The Hope That Endures

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.

Rom. 5:5

It was Pentecost, the feast of fifty, the harvest feast.

The risen Lord had allowed the seven weeks of seven days to pass by since the morning of His resurrection. Christ had come forth from the realm of the dead as the Firstfruits of those that sleep. Joy had thrilled His soul as He experienced an entirely new, heavenly life that now was His forever. Eagerly He prepared for the opportunity to share this joy with His disciples, as He filled their souls with wonder at His amazing, glorious change. He had another mission, for the angels and the saints in heaven awaited His arrival. When His work was finished here, having appeared to his disciples in various forms, always alerting them to some new phase of His glorious resurrection, He went through the heavens to take His place at the Father’s right hand. Who can fathom the infinite depths of joy and blessedness when the Lord of all united all heaven under His control? While the song of triumph echoed through the vast expanses of the heavens, Christ turned His attention to His Church on earth, the harvest that must be brought in before heaven and earth can be perfectly one.

In the upper room in Jerusalem were gathered one hundred and twenty saints. It was but a small handful of people, and yet they were the most blessed people in all the world. They were filled with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they were almost bursting with joy, because their Lord, Who had been crucified, was risen, was seen of them, and had been taken into glory. On the other hand, there was still so much that they failed to understand. It had all happened in such a short time; each event, one upon another, in such rapid succession that they could not keep up with them. There was still in their minds the question of the kingdom. How and when would Christ establish His kingdom? What did the cross, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven have to do with His kingdom? One comfort they had: Christ had instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Who, He assured them, would solve all their problems. They were waiting with much prayer for the fulfillment of that promise.

Suddenly it happened. On the first day of the week the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. Almost as suddenly their minds were enlightened; the mystery was solved; a new joy flooded their hearts as they were .united anew with their Lord by a bond of living faith. By faith they saw Jesus, now crowned with glory in the highest heavens. He was their Lord and their God, preparing for them a place in His heavenly kingdom, even as He made them citizens of that kingdom by His Spirit in their hearts. He had been delivered over unto death on account of their transgressions, He was raised unto life and glory because He had merited their justification before God. (Rom. 4:25). The Spirit of adoption was also the Spirit that assured them of ever blessed covenant fellowship with God in Christ Jesus. He is the Spirit Who is given also to us by that same glorified Lord!

The question often arises in our hearts: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His presence? Who is worthy? Who is fit? Shamefacedly we answer: “No one: especially not I.” Yet the Holy Spirit points us to Christ as the One, the only One found worthy. The wonder of grace that we experience is, that we are included with Him, so that we can confess from the heart: “We, then, being justified by faith, have peace with God in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1).

Peace with God! That includes such blessings as the forgiveness of sins, the adoption to sons, the right of being heirs to our own mansion in Father’s house, up there in the cloud shrouded, yet dazzlingly glorious heights of Sion’s holy hill.

We not only have the right to that home above, but we also rejoice in the confidence that we shall share in Father’s glory: home at last, when all the weary night is spent. We have access, that is, we have the right, along with the desire to ascend those lofty heights with a song in our hearts. “Let those refuse to sing, who never knew our God; but children of the heavenly King may speak His praise abroad.”

The way grows long, and often wearisome. As we travel over rugged terrain, through deep, dark gorges, along taxing miles of canyon, even that heavenly city fades from view. We walk by faith, and not by sight. The enemy attacks; we falter shamefully; we even fall into sin. Keenly we feel the need for daily forgiveness, even for sanctifying grace to be renewed every morning. Yet through it all we rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. (Rom. 5:3, 4). Gratefully we realize that we are blessed with every necessary blessing of salvation by the Spirit that is given to us!

Wonderful gift of the Spirit!

By opening for us the Scriptures, our road map to the heavenly City, the Spirit enlightens our minds, quickens our will to seek the things above with a lively hope.

We ask ourselves: why do I want to go to heaven? Is it the desire to meet dear ones who have already gone to sleep in the Lord? Is it to be delivered from the present misery of sin and death, never to sin any more, never to suffer any more? All that is really secondary. My main desire is to be with Christ, Who draws me to Himself by His efficacious power. To be with Christ includes seeing my God in the face of Jesus, beholding His beauty, being satisfied with the radiant light of His perfections, in intimate communion of life at the wedding feast of the Lamb. One thing, just one thing have I desired of the Lord. That will I seek after, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord and be saturated with His glories. (See Psalm 27:4). Then I will be like Him, as fully as that is possible for any creature, enjoying to the full His blessedness, to declare with my whole being: “My God, how GREAT Thou art!” Now, in anticipation, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!

That hope is real. True enough, it far exceeds our fondest imaginations, for it belongs to those things that we have never yet seen, nor heard, nor were invented by our limited imagination. Yet it is as real as anything we now know.

That hope is absolutely sure. When faith utters the word ‘hope’ it attaches a meaning to it that this world can never know. In this life we are forced to speak of our hopes with a shrug of the shoulders, expressing an uncertain “I hope so.” Scripture even warns us not to speak with proud certainty concerning the day of tomorrow. It is only proper to say: “If the Lord wills and I live.” (James 4:13-15). When we speak of that heavenly City, we can speak with all the confidence of true faith. Faith declares: “I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (II Tim. 1:12).

