There are many people living hopeless lives, and some go to the extreme of committing suicide.
Dante’s poem imagines the supposed inscription at the entrance to hell: “Abandon every hope, you who enter in.” It is amazing that those on earth with no hope would hasten their way towards that place with no hope. However, strangely, they were not without hope, because something must have given them the false hope that suicide could only make things better by escaping from their apparently hopeless condition. There are false hopes that deceive, and there are good hopes based on truth.
So what is hope, and who do not have it? First, hope needs a reference point and ‘to hope’ needs an object. I may have no hope of becoming king, but I do have a good hope of seeing the King of kings in heaven. Absence of one hope does not obliterate the presence of another hope.
Thus, to be hopeless is quite an extreme position. What does the Bible say? The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians about their past life: ‘at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world’ Eph 2:12. They had some hopes as far as worldly prospects were concerned, but no hope as far as the spiritual things that mattered – the knowledge of God and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Once the Gospel came to them, things changed.
Sometimes Christians quote this verse about their current state as ‘having no hope, and without God in the world’. This is wrong. Christians are not without hope and without God. The apostle Paul addressed them collectively as having hope, and not because he believed them all to be converted and going to heaven, which he could not know. Rather, by their coming under the sound of the Gospel, they could no longer be described as having no hope.
The correct application of the teaching from this verse is that those without the Gospel of Christ have no hope of reaching heaven, because they are without God while in this world. However, as soon as the Gospel of hope reaches them, now they have hope. They still don’t have any more hope than I have of becoming king, but there is a prospect that they might become the children of the King of kings. This good hope is set before them in the free offer of the Gospel.
So why should one despair of life and commit suicide as if there is no hope? Such hopeless souls need the Gospel of hope preached to them in a welcoming and hopeful manner. Jesus says: ‘anyone that comes to Me, I will certainly not reject’ Jn 6:37.
‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you do not sorrow, even as others who have no hope’ 1Th 4:13.
‘Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, Who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts’ 2Th 2:16-17.
‘O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake Thee shall be ashamed because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters’ Jer 17:13.
A sermon explaining and applying the Free Offer of the Gospel
The Gospel is the good news of the free offer of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Its theological and practical importance is that a sinner finds Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour in the Free Offer of the Gospel.