• Tony Birkhead

Heaven and Hell Week-1



What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die!

INTRODUCTION

Would you say that you think about death more or less often than the average person? Why?

What do you think is the right way to think about death from a Christian perspective?

What value in the present life is there when you think about death from a Christian perspective?

Death is a certainty for all of us; the only question is when it will happen. For the Christian, we can meet this certainty with confidence. We know when this life is over a better life is waiting for us. We are guaranteed what is to come by the deposit of the Holy Spirit living in us, and we are confident that when we die we will go immediately into the presence of God.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 9:27

…it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgement.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

In what ways do you think God is preparing you for the life to come?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

Why do you think Paul compared our bodies to tents? How do you see that comparison to be true in your day to day life?


In what ways are you comforted by the knowledge that something better is waiting for you after death?


Paul compared life in our mortal bodies to living in a tent—knowing that living in a palace lies ahead. Our earthly house (body) is just a tent. One day—at death—it will be destroyed, like a torn or worn-out tent. But that isn’t the end of the story.


What are the differences between our earthly bodies and our everlasting bodies?


What are the positive aspects of having a temporary body? How does this knowledge make us groan?

How can the pain you feel in your physical body actually point you to have an eternal perspective?


In contrast to the we know of verse 1 is the we groan of verse 2. While we are still living in the physical body subject to decay, there is a kind of moaning or sighing. Paul thought of death as being like stripping off rotten, worn-out rags and putting on the most amazing attire imaginable.


Do you groan more because of the temporary nature of your body or because you wish for Christ’s return?


Which kind of groaning is more common? Why?


We groan for the ultimate glory of being clothed with the resurrection. Now, believers are burdened. In the resurrection, the burden will be lifted. In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul wrote that when believers receive their resurrection bodies, the saying “Death has been swallowed up in victory” will become a reality. The victory of the resurrection will so completely swallow up death that it will no longer be regarded. Which human beings have confidence that this will surely happen? Only those who have been prepared for it by God Himself.


Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-10.

What do you anticipate about being at home with the Lord? How will your heavenly home be a better place?


What are the limitations of being “at home in the body”?


Why is “walking by faith” such an important dimension of our experience as believers?


The life of faith in the present will give way to walking by sight after the death of those who have prepared by trusting Christ. As much as believers feel that we are at home in our bodies (after all, what other experience have we had?), there will be an even greater experience of “at homeness” when we are with the Lord Jesus. That truly will be a time to be satisfied beyond all comparison.


Who are the two kinds of people prepared for Christ’s return? Who will face God’s judgment?


In 2 Corinthians 6:9 Paul apparently thought ahead through time. There will be two kinds of people prepared for Christ’s return (and for the judgment spoken of in verse 10). First are those who are at home in their bodies when Christ returns. Second are those who have already died and are away from physical life when He returns.


On what will believers be judged? What can believers look forward to at judgment?


Do you think as Christians we think too much or too little about judgment? Why do we need a balance in that perspective?


Judgment is a reality, both for believers and non-believers. But for the Christian, we can confidently move through life even into death knowing that we have had God’s seal of approval on us. This seal isn’t based on our good, but on the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us.


MOVING FORWARD

  • Why might we be tempted to give up when things are hard? What truth can we hang onto during times when we are being called to persevere through the afflictions?

  • In what life circumstances can you be most comforted by the knowledge that believers can look forward to eternal life in an everlasting body?

PRAY TOGETHER

Close in prayer, thanking God that the sting of death has been swallowed up by victory. Pray that you would live your life with a view of eternity, confident in the saving work of Jesus on your behalf.

COMMENTARY

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Paul compared life in our mortal bodies to living in a tent—knowing that living in a palace lies ahead. Our earthly house (body) is just a tent. One day—at death—it will be destroyed, like a torn or worn-out tent. But that isn’t the end of the story.

Note the absolute confidence of Paul’s conviction, stated by the bold we know. His assurance that some day he will live in a resurrection body—a building from God—was based on the resurrection of Jesus Himself. In describing the eternal, resurrection body of believers, Paul used language similar to the language Jesus Himself used of His own coming resurrection body. His enemies at His trial quoted Him as saying: “I will build another not made by hands” (Mark 14:58; compare John 2:19-22). Followers of Christ may be confident that an everlasting body, fit for heaven itself, is waiting for them.

