Even though Christianity has, from the earliest times, recognized hope, faith and love – or charity – as virtues and set them opposite the Seven Deadly Sins, their significance extends to all spiritual traditions, particularly when faith is not restricted to the Christian experience only. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (2 Corinthians 13:13).
The Christian hope is in the resurrection – and to be precise, the resurrection of the body as we confess in the Apostles and Nicene Creed – and everlasting life. The Christian faith stands on the claims of Jesus’ resurrection, without which it is indistinguishable from any other faith tradition. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, Christians wait in hope for the resurrection of the dead – among whom they too will be counted.
According to Daniel 12:1-3, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt…”. This is the text of the First Reading for the Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. The selective language in this text is disturbing for many, even of the Christian faith, for it speaks of “many” – why not all? – and also “some”. However one looks at it, the “shame and everlasting contempt” is too bitter to swallow..
This has created unresolved debate between those who would preach “Hell” and its unquenchable fire on the one hand, and those unable to reconcile it with a God who is Love and Merciful on the other. Earlier this year, Destiny Image, Publishers, Inc published a book by Clark Whitten entitled, Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace. In chapter 9 he comments on Hebrews 10:14 (the Epistle Reading for the Sunday) which says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”. Clark Whitten comments as follows: “When a person is born again, the Bible describes the results of that new birth as the person having passed out of death into life. That new life is, by definition everlasting, eternal. Eternal life is the only kind of spiritual life in existence…” (p.136).
Still, the same Epistle Reading states, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”.
There is no doubt about our hope of everlasting life. Indeed, in the Collect we ask God to “Grant us so to hear them (all holy Scriptures), read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…” We are similarly reminded in the Epistle Reading to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering”.
Anyone involved in a bible study would appreciate the value of the reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting holy Scriptures which takes place during the bible study because it is the way to holding fast to the blessed hope. All worship services serve to remind us to continue to meet, for the same purpose of holding fast to the blessed hope.
Find more on this from my earlier comments by visiting here.