• Tony Birkhead

Heaven and Hell Week-5



Heaven is for Real! Are you Preparing or Procrastinating?

INTRODUCTION

What have you been taught about heaven?


What are some caricatures of heaven that are “less than appealing” to most people?


There are many things about heaven that we do not know. But there are sections of the Bible that pull back the curtain and give us a glimpse of heaven. Revelation 5 and 21 are two such passages. We must remember that the genre of literature that is found in most of Revelation is apocalyptic. There are symbols and images used that would be familiar to the original audience, but that are not apparent to us. Keep this in mind as you read these passages.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Revelation 21:1-27

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Revelation 5:1-7.

Chapter 4 sets the scene and establishes that John’s vision was about the throne room of heaven (ch 4:1-3) and that God is seated on His throne. Chapter 5 establishes that there is a scroll in God’s hand, but the scroll is sealed with 7 seals. A mighty angel cries out, “Who is worthy to open the scrolls and break its seals?”


What is the scroll in this passage? Is the scroll literal or metaphorical? What is the significance of God holding the scroll in His right hand?


The right hand of God symbolizes power and authority. The phrase “with writing on the inside and on the back” echoes Ezekiel 2:9-10, where God showed the prophet a scroll with words written “on the front and back...of lamentation, mourning, and woe.” Portions of the scroll contain the judgment of God over man’s sin. Yet the scroll also contains reasons for rejoicing. The scroll foretold woe (8:13; 9:12; 11:14), but it also disclosed God’s perfect plan (symbolized by the seven seals) of judgment and the redemption of His creation, which will culminate in the end times.


Why did John cry when no one could open the scrolls? What was at stake with the scrolls?


What happens in verses 5-6? How do verses 5-6 serve as the linchpin to the entire passage?


Because the outer edge of the scroll was sealed, the contents could only be seen when all seven seals were removed. As the seals are opened in chapter 6, what takes place is not the content of the entire scroll, but only those judgments that precede it being fully opened. In other words, the scroll contains both God’s judgment and His mercy. The scroll is sealed, so the only thing known about it is God’s wrath against the sin of mankind. Therefore, we need Jesus to open the scroll. Jesus reveals God’s mercy to us. We have access to the Father only through Jesus. Through Jesus we receive God’s mercy, not His judgment. The message of the scroll being opened is one of hope!


Take a look at John 14:6 and Ephesians 2:18. How do these two verses relate to the passage in Revelation? Who is at the center of the story?


What are the terms and images used to describe the One who is able to open the scroll?


What does it mean that Jesus is both a Lion and a Lamb? What does this mean for your life?


The elder described Jesus with two metaphors derived from the Old Testament that help us see the fulfillment of the biblical story. First, the elder introduced Jesus as the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah. This reference recalls Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his son, Judah (Gen. 49:9)—he was described as a “lion’s whelp” from whom the scepter would not depart until the Messiah came. Second, the elder described Jesus as the Root of David. He alluded to Isaiah 11:1-9, a prophecy anticipating the Messiah’s coming from the line of David. John described seeing a Lamb standing, as if slain. The use of the lamb imagery recalls the entire Old Testament sacrificial system as it predicted the coming Messianic sacrifice. The paradoxical position of standing after death suggests the lamb’s power to conquer death. Christ was able to open the scroll and its seven seals on the basis of an accomplished fact—His death on the cross like a slaughtered lamb (Isa 53:7; Jn 1:29).


According to these verses, what were the results of Jesus’ death? How have these truths changed your life?


This passage is filled with hope! The elders worshiped with a new song. The Old Testament anticipates a new song of redemption (Ps. 33:3; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1). The redemption of lost sinners was purchased by Christ, and the new song in Revelation exalts Him. He is worthy because He was slain. By His sacrificial death, He purchased for God with His blood people who were condemned because of their rebellion against God. The blood of the Lamb cleansed them from sin. The act of the scroll being opened by Jesus is one of eternal hope.


What is the dual role for those who are redeemed for God (vv. 9-10)?


Read Revelation 5:8-14.

List and describe elements of worship that you see in this passage.


Believers’ prayers are described as filling gold bowls before the throne of God. The “gold” emphasizes their reality and exceeding value to God. The word “saints” means “holy ones.” These are not elite and exceptional Christians. Instead, the NT uses this term for all believers in Christ (Rm. 1:7). The new song sung in heaven about Christ is inspired by His redemptive work, the shedding of His blood on the cross.


What are the attributes of the Lamb that make him worthy to take the scroll and open it?


Read Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27.

What is the significance of the bride imagery in this passage?


Look at verses 3-4. What will be different in the new heaven compared to our current life experience?


Review verses 5-8. What does God declare in this passage?


MOVING FORWARD

  • How have these Scripture passages given you hope?

