When a time of hardship or trial is experienced, what above all keeps us going is hope. Some of the hopes that people cling to are illusions and often in a crisis such hopes fail. Christians are people of hope, one that is not fragile or based in anything in them, but is based on the Lord. Completing our Spiritual Check-up we ask: 9. Do you look forward to glory?
1. The sure purpose
When we think of the ‘last things’ (‘eschatology’) our chief focus must be on God. Our concern is above all with what he has purposed to do. The biblical descriptions of God’s purpose emphasise its certainty (Ephesians 1:11). He is sovereign and his will cannot change or be frustrated. Note Daniel 4:35 ‘he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand (ESV). This applies equally to believers’ salvation. Paul is full of confidence that the Lord will preserve believers by his grace (Philippians 1:6). He will not let his people fall finally from grace. We can look forward to glory because of who God is – that is the ground of our hope.
2. The glorious prospects
The hope of believers is centred on the Lord and all we look forward to relates to him. At the heart of our hope is the person of the Lord and our being with him. This has two elements:
(i) In heaven. Immediately upon death the believer enters the presence of the Lord. Note Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’. Paul’s expectation was that he would ‘depart and be with Christ’ (Philippians 1:23) – to depart is to be with Christ, which is ‘better by far’. Much about heaven is beyond our understanding, but we know we will be with ‘the spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23). Such fellowship will be a wonderful part of our blessing. Above all we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with the Lord, with no sin to spoil it. According to 2 Corinthians 5:8 we will be ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’. That is the prospect for every believer.
(ii) In the new creation. Our hope embraces body and soul, and so Christian hope is for a glorious resurrection (Philippians 3:21). When the Lord returns, he will transform the entire creation – it will be brought into ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21). The creation itself will undergo transformation to provide a suitable home for the Lord’s people. The ‘new heaven and the new earth’ (2 Peter 2:13) will fully reflect the glory of the Creator, surpassing Eden. That is the ultimate goal of Christian hope.
3. The transformed present
These great prospects are to have 2 practical effects, as seen in 2 Peter 3:14:
‘looking forward to this’ – to final glory and also to the immediate glory of heaven. This should stir hope and anticipation, giving strength for present trials.
‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ – a powerful stimulus to live ‘holy and godly lives’ (v11), giving faithful service here on earth.