In this final session of The Journey, we’ll begin by looking at the emergence of the Antichrist and the final rebellion against God that will occur at the end of this age.
And at the end of this age, Jesus will return to Earth. We’ll look at everything that happens when He comes – the destruction of Antichrist and the evil world system under his control, and the resurrection and final judgment, and how the present heaven and earth will be transformed – a process that we can compare to the emergence of a beautiful butterfly from a caterpillar. We’ll also look at the apostle Paul’s picture of the seed to explain how our present mortal bodies will be transformed into the new glorious bodies we’ll possess in the new creation.
We’ll also take a moment to look at what the Bible tells us about Hell – where Satan and his evil angels, and every human who has rejected God will exist for eternity.
And we’ll look at the wonderful description of the New Heaven and Earth that we read in the final two chapters of the Book of Revelation. We’ll explore what life will be like there, and what believers will do there. There will be Heaven on Earth for all eternity. God’s people will live in God’s paradise in God’s presence for ever.
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Leader’s Guide for group study
This Group Study Guide contains three questions, with Bible passages to read, together with some notes to help the group leader to guide the discussion.
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the PDF version of this Leader’s Guide.
In our first session, we highlighted four things found both in the original creation described in Genesis and in the new creation described in Revelation:
●Heaven and Earth. In Genesis, God creates Heaven and Earth (Genesis 1.1). In Revelation He creates a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21.1).
●Light. In the beginning, God created light (Genesis 1.3-5). In the new creation, God is its light (Revelation 22.5, see also 21.23-24).
●A river. A river waters the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2.10). In Revelation, we see a river flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22.1).
●The tree of life. There’s a tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2.9). In Revelation 22.2 we read that “on either side of the river” is “the tree of life” .
The most obvious difference between the original creation and the new creation is this: in the original creation there was a garden – the Garden of Eden; in the new creation there’s a city – a garden city. This city is the New Jerusalem. It’s where God lives (Revelation 21.1-3,22). New Jerusalem is a real place, of course – though it won’t be like any city we’ve seen here on Earth. But it also symbolises something. What is a city? A city – any city – is an interdependent community. God’s people – God’s community – live in New Jerusalem. God lives there with His people. In the city is “the river of the water of life” and “the tree of life” . New Jerusalem is a garden. This city is a picture of God’s people living in God’s presence in God’s paradise – in other words, the Kingdom of God. New Jerusalem symbolises God’s perfect world.
There’s something else that distinguishes the new creation from the Garden of Eden. God is present in both the garden and the new creation. In the garden He is “walking” (Genesis 3.8). But in New Jerusalem He is enthroned. God reigns there in all His glory. There’s no temple in the city (Revelation 21.22) – “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” . The whole city is the temple, the dwelling-place of God. God’s presence fills the entire city. The city’s shape tells us that. It’s a cube (Revelation 21.16). That’s like the Most Holy Place, both in the Temple (1 Kings 6.20) and in the Tabernacle (this can be calculated from the description in Exodus 26.1-37). The Most Holy Place was the innermost sanctuary, the place of God’s immediate presence (see Exodus 25.22, Numbers 7.89). The whole city is the eternal Most Holy Place, where God lives on Earth. So everyone in the city is in the Most Holy Place, too. Once, only one man could enter the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and the Temple, and only under the strictest conditions. Now all God’s people live there in His immediate presence!
After we die, we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. In Revelation 20.11, John does not say whether the Father or the Son is seated on the “great white throne” of judgment. But we know that the Father has handed over all judgment to the Son (John 5.22,27, Acts 10.42, 17.31, Romans 2.16). It’s reasonable to conclude that Jesus will be our Judge.
Why has God given Jesus this role? One reason is surely this: because Jesus is not only God, but a human being like us. People can’t say to Him: “You have no right to judge us; you don’t know what it’s like to be human – you’ve never suffered like we have, you’ve never been tempted” . He has. In life as well as in death, Jesus suffered more than we could ever know. He was tempted just as we are (Hebrews 4.15).
When Jesus returns we will all stand before Him. Each one of us “will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14.12 NIV). Sam Storms comments: “Is it not sobering to think that every random thought, every righteous impulse, every secret prayer, hidden deed, long-forgotten sin, or act of compassion will be brought into the open for us to acknowledge and for the Lord to judge? And all this, we are reminded, without any ‘condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8.1).”
We are accountable for our lives. In the end, none of us can blame heredity or environment, or what others have done to us, for the kind of person we are. It’s our reactions – what we have thought and said and done in response to the circumstances of life – that makes us what we are at the moment of death.
Our childhood years were our ‘formative’ years. Our present life on Earth, too, is like a childhood. These are our ‘formative years’, a period of training and maturation that’s preparing us for our life in the world to come. We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6.7-9).
God is laying a foundation in our lives, and we must co-operate with Him. How much do we allow God’s Spirit to mould us into the image of His Son (see 2 Corinthians 3.18)? Are we presenting our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12.1)? Are we allowing the Spirit of God to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12.2)? Are we allowing Him to refashion the way we think, to come to see things as God sees them – so that we discern what His will is, agree with it and do it?
Have we yielded our lives fully to God? Have we walked in the Spirit, rather than in our own strength? Have we resolutely trusted God, come what may?
Our faith is proved by acts of obedience (James 2.14-26). Have we obeyed God – in the small things that other people don’t see, as well as the big things? Have we overcome temptation, compromise and persecution for Jesus’s sake? Have we loved? Have we forgiven?
We need to remind ourselves – and each other – often that our eternal home will be the New Heaven and Earth, where we will see God and be part of His royal priesthood, sharing in Christ’s rule over creation and serving God and other people in unimaginably wonderful ways – as we saw in the video. In fact, that is the world that God made us for.
We should keep “the hope laid up” for us “in heaven” (Colossians 1.5) at the centre of our thinking and allow it to mould our lives – our relationship with God, our ambitions, our friendships, how we spend our time and money, and how we treat other people.
Keeping our minds on the world to come gives true perspective to our present lives. C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.” When we see what the Bible teaches about the world to come and allow these truths to sink in to our minds and penetrate our hearts, we will not be unchanged.
The hope of heaven has a special impact on how we view the struggles and disappointments and sufferings that we experience in our present lives. Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials“ (1 Peter 1.6; the phrase “in this” refers back to the whole of the previous verses 3-5, in other words, “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, . . . .” ). Randy Alcorn, in his excellent book Heaven, writes, “Anticipating Heaven doesn’t eliminate pain, but it lessens it and puts it in perspective. . . . . . . . suffering and death are temporary conditions. . . . . The biblical doctrine of Heaven is about the future, but it has tremendous benefits here and now. If we grasp it, it will . . . radically change our perspective on life. This is what the Bible calls ‘hope’, a word used six times in Romans 8.20-25, the passage in which Paul says that all creation longs for our resurrection and the world’s coming redemption.”
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ► Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.