In contrast to the we know of verse 1 is the we groan of verse 2. While we are still living in the physical body subject to decay, there is a kind of moaning or sighing. It is not that the material world is inherently evil, but that the physical body is inherently temporary. Who cannot but groan as we wait for Christ’s return? When we have grasped the reality that there is a house from heaven waiting for us in the resurrection, who cannot but sigh until Christ’s promise is fulfilled? (Some Bible students suggest that Paul was talking here about an interim body during the intermediate period between bodily death and the resurrection.)

Many Greek philosophies of Paul’s day, following the famous Plato, supposed that the preferred state for eternity is to continue as a kind of naked (disembodied) soul or spiritual entity. Today, some of the world’s major religions adopt a similar belief. Even popular music celebrates the notion of nirvana—a dreamy spirit-paradise. Paul found such belief horrifying. He desired to be clothed with his resurrection body. In verse 3 the image of what believers long for shifts from that of an eternal building to that of wonderful garments. Paul thought of death as being like stripping off rotten, worn-out rags and putting on the most amazing attire imaginable.

For a second time, the apostle referred to the groaning of believers who are in this tent. We groan for the ultimate glory of being clothed with the resurrection. Now, believers are burdened. In the resurrection, the burden will be lifted. Paul was projecting one chief truth for believers: mortality will be swallowed up by life. The New Testament uses the Greek verb translated swallowed in other places in a figurative sense. In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul wrote that when believers receive their resurrection bodies, the saying “Death has been swallowed up in victory” will become a reality. The victory of the resurrection will so completely swallow up death that it will no longer be regarded. In a parallel manner, Paul now said that the life of the resurrection body will totally envelop everything that belonged to the mortal, temporary state of earthly existence. It will no longer be remembered.

Which human beings have confidence that this will surely happen? Only those who have been prepared for it by God Himself. This hope does not belong to the natural order but to the supernatural. When we were born again, God gave us the Spirit (see John 3:5-8). Those who have repented and believed the gospel have received the Spirit, for “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). The indwelling Spirit of God is the down payment guaranteeing believers the resurrection. Only three times in the New Testament is the Greek word translated down payment used: here, 2 Corinthians 1:22, and Ephesians 1:14. All three times Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers as the guarantee of future blessings. And if the Holy Spirit of God Himself is “merely” the down payment, how glorious must the full reality be!

Although temporary, this life has great value. This life is not to be despised but rather is to be enjoyed as a time of preparation for eternity. This means that every day we can be confident, just as Paul was. Here, the present experience of believers is described as being at home in the body. During this time, we are away from the Lord in the sense that we do not perceive Him with our physical senses. On the other hand, we do enjoy the spiritual presence of the Lord now. Another way of describing the present experience of Jesus’ followers is that we walk by faith. We trust in the greatness and goodness of God on our behalf. The Christian life throughout Scripture is characterized as a life of faith, “just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17, quoting Hab. 2:4). Paul surely wanted the Corinthians to understand that the only way to prepare adequately for death is by faith in Christ.

The life of faith in the present will give way to walking by sight after the death of those who have prepared by trusting Christ. For a time, this will be characterized as being out of the body, that is, during the interim time after death and before the resurrection. Yet this will be a wonderful experience, for it will mean being at home with the Lord. As much as believers feel that we are at home in our bodies (after all, what other experience have we had?), there will be an even greater experience of “at homeness” when we are with the Lord Jesus. That truly will be a time to be satisfied beyond all comparison. Paul did not picture the period between death of the body and the resurrection as a kind of unconscious limbo or state of soul sleep. In another letter, Paul’s teaching was that departing from bodily life to be with Christ was better by far (see Phil. 1:23).

In 2 Corinthians 6:9 Paul apparently thought ahead through time. There will be two kinds of people prepared for Christ’s return (and for the judgment spoken of in verse 10). First are those who are at home in their bodies when Christ returns. Second are those who have already died and are away from physical life when He returns.