That hope is living, active, for it reaches out toward that heavenly City with eager longing. Have you never watched the clock as you eagerly awaited the arrival of a dear one; even wondering at times whether the clock had stopped? As you went to the window time after time, did you not wonder that time could so sorely tax your patience? So, as you pause for breath on your pilgrim’s journey, the mountain peak of your hope can seem so far away.

Paul speaks of tribulations that work patience, of patience that works experience, and of experience that works hope. Our comfort is that the power of Almighty God works within us by His Spirit, even as we struggle and falter on our upward climb to Sion’s heights. Tribulation is not strange to any of us. The word Paul uses means literally “pressure.” Satan applies his pressure upon us; the world exerts her pressure; our own flesh adds its pressure to make us stumble, to make us fall. Pressures from every side, while the road is steep, the load is heavy, the cross is painful, so that in this tabernacle we groan. But there is always present the working power of God in those tribulations, teaching us the invaluable lesson of patience.

Patience is the elasticity, the give and stretch of our faith. It keeps us alert. It creates endurance. By it we gain experience, so that we as trained, well equipped soldiers can stand throughout the evil day. Each day prepares us for the next. Each victory helps us to be ready to meet an even more formidable enemy with greater confidence. We learn to sing in ever richer hope: “We’re marching upward to Sion, that beautiful City of God!”

Blessed work of the Spirit, Who leads us from faith to faith, from strength to strength, and from hope to higher reaches of hope.

Is it all as easy as that? How about the old man of sin who still fights us at every turn of the way? How well we realize that he burdens us with excess luggage for his own luxurious comforts. Too often we experience the doubts and fears that he raises, causing us to ask: Does not that hope ever put us to shame?

What if that hope we cherish proves to be nothing but a hallucination, a vain dream? The world also has her illusions that end in disappointment. The Indian has his “happy hunting grounds.” The Vikings had their Valhalla. Round about us arise various voices denying the infallibility of the Scriptures. They tell us that Abraham had his idea of life beyond the grave; Moses gave us his version of his hope; and David expresses his personal expectation. How can we be sure that they were not misguided by the superstitions of the heathen nations? After all, when we face death we face an enemy enshrouded in thick darkness.

There is another conceivable possibility. Granted that the hope of the believers has been realized for them how do I know that this hope will also be attained by me? When I consider my own depravity, along with my strong inclination to hate that which is good, and to cherish all that is evil, the fear creeps up in my soul that some day I will still perish at the hand of my enemies. When I consider my sins that weigh as a heavy burden of guilt upon my soul, ever threatening to crush me, I know that if it depends upon me, I’ll never make it. What if, approaching the journey’s end, it should slip from my grasp?

Still another possibility stirs my soul. Granted that my heavenly home is real, and that I also, am heir to that salvation, the thought persists, What if the future glory should disappoint my fond expectations. I see the beauty of a sunset, and I ask, “Can heaven be more beautiful than that?” I hear a choir sing the “Messiah”, and I ask, “Can heaven’s choirs outdo that?” I experience the warm comforts of fellowship with my family and church members, and my soul enquires, “When I am compelled to leave this all behind, will heaven’s communion far exceed even this?” I see an invalid who has never known a moment without pain, never enjoyed the pleasures of this life, and the question demands an answer, “Will the joys of heaven really make all this present suffering more than worth while?”

Powerfully faith rises to the occasion to brush all these objections aside with the confident assertion: “Hope maketh not ashamed!”

Heaven is real! God’s Word vouches for its own divine authority. God’s promises are sure unto all eternity!

Heaven is sure! Faith is from God, and that faith cannot fail us. Faith is knowledge, a sure knowledge wrought in our hearts by the Spirit of truth in Christ Jesus! Faith itself is certainty, for faith trusts in God, Who grants it to us. It is the living bond that unites us in living fellowship with the living Savior in heaven. He Who has begun a good work will surely finish it!

Heaven will exceed our fondest imaginations. All the sufferings of this present time will fade into oblivion at the sight of that glory. What mortal tongue can tell the wonder of heavenly life, making use of all our faculties, and of all our gifts and talents, each in his own capacity, to devote ourselves completely to the sole purpose that God’s glories may shine forth to His praise in all His wide and vast creation? Then we shall realize, even better than now, that all that we are and all that we have is the fruit of Christ’s indwelling Spirit in us!

How can I personally know that I possess this?

To that the apostle answers: We know, because “the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts.” One of the gifts which the Holy Spirit takes from Christ and shares with us is the gift of God’s love. God lives His own glorious life of love and fellowship so intensely in Himself, that He must needs share this with all His people in Christ. The overflowing Fountain of grace draws to Himself a people to delight in His blessedness forever.

It is as simple as this: God loves His people in Christ. He has foreordained them to know Him, delight in Him, adore Him, worship Him, bursting forth in humble adoration to the praise of His glory; He delivers that people from the deepest woe of sin and hell into the most perfect blessedness of sons in His house, who adoringly confess: “We love thee, because Thou hast first loved us.”

We take up the song that has thrilled the hearts of the saints of all ages, “I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplication. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call on Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1, 2). From the lisping lips of the small child, as well as from the rasping voice of the aged saint, the one beginning to climb Sion’s Holy Hill, the other almost attaining his goal, comes the same refrain, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Pentecost has come and gone.

What remains is the Spirit of the risen Lord with and in His church. I know, because He loves me so much, that He has spread His love abroad in our hearts.

That love abides in faith and in hope.

I shall never be put to shame in that hope.

The half has not been told.

Thanks be to God for His abiding gift of the Spirit.