• Tony Birkhead

Heaven and Hell Week-6



Heaven is an upgrade to anything here!

INTRODUCTION

Invite your group members to name books and movies that depict heaven. Why do you think people are so interested in these kinds of books and movies?


Why do you think the Bible doesn’t include more about what heaven is like?


The details we are given in the Bible about heaven let us know that it is perfectly planned and completely new. It is a place Jesus prepares for those who follow Him. People are naturally curious about what we will do in heaven, who we will see and know, what we will look like, and other things, but today’s Scripture passages let us know all of that is secondary. Primarily, heaven is the place where God will finally and forever dwell among us and we will worship Him for eternity.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 14:1-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Revelation 4:1-11

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ JOHN 14:1-6.

Why were the disciples’ hearts troubled? Direct the group to look back at the end of chapter 13 to find out.


What did Jesus say to comfort the disciples? Are those truths comforting to you when you are uncertain about your future? Why or why not?


By His words in verses 1-4 and His reply to Thomas in verse 6, what does Jesus teach us about heaven?


Jesus wanted His disciples to know He wasn’t going abandoning them forever. He also wanted them to know they didn’t need to worry about the specifics of their future with Him. Rather, they could trust Him because He alone grants entry to heaven, the place where God dwells. If we want to know what heaven is like, the first thing we can know is that Jesus is preparing a place there for all who follow Him. Knowing Jesus is synonymous with knowing the way to heaven and the very presence of God.


Read Revelation 4:1-11.

John’s words, “After this,” refer to the letters to the churches God instructed him to write. At the start of chapter 4, John’s vision turned from the 7 churches to a glimpse of heaven.


Who, or what, was the predominant subject of John’s vision of heaven? What does this tell you God wants us to know about heaven?


John struggled to describe what he saw. Can you relate? What aspect of God or your relationship with Him do you have the hardest time putting into words?


As John entered, he saw a heavenly throne. The concept of a throne room conveys the idea of God’s kingship, majesty, and holiness. Like Isaiah, John saw “the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne” (Isa. 6:1). John did not describe God; rather, he described the majesty surrounding Him. God’s majesty surpasses the ability to describe it. Other images in John’s vision, such as the stones of jasper and carnelian, lightning and thunder, point to the power and holiness of God. God must be worshiped for who He is.


Look at the heavenly creatures’ song in verse 8. What specific aspects of God’s nature did they praise? What specific attribute of God do the elders praise in verse 11?


How might our questions and ideas about heaven be impacted if we constantly reminded ourselves of God’s holiness?


The heavenly creatures (angels in the forms of a lion, ox, man, and eagle) sing God’s holiness in His presence throughout all time. Holy refers to something that is set apart, in this case, referring to God’s nature, which is uniquely set apart from everything else. The repetition communicates that God is utterly other than anything or anyone. Additionally, these angels drew attention to God’s power (“Almighty”) and His eternal quality (“who was, and is, and is to come”). John’s perspective pulled back to the twenty-four elders. In their unceasing worship the elders present their crowns before the throne—an obvious reference that God’s power and majesty are greater than theirs.


In the new order, God’s final justice will be executed. That means eternal reward for those who have trusted in Jesus, but it also means that those who have not will receive the justice that is due. This, too, is part of God setting all things right in the new order. For the children of God, the promise of God’s justice and restoration is a great source of hope and confidence, because these things are faithful and true.


MOVING FORWARD

  • How does knowing this day is coming increase our urgency to bring hope to the world?

  • From today’s passages, what aspect of eternity should receive the majority of your focus? Why?

  • What situation in your life needs to be informed by God’s promise of the future? How are you going to do that?

PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God that He is preparing the place where you will dwell in His perfect presence forever. Ask Him to help you live with a sense of expectation, urgency, and hope in light of that coming day.

