Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Are you struggling amid the storms of life—storms and trials that are so strong and fiery that they cause deep distress and threaten to overwhelm your sinking soul? Such strong storms and fiery trials are not “strange” for the pilgrim on his earthly sojourn (cf. I Pet. 4:12). When fellow pilgrim and inspired writer of Hebrews speaks of “an anchor for the soul,” he directs our attention to God’s gracious solution and way for us to deal with our struggles in those storms and trials. He does that by bringing up the figure of a ship and its anchor.
Ships are vessels for travel on the seas and oceans. When they are on a voyage, they have a destination and are traveling towards it. And while on their travels, they encounter challenges and dangers that threaten their safe arrival at a harbor.
This earthly reality pictures well our spiritual reality as pilgrims. Like earthly ships that are on a voyage, we are like ships journeying on the storm-tossed sea of life. Like earthly ships that have a destination, we have a destination—heaven! And along our way to heaven, we encounter dangers that distress us and would threaten our safe arrival in heaven.
This comparison between earthly ships and our spiritual life as pilgrims is brought to a pointed focus by way of the anchor. For we have much need of an anchor for our souls! What do earthly anchors do for ships? Going down from the ship into the sea, they keep the ship from being dashed by the waves that crash near the shore. They do so by virtue of what they are. An anchor is a very heavy piece of metal (commonly iron) with many hooks. These hooks, together with the heavy weight of the anchor, serve to secure a ship at its location, preventing it from drifting into dangerous waters. Thus, anchors guarantee the ship’s safety by keeping it secure. Similarly, Jehovah’s anchor for the soul gives us safety and security!
But unlike the earthly anchor, Jehovah’s anchor for the soul is different in two important ways. Unlike earthly anchors that go down into the sea, Jehovah’s anchor for our souls goes up into heaven! And unlike earthly anchors that cannot be seen once they go into the sea, Jehovah’s anchor for our souls is that “which entereth into that within the veil.” It opens up the way for us to enter into the glory of heaven one day, and presently enables us to behold heaven and our ascended Savior and Christ by a true and living faith! What great comfort and assurance this brings to our souls when we are in distress and real danger! Dear reader, have you not experienced this? And was not this comfort and assurance experienced by dying Stephen when he beheld his ascended Savior at God’s right hand (cf. Acts 7:55)?
For this anchor is “both sure and steadfast” (v. 19). We understand this when we call to mind what this anchor is. Hope is the anchor of the soul! To be sure, this hope is not the ‘hope’ of the world. When we ‘hope’ for something with this earthly ‘hope,’ we long and yearn for it, but there is no certainty that we will obtain it. But the hope that the inspired writer speaks of, which is true, heavenly hope, is different. Unlike the hope of this world, Christian hope has nothing to do with this world; for it is the longing for our complete glorification in heaven itself. Unlike the hope of this world, our hope is certain. And unlike the hope of this world, our hope is born of the Spirit of God in our hearts.
So, why is this hope “both sure and steadfast”? We give three reasons.
First, hope is sure and steadfast because its ground and foundation is the already accomplished work of Jesus Christ our Savior: the work of His cross! Nothing can change this wonderful, historical accomplishment of Jesus for us! This is why the apostle Paul waxes so confident in the fact that nothing—absolutely nothing— will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:35-39)!
Second, hope is sure and steadfast because its object is Jesus (v. 20). For let us not forget that Jesus means “Jehovah salvation” and that He is so named because “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He will save! He will save us from our sins! He will because God who promised it is all faithful and all powerful to keep His promises! We shall be saved by Jesus! “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8).
Third, our hope is sure and steadfast because of its guaranteed end and victory. In Jesus Christ, we believers are absolutely safe and secure! This wonderful truth comes out especially from the fact that Jesus is our “forerunner” (v. 20). This is a special word in the original, being used only here in the Bible and being rich in meaning. The word may be applied as a shipping term, used for a special ship that goes ahead of a larger ship. When there was a sandbar and the tide or water-level was too low for a large ship to dock in the harbor, a small ship—called a “forerunner”—would take the anchor of that large ship and go towards the harbor. When it arrived at the harbor, it would—on behalf of the large ship—drop its anchor. In so doing, this “forerunner” ship assured the large ship of its safety. For when the tide and water-level were high enough, the large ship would approach the harbor to dock in its final place and position in safety. Thus, this forerunner ship served as a pledge for that larger ship’s place and safety in the harbor. In a similar way, our Lord’s once-for-all entrance into heaven serves as a pledge for all believers of our blessed end and safe arrival in heaven. By His blessed death on the cross, Jesus Christ our Forerunner has rent the veil of the temple, destroyed the barrier of sin for us, and entered into the real holy of holies, even heaven, for us! He is our pledge in heaven!
It is this sure and steadfast hope of our eternal glorification and safe arrival in heaven that gives us the peace, confidence, and joy we need as we journey through life with all its fierce storms. It does so in three ways.
First, this hope causes us to look up. It causes us to look up in the midst of all our sorrows and trials. Dear reader, are you in distress? Are your troubles overwhelming you? What are you looking at and allowing your attention to be fixed on? When in the midst of trial and trouble, we all are inclined to look down and be discouraged, or to look horizontally and focus only on our problems. Hope causes us to gaze in the right direction— not down, but up! Up—to where our eyes of faith are called to be fixed—heaven! Up—towards heaven where our ascended Savior and King sits and reigns at God’s right hand! Up—where Christ and all the unspeakable joys and glories of our salvation are found, which will be ours in fullness and perfection one day!
Second, hope lifts us up! It lifts up our drooping and sinking spirits when we feel down in the midst of earthly storms and trials. Are you feeling distressed and downcast by your earthly circumstances? Be lifted up by looking up towards heaven and beholding your glorious Savior and all the joyous glories that are surely yours through Him!
Therefore, third and finally, after we have beheld and been assured of heaven, hope calms and stills our turbulent, restless souls amid the storms of life. Those storms may be all around us and may have completely engulfed us—nationally, ecclesiastically, and personally. They may be raging ever so fiercely and very really threaten to overwhelm us. But he who has the grace of Jehovah’s anchor operating in his heart experiences inexplicable peace, unshakable confidence, and unspeakable joy in the midst of them all. For he knows that no matter how numerous and fierce those storms are, the joys and glories of heaven are safely his because of Christ Jesus!
This wonderful effect of hope calming us and stilling the storms raging within our souls is much like what the psalmist triumphantly sings of in Psalm 46 when he looked up and beheld his God. This is beautifully versified in Psalter 126, stanzas 1 and 5.
God is our refuge and our strength,
Our ever present aid,
And, therefore, though the earth remove,
We will not be afraid;
Though hills amidst the seas be cast,
Though foaming waters roar,
Yea, though the mighty billows shake
The mountains on the shore.
Be still and know that I am God,
O’er all exalted high;
The subject nations of the earth
My Name shall magnify.
The Lord of Hosts is on our side,
Our safety to secure;
The God of Jacob is for us
A refuge strong and sure.
Such is the blessedness of hope that so efficaciously calms and still our souls in the midst of our present distresses and storms of life. What a blessed anchor of the soul Jehovah our faithful covenant Father has provided for all His dear children! Let us, in thankfulness and by faith, use it. Let us so rely upon this anchor and find much-sought relief and comfort for our souls in time of need.