What does the Bible say about the Christian's hope?
The word hope means "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen" and it is one of the most precious human emotions. When we hope, and that hope is deferred, it makes us heartsick, but when something hoped for is fulfilled, the Bible says, it is "a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). The feeling of hope is central to every good story—we want a happy ending, and even through the worst circumstances, our desire to see that ending occur is what keeps us reading. The same is true of life. A person who has hope can live through terrible circumstances by keeping their focus on that desired outcome. But when hope is gone, grief is complete (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
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Dante, writer of the Divine Comedy, imagined a sign over the gates of hell which reads "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here." This fictional depiction of hell hits frighteningly near the mark. Hell is a place where there is no hope of anything better. There is no salvation possible anymore, there is nothing to look forward to. While we still live, God's free gift of salvation is still offered us in Jesus Christ (John 3:16–18). But once we die, that gift is no longer available, and hope disappears (Matthew 25:1–13). The Christian's hope, on the other hand, is eternal. "According to his great mercy, [God] 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, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3–5).
The Christian's hope is founded in God's character. When a Christian reads the Bible they can hear God speaking to them—they are like sheep who hear and recognize the voice of their Shepherd (John 10:27). And what we read in the Bible gives us hope. We trust Him because we know who He is. We believe Him when He says that Jesus has taken the punishment for our sins, and that we are now safe (Ephesians 2:8–9). We hear His voice saying that He has promised to take us to live with Him after we die. This is the Christian's hope—a "living hope" that looks forward to a glorious happy ending to the story.
A Christian's strength, and his or her ability to withstand the evil in the world, the temptations of the devil, and the challenges of living in the body, flows from this hope. It is a solid hope, because it depends on the goodness and strength of our Shepherd. As Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27–28).
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