Both groups, however, recognize one central purpose for their existence: to be pleasing to Him. This means that God created us and redeemed us not mainly for our own sakes, but for His sake. God has “wired” us as humans in such a way that the most satisfying, enjoyable life possible is not one of self-centeredness, in which we focus on pleasing ourselves. Rather, the greatest life possible is the one centered on the Lord Jesus, reflecting back to Him the glory He has shown to us. Both in this life and throughout eternity, all who have entered into a relationship with Christ seek to love Him, to please Him, to honor Him above all (see Matt. 22:37-38). A life pleasing the Lord is possible in this life as we walk by faith; it will be fully realized in eternity as we walk by sight.

Believers are saved by faith, but our works will be judged. This truth is taught not only here, but also in such passages as 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Believers must all appear so their works may be evaluated. Paul did not state whether this judgment occurs immediately after a believer’s body dies (as the context suggests) or whether this will be a general judgment involving many persons at once. It makes no difference as long as we are prepared.

The phrase judgment seat translates a single Greek word (bema) that was used originally of the place from which an earthly ruler gave legal decisions. In two New Testament passages, the phrase refers to the place from which God or Christ will give judgment about humanity. Earthly behavior obviously has an eternal perspective. Those who have been saved by faith will be repaid for the deeds they have done while in the body.


DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Isaiah 6:1

This was a big day for Judah, and the southern kingdom. King Uzziah had prospered them greatly during his fifty-two year reign. He had assumed leadership at the young age of sixteen after his father, Amaziah, was killed.

Uzziah successfully led military campaigns, fortified Jerusalem, built cities, brilliantly equipped an army of over 300,000 men, and even employed skillful inventors who crafted defense machines (2 Chr 26:5-15). In short, he oversaw wonderful years in Judah. But, unfortunately for both King Uzziah and his people, he did not heed the “fear of God” in which he had been instructed (2 Chr 26:5; 2 Chr 26:16).

Uzziah seemed able to accomplish anything he set his hand to, but “when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chr 26:16).

While this may not seem a crime, it was exactly contrary to God’s command that Aaron and the priests after him would be set aside to worship God in that way (Ex 30:7,8). But, Uzziah was a builder of cities and the master of a great army, and he believed himself to be above God’s Word. Uzziah entered arrogantly into the Temple and was struck with leprosy until the day he died. Though he ruled an entire nation for half a century, his throne was much smaller than God’s, and he forgot that. This day, in the “year that King Uzziah died,” Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.”

Even though the people of Judah would mourn the loss of their renowned king, and leadership passed to his son Jotham, there was One who remained on an everlasting throne. And ultimately, King Jesus’ reign is the only one in which we can find our security & direction. Remember, even kings die; don’t put your stock entirely in men.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25

These verses are not laws or commands. They are an explanation of how to enter life. See, Christianity is about living. And we live by dying. Not by following a code of conduct.

WHAT DEATH IS NOT

If we don’t live by law, then we don’t die by law either. This means these following rules—these codes of conduct—are not what it means to die: putting ourself last, setting aside our desires for another’s, setting aside our needs for another’s, quenching our will for God’s, resisting our own selfish urges, surrendering our lives to Christ, being a martyr to our desires, resisting sin. All of these, though they seem noble, are meant to result from life, not be a means to life.

WHAT DEATH IS

You and I live when we die. But, biblically speaking, what is life? And what is death? Simply, life is union with God. Death is not being in union with God. Union with God means entering his love and living in it. The alternative is living outside of his love. This does not refer to his earned love. This refers to the love he already has for us. The love we didn’t earn. Couldn’t earn. The love that just is. Because he just is. Our own flesh is void of the knowledge of this love though. That’s what darkness is. That’s what death is. But Christ’s resurrected body is full of the knowledge of God’s love. That’s what light is. That’s what life is. You and I are in flesh of darkness. To die to ourself or our flesh, then, is to stop living unloved. It is to live believing we’re perfectly, unendingly, passionately loved by God. When we are in tune to how the doubt of God’s love is behind everything we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, think or don’t think, we finally are on the cusp of life.

