Eternal Hope – Part 44

Eternal Hope – Part 44

March 2012

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 44


Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”[1] Christ died for His church. Because Christ does not need to die for an institution (such as Israel) any more than He has to die for our organization or institution, the “church” refers to individuals, not an institution.

Reflections on 1Thessalonians

Commending the Thessalonians, Paul says that they “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”[2] We note that Paul talks about the resurrection and the fact that Christ delivers us from wrath, but does not specifically say Jesus died to make this possible through His propitious death.

In numerous places in this epistle Paul implies that he anticipates the return of Christ during his lifetime: [3] “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.”[4] In this famous passage dealing with the “rapture,” Paul uses “asleep” as a euphemism for death, as indicated in v. 16 when he says “the dead in Christ.” We have an eternal hope because Christ will come for His own.

Reflections on 2Thessalonians

Paul places a heavy emphasis on eschatology in this short epistle: “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling…”[5]

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Paul comments on what we should expect just prior to Christ’s return, outlining some of the activities of Antichrist: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”[6] Antichrist places his throne in the Temple, seeking to exalt himself above God.

Evidently, some refused to work, believing the return of Christ to be imminent (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).

Reflections on 1Timothy

Paul, after commenting on the fact that he is the “foremost sinner” because he persecuted the church, says: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[7] Later Paul affirms the resurrection of the dead by saying of our Lord that He was “taken up in glory.”[8]

In chapter 4 he compares physical and spiritual exercise, saying: “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”[9]

In his admonition to Timothy, Paul says: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses,”[10] implying that eternal life is not a gift, but something Timothy must earn. Paul goes on to say that Jesus “alone has immortality,”[11] which would seem to refute the idea of an eternal hope. But he goes on to say that the rich should be generous in order that they may lay “up a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.”[12]

I can find no reference to Jesus being the propitiation for our sins, but overall the tone of the epistle seems to be that we should be motivated by an eternal hope.

Reflections on 2Timothy

The hope of immortality and eternal life with Christ permeates this short letter. You find the hope of eternal life in Paul’s opening statement: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus.”[13] He follows by saying: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”[14]

Paul assumes the resurrection of the dead, saying: “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel… It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.”[15] He believes that the resurrection is future, for he rebukes “Hymenaeus and Philetus who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some.”[16]

Confident in his eternal hope, Paul closes by saying: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing… And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”[17]

In 2Timothy, as in so much of the New Testament literature, Paul makes no reference to the propitious death of Christ as the ground of our eternal hope, no statement such as, “Christ died for our sins” as in 1Corinthians 15:3.[18]

Reflections on Titus

Paul introduces his epistle with the words, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour.”[19] The RSV and NASB translate “before the world began” as “ages ago.” The Greek word “aeon” aivwni,ou, means “eternity, never ending.” This means that although God determined in His eternal council that eternal life will be given to His own, it wasn’t until “in due times manifested his word through preaching” that He revealed it. This leaves unanswered the question, when was the Word preached? My study of this subject seems to suggest, not until the beginning of the New Testament.

Statements like, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,”[20] and “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,”[21] support this. Note that Paul emphasizes an eternal hope, tells us that we obtain it through faith, and that God provides it through Jesus Christ. Paul does not spell out the propitious work of Christ in obtaining our eternal life, although he infers it with the words, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (cf. above).

Reflections on Philemon

Apart from v. 15 where we see “for ever,” I can find no reference to an eternal hope, and even this verse speaks more to the temporal than the eternal. Paul does not preach the gospel, although people through the centuries have noticed the close parallel to what Paul asks of Philemon and what Jesus did for us. Paul makes no reference to the propitious death of Christ.


The ground or reason why God can bring the sinner to heaven has always been the propitious death of Christ. Our Savior’s death answers the question, “How can a just and holy God take the sinner to heaven without violating His justice and making heaven dirty?” The condition the individual must meet in order to access this gift of life, however, may differ from age to age.

The condition of Israel’s salvation was faith, but faith in God’s temporal deliverance. God constantly calls upon His people to believe in the One who delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt. I know of no place in the Old Testament where God tells the individual that he must believe that God will be the propitiation for his sin. The individual must believe whatever God says, but God is not required to reveal to that individual that Christ died for his sins in order for him to be saved.

Grateful for His grace,


[1] Ephesians 5:23, 25, KJV
[2] I Thessalonians 1:10, RSV
[3] Cf. also I Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 5:23 for other references to Paul anticipating the imminent return of Christ.
[4] I Thessalonians 4:13-17, RSV
[5] II Thessalonians 1:5-11, KJV
[6] II Thessalonians 2:4, KJV
[7] I Timothy 1:16, RSV
[8] I Timothy 3:16, RSV
[9] I Timothy 4:8, RSV
[10] I Timothy 6:12, KJV
[11] I Timothy 6:16, RSV
[12] I Timothy 6:19, RSV
[13] II Timothy 1:1, RSV
[14] II Timothy 1:9-10, KJV
[15] II Timothy 2:8, 11, KJV
[16] II Timothy 2:17-18, KJV
[17] II Timothy 4:7-8, 18, KJV
[18] As far as I can tell, the phrase “Christ died for our sins” only appears in I Corinthians 15:3, at least in the KJV.
[19] Titus 1:2-3, KJV
[20] Titus 2:13-14, KJV
[21] Titus 3:5-7, KJV