COMMENTARY

John 14:1-6

1:1-2. The central focus of this verse is eternality. Like His Heavenly Father, Jesus always was and therefore existed at the beginning of time. It is interesting that John should call Jesus the Word rather than some other name to introduce his book—interesting, but not surprising since the Jews often referred to God in such terminology. The doctrine at stake here is the deity of Christ. Jesus is God, and John wanted to make that point immediately. In fact, this prologue (vv. 1-18) begins and ends with a strong statement of this doctrine. The term Word (logos) would have been familiar to the Greeks as well. Their understanding centered on ultimate reason or the rationale of the universe rather than the personal God revealed to Abraham and his descendents. John claimed that the God of creation, the ultimate mind of the universe, had taken on human form; He had become incarnate.

14:3-4. Forget the mansions; what this passage talks about is the personal touch of the Savior. Count the times he says I or me in these two short verses, and you will come up with five. He wanted the disciples to trust him personally. It was not just preparation of a place in focus here, but the personal return of Jesus to take his own to heaven. This passage does not speak about levels of reward or big buildings in heaven. It promises the second coming of Jesus Christ. The setting of these verses centers on promise and peace. Jesus would take care of his disciples by making sure they could be with him in the Father’s presence.

14:5-6. Thomas was an honest follower though always the skeptic, so he was the first to ask, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus’ response is the key verse of the passage, memorized by Christians all around the globe. Jesus is the way—reconciliation; Jesus is the truth—illumination; Jesus is the life—regeneration. This is the exclusive gospel. The New Testament knows nothing of universalism—the idea that God will find some way to save everybody. What could be clearer than Jesus’ words in verse 6, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Revelation 4:1-11

4:1-2. The phrases after this and what must take place after this signal the beginning of the body of the book (4:1-22:5) spoken of in 1:19, in the wording, “what will take place after this.” Even though John was told to come up here, it is not clear whether: (1) he was actually taken up into heaven (with the same command in 11:12 the two witnesses were taken to heaven), or (2) he was still “in the Spirit” on the isle of Patmos (1:9-10). What he saw of the heavenly throne room in chapters 4-5 is trustworthy either way, since the vision came from the Lord.

4:3-4. Jasper is an opaque jewel also mentioned in the description of the new Jerusalem (21:11,19). Carnelian stone is a vivid red color. A rainbow is God’s covenant sign that He will never again judge the earth by a flood destroying all humanity (Gen 9:8-17). The Apocalypse tells of God’s just judgment of the world by other means. The 24 elders could refer to angels, but since there were elders as leaders in both Israel (Num 11:16) and the church (Titus 1:5), it is more likely that 12 of the 24 represent the tribes of Israel and the other 12 the apostles of Christ, previewing the reference to the 12 tribes and 12 apostles in the new Jerusalem (21:12,14). Elsewhere in Revelation, white clothes and gold crowns make up the attire of victorious believers (3:5; 6:11; 7:9; 19:8,14).

4:5. Flashes of lightning... and thunder coming from God ( the throne) represent the first mention in Revelation of phenomena that intensify and spill over from heaven to earth as part of God’s just judgment (8:5; 11:19; 16:18,21).

4:6-7. The four living creatures resemble the cherubim in Ezekiel 1 and 10, though there are differences as well. Covered with eyes means that very few things escape the notice of these watchful angelic creatures. The imagery of the lion, calf, man, and eagle has strong linkage to Ezek 1:5-10 and may represent animate creation.

4:8. The mention of the creatures having six wings and the words holy, holy, holy echo the description of the seraphim in the heavenly throne room in Isa 6:1-3.

4:9-10. The heavenly throne room is characterized by unceasing joyful praise, thanksgiving, and worship toward the Lord by the four living creatures and the 24 elders.

4:11. The beginning point of worship is to recognize that God is completely worthy to be recognized for His unrivaled glory and honor and power, and His work as Creator and Sustainer of all things.



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

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 1:21-24

More than anything else, the apostle Paul wanted to be in the presence of Jesus. He saw his eventual death as “gain” and would have gladly and willingly gone on to heaven to see Jesus face to face. Paul at the same time understood that God still had a purpose for him on this earth. It was “more necessary” for Paul to continue laboring and investing in a group of people (in this case the Philippians). Paul was living in this tension between heaven and earth.

