A Hope with a Sure Guarantee
1-3. (a) Why is mere belief in the existence of God not enough for us to have divine approval? (b) According to Hebrews 11:6, what must we believe, and why is this important?
MANY people claim to believe that God exists. But to live in a way that meets divine approval requires far more than this. We need to be firmly convinced that what may come to us in the way of suffering is as nothing when compared with the grand blessings the Almighty God will bestow on his servants.
2 For this reason, just to serve our Creator out of a sense of duty because of his being our Life-Giver is not sufficient either. A mere sense of duty is not strong enough to keep us faithful in view of all the trials we might face—physical and verbal abuse, sickness, disappointments, economic hardships. Only an intense, unbreakable love for our heavenly Father could do that.
3 To have that kind of love for God, we must believe that he himself is loving, good, generous. The Bible shows that such faith is absolutely essential for Christians. It says: “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Any minimizing of God’s promise to bless his servants actually distorts our knowledge of him. It may hinder us from recognizing Jehovah as a God who deeply appreciates the fine works of his people. (Hebrews 6:10) On the other hand, our firm conviction that the Most High is a rewarder creates within us an appreciative response, stirring us to want to please him.
‘SAFEGUARDED FOR SALVATION’
4. How does Jehovah God help us to secure salvation, and so what should we be doing?
4 Of course, we do not earn salvation by our service to God, such as by maintaining fine conduct and aiding others spiritually and materially. Our heavenly Father himself has made all the provisions for our gaining everlasting life, and he helps us to do his will and to receive that blessing. Our God-given hope, therefore, encourages us to submit ourselves fully to divine direction. Total confidence in Jehovah as a rewarder enables us to continue cooperating with him in making us genuine, fully developed Christians. (Ephesians 4:13-15) True, such active cooperation with our Maker demands that we exert ourselves to control our sinful tendencies. But he is the One who, by means of his spirit, really makes our spiritual growth possible. The following words of the apostle Peter beautifully emphasize God’s part in securing the fulfillment of our Christian hope:
“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.
5. Why did first-century Christians have good reason to bless Jehovah?
5 The Christians to whom these words were directed had good reason to bless Jehovah God, and also to speak well of him or to praise him. They had been brought forth as children of the Most High by a second birth, as it were. (John 1:12, 13; 3:5-8) This “new birth” came about through the operation of the holy spirit toward them. It was not as a result of any special merit on their part that they were constituted sons of God. But it was because of the divine mercy or compassion expressed in their being forgiven of their sins. On becoming children of the Almighty, these disciples of Jesus Christ were also made heirs.
6. What are some aspects that make the Christian hope a “living” one?
6 As heirs, they had the hope of receiving an inheritance. That hope, as Peter shows, is a “living hope.” It is “living” in more than one way. Like God’s message or word, which is “alive and exerts power,” the hope is living and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) Primarily, this is because it is a hope divinely given by the living and eternal God, and it is centered in his Son who ‘dies no more.’ The Son has the power of an indestructible life and is able to save completely those putting their trust in him. (Jeremiah 10:10; Habakkuk 1:12; Hebrews 7:16, 25; 1 Peter 1:23) Jesus Christ is himself the “living bread” sent by God and “if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.” (John 6:50, 51, 57) The Son gives “living water” that becomes in those receiving it a “fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14) So, too, the “living hope” given as a result of the “new birth” is capable of carrying its possessors onward to the realization of their reward and life eternal.
7. How does the “living hope” affect its possessors?
7 There is vitality in that hope. It is an invigorating, energizing force in the life of those cherishing it. This hope affects their whole life, makes itself evident in the way they use their life. Like true faith, such a hope cannot be dead, with no fruitage, no activity to demonstrate its existence. (James 2:14-26) It is a spirited hope that enlivens us, and we are encouraged, supported and strengthened by its comfort and by its unshakable certainty of fulfillment.
8. Because it is a “living hope,” what can be said about its being fulfilled?
8 Far different, then, from the hopes of those putting their trust in imperfect, dying men, this hope is not a dead hope that will come to disappointment because of lacking any solid basis. It cannot fail to be realized. Jehovah’s unchangeable promise, coupled with his matchless power to fulfill it, serves as a sure foundation for the Christian hope.—Compare Isaiah 55:10, 11; Hebrews 6:13-20.
9. What has made this “living hope” possible?
9 The apostle Peter links this “living hope” with “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” When God’s Son was impaled on the stake and his disciples saw him die, their hope virtually died with him. But when the evidence of his resurrection reached them, their hope was revived, took on new life, ‘caught fire’ and impelled them to bear witness. (Luke 24:13-34; Acts 4:20) Because he was raised to spirit life, the Son of God could present the value of his sacrifice, the redemption price, to the Father. Had Jesus Christ not been resurrected, no one could have been redeemed from sin and death. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19) Apart from his resurrection, there could have been no “living hope.”
