“Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up” (Acts 27:20).
THE ONLY HOPE WE HAVE IS THE HOPE OF GOD’S GRACE AND FORGIVENESS. Whatever other hopes we may have are little more than dust and ashes if we fail to find salvation and eternal life in Him. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Without the hope of heaven, we are “lost” in every important sense of the word.
But what if we had no such hope? There is nothing more frightful than the loss of hope. When Luke tells us that, on the treacherous winter voyage to Rome, “all hope that we would be saved was finally given up,” we sense the sickening despair of the mariners. But that kind of despair is not nearly the worst kind.
Imagine being without the hope of heaven. Many live without this hope, of course, but few think about it very much. The need for God is planted deep within us, having been put there by our Creator, but we often deny that need and expend our energies so frantically in the pursuit of other needs that we forget about our need for God, at least for all practical purposes. Even so, it is still there begging to be filled. But what if no such fulfillment existed?
We need to contemplate more seriously than we sometimes do what it is, or would be, to be without “hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We need to quit being naive and face the ugly reality of life without God. To have had the hope of eternal life and then lost it is to be in a most pitiable condition.
But imagine having lost the hope of life with God . . . with no chance of ever getting it back! The horror of that hopelessness is perhaps the main thing that will make hell, hell. “What do the damned endure, but despair” (William Congreve). Yet if we persist in our rebellion against God, despite His pleas for us to do otherwise, that is exactly what we are setting ourselves up for. In hell, there will be no more chance of “reaching forward.” There will be no chance of ever being anything but lost, banished from God’s presence. In hell, there will be many things — turmoil, torment, and terror — but one thing is certain: there will not be any hope.
“All hope abandon, ye who enter here” (Dante Alighieri).