1 Peter 3:15 says:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
And we were asked via a topic request - what are the reasons for this hope?
We will let the Bible answer that question because:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope
It is through reading the scriptures that we can find comfort and hope, but here this verse is referring to the "things" written "aforetime", in other words, "things" written in the Old Testament. But what "things" were these? We read in Romans 4:16-20 of the faith and hope of Abraham, a character from "aforetime", from the Old Testament:
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
These verses talk about the hope (v18), belief (v17,20) and faith (v16,19,20) that Abraham had in the promise (v16,20) that God had made to him. We can therefore conclude that it is the promise that God made to Abraham, which gave Abraham his hope.
What then was this promise?
As the quote from Romans shows, it was to do with Abraham becoming the father of many nations:
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
This was the first promise that God made to Abraham, or Abram as he was first known. Later on in Genesis we read how God enlarges this promise:
And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
The key point to note from this verse is for how long the promise lasts for - for ever. The land was to be given to the seed of Abraham for ever. This promise has clearly not yet been fulfilled. Genesis 17 explains to us why Abram's name was changed to Abraham:
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, an d to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Note again how long the covenant, or promise will last for - it will be everlasting (v 7,8). When the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, was defending himself in front of King Agrippa, he referred back to these promises made by God, and of the hope that they gave:
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
Note that the promise was made to "our fathers" and how he also mentions the twelve tribes of Israel. The promise was not only made to Abraham, but to Isaac his son:
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And the LORD appeared unto Isaac, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
And also to Isaac's son Jacob, who had his name changed to Israel. Jacob, or Israel, was the father of 12 sons, which became the 12 tribes of Israel:
And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
This promise which the New Testament refers to when talking about hope, was made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob). It was also made to another person:
12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
(2 Samuel 7:12-16)
Again we note that this promise has not been fulfilled yet because of the fact that the throne of this kingdom shall be established for ever. This promise to David is a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, (v14) God would be his father, and he would be God's son.
We can see that the hope that the New Testament speaks of is established on promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Israel and David, and is linked to God's son, Jesus Christ.
The main gist of the promises is that the seed of Abraham would be innumerable, and that they would inherit the land for ever. If the promise is "for ever", then the people to whom the promises were made will also have to live for ever. In fact, this is one way in which the Bible describes hope:
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
It would also seem that if the promises were only made to Abraham and his seed, then there is no hope for them that are not of Abraham's seed, or those that are not heirs of the promise. We find that all those that have faith and that believe and are baptised and follow the commandments of Christ can also become heirs of the promise, and therefore can have the same hope:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
We see then that it is because of Christ that we all have an opportunity to become heirs of this hope according to the promises made by God. If we have not "put on Christ" i.e. we have not been baptised, then we are said to be without hope:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
This hope of everlasting life is therefore through what Christ has achieved, and is inextricably linked to the hope of Israel:
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
The Old Testament speaks of "the hope of Israel":
Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
Our hope then is in the things that God has promised, in particular that the seed of Abraham would inherit the land for ever, and that God's son (through the line of David) will establish the throne of his Kingdom, in Jerusalem, for ever. Those that die before this promise can be fulfilled are said to be asleep, awaiting the hope of resurrection:
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
We are even told that Abraham and others, all died without receiving the promise:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
The dead in Christ, and those that are alive today are currently waiting for Jesus to return to the earth to establish these promises. This is the hope that the scriptures talk of. The hope of Israel, the hope of inheriting the land of promise for ever, the hope of living in the land, in the kingdom of the son of David, the son of God, for ever.
The best way to learn more of this wondrous hope is to read the Bible. We have a free Bible reading course which is designed to try and help you to both read and understand your Bible, and in doing so to find out more about the hope contained within its pages.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
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We have another article here here which focusses on the kingdom as described by the four gospels.