Our Christian hope

Dec 22, 2017 by

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Today I am blessed to celebrate birthday No. 69. Family will surround me; we will eat seafood and carrot cake. It will be a special day.

Then comes Christmas. I anticipate celebrating that day, too. And I’m bringing this additional post in honor of and preparation for Christmas.

What is the hope of those of us who identify ourselves as Jesus-followers? What do we expect to happen when “the great day of the LORD” arrives in full?

A dozen years ago, I led a class in my congregation on the content of “Christian hope.” It was a good experience. Here are two of the questions we explored:

“If the substance of Christian hope is the human experience of living in the full presence of YHWH (a view I affirm), is this experience of YHWH manifest physically? Or is the experience of YHWH’s full presence only spiritual and conceptual?”

Jewish and Christian Scripture strongly suggest that the physical creation as we know it (yes, only partially) is part of what YHWH saves in Messiah Jesus. Texts from John (3:17), Romans (8:19-22), Colossians (1:19-20), Ephesians (1:9-10) and the 21st chapter of Revelation bear witness to this. They assure us the salvation of YHWH reaches not only souls, but the physical world, too — including our hybrid world of physicality and spirituality.

As Revelation puts it,

“See, the home of YHWH is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them” (21:3).

Hear these words from Romans 8:19-21:

“For the created universe waits with eager expectation for YHWH’s children to be revealed. It was made the victim of frustration . . . yet always there was hope, because the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and enter upon the liberty and splendor of the children of YHWH.”

Not to be forgotten are the hybrid structures of authority so corrupted by sin and so dominating in our lives. Hear how the transformed “city of YHWH” is described in Revelation 21:24-26:

“The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.”

In other words, “the nations” also will be transformed. Western, Euro-Asian and Asian peoples will live together in peace; Persian, Semitic and African peoples, too. Likewise the peoples of the Americas.

This too is the Christian hope. It was why the angels sang “hosannas” in the night skies over the fields of Bethlehem; it was why the shepherds left their posts in joyful abandon to see Jesus of Nazareth lying in such humble repose. It was because his birth and life “changed everything.”

There is so much more to say — things to remind us as followers of Jesus to expect this story of Earth and its inhabitants to end well. As we hear from the gospel of John,

“YHWH did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (3:17).

How then should we live? How do we endure the burdens of empire, the weight of its deceptions, the apparent inevitability of global warming, the galloping inequality sweeping through our world? Somehow, it all must be perceived through this lens of hope we have been given in Scripture.

May it be so! And may we join the shepherds in joyful anticipation!

Berry Friesen lives in Lancaster, Pa., and is part of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church. Along with John K. Stoner, he co-authored If Not Empire, What? A Survey of the Bible.

Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.