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What is biblical hope?

by Stephen Davey

James from Alabama asks, “How does the Bible define hope?”


I love the biblical definition of hope, especially as it compares with common secular views of hope in the early first century.

In ancient Greek philosophy, the human nature of hope was readily observed, but hope was based on good and bad experiences, and founded on the subjective possibilities of a person’s life. Hope, as viewed by the world, can be defined by terms like “wishful thinking,” “speaking things into existence,” or “blind faith.”

I think we can see that same philosophical worldview in our culture today. People “hope” in things they have no control over. I hope the traffic will be good. I hope my sports team will win.

Ultimately, secular hope is a state of mind that wishes for good with no assurance that it will actually happen.

The biblical definition of hope, however, is filled with assurance, certainty, and trust. It is a hope you can believe it, because a trustworthy and faithful God has already promised you it will be so.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for hope (qawah) could be translated, “to wait or look for with eager expectation.” When God promised His people a Messiah, because they trusted Him, they could wait with eager expectation for that promise to be fulfilled. The Israelites hoped in the coming of the Messiah not with wishful thinking, but with eager expectation.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul’s letters are seeped with hope: waiting with hope to be adopted as sons of God (Romans 8:23), waiting for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5), and the hope of the second coming of Jesus Himself (Titus 2:13).

Paul was not hoping these things to speak them into existence, but because he already knew they would exist. He knew—He had certainty—because He hoped in the all-powerful, all-truthful, all-knowing God of the promise.

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