Christian hope may perhaps be defined as "faith waiting patiently for God to fulfil His promises to us". Another helpful definition of "hope, as used in the New Testament," is "the happy and confident expectation of enjoying some unseen and future promise of God" (Derek Prime, Bible Answers to Questions about the Christian Faith & Life). W E Vine further explains that "Hope describes (a) the happy anticipation of good (the most frequent significance), e.g. Titus 1.2; 1 Peter 1.21; (b) the ground upon which hope is based, Acts 16.19; Colossians 1.27, Christ in you, the hope of glory (see above); (c) the object upon which the hope is fixed, e.g. 1 Timothy 1.1". There are at least four prominent thoughts, or rather, Christian attitudes, associated with the most frequent sense of the word in the New Testament. First, faith, in the sense of a confident trust in God despite the delay of the fulfilment of His promises and the complete absence of evidence in our present circumstances that they will be fulfilled. Second, joy, an exuberant anticipation of the enjoyment of the promised blessings of God because we already know and have fellowship with God who has made these promises to us. Third, patience, in the sense of endurance of trials and persecutions in this life while we wait for Gods promised blessings and deliverance; and, finally, complete optimism and certainty about the eventual fulfilment of all Gods promises. The very close connection between "hope" and "faith" in the New Testament generally is strongly indicated by the fact that the Greek verb for "hope", namely, elpizo, is frequently translated in the AV as trust, or trusted, rather than hope, or hoped, and the Greek noun for "hope", namely, elpis, is once translated in the AV as faith, rather than hope (see G V Wigram, Englishmans Greek Concordance of the NT). The AV translators probably considered that the word "hope" as used in contemporary English in 1611 would in many New Testament contexts have given "an uncertain sound"!
The subjects of the Christians hope may be divided into two main aspects. First, there are all the more general promises given not only to believers today, but also to believers of every dispensation, concerning all aspects of the second coming of Christ to fulfil Gods purposes of grace and glory, judgment and righteousness in this world. But, secondly, there is the particular and distinctive promise of the Lord Jesus Himself, made in John 14.3 during His upper room ministry, shortly before His death, to His own disciples, who then formed the nucleus of the New Testament Church, that He will return for us, take us back to His Fathers house in heaven, and make us completely like Himself in resurrection glory by the redemption of our earthly bodies. This event will be the future and final aspect of our salvation, namely, from the very presence of sin within us. That we shall fully participate in the fulfilment of the wider promises of our God, even ruling this world with Christ and judging angels, is wonderful enough, but that, as Christians in the age of Gods highest purposes of grace and redemption in Christ, we are the especial objects of His love and destined to a place of unique nearness to Himself, even to behold the eternal glory that He had with His Father in His very presence for ever, is quite breathtaking to even think of, let alone fully grasp, and respond to appropriately in adoring worship. But that such is our promised destiny, and therefore our assured, blessed, and joyful hope, is made completely clear by the Lord Jesus Himself in His High Priestly prayer to His Father in John 17.20-26, especially in v.24. The whole passage intimately concerns all who, like us today, were going to believe on Christ through the word spoken by the apostles. The Lord prayed this on the eve of Calvary, when all around was dark and threatening. See how much of it has already been fulfilled subsequently, and take courage to believe that, no matter how dark and threatening our own circumstances in life may be now, our Father will allow His Son to fulfil the remainder of His will expressed to Him and His Sons promise made to us.
Nothing distinguishes the promises of God from those of men so much as their absolute certainty. And this applies to the promise of the Christians hope of the Lords return for us no less than to all His other "exceeding great and precious promises". But upon what is this certainty based? It is based upon several solid foundational truths and historically-verifiable facts recorded in Scripture, as well as their results in our present personal spiritual experiences as believers.
First, there are the truths of The revealed character and attributes of God. The Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God can certainly control and direct all the historical events within His own creation to His appointed goal. And His other moral attributes, both of absolute truth and faithfulness, light, holiness, and righteousness, which have been amazingly demonstrated to be fully consistent with His essential character of love, mercy, and grace at the cross of Christ, mean that He is both able and willing to extend hope to His fallen and sinful creature man in spite of all our waywardness. The propitiatory and substitutionary sacrifice of His own incarnate Son has made this gloriously possible. Apart from the cross there could never have been any hope for anyone.
Second, there are the twin historical facts of The resurrection of Christ from among the dead, and The coming of the Holy Spirit to form and indwell the Church at Pentecost. 1 Corinthians 15 is essential reading on the crucial importance of the historical resurrection of Christ as the necessary basis of the Christians hope, both as to the effectiveness of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to free us from the guilt and power of our sins, and also as to the assurance of our own future bodily resurrection at the return of the Lord Jesus and our transformation into His perfect likeness in glory then. For the resurrection of Christ is proof that God has accepted His sacrifice for sin, and also that He has conquered all the forces of evil and of death who attempted in vain to destroy Him at Calvary, and thus thwart Gods purposes of grace and glory for us - and, indeed, of judgment in this world and the world to come generally. "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain"; further, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor 15.17, 19-20). Luke assures us that there are "many infallible proofs" that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (Acts 1.3). So much so, that several unbelievers who have set out to disprove the historical evidence of the resurrection of Christ have ended up by being thoroughly convinced of its truth and wonderfully saved themselves. The Bible is a dangerous book to tamper with, because in so doing we are opposing the living God who wrote it, and He can thrust its truth into us like a sword! The consequences of the resurrection of Christ are very far-reaching, but certainly include the sure hope of our own resurrection at our Lords coming again. In fact, Romans 8.11 makes it clear that the concomitant truth of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to indwell all believers in Christ is the assurance of our bodily resurrection. Paul says, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (RV). Furthermore, the Holy Spirits presence in all members of the New Testament Church is, according to Ephesians 1.14, "the earnest [guarantee, or down-payment] of our inheritance (in Christ) until the redemption of the purchased possession", which will occur when Christ returns for us. As such, He makes real to our souls and in our daily experience now all the blessings of eternal life. This present spiritual experience is the inner proof that all true believers possess now of the truth of all Gods promises to us in the future as well.
Third, the certainty of the Christians hope is based upon Scripture. Consider, for instance, the undoubted fact that all the Old Testament promises concerning Christs first coming were fulfilled completely literally, and that many of the promises concerning His second coming are contained in the same passages of Scripture as those concerning His first coming. Should we not confidently expect the latter promises to be fulfilled as completely and literally as the former? Then, again, the New Testament record of the Transfiguration of Christ on the holy mount is confirmed by Peter, who witnessed it, to be a preview of Christs second coming in power and glory to reign in this world (2 Pet 1.16-18).
Finally, throughout the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament, we have given to us many records of godly believers who were delivered out of various trials and persecutions as a source of comfort to us, strengthening our faith to patiently endure suffering now, and so to enjoy hope in God, according to Romans 15.4.
To be continued.