Do you think about the past as much now that we’re into 2022? Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking more about future plans for 2022. But isn’t it our past that influences our future desires, goals, and plans? ”A growing body of research suggests that [thinking about the future] can make our lives more meaningful. Humans aren’t alone in having some ability to consider the future, a process that scientists call ‘prospection.’ After all, your dog gets excited when they see you holding a leash because they anticipate a walk is imminent; your cat may show similar excitement at the sound of a can being opened…But prospection’s unique benefits to humans extend beyond that of other animals…We can make predictions about our own futures based on what we’ve learned about other people’s experiences and even from characters in books and movies…Studies suggest that prospecting about your future can enrich your life…How we think about the future doesn’t just influence our own lives. It can also influence how we treat other people; [when we make plans to help others, we will be more likely to carry them].” (1) While these kinds of psychological articles are helpful to an extent, they fall way short of the way God created our minds and psyches. When God created humans, it was in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). Thinking about an eternal life with God in perfection and glory can’t be compared to a dog’s excitement about a walk or our plans for a vacation, new home, new job, or retirement. Our human efforts to imagine the future are based on our earthly experiences. But God’s plan of glorification for believers is based on the omnipotent, supernatural, incomprehensible provision of Jesus’s return and a new earth and heaven. We know about this glorious future from God’s revelation of his redemptive plan in Scripture and Christ’s first incarnation. God gives us many good reasons to think about Christ’s past sacrificial atonement, which inspires us to live well now, knowing that the future will be even more blessed.
Christ, God’s Historic Incarnate Grace
“The human soul is the most like God of anything that has ever been created…If man were not made in the image of God, redemption would not be possible. Those who have tried to think of man as coming into this world without a Creator are, in fact, denying man’s redemption. Only what was created in the image of God can be restored by God. Part of my worship each day is to celebrate this marvelous truth. I am redeemed because I have been created in the image of God. Although sin has all but destroyed that image, God’s grace is greater than all of man’s sin put together.” (2) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14) (3) In this passage, Paul describes Christ as the incarnate grace of God, our blessed hope, and our sanctification. My aim here is to encourage us to take hold of the blessedness of Jesus Christ. We will begin as Paul does here, looking back to Christ’s appearance as the “word [who] became flesh” (John 1:14). God’s grace appeared for salvation, redemption, and purification for a people of God’s possession (Titus 2:11, 14a). “The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners…The grace of God is of the most tremendous practical significance for sinful men. It was by grace that the way of redemption went out into the world…[that] sinners receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ…they are justified…enriched with spiritual blessings, and finally inherit salvation.” (4)
Our Blessedness Now in Christ
“God’s love is ‘invincible’ because of Christ’s coming…In Ephesians 2, verse 6, Paul says that we are, right now, seated with Christ in heaven. That means that if you are in Christ, you are eternally invincible as he is…’Whatsoever Christ is freed from, I am freed from it. It can no more hurt me than it can hurt him now in heaven.'” (5) The effect of our faith is “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope,…purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:12, 13a, 14b) “These verses provide the theological basis for the practical instructions given in [Titus 2] vs. 2-10, showing that the saving grace of God and the redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ are directed toward the purpose of the godly living and good works of God’s redeemed people.” (6) We can and should embrace the blessedness of Jesus Christ for our sanctification, as the incarnate grace of God and our blessed hope for eternity.
Christ, Our Blessed Hope for the Future
Paul reminds us of the best thing that will ever happen to us because of our “…blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v. 13b) “Looking for that blessed hope…Christ, who is our hope, and Christ in us the hope of glory, who is blessed for evermore…to be looking for this, is to be desiring it with the heart and affections set upon it, longing to be in the enjoyment of it, and yet waiting patiently in the exercise of faith and hope…and there is good reason for a regenerate man so to look for it; since it is his Father’s gift of free grace, and is laid up for him…Christ will come in his own glory, in the glory of his deity, particularly his omniscience and omnipotence will be very conspicuous; and in his glory as Mediator, which will be beheld by all the saints; and in his glory as a Judge, invested with power and authority from his Father, which will be terrible to sinners; and in the glory of his human nature, with which it is now crowned; and in his Father’s glory, in the same he had with him before the world was, and which is the same with his…and as the Judge of the whole earth. Now this the Gospel directs, and instructs believers to look for, to love, to hasten to, most earnestly desire, and yet patiently wait for, most firmly believing that it will be.” (7) “From the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, we are exhorted to purity and godliness. This is the effect of real knowledge. True Christians look for new heavens and a new earth; freed from the vanity to which things present are subject, and the sin they are polluted with…He is faithful, who has promised.” (8)
Christ, Our Real Hope
“Biblical Hope is a firm conviction that the future promises of God will be fulfilled. Hope is not mere wish projection, but an assurance of what will come to pass. ‘We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain’ (Hebrews 6:19).” (9) “When we take the incomparable God as our God, we are incomparably blessed…This incomparable God is ours. We have a title to Him. This is the great privilege of heaven’s favorites…(Rev. 21:3) This God is our God forever and ever! Our immortal soul has an immortal God—an immortal good. We will be forever with this incomparable God. This comforts us in the midst of all the persecutions and afflictions that befall us in this world.” (10) Your dog or cat isn’t able to be so comforted, looking to you as a “god.” But we are full of faults and disappointments. Christ is our perfect, incarnate grace of God, our blessed hope, and sanctification. Won’t we take hold of the blessedness of Jesus Christ for our sanctification? “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Related Scripture: Exodus 19:5-6; Psalms 67:1-2; Ezekiel 37:23-24; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:4; 6:17; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Peter 3:11-13.
- Allen, Summer, “How Thinking About the Future Makes Life More Meaningful,” 2019, Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_thinking_about_the_future_makes_life_more_meaningful
- Author’s note: “Salvation to all people” refers to all kinds, classes, races, and tribes of people. This is not a statement to support universal salvation, and is consistent with the rest of Scripture.
- Tozer, A. W., “My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day,” January 19, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
- Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 71, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
- Ortlund, Dane, “Gentle and Lowly,” p. 178, Crossway, 2020.
- The Reformation Study Bible, Titus 2:11-14, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Titus 2:13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/titus-2.html
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 2 Peter 3:11-18,, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/2-peter-3.html
- Reformation Study Bible, “Hope” article, p. 2206, Ibid.
- 10. Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” p. 103-4, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, Kindle Edition.
January 20, 2022