The Tension of Faith and Hope
The two great points of Christian history are the first and second advents of Jesus Christ. Faith looks back to the cross and receives the blessing of justification. Hope looks forward to the coming of Jesus and the day of final redemption.
The truth of righteousness by faith gives hope in the coming of Jesus. A Christian, as we have seen, is righteous in the sight of God only by faith. His righteousness before God is not here on earth; it is in heaven. It is not in himself; it is in Christ. Christ is his righteousness; Christ is his life (Jer. 23:6; Col. 3:4). And because he has the blessing only by faith and not by sight, he longs and waits for Jesus to come. Then he will no longer be righteous by faith, but by visible and actual possession.
So God's people are righteous now by faith. Yet they "wait for the hope of righteousness. . Gal. 5:5. They are now the sons of God through faith, yet they wait in hope for "the manifestation of the sons of God." Rom. 8:19.
Faith pertains to now. Hope pertains to the not yet. John declares: "Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." If it does not yet appear what we shall be, the urgent question arises, When shall it appear what we shall be? And the answer is, " . . when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2.
Now we are righteous by faith. Then we shall be righteous by actual visible reality. By faith we grasp it now. By hope we wait for the not yet.
Faith and hope must be preserved in the proper New Testament tension. We must not confuse the now with the not yet. And we must not try to bring the not yet within the historical process or Paul's theology is destroyed.
There are two specific reasons given in Paul why hope must look to the coming of Christ:
Firstly, the sinful nature is still with the saints (Rom. 6-8). With continual penitence and tears they must still confess their sinfulness and implore the mercy of God. They therefore groan within themselves as they wait for the redemption of the sinful body (Rom. 8:23).
Secondly, the saints have in themselves only the "firstfruits of the Spirit," or as it says in Ephesians 1:14, the "earnest," or "down payment," of their salvation. So far from the gift of God's Spirit making them feel that life is fulfilled, it causes them to groan for life's fulfillment, when Christ shall come and roll up the scroll of time.