While hope is rooted in our expectation of the future there is also an everyday reality that impacts upon us in the here and now. Otherwise whilst we might cling with everything we have to our hope for eternity, we might at the same time feel somewhat hopeless here in the present. If Hope is primarily based upon the promises of God we must recognise that God’s promises are grounded both in the present and the future. God wants us to hope in Him right here and right now. We might think of this in terms of an eternal hope (based on God’s promises to us for the future) and a temporal hope, here and now (based on God’s promises to us for the here and now). The author of Hebrews illustrates this well through the metaphor that Hope is an anchor for the soul.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
Putting these verses into context (Heb 5:13 – 6:18)
In Hebrews 5:11-6:20 (entitled ‘Warning against falling away’ in the NIV) the author is digressing somewhat from the main theme in the surrounding chapters, namely that Christ is our Great High Priest. In 5:13-14 we see that this digression arises because they were used to milk (suitable for infants of the faith) rather than solid food (for the mature). The author wants them to move on from such elementary teachings and press on towards maturity (6:1-3). What follows in 6:4-8 are some particularly difficult verses (with a number of possible meanings) in which the consequences of falling away are discussed. The author is however much more confident in their case (6:9-12) but still urges to show diligence and perseverance (6:11-12);
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Hebrews 6:11-12
Our section in 6:13-20 brings a conclusion to this digression before returning to the theme of Christ as our great High Priest. The author demonstrates how God’s promises form the basis of our hope and enables us to persevere even when we are facing hard times. The example given is that of God’s promises to Abraham (6:13-18). These verses focus on the certainty of God’s promises and the unchanging nature of His purposes and encourage us to “take hold of the hope set before us”.
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. 16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 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. Hebrews 6:13-18
A firm and secure mooring (Heb 6:19a)
The author now describes Hope as an anchor for the soul, that holds us firm and secure. An anchor (Strongs #45 Annkura) is a mooring, a fixed point of reference that prevents us from drifting. Hope is also like an anchor because it holds us in place, immovable, firm, stable, unyielding, steady, strong, secure, persistent, rigid, steadfast, unshakeable, unswerving, fixed, constant, faithful and reliable. Perhaps we are sailing in choppy waters or even in a storm but the anchor holds us firm.
During the past few years it feels it would have been all too easy to drift away amidst the challenges of life. To some extent, some degree of drifting is always inevitable particularly at times when we lost sight of hope. For the most part however it was been clear that we have had this anchor for the soul which has kept us from getting wildly off track. It was an anchor that we held onto even in the darkest times and as we did this same anchor held us firmly and securely. When we lose that anchor, when we lose hope, we also lose our our way. The encouragement I take from this is that we need to keep on holding fast to our anchor, to keep on taking hold of the hope set before us.
Anchored in Heaven (Heb 6:19b-20)
We are also told that this anchor “enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain” (v19b). Hope connects us with the presence of God and allows us also to enter ‘behind the curtain’ into the presence of God. The Inner Sanctuary (or Most Holy Place) was the part of the temple where God dwelt and it was separated by a thick curtain (or veil). It was not a place that any ordinary person could enter, indeed only the High Priest was allowed to enter and even then he could only do so once a year on the day of atonement (Hebrews 9:7). When Jesus died on the cross this huge (and very heavy) curtain was torn from top to bottom symbolising the fact that God’s presence was now accessible by all. We can now enter into the Inner Sanctuary (which symbolises God’s presence) with confidence;
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:19-22
In the Mediterranean the harbours were known to be quite shallow and so ships couldn’t enter when a storm threatened. A ships hull would be ripped apart when thrown about in shallow water. The sea floor was sandy (not rocky) and so it would not have been good for secure anchorage either. Instead the anchor was put into a small boat, rowed into the harbour, and secured to the shore. It may well be that the author has this in mind when portraying Christ as our forerunner, “rowing” into the inner sanctuary and securing our anchor there. What an encouragement to think that Jesus has entered the inner sanctuary on our behalf. Through what Jesus accomplished for us at the cross we are connected to the presence of God. This metaphor then is of a firm and secure’anchor for the soul’ which is connected to the unseen and invisible reality in the heavenly realms. It is the picture of an anchor connected to all that is to come – to our glorious eternal future.
One day Jesus is going to return to make all things new; renewing all of His glorious creation in the New Heavens and the New Earth. The dimensions of the inner sanctuary, the most holy place point us to those of the Holy City in the New Jerusalem. Both are perfect cubes; the inner sanctuary was 20 cubits in length, width,and height (1 King 6:20) and the Holy City will be 12,o00 stadia in length, width,and height (Revelation 21:16). The Inner Sanctuary is therefore a representation of heaven itself, God’s dwelling place, to which we have access because of what Jesus accomplished for us at the cross.
“For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:24-26
I don’t know about you but this idea of hope as an “anchor for the soul” is a huge encouragement to me both for the present and for the future. I am excited about all that lies ahead of me in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I am also however excited about all that God has for me here as I live in relationship to Jesus. What a blessing to be able to enter into the presence of Almighty God without the need for an invitation or appointment. Moreover God through His Spirit has actually made His home in me (1 Cor 3:16). The Hope we have in Jesus is sure and certain, it is nothing at all like wishful thinking. Such hope we are told is an anchor for our souls; a firm and secure mooring and an anchorage that reaches into Heaven. Oh how I need to continue to “take hold of the hope” set before me day by day and for eternity. Where is your anchor?