Our Only Hope

With these words Jesus not silenced the Sadducees, who did not believe in angels, spirits, or the resurrection from the dead, but also guaranteed for His followers a future filled with hope. The God who called, guided, protected, and loved Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cannot die. He said, “I will be your God,” and He will be ours, too, forever and ever (Psalm 48:14). The great “ I AM” who revealed Himself to Moses cannot die, nor can His mercies ever fail; they are new every morning, and rest eternally upon those who trust in Him (Exodus 3:14-15; Lamentations 3:22-23; Psalm 103:17). For that reason, those who trust in Him, though their bodies die, will “live” forever. If God is “alive” to them, then they are in some sense already “alive” to Him. Jesus’ profound insight into this truth fueled His conviction that God will raise the Old Testament saints and all true believers at the last day. Everywhere in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as promising a bright future for His disciples. They will inherit the kingdom of God (5:3, 10). Their grief will be assuaged by His comfort (5:4), surely when they see Him face to face (5:8). Even if they are persecuted unto death their reward for perseverance and for the good works they have done will be great in heaven (5:12; 16:27; 24:34-40). They will join Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (8:11) as they all “shine forth like the sun” (13:43). On the other hand, a terrible fate awaits those who fail to repent, believe, and follow Christ. Their [resurrected] bodies will be “cast into hell,” the region of “outer darkness,” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (5:30; 8:12; 13:42) as they suffer “eternal punishment” (25:46). Thus, we should not fear those who can (only) kill the body, but Him who destroy both soul and body in hell” (10:28). The Apostles held firmly to the same hope, the return of Christ, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to the His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21; see also Romans 8:23). The ancient patriarchs and saints persevered in faith and obedience because they “looked for a city whose builder and maker is God.” Struggling on their earthly way, subject to all the frustrations of this life they “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth” who desired “ a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:13, 15). May we, like them, place our hopes not on health, wealth, or worldly “happiness,” but upon the grace that is to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:13).