Hope. It’s a powerful motivator. It’s what replaces worry with calmness (Romans 15:13), despair with joy (Psalm 42:5), vacillation with perseverance (Romans 8:25), and cowardice with courage (Romans 12:12). Our God is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). The Gospel is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Faith is “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) that promises to never disappoint (Romans 5:5). Out of everyone in our world, Christians should be the most hopeful—confident that our future is secured by a good and sovereign Savior.
Have We Lost Our Hope?
And yet, over the last two years, I have seen disappointment written on so many Christian faces. Hope seems to be an elusive ring hanging outside our outstretched hand. Believers disheartened by government leaders. Christian parents not only dismayed, but fearful, of the world their children will grow up in. Church families ruptured over Covid related issues. Conversations filled more with complaining, than with Christ.
And the effect? Christian joy has been dampened; gospel energy, smothered; spiritual unity, fractured; the light of Christ, overshadowed by the gloom of our day.
Why is the question. Why has despair filled so many Christian hearts? Why has dejection squelched so much Gospel work? Why has division taken root in so many Christian churches?
One reason is because our hope has been exposed—and it has been found wanting.
These last two years have shown that we have tied too much happiness to the promises of this world. We have lived by sight, rather than faith, for far too long. We have allowed our affections for the temporal to root too deep and have been satisfied by the earthly too much.
We have forgotten that our “hope is laid up…in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). We’ve failed to “fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). We’ve unmoored our joy from our coming resurrection and Christ’s promised return (and all the blessings that entails), and have instead anchored our hope in the here and now.
It’s no wonder despair is written on so many Christian faces. We’ve been hoping in the wrong things.
Christian Hope is Grounded in Future Glory
For 21 verses there has been no hope in John 11. For four days, private tears have streamed down Mary and Martha’s cheeks, while the crowd’s public sobs rang throughout the town (John 11:33). The sisters have been confused: Why would Jesus let our brother and His friend die? Why would Jesus not come immediately to save us from our grief? You can hear the pain in the sisters’ heart, as they both told Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32).
Is there anything more hopeless than death? More painful than loss? More final than a locked grave?
And yet, what is Jesus’ answer to the sisters’ sorrow? “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). He gives them hope, but it is hope that looks to the future. Christian hope is always grounded in future glory.
Think of Israel—as destruction marched toward the Promised Land, what hope did the Lord hold out for them? “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy” (Isaiah 26:19). In the midst of political upheaval, the Lord promised His people a future resurrection.
Take Job, on what did he rest his hope amid failing health? “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26).
Or think of Paul, why did he not lose heart in the ministry? Because he looked to “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Gospel hope is always forward looking. It’s eschatological. It’s future.
This is why Jesus gave His grand promise in vv. 25 and 26. At the moment of Mary and Martha’s deepest sorrow, Jesus offered them His greatest promise, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believe in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
Life in this fallen world has only one ending—physical death. Is this not what we have all experienced for the last two years? Lives lost. Health stricken. Freedoms removed. Dreams dashed. Plans changed. Christ’s answer is to anchor our hope in our future glory.
Future Glory is Not Wishful Thinking
“I am the resurrection and the life” is a claim to deity (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Psalm 49:15)—Jesus claiming to be the source of our future resurrection and the fountainhead of our eternal life. A staggering claim, eclipsed only by the stunning nature of the miracle that follows.
Each detail of Lazarus’ resurrection is important. Each is meant to instill hope for the believer.
First, John noted Lazarus’ decay and stench, since Lazarus had been dead four days (John 11:39). Application: the Christian need not fear, no amount of decay will hinder Christ’s resurrection power.
Second, Jesus indicated Lazarus’ resurrection was His Father’s will (John 11:41-42). Application: our future resurrection will not only be the work of Christ, but also the will of the Father.
Third, Jesus “cried out with a loud voice” (John 11:43). Certainly, Jesus had Isaiah’s warning in mind that “mediums and the spiritists…whisper and mutter” their incantations (Isaiah 8:19). But Jesus is no spiritist—He’s the Lord of life. But even more than that, Christ’s scream was a foreshadowing of what He will one day do for every believer—a preview of His “cry of command” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) that will be heard throughout the entire earth when he returns. Application: Christ possesses supreme power over death and will one day issue a resurrection command that will reach every grave throughout this world (cf. John 5:28-29).
Fourth, Jesus called Lazarus by name, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). Jesus could have simply said “come forth,” but He didn’t. He individualized His cry. Application: Christ’s resurrection power will be personal. As Jesus promised, “Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day…I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40, 44). No believer will be left in the ground. None will be forgotten on that final day.
Our future glory is not wishful thinking. It is a settled fact—powerfully confirmed when the Lord of life shattered Sheol’s chains. Jesus’ promise is true, “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
Where is Your Hope?
Yes, this world is spiraling further and further into sin. And yes, disappointments abound—they always have and always will. And there are no doubt great sorrows and deep heartaches in our future. But rather than stealing our Christian hope, and smothering our Gospel energy, and sullying our Christian testimony, each sorrow should strengthen our expectation for that glorious day when our Lord “will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces…And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:7, 9).
Are we waiting for that coming day with expectancy and confidence, or have we become downcast with despair? Has the joy of our salvation given way to the sorrows of the moment? Have we anchored our hope in the shifting sands of this fallen world, rather than on the firm eschatological promises that await?
Oh Christian, be hopeful—no, be the most hopeful person in this world—because our hope is not in the present, but in a Person, a Savior, a Sovereign; who has promised a future glory and an everlasting kingdom to all who have come to Him in saving faith. Heed Peter’s command, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
 This continues a series through John 11. For the other articles, see: The Master's Seminary Blog | Doctrine. Discourse. Doxology. | Patrick Slyman (tms.edu)