dissonance should he hear the terms “hope” and “reality” linked together. But the Christian has Christ Jesus as his Hope, and the operation of faith in his soul substantiates (gives reality to) what he knows is ahead for believers: glory with Christ.¹ Genuine faith in Jesus is the absolute prerequisite for hope; where faith is either feigned or rejected, souls have nothing that can really be called hope, for they have not Christ, and are without God in this world (Ephesians 2:12). Their wish for a blissful hereafter has no substance, and is no more real than a dream that vanishes upon awakening.
The spiritual reality of the Christian’s hope brings with it the potential for very much practical enjoyment in the walk of faith. Here are a few things that are found where hope is doing its special work in the believer’s soul:
- “We have been saved in hope” (Romans 8:24*). Yes, we are “saved by grace through faith” from a hopeless existence and course through this world, and from its judgment, but God ordained that hope would characterize and attend that salvation, working perseverance in us while we await the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s coming. His coming at the rapture to catch His own away is referred to in the phrase “the hope of salvation”, and that hope is a “helmet” of protection for our minds from the distractions that can cause even believers to slumber spiritually.² “Every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure” (I John 3:3*).
- “We boast in hope of the glory of God . . . hope does not make ashamed” (Romans 5:2-5*). Because hope to a Christian is but “deferred certainty”, as some have put it, he has a right to boast with God-given confidence in the reality of coming glory that accompanies justification and full access by faith into his perfect standing in grace. And it is impossible that this hope will go unrealized and leave a believer ashamed and lost, for God’s love for him, once so fully displayed at the cross of Christ, is now shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit, and there is no possibility of separation from that “everlasting love”.³
- “Be always prepared to give an answer to every one that asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15*). How would anyone ever think to ask a saint to give an account of his hope? Because he or she lives like that’s all that’s worth living for! While it may be more common for an unbeliever in modern societies to marginalize or ignore the Christian that lives according to the hope of glory, rather than to inquire about that hope, we can be assured that they notice and have difficulty understanding the phenomenon. They will answer to God for their willful ignorance.
The Christian’s hope is something that cannot be feigned or counterfeited, as has often been attempted with faith, by subscribing to a legalistic or humanistic belief system. Even love may be feigned through a variety of counterfeits from legalistic service to hedonistic sensuality. But while the apostles repeatedly called attention to the possibility of feigned faith and feigned love,° there is in scripture no corresponding admonition to maintain an “unfeigned hope”. It is assumed to be the real thing whenever it is found in a believer who confesses Christ. Would it not be virtually impossible for a person to speak of eagerly awaiting the Lord’s return were he not truly “saved in hope”?
The exhortation to the believer in Christ is this: “Hold fast the confession of the hope without wavering” (Hebrews 10:23*). This living hope in Christ, held fast and enjoyed, is that which affords the Christian both the desire and the energy to endure with patience till the coming of the Lord.
¹ I Timothy 1:1; Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:17
² Ephesians 2:1-9; Titus 2:13; I Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11
³ Romans 5:1-11; 8:28-39; Jeremiah 31:3
° I Timothy 1:5 and II Timothy 1:5; II Corinthians 6:6 and I Peter 1:22
* Scripture references given in the Darby translation.