At the end of that “Love Chapter,” I Corinthians 13, Paul states that “Now abideth faith, hope and love (“charity” in some translations), these three; but the greatest of these is love.” We do well to note that love is not the most enduring of all these, but the greatest. The position is sometimes held that only love enters into the new Jerusalem. There we will need no faith and hope, only love. This is not the case. In the new creation the glorified children will have a perfect faith and hope. In this life we have such a weak faith and wavering hope. Will these not be perfected and be enjoyed in all their wonder and blessedness in the kingdom to come? Are they merely crutches to help us through this life, temporary devices God gives us in Christ for this life? Faith is a precious gift from God. But He will never give us that gift in its perfect form? Has Christ merited for us an imperfect perfection! Has He given us some blessings that are to be discarded? Are not all the blessings of salvation everlasting? And the holy angels in heaven who never need any salvation, do they not believe and hope?
We surely shall have faith and hope in the glory of the of the day will pass in which we will not consciously be relying upon and trusting in Him to continue all this blessedness through the unending Sabbath of bliss. Will we doubt that this good can continue? How ridiculous! There will be nothing more sure to us than that this is everlasting and cannot end because our God is an unchangeable and almighty God. So much faith will we have in Him in that day. Perfect faith, that is; a certain knowledge and a hearty confidence that all this blessedness is ours forever, will then be ours new creation as well as love. Love is the greatest of the three; and love will remain the greatest of the three. For in that blessed kingdom of Christ there will still be all three. Love is the greatest now, and love will be the greatest then, because faith and hope depend upon it and must be characterized by it, if they are to have any value and worth for us. James tells us that the devils believe that one is God and tremble. There is no love there. The greatest of all the activities of the rational-moral soul is not there. And with their faith, with their belief that one is God they still go into everlasting perdition. And what is true of faith is also true of hope; for faith is the substance of things hoped for, as well as the evidence of things not seen. Faith and hope are distinct but very, very closely related to each other and always found together.
Of course, that faith and hope will not be in every respect the same as they now are, while we are on this earth. But surely, all will agree that in the glory of that new creation we will still trust God. And trust is one of the chief elements of faith. Faith is confidence. It means that we rely upon one and have the conviction that he can do that which we desire of him and can be trusted. When we believe some one, we take him at his word. We trust him to speak the truth. Shall all this cease in regard to God and His Christ when we are brought into the blessedness for which we trusted Him in this life? Will we distrust Him? Of course not; we shall trust Him perfectly. Not a moment of the day will pass in which we will not consciously be relying upon and trusting in Him to continue all this blessedness through the unending Sabbath of bliss. Will we doubt that this good can continue? How ridiculous! There will be nothing more sure to us than that this is everlasting and cannot end because our God is an unchangeable and almighty God. So much faith will we have in Him in that day. Perfect faith, that is; a certain knowledge and a hearty confidence that all this blessedness is ours forever, will then be ours.
And as for hope; it is true that Paul writes, “Hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” But Paul has a limited viewpoint of hope in mind here. Hope is an intense and abiding longing with confident expectancy of attaining to that object hoped for. Will we cease to long in that new Jerusalem? We will have that for which we long. It will not be expecting that which at the moment we do not have. But it will certainly be expecting more and more of that bliss and glory in the unending ages to come. We will not cease to desire. And therefore we will not cease either to hope. In fact, exactly because then our love will be perfect, our faith and hope will likewise be perfect. Loving God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength we will trust Him completely and unwaveringly. Filled with the love of God, we shall desire and long for an unending life of such covenant fellowship and bliss as that wherein we will at that moment be living.
Once again, do we not read of the souls under the altar in Revelation 6:9 praying unto God? Can that be done without faith? Will we all not sing the praises of God in the glory of His kingdom? Can that be done without faith? That whole life, when fully delivered from the motions of sin in the flesh and clothed with a spiritual body of indescribable beauty, shall trust God perfectly and expect Him to bless us everlastingly. In that day we will see how weak our faith and hope were in this life, and that rather than to cease in the new Jerusalem these shall come to their own and attain to new and wonderful heights.
But to have faith and hope here below without the love of God is to be faithless and in a hopeless position. Without the love of God within us, the faith that we have is in man and self. The hope we have is wicked and for the lust of the flesh. There is a statement from the Word of God that declares this truth. Solomon declares in Proverbs 10:28 that “the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” He has hope, even though it is no more than expectation that never results in attainment. There is that which he expects and because of which he puts his trust in things and men. But it will all perish; and he will perish with it. And it is to that truth that we would begin at this time to call your attention. Faith and hope without the love of God can only end in disappointment. For faith and hope without the love of God lead man to oppose the almighty, sovereign, Lord so gloriously celebrated in the Word of God, leads to everlasting joy and blessedness!
