This Hope: Christ’s Return and Our Resurrection

Sometimes we only know what we know. For instance, at the turn of the millennium, I took part in a study of Revelation – a book of the Bible I knew little about because I’d never really been around anyone willing to do much teaching on it. Let’s face it – its imagery is more than a bit curious, its prophetic language a bit overwhelming, and the specifics of the end of days debatable.

Think about all the ways its words have been interpreted – like the way we count all the days and years in order to get to THE day when Jesus returns, and we are confident in our analysis despite the fact Jesus Himself told the disciples that He doesn’t know that date of His return (Matthew 24:36). 

Think about all the ways its words have become divisive in the Church – like the way so many Christians (used to) define themselves as either “Pre-Tribulation,” “Post-Tribulation,” or “Mid-Tribulation,” turning their backs on anyone who thought differently. (And, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then count yourself blessed! 😂)

Of course, I had my own opinions about it all because, heck, not only did I take part in an in-depth study of Revelation, I also read the complete Left Behind series – while doing the study (she says with great sarcasm and regret). The grace in it all is that I only knew what I’d been told. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…until I expanded my learning. (Even now, I don’t claim to know much of it ‘for sure’ – except Jesus wins!)

And, Revelation is actually packed with language and imagery that reflect language and imagery found throughout Scripture (think: Exodus, Daniel, Ezekiel). Despite its confusing aspects, this final book carries out and concludes the story within the pages of our Bible with awe-inspiring continuity. It gives us a picture of what it looks like when Jesus returns to earth a second time. Yes, the events of end times look like a holy cleansing – but it’s not without grace. 

The Bible as a whole details how our humanity, our sin, is a barrier to God’s fullness (Isaiah 59:2), so cleansing rituals and sacrifices were instituted in the days of Moses (Hebrews 9:1-10). 

It’s why the Israelites had to build a holy structure that was cleansed and consecrated in order for God’s essence to dwell among them (Exodus 40). It’s why they had to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins (Exodus 30:10). It’s why Jesus had to die (Galatians 1:4). Likewise, the earth has to be sanctified before God can bring the New Heaven to earth so that all His followers can finally dwell WITH HIM. Face-to-face. Forever (Revelation 21:1-3).

Friends, no one has to tell us that life on this broken, sin-soaked planet is hard. We live it everyday. But, as believers, we have an image of a promised Day when there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more death (Revelation 21:4). What many of us may not know just yet, however, is that day is not happening in heaven, which is currently the place of holy habitation, the place where our spirits go after life on earth is over (2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Luke 16:22-26).

That perfect, Eden-like era comes after Jesus’ return, after Judgement Day, after this place becomes the New Earth. These are the days where our spirits reunite with our resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42,44,46,52-53) – except these bodies will not be plagued with deficiencies and disabilities as they are now. No, these resurrected bodies will be as human as Jesus’ was (1 Corinthians 15:47-49), as perfect as Adam and Eve’s were at Creation. These are bodies that will live forever in glory with Jesus.

We can live for heaven today; we can also live with the hope for the perfect eternal life to come. 

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

Our Groaning Bodies

This is the groaning
As You count every tear we have sown
And we trust what those tears will become
This is the stretching
Making room for our hope to arrive
Knowing You come to make us alive*

Lyrics to “We Do Not Labor in Vain”

Living with the hope that we will one day be in God’s presence, in our glorified bodies, aids us in enduring much suffering now. This hope requires our willingness to trust this promised future and to wait faithfully for it. It also obligates us to do more than despair for the rest of our days. Instead, we can look to all that causes our groans as a means for “making room for our hope to arrive” – BECAUSE we know He has “come to make us alive!”*

The promise of our future with Him – in heaven and in the New Heaven – can serve as fuel for our faith:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

Romans 8:22-24

As we’ve seen in this study, Paul knew suffering. At one point he confessed things got so bad in Asia that he and his group had despaired of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). But, he explained, the sentence of death had happened so they would not rely on themselves – only God (v.9). With a quick turn of phrase, Paul included the core of his faith: he could trust God because God raises the dead (v.9). He knew that the One who has the kind of power that brings the dead to life is the One they could set their hope on to deliver them again and again – and so can we.

