This Spring I’m excited to look through the windows of Scripture into heaven.
Though many books have been written by those who had near death experiences,
I don’t know whom to believe and whom not to believe!
But I know I can believe Scripture, and there’s more here than I realized.
It is so different than I once thought,
SO MUCH MORE EXCITING.
I’m keeping the lessons short, for spring is busy,
and I’m hoping to keep many of you.
We’ll go slowly, with growing excitement.
I have found seeing the truth about heaven not only gives me hope,
but loosens my grip on this world,
and helps me overcome disappointment.
For as Teresa of Avila said,
Note: Because these lessons are shorter, if you want to share prayer requests here, feel free. I would ask you to write your prayer requests in italics, so that those who want to do just the study, can concentrate on that. Facebook is also open for those who want to keep their requests private. Thanks!
1. What stands out to you from the above — and why?
In the past, I was daunted by heaven. I wanted to be with Jesus, and having my husband there now made me all the more eager to go. Yet, when I read descriptions in Revelation, I felt a bit daunted. Streets of gold instead of forests of green? A city instead of the shore? Was it going to be like an eternal church service where we sang Amazing Grace for the first 10,000 years? I love my little corner of the world in the woods with the waves lapping on the shore. It sounded like that would all be gone! And no sea, sunsets, marriage or sex? Hmmmm. This picture, from Revelation, seemed so cold, so ethereal, so foreign.
2. Have you shared any of the above feelings? If so, what are they? What scares you about heaven, if anything?
3. Have your thoughts changed at all about heaven as you’ve gotten deeper into Scripture? If so, how?
Tuesday: Don’t Start At The End But At The Beginning!
My problem was that I started at the end, in Revelation. That’s like coming into a great movie at the end. The audience is in awe, but you are simply bewildered. For indeed, Revelation is the finale of what God has been showing all the way through, but by then, the images are coming so rapidly, one after another, and the metaphors are so mixed, that it sounds rather weird! For example:
- There is much about two cities: Babylon, that great prostitute, and the new Jerusalem, dressed as a bride
- There is much about a lamb who has been slain — and the wife of that lamb
- There is much that sounds cold: Gates of pearl, streets of gold, and transparent glass
If you are not grounded in Scripture all of the above may make you feel, as I did once, daunted by the idea of spending eternity in such a foreign place. So we are not going to start at the end, but at the beginning, looking through several windows leading up to Revelation. And so, this week, we start to see what we can discern from Genesis 1-3.
4. What phrase is repeated over and over in Genesis 1? Why might this be significant when we learn that “heaven” will come down to a “new earth?”
5. Challenge Question: For those of you who were with us last week and listened to Mike Reeves’ Easter Sermon, I know I learned something new and fascinating. He was looking at 1 Corinthians 15:4 (Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.) Reeves asked — what Scriptures? Jonah? Hosea? — Yes, but he thought the key Scripture was Genesis 1:11-13. Do you know why? (It’s not cheating to go to last week and listen to the first ten minutes of Reeves) How is this significant when you think about our lives in “heaven?”
6. Describe what Eden was like before the fall. (Genesis 2:8-25.)
The reason this is a window into heaven is you will discover that God, as a Redeemer, is going to “re-create Eden, only a thousand times better. (More about this to come.)
7. How does this truth change your view of heaven? What would you particularly look forward to in the new Eden?
Wednesday: Eternity in our Hearts
8. What were some of the things lost through the fall that we would long, in our hearts, to have restored? (Genesis 3:16-19)
Pascal talks about a memory trace we have from the first Eden. C. S. Lewis talks about echoes of Eden. What do they mean? Anytime we see or experience something absolutely beautiful, it is not just an echo of Eden, but a hint of what is to come: the glory of Spring in North Carolina; the innocence of a child; the kindness of a stranger, the rich sweetness of Christian fellowship. Echoes of Eden!
My daughter Sally and her girls visited me in Door County last week, and we got a tremendous April snowstorm. Sadie, who is 7, said it looked like “Narnia” and she wanted to “dive into the pretty.” Sally and I seized the chance to cross-country ski one last time. While we were skiing, the wet snow was sticking to our skis, and a gentleman stopped, cleaned off our skis, and waxed them so we could glide. Echoes of Eden: the beauty, the kindness of a stranger, and the sweet fellowship with my daughter. This is just a taste of what we will experience in the new earth, in Eden – Made New!
9. Can you share any “echoes of Eden” you’ve experienced in the last week?
Thursday-Friday: Jerram Barrs
Jerram Barrs is one of my favorite people. He is a beloved professor at Covenant Seminary — his gentle godliness, his wisdom, and his ability to see “Echoes of Eden” in great literature and art helps us all see better. Barrs has a book by that title that Keller endorses strongly.
10. Here is an interview of Barrs. Read it over the next two days and share just 3 things that stood out to you from it. This originally appeared in “By Faith,” the PCA online magazine. (http://byfaithonline.com/echos-of-eden/)
In “Echoes of Eden,” Covenant Seminary professor Jerram Barrs explores why certain books, movies, and plays resonate with something that’s deep within us. In the process, he provides a framework for thinking biblically about art; he shows readers how, as Christians, to read and evaluate literature; and he reveals what some of our most influential writers have in common — from Shakespeare, to Jane Austen, to Tolkien, to C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling.
11. What is your take-a-way and why?