Hope Has a Name
There are things with which we are willing to part ways in this life, but then there are other things to which we hold on. In this passage, we see a call to hold on the hope set before us.
Hebrews: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary, Thomas Schreiner
Since Andrea and I were married nearly sixteen years ago, we’ve moved five different times. You can tell a lot about a person – what they love and treasure – by what they hold onto through five different moves, across two states and as many kids. Through all five moves I’ve let go of a lot of things. However, one thing that I never let go of, and have no plans to, are a couple Penn State University track suits I was issued when I was on the Penn State gymnastics team. Now, if you saw these tracksuits, they would probably just look like dated clothes to you, but I’m careful to hold onto them because they’re really valuable to me. The tracksuits represent memories. They represent memories of the hard work that it took to get to Penn State (age 5-18), perseverance through countless failures at Penn State, comradery that was forged with my Penn State teammates, victories we shared together, and the season of life when Andrea and I first met. I love those old tracksuits, they mean a lot to me, so I’m careful to hold onto them and have no plans to let them go. I hold onto them.
Our passage from Hebrews this morning was written to help us do just that. Our passage this morning was written to encourage you and encourage me to hold on to, to hold fast to the hope that is set before us in Jesus Christ because He is infinitely more valuable to us than my tracksuits or even the memories they represent. We can see that our passage is all about encouraging us to holding onto our hope when we look at Hebrews 6:18 – “…so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” That brings us to the big idea of our passage this morning: Let’s hold fast to the hope set before us. Let’s hold fast to the hope set before us.
Now, I need to tell you something about those Penn State track suits: I’d part ways with them for the right price. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and they’re not for sale. However, I would part ways with them for the right price. They’re valuable to me, but I’d happily let go of one for my dream of owning a pickup truck. What is it about the hope set before us that is so wonderful, so desirable, so exquisite that we would rather part ways with everything that this world has to offer to hold fast to it? To answer that question, our passage is going to help us look at the beauty of the hope set before us from three angles. Like a diamond with many beautiful facets, we’re going to explore 1. The nature of our hope (vv. 13-15) 2. The certainty of our hope (vv. 16-18) 3. The power of our hope (vv. 19-20).
THE NATURE OF OUR HOPE
To hold fast to our hope, we must first know what our hope is, so we begin with the nature of our hope. Have you ever been at the airport when the gate agent announces that your plane is oversold and the airline is offering something pathetic, like $5 and a bag of peanuts, if you’ll take a later flight. Though I am legendary for my passion for arriving places on time, one time, and one time only, I chose to be one of those volunteers to take a later flight and, I kid you not, I received over $2,000 in free airline vouchers. Since my wife Andrea and I love to hike, we decided to use the vouchers to go on the hiking trip of a lifetime to the Swiss Alps. Hiking in the Alps was both more beautiful and more strenuous than we could have ever imagined. I can still remember one hike where we climbed all day and just before the summit we had to trek across this sky bridge before arriving at a summit above the clouds. The summit was stunning and made every difficult moment of the trek worth it. Like hiking in the Alps, many people begin the walk of faith, but when the path becomes too challenging, they turn back and never reach the summit. If they only knew what they were missing, if they only knew the wonder of what lay ahead, surely they’d keep walking. To hold fast to the hope set before us, to walk by faith in Jesus to the end of our lives, we need to know what the hope set before us is, it’s nature.
To understand what the summit, what the hope set before us is, the nature of it, the author takes us way back to Abraham. If you’re somewhat new to learning from the Bible, Abraham is a really big deal and I need to tell you about what God promised Him because if you’re a follower of Jesus, that promise is yours, it’s the hope set before you. Way back in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, the one true God appeared to Abram and made an extraordinary three-fold promise to him: land, offspring, and a blessing to the world. God promised Abram, who was already old and childless, so many offspring that his name would need to be changed to Abraham (father of a multitude). God promised that Abraham’s offspring would dwell in a special land and that through His offspring would come the Messiah, the Christ who would bring God’s blessing to all people – Jew and Gentile – who confess that Christ is Lord. So, Abraham is really important.
