(Note: A rather serious error crept into the first article of this series, Standard Bearer, Feb. 15, p. 231. The seventh and eighth lines of the second column should follow the second line of the first column. The correct reading of these two sentences then is: “For faith and hope without the love of God lead man to oppose the almighty, sovereign, unchangeable God, Who is a consuming fire! But faith and hope permeated with the love of God, the fear of the Lord so gloriously celebrated in the Word of God, leads to everlasting joy and blessedness!”)
The expectation of the wicked is that he will be like God. For he expects some day to get completely from underneath God’s curse. The sin he committed in paradise he compounds now by further rebellion against God and to know for himself what is good and evil.
But the hope of the righteous also is to be like God. There are many texts in Holy Writ that express this literally. In Psalm 17 the contrast is made between the aspirations and apparent success of the wicked and the hope of the righteous. The psalmist declares in verses 14 and 15, “. . . they (the wicked) are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance unto their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” And John writes in I John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
But, oh! what a difference between the expectation of the wicked to be like God and the hope of the righteous to be like Him. The wicked strive and expect to take God’s place. There certainly is a reason why God declares in the first of the ten commandments, “Thou shalt have no other god besides me.” The very negative form indicates that this is exactly what the natural man is doing all the time. Thus it is throughout the law. God points out sins in which man is by nature walking. And the root sin of it all is that we do not have Jehovah for our God, but have gods besides and in place of Him. Essentially man is that god himself. He is a god unto himself. His wishes must be done. The god of gold and silver must be a god who will serve the flesh of man. And he strives all the time to get equal with God so that he can get rid of Him. He hates God and would be like Him only in the sense of hating His power, authority, and glory.
The hope of the righteous is to be spiritually like God. He would be holy as God is holy, righteous as He is righteous. He has by faith seen His Christ, and he would be like Christ. Never would He think the robbery of being equal to God, for the life of Christ in Him has no such wicked desire. He knows God as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. And he wants God to be exactly as He is. He prays that God’s name may be hallowed, that His kingdom may come and that His will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. How utterly impossible that he would seek to overthrow Jehovah and supplant Him! He would be restored to the image of ‘God so that he could again shine with God’s virtues, be His spiritual diamond to reflect the glory of God.
That is the faith and hope of the man who has the love of God in his heart. He believes in love that all this may be his. By faith he takes hold of God’s promises in love. And then he hopes for it as well. For note that after John had stated that although it doth not yet appear what we shall be, we shall be like Him, he adds in the next verse, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Such surely is his hope. But you can see, can you not, that no man will have that faith and that hope without the love of God. No man who does not love God would hope to be like that which he hates. For it is either love or hate. And our faith and hope will either be permeated with hatred towards God or love towards Him. God is there every step of our way. We cannot avoid Him. And either we love Him there before us, or we hate Him. Either in love we run to Him with our faith and hope; or in haired we run away from Him. And because the righteous love God, they by faith take hold of His promises and hope for their realization.
Thus it is that the hope of the righteous is Christ and His kingdom. Whereas the wicked expect the antichrist and strive to produce him as soon as possible, in order to get from under the curse; the righteous hope for Christ to come and realize deliverance from the curse in the righteous way of His cross and return with bodies delivered from the motions of sin. The righteous hope to be delivered from the curse in a righteous way. If this were not the case, he would not be righteous. Indeed, no man is righteous in himself. And even to the righteous much sin still cleaves. But the righteous is fully justified by the blood of Christ. All his sins are blotted out. And he has received the Spirit of Christ to make him holy in principle. Although righteousness and holiness are distinct from each other, they are always found together. The man who is righteous is also holy. The man who is holy is always righteous. For in those who sins are blotted out so that they become righteous (guiltless) the Spirit is always sent to make them holy. And the righteous man then is the man who loves God and has received that love of God upon the basis of the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to him.
This love of God then characterizes all his faith and hope. And that makes all the difference in the world. As rational-moral creatures all men have faith and hope. All put their trust in something or someone. All expect, and as the world says it, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” But it does make a great deal of difference whether the love of God flows into these and characterizes them or whether hatred against God produces them.
