Observing the Oneness of the Faith | Letter 3
The One Hope
“One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.”
– Ephesians 4:4-6
The only hope held out to Christians is the heavenly hope. It is the only hope discussed and encouraged in the Christian scriptures. Any other hope is a ‘different sort of good news’ that is discouraged in the Bible. Yes, brother, a earthly hope for Christians is not part of the Father’s purposes for the Christian Congregation. Notice how clearly this is expressed in scripture:
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For in this dwelling house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
“Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on [it]; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead. I am pursuing down toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.”
– Philippians 3:13-15
“For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things of the earth. As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has, even to subject all things to himself.”
– Philippians 3:18-21
“We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This [hope] you heard of before by telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as [it is doing] also among you, from the day you heard and accurately knew the undeserved kindness of God in truth.”
– Colossians 1:3-6
“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Keep your minds fixed on the things above not on the things upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:1-2
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.”
– 1 Peter 1:3-5
In addition to expressing the cherished heavenly hope held out to all true Christians, the scriptures counsel against keeping our minds on earthly things. It goes so far as to tell us that if we are mentally inclined to consider a hope other than the heavenly hope, we should pray about it and ‘God will reveal the proper mental attitude to us.’ (Philippians 3:13-15)
Brothers, when we seek an “earthly hope” – everlasting life on the earth – we are pursuing ‘another sort of good news,’ as there are no scriptures in the Christian writings admonishing Christians to seek an earthly eternal future.
Even those who accept the idea of an earthly hope readily admit that the Christian writings do not hold out that hope. They acknowledge that the Christian writings are for the holy ones, the anointed sons of God, and apply to those with an ‘earthly hope’ only ‘by extension.’ They further teach that under the 1,000 year reign, new scrolls will be opened discussing the earthly hope. If we accept that to be true, then we have to acknowledge that those scrolls have not yet been opened, and if we are pursuing an ‘unrevealed’ hope, are we not ‘going beyond the things that are written?’ (1 Corinthians 4:6) Is that not as Paul said, ‘something beyond what we declared to you as good news?’ (Galatians 1:8)
There is no other goal or prize held out to faithful Christians. If we are not pursuing the call to be members of the body of the Christ, we have no relationship with God. We would be children of wrath even as the rest (Ephesians 2:3), and would keep on groaning and being in pain until the true sons are revealed (Romans 8:19-23) along with the rest of mankind.
But what about the scriptures that refer to the “other sheep” whom Jesus said he must also bring?
“And I have other sheep which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”
– John 10:16
One thing we can say for sure is that the scripture does not say that the “other sheep” have an earthly hope. It merely describes them as being in a different fold. This could have several meanings – all of which would be speculation. However, one possible interpretation is that Jesus could be referring to the gentiles whom Jesus would also call. Remember, in the book of John, the preaching was initially limited to the house of Israel. But whatever it’s meaning, we notice that it does say that the two folds of sheep will join together into “one flock, one shepherd” who Jesus would also “bring.” That appears to refer to them also following Jesus into the heavens.
And what about Revelation that speaks of the “great crowd” standing before the throne:
“After these things I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep crying out with a loud voice, saying: “Salvation [we owe] to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
– Revelation 7:9-10
Again, the scripture does not say they are on the earth. In fact, it says they are standing before the throne whereupon God was seated. There has been much discussion about this scripture in order to make it fit the ‘good news’ of an earthly hope. But notice this:
“But will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heavens of heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!”
– 1 Kings 8:27
“But will God truly dwell with mankind upon the earth? Look! Heavens, yes, the heaven of heavens themselves, cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!”
– 2 Chronicles 6:18
Since the earth cannot contain the Father, we know that the throne is not on the earth. We also know that no earthly humans can stand in the presence of the Father.
“And he added: ‘You are not able to see my face, because no man may see me and yet live.”
– Exodus 33:20
Based on the numerous scriptures that tell us that the only hope for Christians is the heavenly hope, it seems best to accept the scripture as it is, rather than twist it to support ‘another sort of good news.’
While we rejoice in the faithfulness and patient endurance of those seeking an ‘earthly hope,’ we are saddened that they are so willing to forego the inestimable privilege of sharing in the One Body of Christ and pursuing the prize of the upward call. We are told that our perceptive powers are trained through use. (Hebrews 5:14) Therefore, we implore you, use your perceptive powers!
If we truly understand the One Hope held out to all Christians, and believe in the One Faith, then we must pursue it by undergoing the One Baptism in Letter No. 4.