The Anchor of the Soul
Hebrews 6:19 says, “ Which we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; ”
God’s use of the anchor to represent the believer’s Hope is appropriate and poignant. An anchor keeps a boat from drifting away with the currents or being blown away in a storm. Thus, using an anchor to describe the purpose of the Christian hope makes perfect sense. When a Christian has a clear picture of what he is hoping for in the future, especially the rewards that the Lord will give to those who have earned them, it helps to keep him from “drifting away” from his commitment and becoming involved with the sinful pleasures and abundant temptations offered by the world. It also helps to prevent him from being “blown away” from God during the storms of life.
Because the Hope was referred to as an “anchor,” the anchor was the earliest known Christian symbol. It was used to represent the Hope of resurrection unto everlasting life. At Pompeii, the Roman city buried by lava in 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, a ring was discovered with a beautiful image of an anchor and the Greek word elpis, “hope,” inscribed on it. Some of the earliest Christian graves have an anchor carved into the rock next to them. Christians today use a cross as their common symbol, but there is no reference to the cross being a revered Christian image until after the Roman Empire became Christian. The cross was so abhorred as an instrument of torture that no early Christians venerated it. Historically, the first interest in the image of the cross came after Queen Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, reportedly found the “true cross” on her trip to Israel in 326 AD. Before that time, the anchor was the symbol that the early Christians used to show their hope of resurrection and a wonderful, everlasting future.
The Psychological Value of Hope
The Adversary has made a concerted attack on the subject of the Hope because of the value that it has to anchor people to godliness and truth. One of the reasons the Hope is an anchor for the Christian life is that hope energizes people and gives them strength to endure in a way that nothing else does. People without hope become defeated, broken, and unable to cope with adversity. Hopeless people give up. If Christians are going to stay energized and motivated to do the work of the Lord day in and day out, putting up with all the trouble that the Devil and people put them through, it is vital to have a hope that is real, alive, and vivid.
The strengthening and energizing value of hope shows up in many ways in everyday life. When a mother tells her hungry family that dinner will be ready in ten minutes, she gets a totally different response than if she says she does not know when it will be ready. The hope of eating soon gives the family the energy to hold on a little longer. Having hope is vital in the medical field. Modern medicine acknowledges the healing value of hope because hopeful people have more strength and endurance. A mother will tell a sick child that the medicine will make him feel better “soon” because that helps the child stay positive and endure the pain.
Having a hope in the form of a visible goal is also important in athletic performance. Every coach knows the value of yelling “Last lap!” to the runner or swimmer whose muscles are already screaming from fatigue. Hearing “One more lap!” causes the athlete to reach deep and find the energy to push through to the end. Runners, skiers, skaters, rowers, and other athletes know that muscles that seem to be just holding on somehow come to life and have extra strength when the finish line comes into sight. The Hope that the race will soon be over infuses the body with energy that seems to come from nowhere. There is no question that having hope anchors a person to his goal and gives him energy and strength to go on.
Just as hope energizes and strengthens, it is also true that being without hope drains one’s strength. The feeling of being “hopeless” is devastating. A person with no hope, with no expectation of good, often sinks into depression and despair and may even commit suicide. The effects of being hopeless are well documented. People who have no hope of everlasting life grieve over death in ways that Christians who are confident of everlasting life do not. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them that the dead Christians would be raised to life when Christ comes “down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). Paul knew that when they really had hope in the raising of the dead, they would not "grieve" like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
1. E. M. Blaiklock and R. K. Harrison, eds., The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Regency Reference Library, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983), p. 28.
2. The earliest Christian graves are not in graveyards with a tombstone but are either in caves or catacombs with the actual grave being dug into the rock. Often an anchor would be carved into the rock next to the grave.
3. Blaiklock and Harrison, op. cit., Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, p. 141.