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The Reality of Hope

I believe hope is one of the most emotionally packed words in any language. When it is spoken, the impossible suddenly becomes possible, darkness is overtaken by light and despair turns to joy. And that’s exactly what happened when a group of women arrived at Jesus’ tomb early on a Sunday morning to anoint His body with spices.

Days before, they had watched Jesus die horrifically, along with all their hopes. Though they believed He was the Messiah, who had come to rescue His people and establish His kingdom in Israel, He had died. As they approached the tomb, they expected to find a body, not a bright angel sitting on the stone that had once blocked the entrance. Nor were they prepared for his message: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay” (Matthew 28:5-6).

Imagine their amazement when Jesus met them on their way back from the tomb (Matthew 28:8-9). In those moments, everything changed. Their tears were replaced with unspeakable joy because Jesus was victorious over mankind’s most formidable enemy. The women felt revitalized faith that day, and we as believers can live with similar confidence. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we have hope—not only for the future but also for the past and present.

Hope for Our Past

If the women had, as they’d expected, found Jesus’ dead body, we would all be in deep trouble. When the apostle Paul confronted the false teaching that claimed there was no resurrection, he pointed out the hopeless result: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The good news is that Jesus’ resurrection proves the Father found the offering sufficient; it assures us that all our failings—past, present, and future—have been completely covered by the Savior’s blood. Paul makes this truth very clear in Romans 4:25, when he says Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The day Jesus came out of the grave, He affirmed once and for all that every person who has or will ever accept Him as Lord and Savior has been forgiven and accepted by God, not on the basis of behavior, but by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. That empty tomb is the reason we can rejoice.

Hope for Our Future

The resurrection is also the reason we can be confident about our future. Why should we have any hope of eternal life if our Savior is still in the grave? That would mean He didn’t conquer death for either Himself or us. But because Jesus did vanquish death, He has the power and authority to give us eternal life. Though our bodies may perish, our spirits remain alive and go immediately into the Lord’s presence.

And having already been justified by Christ, we will also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:30). This is the culmination of our salvation and the blessed hope that sustains us during life’s hardships and pain. When our flesh weakens with age or succumbs to illness, we know that we will one day receive strong immortal bodies that will never become tired or sick. This life is a mere breath compared to eternity.

Hope for Our Present

It’s all well and good to rejoice in our salvation and hope for our future glorification, but what does Christ’s resurrection do for us right now? Before He died, Christ made this promise: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Christ had to die, be resurrected, and ascend into Heaven before He could send His Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms and empowers believers to live the Christian life as new creatures. This means that as the Spirit sanctifies us—by giving us understanding of God’s word, empowering us to overcome sin, conforming us to Christ’s image, and encouraging us through life’s trials—we can walk in newness of life.

Considering what’s at stake, Christ’s resurrection is the best news we could ever hear. Now we have confidence that we are forgiven and declared righteous. All we need has been provided for us by God’s Spirit and word. And we know with certainty that we will one day be glorified when Christ returns. As was true of those women who found an empty tomb, our hope is real. We have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Knowing that, we can’t help but be encouraged—today and every day hereafter.

—Charles Stanley, condensed