By Keith Rodriguez
Hope. A simple word that permeates all that we say and do as a church, and also a word that is intrinsic within much of the fabric of the human race. In a sense, it is the reason why we witness people suffer with no relief in sight, and yet still fight for life, clinging to HOPE! You may be asking, why does this innate sense of hope exist not only within the human race, but why it is also so pervasive within the Scriptures that guide the Christian faith. Paul asserts, in his letter to the church in Rome, that all of humanity has knowledge of God, and moreover implies that God has made it “plain to them” (Romans 1:19). With this assertion, I believe that this inner sense of hope is ultimately defined within the Gospel message, and conveyed within the outworking of the Christian faith through the Church.
In the Beginning…
Hope springs forth not only in the proclamation of God’s redemptive plan revealed in Genesis 3:15, but also in God’s act of creation in Genesis 1:1.1 God creates, God reveals and God restores. This is the essence of the biblical storyline. The Old Testament hints at something far greater than what existed, a future hope, a savior, and a heavenly Kingdom which would be perfectly created by Yahweh himself. “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
The Kingdom Initiated
The yearning of the Kingdom is brought to fruition in the ministry of Jesus Christ, His death, resurrection, and ultimately the promise of future hope within the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:8). The disciples surely assumed that the physical kingdom would be initiated within the ministry of Christ as they asked Jesus when the kingdom would be restored, and yet Jesus responds that the consummation of the Kingdom would take place later (Acts 1:6).1 In essence, it is initiated already, but not yet fully consummated. It is already, but not yet. This is evidenced in the continuing presence of sin, death, and suffering in the world. But hope continues within the storyline of the Bible, and it is found within the promise of Isaiah as it is retold through the vision of John in the book of Revelation.
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of this has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Within this passage we capture a glimpse of the New Heavens and the New Earth. The hope of our Christian life.
How Does this Affect the Way I Live?
The world that we live in is not the end game, heaven is not the end game, escaping from this place with Jesus is not the end game, but rather God’s perfect re-creation of the earth is the end game. Our hope is in the consummation of God’s redemptive plan upon the return of Christ and the expulsion of sin and death forever. But you must understand that we live in the already but not yet aspect of the Kingdom. There will be suffering, and there will be death in our present life, and yet we are called to be people of hope, and people on mission, impacting our communities and culture with the message of the Gospel, the message of hope! This hope lies not just in the act of salvation, but the purpose that God’s redemptive plan brings to our lives, and the outworking of the expansion of the Kingdom here and now. Practically, we live as citizens of the Kingdom affected by the Gospel in such a way that we are a light to it’s saving message. Paul states,
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:1-5).
Paul tells us a few distinct aspects of our Christian life in light of our future hope in Christ. We have been raised with Christ, and have died to our old way of life. In our present life we are to set our hearts on things above, and yet this does not mean that we abandon our mission in the present. Finally, when Christ returns in glory, we will also be with Him in glory.1 Therefore let us be affected by the innate hope of the Gospel, and the hope that permeates the Christian message. Let us have this hope infiltrate all that we say and do, insofar as all that which God has created, He loves, and as such will be perfected in His timing. Let us be a part of practicing kingdom living in our present lives, in light of the future hope of consummation, and a consummation that is fully realized in the New Heavens and New Earth.
1 Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1991) p. 226-233