To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.
The Old Testament. There are several Hebrew verbs that may in certain contexts be translated "to hope" in English. One of them, qawa [h"w'q], may denote "hope" in the sense of "trust, " as when Jeremiah addresses God, "Our hope is in you" ( Jer 14:22 ). He also uses a noun formed from the root qwh [h"w'q] to teach that the Lord is the hope of Israel (14:8; 17:13; 50:7), which means that Israel's God is worthy of trust. Another noun from the same root, tiqwa [h"w.qiT], is often also translated "hope" meaning "trust." Similarly, the verb qawa [h"w'q] is parallel to batah [j;f'B], "to trust, " in Psalm 25:2-3.
In the Old Testament believers are encouraged to wait for God hopefully, expectantly. In times of trouble one should wait for the Lord, who will turn things around ( Psalm 25:21 ; 27:14 ; 40:1 ; 130:5 ). Sometimes expressions of hope are accompanied by the prayer that the supplicant will not be ashamed, that is, disappointed. "May those who hope in you not be disgraced" ( Psalm 69:6 ; cf. Psalm 22:5 ; Psalms 25:2-3 Psalms 25:20 ). God promises that those who wait for him will not be disappointed ( Isa 49:23 ). God is able to bring about the realization of one's hopes. Looking with expectation is akin to hoping ( Job 6:19 ; Jer 8:15 ). From "looking for" or "expecting" it is a small semantic shift to desiring ( Isa 26:8 ).
Twenty-seven times qawa [h"w'q] comes into the Greek Old Testament as hupomeno [uJpomevnw], "to wait, " "to be patient, " "to endure." Where suffering is present, the term may indicate that the individual is bearing affliction patiently while hopefully waiting for the Lord's deliverance. Psalm 40 is a psalm of thanksgiving that recounts the suffering of an individual whose hope was realized. "I waited patiently for the Lord" ( Psalm 40:1 ; 130:5-6 ).
Because of the close connection between hope and trust and because of the requirement to trust in God alone, a number of passages warn against trust in other things. We should not trust in riches ( Job 31:24-28 ; Psalm 52:1-7 ; Prov 11:28 ), idols ( Psalm 115:3-11 ; Hab 2:18-19 ), foreign powers ( Isa 20:5 ), military might ( Isa 30:15-16 ; 31:1-3 ; Hosea 10:13 ), princes ( Psalm 146:3-7 ), or other humans ( Jer 17:5-8 ). God is the true object of hope, but occasionally there are others. One may put one's hope in his steadfast love ( Psalm 33:18 ), in his ordinances ( Psalm 119:43 ), and in his word ( Psalms 119:49 Psalms 119:74 Psalms 119:81 Psalms 119:114 Psalms 119:147 ). Besides waiting in eager expectation for God, one may wait or hope for his teaching ( Isa 42:4 ) and for his salvation ( Psalm 119:166 ).
For much of the Old Testament period hope was centered on this world. The beleaguered hoped to be delivered from their enemies ( Psalm 25 ); the sick hoped to recover from illness ( Isa 38:10-20 ). Israelites trusted God to provide land, peace, and prosperity. In early passages there are few expressions of hope for the next world. Those who descend to the grave have no hope ( Isa 38:18-19 ). Only those still living could hope ( Ecclesiastes 9:4-6 Ecclesiastes 9:10 ), as salvation was for this life. Toward the end of the Old Testament God made known his plan to bring his everlasting kingdom to earth ( Dan 2:44 ; 7:13-14 ) and to raise the dead ( 12:2 ). At that point hope became more focused on the next world, especially on the resurrection. God will "swallow up death forever" ( Isa 25:7 ), and the dead will rise again (26:19); this is the salvation for which the faithful wait ( 25:9 ).
The New Testament. The New Testament consistently uses the verb elpizo [ejlpivzw] and the noun elpis [ejlpiv"] for hope. Just as the Old Testament emphasizes hope as trust, Paul writes about setting our hope on God ( 1 Tim 4:10 ) and on Christ ( Eph 1:12 ). As Jeremiah proclaims that God is the hope of Israel, Paul announces that Jesus Christ is our hope ( 1 Tim 1:1 ).
Parallel to those passages in the Old Testament where those who hope are not put to shame, Paul says hope does not disappoint us ( Rom 5:5 ). The reason is that we already have a taste of the future glory because of the love with which the Holy Spirit fills our hearts. In other words, the gifts of love and of the Spirit are downpayments of future glory for which we hope ( Rom 5:2 ; cf. Eph 1:13-14 ).
