Eternal Hope – Part 37

Eternal Hope – Part 37

January 2010

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 37

We find the use of the word “hope” three times in the Gospels: Matthew 12:21: “And in his name shall the Gentiles hope.” Luke 6:34: “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.” John 5:45: “Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, on whom ye have set your hope.” With the possible exception of Matthew 12:21, Jesus does not use this word in an eschatological sense. Jesus’ presence was a realized eschatology; fellowshipping with Him, they did not need to hope in His return. It was only after He ascended that they needed a hope of His return.

Continued Reflections on the Gospel of Matthew

In material found only in Matthew 24:43 – 25:46, Jesus continues teaching about the end of the age with a series of parables: The Faithful Servant and the Evil servant,[1] Ten Virgins,[2] Pounds,[3] and Sheep and Goats.[4] Note in the outline of events listed above (also found in Matthew 24:1-31), Jesus tells His followers that they can anticipate His return, but in the parable of the Ten Virgins He says they cannot anticipate the time of His return. Evidently, we can discern the times but not the exact time of His appearing.

From this point on, Jesus does not discuss anything pertaining to an eternal hope, with the exception of His saying, during the institution of the Lord’s Supper, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”[5] During His trial before the high priest, He said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”[6]

The last parable, dealing with the sheep and goats, ends with “and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”[7] Earlier in this chapter, in the Parable of the Foolish Virgins, Jesus teaches the importance of being selfish (don’t share the oil), the desire to negotiate (foolish virgins wanted bridegroom to reconsider), and God’s unwillingness to reconsider His decision. No room for grace in this parable.

Jesus again tells the disciples that He will fulfill Scripture – “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”[8]

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”[9] This commentary by Matthew takes place as Jesus dies on the cross, before His resurrection.[10]

When on trial for His life, the masses cry, “His blood be on us and on our children.”[11] What kind of mind-set would be required for a person to make that kind of statement? How can a person ever judge with that kind of confidence? Certainly nothing in the Bible warrants it.

Reflections on the Gospel of Mark

Speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “And he said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’”[12] In this, a passage paralleling Matthew 13, Jesus says that we reap in eternity what we sow in this life.

In a statement, paralleling Matthew 16 and Luke 9, Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”[13] In words reminiscent of the Matthew 5 presentation of the “Sermon on the Mount,” He says, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire… And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell… And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”[14] Jesus emphasizes the importance of eternal life and the need to hope in heaven rather than hell. Matthew adds to the words of Jesus, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”[15]

“For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”[16] This appears to be the third time Jesus references His death. Mark says, “But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.”[17] Matthew, commenting on this same episode says, “And they were exceeding sorry,”[18] while Luke reports, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.”[19] Evidently, God did not want them to make the connection between Jesus’ death and their need for propitiation. When Jesus heard the Scribe agree with Him that loving God is the most important command, He affirmed the Scribe with these words: “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”[20] Jesus does not tell him what else he needs to get to heaven.

Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”[21] In Matthew’s account of this, He says “kingdom of heaven.” Note that Jesus refers to the “kingdom” as both a present reality and a future event. A person’s future entrance into the kingdom of God is dependent upon his correct attitude toward the present kingdom of God. You can see this dual understanding of the kingdom throughout the Synoptics.[22]

At the end of Jesus public ministry, He gives His followers eternal hope with these words: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows… Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death… For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days… For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect… But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”[23] Jesus lists the events preceding the end of the age when He returns. In a parallel account Jesus says the days of Noah characterize the end times.[24]

“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”[25] Jesus accuses His disciples of “unbelief and hardness of heart” because they refused to believe the witness of those who saw the resurrected Christ. How do you determine the line between unacceptable unbelief and healthy skepticism? “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”[26] This is the last time the disciples saw Jesus prior to their death. So too, it is the last reference in the Synoptics to an eternal hope.


It seems to me that in the Synoptics Jesus emphasizes the role man plays in his relationship to God rather than role God takes in initiating a relationship with man. Grace tends to be muted, and when you find it, more often than not you will see it by implication rather than explication. I corresponded with Darrell Bock, a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, and, in part, he said: “I disagree with the assessment that grace is in John, but not in the Synoptics. Jesus’ ministry and the theological supposition of his outreach to sinners is grace throughout. Luke’s theme of the basis for reaching out to sinners is grounded in faith and forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). You argue it is implied; I think it is more fundamental– the examples in use fit the period of the Jewish audience, but they exemplify grace. Even more to the point is Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus tells the disciples to make disciples by ‘teaching them to obey ALL that I have commanded you.’ Texts like the Sermon on the Mount– one of five blocks of teaching in Matthew must be in view here. So the teaching of obedience is a crucial part of the gospel portrait. It is grounded in the RESPONSE to Jesus’ offer of grace, but it is a key part of the total mission of the church to instruct with a view to encouraging the body to draw on the Spirit, who will lead them into the proper response.” So you can see, not all agree with me on this point. I leave it to you to decide as you read on through my notes.

Grateful for His grace,


[1] Matthew 24:43-51
[2] Matthew 25:1-13
[3] Matthew 25:14-30: This parable, similar to the parable of the mina, teaches the same lesson, but from a different perspective. In the parable of the mina, our Lord makes an equal distribution, while in this parable the distribution is unequal. The man receiving five pounds returns five more, and the one receiving ten pounds returns ten more. Each man receives the same reward. In heaven, God rewards His followers based on faithfulness to opportunity.
[4] Matthew 25:31-46: Note in v. 46 that whether people go to heaven or hell is based on their works (cf. Luke 19:8-9 above).
[5] Mark 14:25, KJV, cf. also Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18, 30
[6] Matthew 26:64, KJV, cf. also Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69
[7] Matthew 25:46, KJV
[8] Matthew 26:30-31, KJV
[9] Matthew 27:52-53, KJV
[10] These verses dealing with the graves opening appear only in Matthew.
[11] Matthew 27:25, KJV
[12] Mark 4:24-25, RSV
[13] Mark 8:35-38, KJV
[14] Mark 9:43-48, KJV
[15] Matthew 18:10, KJV
[16] Mark 9:31, KJV
[17] Mark 9:32, KJV
[18] Matthew 17:23, KJV
[19] Luke 9:45, RSV
[20] Mark 12:34, KJV
[21] Mark 10:14-15, KJV
[22] Later in this study we will look at the various ways Scripture views the Kingdom of God.
[23] Mark 13:4, 6-8, 12, 19-20, 22, and 24-26, KJV
[24] Matthew 24:37-41
[25] Mark 16:14, KJV
[26] Mark 16:19, KJV