Hope. It’s easy to look at a particularly dire circumstance in the world and see where that area needs hope. Some of these are very extreme examples of hopelessness: a specific tyranny in a specific country or one horrifying epidemic confined to one dismal region. But given the poverty and squalor that the majority of the world lives in (the so-called “Third World”), and given the emotional poverty that the better-off nations live in (the so-called “First World”)—hopelessness is really a worldwide epidemic. The entire planet needs hope.
As God opens understanding to His called-out ones—including the sons and daughters of baptized members in His Church—we become made acutely aware of this hopelessness, but also of the solution: REAL HOPE for all humanity. That hope must be in us. But what specifically is that hope?
We quote 1 Peter 3:15 frequently, which says to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
We often use this verse to show we should be ready to answer for our beliefs—the doctrines and truths to which we adhere. But what are we actually commanded to be ready to answer for? Specifically? The “hope that is in you.” That is what causes people to question us. Why is that hope in you, they wonder? And do you know what that hope is?
As a young person, hope could be interpreted as different things—perhaps excitement for your own future in this life: After all, your whole life is ahead of you. Though hopeful things may be down the road, what is our real hope?
The Bible talks a lot about hope. The English word itself appears in 121 verses in the King James Version. In the Old Testament, its most numerous usages are in the Psalms. In the New Testament, we learn more explicitly what our real hope is—revealed to us by our “God of hope” (Romans 15:13).
What Is That Hope?
By referring “the hope that is in you,” Peter was referencing a specific hope. Yes, the doctrines and truths we know give us a hope that most in the world do not have. Yet, what hope was the Apostle Peter discussing?
It was something he had referenced earlier in his letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). The Revised Standard Version more appropriately translates the Greek as ”living hope.” We have a living hope. And it is ”by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”!
We can see that’s also how Paul referred to it: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:14-15).
Paul’s “hope toward God” was “that there shall be a resurrection of the dead.”
Acts 23:6 states: “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.”
Any “hope” we have should be based in what hope? This hope of the resurrection.
The Apostle Peter said we should be ready to answer for that hope? Are we ready to do that?
How well do we understand the resurrection? Do we really believe in it? Is that the hope that is really in us?
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Corinthians 15:16-18).
Our hope hinges on this! As Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “Unless Christ returns to resurrect the dead, we would never gain eternal life—if there is no resurrection ‘[t]hen they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished’ (verse 18)” (Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?).
Read verses 20-22: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Verse 26 says: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
God has a method for destroying death! Verses 23-25 show the order—it started with Christ’s resurrection. That must be the crux of our faith!
A great deal of emphasis was placed, in early New Testament Church, on the basic fact that Christ was resurrected. Yes, it is such a basic truth, yet if it weren’t true, our faith would be in vain.
Verse 52 states: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
At the “last trump..” something happens that has happened only once with one being! Christ was raised incorruptible; and, because of that, the “dead in Christ” can be raised incorruptible.
How much we do we really hope in this? Do we truly have faith in the resurrection?
Revelation 20:6 states: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
The “first resurrection” is for those blessed and holy!
Difficult to Believe
As we see in Scripture though, believing in a resurrection has been typically quite difficult for humans—even though it is listed as one of the major doctrines of the Church (Hebrews 6:1-2), and even though we must believe in it to have any hope in this life.
When Lazarus—a friend and follower of Jesus—died, the sisters of Lazarus complained to Jesus that, had He only arrived at their home sooner, He could have healed Lazarus. When Jesus told one of the sisters, Martha, that Lazarus would rise again, she said: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). But Jesus replied: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (verse 25). In verse 26 He asked Martha, Do you believe this? To her the resurrection was something far off in the future, but Christ had to ask if really believed that God was in charge of life and death.
Even when Jesus originally told His disciples that He was going to wake Lazarus, the disciples thought that Jesus thought Lazarus was sleeping. They told Him, “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well” (verse 12). They didn’t understand that Jesus meant He was going to resurrect Lazarus. To God, human death is like sleep, so it was simply like waking someone up in the morning. But the disciples and Lazarus’s sisters had a hard time believing that.
