|FUTURE HOPE |
The expectation of individuals after their death and of the world when God brings present world affairs to an end. The English word “hope” can imply certainty or uncertainty as well as good or bad expectations of the future. For example, I hope it does not rain today. The Greek word for hope, elpis, carried a similar range of implications in everyday usage in a nonreligious context. The element of certainty/uncertainty is found in the few New Testament uses of elpis with a nonreligious meaning (Acts 27:20;
1 Corinthians 16:7;
2 Corinthians 1:13-14;
2 Corinthians 5:11;
2 Corinthians 10:15;
1 Timothy 3:14-15).
However, when elpis is used in reference to spiritual reality, the Hebrew background of certainty comes to the foreground. Hope is certain because what is hoped for is based on the character and power of God (Genesis 49:18;
Isaiah 51:5-6). The element of uncertainty derived from the Greek culture disappears. This uncertainty came about in the Greek tendency to center hope on human activity and power, or on the gods who were not always dependable. New Testament hope (or trust), following instead its Old Testament roots, is grounded in the being of Almighty God who is absolutely trustworthy (Romans 15:12-13;
2 Corinthians 1:9-11;
1 Timothy 4:10;
1 Timothy 5:5;
1 Timothy 6:17).
Future hope focuses upon the expectancy of the consummation of the individual's salvation at the close of the age. With the ushering in of the eternal order at the return of Christ, the believer's hope becomes experienced reality rather than anticipation of future experience (Romans 8:24-25).
This eschatological orientation of New Testament future hope grows out of the Old Testament prophetic anticipation of God's future deliverance (Psalms 40:1;
Micah 7:7). See especially Paul's use of
Isaiah 11:10 in
Old Testament Terms for Future Hope In the Hebrew Old Testament several terms are used to convey the idea of hope: qawah (to be stretched out towards, to long after, wait for [with God as object 26 times]), yahal (to wait, long [for God, 27 times]), hakah (to wait [for God, 7 times]) sabar (to wait, hope [for God, 4 times]). The corresponding nouns are not commonly used; only nine times in reference to hope in God. Of the 146 uses of these verbs or nouns, only half have the thrust to spiritual reality rather than a nonreligious meaning. In these 73 religious uses the concept of hope is closely related to trust. God is the ground and frequent object of hope; “to hope in Yahweh,” “to wait for Yahweh” are common expressions. Implicit to hoping in God is submission to His sovereign rule. Consequently, hope and fear of God are often expressed together (Psalms 33:18-20;
Proverbs 23:17-18). To hope in God is to stand in awe of Him and His power with the confidence that God will faithfully perform His word. Thus hope becomes trust in the righteous character of Yahweh.
Between the Testaments In the interbiblical period the eschatological thrust of hope became prominent but also confusing with its differing expectations. This future hope was often directed toward the expectation of the Messiah and the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. With the emergence of numerous individuals making messianic claims, arousing the expectations of the people, but then collapsing into defeat and destruction, the future hope of Israel took on a pessimistic tone especially in rabbinical thought. Not before Israel achieved complete obedience to the law could God's kingdom be established. And who could determine what that complete obedience was? Rabbi Shim'on ben Jochai concluded that when Israel fully obeyed the sabbath laws for two sabbaths then Israel's redemption would take place. To most such obedience seemed beyond reach.
This national uncertainty tended to create a personal uncertainty about what constitutes the required obedience for pleasing God, thus insuring the resurrection of the body and inclusion in that coming messianic kingdom. In contrast to this pessimistic view, one finds in Qumran a confident eschatological hope. However, this hope was only possible for the select few who were the elect of God. In Hellenistic Judaism, future hope was submerged into the Greek concept of the immortality of the soul, as Philo's writings illustrate.
Hope in the New Testament The writers in the New Testament express the concept of future hope primarily by the Greek word elpis and its cognates. The noun elpis is used 53 times while the verb elpidzo occurs 31 times. Interestingly, of the 84 instances of both noun and verb, 53 of these are found in Paul's writings. No uses of the noun and only five instances of the verb are found in the four Gospels.
Matthew 12:21 (quoting
Isaiah 42:4) and
John 5:45 are eschatological references, while Luke in two of the remaining three instances uses elpidzo with a nonreligious meaning. (See
Luke 24:21 for religious use.)
In Acts, Luke used the noun and verb to denote future hope seven times, mostly in Paul's defense speeches. (Only
Acts 2:26 is not Pauline; see
Acts 28:20.) Hebrews and the general epistles account for the remaining 14 uses, with six in Hebrews and five in 1 Peter. Neither the noun nor the verb is used in Revelation.