In the Old Testament hope has to do with waiting for, looking for, desiring. This is paralleled in the Gospels, where the word "hope" is not very frequent but the idea of looking expectantly is. Simeon looked for Israel's consolation at the advent of the Messiah ( Luke 2:25-26 ). Likewise, Anna, the prophetess, upon recognizing who Jesus was, proclaimed him to all those who were anticipating redemption ( Luke 2:36-38 ).
In connection with hope in Romans 8:18-25 Paul speaks of waiting with eager expectation for the revelation of the children of God (v. 19), waiting for the adoption as sons (v. 23). We are waiting "for the righteousness for which we hope" ( Gal 5:5 ) and for "the blessed hope, " namely, the glorious appearing of our Lord ( Titus 2:13 ). Paul has both an eager expectation and a hope for God to be glorified in him, whether in life or death ( Php 1:20 ). He goes on to express his desire to leave this world to be present with Christ (1:23).
As hope is connected with patient endurance in the Old Testament, so in the New Testament trials lead to hope ( Rom 5:3-4 ) and hope is steadfast ( 1 Th 1:3 ). When we hope for something we wait for it through patience ( Rom 8:25 ; 15:4 ).
In the Old Testament hope is linked with "putting confidence in" or "taking refuge in." Paul also parallels hope with trust. He hopes to send Timothy and trusts in the Lord that he himself will come ( Php 2:23 ). Hebrews talks about courage and hope (3:6). Likewise, Paul links hope and boldness ( 2 Cor 3:12 ). In a passage about the confidence we can have in God's promises, Hebrews 6:18-19 mentions taking refuge by seizing the sure anchor of hope that is set before us.
Reminiscent of the Old Testament false objects of hope, Paul counsels the wealthy not "to set their hope in wealth" ( 1 Tim 6:17 ). In addition to putting hope in God and Christ, we hope for salvation ( 1 Th 5:8 ); God's glory ( Rom 5:2 ; Col 1:27 ); resurrection ( Acts 23:6 ; 24:15 ; 1 Thess 4:13 ); the redemption of our bodies ( Rom 8:23 ); righteousness ( Gal 5:5 ); eternal life ( Titus 1:2 ; 3:7 ); the glorious appearing of Jesus ( Titus 2:13 ); and that we shall become like him when he does appear ( 1 John 3:2-3 ).
From the above list it is apparent that, in contrast to the Old Testament, New Testament hope is primarily eschatological. After being introduced late in Old Testament times, hope in the resurrection of the dead grew in the intertestamental period in such proportion that Paul could speak of the resurrection as the "hope of Israel" ( Acts 28:20 ; 24:15 ; 26:6-8 ). If our hope is only for our present existence, it is most pitiable ( 1 Cor 15:19 ). When our believing friends and relatives die we grieve in hope of the Lord's return, unlike unbelievers who have no hope. The only sure hope is Jesus: when he returns, believers who have died and those still living will both be given imperishable bodies like that of the risen Lord ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ; 1 Thess 4:13-18 ).
Hope is the proper response to the promises of God. Abraham serves as a prime example here. Even though he was very old, he had confidence that God would fulfill his promises. "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed" ( Rom 4:18 ). Like Abraham, we can trust in God's promises and "seize the hope set before us" ( Heb 6:18 ). More generally, we are told that the Scriptures engender hope ( Rom 15:4 ). The Holy Spirit is also a source of hope, for his power causes hope to abound ( Rom 15:13 ). Finally, hope comes as a gift from God through grace ( 2 Th 2:16 ).
Hope leads to joy ( Rom 12:12 ) boldness ( 2 Cor 3:12 ), and faith and love ( Col 1:4-5 ). Hope also leads to comfort; we are to encourage one another with the knowledge of the resurrection ( 1 Th 4:18 ). Though boasting in our works is disallowed, we may boast or exult in hope of sharing God's glory ( Rom 5:2 ; cf. Heb 3:6 ).
Hope has a sanctifying effect. We who look expectantly for the return of Christ, knowing that when we see him we shall become like him, purify ourselves "as he is pure" ( 1 John 3:3 ). Hope also stimulates good works. Following his teaching on resurrection of the dead, Paul exhorts his readers to do the Lord's work abundantly since such "labor is not in vain" ( 1 Cor 15:51-58 ).
William B. Nelson, Jr.