10. Why could Peter refer to the inheritance as being ‘incorruptible, undefiled and unfading’?
10 The grand inheritance to which the apostle Peter and his fellow believers looked forward is ‘incorruptible, undefiled and unfading.’ Being incorruptible, it cannot be destroyed or damaged in any way. No defilement or pollution could become attached to it, for it cannot be obtained through any scheming, deceit or other lawless means. That wonderful inheritance will never fall into the hands of unprincipled men. Furthermore, unlike lovely flowers that soon lose their beauty and brilliance, throughout all eternity the inheritance will never fade in its grandeur and attractiveness.
11. Why is the “inheritance” secure?
11 According to Peter’s words, the promised inheritance is “reserved in the heavens.” It is sure for Christ’s joint heirs. There in the heavens, it is more thoroughly protected and preserved than in any bank vault, because the invisible heavens are the permanent abiding place of the eternal God, Jehovah. (Psalms 103:19; 115:3, 16; Matthew 5:11, 12) Furthermore, the apostle Peter pointed out that the Almighty would help them to receive their inheritance. The Most High, by means of his spirit, would exercise his “power” toward them, aiding them to remain acceptable before him, protecting their life interests. As a result, “in the last period of time,” they would not share in the condemnatory judgment passed on faithless ones but would be saved for everlasting life.
12. How will Jehovah God “safeguard” us for salvation?
12 Like first-century Christians, all believers today can be confident that Jehovah God will safeguard them for salvation. By means of his holy spirit, he initially made it possible for us to have faith and, by the same spirit, he will continue to strengthen our faith. This faith can carry us through all manner of trials successfully. (1 John 5:4) Do we not have sound reasons, then, to be thankful for what Jehovah God continues to do in aiding us to secure everlasting life? Indeed, and especially when we consider that this is not due to any merit on our part but because of Jehovah’s great mercy.
DEATH CANNOT PREVENT THE REALIZATION OF OUR HOPE
13. What guarantees that our Christian hope rests on a solid foundation?
13 Not even death can prevent our seeing the fulfillment of our Christian hope. What our heavenly Father did in connection with his Son provides a sure, unfailing guarantee that our hope rests on a firm basis. The apostle Peter wrote:
“True, he [God’s Son] was foreknown before the founding of the world, but he was made manifest at the end of the times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, the one who raised him up from the dead and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.”—1 Peter 1:20, 21.
14. How was Jesus Christ “foreknown before the founding of the world” and “made manifest at the end of the times”?
14 Before Adam and Eve founded a world of mankind by having children, Jehovah God determined that his only-begotten Son would be the one to redeem the human race from enslavement to sin and death. (Compare Genesis 3:15; 4:1, 2; Luke 11:49-51.) With the coming of the Messiah, the Jewish system of things, including its priesthood, sacrifices and temple services, entered its last days. Messiah’s arrival did mark the start of a new epoch in human history. Therefore, the apostle Peter spoke of Christ’s being “made manifest at the end of the times.”
15. Why could Peter say that Jesus Christ was made manifest “for the sake of you who through him are believers in God”?
15 But why did the apostle say that God’s Son was made manifest “for the sake of you who through him are believers in God”? Before Jesus came to the earth, no one could take advantage of the redemptive work that he would accomplish. Only in the first century could believers start doing so. By exercising faith in the Christ, these believers were also putting faith in the Father, the One who had sent the Son to this earth. (John 17:21) Furthermore, as Peter stated, what Jehovah God did for his Son—resurrecting him and giving him “glory” by exalting him to his own right hand—provides sound reason for putting our faith and hope in the Almighty. How so?
16. Of what is the resurrection of Jesus Christ a guarantee?
16 Just as the Most High raised his Son, he can also resurrect others of his servants. Since Jesus Christ was raised to immortal heavenly life, his first-century disciples could be sure that they, too, would share with him in celestial glory. The resurrection of God’s Son stands as an unchangeable guarantee that humans who are sleeping in death will be raised to life.—1 Corinthians 15:12-22.
17. How well established is the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
17 That is why the fact of Jesus’ resurrection needed to be well established, and it was. There were upward of 500 disciples who saw the resurrected Son of God. (1 Corinthians 15:6) These eyewitnesses knew that God’s enemies might take away their freedom and even kill them if they presented testimony regarding this grand miracle. Yet, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ witnessed to this fact with all boldness. (Compare Acts 4:1-3; 7:52-60.) Such courageous faith was only possible because they had solid evidence of his resurrection.
