In Hope of Eternal Life – Foy L. Smith

Foy L. Smith

In writing to Titus, the apostle Paul reaffirmed the fact that he was a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ. He states that truth is after godliness, and that the true believer cherishes the hope of eternal life. He further affirms that this promise of eternal life was in the mind of God “before the world began.” He emphasizes the importance of preaching and the part it plays in attaining this eternal life. It is sad but true that preaching is played down by most religionists today, including some of our own “theologians.” It is not true that preaching deserves to be played down, but true that this is the attitude so many have toward it. But we are still told that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). There is too much foolish preaching in the world today and not enough of “the foolishness of preaching.” There is an ocean of difference between these two statements. I would rather be “a fool for Christ’s sake” than to just be a fool any day in the week! (1 Cor. 4:10). The statements in this introduction are based upon the apostle’s affirmations in Titus 1:1-3. He says that the true believer can live all through this life with this to lead him onward: “In hope of eternal life” (v. 2). What an incentive! What an encouragement! Regardless of how rough the going gets, the Christian still sees that blessed hope, always leading him onward and upward.

The Christian has this hope. The sinner has only the promise of eternal death if he pursues his wicked ways unto the end. What an incentive for us all to live right. The Christian has hope; the sinner has no hope. Webster defines hope as, “desire with expectation of obtaining what is desired, trust, reliance; a land of hope.” These are good definitions. We do not hope for the impossible. We hope for that which we may obtain. I do not hope for a million dollars. I would like to have it to give it to great causes I now have in mind, but I do not expect to ever have a million dollars so I do not hope for it. It is beyond my reach so no hope is involved on my part. Now there are some things I do hope for because they are obtainable. God has promised them and that is enough for me. I believe I can have them. Canaan was a “land of hope” to the children in Pharaoh’s terrible bondage. Only a few of the original ones who left Egypt entered into that land but it was no fault on the part of the Father who gave them the land. It was because of their own disobedience (1 Cor. 10:1-12). America is a land of hope to countless millions and comparatively speaking very few of them will ever set foot on this land. We who enjoy it as natural born citizens often fail to appreciate it as we should. True, our beloved land has a lot of big problems, but I will take it any day in the week over any other land on earth! In spite of all its faults it is still a land of hope. I constantly hope for our America to purge herself so she will be a better land.

Every day is a day of hope for so many—hoping for new cars, jobs, promotions, hoping for food and shelter, hoping for a multiplicity of things. With many, their hope is not a true hope for these things never come to pass. It is a real experience to take a concordance and run references on the word “hope.” As the result of doing this very thing, I have divided this lesson into three major divisions. Let us now pursue these divisions as logically and plainly as we possibly can. Take away hope and there will be no eternal life for a single one of us.

Hope is a Great Bible Doctrine

It is my purpose now to call upon a number of great Bible characters to learn what they had to say about hope. These characters were as human as we are. They had their trials and they had their happiness. Some of their greatest joys came as the result of their passing through so many trials and troubles. When we listen to them we are listening to their experiences, approved by the Holy Spirit and recorded for our benefit. We could call upon so many Old Testament characters, but I have five in mind. Let us learn what they had to say about this great subject, hope.

Listen to David: “Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts” (Psa. 22:9). This is taking hope back a long way. Someone asked an old preacher once, “When shall I begin teaching my six months old baby?” He exclaimed, “Mercy, madam, you have lost six months already!” And according to today’s experts he was not altogether wrong. They say the mother should begin teaching her baby while it is in the formative stages inside her body. Is it amiss to believe that shaping and molding of the baby’s life can be effectively done in the fetus stage, and the development stage within the mother’s womb? Just don’t sell the idea short. It certainly is worth the try. If mothers to be can ruin the lives of their babies while they carry them by smoking, taking dope, and drinking intoxicants; if they can bring them into the world all but destroyed before they have a chance, then who is to say their lives cannot be molded for good by careful attention and even teaching during these months? Far-fetched? Why not try it, mothers? I know a young mother who talked gently to her baby, sang nursery rhymes, told it about Jesus, and manifested a loving, caring attitude all during the months before the birth. You should see that baby now! David’s mother had hope for her baby—yes, even from her breasts. And this statement just may allow more than one interpretation.

The Psalmist said again, “Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psa. 146:5). Who are the happiest people in the world? Why, Christians, of course. Sin doesn’t bring happiness. It knows only how to make one miserable and wretched. Listen to David again: “Uphold me according unto thy word that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope” (Psa. 119:116). This sounds like Paul who declared that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1: 16). Truly, the right hope “maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5). It had this effect upon Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1: 16). Now a final word from David: “In thee, O Lord, do I hope” (Psa. 38:15). Truly, David was a man of hope.