We groan in our bodies but not without hope! God will deliver us. One way or another His deliverance comes. Even as we face death, we can hope for the Day that our bodies will be raised, and they will never groan again.

Our Eternal Hope

In the meantime, we might be heard to complain while we endure this life of ours on earth – not so unlike the Israelites, who grumbled constantly despite having witnessed all the plagues, the miracle of the parted sea, and the end of their oppression. The very same people I’m often guilty of judging because somehow I think they should have more faith after all they’ve witnessed and been given. 

Then I remember. I, too, have witnessed much and have been given even more. 

I’ve seen:
God’s faithfulness in every season of stress.
God’s goodness when I thought there was no hope.
God’s provision at times of desperation. 

I’ve been given: 
His love in moments when I was quite unlovable.
His grace every time I’ve sinned and confessed.
His Holy Spirit – to dwell IN ME, to be my helper.

With all this remembering, I find myself confessing my sin of judging others…again. And as His love washes over me and His grace fills me, my hope in Him grows. 

Such equipping and filling and growing hope continues to serve as reminders that I don’t – we don’t – need to live each day with what Sarah Wanck calls ‘temporal hope.’1  Such temporal hope tempts us to think, “when I get through this thing, then the trial will be over.”1 Such a hope focuses on the here and now and is hindered by our limited strength.

Which is why it is so significant that God offers us an eternal hope that will never fail! His promise of a restoration – that will last forever in His kingdom, that will forever reign over everything – is one that sustains.1

Jesus’ return is reliable, thus becoming the hope we can trust because we know it is a certainty. Therefore, we can “hold onto the coming reality of Christ’s return, that one day, your every need will be met in him. His glory will be your source and strength.”2 Just as prophets as Isaiah poured into the people of exile promises that God had not forgotten them, we can put our hope in the same truths. God sees each of us. He hasn’t left us. God’s promise isn’t only for eternity – it’s also meant to be our source of deep hope today. 

This eternal hope is ours, and it will carry us in our right now, our tomorrow, and our forever — this we know, for real and for certain. This hope is yours, my friend. Take it – God wants to be your “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”3 For all your tomorrows.

Heavenly Father, we long to believe the truth that You are here and now – and in our forever future. So, today, we make the words of a hymn our prayer: 

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

That Word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.*

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – Sarah Wanck, Wake Up Call, 12/12/22
  • 2 – Sarah Wanck, Wake Up Call, 12/11/22 
  • 3 – Quoted from the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (which is on our playlist!)
  • *I added two new songs to our “This Hope” playlist,. One is from the collaborative album, Faithful, which we’ll hear from much more in our next series. But this song, “We Do Not Labor In Vain,” emphasizes today’s theme of our hope in eternity — Jesus comes back in all His glory to resurrect all the believers into their glorified bodies and finally bring New Heaven and New Earth together for His forever reign – with us! The second is the Martin Luther hymn, “Our God a Mighty Fortress.” I confess I didn’t know the lyrics well enough to be aware of the connections to all that we covered in this post – but I’m so grateful to know that now!
  • Friends, this ends our “This Hope” series. I do pray that our exploration of hope through the lens of suffering has been more hope-filled than we might have anticipated. I mean, suffering is not a favorite topic. 😉 But, equipped with all the promises of God, maybe we can truly persevere through our trials with greater faith and a deeper hope in our Savior and for our future!
  • Next week we begin our summer series: “Women of Hope.” I’m excited to step out into a series that will explore several women in Scripture who lived with the kind of hope we seek. I invite you to ask friends to join us on this special journey. XOXO

Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:

  • This spring we’re leaning into the rhythm of meditation. Unlike eastern meditation that seeks to empty the mind and self of everything, Christian meditation desires to fill our minds and beings with Christ. SO — each day, to the best of our abilities, let’s meditate on God’s Word, or as my friend JD Walt says, “ruminate on the Word just as a cow ruminates on his cud.” In other words, don’t rush. Read. Pause. Listen. Reread. Pause. Receive. Give space for the Spirit to reveal and enlighten.
    • This week, let’s meditate (or ruminate) on Romans 8:22-24. As we meditate on Paul’s words, let’s settle into our future reality with Jesus in resurrected bodies that are groan-free.
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world! 

Featured Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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