I’m with my daughter Annie this weekend on a mini get-a-way together.
Shortly after I went to bed, she came into our bedroom and said:
“Mom — we are bombing Syria.”
I sat up, in shock.
Then she asked, “Is this going to be World War III?”
Our world is filled with sin, sorrow, and war.
Both the letter of 1 Peter and the book of Revelation
were written to believers facing persecution and death,
to give them a living hope, so that they might
persevere in the face of suffering, and not give up.
“The new heaven and the new earth” is not a pie in the sky dream,
and the pictures in Revelation are not crazy,
they point to something that is really going to happen.
Why, we should ask, did Peter use the phrase: “living hope?”
We will discover that, and it is exciting,
for it shows us why the word “hope” that the apostles used
is not the way we have come to use the word hope today.
it was a certainty.
How we need this today.
Many of you, as well, are living with enormous pain.
Understanding the certainty of our hope will make all the difference.
But first, today, let us pray for the people of Syria,
for how they are suffering from a cruel regime and a country being bombed.
I have a short article released from Open Doors this weekend on how to pray for Syria, and especially for the Christians suffering such severe persecution.
So let us, together, in this sisterhood, pray, as we are exhorted to do,
knowingr God hears our prayers.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Let us pray together for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Syria — this short article from Open Doors will help us.
Monday: A Living Hope
What did the apostles mean when they kept referring to our hope of the promises of heaven as a living hope?
Most of us do not live in an agrarian culture, but in the cities and in the suburbs. But when the apostles speak of Christ as the “first-fruits” of the world that is to come, they understood. How joyful a farmer felt when he saw the “first-fruits” of his crop, for it was sure sign of more to come. In the same way:
Our living hope is Jesus risen from the dead! He is the first-fruits, and we will follow. As Paul said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corin. 15:18) But no, as Christ was raised with a new and glorious body, so will we be, and we will be raised to live not in this war-torn dying world, but in a new heaven and new earth where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more death. Not only that, we will not hurt each other any more, for there will be no more sin. Now, what evidence do we have for that? It is two fold.
First, when we received Christ, we received His Spirit — that Spirit in us who cries, “Abba, Father.” We see the world differently than those who do not have the Spirit, we experience His peace, His guidance, and His love shed abroad in our hearts. Romans 8 tells us that the Spirit is the first fruits of a complete transformation that will happen when we see Jesus face to face.
Then, I learned something new from Mike Reeves. Susan, as she often does, summed it up so well:
In Genesis 1:11-13, on the third day God created plants and fruit with seed within them. So, the fact that Jesus was raised “on the third day according to the Scriptures” could be tied-in with this third day when God made fruit, the “first fruit”, with seed within it. Christ is also the “first-fruit” of the “new Eden, or new life”. On the third day, when God made fruits with seeds in them, He set-up a plan for the fruits to keep on producing more of their own kind. Jesus, as a kind of a “first fruit”, is also God’s plan for Him to “reproduce” more of His own kind. Reeves pointed out that in the apostle Paul’s mind, there were only two men: Adam and Christ. Think of them as two fruits, and every person is a seed in one or the other. What happens to you depends upon which fruit you are in. So, if I am a “seed” inside of the fruit, Jesus, then I am a partaker of everything that He is. What happens to Him, happens to me. Kind of like if you plant an apple seed, an orange tree will not grow out of it. No, it will produce another apple tree, after its own kind. The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead with a body, and a perfected body that was not limited by walls, doors, and locks, means that I will also be raised with that kind of body. Now I can see how it will be possible for me to finally be free from sin, but it’s still difficult to even comprehend that. But everything that I will be and will have in heaven is because of Jesus, because He is the “apple” and I am the “seed” inside of Him.
3. After reading Susan’s summary of the relationship between the third day of creation and Christ being raised on the third day, how does this help to explain why there will be no more sin in us or in the new heaven and the new earth?
4. How does Paul articulate this same truth in 1 Corinthians 15:45-48?
5. How does Peter articulate it in 1 Peter 1:3?
6. What encouragement does he give to the believers who were facing such severe persecution from Nero is 1 Peter 1:4-9?
Tuesday: A New Heaven and A New Earth
Just as we will have new bodies, so we will have a new heaven and a new earth. N. T. Wright wrote:
“It is not we who go to heaven, it is heaven that comes to earth…the final answer to the Lord’s prayer, that God’s kingdom will come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our new life is not going to be in some ethereal place in the sky, but will occur right here on this earth we love, only an earth made new. It will be a very tangible place like the white sand beaches of Maui, the animal-filled plains of Africa, and the alps of Switzerland – yet so much better.
7. Is this different than the kind of heaven you imagined in the past? If so, explain. What might this mean to the war-torn believers in Syria? To children who have known nothing but war, hunger, and sorrow?
8. Read Revelation 21:1-5
A. How do verses 1-2 support Wright’s words above?
B. Who is this “New Jerusalem” in verse 2?
C. How do you see Eden before the fall in verse 3?
D. List the promises of verse 4.
E. With what promise does verse 5 begin?
F. Right after this promise, what does God tell John to do in verse 5? Why, do you think?
Wednesday: Over and Over and Over Again
I have been so encouraged in researching heaven for the book I am writing on The Jesus Who Surprises (tentative title), for surely one of the biggest surprises is just how wildly wonderful is the world to come for those who are in Him. This life we have now will seem like a split-second, and Isaiah promises all remembrances of sad things will be gone. I also now see this thread of this sure hope all the way through the Scriptures — and not just in the New Testament, but in the Old. I also marveled at how specifically Isaiah prophesied the captivity of Israel by Babylon, the name of the man (Cyrus) who would one day set them free, and the crucifixion of Jesus. So therefore, his prophesies concerning the new heaven and the new earth will be just as accurate. This is a sure hope! Indeed, one day not only will we be released from sin and bondage, but the earth as well. As I have come to understand “Babylon” from Genesis to Revelation, I see she represents Satan and the bondage he brings. Surely, behind the holocaust, behind the atrocities in Syria, and behind all the sin and suffering in the world is Satan. But one day “Babylon” will be thrown into the sea, and that sea will be no more. That is our sure hope. I want to wait for another study to go into this, for I promised not to give you lengthy studies. I also want to be sure you listen to Tim Keller’s sermon on the new heaven and the new earth.
9. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Thursday-Friday: Free Sermon by Tim Keller on The New Heaven and the New Earth
10. Listen and share your notes.
11. What is your take-a-way and why?
 N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 104.