Listen to Job: “My days…are spent without hope” (Job 7:6). Learn of his many trials and heartbreaks by reading this great book and we can understand to a degree why he would say this. He felt for a while that there was no hope left for him. He had lost his children, his crops, his wealth, his friends, and finally his wife. He felt for a while that all hope was gone. But listen to this after he got hold of himself—with the Lord’s help, of course: “Be secure, because there is hope” (Job 11:18). Oh, yes, He cares and there is always hope out there for us if we will but lay hold on it.

Listen to Jeremiah: Now he oscillated some as we all do from time to time; sometimes back and forth. But he came out a winner in the end. He said once, “In vain is salvation hoped for” (Jer. 3:23). I prefer to take what he said a bit later, and this shows his torment at times: “There is hope in thine end” (Jer. 31:17). He seemed to have always come through even after almost giving up in despair because of the sins of God’s children. He was known as the “weeping prophet,” and no doubt he shed many tears over God’s wayward children. He learned, sometimes the hard way, that the star of hope never goes all the way down.

Listen to Ezekiel: In Ezekiel 37:1-14, the prophet is carried by the spirit of the Lord and set down in “the midst of the valley which was fall of bones.” Let me paraphrase: the bones were very dry, and the question was asked if they could live? Ezekiel was told to prophesy and breath would enter the bones and they would live. God said He would bring flesh upon them and put breath in them and they would live and know that He was the Lord. Ezekiel prophesied as commanded and there was a shaking of the bones coming together, and from the four winds breath came into them, and they had flesh covering the bones and now breath in them; thus, they lived. These bones represented the house of Israel—people discouraged—people without hope. In this demonstration, God was saying “I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel…I shall place you in your own land” (vv. 12-14). However figurative and perhaps poetic, I can see in Israel’s resurrection, so to speak, and their going on toward the land that had been promised them, a figure of our bones coming together in the final resurrection, the changing of the earthly into the heavenly, and our journeying right on into the Heavenly Canaan, the promised land for all the faithful. Ezekiel’s powerful picture gave people hope in that day and it extends hope to us today.

Listen to Ezra: He powerfully said, “There is hope in Israel!” (10:2). And, dear reader, do not despair too much. Be concerned but don’t ever give up, even in these most trying times. As surely as there is a God in heaven, there is hope for spiritual Is forces have tried to kill the church in times past, and the efforts being made today by so many to kill the church will not succeed. We have been hurt and we will be hurt further, but we shall come through. We will do our work and we will reach that glorious promised land that awaits the faithful. There in hope in Ezra’s words for us today.

Listen to Solomon: “The righteous hath hope” (Pro. 14:32). What more can be said than what he said? We are righteous. We have done and are doing the commandments of God, and our hope will lead us straight to the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!” This brings us to the second major division of this lesson:

Hope—The Fruit of the Gospel

With the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel which He brought, hope truly blossomed forth. Before Jesus came, the world was dark and hope was almost non-existent, but when He came the “sun of righteousness,” and the “star of hope” filled the sky. He is the “Son” and also the “Sun.” As the literal sun fills the earth with light and warmth, just so, Jesus bears this relationship to the world—He fills it with light, warmth, and beauty. Take Jesus away and put the world back where it was before He came, and the same hopeless situation would prevail as it did then. Mankind could hope back then but hope was not real ‘till Jesus came. Truly, Alexander Pope said long ago, “Hope springs eternal in the breast.” These words would have had no meaning had Jesus not come. Thales said, “Hope is the poor man’s bread.” He was right, but hope does not stop with the poor man; it holds up a light of encouragement to all men, poor, rich, or in between. Jesus is the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35). He is also our hope. Thus, in that sense hope is the Bread of life. We can go out and talk to the man behind the plow. We are told why he plows: “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor. 9:10). The farmer prays for rain—he prays for the sunshine, he prays for favorable weather while his crop is in the ground. He stakes his hopes for a great harvest in the cooperation of all elements necessary to a great harvest. He knows all the time however, that it is God who giveth the increase. He farms by hope and leaves the results up to the Lord. It is that kind of hope in a spiritual way that keeps us plowing straight ahead. We “keep on keeping on.”

Paul strongly declared: “We are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24). We must now listen to Paul. We have listened to six Old Testament greats, now let us give heed to possibly, with no reflections upon any, the greatest apostle of all. We have heard him say that we are saved by hope. Here is another powerful word from his pen: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Heb. 6:19). Even the greatest and most modern ship afloat today would not dare go to sea without an anchor. The once proud Queen Mary, now in dry dock down at Long Beach, California, not far from our home here in Riverside, still has the great anchor which was always there to steady her in case of trouble in both war times and peace times. The anchor, though small in comparison to the size of the ship, was always there in time of trouble. And our Christian hope is always with us, in times of peace, happiness and prosperity, and also in times of trouble. The apostle says that our hope even “enters into the veil.” It puts our souls in touch with Him who resides beyond the veil, and our hope will lead us until we go beyond the veil and into heaven itself. Then and only then will the Christian need hope no longer.