Bibliography. E. Hoffman, Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2:238-46; P. S. Minear, IDB, 2:640-43; C. F. D. Moule, The Meaning of Hope; W. Zimmerli, Man and His Hope in the Old Testament.
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one of the three main elements of Christian character ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ). It is joined to faith and love, and is opposed to seeing or possessing ( Romans 8:24 ; 1 John 3:2 ). "Hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life, so essential indeed, that, like faith and love, it can itself designate the essence of Christianity ( 1 Peter 3:15 ; Hebrews 10:23 ). In it the whole glory of the Christian vocation is centred ( Ephesians 1:18 ; 4:4 )." Unbelievers are without this hope ( Ephesians 2:12 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ). Christ is the actual object of the believer's hope, because it is in his second coming that the hope of glory will be fulfilled ( 1 Timothy 1:1 ; Colossians 1:27 ; Titus 2:13 ). It is spoken of as "lively", i.e., a living, hope, a hope not frail and perishable, but having a perennial life ( 1 Peter 1:3 ). In Romans 5:2 the "hope" spoken of is probably objective, i.e., "the hope set before us," namely, eternal life (comp 12:12 ). In 1 John 3:3 the expression "hope in him" ought rather to be, as in the Revised Version, "hope on him," i.e., a hope based on God.
1. In the Old Testament:
In the Revised Version (British and American) the New Testament "hope" represents the noun elpis (52 t), and the verb elpizo (31 t). King James Version, however, renders the noun in Hebrews 10:23 by "faith," and for the verb gives "trust" in 18 cases (apparently without much system, e.g. in Philippians 2 compare 2:19 and 23; see TRUST), while in Luke 6:35 it translates apelpizo, by "hoping for nothing again" (the Revised Version (British and American) "never despairing"). But in the Old Testament there is no Hebrew word that has the exact force of "expectation of some good thing," so that in the King James Version "hope" (noun and vb.) stands for some 15 Hebrew words, nearly all of which in other places are given other translation (e.g. mibhTach, is rendered "hope" in Jeremiah 17:17, "trust" in Psalms 40:4, "confidence" in Psalms 65:5). the Revised Version (British and American) has attempted to be more systematic and has, for the most part, kept "hope" for the noun tiqwah, and the verb yachal, but complete consistency was not possible (e.g. Proverbs 10:28; 11:23; 23:18). This lack of a specific word for hope has nothing to do with any undervaluation of the virtue among the Hebrews. For the religion of the Old Testament is of all things a religion of hope, centered in God, from whom all deliverance and blessings are confidently expected (Jeremiah 17:17; Joel 3:16; Psalms 31:24; 33:18,22; 39:7, etc.). The varieties of this hope arc countless (see ISRAEL, RELIGION OF; SALVATION, etc.), but the form most perfected and with fundamental significance for the New Testament is the firm trust that at a time appointed God, in person or through His representative (see MESSIAH), will establish a kingdom of righteousness.
2. In the New Testament:
(1) The proclamation of this coming kingdom of God was the central element in the teaching of Jesus, and the message of its near advent (Mark 1:15, etc.), with the certainty of admission to it for those who accepted His teaching (Luke 12:32, etc.), is the substance of His teaching as to hope. This teaching, though, is delivered in the language of One to whom the realities of the next world and of the future are perfectly familiar; the tone is not that of prediction so much as it is that of the statement of obvious facts. In other words, "hope" to Christ is "certainty," and the word "hope" is never on His lips (Luke 6:34 and John 5:45 are naturally not exceptions). For the details see KINGDOM OF GOD; FAITH; FORGIVENESS, etc. And however far He may have taught that the kingdom was present in His lifetime, none the less the full consummation of that kingdom, with Himself as Messiah, was made by Him a matter of the future (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; PAROUSIA).
(2) Hence, after the ascension the early church was left with an eschatological expectation that was primarily and almost technically the "hope" of the New Testament--"looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13), "unto a living hope ...., unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, .... reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 13-5; compare Romans 5:2; 8:20-24; 2 Corinthians 3:12; Ephesians 1:18-21; Colossians 1:5,23,17; Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 3:2,3). The foundations of this hope were many:
(a) Primarily, of course, the promises of the Old Testament, which were the basis of Christ's teaching. Such are often quoted at length (Acts 2:16, etc.), while they underlie countless other passages. These promises are the "anchor of hope" that holds the soul fast (Hebrews 6:18-20). In part, then, the earliest Christian expectations coincided with the Jewish, and the "hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20; compare 26:6,7; Ephesians 2:12, and especially Romans 11:25-32) was a common ground on which Jew and Christian might meet. Still, through the confidence of forgiveness and purification given in the atonement (Hebrews 9:14, etc.), the Christian felt himself to have a "better hope" (Hebrews 7:19), which the Jew could not know.
