Referencing the coming resurrection, Paul wrote, “For in this hope [of the redemption of our bodies] we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24–25).
To many of us, “hope” sounds wishful and tentative, but biblical hope means to anticipate with trust. We expect a sure thing, purchased on the cross, accomplished and promised by an all-knowing God. Scripture offers solid ground for our hope in Christ.
At times I am troubled when I use the word hope in writing about Heaven, which is why I will sometimes use the phrase “blood-bought hope” or “certain hope.” Yet even then, “certain hope” sounds like I should be using a different word than hope, because if it’s certain, it might seem as if it’s not really hope. However, the word hope historically and biblically means far more than what it has been reduced to today. To use the same word of hoping it’s a sunny day or that our favorite team wins the game or that the meal we’re cooking turns out well just doesn’t seem like the right word to use of something God has promised to us and purchased for us.
When Scripture speaks of peace, hope, justice, and love, it routinely attaches deeper and more Christ-centered meanings to those words than our culture does. For example, love is commonly used in superficial ways, as popular music has long demonstrated. People say they love hamburgers, hairstyles, and YouTube. They “make love” to someone they barely know. This means we must take pains to clarify what Scripture actually means by love, holiness, hope, peace, pleasure, and happiness. We should contrast the meaning in Scripture with our culture’s superficial and sometimes sinful connotations.
Got Questions explains the difference between the English use of “hope” and the words used in Scripture that are translated as hope:
The word hope in English often conveys doubt. For instance, “I hope it will not rain tomorrow.” In addition, the word hope is often followed by the word so. This is the answer that some may give when asked if they think that they will go to Heaven when they die. They say, “I hope so.” However, that is not the meaning of the words usually translated “hope” in the Bible.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word batah and its cognates has the meaning of confidence, security, and being without care; therefore, the concept of doubt is not part of this word. We find that meaning in Job 6:20; Psalm 16:9; Psalm 22:9; and Ecclesiastes 9:4. In most instances in the New Testament, the word hope is the Greek elpis/elpizo. Again, there is no doubt attached to this word. Therefore, biblical hope is a confident expectation or assurance based upon a sure foundation for which we wait with joy and full confidence. In other words, “There is no doubt about it!”
The Christian worldview doesn’t offer some vague, tenuous hope that there might be eternal life and happiness. It offers the solid promise of an eternal relationship with a happy God whose love is so great it sent Him to the Cross to secure our eternal righteousness and thus our never-ending happiness. Knowing His redemptive design, God assures His children, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Paul writes in Titus 2:13, “As we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NET). Again, hope means not a wish, but a certain promise. Got Questions explains, “Biblical hope carries no doubt. Biblical hope is a sure foundation upon which we base our lives, believing that God always keeps His promises.”
Such solid hope is the light at the end of life’s tunnel. Not only does it make the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of the world into which we will one day emerge. Not just a better world, but a new and perfect world. A world alive, fresh, beautiful, and devoid of pain, suffering, and war; a world without disease, accident, and tragedy; a world without dictators and madmen. A world ruled by the only one worthy of ruling.
This hope isn’t an unrealistic dream or fantasy. Rather, it’s a solid expectation secured by the blood-bought promises of our Savior and King. After making the pledge that He will end all suffering and death, Christ, “who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).
Jesus was saying, “That’s my promise, permanently inscribed in the scars on my hands and feet.” In a world where little seems certain, this is a promise we can take to the bank!
Is resurrected living in a resurrected world with the resurrected Christ and His resurrected people your daily longing and solid hope? Is it part of the gospel you share with others? It will be the glorious climax of God’s saving work that began at our regeneration, and will mark the final end of any and all sin that separates us from God. In liberating us from sin and all its consequences, the resurrection will free us to live with God, gaze on Him, and enjoy His uninterrupted fellowship forever, with no threat that anything will ever again come between us and Him.
May God preserve us from embracing anything other than a biblical definition of our hope. May we rejoice as we anticipate the height, depth, length, and breadth of our redemption!Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven and The Promise of the New Earth.