top of page
  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Hope of Eternal Life

I think that by now most of the nation is gripped with desire for the end of Coronavirus. Not only do we want people who are vulnerable to be relieved, we want life as we once knew it to be restored. In other words, we want there to be reason to hope that the future will look better than the present. It’s all very well politicians telling us the long-term outlook is positive, but we would like some basis to ground that hope on. As we have just embarked on this new one-month lockdown, you might not be finding too much to found hope on right now.

But praise God He is gloriously better than the government. God not only tells us there’s a splendidly positive future but he gives us every reason to believe in it’s coming. That’s what Paul is telling Titus in his letter this morning. And he’s telling us too. Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – in the hope of eternal life”.

Paul’s task is the lengthening of the rope of godliness in the Cretan believers through Titus. And that godliness is worked out in the light of the hope of eternal life.

What is the hope of eternal life? A careful reading of Titus shows that Paul fleshes out for us what ‘the hope of eternal life’ means. There are two other places in the letter where Paul refers to this future hope. The first is in chapter 2 verse 13: we wait for the blessed hope’ – and then he unpacks what that is – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. So, a day is coming in the future when Jesus Christ – who is God almighty – is going to appear in spectacular glory. The kind of glory that every eye will see; the kind that every knee will bow before.

A spectacle more tantalising; more thrilling; more concrete and meaningful than anything that has ever happened before in the history of the world. People pay hundreds of pounds for tickets to see all kinds of spectacles: sporting events, concerts, shows, natural wonders; you name it. But I’m convinced that the glory of the best of them will be like dim darkness in comparison with the light of the glory of the appearing of Jesus. The second place this ‘hope’ is found in Titus, is in Chapter 3 verse 7: heirs having the hope of eternal life’. Although every eye will see the appearing of Jesus when he comes, not every eye will be waiting for it.

Only those who are the sons and daughters of God are the heirs – the inheritors – of the benefits of his appearing.

What his appearance means for his people So, what will it look like for them – the heirs - when Jesus appears in his glory and his greatness? John tells us in 1 John 3:2. It will look like transformation: we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him face to face’. Our lowly bodies, by his power, will be transformed so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21). We are going to see him with eyes that are dim and dull initially; with bodies that are failing and limited.

But in a moment – in the twinkling of an eye - those bodies are going to be changed into glorious bodies with capacities of function and enjoyment beyond our wildest dreams. Peter is equally ambitious about what Jesus’ appearing will be like. He says: when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away’ (1 Peter 5:4). Kings and princes and princesses get crowns. And there’s already a king in heaven, and always will be. The sons and daughters of the king are going to receive glorious crowns. The apostle Paul tells us those crowns will be our righteousness (2 Tim 4:8).

So, the princes and princesses will receive sinless natures. No failing. No short comings. No relational distresses. No pain. No suffering. No anxieties. Free from all those things forever. Capable of enjoying his perfection fully. That’s the crown that’s coming with the appearing of Jesus. So, eternal life is going to have dimensions of richness beyond our wildest dreams. And I imagine that the number of words that have been written in the bible about it, don’t even serve to describe the outer edges of what it will be like when it arrives on the scene.

Two solid reasons to hope Just like now though, with Coronavirus, hope needs to be grounded on something. Otherwise we won’t have any good reason to believe in better things to come. Is there light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel? I imagine we listen to the experts, hanging on their every word, looking for a basis to believe that the current hardship will give way to a better future. I think Paul – writing to Titus – gives 2 solid reasons as grounds to believe in this future reality. The first is found in our verse – verse 2. God, who does not lie, promised [this hope] before the beginning of time’.

If you have in your mind a conception of a God. Then you have in your mind a conception of a person who is the definition of truth. There is no person or entity, in or outside the universe, who can inform God. The definition of God is that he does all that pleases him (Psa 135:6). Nothing bends his will. Nothing teaches him right or wrong. Nothing brings to light extra truth, that might cause him to change his mind. If you have a conception of God - whether you know it or not - this is your conception of him. All realities are made by him and for him. From him and through him and to him are all things (Rom 11:36).

God is therefore true in all he does, and says, and thinks. Everything else we call truth is derived from him, if indeed it is true. Why are we saying this? Because, verse 2 says God promised this hope. That is, he promised this appearing; this eternal life; this crown; this glory; this transformation – he promised it before the world began. Before he brought this world into existence, he already promised to himself that he would bring about this hope which is, even now, yet still to come to fruition. And, that’s not all. If anybody says, well that’s no basis to found such an incredible hope as eternal life on.

The words ‘who does not lie’ are there to remind us that it is not possible for God to be inconsistent with himself and for him to lie. He would be denying himself if he were to lie. He would be the opposite of who he is. He would be the devil himself. No, God is truth. He is not the devil. Therefore, he cannot lie. So, I conclude that if he has promised it to himself before he even made the world, then it is fixed and sure and it cannot change – it will not. God will, most assuredly bring eternal life to pass. God will appear, and he will reward, and he will transform, and he will be seen in glory.

If this promise can fall to the ground and not come to pass, then God can fall to the ground and cease to exist. And if you believe that He could cease to exist, then you don’t believe in God at all. And, then you have no basis for any hope in anything at all. The second bedrock foundation for hoping in future eternal life, is Jesus’ first appearing. In chapter 2 verses 11-14, those who are waiting for the ‘blessed hope – the appearing of...Jesus’ are those who are being taught with regard to godliness (v.12). And, they are being taught by the ‘grace of God’ (v.11) who has appeared and who offers salvation to all people (v.11).

