FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE ABIDE
T. Pierce Brown
As far back as I can remember I have heard preachers say such things as “It must be admitted that faith and hope will terminate at the coming of Christ. Love is the greatest because it will abide forever.” It is my judgment that a deeper study of the question will convince us that the conclusion is incorrect, and based on either faulty logic or faulty exegesis, or both.
I believe the song says, “faith will be lost in heavenly sight,” and the idea, no doubt, partly comes from a misuse of 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight (eidos–appearance).” And Romans8:24says, “But hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopeth for that which he seeth?” If one takes those scriptures and makes an improper application of them, he involves himself in some ridiculous absurdities. For example, a man may see a new car. Does the expression, “For who hopeth for that which he seeth?” negate the idea that he may yet hope for that car? Surely not!
Let us examine with a little more care whether or not it must be admitted that “faith and hope will terminate at the coming of Christ.” It is true that we walk by faith, not by sight. It is true that by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, and we would not need to have faith in the truthfulness of that statement if we had seen it done with our own eyes. It is true that when the Apostles saw the risen Lord, they did not need to have faith in the testimony of another that He was risen. But does that mean that when they SAW him, they no longer had faith in HIM? The very idea is preposterous! The simple fact is that faith in the truthfulness of a proposition and faith in a person are two different things. If a man should say, “I have a book in my hand,” and you can see it, you do not need to have faith in the statement. You KNOW it. But that does not mean you have therefore lost faith in the man who made the statement. Furthermore, a man may say, “I have a book in my hand” and you may have faith in the truthfulness of his statement for any number of reasons, but you know him to be a liar, and may have no faith in him at all!
Would anyone be so bold or thoughtless as to say that when the Apostles saw the risen Lord they lost faith in HIM? Or would anyone assume that if they had hoped for His resurrection, they lost ALL HOPE when He was resurrected? Or can you not see that they simply no longer had to believe that He would be raised from the dead, or to entertain THAT hope. When Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and see my hands: and reach hither thy hand and put it into my side, and be not faithless but believing” (John 20:7), do you think Thomas should have replied, “No, Lord, faith has been lost in sight”? He said (v.29) “”Because thou has seen me, thou hast believed.” He did NOT say, “Because thou hast seen me, thy faith has disappeared in sight.”
The fact that we walk by faith and not by sight simply means that when God says anything, we trustingly rely on HIM, whether or not the thing appears that way. God calls things that are not as though they were (Romans4:17), so our faith is the basis of our actions, nor what appears to us. But this has nothing whatever to do with the strange and non-scriptural idea that “faith will terminate at the coming of Christ.” Rather, we shall no doubt have even greater faith in him than ever before. We will simply not have faith in the reality of the proposition that He is coming again. That will have become knowledge.
Does the fact that we hope for ENTRANCE into the eternal reward and receive THAT mean that we lose hope for all eternity? Should there be written above the gates of pearl, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?” If a man sees a new car, he may hope for it. When he gets it, he no longer hopes to get it, but does that mean he has lost all hope? Can he hope to drive it, keep it, enjoy it, etc.? 1 Corinthians13:13does not teach, nor does any other passage, that faith and hope will terminate with His coming. Faith in the PROPOSITION that He will come will change, and HOPE FOR HIS COMING will be realized, but faith is not necessarily “lost in sight,” but may be increased by sight (John20:29). The MIRACULOUS GIFTS, whether it is faith or anything else, were to cease when that which is perfect came, but that has nothing to do with our proposition today.
Let us define our terms more accurately and sharpen our exposition a little more definitively in order that we may not pervert the truth in ANY fashion. To summarize: When we have reached heaven we will still be able to have faith in God and Christ, but will not have faith in the statement that there is a heaven. It will be knowledge, not faith. We will still be able to hope that we will enjoy the next experience. We will not be able to hope that we will GO to heaven, for that hope will have been realized. Hope for a particular or specific thing may cease without hope itself ceasing. Faith in a particular proposition may cease without faith itself being destroyed.