  • What, if anything, needs to change about your worship in light of this peak inside the throne room of God? What parts of your heart and life are not worshiping Jesus fully?

PRAY TOGETHER

Praise Jesus for being worthy—for the being the only One to allow believers access to God’s saving grace.

COMMENTARY


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

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:8-11

Heaven is a real place—and God’s throne room is, too. Have you ever wondered what’s actually happening there? In today’s devotional verses, the Apostle John shows us some of what’s going on there right now.

God is being worshiped. This means when we sing praises to God on Sundays… or in our homes… or even in the shower… we’re joining in the unbelievable worship happening in heaven every moment. If you want to align your life, your Church, or your family with the heartbeat of heaven, worship Jesus. Worshiping God is what some of the most powerful creatures in the universe were created to do. Let’s join them. Next time you worship, imagine this scene in your mind and remember who you’re partnering with in praise.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

Red Cardinal! I love nature. I feel that through nature God talks to us. We are the fingerprints of God. His creations are astounding. When I see a red cardinal, I’m reminded of how much God loves us. When I see snow, it reminds me of Jesus dying for our sins and covering us as white as snow. When I fix my eyes on flowers springing up, it reminds me of a new day. Feelings of awe come over me as I watch the waves pound against the rocks on a beach.

God speaks to us through his masterpiece. The first time I held my newborn baby that was a masterpiece. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Matthew 13:44

Imagine for a minute that a man in a dark suit steps out of a limousine and tells you that you can have any one thing you want in the world. You want to live somewhere else; it can be done. You want the fastest car on the planet, it can be done. You want to see your favorite sports team win a championship; it can be done. Our minds begin to race as we think of the one thing, we want most. But wait, there is more! Then he says, “But, in order to have this thing, you must sell everything you have and give it to me.”

You might have the fastest car, but you have nowhere to live. You might have the nicest house on the street, but you have no car to drive or money for furniture. This thing we wanted so dearly all of the sudden doesn’t look so good.

Jesus gives us a parable of a man that wanted something so bad, it was worth selling everything for and brought him great joy. He called it the “kingdom of heaven.” Right after this parable he gives another example of a man who did the very same thing. Obviously, the kingdom of heaven is and should be important to us as Christians as it was to these men Jesus told us about.

We read what the kingdom of heaven is in Romans: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17 ESV)

The Apostle Paul tells us that he has counted everything he has gained as loss in order to gain knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-8). This is what the kingdom of heaven is, knowing Christ and his ruling our lives. As you read the parable and the words of Paul, do they resonate in your heart? Can you say I am willing to give up all that I have to know Christ and be a part of His kingdom?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Matthew 25:31-34

This month most Americans are celebrating the founding of our country. Flags are flying, families are gathering, and fireworks fill the night sky. We do this to show appreciation for our American citizenship and to honor those who sacrificed to provide our freedoms. However, there is a citizenship that transcends all national boundaries.

No matter where you live right now, if you believe in Christ, then you and I are fellow citizens of the kingdom of God. The word kingdom denotes royal power or dominion over a specific region or people. Therefore, the kingdom of God refers to the Lord’s complete rule and authority. While He certainly reigns in the hearts of His devoted followers here on earth, we must not forget the term also refers to His sovereignty in heaven.

Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, but today’s passage points to a time when He will return to earth to sit on His glorious throne and reign over the entire world. He will vanquish all His enemies, remove the wicked from the earth, and welcome the righteous into His glorious kingdom. And as kingdom citizens, you and I will rule together with Him (Revelation 3:21).

Certainly, nations and nationalities are important, but they are not eternal. All those who belong to Christ are first and foremost citizens of His kingdom. This means that all the geographical borders and barriers that separate us have been removed in Christ, and we are all one in Him. When we worship, we should see one another as fellow citizens in God’s realm.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world--from east and west--and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 8:11

I have read that we only use five percent of our brains. Presumably, when we get to Heaven we will be able to tap that other ninety-five percent, perhaps even more. It will be glorious beyond our wildest dreams, and I look forward to it.

Another great thing I am looking forward to in Heaven is not only being reunited with my son and with my loved ones, but also to the fact that we are going to eat in Heaven. Isn’t that good to know?

We are told in Revelation 19:9, “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God’” (NLT). Not only will we be eating together, but we also will be in some pretty good company. The Bible tells us that they “will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 8:11 NLT).

Heaven will be amazing. And that is why the Bible tells us that we all should be more heavenly minded: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:1–2 NLT).

We spend the majority of our time thinking about things on Earth, things that we are concerned with and stressed about. The Bible isn’t saying that we shouldn’t think about these things. Rather, it’s saying that we shouldn’t stress about these things. Think more about Heaven. When you do, it will put everything else in the proper perspective.

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…


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Revelation 21:3

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