In the coming of Christ and the giving of His saving gospel, hope became a reality. Salvation is very real in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10). While hope continues to lead the Christian to the very end of his life, there are times in this life when hope becomes reality, such as when we come to know our Lord through His Word and by our obedience to it (John 8:32; Heb. 5:8-9). We hope for salvation from our past sins if we are not saved; we obey from the heart the glorious gospel and are set free from our sins, thus we are, as the apostle said, saved by hope. The facts of the gospel are the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. We cannot obey the facts—we obey the commands. We turn from our sins by repentance, and are buried in the likeness of Jesus’ burial, and are raised up in the likeness of His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 6:3-4). New Testament baptism is that command that pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Sprinkling and pouring will not do it. Nothing less than a total burial of the body in water baptism will do it. No, water does not wash away our sins. The blood of Jesus does(1 John 1:7). But when the alien sinner has faith enough to do what Jesus says because Jesus said it, whether he can see any good in doing it or not, then as a reward for his faith, the blood is applied and his sins are washed away in the blood of Jesus. It is a simple and beautiful process, yet one hated by the world more than any other command of God. The gospel, and obedience to it, lifts the veil and lots us by faith take a look into what is to be (2 Cor. 3:13-16).

The Christian has Hope

The Christian is the only one who does have hope beyond this life. Oh, others talk about future life but their hope cannot be real for it has no foundation on which to rest “for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). Build on Confucius—no hope. Build on “Rev” Moon—no hope! Build on Buddha—no hope! Build on Crossroads—no hope! Build on Jesus Christ—hope, hope, hope! Yes, the one who truly follows Jesus and no other has blessed hope—hope in this life which will be wonderful reality in the life that is to be. It is faith that gives the Christian his hope. Truly, we “walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). As Christians, we “hope for that we see not” (Rom. 8:25). The older we get, the more we yearn for that eternal city, but we are told that we must “with patience wait for it” (v. 25). Patience does not always come easy. The easiest thing is to be impatient. The little boy wanted something very much. His mother put him off by saying, “You will just have to wait.” “But, I can’t wait!” “Then, don’t wait,” said his mother. “But, I don’t know how not to wait!” Often we think we just cannot wait, but the Psalmist learned that he had to “wait patiently for him” (Psa. 37:7). We, like the lad, may not know how “not to wait,” but in Him we learn to keep on waiting. When one breaks an arm, he must learn how to be patient. Nature doesn’t always work as fast as we want it to. When we suffer financial reverses we don’t want to wait for recovery in a financial way. But we have to. We have seen loved ones come to their final bed in this life and they yearned to go on to be with the Lord, but they had to be patient—they had to “wait upon the Lord.” The Lord doesn’t always get in as big a hurry as we do.

Yes, as Christians we must have hope. We hope for Heaven. It is out there somewhere in God’s great canopy. “Heaven is high above the earth” (Psa. 103:11). Our blessed Lord “was taken up…and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). We cannot see heaven with our physical eyes though we can look into the physical heavens. But heaven is up there, and we “hope for that we see not.” Our hope has a strong foundation on our faith. Abraham “against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Rom. 4:18). How could he father a son at his age? He believed he could and would because God said He would. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20).

As Christians, we hope for many things, and remember that hope is based on expectation. We do not hope for that which we know we cannot have, at least not a true hope. We may yearn and long, foolishly, but we do not really hope. In that sense it’s like “fool’s gold.” It’s just not therefor us. But the better things, the things prepared for us by the Lord, are there and we can hope for them. As Christians, there are numbers of things for which we hope. Let us pay our attention to some of them:

We hope for His Word. David did. Now listen to him: “I have hoped in thy word” (Psa. 119:74). David hoped with far less evidence than the evidence we have now. Yet, his hope was strong. David hoped in and for His Word, we hope in His Word. The Word has been truly revealed since David’s day; we have it as a fact and what a strong hope we can have in it! Men have always done their best to destroy God’s Word, but their best has not been enough and never will be. Doesn’t the unbeliever know that if he should be able to destroy the Word of God, in doing so he would at the same time destroy himself? It would be like shutting up the heavens so that rain would never fall again, or cutting off the oxygen from the patient whose very life depends upon it. It would be like the foolish one who would climb out on a limb and then turn and cut it off between himself and the main body of the tree. Yet, this is exactly what the unbeliever seeks to do. He does not know that even his poor, miserable existence in a physical way depends upon the accuracy and veracity of the Word of God.

Indeed, the world is full of stupid people! Oh, thank God, we have the Word! It is the Word of Life…in it we bask, by it we are saved, and from it we derive strength to go on in those terrible times that we all face sooner or later. Yes, we hope in it, and we hope for its spread through the world.

