“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:23,24).
ONE OF THE GREAT TRUTHS OF CHRISTIANITY IS THAT THE CHRISTIAN LOOKS FORWARD TO RECEIVING AN “INHERITANCE.” There are many blessings the Christian can enjoy right now as a result of having obeyed the gospel, but heaven is what Christianity is primarily about, and that is a “possession” that the Christian doesn’t yet “possess.” It is an inheritance that he or she will one day come into, but meanwhile, there is some waiting to be done.
Faith. One of the greatest of our human endowments is the ability to exercise faith. By faith, we can perceive many realities that are not “seen,” i.e., not accessible to our physical senses. Based on trustworthy evidence and testimony, we can apprehend the truth of many facts that would otherwise be inaccessible to us, and the fact of heaven is one of the most important of these.
Hope. Like faith, hope has to do with realities that our physical senses can’t experience, but hope goes a step beyond faith. Based on the truths arrived at by faith, hope eagerly takes possession of that which is still in the future. The faithful Christian not only believes that heaven will one day be a reality; he or she passionately desires it and even enjoys the possession of it in prospect.
In a day when too many are reducing Christianity to a search for the happy life in this world, we need to understand that the object of the Christian’s hope is, as Paul says, our “adoption, the redemption of our body.” Christianity is first and foremost about eternity, and our hopes for this world ought to be minimal.
But true Christian hope is a potent force which produces powerful emotions. Paul said that we “groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting” for the realization of our hope. Heaven ought to be a thought that stirs us and moves us and makes us long to go there.
The difficulty, of course, is that because it is an unseen and a future reality, heaven often seems unreal to us. So let’s learn all we can about faith and hope. Without these, we lose our inheritance!
“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand” (Thomas Aquinas).