In a recent blog entitled “Recording Radio Programs Has Been Fun and Challenging” (see here), I included a short discussion of something I had said on one of the shows about the difference between trusting and believing. That led to many comments.
Two of the comments to that blog mentioned verses in which the word trust is used in a context that might be referring to what one does to gain everlasting life. Those verses are Matt 12:21 and Eph 1:12. I will briefly explain those texts in this follow-up blog.
In several translations Matt 12:21 says, “And in His name Gentiles will trust” (KJV, NKJV, MEV).
However, many more translations read, “And in His name Gentiles will hope” (NASB, NIV, NET, LEB, HCSB, RSV, NRSV, NLT).
The Greek word used here is elpizein. It is not pisteuein, which means to believe. Elpizein means to hope or sometimes to trust. More on that in a moment.
In several translations Eph 1:12 reads, “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (KJV, NKJV, NLT).
However, many more translations read, “that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (NASB, NIV, NET, LEB, HCSB, RSV, NRSV, MEV).
The Greek word used here is again elpizein, not pisteuein.
Regular readers of the NT know that hope (noun elpis, verb elpizein) often refers to something which is certain, yet future. For example, we know for certain that Jesus is coming again. But we don’t know when. So we hope for His return, not in the sense that we wonder if it will happen at all, but we wonder if it will happen today or in the next few years. Hope in this sense is a confident expectation that a promise will be fulfilled very soon. See, for example, Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” See also Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…” Titus 1:2 looks to the culmination of everlasting life in the coming kingdom after Christ returns. Then we will have glorified bodies, no pain or suffering, and no sin either. That is the “hope of eternal life which God…promised.”
However, elpizein often refers to a desire, to something which is not certain, but which is a desirable outcome. In those cases trust is a fine translation. For example, “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly…” (Phil 2:19). Or consider Philemon 22, one of the prison epistles, “But meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.”
Luke 24:21, in which the two disciples unknowingly speak with the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, uses elpizein to refer to their previous hope that the Christ would set up the kingdom in their lifetime: “We were hoping (NASB, NKJV, NIV, LEB, RSV, NRSV, NET, MEV, HCSB, ESV) that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” They were convinced that He was going to redeem Israel from Gentile domination, that is, set up His kingdom, in their lifetimes, but they did not know exactly when. But when He died on the cross, they stopped believing that He was going to set up the kingdom. The death of Messiah King was not possible in their way of thinking at the time.
Matthew 12:18-21 concerns the Messiah. It is a reference to Isa 42:1-4. The last line, “And in His name Gentiles will trust [better, hope],” refers to the worldwide scope of the Messiah’s kingdom. There is coming a day when all the nations will hope in this name. Hope for what? Probably this refers to the Millennium when nations will look to Messiah for prosperity. That is, they will expect His blessings. This is not a reference to Gentiles or the nations believing in Jesus, though for the most part they will. Instead it refers to their hope in His name (i.e, in Him).
Leon Morris points out that this is the only use of elpizein in Matthew. In addition, the noun elpis does not occur at all in Matthew. So this idea of Gentiles hoping in the name of Messiah is not a prevalent one in Matthew. Nor is it found at all in Mark or Luke or John. Elpis is not found at all in the Gospels, and elpizein is only found five times. But none of the other four uses refer to the Gentiles hoping in the Messiah (cf. Luke 6:34; 23:8; 24:21; John 5:45).
Ephesians 1:12, which uses the verb elpizein with a prepositional prefix (hence proelpizein), is referring to those “who first hoped [or first trusted] in Christ.” Likely Paul is thinking of Jews who like himself, even before they came to faith in Christ, were hoping the Christ would come. While this might refer to Jewish believers who hoped in Messiah’s soon second coming before Gentile believers began to do so, more likely Paul is speaking of Jews who for millennia had hoped for the coming of Christ. Charles Hodge says, “It designates not the first converts to Christianity, but the Jews who, before the Gentiles, had the Messiah as the object of their hopes” (Ephesians, p. 59).
Here is my suggestion. If you want to find verses on what you must do to have everlasting life, check out the uses of the Greek words pisteuein, to believe, and pistis, faith. Looking for uses of elpis, hope, and elpizein, to have hope in, is not wise since the Lord never said that the one who hopes in Him has everlasting life. But He repeatedly said that the one who believes Him has everlasting life.