HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless indicated otherwise. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3: 25, 26 (KJV) HOPE MAY BE variously defined as expectant wishing, optimism as to a future event or condition, or merely a general feel- ing that some desire will eventually be fulfilled. Hope is as necessary to our mental well-being as the air we breathe and the food we eat are vital to our physical survival. Regarded as a natural mental characteristic, it might be said that mankind were psychologically programmed to be hopeful, as necessary to survival. And since man was made in the image and likeness of the Creator, it follows that our God is a God of hope. The Poet Alexander Pope observed that Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come. (An Essay on Man) A LIFE TO COME? Survival is the paramount concern and the attribute of hope is vital to all who love life and fear death. Yet the privilege of perpetual life was in the Divine order conditional on voluntary obedience to simple conditions, which appear trivial to many of the modern intelligentsia, while in fact epitomising the principle of freewill. Simply put, the human pair created in the Divine image could choose to disobey – and they did. Here is the simple explanation for a dying human race. The account of man’s relationship with the Creator is preserved in the writings of many loyal servants who, while hampered by inherited faults, nevertheless pleased God, and by their witness hope has been sustained – and survives – that life in full perfection will in due time be restored. The majority of sects within the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, view a future life, in some blissful condition beyond planet Earth, as the reward for the faithful. The human estimation of the required character standard appears to be flexible and generous, and not so demanding as to exclude many from a continued existence in a more elevated condition than before. COULD DEATH BE AN ILLUSION? The vast majority of mankind have been persuaded that the souls of the departed are raised to some amorphous form of life in- visible to human sight. This is perhaps understandable among many Christian believers, based on a less than accurate under- standing of Christ’s teachings, and they generally assume that some form of eternal life is reached as soon as the present life comes to its close and the earthly body is laid to rest in the grave. Yet the idea was a ruse of the Adversary way back in Eden when he suggested that to partake of forbidden fruit would raise the human pair to the Godly status (Gen. 3: 5). But such expectation was not integral in the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus’ first advent, though an ultimate restoration to life was fundamental to their religious belief. At the apparently untimely  death of her brother Lazarus, grieving Martha reproached Jesus for his delayed response to an appeal for help, as he had healed many, and even restored life to the dead. John 11 21-24 records the event: ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ There is abundant evidence in the Hebrew scriptures to support the belief in a life to come. The Patriarch Job recorded his faith: ‘If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come’ (Job.14: 14 – KJV). King David also expressed his conviction: ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’ (Psa. 17: 15 – KJV) But the original correct understanding of death and future resurrection was eventually lost to Judaism, and the Hebrew ‘Sheol as the common destination of the dead, became somewhat synonymous with the Greek ‘Hades’, interpreted as Hell, the sup- posed abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sinners suffer eternal punishment. The Italian dramatist Dante famously stoked the fires in his epic poem ‘Inferno,’ quoting the dire warning at the entrance to Hell: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’[fn1] A HOPELESS WORLD? How often at emerges that a condition of  hopelessness has resulted in suicide. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair. While hope seems instinctive in most people, one of the alarming observations of our day is that there are so many, particularly the young, who appear to have no hope for a rewarding future. And so we see many living recklessly, resorting to drugs and alcohol, seeking satisfaction in the present moment. Suicides are on the increase annually, and there is an alarming trend to vent one’s rage against innocent victims whose contentment is resented. The hope of the determined atheist can only be of limited satisfaction, though many are doubtless of honest conviction and commendable character. They are victims of one of Satan’s master-strokes – the theory of the evolution of mankind. They have no belief in a benign Creator who promises eternal life in future ages to a tested and loyal race – on Earth as in Heaven. One such, an eminent professor, on being asked how he felt about his imminent death, expressed no fear of dying, but owned to a great sadness at the idea of being dead. Unfortunately, however, believers in a Divine Creator are not necessarily immune to feelings of hopelessness, and many who profess to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour appear to be searching for financial rewards in the present life, espousing themselves to a so called ‘Prosperity Gospel.’ The truth is that we are chosen not primarily to receive earthly favours now, but to be pre- pared for greater service  when Christ’s Kingdom is established on earth. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). HOPE’S FOUNDATION While cynics may quip that Christian hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible, and the more kindly may simply smile at a believer’s ‘wishful thinking,’ those who trust in an Almighty Creator can view the future with optimism, having a firm foundation for their hope. Death was the penalty for sin, and that price was in due time paid by God’s one and only Son (John 3:16) And so the hymn puts it: My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.[fn2] OLD TESTAMENT HOPE A significant aspect of Old Testament hope was Israel's expectation of a messiah, an anointed ruler from David's line, based on the promise that God would establish the throne of David for ever (2 Sam. 7: 8-13). The anointed ruler (messiah) would be God's agent to restore Israel's glory and rule the nations in peace and righteousness. But for the most part, David’s successors fell far short of the Godly standard expected, and for centuries national hope lapsed. But a nucleus of faithful believers continued to watch and wait, and notable among those was the aged Simeon, righteous and devout, and waiting for the consolation of Israel. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he had seem the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2: 27-32 continues the story:     27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29  ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and the glory of your people Israel.’ Luke records also the faith of eighty-four year old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple but fasted and prayed continu- ously. Coming up to them at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 36-38).   But though Simeon – and Anna – died with hope fulfilled, and while Jesus was hailed by many as the son of  David, the Apostle John sadly records that ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1: 11).  As far back as Moses’ day the Jews were described by their Lord as a stiff-necked, stubborn people, and centuries later Jesus castigated the religious lead- ers in particular for their  hypocrisy (Ex. 32: 9; Matt. 23: 27). And with great heartache Jesus wept over the nation as He pro- nounced the Divine sentence upon God’s chosen people (Matt. 23): 37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. HOPE DEFERRED ‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles . . . Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in   my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their accept- ance be but life from the dead? So says the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11: 11, 13-15). Life from the dead – the hopes and dreams of countless generations! The gathering of those who would be called to share in the sufferings of Christ, continued for long centuries, and they slept, awaiting the voice of the Son of Man arousing them to new life. Theirs is a Heavenly inheritance (Rom. 8: 17). But scripture, reason, and the signs of the times (another study) clearly in- dicate that the Heavenly calling has been brought to its conclusion, so that believers now have different hopes and prospects. And what of the countless multitudes of unbelievers? While King David knew that he would be satisfied on returning from the tomb, the great majority of Adam’s race will awaken with glad surprise – not in a totally unfamiliar environment or physical  constitution, but as potentially perfect men and women, descendants of Adam and Eve, and on planet Earth. ‘The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man- kind’ (Psa. 115: 16). And so Christ’s long prayed for Kingdom on Earth will at last be established, and the work of restitution will proceed. Hope is not merely individual in scope. It has cosmic dimensions and is inconceivably extended in space and time. God's pur- pose is to redeem the whole creation, and there is thus a certainty an Christian hope which amounts to a qualitative difference from ordinary hope. Christian hope is the gift of God. ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ ( Heb. 6: 19). * * * * * [fn] (1) Dante (Dante Alighieri; 1265-1321) From Dante’s epic poem Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy (written c. 1310-1321). [fn] (2) ‘The Solid Rock’ was written by Edward Mote, Pastor of a Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex, published 1837. _________ 2014
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless indicated otherwise. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3: 25, 26 (KJV) HOPE MAY BE variously defined as expectant wishing, op- timism as to a future event or condition, or merely a general feeling that some desire will eventually be fulfilled. Hope is as necessary to our mental well-being as the air we breathe and the food we eat are vital to our physical survival. Regarded as a natural mental characteristic, it might be said that mankind were psychologically programmed to be hopeful, as necessary to survival. And since man was made in the image and likeness of the Creator, it follows that our God is a God of hope. The Poet Alexander Pope observed that Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come. (An Essay on Man) A LIFE TO COME? Survival is the paramount concern and the attribute of hope is vital to all who love life and fear death. Yet the privilege of perpetual life was in the Divine order conditional on voluntary obedience to simple conditions, which appear trivial to many of the modern intelligentsia, while in fact epitomising the prin- ciple of freewill. Simply put, the human pair created in the Divine image could choose to disobey – and they did. Here is the simple explanation for a dying human race. The account of man’s relationship with the Creator is preserved in the writings of many loyal servants who, while hampered by inherited faults, nevertheless pleased God, and by their witness hope has been sustained – and survives – that life in full perfection will in due time be restored. The majority of sects within the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, view a future life, in some blissful condition beyond planet Earth, as the reward for the faithful. The human estimation of the required character stand- ard appears to be flexible and generous, and not so demanding as to exclude many from a continued existence in a more elev- ated condition than before. COULD DEATH BE AN ILLUSION? The vast majority of mankind have been persuaded that the souls of the departed are raised to some amorphous form of life invisible to human sight. This is perhaps understandable among many Christian believers, based on a less than accurate under- standing of Christ’s teachings, and they generally assume that some form of eternal life is reached as soon as the present life comes to its close and the earthly body is laid to rest in the grave. Yet the idea was a ruse of the Adversary way back in Eden when he suggested that to partake of forbidden fruit would raise the human pair to the Godly status (Gen. 3: 5). But such expectation was not integral in the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus’ first advent, though an ultimate restoration to life was fundamental to their religious belief. At the apparently un- timely  death of her brother Lazarus, grieving Martha re- proached Jesus for his delayed response to an appeal for help, as he had healed many, and even restored life to the dead. John 11 21-24 records the event: ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ There is abundant evidence in the Hebrew scriptures to support the belief in a life to come. The Patriarch Job recorded his faith: ‘If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come’ (Job.14: 14 – KJV). King David also expressed his conviction: ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteous- ness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’ (Psa. 17: 15 – KJV) But the original correct understanding of death and future re- surrection was eventually lost to Judaism, and the Hebrew Sheol’ as the common destination of the dead, became some- what synonymous with the Greek ‘Hades’, interpreted as Hell, the supposed abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sin- ners suffer eternal punishment. The Italian dramatist Dante famously stoked the fires in his epic poem ‘Inferno,’ quoting the dire warning at the entrance to Hell: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’[fn1] A HOPELESS WORLD? How often at emerges that a condition of  hopelessness has res- ulted in suicide. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair. While hope seems instinctive in most people, one of the alarming observa- tions of our day is that there are so many, particularly the young, who appear to have no hope for a rewarding future. And so we see many living recklessly, resorting to drugs and alco- hol, seeking satisfaction in the present moment. Suicides are on the increase annually, and there is an alarming trend to vent one’s rage against innocent victims whose contentment is resented. The hope of the determined atheist can only be of limited satis- faction, though many are doubtless of honest conviction and commendable character. They are victims of one of Satan’s master-strokes – the theory of the evolution of mankind. They have no belief in a benign Creator who promises eternal life in future ages to a tested and loyal race – on Earth as in Heaven. One such, an eminent professor, on being asked how he felt about his imminent death, expressed no fear of dying, but owned to a great sadness at the idea of being dead. Unfortunately, however, believers in a Divine Creator are not necessarily immune to feelings of hopelessness, and many who profess to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour appear to be search- ing for financial rewards in the present life, espousing them- selves to a so called ‘Prosperity Gospel.’ The truth is that we are chosen not primarily to receive earthly favours now, but to be prepared for greater service  when Christ’s Kingdom is es- tablished on earth. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). HOPE’S FOUNDATION While cynics may quip that Christian hope is a pathological be- lief in the occurrence of the impossible, and the more kindly may simply smile at a believer’s ‘wishful thinking,’ those who trust in an Almighty Creator can view the future with optim- ism, having a firm foundation for their hope. Death was the penalty for sin, and that price was in due time paid by God’s one and only Son (John 3:16) And so the hymn puts it: My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.[fn2] OLD TESTAMENT HOPE A significant aspect of Old Testament hope was Israel's expect- ation of a messiah, an anointed ruler from David's line, based on the promise that God would establish the throne of David for ever (2 Sam. 7: 8-13). The anointed ruler (messiah) would be God's agent to restore Israel's glory and rule the nations in peace and righteousness. But for the most part, David’s suc- cessors fell far short of the Godly standard expected, and for centuries national hope lapsed. But a nucleus of faithful believers continued to watch and wait, and notable among those was the aged Simeon, righteous and devout, and waiting for the consolation of Israel. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he had seem the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2: 27-32 continues the story:     27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and the glory of your people Israel.’ Luke records also the faith of eighty-four year old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple but fasted and prayed con- tinuously. Coming up to them at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking for- ward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 36-38).   But though Simeon – and Anna – died with hope fulfilled, and while Jesus was hailed by many as the son of  David, the Apostle John sadly records that ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1: 11).  As far back as Moses’ day the Jews were described by their Lord as a stiff-necked, stub- born people, and centuries later Jesus castigated the religious leaders in particular for their  hypocrisy (Ex. 32: 9; Matt. 23: 27). And with great heartache Jesus wept over the nation as He pronounced the Divine sentence upon God’s chosen people (Matt. 23): 37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. HOPE DEFERRED ‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles . . . Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in   my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? So says the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11: 11, 13-15). Life from the dead – the hopes and dreams of countless genera- tions! The gathering of those who would be called to share in the sufferings of Christ, continued for long centuries, and they slept, awaiting the voice of the Son of Man arousing them to new life. Theirs is a Heavenly inheritance (Rom. 8: 17). But scripture, reason, and the signs of the times (another study) clearly indicate that the Heavenly calling has been brought to its conclusion, so that believers now have different hopes and prospects. And what of the countless multitudes of unbelievers? While King David knew that he would be satisfied on returning from the tomb, the great majority of Adam’s race will awaken with glad surprise – not in a totally unfamiliar environment or physical  constitution, but as potentially perfect men and women, descendants of Adam and Eve, and on planet Earth. ‘The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind’ (Psa. 115: 16). And so Christ’s long prayed for Kingdom on Earth will at last be established, and the work of restitution will proceed. Hope is not merely individual in scope. It has cosmic dimen- sions and is inconceivably extended in space and time. God's purpose is to redeem the whole creation, and there is thus a cer- tainty an Christian hope which amounts to a qualitative differ- ence from ordinary hope. Christian hope is the gift of God. ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ ( Heb. 6: 19). * * * * * [fn] (1) Dante (Dante Alighieri; 1265-1321) From Dante’s epic poem Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy (writ- ten c. 1310-1321). [fn] (2) ‘The Solid Rock’ was written by Edward Mote, Pastor of a Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex, published 1837. _________ 2014