Now, you have to understand that these promises would have landed on Abraham as nearly impossible to believe. After all, when God first appeared to Abraham and promised him land, offspring, and a blessing, he was seventy-five years old, childless, his aged wife was infertile, and he had no idea where the land God promised was even located. But Abraham believed God and set out for the land God promised with his wife Sarah. But Abraham and Sarah had to wait, they had to wait a long time to inherit even part of God’s threefold promise. But after 25 years of waiting – a lifetime for some of you – Abraham and Sarah finally received part of God’s promise; a child. The child’s name was Isaac. However, when Isaac was still a boy, God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable and sacrifice Isaac. Abraham believed God again, took the boy that he loved, and headed for the place of sacrifice. But at the last moment, just before thrusting Isaac through with a knife, the Lord stopped Abraham and spared the boy. It was a test of Abraham’s faith. When Abraham passed the test, the Lord reiterated and reinforced his threefold promise to Abraham by swearing with an oath. And since God has no one greater than himself to swear by, since he is truth, God swore by himself to Abraham, that he would keep his promise. Hebrews 6:13-14 – For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,  saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” It’s as though God was saying, “Abraham I promise to give you land, offspring, and bless the world through you. And I swear that I am telling you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me…me.
Now, what does God’s promise have to do with you and me? In what sense is God’s promise to Abraham also the hope set before us? Well, remember that Abraham was promised offspring, land, and a blessing to the world. According to the New Testament, the true and ultimate offspring of Abraham is the Lord Jesus Christ who alone brings the blessing of God’s forgiveness and the hope of eternal life to the whole world, Jew and Gentile, who embrace Jesus Christ as Lord. And all who walk by faith in Jesus Christ until the end of their lives will receive the land that God promised to Abraham. That land is not ultimately in the Middle East, but it is the New Heavens and the New Earth. The final chapters of the Bible provide a picture of the hope set before all who trust in Christ, the offspring of Abraham. It will be a renewed creation where every tear we’ve shed in this life will be wiped away, it will be an eternal rest from all the weary labors of this life, it will be more beautiful than the Alps on their best day, the richest relationships will be enjoyed, and best of all God himself – Father, Son, and Spirit – will dwell with us. It will be the one summit you’ll never want to come down from and you never will. That is the hope set before us. That’s the nature of it.
So, what should we do? Holding fast to the hope set before us, means waiting patiently for it. The author wants us to imitate Abraham’s patience. Hebrews 6:15 – And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. Hold fast to the hope set before you – an eternal city whose designer and builder is God – by waiting patiently for it. Practically, I think of waiting patiently for the hope set before us in both positive and negative terms. Positively, waiting patiently for the new heavens and the new earth promised to all who are the offspring of Abraham through faith in Christ means thinking about your future inheritance often, delighting yourself now and what God has promised later, and allowing the hope of eternal inheritance to practically affect the way that you live now. Imagine how different your life might be if even just once each day, perhaps first thing in the morning when you meet with God, you thought for two minutes about the eternal hope set before you. That’s waiting patiently. On the negative side, waiting patiently for the hope set before us means putting away sinful substitutes for the eternal hope set before us. For example, since we will inherit the whole universe one day, we can put to death sinfully hoarding our money for ourselves in a vain attempt to feel secure. When we hoard our money we are refusing to wait patiently for our eternal inheritance and instead trying to have a perverted version of the hope set before us now. No, we hold fast to the hope set before us by waiting patiently. So, we’ve seen the nature of our hope – an eternal land whose designer and builder is God where all of the offspring of Abraham through faith in Christ will dwell with God forever. But to really hold fast to this hope set before us, we need to be convinced that it’s a sure thing. That brings us secondly to…
THE CERTAINTY OF OUR HOPE
Though it may be difficult for most of us to imagine, we’ll all retire one day. Regardless of your views on the concept of retirement, eventually a day is coming when you’ll either be unable to work enough to earn a full-time income or no one will be willing to pay you a full-time income any longer. Now, I want you to imagine two different scenarios. In scenario one, someone guarantees that you will receive an inheritance so sizable upon retirement that you’ll have more than enough money to live on and do the things that you want to do. In scenario two, someone tells you that you might, that there is a chance, that upon retirement you’ll receive said inheritance. Scenario one would change your life. Scenario one would change the way you save and give your money away to advance the cause of Christ in this world. It might even change the career you choose. It would change everything. Scenario two probably wouldn’t change your life much at all because the inheritance simply isn’t certain. Well friends, when it comes to the hope set before us – eternal joy and perfect peace – we are in scenario one. The hope set before us is certain, therefore, we hold fast to it, never let it go, and allow it to change everything about the way that we live. That’s where the author of Hebrews takes us next. Having explained the nature of our hope, he turns now to the certainty of it so that we will hold fast to it.
