Eternal Hope – Part 46

Eternal Hope – Part 46

July, 2012

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 46


If you ask, did God’s people in the Old Testament have an eternal hope, a cursory reading of Hebrews clearly answers, yes. If you ask, can you find expression of this hope in the Old Testament accounts of the saints, you have to conclude, no. If we were with Moses on the Exodus, and I asked you whether the Patriarchs had an eternal hope, where would you lead me to assure us that they did?

Reflections on James

The five chapters of this book contain many references to an eternal hope, including “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”[1] “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”[2] “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”[3] Interestingly, as far as I can tell, James contains no reference to the propitious death of Christ and the need to trust in His death. James has very little doctrine, majoring on application of the Law. You would not conclude from a study of James that the New Testament believer is freed from the Mosaic Law.

Reflections on 1 Peter

In his first epistle, Peter begins by reminding them of their eternal hope: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”[4] The “last times” he defines as “the appearing of Jesus Christ,”[5] promising that his readers will “receive the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”[6] Evidently, God revealed to the Old Testament prophets “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”[7]

In light of this, Peter urges, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”[8] An eternal hope should influence how a believer lives his life. The reason, says Peter, resides in the fact that there are eternal consequences for temporal behavior: “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.”[9] The word for “fear” is “phobia;” in light of judgement, the believer should have a phobia of God. Peter says that even the non-Christian must “give account to Him that is ready to judge the living and the dead.”[10]

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.”[11] Thus, we must live for Christ, “who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”[12] Those motivated by an eternal hope live “as strangers and pilgrims, abstain(ing) from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”[13]

Peter clearly teaches that the propitious death of Christ provides the believer with legitimate ground for having an eternal hope: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”[14] And again, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”[15]

The contrast between the lives of those motivated as Peter teaches, and the motives of those living by the values of the world, is so stark that those outside of Christ will want an explanation. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”[16]

Suffering is an important theme in this epistle: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.”[17] Suffering for righteousness adds to the believer’s eternal reward; sinning brings reproach at the Judgment of God. Remembering this aids the believer in his endeavor to respond biblically when enduring tribulation. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”[18]

Probably as much as any book of the Bible, 1 Peter admonishes the believer to make his hope for eternal gain the basis for living a righteous life. Thus, he closes his epistle with the benediction: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”[19]

Reflections on 2 Peter

The apostle writes anticipating that he will die prior to the return of Christ, a reality that none of the New Testament writers thought possible. Thus, he warns against apostasy, calling his readers to remember.[20] As a matter of fact, evil men mocking the return of the Lord, “Where is the promise of His coming,” [21] attests to Christ’s imminent return. Similar to Jude, Peter calls to our remembrance that God will judge the world – the only place in the New Testament where we are told that God will destroy the world with fire: “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”[22]

So also, Peter connects the conflagration at the end of the age with our hope of heaven: “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”[23]

Peter also couples the need for remembering with maintaining our eternal hope: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.”[24] Note also how he connects eternal hope with judgment: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;… The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished… and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness…”[25]

I can find no specific reference to Christ being the substitutionary sacrifice for the believer’s sin.

Finally, Peter seems to suggest that when Christ returns depends, in part on the saints living godly lives: “ Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire!?”[26]


Christ functions as the means whereby the individual obtains an imputed righteousness, and thus his relationship to God is determined by his relationship to Christ. Since Christ is the Mediator of God’s righteousness and love to man, it logically follows that He is also the Mediator of God’s judgment; man is either justified or condemned, depending on his relationship to Christ. “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”[27] That Jesus presides over God’s judgment of the world is obvious, as we have already seen from passages such as, “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.”[28] And “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”[29]

Yours for a life of obedience,


[1] James 5:7
[2] James 2:5
[3] James 4:4
[4] I Peter 1:3-5, KJV
[5] Verse 7, KJV
[6] Verse 9, KJV
[7] Verse 11, KJV
[8] Verse 13, KJV
[9] Verse 17, KJV. Cf. also I Peter 3:9
[10] I Peter 4:5, modified KJV
[11] Verse 24, KJV
[12] Verse 21, KJV
[13] I Peter 2:11, KJV
[14] I Peter 2:24, KJV
[15] I Peter 3:18, NAB
[16] I Peter 3:15, KJV
[17] I Peter 4:12-19, RSV
[18] I Peter 5:4, KJV
[19] Verse 10, KJV
[20] Cf. II Peter 1:12, 13, 15, 3:1
[21] II Peter 3:4, KJV
[22] II Peter 3:6-7, 10, KJV
[23] II Peter 3:12-13, KJV
[24] II Peter 1:11-12, KJV
[25] II Peter 2:4-6, 9, 12-13, KJV
[26] II Peter 3:11-12, RSV
[27] Matthew 11:27, RSV
[28] Matthew 7:22-23, KJV
[29] John 5:21-22, RSV