Followers of Jesus live in the time between. Jesus came in the first century and promised he would return. He told his followers to watch and be vigilant because he would come back in radiant glory as Lord of the Universe.
Paul captures this quality of our Christian living in the verb apekdechesthai – to wait expectantly. Six times in four letters this verb expresses his confident anticipation in Jesus’ return.(1) For him this vibrant expectation charged life with passion, giving its moments spiritual sizzle and urgency.
In Galatians 5:5 Paul warns the believers what they will lose if they pursue a relationship with God based upon keeping the law. They ‘fall from grace’ and this puts them outside God’s realm. In stark contrast true believers, by means of the Spirit, trust in the Messiah and anticipate eagerly “hope of righteousness”, something no longer available to those who choose to follow the law. This life of faith and trust, energized through self-sacrificial love, is the only thing that has any force or validity when it comes to a right relationship with God.
Romans 8 defines the essence of a Christian’s life. The Spirit is central to God’s interaction with any human being. Three times in the space of seven verses this verb describes the reality of Christian living. First Paul says that the entire creation strains forward in eager anticipation of “the revelation of the sons of God” (8:19). When believers fully gain all their privileges as God’s sons, then the rest of creation also will experience freedom from decay and futility. In the meantime it ‘groans in labour pains’.
Secondly, Paul admits that now believers also experience a groaning time. We strongly yearn to be released from this constant wrestling with sin and evil and to enjoy the full glory of sonship = “the redemption of our body” (8:23). Resurrection day is coming and so now, with bodies frail, diseased, and growing old, we are champing at the bit to receive our heavenly bodies. The Spirit keeps giving us experiences with God that hint at what this future will be, enticing us to keep up the pace.
Finally, he acknowledges that this present time, though blessed with hope and radiant with expectancy, nonetheless requires perseverance (8:25). We must endure. There is hardship, distress, persecution, famine, war, even death. But nothing separates us from God’s love. If God has surrendered His son for our sakes to the cross, we know “he will give everything else to us” as well (8:32).
And then as Paul introduces his first letter to the Corinthian Christians he reminds of the way God’s grace has enriched them so profusely. They lack no gift “as they eagerly await the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). What is so significant about this text is the assurance that while live in the time between Jesus through the Spirit keep us strong. He wants us to be “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lastly, as Paul concludes his wonderful description of the Christian experience in Philippians 3:9-16, he tells us that we are citizens of heaven, even though we live in this age. As we wait, we anticipate “the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ” who will come from heaven for us. When he arrives, resurrection comes too (Philippians 3:20-21). We shall be changed!
Too often we get discouraged and lose sight of what God has promised. The vibrant expectancy loses its lustre, life gets blighted with pain or disappointment and we discover bitterness and cynicism seeping in. Can we recover this joyful sense that JESUS IS COMING? Can this hope re-ignite our passion for the Kingdom? Will we let the Holy Spirit infuse us with vibrant expectancy, giving our lives a radiance that is extraordinary and filled with love? What is the hope in Christ that excites you today?
Application: as you reflect upon God’s word today:
- meditate upon the promise we have as God’s children. Have you taken time recently to imagine what life with Jesus in eternity will be like?
- what is your deepest hope? If it does not focus around the return of Jesus, what does this say about your spiritual passion and priorities?
- in the midst of your difficulties and discouragements today, make it your goal to thank God for the hope you have in Jesus.
- 1. Romans 8:19,23,25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Philippians 3:20. We find it once in Hebrews 9:28 (The Messiah will appear a second time “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”) and in 1 Peter 3:20 (God waited patiently in the days of Noah). The use in Hebrews parallels that of Paul, but not the use in 1 Peter.