Apelpidzo (to expect nothing) shows up only in
Luke 6:35 with a nonreligious meaning. Proelpidzo (to hope ahead of time, beforehand) occurs only in
Ephesians 1:12 with the eschatological meaning either in reference to Jewish Christians as having come to hope before their Gentile brothers, or in reference to all Christians having come to hope before the realization of that hope in the return of Christ.
Other terms which can express the idea of future hope are closely linked to the idea of expectation. Two word groups are included: prosdokao (16 New Testament uses) and prosdechomai (14 New Testament uses) with the related forms ekdechomai (6 New Testament uses) and apekdechomai (8 New Testament uses). The verb prosdokao (to expect, wait for, look for) is mostly used in reference to the hope of eschatological salvation; this fades, however, into the background in
Acts 28:6 and connotes a fearful apprehension of some bad occurrence. The two uses of the noun prosdokia (Luke 21:26;
Acts 12:11) follow this same Hellenistic non-eschatological dread of future events. In
Matthew 11:3 (also
Luke 7:19-20), John the Baptist raised the question through his disciples to Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”, thus reflecting some uncertainty over whether Jesus truly was the Messiah. A somewhat similar sense of uncertainty in expectation is reflected in
Luke 3:15 by those who thought John might possibly be the Messiah.
The use of hope in reference to the return of Christ is seen in
Matthew 24:50 (also
Luke 12:46) and in
2 Peter 3:12-14. In Jesus' teaching on watchfulness, failure to be expecting the return of the Son of man can cause disaster. In 2 Peter this expectation of the day of the Lord stands as the incentive to holy living. In both passages the element of uncertainty often associated with the Greek word has disappeared and is replaced with the sense of confidence based upon the promise of the Lord to come again. Also in this same track of meaning is the noun apokaradokia literally “to watch with head erect.” in
Romans 8:19 (compare
Philippians 1:20). Sometimes translated as “anxious waiting” the term is best seen as “eager expectation” of the coming of Christ. The prefix apokara (“from the head”) intensifies the stem idea in the direction of certainty rather than uncertainty.
Very similar in thrust is prosdechomai and related forms. The verb has two distinct meanings: a) to receive someone and b) to await. In seven of the 14 New Testament uses of this word, the meaning is that of awaiting, expecting. This meaning focuses on messianic expectation in two distinct senses: a) to await the coming of the Messiah of Israel (Mark 15:43;
Luke 2:38), an expectation realized in Jesus' birth, and b) to await the return of the Lord at the close of the age (Luke 12:36;
Jude 1:21). With the same two tracks of meaning is also the verb ekdechomai (six New Testament uses). Eschatological expectation is expressed most clearly in
Hebrews 10:13. (Compare
James 5:7.) The compound form apekdechomai, meaning to await eagerly, is used almost exclusively in the New Testament to refer to future hope, mostly by Paul (eight uses:
Romans 8:23,Romans 8:25;
1 Corinthians 1:7;
Hebrews 9:28; compare
1 Peter 3:20).
Content of Future Hope The objects of the various Greek words relating to future hope provide insight into what constitutes this hope. Most basic is the expectancy of the return of Christ, described as the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7) and as the coming of the day of God (parousian;
2 Peter 3:12), or just simply as hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3; compare
Hebrews 9:28). This expectancy constitutes a blessed hope and is defined as the manifestation of the glory of our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13; compare
Colossians 1:27). Accompanying this manifestation of Christ is the expectancy of a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13;
Revelation 21:1); the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked (Acts 24:15); the revelation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19); our adoption as sons which is defined as the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23); the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for life eternal (Jude 1:21); God's grace (1 Peter 1:13). As Abraham awaited the Holy City, so the believer looks forward to it (Hebrews 11:10). The hope of Israel in the promise of God is realized in the Christian hope of resurrection (Acts 26:6-8). These constitute the hope of life eternal long promised beforehand (Titus 1:2;
Titus 3:7), of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and of righteousness (Galatians 5:5).
The basis of this hope lies in God. In Him who is the Savior of all mankind one puts hope (1 Timothy 4:10;
1 Timothy 5:5;
1 Peter 1:21), rather than in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17); in His name is hope placed (Matthew 12:21), or in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:19). This hope is linked closely to the gospel (Colossians 1:23), to our calling into God's grace (Ephesians 1:18;
Ephesians 4:4) and to faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:5). It is a dynamically living hope (1 Peter 1:3) which motivates one to holy and righteous living (2 Peter 3:14). As such it stands as member of the Christian triad of faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13;
1 Thessalonians 1:3;
Colossians 1:4-5). See Hope; Day of the Lord; Return of Christ; Eternal Life; Salvation; Eschatology; Resurrection; Faith.
Lorin L. Cranford