A great scientist died last week. Of course, I’m talking about Steven Hawking. When I saw this quote going around the Internet, I was thinking about all the things this remarkable man had to overcome with MND, and all the brilliant scientific discoveries he made, yet I just wanted to ask…so, where’s your hope?
According to Hawking, there’s no heaven or afterlife…we just shut down like a worn-out computer. And then we have his darker perspective on the future of mankind, like his warning about the implications of AI just last November during the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal:
“Unless we learn how to prepare for — and avoid — the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization,” he said. “It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.”(From, “Stephen Hawking Delivered One Final Warning to Humanity Months Before He Died“)
That’s a cheerful thought. And considering our track record with these kinds of exponential advancements in technology, he’s probably right….we should be very afraid.
And this gets to my point. If I were a thinking atheist I would have no hope either. What compelling reason would warrant it? I get to do a few things while briefly walking on this side of the dirt and then I’m gone. There’s nothing else…zippo…zilch…the end. I’m just dead and that’s it. Even if I made an impact on humanity while here, so what? What was it for? Someone else to applaud my accomplishments? Why should I care when I’m dead? There is nothing to enjoy. And if I had to struggle through life with an affliction like Hawking, or worse, then life really sucked for me. There’s no justice, no fairness, no compensation, no reward….just a cold grave waiting in the end.
Here’s what Solomon said about this kind of hope:
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Eccl.1:12-14 NIV)
That’s why I laughed when I read that believing in the afterlife is just a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark. Really? Because I’m not afraid of the dark. I just find a life that ends in death a bit…disappointing. Or to quote, Solomon, “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” What was the point of it all…scurry around like ants and then you’re “dust in the wind?”
Hope isn’t wishful thinking; it’s believing in a brighter future. For the Christian, it means believing in the promises of God. We see Jesus as the forerunner of something too wonderful to even fully comprehend. He has gone before us to assure us that God keeps His promises.
17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. (Heb.6:17-19 NIV)
This hope is at the very core of the Christian faith. We believe that as good as this life can get (or not), it’s only a brief prelude to something much more glorious. And this transformation ultimately includes all of God’s creation. It will not end with a whimper, or be lost in destruction, but in redemption through Christ Jesus our Lord!
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Rom.8:20-25 NIV)
No, we’re not afraid of the dark. We’re not afraid of death at all because that’s not the end of the story. We will not cease to exist, we will just change forms. For death has been defeated, once and for all, forever! That’s what hope is.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor.15:54 NIV)