Eternal Hope – Part 43

Eternal Hope – Part 43

January 2012

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 43


Although faith has always been the only condition for salvation, submission to God and obeying His commands is the paramount indication that you have met the condition. A heart for obedience is the only sure evidence of regeneration.

Reflections on 2 Corinthians

Paul says, “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”[1] What God will do at the resurrection, He in fact does (in an analogous manner) each day. So too, as God delivers from death day-by-day, He will also deliver from the grave at His coming. The phrase “day of our Lord Jesus”[2] connotes, as in other letters, Paul’s eternal hope. This eternal hope permeates his whole epistle, as evidenced by statements like: “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”[3]

The resurrection forms the foundation for Paul’s future hope: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you…. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”[4] This launches Paul into an explanation of what happens to the believer after death. In essence, he says we can serve God in this life in our bodies but absent from the Lord, in the presence of the Lord absent our bodies, and third, with our resurrected bodies in the presence of the Lord. In whichever state, we seek to please Christ, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”[5]

Paul ties the propitious death of Christ with imputation: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation… For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”[6] God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the believer, and the believer’s sin to Christ. Paul uses this double imputation seen at the end of chapter five as motivation for the Corinthians being generous with their resources: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”[7]

Finally, as Paul brings his letter to a close, he returns to his theme of living life in anticipation of eternity and defends his apostleship by reminding them that his weakness merely emulates the weakness of Christ. Paul takes upon his ministry the weakness of Christ: “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God.”[8]

Reflections on Galatians

This epistle makes a unique contribution to our understanding of God’s promise of an eternal hope to the individual, in that it is a polemic surrounding the question of how people in the Old Testament were saved. Paul begins by calling attention to the resurrection: “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”[9] He ties this with the fact that Christ died for our sins: “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:”[10] The phrase, “that He might deliver us from this present evil world,” may reference our eternal hope. Paul resurfaces the idea of Christ dying for our sins: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”[11] Here we note a clear reference to substitution; Christ paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross.

Twice Paul references our eternal hope, one negative: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness… of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,”[12] and one positive: “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”[13]

Galatians 3:19-4:7 defends his gospel against the Judaizing heresy, explaining why God gave the Law, as well as His purpose for it during the 2000 or so years it was in force for Israel. He describes this situation as “being in custody,” (3:23), and “shut up to faith” (3:22,23). These expressions refer to the period when the Jews lived under the Mosaic Law, which condemned them, incited them to sin more, but contained no hope of rectifying their sin problem with God. Paul makes it clear that it was God’s plan all along for the nation to be in this situation until Jesus’ substitutionary death.

The absence of an offer to the individual of an eternal hope in the Old Testament was intentional. Evidently, God deliberately let His chosen people, the Jewish nation, live under the condemnation of the Mosaic Law with no hope of eternal life to highlight the greatness of the redemption offered in Jesus. This may seem callous, but God did this in order to emphasize the gloriousness of the salvation Jesus made available at the time of His death. A relationship with God requires believing whatever He reveals, as was the case with Abraham; God did save a number of Hebrews without their knowing they were saved, simply because they believed Him. Only in the New Testament do we find out their faith, as demonstrated by their response to God, was credited as righteousness.

Reflections on Ephesians

In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul calls attention to Christ’s redemption of the sinner: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”[14] So also: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”[15]

Three times in Eph 1 Paul references our inheritance: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”[16] Although Paul does not mention an eternal hope, it seems to me that he implies one when talking about the believer’s inheritance, as indicated by: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”[17] Note that Paul says that redemption is a future event: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”[18] It seems to me that this implies a future, i.e., an eternal hope – as does: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”[19] The whole tenor of the epistle directs the believer to live this life in preparation for heaven.

Reflections on Philippians

Note the use of the phrase “Day of Christ:” “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ…Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”[20] This phrase seems to point to an eternal hope.

An eternal hope is implied in: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”[21] Paul clearly states that he is motivated by an eternal hope with the words: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”[22] And again, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”[23] Paul encourages them to accrue eternal gain through acts of generosity: “Not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit.”[24]

Although an eternal hope seems to form the ethos for all Paul says in this epistle, he seems to be more interested in encouraging them to godly living than generating this hope. At no place, that I can find, does Paul tie our eternal hope with the propitious death of Christ in his epistle to the Philippians.

Reflections on Colossians

Paul begins his epistle with an encouraging word of eternal hope: “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”[25] He next connects this hope with the propitious work of Christ: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins… And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”[26]

It seems to me when Paul mentions that we were dead in sins Christ made us alive, this has to refer to an eternal hope, for if it is applicable only in the temporal, then how do our lives differ from the non-believer? In Ephesians Paul says, “…even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”[27] In Colossians he makes the same point: “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”[28]

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”[29] In this beautiful passage Paul argues that Christ assures the believer that not only will he join Christ in glory, he is currently positioned in an otherworldly union with Christ. Thus he is assured that, “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”[30]

In Christ,


[1] II Corinthians 1:9-10, KJV
[2] II Corinthians 1:14, KJV
[3] II Corinthians 2:15-16, KJV
[4] II Corinthians 4:14, 17-18, KJV
[5] II Corinthians 5:1-11, esp. vv. 10-11, KJV
[6] II Corinthians 5:19, 21, KJV
[7] II Corinthians 8:9, KJV
[8] II Corinthians 13:4, RSV
[9] Galatians 1:1, KJV
[10] Galatians 1:4, KJV
[11] Galatians 3:13, KJV
[12] Galatians 5:19-21, KJV
[13] Galatians 6:8, KJV
[14] Ephesians 1:7, KJV
[15] Ephesians 2:14, KJV
[16] Ephesians 1: 11, 13-14, 18, KJV
[17] Ephesians 2:6, KJV
[18] Ephesians 4:30, KJV
[19] Ephesians 5:5, KJV
[20] Philippians 1:6, 10, 2:16, KJV
[21] Philippians 1:23, KJV
[22] Philippians 3:11, KJV
[23] Philippians 3:20-21, NAB
[24] Philippians 4:17, RSV
[25] Colossians 1:5, KJV
[26] Colossians 1:12-14, 20, KJV. When Paul says that God “reconcile(d) all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven,” what, besides fallen man, needed to be reconciled to God? It may mean the saints of the Old Testament that went to heaven incomplete without the atoning work of Christ, or possibly the created order that “was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope” (Romans 8:20). Some think this refers to celestial beings that partook of rebellion against God, and thus need redemption, but I am dubious. (Cf. Philippians 2:10)
[27] Ephesians 2:5, RSV
[28] Colossians 2:13, NAB
[29] Colossians 3:1-4, KJV
[30] Colossians 3:24, KJV