CHRIST’S COMING IN GLORY IS SURE
18. What does the apostle Peter indicate about “the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
18 As in the case of the resurrection of his Son, Jehovah God also saw to it that clear testimony was provided respecting the certainty of Christ’s coming “with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7) The apostle Peter said:
“No, it was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we acquainted you with the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it was by having become eyewitnesses of his magnificence. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when words such as these were borne to him by the magnificent glory: ‘This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved’ Yes, these words we heard borne from heaven while we were with him in the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
To what event was Peter here referring?
19. When and how did Peter, James and John become eyewitnesses of Christ’s magnificence?
19 It was to the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometime after Passover of 32 C.E., the Son of God told his disciples: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) In a matter of days, those words of Jesus were fulfilled. Taking with him the apostles Peter, James and John, God’s Son climbed a high mountain, presumably Hermon. On a spur of this mountain, the following took place: “[Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his outer garments became brilliant as the light.” Thus the three apostles had confirmed to them that Jesus’ coming in Kingdom power would indeed be glorious. Then a “bright cloud” formed and a voice came out of it, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.”—Matthew 17:1-5.
20. Why is faith in Jesus’ return in Kingdom power solidly based?
20 Faith in Jesus’ arrival in Kingdom power, therefore, was not based on false stories originating with men. No trickery or deceit was involved in trying to persuade others to accept the belief that the Son of God would return “with power and great glory.” Peter, James and John saw Jesus Christ glorified before their very eyes, and they heard God’s own voice sounding forth from the bright cloud or the “magnificent glory.” This voice acknowledged Jesus as being the beloved Son. The acknowledgment and the brilliant appearance that was then granted him were truly a bestowal of honor and glory on Jesus. Because of this grand divine revelation from Jehovah, Peter rightly referred to the mountain where the transfiguration took place as “the holy mountain.”
21. Of what significance is the transfiguration vision to us?
21 Of what import should this transfiguration be to believers? Peter answers: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) Yes, the transfiguration vision verifies the prophetic word about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in Kingdom power. This vision provided a foregleam of his kingly glory. Of course, apart from power or authority, there can be no royal glory, magnificence or dignity. Hence, the transfiguration also served to establish the certainty of Jesus’ coming in power.
22, 23. (a) How do we show that we are “doing well” in paying attention to the prophetic word? (b) How is that word like a lamp?
22 We today ‘do well’ in giving heed to the prophetic word, for nothing could be more vital to our life interests, could result in greater or more lasting benefits. People may avidly read world news, examine predictions by political, economic and scientific experts and, in the end, find that they have gotten nowhere. But the light shining from the prophetic word will never lead us down a dead-end road or leave us in a confusing maze of conflicting signposts and directions. So this prophetic word merits an important place in our study and meditation. We are wise to avail ourselves of all opportunities to assemble with fellow believers when the “word” is discussed. But our “paying attention” involves more than careful reading or respectful listening. It means acting on the prophetic word, letting it influence our conduct, the way in which we use our time, energy and assets. (Compare James 1:22-27.) Yes, we rightly acknowledge the genuine practicality of that prophetic word in our daily life and do not view it as merely something to which we give consideration during periods of formal worship.
23 In harmony with Peter’s urging, we should let the prophetic word serve us as a lamp shining in a dark place, illuminating our hearts. If we ‘pay attention’ to it by allowing it to guide us in all affairs of life, it will conduct us safely until that grand day when the “daystar,” the Lord Jesus Christ, reveals himself in all his magnificent glory. (Compare Revelation 22:16.) The revelation of the Son of God will spell destruction for the faithless ones and the bestowal of grand blessings on his devoted disciples. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) Surely the hope that is bound up with the fulfillment of the prophetic word should encourage us to do our utmost to be found standing as approved before our Lord at his revelation.—Luke 21:34-36.
24. Why can we have confidence in the entire prophetic word contained in the Bible?
24 In fact, the entire prophetic word contained in the Holy Scriptures needs to be given sober consideration and allowed to guide our life. The very nature of the prophetic word, the way it came to be written, should fill us with confidence respecting the future. Jehovah’s prophets did not evaluate certain trends in human affairs and then make predictions based on their personal interpretation of these developments. The prophecies were not the conclusions that the prophets themselves reached after making a careful analysis of the then-existing conditions. No, the prophets had their minds stimulated by the holy spirit and were moved to express God’s message. The apostle Peter continued: “You know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21) Because true prophecy does not originate with error-prone humans but with our all-wise Creator, we know that all prophecies set forth in God’s Word will be fulfilled.
25. What can we say about the surety of our Christian hope?
25 The Christian hope does rest on solid evidence. Reliable eyewitness testimony confirms that humans sleeping in death will be raised to life and that Jesus Christ will manifest his glory and power. Grand will be that day when our Lord takes action against all who refuse to serve the Creator and delivers his faithful followers from all suffering, bringing in a righteous new order free from sickness, pain and death.—Revelation 21:4, 5.