Eternal Hope – Part 45

Eternal Hope – Part 45

May, 2012

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 45


I ask myself, if I strip from the Bible the Pauline epistles, would I find enough evidence to conclude that people are justified by faith apart from the works of the law? Most Christians believe this to be true. But what, exactly, does it mean? The Bible says of Abraham, “And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.”[1] When the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message of judgment, “the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”[2] Consequently, God refrained from destroying them. When the people asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” He said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[3]

Believing one another is the least common denominator in any relationship. For example, a young man invites a girl to dinner and says, “I would really like to get to know you.” When she begins to share her heart, he responds, “I don’t believe you.” I think you will agree that she will close her heart and mind, not allowing him to know her any better. You cannot call a person a liar and have a relationship with him. It may be that someone will tell you something that you don’t believe, but you don’t verbalize your doubts, for you know that would create a tense, nasty scene.

So too, God establishes believing as the sine quo none of a person having a relationship with Him; He will not reveal Himself to one who does not believe Him. Your relationship with God differs from all other relationships in that He knows when/if, in your heart, you do not believe; you cannot hide it from Him. If a person says, “I believe Jesus died for my sins and I have received Him into my life, but I do not believe in the virgin birth of Christ,” that individual has no biblical right to claim that he has a relationship with God. You cannot pick and chose from what God reveals; you cannot believe what you wish to believe, discarding the rest – and still claim to know Him as your Savior.

The author of Hebrews warns his readers concerning the failure of Israel to enter the Promised Land, “And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”[4] Notice how he connects obedience and believing. Jesus connects obedience with loving Him: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”[5] The Apostle John ties obedience with knowing God: “He who says ‘I know him’ but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”[6] Believing, knowing, loving, and obeying God are all inextricably linked to one another; you cannot separate them.

As noted in our analysis of the Old Testament, the biblical authors never address the issue of an individual’s eternal hope, but they do call attention to the fact that the individual must obey God in order to have a temporal hope. Daniel, the first to specifically mention the resurrection, does not indicate who will be resurrected to life vis-à-vis “to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.”[7] The various authors of the Pseudepigrapha, when addressing the individual’s eternal hope, always connect it to living righteously. The Synoptic Gospels do not discuss grace, and even in John’s Gospel, when Jesus emphasizes believing, He never seeks to isolate it from obedience. Only the Apostle Paul, of all the biblical writers, separates faith/believing from works of righteousness as the sole condition for salvation: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”[8] “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”[9] “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.”[10]

Paul identifies faith/believing as the irreducible minimum for a relationship with God; it is the sole condition man must meet to be saved. But to divorce faith from obedience requires ignoring every other biblical writer, including our Lord Jesus Himself. Obedience may not be a condition for salvation, but it surely is the primary indicator in testing if a person is, in fact, saved.

Note the words of our Lord Jesus: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”[11] Paul says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”[12] These people have met the condition laid out by Paul; they call Jesus, Lord. Not only so, they prophesy, cast out demons, and do wonderful works – all in His name. They don’t try to do these things; they in fact do them. Still, Jesus says, “I never knew you.” How terrible for the all-knowing God of the universe to say, “I never knew you.” Jesus says He refuses to acknowledge people who break the commandments. There is no necessary relationship between God using a person and His approving of that person. God can use a man to save the souls of thousands, while sending him to hell.

It is my impression, and I may be wrong, that evangelical Christianity has, on the whole, divorced faith from practice. People feel they can break or ignore God’s commandments without putting their soul in jeopardy, simply because they have believed. A heart for obedience is the only sure test of regeneration. God offers eternal hope only to those who break themselves on the “Stone of stumbling and Rock of offence,”[13] and live in perpetual brokenness and dependence upon Him. To think otherwise is self-delusion.

Reflections on Hebrews

A cursory reading of this book reveals the centrality of Christ. We see a references to His propitious death in passages such as: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”[14] Again he says: “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”[15] And again: “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”[16] The need for Christ’s substitutionary death can be seen in the fact that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur could only cover “the sins of the people committed in ignorance.”[17] By His sacrifice, Christ has “obtained eternal redemption for us.”[18] With the words, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance,”[19] the author combines Christ’s propitious death with the gaining of an eternal inheritance. And again, “but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”[20] Hebrews drives home the point of Christ’s sacrificial death: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”[21]

When the author mentions: “…not laying again the foundation of… resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment,”[22] I sense that an eternal hope forms the ethos of all he says; he assumes it and makes it the basis for the superiority of Christ vis-à-vis the Law which established the Old Testament system. Thus, it seems to me, that he assumes an eternal hope when he says, “…by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”[23] You are motivated to endure hardship “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.”[24]

Hebrews calls attention to the transfiguration of Enoch.[25] Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”[26] The Patriarchs had in common that “they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”[27] Moses identified with the Hebrew people, suffering the animosity of Egypt because “he considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.”[28] The J.B. Phillips translation says, “he looked steadily at the ultimate, not the immediate, reward.” The Old Testament saints willingly suffered at the hands of God’s opponents “that they might obtain a better resurrection.”[29]

Comments such as, “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,”[30] and “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come,”[31] imply an eternal hope without explicitly stating it.


With the exception of King David, I know of no place in the Old Testament where an individual wanted a relationship with God and saw his sin as a barrier. For this reason, the sacrificial system instituted by God, both before and after Sinai, appeared adequate. When Hebrews argues that the follower of God needs something new and far superior to the Levitical Priesthood, it seems to me that he implies an eternal hope. For why would Christ have to die if temporal reconciliation with God was the only objective? As you know, only Hebrews refers to Jesus as our Priest, and therefore would it not be true that the superiority of His priesthood resides in our obtaining through Him an eternal relationship with God? If so, then the Priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchisedec implies an eternal hope.

His … Yours,


[1] Genesis 15:6, JPS
[2] Jonah 3:5, JPS
[3] John 6:28-29, RSV
[4] Hebrews 3:18-19, RSV
[5] John 14:21, RSV
[6] 1 John 2:4, RSV
[7] Daniel 12:2, JPS
[8] Romans 4:4-5, KJV
[9] Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV
[10] Titus 3:5, KJV
[11] Matthew 7:21-23, KJV
[12] Romans 10:9, KJV
[13] 1 Peter 2:8
[14] Hebrews 1:3, KJV
[15] Hebrews 2:9, KJV
[16] Hebrews 2:17
[17] Hebrews 9:7, NAS
[18] Hebrews 9:12, KJV
[19] Hebrews 9:15, KJV
[20] Hebrews 9:26-28, KJV
[21] Hebrews 10:12, KJV
[22] Hebrews 6:1-2, KJV
[23] Hebrews 6:18-20, KJV
[24] Hebrews 10:34, KJV
[25] Hebrews 11:5
[26] Hebrews 11:10, KJV
[27] Hebrews 11:16, KJV
[28] Hebrews 11:26, RSV
[29] Hebrews 11:35, KJV
[30] Hebrews 12:23, KJV
[31] Hebrews 13:14, KJV