WHAT LIFE IS

Life is living together with God. We live in union with him when we live in his love… when we abide in Jesus. Jesus is in a glorified body. He’s in a body filled full with the knowledge of God’s perfect love for him. He comes into us, when we believe in him, to lead us out of life-in-the-flesh and up and into his life-in-glory (God’s perfect love). (Jn 10:2-3, 9; Jn 15:1-11; Rom. 6:4; Eph 1:3-4; 2 Cor. 4:6)

In this place we’re safe from sin, destruction, and death (as we’ve learned it to mean today; 1 Jn 3:6, 1 Cor. 15:56-57). In this place, we are free. In this place we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-25) Life lived from this place… this Person… this love… is Christianity.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

There is a lot of good in this world and it’s important to never lose sight of that fact. However, there is also a lot of hurt and pain out there. We see it the headlines, on our city streets, and sometimes even in our own lives.

When we live in such a broken world and are prone to feeling broken ourselves, it’s hard to imagine a life without suffering. Of course, we know God never promised that life would be easy, but he did promise his strength to help us through our darkest days (2 Cor 1:3-4).

The truth is, if we’re hurting and we let God engage with our pain, he can use our struggles for good. Through Him, we endure. And this endurance strengthens our hope of salvation (Rom 5:3-5); a free gift from God when he gave his only Son to die for our sins. That’s a level of love that we can barely comprehend.

Unconditional. Think about that word for a moment. It means that no matter who we are, what our sin was (or is), or how long it has consumed our lives, God forgives us. Why? Because he loves us so very much.

This forgiveness should be a weight off our shoulders. No amount of money can buy it, no amount of good deeds can earn it, and no amount of pain and suffering can steal it. We have been forgiven and blessed with a new hope and future in Christ.

So today, if you’re hurting for any reason, run to Him. Rest in His unconditional love for you. When we surrender our hearts to Christ, we are righteous, healed, and restored.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Discovering that a thief has broken into your home and stolen your valuables is a traumatic experience. It leaves you feeling shaken and vulnerable. Not only have you lost precious heirlooms and the possessions that required hard work and savings, but your sense of safety and security is also shattered.

Situations like burglary remind us that this world is not our home and one day we will leave everything behind. No one takes a moving van along after death. Therefore, we must make sure that what we view as treasure is not the things of this world (which will always lead to disappointment) but Christ, who gives us a living hope.

Look at all God has done to assure you of this hope:

• According to His great mercy, He caused you to be born again.

• Since Jesus was raised to life, you too will be resurrected.

• Everything on this earth is destined to perish (2 Peter 3:10-11), but God has reserved an inheritance for you in heaven—one that is imperishable, undefiled, and will never fade away.

• By God’s power through faith, you are being protected for the culmination of your salvation, which will be revealed in the last day.

Nothing can separate us from Christ, since God is the one who holds us. And He fulfills all His promises, so we can rejoice in this hope even while facing the trials of earth. So set your heart on heaven, where Christ is—and store your treasures there. Then your love for Him will grow because of His goodness toward you. And knowing what awaits you in heaven will increase your joy.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

John 11:25-26

Jesus was saying to His grieving friend, "Martha, listen to Me. Death is not the end! You’re acting as though it is over with. It is not over with." And at this point, I think He was speaking of something greater and more profound than the resurrection of Lazarus, which He would accomplish within that very hour. After all, raising Lazarus from the dead — exciting and joyful as that may have been—was only a temporary proposition. Lazarus would just have to die again in a few years. I think the bigger message was this: "Death is not the end. This is temporary. One day I will get rid of death altogether, and whoever believes in Me will live forever."

Jesus wept at the death of His friend and at the sorrow of Lazarus’s two grieving sisters. But the death of His friend also brought Him anger. John 11:33 tells us, "Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled."

The Greek word used for troubled here could be translated "angry." Why was Jesus angry? Was He angry with Mary and Martha for not believing? I don’t think so. I think Jesus was angry at death itself because this was never God’s plan. God’s plan was to have us live forever. God’s plan was that these bodies would never age or wear out or experience sickness or limitations.

So, He was angry over that, and He wept. But these weren’t tears of frustration. God is never frustrated. Jesus was angry and then did something about it that had been planned from eternity past. He gave up His life on a Roman cross, dying for the sins of the world, and then He rose again from the dead. The Bible says He has become the "firstfruits" of those who sleep, which means that He went before us. And because He went before us into death and came out victorious on the other side, those of us who now live and will face death someday can be confident and unafraid.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6-7

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