By John LaVier
The Hope of the Sinner
In Ephesians 2:12 the unregenerate man is described as “having no hope.” However, though the unsaved man is hopeless, yet there is hope. But his hope of heaven and eternal life is not in some fancied worth or work of his, but is found alone in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many have a false hope. Some trust to their character, morality, honesty or good deeds, but none of these will suffice, for God says, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” The man who hopes to find favor in the sight of God because of any merit of his own is doomed to disappointment.
Others realize in some measure their sinful condition, but turn to some system of religion to afford them a standing before God. To Israel of old God said, “And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering.” To all who trust in any religious effort, or put confidence in anything other than the blood of Christ, God still says, “Not sufficient.” A man may perform a multitude of rites and ceremonies; he may be baptized, partake of the bread and wine, and observe holy days and Sabbath days; he may hope that any or all of these will save his guilty soul, but all is to no avail. The Word declares: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
There is only one hope for any sinner, and that is in the One who died on Calvary’s cross for the sin of humanity, Who was buried and rose again, Who now lives as the one and only Saviour at God’s right hand. If the sinner will trust in Jesus Christ and rely alone on His precious blood and finished work, then he will have a hope. The hope of the believing sinner is “the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due season.” All that the sinner needs is Christ. Nothing more than Christ is needed, but nothing less than Christ will suffice. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for their is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The Hope of Israel
We see Israel today as a people scattered and peeled, but is there yet hope for this once-favored nation? Romans 11:1 provides the answer. First comes the question, “Hath God cast away His people?” This question is followed by the divine answer, “God forbid.” Then comes the statement of the following verse: “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.” Though now for a season they have been blinded and forsaken of God, there is still for them a glorious future.
Israel’s hope is expressed in the words of the Spirit-filled Zacharias, who prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David … that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham” (Luke 1:68-73).
The above words of Zacharias were uttered by him at Christ’s first coming. The nation, though, did not receive Christ. Therefore, the fulfillment of Israel’s hope was postponed, and now awaits the second coming of the Christ. When He appears again the second time He will come as Israel’s Deliverer, to save them from their enemies and from the hand of all that hate them. “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). All Israel will then be saved. They will be planted again in their own land, and Christ Himself will be in their midst on David’s throne ruling and reigning in righteousness.
The hope of Israel is the kingdom of the heavens established upon earth, with Israel in a place of supremacy. The nations today are in confusion because they are headless, but when the kingdom is here Israel will be at the head, and no longer the tail, and Israel’s Messiah will be King over all the earth.
No fact is more clearly taught in the Scripture than that of Israel’s regathering and restoration. “Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jer. 31:10). Just as surely as the scattering was literal, so surely will the gathering be literal. Israel will be gathered out of all the nations whither the Lord has scattered them, and will yet dwell in the land promised by God to Abraham and his seed after him.
Israel must first go through the awful time of great tribulation foretold by the Saviour, during which God will purge out their dross. Thus they will be prepared for the place of headship and responsibility which is to be theirs in the kingdom. They will be saved out of this time of Jacob’s trouble when Christ returns as the Rider on the white horse. They will then look on Him whom they pierced and the nation will be converted. Israel’s conversion will result in the conversion of the world. All nations will be blessed through Israel. “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23). Then the fulfillment of the prophetic Word: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee … And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” This is Israel’s hope.
The Hope of the Church
While Israel’s hope awaits fulfillment, God is calling out the Church, the One Body of Christ. Israel has the hope of the coming kingdom, its center to be Jerusalem and its King the coming Messiah, and even beyond that they have the better hope of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, with the names of the twelve tribes on the gates thereof. There is, however, reserved for the Church an even more glorious hope. Already God sees us, as members of the One Body, seated in the heavenlies in His Son. “He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are already there insofar as God is concerned. We are there positionally in Christ our Head, and some day we will be there actually. “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” We look for the Saviour, and to be conformed to His image; to have a glorious body like unto His, a body sinless, deathless, incorruptible, clothed with beauty and splendor. This is the hope of every saint of God: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
In the opening verses of Colossians 3 we are told: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Israel’s hope is in things on the earth. The Church’s hope is in things above. We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ, and these heavenly places are “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”
The Church is “looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God, our Saviour Jesus Christ.” We wait to hear His voice, to be caught up to meet Him, to be like Him, to be for ever with Him. When Christ our life thus appears, we shall appear with Him in glory. Who can tell what is in store for the Church, then all glorious, and without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing? Then we shall be with Christ far above, at God’s right hand where there are pleasures for evermore. Then in the ages rushing toward us, and to worlds as yet unborn, God will show forth in us, the Church, the exceeding riches of His grace. We will have an eternity of bliss in which to magnify His Name and to be to the praise of His glory. Even now as we contemplate the realization of our hope, it should make us sing above all the trials of life, knowing that any sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Now blest in heavenly places,
In Christ at God’s right hand;
And filled with all His fullness,
Complete in Him to stand.
Sing to the praise and glory,
Of Him who thus hath shown,
Such gracious love and mercy,
To call us for His own.