Can hope of eternal life change believers to live holy lives? That depends on the hope of the eternal life and the source. Have you ever wondered why many who essentially believe are yet unfaithful? Many have a very shallow concept of the Christian faith. Many believe that “good people go to heaven,” and that shallow hope does nothing to help anyone but to subtly deny hope of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. Many cannot see past Jesus’s death to why the Gospel message includes Jesus rising from the dead. Many churches are struggling with hopelessness, and the world can see themselves reflected in these groups.
Why has the Christian hope of eternal life through Jesus rising from the dead changed those entrust their whole heart to loving God and others through Jesus’s sacrifice and new life? The apostle John revealed, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). This scripture and more have application to all sins. However, those who read these scriptures will see the emphasis upon the holiness of the body. The appeal to the resurrection of the body for holy living is throughout the New Testament Scriptures.
The Hopeful Purify Themselves
John revealed, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3 ESV). The hope that saves is the hope of the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23–24). The mortal body will rise and put on immortality (1 Cor 15:53).
The hope of the glorification of the body is the resurrection. Those who hope in the resurrection will purify themselves (1 John 3:3). However, the resurrection does not dull or exclude temptations (1 Cor 10:12–13). Faith is the assurance of things for which believers hope (Heb 11:1). Paul taught that the Christian must run in this life with an aim and focus so that they have the strength to discipline the body in the hope of receiving the imperishable reward (1 Cor 9:24–27; cf. 1 Thess 4:1–8).
The Resurrection on the Last Day
Faith in the resurrection of the dead is an elementary teaching according to the New Testament Scriptures (Heb 6:2). Paul thoroughly defended the final resurrection because of the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:12–19). Paul revealed, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:16–17 ESV).
Jesus taught of the final resurrection when the dead will rise and those in the tombs will come out on the last day (John 5:20–29; 6:39–40). Jesus’s theology and the whole of biblical theology upholds that bodies will rise to receive eternal life. The condemned will rise too. Christ revealed that people should fear God who can cast a person body and soul into Gehenna fire (Matt 5:29–30; 10:28).
Resurrection and Holy Living
Can anyone live a life without a self-derived moral code? One of Paul’s concerns about those who rejected the final day of resurrection was its effect upon righteous and moral living. Paul expressed,
“What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:32–34 ESV).
Paul pleaded for respecting one’s body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, because one day God will raise the dead as God rose Christ (1 Cor 6:12–20). Paul’s focus was on the holiness of the body apart from sexual sin. Platonists who influenced the origin Gnosticism considered the body as insignificant to a bodiless existence after death, and thereby, they reset and rationalize a moral philosophy allowing numerous deeds to please passions of the flesh. The apostle Paul revealed,
“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor 6:13b–15 ESV)
God created humanity to glorify Him. If people do not glorify God, how can anyone hope for God to create again and raise them to eternal life (Isa 26:19)? God has the power to give life to the faithful as He rose Christ. This is the Christian hope.
Peter described the Christian hope as a living hope because Christ lives rising bodily from the dead. Peter described believers as born again to this living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3). That living hope is alive because Christ is alive. The Christian hope is of an imperishable inheritance through Jesus’s resurrection (1 Pet 1:3–5, 20–21). Because of this hope, Christians can rejoice through various trials (1:6–9). Living hope also produces obedience and holy living (1:13–17). For this reason, Peter declared, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet 3:21 ESV).
To Know the Power of the Resurrection
Paul counted all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, because of the resurrection of Christ and hope in the resurrection (Phil 3:8–9). By this faith, Paul confessed that he can know Christ and the power of the resurrection (Phil 3:10). He shared in sufferings and became like Christ in death to attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10–11). However, Paul expressed that he did not yet attain the resurrection, but “I press on to make it my own” (Phil 3:12). For this reason, Paul looked forward and he declared, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil 3:13). The resurrection is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). According to Paul, the mature are to think this way (Phil 3:15). Therefore, the apostle urged these Christians to imitate him and watch those who walk according to their example (3:17). He noted the Christian’s commonwealth in heaven from which Christians await Christ to come and transform lowly bodies into glorious bodies (3:20–21).
United with Christ in Death, Burial, and Resurrection
The hopeless have forgotten the substance of the Gospel message. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and that Gospel of first importance consists of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 15:1–4). The New Testament Scriptures emphasize that baptism partakes of the reality signified in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Col 2:12–13; 1 Pet 3:21). By baptism, the believer is buried with Christ, so that one may walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:4). If believers unite in a death like Christ’s death, then they will certainly unite with Christ in a resurrection like Christ’s resurrection (Rom 6:5, 8). For this reason, Paul explained that Christians must consider themselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). Paul urged that sin must not reign in the “mortal body” to make one obey its passions (6:12). Christians must present themselves as those who Christ has brought from death to life as instruments of God for righteousness (6:13). Those saved through Christ’s resurrection were slaves to impurity and lawlessness, but Christians must present their bodies as servants to righteousness leading to sanctification that is holiness (6:19). The fruit of sanctification is eternal life as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus (6:22). The Christian hope of eternal life through Christ’s resurrection remains the standard to move the Christians to holiness in living.
The hopeless have lost the work of the Holy Spirit producing holiness in the believer’s life. Those who set their minds on the flesh find death and those who set their minds on the Spirit find life and peace (Rom 8:6–7). The Spirit dwells in those who set their thoughts upon the truth revealed by the Spirit (John 16:12–13). If the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in the believer, then the Spirit will give life to “mortal bodies” through the indwelling Spirit (8:11). Those who live by the flesh will die, but those who live by the Spirit will put to death the deeds of the body and they will live (8:12–13). The hopeful believers suffer with Christ to be glorified with Christ (8:17). The sufferings of this world do not compare to the glory to be revealed in Christians (8:18). Because the creation awaits in hope to be set free from corruption, Christians eagerly await the redemption of their bodies (8:23). In this hope, Christians are saved (8:24).
“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure,” revealed the apostle John (1 John 3:3). The Scriptures offer much more to the faithful. The implications of Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of the last day establish the saving hope. Paul wrote of the resurrection pleading for faith in Christ’s resurrection to believe in the final resurrection (1 Cor 15:1–19). This is the end of hopelessness. The hope of Christ’s victory over death has brought hope to those who will entrust their lives to Christ. This hope compels true believers to purify themselves and live in holiness. Because of the resurrection, Paul concluded, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58 ESV).