What does the Bible say about Christian hope? To answer, we will first look at the Bible’s definition of hope and then we will think about how hope transforms us.
Biblical hope looks to a future resurrection from the dead and with it, eternal life. Consider how Paul defended himself in the latter chapters of Acts.
Before the Sanhedrin: “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6).
Before Felix: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).
Before Agrippa: “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise, our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8).
The future Paul looked forward to was a resurrection from the dead. The hope of the resurrection is accompanied by the hope for eternal life in heaven to follow:
“in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…” (Titus 1:2)
The end goal of Christian hope is our resurrection from the dead and eternal life with Jesus Christ.
Biblical hope implies confidence. Generally, when we say, “I hope this happens,” we express wishful thinking — we have a preferred outcome in mind, but what we would like to happen may not happen. The writer of Hebrews talks of Christian hope in 6:13-20, distinguishing it from worldly hope insofar as it is confident in the future. God made promises to Abraham, Abraham believed God, he persevered, he obtained what was promised. Abraham believed God because he recognized that God not only made the promise, He swore by Himself, “that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie…” (verse 18). The word immutable means unchallengeable, unassailable, undeniable, irreversible. God’s promise and His oath are irreversible or immutable. To hope in God requires trust in God and trust requires truth. It is in the immutability of God’s counsel that “we [find] strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
Christian hope is not fantasy or wishful thinking; it is a confident expectation secured by the immutability of God’s promises. This is why Paul calls hope, “an anchor of the soul” in verse 19. Jesus is our hope — in Him we have hope of a resurrection from the dead. And because He now ministers on our behalf in the presence of God, we can be confident that a better future will happen.
So Biblical hope has two basic elements.
It looks to a future resurrection from the dead with eternal life to follow.
Biblical hope is confident this future will come to pass.
A few years ago, a friend recommended the book, “Making Hope Happen,” by Shane Lopez. Dr. Lopez researched the concept of hope extensively and discovered some interesting insights. My friend recommended the book because she saw definite parallels between Dr. Lopez’s insights and the Biblical concept of hope. I agreed. In fact, there was tremendous overlap between the two.
Hopeful people believe the future will be better than the present
Paul teaches this in Romans 8:18-23. One thing everyone can know for sure: suffering is a part of life; that’s just as true for the Christian as it is for the non-Christian. Paul says, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Or, to put it another way, the glory that lies ahead for the Christian is greater in proportion to the sufferings we experience. Heaven is going to feel really good for all of us, but it will feel even better for some who have suffered to a greater degree.
Paul reminds us that suffering is in the world because of sin and that suffering encourages us to desire freedom from suffering — this is all by design. The freedom from suffering God offers to Christians is “the adoption, the redemption of our body,” or, in other words, the resurrection from the dead. Paul says we were “saved in this hope” — the hope of something better ahead, the hope of living after death, the hope of finding a release from pain, these motivate us to seek salvation. Consequently, as a Christian, I believe the future will be better for me than the present.
Hopeful people believe they have a hand in making their future better.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
In these verses, John articulates a clear vision for the future, a hope for a resurrected body fashioned after the body of Jesus. Based upon that hope for the future, we are compelled to act: we purify our lives.
Paul prays”… that you may know what is the hope of His calling…” and urges “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…” (Ephesians 1:18 and 4:1). In Titus 2:11-13, he says
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”
The grace of God teaches me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; it teaches me to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age — or to put it another way, the grace of God teaches me how to live. And if I live that way, I am actively engaged in making my future better than the present. True hope compels hopeful people to act.
The hopeful person sees many paths to their better future.
Christians believe Jesus is the only way to eternal life; we are saved by believing and obeying Jesus. But how our individual lives unfold may look different from person to person: consider Romans 15:4,
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
Paul is talking about the men and women of the Old Testament. By learning from their lives we can have hope.
Think about the list of faithful people in Hebrews 11, the “chapter of faith.” These examples share more than a common faith – note verses 13 and 16.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (verses 13 and 16).
Notice they shared one faith AND one hope. Faith is “the substance of things hoped for.”
But all these folks took very different paths to obtain their “better future” The course of life for Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Rahab were very different. In Hebrews 11:33-38, the writer notes the variegated ways people served God Again, the same faith, same hope; but different courses of life.
Hopeful people realize that not all paths to heaven will look the same: some die young while others live many years; some enter heaven after waging life-long battles with depression and anxiety while others constantly seek freedom from the chains of addiction. Though our lives may unfold in different ways, the same hope compels us.
The hopeful person understands that no path to their better future is free from obstacles.
Abraham “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE” (Romans 4:18).
Abraham had no earthly reason to hope that either he or Sarah were capable of producing the son prophesied by God. The path from his present to the better future God promised him could not be charted by human wisdom. But by faith, Abraham chose to hope against all odds. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
The obstacles we face cause hope to grow:
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Trials lead to perseverance, perseverance shapes our character, and character helps hope grow stronger. Truly hopeful people know there will be obstacles ahead, but they forge ahead anyway, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”