Intersections

Biblical Exhortation in a Time of Crisis | Part 2

by: 
Bryan Just, MA

In my previous piece, I discussed the first of three exhortations given in Hebrews 10:19–25 to Christians in a time of spiritual crisis. The first exhortation is to draw near to God with a pure heart. Now I will discuss the second exhortation: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (ESV; v. 23).

This immediately raises an important question: what is the confession of our hope? This is a commonly addressed question throughout the New Testament, although different passages focus on different aspects of it. Romans 8:22–24 says:

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.

Similarly, Titus 2:11–14 tells us,

the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus goes on to say that “being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:7). Lastly, 1 Peter 1:3–4 reveals that “according to his great mercy, he [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” And in verse 9, Peter connects this to “the salvation of your souls.”

Biblically, then, our hope encompasses a number of things: restoration of creation and our physical bodies; the salvation offered by Jesus; the new, pure life that we can live through him that will be perfected in heaven; and the return of Christ to earth to consummate our salvation. This is summarized well in the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.[1]

The second half of Hebrews 10:23 gives us the reason for our hope: “he who promised is faithful.” Because we have a God whose promises can be believed, the Christian hope is one that is marked not by wistfulness or mere longing, but by certainty. The Christian hope is a sure one that remains with us in times of crisis.

In a time of pandemic, or other crisis, how does this hope help the Christian? For one thing, it reminds us that God is faithful to his people and his promises. Much has been written about the promises of God to his people, and while space does not permit rehearsing all of them here, there is much to be gained by studying the many promises that God has made to us throughout scripture.

Additionally, the very content of our hope becomes a source of comfort in difficult times. Though our bodies are now susceptible to sickness, disease, and death, our Christian hope tells us that God is going to renew our bodies and that one day “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). In fact, we have hope that all of creation will be renewed, not just our own bodies, so that the scourge of disease will no longer afflict the human race.

The Christian hope of an inheritance “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” also reminds us that even should we experience sickness or other trials while on earth, there is nothing that will affect the salvation of our souls (Rom 8:35–39). We are safe and can rest in Christ knowing that no earthly power or pandemic can separate us from him.

Finally, we hope that Christ is coming back. In times of crisis, it is easy to forget that God still cares; despite all of his promises, God can still seem distant and unapproachable. Thus, our hope in the return of Christ reminds us that God has not forgotten us, nor is he content to allow the world to remain in its fallen state. Though for reasons we may not fully understand, he allows sin, disease, and disasters to affect the world, Christ already came to begin his kingdom, and he is coming back to complete this work. In the meantime, he has left us as regents to be his hands and feet in the world while we expectantly wait for his return. This is the subject of Hebrews 10’s final exhortation, as well as my final piece on this passage.

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[1] “Heidelberg Catechism,” heidelbergcatechism.com, http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/lords-days/1.html (accessed April 6, 2020).