In this proverb of Solomon, the world can take no comfort, for it is the curse of darkness and worldliness to be forever lusting and never finally satisfied. The worldly person thinks that “if only” he had this or that then he would be happy, only to find out that what he longed for most is tainted and small. “The hopes of the wicked come to nothing” (Proverbs 10:28b), because hope for the unregenerate man is only a dream, a never to be fulfilled desire for that which will not last.
But for the righteous, God’s chosen people, hope is a surety, a certainty of what they do not yet see. Thus, “the prospect of the righteous is joy” (Proverbs 10:28b), and the happiness of the eternal worship and enjoyment of God in the new heavens and earth will be all the more welcome to the saints who have earnestly longed for it as the crown of their hope. Paul wrote, “I desire to depart and be with Christ” and reminded us that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1:23b; 3:20) And again in Romans, “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 as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently.” (8:22-25)
The believer’s hope, therefore, is not based on fleeting temporal comforts, but is rooted in the firm knowledge of his future glorification and consummated sanctification, as accomplished in and through Jesus Christ, and as applied by the Holy Spirit through faith. It is to that hope that the apostle Paul directs the expectation of all believers.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with his greatest exclamations of praise, joy and contentment, and yet was written while imprisoned in a Roman cell. For a child of God to place lasting hope in anything less that the promised fruit of redemption is to hope as the world hopes, in futility. Jesus spoke to His disciples, “Blessed are you who are poor… who hunger now… who weep now…when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven… but woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Luke 6:20-24)
Jesus was telling His disciples and all believers that our hope and comfort is not in this world. The present sufferings and disappointments are in fact hallmarks of discipleship and will result in great future rewards. The desire and longing of the wicked for temporal recognition, riches, ease and comfort, however, will at best be temporary and shallow.
Indeed, it is a measure of our sanctification and maturity to see if our desires are progressively finding their fulfillment in that which is eternal over that which is temporal. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory.” (3:1-4)
For the Christian, this great, but delayed hope of eternal glory makes the “heart sick”. But one day, the sure “longing fulfilled” will be our eternal partaking of the “tree of life” which will stand on each side of the river, where, “…the water of life, as clear as crystal flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb…” (Revelation 22:1b)
The great reformer John Calvin wrote, “Eternal life is promised to us, but it is when we are dead; we are told of a blessed resurrection, but meanwhile we molder in the dust; we are declared to be justified, and sin dwells in us; we hear that we are blessed, meanwhile we are overwhelmed in endless miseries; we are promised abundance of goods, but we will endure hunger and thirst; God declares He will immediately come to our help, but He seems deaf to our cries. What should we do if we had not faith and hope to lean on, and if our mind did not emerge amidst the darkness above the world by the shining of the Word and the Spirit of God.”