The ‘grace of God’ that has already appeared and offers salvation to all people is, undoubtedly, Jesus. He has appeared in the flesh to atone for the sins of his people by dying for them and saving them from the consequences of their sins – that is eternal death. By his first appearing and death, he has translated people – who believe in him – from death to life. We’re all going to die, and then we will enter, for ever, one or the other eternal state. Eternal death or eternal life. Jesus appeared and ‘offers’ salvation to all people. If you’re reading or listening this morning, it’s not too late. Jesus offers you salvation.

He bids you believe in him; rely upon him; throw yourself on his mercy; know with certainty he went to the cross of Calvary for you. Believe that your name was graven on his hands with those nails. That his blood was spilt to take away your sins. He gave himself, chapter 2 verse 14 says, to redeem us from wickedness and to purify us for himself. Now, if that is the case; if that is what you believe Jesus was doing on the cross for you personally; if he means that much to you, so that you can call him ‘my saviour’, then you are also being taught by him to say ‘no’ to ungodliness whilst you wait for his second appearing – the blessed hope of eternal life.

That’s bedrock number 2. Jesus’ work on the cross guarantees and achieves the promise God made before the world began. And chapter 3 of Titus confirms this also. Verse 7 says, the people who are the heirs of the ‘hope of eternal life’ are those who have been justified by his grace. Who’s grace? Jesus’ grace – verse 6. What does his grace look like? It looks like the kindness and love of God – verse 4. It looks like salvation – verse 5. It looks like mercy – verse 5. It looks like washing – verse 6. It looks like new birth – verse 6.

And, it looks like renewal – also verse 6. In Jesus, all these things happen to us. God pours out his kindness and love on us, he exercises his grace and mercy on us, he saves us from our sins by washing us and rebirthing us and renewing us from the inside with his Holy Spirit. He justifies us in his sight. He makes us heirs of a future inheritance called ‘eternal life’. He didn’t do these things for this life only, he did them to guarantee eternal life. Therefore, the hope of eternal life is real and meaningful for all those who are found in Jesus. They are the heirs of God’s promise.

The influence of grounded hope So, what influence does grounded hope have on us as we live in this ‘appointed season’ (1:3)? Remember Paul’s chief concern is godliness in the Cretan believers. That’s how the Kingdom of God is going to come to fruition – Godly believers, living Godly distinctive lives in a world that has rejected God. Chapter 2 verses 11-14 is where this is picked up. Verse 12 tells us that Jesus teaches his blood-bought people to say ‘no’ to things that accord with the ‘wickedness’ that he redeemed us from (v.14) and, to say ‘yes’ to things that accord with the ‘purity’ he established for them in his death.

I think it’s very easy to peg the things we like in the world as morally neutral; none influential; of net zero harm. When, in reality, these things cause significant spiritual stunting and are substantial hinderances to godliness. Should we be shocked by the uptick in divorce amongst professing believers? I think so. Should we be shocked by trends in pornographic addiction and the wrecked marriages caused by fornication and adultery? I think so. But shouldn’t we be looking at the TV we watch; the songs we listen to; the social media we imbibe and asking ourselves what is the overriding message we’re exposing ourselves to here? Is it not the message that multiple sexual partners is normal? Is it not the message that, if this one doesn’t treat you how you like to be treated, easy divorce is the answer?

Is it not the message that revenge is sweet and social media provides that perfect platform to air all your grievances? Who ever read on social media to love your enemies? To forgive them seventy times seven times? Whoever read there, that faithfulness to one lifelong partner, even when times get tough, is a laudable notion? Hasn’t the internet age taught us it’s good to spend our time browsing instead of redeeming the time. These things aren’t neutral. We have got to get to grip on our internet habits and our access to ubiquitous entertainment from the angle of godliness. Jesus is teaching us to ‘live self-controlled, upright, Godly lives in this present age’ (v.12). That will feel costly.

It will feel like self-denial. It will feel counter cultural. It will feel uncomfortable. And, it will feel like often, not doing what our first inclinations aspire to do. And, I think that might make this appointed season; this present age seem dull; seem underwhelming; maybe even burdensome. But that is surely why Paul speaks repeatedly about this hope. Verse 13 describes it as a ‘blessed’ hope – a divinely happy hope. The hope of eternal life is introduced by Paul in the middle of a lot of teaching about living tough, rugged, courageous lives of godliness.

In the middle of spiritual lockdown, he reveals an intense and glorious light at the end of the tunnel of this life. That hope is meant to make us wait with a kind of eager anticipation and confidence that draws us through the challenges of living lives worthy of our calling here on earth. We are meant to have a longing for the appearing of Jesus again. We are meant to be waiting with baited breath for him to arrive; for him to bring with him all the blessings that are ours in him. Because, in our eager waiting we will be drawn away from ungodliness and we will be drawn towards him. What we need then is more heavenly mindedness.

Thinking about heaven should be a staple part of our Christian walk. That’s where our abiding joy is to be found. If we try to find it here on earth, we’re missing the point. What’s coming is far better than what’s here. 2 Tim 4:8 – the crown is given to all those who long for his appearing. Hebrews 9:28 – final salvation is given to all those who are waiting for him. So then, are we ‘waiting for the blessed hope to arrive – the appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ?’. If we are, you can be sure, we will not be disappointed. May we be blessed as we eagerly anticipate his second coming and eternal life. Amen.


bottom of page