If you were to ask the individual unbeliever what he expects, you would get a variety of answers. You might even get the answer that he expects to go to heaven. In spite of his faith and hope which are without the love of God, he still is an unbeliever according to God’s standards and the testimony of the Word of God. And that he expects to go to heaven does not change the fact that he is an unbeliever. Because he does not love God, it is also an imaginary heaven to which he expects to go. If he really understood the heaven of Scripture, where there is intimate fellowship and service of the living God, he would condemn it as an evil to be avoided. The hopeless, faithless hater of God dreams of a heaven where God serves him and he can continue his fellowship with the workers of iniquity, only now with impunity, never to suffer in any way or to any degree for his evil works.
The answer, otherwise, may vary with the individual. Ever since the Tower of Babel there has been a variety of opinion in the world as to that for which man ought to work and what he can expect because of his works. And the heaven of the one race and tribe may vary to the extreme from the heaven expected and sought by those of another race. The music that seems weird and harsh to us may sound sweet and harmonious to other ears. And that is only one small phase of what natural man concentrates upon when he thinks of joy and bliss and delight. There must be music there. There must be beauty of color and line and form. There must be banqueting and revelling, feasting and merrymaking. But just in what shape and form all these must take to make it a heaven for the individual will vary with the individual and with the races, tongues, and tribes. But you may be sure that what is expected by those who are without the love of God is not the heaven that exists and the glory that comes for the child of God.
And yet there is a certain conformity of expectancy among the unbelievers. There is that for which all are working, each from his own angle and with his own viewpoint. Underlying it all is simply a faith and hope not rooted in. the love of God, so that principally all are from a spiritual point of view united in one universal ambition. Man has from the fall, in fact beginning with that fall in paradise, embarked on one fantastic project and pursued it relentlessly through all ages and generations. There is that which from the dawn of history he has expected and seeks in all his generations.
We can state it very simply and then explain in detail. The natural man expects to be like God. That is the lie of which he was convinced by Satan when he came in the serpent in paradise. Very boldly he placed his word over against the word of the living God. He assured man that he did not need to remain servant, but could rise to the position where he could decide for himself what is good and what is evil. And man believed that nonsense! He ate unchangeable God, Who is a consuming fire! But faith and hope permeated with the love of God, the fear of the words of Satan, and the poison of that spiritual food soon made itself known. It made him spit out the love of God that was in his heart. His mind was brainwashed of the truth as it is in God. The motions of mind and will were reversed. Now he hated this God Who had made him. Now he did not trust Him anymore, and any desire and longing for His fellowship which had been created in his soul left him entirely. He became spiritually an entirely different creature. He had faith and hope,—and he must because he remained a rational-moral creature. But now his faith and hope are permeated with hatred against God. He can only trust self and dependent creatures. He can only hope for that imaginary thing which Satan dangled before his eyes with the lie. And the expectation of the wicked individually and collectively is still that he will be like God.
Under the power of the lie every child is born. With a heart filled with that hatred of God every individual babe comes into this world. With the desire to be in God’s place every infant greets this world, although at the moment of birth he is not conscious of it in that particular form. And ultimately it comes to its climax and clearest manifestation in the days of the antichrist, who, according to the apostle Paul, “. . . opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” II Thessalonians 2:4. Towards that goal man is working. This is his expectation. And it is all due to the fact that he has faith and hope utterly devoid of the love of God. It is evident in all the works of man’s hands, of all that which you may read in the books which he writes, in? all his vain boasts which are published that this is his goal, and this is what he expects. He expects some day to realize that man of sin, the son of perdition, of which Paul speaks in that chapter of II Thessalonians. The expectation of the wicked is the antichrist and his kingdom, in which he believes that he shall be like God, and for which he hopes in utter hatred of God. To these matters we would call your attention more specifically next time, the Lord willing. But remember at the moment that it makes a great deal of difference whether your fear of God is the fear of reverence and awe rooted in His love, or whether it is terror before Him because of hatred of the only true God and an inescapable belief that He hates you. The fear of the Lord of the regenerated child of God is one of faith and hope permeated with the love of God. His hope is gladness.