Many times, Christians can embrace an escapist or even a fortress mentality on this earth while waiting to go to heaven. It may seem easier to withdraw from a sinful fallen world and the messiness of ministering to people. To do so, though, would defeat our purpose for continuing to live.

If your heart is still beating, then God still has a purpose for your life. It is still “more necessary” for someone else that you remain. There is someone or a group of someones with whom God wants you to share the gospel and even invest your life. Do you know who that might be?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

“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.

As you read the parable, 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 3

I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Psalm 119:19-20

Laws. Commandments. Rules. How many people can you think of that would make this statement: “My soul is consumed with a longing for your rules at all times”? Probably not many. During bible times and now, our societies’ laws, commandments and rules have been crafted here on earth by human beings. While some may even be rooted in Biblical sentiment, they are still fallible. In this context, the last sentence of this psalm’s verse is hard to comprehend.

However, the Psalmist’s previous phrase, “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!” may give us a better understanding of the spirit of this passage.

Imagine this: you are traveling for years upon years, and while you might see beautiful sights, you desperately long for home. That’s what’s going on here! This longing stems from the reality that in its current state, the world is not the true home of God’s people. What the Psalmist continually found was that God’s word, unlike man’s, is infallible and eternal. In this context, we understand how God’s word reads refreshingly like a letter from home. It is transcendent truth enveloped in the Father’s words, and it comes from home.

We are sojourners on earth, and should love God’s word even more than we love our momentary homes. As we read Scripture we find perfect, “wondrous” truth (Psalm 119:18) that deeply resonates within us because it’s from home.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

1 Corinthians 3:9-15

At salvation, everything we’ve built our life upon comes crashing down and is removed like rubble from a vacant lot. Then a new foundation is laid in Christ, and we begin building upon it day by day with our deeds and motives. As with any building project, we have a choice about which materials to use. They may all look good on the surface, but the real test of their quality will be revealed when we stand before Christ to be “recompensed for [our] deeds in the body, according to what [we have] done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Therefore, we should carefully consider what we are using as building materials. The world offers us many philosophies from which to choose. We are told that we can mix a little worldly wisdom with a bit of Scripture and create a suitable Christian life. But Paul warns that if anyone thinks he is wise in this age, he is a fool. God will destroy everything we use that is derived from the world rather than from the truth of His Word.

Building a solid house of faith on the foundation of Christ is a lifelong process. Through prayer and meditation on Scripture, we learn to know and love our heavenly Father and understand what pleases Him. As He transforms our life through His Spirit, our actions and attitudes become increasingly obedient and godly.

With so much at stake, our goal should be to establish our life on the foundation of Christ, with righteous actions and attitudes empowered by the Holy Spirit. Such a faith house will stand firm in this life and be worthy of reward in the next.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Have you ever tried to explain something to someone and couldn’t quite find the words? Have you ever tried to describe something complex to a child? For God to describe Heaven to us in a way we could understand would be like trying to describe the beauty of Hawaii to a three-month-old child. We’re not able to comprehend, in our finite human understanding, all the infinite glories of Heaven.

In fact, the apostle Paul, who had the unique experience of dying and actually going to Heaven, said that he heard things so astounding that they couldn’t be told (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul was essentially saying that he couldn’t put his experience into words.

Heaven is beyond our comprehension. While there aren’t many verses in the Bible that tell us about it, Scripture does tell us a few things. It says that in Heaven there will be no night. There will be no fear. There will be no suffering or death. All of the pain and disabilities that we face in this life will be gone in Heaven.

But the glory of Heaven is even more than having new bodies—and even more than the absence of darkness and sorrow and pain and death. The fact that Jesus Christ will be there is better than all the beauty and all the answers to all our questions.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar (Isaiah 33:17, NIV).

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…

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Revelation 21:11

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