Next, we hope in His mercy. “The eye of the Lord is upon them…that hope in his mercy” (Psa. 33:18). Where would we be were it not for the mercy of the Lord? We would be lost beyond any hope of recovery. We cannot live good enough, without His divine mercy, to be saved. His mercy has to be a bridge spanning across many of our weaknesses, else there is no hope for us. Listen to Paul to Titus; “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit. 3:5).

Have you stopped to think where we would all be if it were not for the mercy of God? In His great mercy, He is so good to us. After we do the best we can, mercy has to take over and carry us on through. I personally am like John Bunyan, who said: “In my case it must be a great mercy or no mercy, for a small mercy will not suffice.” The older I get, the more I find myself depending on the mercy of a loving Father. “As a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psa. 103:13). Many times in rearing our children, we found our hearts breaking with them. In their disappointments, their rejections, and their frustrations, we found ourselves hurting too. Surely, our Heavenly Father is no less concerned about us. Truly, we hope in his mercy.

We hope for the final resurrection: This is the grand hope that just seems to reach out and embody all other hopes. This is truly the grand finale. David sang: “Therefore my heart is glad…my flesh also shall rest in hope” (Psa. 16:9). Centuries later, on Pentecost Day, Peter used this prophecy when he said: “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope” (Acts 2:26). Of course, all Bible students know that David was not talking of himself in the psalms when he talked about his “flesh resting in hope.” He was talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The body of Jesus would come up out of the tomb and that it did (Mark 16:9). As the result of the resurrection of Jesus, the flesh of David would also come up in the final resurrection and be changed along with others into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The day will surely come when the “mortal must put on immortality, and the earthly will become heavenly. It was Jesus who made the final resurrection possible. Just as the grave could not contain His body, the grave will not contain our bodies in that glorious “coming forth” day. James Russell Lowell said a fitting epitaph on his gravestone would be, “Here lies that part of James Russell Lowell that hindered him from doing well.” This is remarkably so of all of us. Our flesh hinders us every way we turn. But in the resurrection, we shall throw off the flesh and be hindered no more. We now come to the hope that is the final conclusion, yet the beginning of all our hopes:

In hope of eternal life.” Paul affirms again in this reading that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, and as such along with all the faithful lived “in hope of eternal life” (Tit. 1:2). He stated that this eternal life comes from God and was foreordained before the world began (v. 2). This is the grand prize of all prizes—eternal life! This in what it is all about. Without this, we live for nothing. In fact, we do not really live if we do not have this assurance. Jesus taught His followers that even though in this life we may lose our families, our lands, our earthly possessions—many of the things the average person counts valuable most of all, we need not fret, for in the world to come we will have “eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

In the heart of Indianapolis, there is a statue of Benjamin Harrison, one of our presidents. On the base of the statue are these words: “Great lights do not go out—they go on.” And so they do. Jesus taught us not to fear the ones who can kill us but cannot kill our souls. Our souls live on forever and ever(Mat. 10:28-29). Only God can destroy us both body and soul. But that complete destruction he will never bring to pass. If we are not righteous our souls will be banished into the darkness of despair forever and forever (Rev. 14:11). Life does not stop at death. It is only interfered with by death for a little while, then it picks up and goes on. Think of the possibilities of eternal life! It truly staggers the imagination. To live on and on and on—on through ceaseless ages with the Lord and all the ransomed! Truly, heaven is worth whatever it costs to go there. In his gospel Mark says that this life is not after the earthly sort—it in “eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

Hope belongs to this life only as we have learned already in this lesson. It does not belong to the life that is to be. If we do not have the resurrection hope in this life “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). Where dear friend, is your hope? Do not deal lightly with that part of your nature that will live eternally somewhere—in the deep abyss of darkness and despair in hell, or in a life that is above and free and eternal. You can lose things and replace them, but not so with your soul. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat. 16:26).

David was so depressed and despondent on one occasion, he sighed: “No man cared for my soul” (Psa. 142:4). But David was wrong—dead wrong. There are those who care for your soul and for mine. We are not alone in this world unless we choose it that way. When the long days are “weary” and the long nights “dreary,” someone cares. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

In hope of eternal life!” Friends, don’t miss it. Don’t mess it up. Determine to go to heaven when you leave this world. Think of the Lamb of God on the throne and think of the reunions! O what joy ‘twill be to be there! Thomas Carlyle wrote of his father James Carlyle’s death: “And now, beloved father, farewell for the last time in this world of shadows. In the world of realities may the great Father again bring us together in perfect holiness and perfect love. Amen!”

And, AMEN!

Reprinted from the 14th Annual, Bellview Lectures, Pensacola, Florida, May 10-14, 1989, Ed. Bobby Liddell.

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