The man whose faith and hope is permeated with the love of God shall be like God. In principle he is already like unto Him. And in the new creation he shall see his desires completely fulfilled. Now in this life already he has the gladness of which Solomon speaks when he says, “The hope of the righteous is gladness; but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” His fleshly eye sees the ungodly prosper. Every passing day it may seem as though the wicked will attain to their goal and that we shall be put to shame. The Church of God will become smaller and smaller. She will lose her possessions while the wicked increase in possessions and wealth. The Kingdom of God will begin to look more and more like a foolish dream. And yet because he has faith and hope permeated with the love of God, he sees Christ on the throne and enjoys citizenship in His kingdom already in this life. He has spiritual gladness. He sees by faith that man has not dethroned God and cannot dethrone Him. He sees that although the wicked may seem to conquer this disease, God, brings another one to plague him. He sees that the wages of sin, namely, death, are there every day for the wicked as well as for the righteous. And he sees and reads God’s signs of the times. Loving God he rejoices in the tokens of God’s faithfulness which he sees round about him. He does not rejoice and is not glad to hear of thousands upon thousands killed in war and earthquake. But he rejoices to see the faithfulness of God as he is made aware of wars and rumors of wars. For today nation rises up against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and earthquakes are reported in diverse places. It does not give him personal joy to see the apostasy that is sweeping the world; and yet he does see this also as a fulfillment of God’s promise and rejoices to see His faithfulness.
And when he lies upon his death bed, he knows that he is very near the object of his hope. When men no longer expect him to live, and he himself is also aware of the fact, he expects to enter into life far above what he has experienced in the flesh. His hope is not dimmed. His eye of faith is not closed. But because he has these in the love of God, he groans within himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of his body.
Not all fear of the Lord is to be commended. There is a fear that is without His love. That fear is terror and fright! That fear calls for the mountains to fall upon and the hills to cover the subject of that fear. Such fear dreads the day of His coming. That fear can still be experienced in the lake of fire and makes one no different from the devil himself. But the fear of the Lord that is rooted in love and characterized by that love is awe and reverence and looks for the day of His coming. And walking in His fear means that we love Him, love His commandments, love His Son and His Church and can find gladness only in Him and in the things of His kingdom. In His fear means in His love. And faith and hope permeated with love mean peace and joy and gladness that increases everlastingly.
And what is it then in your life?
We can make all kinds of distinctions and divide the peoples of the world into all kinds of classifications. We can speak of nations, tongues and of tribes. We can speak of bond and free, male and female, children and adults. We speak of democratic nations and communistic nations. Mention is made of the haves and have-nots. The Jews liked to speak of Abraham’s seed and the heathen. Whoever was not of Abraham’s children was simply heathen.
But from a spiritual point of view there are only two kinds of people in this world. Either we are wicked or we are righteous. It is just as simple as all that. There is no class in between. One of two is true, all our sins are blotted out by the blood of Christ, or we are yet in ALL of our sins.
And so also there are in this world only those who expect the antichrist and those who hope for Christ. Scripture knows of only two kingdoms from a spiritual point of view. We are citizens in the kingdom of darkness or in the kingdom of light. We are under the dominion of Satan or we are ruled by the Spirit of Christ. We seek the things above, where Christ is seated at Gods right hand; or we seek the things made by man under the instigation and influence of Satan.
What is it then in your life? Tell me whether your hope is Christ and His kingdom or the antichrist and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life fostered and promised there; and I will tell you whether you are in for gladness that grows in richness, or hopeless despair and loss of all you have. Do you love God? You shall be like Him and know His love for you. He will make you glad and increase the gladness as the everlasting moments of His kingdom pass by. You will walk in His fear also in that new Jerusalem. For it will be a fear rooted in love, an awe and reverence that can only grow as we see anew the depth and wonder of that love. Yet not your heart be troubled by the world’s seeming success. In His fear is hope and gladness. And there alone will you find peace.