THE MEANING OF HOPE
2008 John H Mattox

    In popular usage, our English word hope carries with it the suggestion of some uncertainty as to the realization of the thing hoped for. Experience has taught us the sad lesson that our hopes are not always fulfilled; and this all-too-frequent acquaintance with disappointment, because of the nonrealization of our hopes, causes us to view the word hope as we find it in our Bibles in the same pessimistic light that we commonly use it. However, the original Greek and Hebrew words which are translated hope, do not justify such pessimism. The Greek word for hope, elpis, properly denotes expectation, awaiting, and carries little of the element of uncertainty implied in our word hope.
    In the Hebrew Old Testament there are several words which are translated hope, and a study of these words brings out manifold meanings of the concept of hope as it is used in the Scriptures. Each of these words besides meaning hope has another meaning as well, and a consideration of these additional meanings will greatly increase our appreciation and understanding of the blessed hope that lies before us.
    One of the Hebrew words for hope is betach. The primary meaning of this word is confidence, assurance, boldness; and the fact that the Christian hope justified the use of such positive terms is well illustrated by Philippians 1:19-20:

"For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."

See also in this connection Hebrews 6:11.
 
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The Meaning Of Hope (cont)

    Another Hebrew word for hope is seber, derived from the verb sabar, the primary meaning of which is to look, to behold. This word for hope therefore stresses the element of looking forward and even suggests the ability of being able to see, by faith, the thing that is hoped for. This aspect of hope is illustrated by the well-known passage, Titus 2:11-13:

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ."

See also Romans 8:24-25, and II Corinthians 4:18.
    The Hebrew word Miqveh, meaning hope, also means congregation or gathering, which stresses yet another aspect of the Christian's blessed hope. For it is very plainly set forth in the New Testament that the realization of that blessed hope will involve our being gathered unto Christ. Note in this respect II Thess. 2:1-2:

"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by Spirit nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand."

Note also Hebrews 12:18-23.
    One of the most obvious elements of hope is that of expectation, or awaiting. Accordingly, we find that one of the Hebrew words for hope, tocheleth, is derived from a verb which has precisely the meaning of to expect, to await. This side of hope is stressed in I Thess. 1:3, 9-10:

"Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; for they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

As Scofield points out, the patience of hope mentioned in verse three is identified in verse ten as to wait for his Son from heaven. Phil. 1:20, already cited, also illustrates the waiting and expecting aspect of hope. In Hebrews 6:18-20 it says in part:

"That ... we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec."

Now the thing that makes an anchor sure and steadfast is the rope or cable that connects it to the ship. The anchor is no better than the rope which is attached to it. It is therefore interesting to find that one of the Hebrew words for hope, tiqvah also means line, rope, or cable. We wonder if the writer of Hebrews did not have this connotation of the word hope in mind when he wrote the passage cited.
 
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The Meaning Of Hope (cont)

    But there are times when hope seems to be folly, at least to others. This is particularly true of the Christian hope, which indeed is foolishness to the unsaved. Thus it is not surprising to find that a word often used in the Old Testament for hope also means folly. This is the word kesel. I Cor. 1:18-25 shows clearly how the faith and hope of the Christian are foolishness to the unsaved.
    To fail in one's hope, is in the Hebrew language, equivalent to being put to shame. The word bosh which means to be ashamed, to be put to shame, also means to fail in one's expectation or hope. Notice how this fact sheds light on Romans 5:5:

"And hope maketh not ashamed..."

Note also Romans 10:11 which says:

"For the scripture saith. Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

Note also Philippians 1:20 previously cited.
    Hope, then, is confidence, assurance and boldness in receiving and believing the promises of God. It is looking forward and beholding with the eye of faith the things that are eternal, rather than temporal. It is the gathering together of God's people in anticipation of the day when we shall stand in the assembly of the firstborn ones. It is the expectation of, and awaiting for, our Lord from heaven. It is a rope by which our anchor has been cast beyond the veil. Such hope may, indeed, amount to folly in the eyes of the uncircumcised, but God's Word assures us that those who put their trust in Jesus shall not be ashamed - i.e., their hope and expectation shall not fail.

John H Mattox

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