If I had to sum up the hope of the gospel as it was taught to me in many of the churches in which I grew up, it would go something like this: life is hard, and the world is full of evil, but don't worry because this isn't really your home, and eventually God will take you away to live with Him forever in Heaven. This stuff preaches. It makes for great hymns. It keeps the soul from becoming too restless in the midst of a cursed world. For a while.
But the older I get, the more unsatisfying this hope becomes. As the world's darkness, cruelty, and injustice become clearer with each passing day, somehow, "Buck up! You're guaranteed a ticket on the last boat out of here!" just doesn't do much for me anymore. I don't want to wait out evil. I don't want to breathe a huge sigh of relief that my time here is limited. I want to fight. And the fullness of the hope the gospel offers gives me reason to fight.
There's nothing satisfying about leaving behind a world where the cruel words that have bruised and crushed the souls of those I love go unanswered. There's no "victory" in managing to escape from a world full of rape and child molestation, then turning to the victims in Heaven and saying, "Hey, at least you don't have a body anymore, right? Isn't it nice to know that your rapist or molester couldn't harm the real you." There's no joyous hope in just leaving behind a world where one of my best friend's one day-old son still lies buried in the cold earth -- where my mother lies buried, dead at age 48. When I look out at a world of genocide, starvation, sexual trafficking, and other evils, I don't want an escape plan. I want a battle cry. And the fullness of the hope of the gospel gives me a cry loud enough to get darkness' attention: “Make way! The King is coming!”
You see, the hope I cling to is not that I will leave, but that He will return! For that is the end of the gospel story. The Crucified becomes the Conqueror, not merely the Evacuator. The Curse gives way to New Creation. It is not a story of God and His followers abandoning the world, but a story of them remaking it and enjoying it forever – a new Heaven and a new Earth! We do not push back against the darkness as something to do until we run away to the light. We fight the darkness because the Light Himself is coming. And when He comes, those who have trusted Him will see that every act of true love, every sacrifice, every tear, every blistered and bloodied hand will be vindicated. Every work of sin, every evil, every tragedy will be undone. Our bodies will be made new. Our souls will be restored. Our hearts will find new worth, new value, new courage, new love – enough to last for eternity.
That is extremely satisfying.