The word “hope” in the New Testament is from the Greek word elpis. It means expectation, trust, and confidence. It comes from the root word elpo, which means to anticipate with joy.
As believers, we have hope. But hope in what?
For the believer, to die is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)
A believer is one who has confessed sin and embraced Jesus as Savior. The believer lives and dies with hope.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:8, to be away from the body is to be home with the Lord. In Philippians 1:23 we are told that when we depart the body we are with Christ. Jesus told the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
For the Christian, the last breath on earth is followed by the next breath in the presence of the Lord. In view of the resurrection of Jesus, the death of a believer must be viewed not as an end to life, but as a transition into the presence of the Lord.
We await the return of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Jesus told his disciples in John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul addresses the Christians in Thessalonica because he does not want them to be uniformed about those who have died.
He tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, “According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
The Apostle Paul doesn’t want the church to be uninformed. Rather, while facing a world that includes death, he wants the church to be rooted in the truth of Jesus. He exhorts the church to take the truth of the return of Jesus and “encourage one another with these words.”
We await a resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:35-58)
One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Closely related is Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
When will we gain our resurrection bodies? Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
The idea of the trumpet relates to the return of Jesus. Believers die and are present with the Lord. At the second coming, believers receive a resurrected body.
We await the new Heaven and the new Earth (Revelation 21:1-4)
The consummation of all things will take place when the world as it is now passes away and makes way for a new heaven and a new earth. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Perhaps a bit of Bible overview is in order. In Genesis 3, we learn of Earth’s first transformation. You remember these stories from your days in Sunday School. Adam and Eve are in the garden and partake of the forbidden fruit. It is the story of the human fall and God’s judgment. In Revelation 20 and 21, you read of the earth’s final transformation. You’re likely less familiar with this story but it’s about Christ’s return, last judgement, and the New Heaven and New Earth. The earth’s transformation begins and concludes God’s great story of the Bible.
In Genesis God plants a garden on Earth and in Revelation he brings down the New garden in the New Jerusalem on the New Earth. In Eden there’s no sin, death, or curse; on the New Earth there’s no more sin, death, or curse. In Genesis, the Redeemer is promised and in Revelation the Redeemer returns. Genesis tells the story of Paradise lost; Revelation tells the story of Paradise regained.