(b) Specifically Christian, however, was the pledge given in the resurrection of Christ. This sealed His Messiahship and proved His lordship (Romans 1:4; Ephesians 1:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21, etc.), so sending forth His followers with the certainty of victory. In addition, Christ's resurrection was felt to be the first step in the general resurrection, and hence, a proof that the consummation of all things had begun (1 Corinthians 15:23; compare Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14, etc.).
(c) But more than all, devotion to Christ produced a religious experience that gave certainty to hope. "Hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Romans 5:5; compare 8:16,17; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14, etc., and see HOLY SPIRIT). Even visible miracles were wrought by the Spirit that were signs of the end (Acts 2:17) as well as of the individual's certainty of partaking in the final happiness (Acts 10:47; 19:6, etc.).
(3) Yet, certain though the hope might be, it was not yet attained, and the interim was an opportunity to develop faith, "the substance of the things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Indeed, hope is simply faith directed toward the future, and no sharp distinction between faith and hope is attainable. It is easy enough to see how the King James Version felt "confession of our faith" clearer than "confession of our hope" in Hebrews 10:23, although the rendition of elpis by "faith" was arbitrary. So in Romans 8:20-24, "hope" is scarcely more than "faith" in this specialized aspect. In particular, in 8:24 we have as the most natural translation (compare Ephesians 2:5,8), "By hope we were saved" (so the King James Version, the English Revised Version, the American Revised Version margin), only a pedantic insistence on words can find in this any departure from the strictest Pauline theology (compare the essential outlook on the future of the classic example of "saving faith" in Romans 4:18-22, especially verse 18). Still, the combination is unusual, and the Greek may be rendered equally well "For hope we were saved" ("in hope" of the American Standard Revised Version is not so good); i.e. our salvation, in so far as it is past, is but to prepare us for what is to come (compare Ephesians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:3). But this postponement of the full attainment, through developing faith, gives stedfastness (Romans 8:25; compare 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Hebrews 3:6; 6:11), which could be gained in no other way. On the other hand this stedfastness, produced by hope, reacts again on hope and increases it (Romans 5:4; 15:4). and so on. But no attempt is made in the New Testament to give a catalogue of the "fruits of hope," and, indeed, such lists are inevitably artificial.
(4) One passage that deserves special attention is 1 Corinthians 13:13, "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three." "Abideth" is in contrast to "shall be done away" in 13:8,9, and the time of the abiding is consequently after the Parousia; i.e. while many gifts are for the present world only, faith, hope and love are eternal and endure in the next world. 1 Corinthians 13 is evidently a very carefully written section, and the permanence of faith and hope cannot be set down to any mere carelessness on Paul's part, but the meaning is not very clear. Probably he felt that the triad of virtues was so essentially a part of the Christian's character that the existence of the individual without them was unthinkable, without trying to define what the object of faith and hope would be in the glorified state. If any answer is to be given, it must be found in the doctrine that even in heaven life will not be static but will have opportunities of unlimited growth. Never will the finite soul be able to dispense entirely with faith, while at each stage the growth into the next can be anticipated through hope.
Only adventist bodies can use all the New Testament promises literally, and the translation of the eschatological language into modern practical terms is not always easy. The simplest method is that already well developed in the Fourth Gospel, where the phrase "kingdom of God" is usually replaced by the words "eternal life," i.e. for a temporal relation between this world and the next is substituted a local, so that the accent is laid on the hope that awaits the individual beyond the grave. On the other hand, the cataclysmic imagery of the New Testament may be interpreted in evolutionary form. God, by sending into the world the supernatural power seen in the Christian church, is working for the race as well as for the individual, and has for His whole creation, as well as for individual souls, a goal in store. The individual has for his support the motives of the early church and, in particular, learns through the cross that even his own sins shall not disappoint him of his hope. But both of the above interpretations are needed if religion is fairly to represent the spirit of the New Testament. A pure individualism that looks only beyond the grave for its hope empties the phrase "kingdom of God" of its meaning and tends inevitably to asceticism. And, in contrast, the religion of Jesus cannot be reduced to a mere hope of ethical advance for the present world. A Christianity that loses a transcendent, eschatological hope ceases to be Christianity.
Burton Scott Easton
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