Chapter 5

The Foundation of Hope

The Power of Christ’s Resurrection. The significance of Christ’s resurrection is found in the first letter written by Peter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 peter 1:3).

Here, we learn that the indispensable reality from which our hope springs is the truth that Jesus Christ has conquered death on our behalf.

The Bible says this about our ultimate enemy:

  • • Death is the necessary consequence of our wrongdoings. “The wages of sin is death” (romans 6:23).
  • • The heartaches of life are like “the valley of the shadow of death” (psalm 23:4).
  • • The pains of death are a primary cause for our fears. “My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me” (psalm 55:4).
  • • Death is the inevitable appointment. “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (hebrews 9:27).

Death is our true, great enemy—one that we cannot defeat on our own. Therefore, Christ came to address the problem of death on our behalf and to give us hope.

This hope of victory over death that Christ brought was so profound that Matthew stirred his first-century readers to remember the ancient prophecy of Isaiah:

“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” (matthew 4:16).

From darkness to light. From death to life. Christ, in His death-conquering mission, took the fear and terrors of death and replaced them with hope.

Consider the impact of what Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished. Paul wrote of this extensively in 1 Corinthians 15 by explaining the depth and comprehensiveness of Christ’s resurrection victory. He wrote:

The last enemy that will be abolished is death. . . . But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 corinthians 15:26, 54–57).

Believers in Christ can live and die with hope because our greatest enemy has been conquered. Christ has taken the sting out of death by removing the fear of what happens after we die. Now, we can approach death with real hope—not wishful, cosmetic “hope.”

The Perspective of Personal Resurrection. The hope of the resurrection dramatically alters our perspective in two critical ways.

First, the hope of the resurrection impacts how we view life and death. This is particularly true when we face the grief of losing a loved one to death. The apostle is not so cold or foolish to assume that the child of God need not grieve. Loss is loss! We ache when our relationships are torn from us by that ever-present enemy, death. But in the midst of the pain and loss, Paul reminds us that as followers of Christ we have an advantage. He wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 thessalonians 4:13).

In the first century, as Christian doctrine took shape, the believers at Thessalonica had questions. And a critical one was this: What happens to our loved ones who die?

Paul’s answer in verses 14–18 is that we can be comforted in the promise of a future reunion that will never end. Our relationships may be interrupted by death here on earth, but this is not the final chapter. We still feel the pain of loss, but it doesn’t need to consume us. We sorrow, but not “as do the rest who have no hope.”

Christ’s victory over death secures a hope that not only gives us confidence as we face death, it also gives us the joyful expectation of reunion in Christ as we struggle with the loss of loved ones. His resurrection gives us hope as we experience the grief and sorrow of the “valley of the shadow of death.”

Second, the hope of the resurrection gives vitality to the Christian experience. Our life on earth is not just about what happens while we’re here. It’s also our preparation for eternity. Paul wrote, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 corinthians 15:19).

I have heard it said that following Christ is the greatest life there is—even if there were no heaven. Obviously, Paul disagreed! According to him, if that were true, Christians are people deserving of pity. Why? Because there’s nothing to look forward to. We’ve been duped.

But this isn’t all there is. Far from it! If we are to live effectively for Christ in this life, it will be because we have hope in the promise of eternal life. Therefore, this hope that is grounded in Christ’s resurrection will shape the way we approach life on earth because it gives us a future perspective.

On a practical level, this means that the resurrection gives us wonderful assurance. Christ who conquered the greatest of our enemies is able to help us face all of life’s struggles and challenges.