Even later, when Jesus Himself died and was resurrected—the disciples took a long time to be convinced that was the truth! This is despite the fact that He had been telling Him this would happen. In Matthew 16:21-22, He told them He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, raised again third day, and Peter right there rebuked Christ for saying it would happen. (Later, Peter even denied any of it was happening.)
They didn’t fully understand at that time, but at least after the resurrection, you’d think they would’ve understood.
When some women found Jesus’s tomb empty, and an angel told them what had happened to Christ, these women told the disciples: “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). Later that day, Jesus appeared to many of them and convinced them. One of the disciples, Thomas, was not with them that time. So later, when the disciples told Thomas what they had experienced, he said, “The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Thomas eventually did believe, as Jesus did what He could to help Thomas’s faith: “… Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (verse 27-28).
In Mark 16, we see Christ “upbraided,” or strongly corrected, the disciples for “their unbelief and hardness of heart”—why?—“because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (verse 14).
Do we really believe in life after death? Do we really believe in the hope of the resurrection?
Do we really have faith in the fact that God can raise from the dead?
Abraham’s Belief In This Hope
Contrast that account with the Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, … Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17, 19).
That’s what kept him going through the sacrifice of Isaac—a son through whom God had promised many descendants! Abraham knew: Well, God will just have to resurrect him.
Based on what we saw from the disciples—who had trouble believing in the resurrection while standing right in front of a resurrected being—this is some faith from Abraham! Did Abraham have any proof God could do that? Had God resurrected anyone to that point in history? Now, he had no physical evidence God could raise up Isaac. His faith was rooted in the fact that Isaac was a miracle in the first place. It shows how God can turn death into life. So, in a sense, Abraham had witnessed the resurrecting power of God. Sarah was “past age” for bearing children (Hebrews 11:11). Her womb was dead. Additionally, Hebrews 11:12 says Abraham was “as good as dead” in his ability to father children.
Romans 4 confirms this. Abraham believed “God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (verse 17). Abraham, with “his own body now dead,” in terms of reproductive capacity—believed God. Verse 18 says he “against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations.” Because God promised it, he believed and hoped in that promise!
Isaac’s birth was from two people who—in terms of ability to reproduce—were dead. The birth of Isaac was like a resurrection in that sense. Life came from “death.” So when God said to sacrifice Isaac, verse 20 says “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” He was, verse 21, “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform.”
Verses 23-24 state that this was written “for us … if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” This was written for us. Paul ties it back to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We really have to believe in resurrecting God!
A Better Resurrection
The “faith” chapter—Hebrews 11—says: “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).
What keeps us going through any kind of trouble is this “better resurrection.” So it’s not even just the idea of the dead being resurrected that is our hope—but this “better” resurrection, where human can be changed to spirit!
How much do we really hope in this “better resurrection? How much do we believe it?
God gives us types of the resurrection in this life. The account in John 11 with Lazarus shows that God doesn’t differentiate in the power to heal and the power to resurrect—one typifies the other, in fact! Colossians 2:12 shows that baptism is a type of burial and being “risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
After baptism, and the laying on of hands, God imparts His Spirit into the newly “risen” Christian. That Spirit grows and develops inside the mind of that person—until what?
Notice this inspiring statement in Romans 8:11! “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
God, when imparting His Spirit, gives us a portion of the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—and that is what can raise us to immortality! This, the Apostle Paul called it, is “the redemption of our body” (verse 23). Then verses 24-25 state: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
This is what we patiently hope and wait for. This is our living hope. And we can be saved by this hope.
Again, consider how Peter describes it: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope [RSV: living hope] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Jesus Christ’s resurrection makes possible our begettal into the God Family—and therefore our resurrection.
As our editor in chief wrote in A Living Hope—The Epistles of Peter: “Imagine this metamorphosis from a human to God. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are born as sons into the Father’s Family! Instantly, we become Gods of the universe—sons of God. This majestic goal makes anything physical seem trivial! Do we really fathom our mind-stretching potential? Only here do we find the living hope!”
Real life is coming! Do you believe this? That is our living hope!