Remember that in the first few verses of our passage we learned that when God promised Abraham a certain hope – land, blessing, offspring – he followed up that promise and sealed it with an oath. In Hebrews 6:16-18, the author underlines the significance of God both making a promise and confirming it with an oath. The author begins by highlighting how oaths work among humans. Hebrews 6:16 – For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. Unlike God’s promises, our promises often aren’t a sure thing. That’s why people sometimes lend weight to their promises by following them up with an oath. “I promise I’ll pay you back. I swear on my mother’s life.” The author says that sort of like what God does for us by following the promise to Abraham, which is our promise in Christ, with an oath. Why does God seal his promise with an oath? Unlike us, God’s promise is enough. He only needs to tell us something once for it to be totally reliable. Why an oath? Hebrews 6:17 – So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath… God did not seal his promise with an oath because he needs it, but because he knows we need it. This is so encouraging. When we struggle to hold fast to the hope set before us, God Almighty does not say, “I told you once and once is enough.” No, our God desires to meet us in our weakness in believing his promise and holding fast to the hope set before us and swear with an oath. He is a wonderful Father.
And since our Father promised that all who trust in Christ will inherit an eternal promised land, and then sealed it with an oath, we have every encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us and never let it go. Hebrews 6:18 – so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. I know that it’s popular to say, “don’t put God in a box,” but God’s character revealed in Scripture does box in what he can and cannot do. It’s impossible for God to lie.
Citylight Church God has promised you eternal hope and sealed it with an oath. It’s impossible for God to lie. Let the certainty of your hope encourage you to hold fast to your hope today, then tomorrow, until there are no more tomorrows. You’re in category 1 – your inheritance is certain. Question: how ought the certain, eternal hope set before you change the way that you live now? Since it’s sure – God promised, swore, and cannot lie – how ought this hope to change the way you love God, obey his word, and live in his world now? How ought the hope set before you change the way you do your job, steward your money, do with your body, and invest your time? Hold fast to the hope set before you by letting your future hope invade and change the way you live and feel in the present. Transition: there is one specific way that the hope set before us should affect our lives now…
THE POWER OF OUR HOPE
The power of the hope set before us is that it anchors our faith in Christ during the winds, waves, and storms of this life. That’s why we hold fast to the hope set before us; it anchors our faith in the storms of life. Hebrews 6:19-20 – We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…Nearly every summer we go fishing in the Atlantic Ocean with some of our dearest family friends. I get sick every time, but I do it because I love my son. But this past year we went line-crabbing in the bay on a small boat, which I loved. Crabbing taught me the necessity of having an anchor. Crabs like to bunch up in one place, so when you find a good spot you have to set your anchor or even the small waves in the bay will push you off course, away from where you want to be. You need an anchor or the waves will cause you to drift.
Life in this world is full of winds, waves, and storms. We look around and wonder if WWIII is upon us. We look within and wonder if our bodies or our mental health will hold up. We see our jobs and wonder how stable they really are or if we one day might lose our job for faithfully following Christ. No matter the specifics, you can be sure that life in this fallen world will bring winds, waves, and storms. How can we possibly remain steadfast in our faith in Christ, even rejoicing in the Lord always? We need an anchor. Our anchor is the hope set before us because the trials of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed when our hope is realized and our faith turns to sight. The heaviest and longest lasting storms in this life are light and momentary compared with the eternal weight of glory that awaits us, the hope set before us. If you’re in the storm now, hold fast to the eternal hope set before you because it’s your anchor in the present.
Hold fast to the hope set before you, your anchor. And your hope has a name; Jesus Christ. Hebrews 6:19-20 – We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,  where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Our hope is our eternal inheritance with God, in his presence, but that hope has a name, Jesus Christ our high priest who alone can welcome us into God’s presence forever. Our hope has a name: Jesus Christ our eternal priest.
Probably my greatest memory involving those Penn State tracksuits comes from my senior year at Penn State when we – the men’s gymnastics team – won the NCAA championships. After we won the national championship, my whole team was invited to go to the White House and meet the president. I learned really quickly that you can’t walk up and draw near to meet the president in the White House. They’ll kill you if you try. To go inside the White House and meet the president, you need a representative from within the White House, authorized by the president, to come out to where we were and bring us in on the basis of his authority because you can’t just draw near to the president. Similarly, you can’t just approach the infinitely holy Creator of everyone and everything. You can’t just draw near to God because you and I are sinners by nature and choice. Because of all of our disobeying and ignoring God, not only can we not approach him, but we are his enemies who deserve his just and pure eternal judgment. You and I need a priest to go behind the curtain and into God’s presence forever. We need someone who can represent us before the holy God and can authorize our entrance into the hope set before us. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only priest we need. He is the priest from Melchizedek’s order, meaning that he is no temporary priest. Rather, after dying for our sins, he rose on the third day, ascended into heaven, behind the curtain, into God’s presence, and where he is, we will surely be also. Your hope has a name. Jesus Christ. Hold fast to the hope set before you until that glorious day when our faith turns to sight.