Posted by: William | March 13, 2008

Hope & Expectation

The way we use the word “hope” in our language today makes understanding the bible’s use of the word “hope” really confusing. We use it with some level of uncertainty; “I hope the movie isn’t sold out…” or “I hope that the police officer lets me off with a warning.” The thing is, that’s not really usually the way the bible uses the word hope.

In scripture, there are two words generally translated hope, elpizo: to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence; and elpis: Joyful and confident expectation. Neither word holds a feeling of uncertainty. For me, this linguistic gap makes it hard to really grasp the meaning when read in scripture. In fact, it sometimes trips me up. Is there uncertainty in God? I’m told to hope in Christ’s returning—is there a chance he’s not coming back? Is there a chance that God’s not going to hold to his word? I hope not.

1 Peter 1:13 reads, “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” If I didn’t step out of my cultural usage of the word hope, I might take this verse to mean something like, “Get ready, because there’s a chance that Jesus might come back so you might receive grace if Jesus is revealed.” That would be a dreadful disfiguration of an unbelievably compelling and comforting verse.

We live in a time now where things are still partial; incomplete. It’s the love of Christ and the hope of life eternal that compels us and while with our eyes we cannot see all things clearly, we hope for what is unseen and certainly to come.

There’s a great song called Gonna Have a Time by a little bluegrass group called Cedar Hill. The song is  and great. It’s joyful, excited and hopeful. The chorus goes like this:

Gonna have a time up there,
When we get to heaven!
Shout’n, Singin’, Prais’n,
Gonna be alright!
Gonna have a time up there,
When we see Jesus
When I get to my home in glory,
Everything’s gonna be alright!

What I think is most beautiful about this chorus is that what makes the arrival in our celestial home so exciting is seeing Jesus. What is there to really hope for except for Jesus, except for a day when all cares, worries, fears, pains, insecurities will be only an absurd memory and we’ll sit in the most glorious of throne rooms, in the midst of full satisfaction, in the center with true satisfaction, knowing that we are there with Him. So while now, we have faith and hope and love, when that beautiful day comes faith and hope will become obsolete and we’ll have only love.

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Responses

  1. Most paraphrased “bibles” like The Message don’t use the word hope in 1 Peter 1:13. Just like “passion” is rarely associated with “suffering” anymore, I think “hope” no longer carries the meaning of certainty intended by translators years ago. We will no doubt see a translation probably in this century which will not use the word hope. Great post. Great reminder. Thanks.


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