Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!
In joyful and eager anticipation we look forward to the eternal day when the glory of our God will be fully revealed to us in Christ Jesus, and we with all the saints will reflect that glory and will show forth the praises of Him who is all in all.
Now we still suffer tribulation brought upon us by the surrounding evil world and the wrestling with sin that still wars in our members. Yet we rejoice in the midst of this tribulation, not as if we enjoy suffering, but because we know that tribulation works patience, and patience works experience. Like a well-trained, seasoned soldier we are fitted by our God to oppose all the onslaughts of the powers of darkness. We may waver, may even fall into sin because of the weakness of our sinful flesh, but we can never perish, for we are kept by the power of God through faith unto the very day of our final salvation.
We rejoice in the hope of the saints. This is not a mere “I hope so,” such as the world cherishes. The unbeliever can never be sure of the future. His hopes are often shattered. But the hope of the believer is an assured hope rooted in faith which is based on the promises of God’s Word that can never fail.
Hope is certainty, but hope is also expectation. We sometimes speak of the departed saints as being dead. There is nothing further from the truth. They are very much alive, even more alive than they ever were while here on earth. We look forward with eager anticipation to a sinless, perfect life in glory that abides forever. The glory of our God will fill us so that we can devote ourselves completely to the praise of His name.
Hope arises from our new life in Christ. That life finds no abiding place here on earth. In faith it reaches out with eager longing for the new Jerusalem, the city of the eternal King. This is the yearning of sons and daughters who love our heavenly Father and desire to dwell in His presence, to see His face in Christ Jesus, to behold His glory, and to tell His praises eternally. It includes a joy unspeakable that is a foretaste of the eternal joy.
As the Dutch poet expressed it:
O, to be there
Where tears never flow,
Where the heart knows no sorrow, pain nor woe,
Where neither thorns nor thistles grow.
O, to be there!
But more. Oh, to live fully and eternally in the intimate presence of Father, in the light of His countenance to the praise of His matchless name!
Blessed hope of the saints!
What if our hope proves to be a mere fantasy? What if there is no life hereafter? What if death is final or we end in hell?
There are many who profess to cherish a hope of a great happiness to come, yet for them heaven is nothing more than the Indian’s “happy hunting grounds.”
What if I have deceived myself into imagining an eternal security that does not even exist? My hope would be put to shame.
Again, what if heaven is indeed a reality, but it does not measure up to my expectation? What if I should discover that all the sacrifices that I have made, all the sufferings I have endured, the battle I have fought, and the reproach I have borne far outweigh my future happiness?
Consider a man who strives for a heaven as the place of perfect retirement, where every duty and responsibility is cast off, where he can spend his leisure hours sitting at the stream of life and eating the fruit of the trees of life.
Or think of the mother who yearns for her beautiful departed daughter with such longing that she has but one desire, that she may die and be with her daughter again in heaven. Imagine her disappointment when she discovers that her mother-daughter relationship is gone forever.
Or imagine the musician who is thrilled with the prospect of developing his voice or musical talent to perfection, so that he can entertain and receive the adulation from the multitudes that no man can number.
What if my desire for heaven is all wrong? It is not what I expected and I end up in hell? How ashamed I would be.
Or, once more, suppose that heaven is real and all that we anticipate is true, but that at the last moment it should slip from our grasp.
Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:22, 23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name 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.”
Suppose that at the end of the way we should discover that heaven is not for us! “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (I Cor. 15:19).
But No! A thousand times No! Perish the thought!
Our God assures us: Hope maketh not ashamed! The sincere hope of the believer can never fail him. We have the testimony of the holy Scriptures and of the indwelling Spirit to assure us of that!
Why? Because the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts!
God is love! The love of God is that divine attribute whereby God loves Himself as the ultimate of all perfection. The triune covenant God lives in intimate communion of life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are intimately united with one another by love, the bond of perfection. Together they experience blessed harmony and unity in their thinking and willing and in all their works.
Wonder of wonders—that love includes you and me as “elect in Christ Jesus,” beloved of God, chosen from before the foundations of the earth according to His eternal foreknowledge! God has willed to make His glory known by saving us through the dark way of sin and death, and through the marvelous redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord. God loves us with a love which is higher than the heavens, deeper than the sea, and broader than the universe.
This love of God is as unchangeable as God Himself. We are engraven in the palms of God’s hands as His cherished possession. Heaven and earth may pass away, but God’s love abides forever.
Behold the extent of this love, which is so great that the Father surrendered His Son to the horrible punishment of the death of hell. The Son gave Himself to utter desolation in the torments of divine wrath. The Father gave His Son and the Son gave His life to save us from sin and death and to bring us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. We are redeemed, purchased unto God as His peculiar possession, saved from death unto everlasting life by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
Besides all that, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us who are justified, declared free from sin and guilt, and assured of our adoption to sons. Even more than that, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ, restored in His image in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, to know God as our God, to love and to serve Him with our whole being. We are saints in Christ Jesus, members of the eternal family of God.
All of which means that we are devoted servants in God’s house, prophets who proclaim His praises, priests who are devoted with our whole being to our God, and kings to conquer over sin in our own members and to fight the battle of faith in an evil world.
We are servants—yes, even bond-servants, slaves of Jesus Christ, yet more than willing, even happy in and thankful for our lowly position. One can better describe us as obedient sons and daughters in God’s house, who are eager to serve, for it is our joy to do our Father’s will.
We love the brethren. Even as we are enemies of all those who hate God, so we also count as father, mother, sister, and brother all those who love the Lord.
Not as if we have attained to perfection. Far from it, for we humbly confess that we are still very sinful with many imperfections. We must still complain that when we will the good, evil is present with us, so that we cry out, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? If our salvation in any way depended upon us, we not only might perish, but we certainly would. Yet we rest assured that God who has begun a good work in us will surely finish it.
In one word, we have become pilgrims and strangers on the earth, with our eternal home in the heavens. Here below we have no abiding city, we are only passing through, for we look for the city that hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. Although our flesh clings to all that is earthy, our eye of faith is fixed upon the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For us to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
More than conquerors are we in Christ Jesus! Nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Added to all that, we have God’s sure promises. None has ever failed. None will fail. These we embrace by faith. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
We have the beginning of the eternal joy in our hearts, a joy unspeakable and full of glory!
How can that hope ever put anyone to shame!
To God be the glory!