Christians need to be hesitant about expressing confidence in the hope that they are going to heaven.
"Are you going to heaven?" "I hope so!" That brief conversation among Christians is common. But, what do the conversants mean by their statements? Do they mean they are not really sure about going to heaven? Do they mean that maybe, after all, somehow, they might be saved? Do they really have the hope the Bible speaks of? Hope is defined thusly: "Favorable and confident expectation relative to the future and the unseen." How and why can we have that kind of hope?
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope" (1 Tim. 1:1 KJV). Paul's affirmation about our hope begins to explain and amplify why we can have the confident expectation of being with God in heaven when this life is over. Christ is the reason for our hope. Our hope is rooted in a historical context. Jesus Christ, the Word, existed eternally. In the fullness of time the Word left heaven and tabernacled among men. Why did He do this? He came to "seek and save the lost" (Lk. 19:10). He is the source of our hope. We are not talking about a mere man stripped of His divine qualities or characteristics. Christ "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God" (1 Tim. 1:17). Our hope hinges, not upon the psychological, subjective feelings of fickle man; rather, our hope is rooted in the certainty of objective facts about Jesus Christ. Truly, "Christ is in us, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).
The hope we have in Christ is real. Its value is set in contrast to the inability of this world to sustain our desire for something better. Paul makes this clear in 1 Tim. 6:17-19. Material things do not provide real hope, material riches are uncertain. Our association with things is brief. When our happiness is linked to "things," our happiness leaves when we lose our "things."
True, living hope calls for a response. Bodily exercise helps a little in warding off the ravages of disease and old age. Spiritual exercise extends into the life to come. "For therefore we labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10). We labor and are sustained in our hope by the expectation of receiving our reward. Are we seeking to trust in ourselves? No! But we are serious about actively pursuing godliness. The Lord who cannot lie gives us hope (Heb. 6:19,20).
Hope in Christ brings comfort, joy, and peace. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable " (1 Cor. 15:19). Paul's statement is understood in the context of the resurrection of the dead. If Christ be not raised and if in Christ we have placed our hope, then in reality we do not have hope. But Christ was raised! He lives! He sustains and gives hope! He dispels despair and discouragement and defeat.
So, the next time someone asks you; "Are you goint go heaven?" what will you say?
By Randy Harshbarger in Biblical Insights, Vol. 3, No. 9, Sept. 2003.
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