Overview of Lesson 14
Our study of the afterlife must include our ultimate reward of living in the earth made new. This final week of our study will review such themes as…
- the reality of a new heaven and earth (Sunday)
- the purpose of the temple of God being there (Monday)
- what it means to be in God’s presence (Tuesday)
- the end of death and sorrow (Wednesday)
- having God’s name on our foreheads (Thursday)
Experiencing a new heaven and earth has been the blessed hope of God’s people for generations.
Memory Text: “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ “ Revelation 21:5 NKJV
Although scoffers ridicule the idea of heaven, claiming lack of evidence for such an outcome for our planet, Christians still look forward to the final end of sin and suffering and an existence of joy and beauty on an earth made new.
The scoffers themselves were foretold in Scripture (2 Peter 3:3, 4). Whether their scoffing leads to outright mocking or just apathy, Satan rejoices when we fail to recognize that momentous events are going to happen. It releases us from any need to prepare for those events.
Sunday: A New Heaven and a New Earth
Our modern culture borrows a lot from Greek philosophy, which stresses that the physical world is inherently bad, and good can only come from the spiritual realm. This has influenced Christianity as a whole to envision heaven as a totally spiritual place, not a real, concrete home for the redeemed.
Many Bible passages, however, do speak of the new heaven and earth as an actual, physical place. There we will find fountains of living waters and the tree of life. God’s people, so long pilgrims and wanderers, will find a beautiful home where peace and joy will overflow and last for an eternity. No more sickness, no more death, no more good-byes. Everything that is needed for our well-being will be supplied there.
Although Isaiah, called the prophet of hope, described a new heaven and earth in his final chapters (Isaiah 65:17), he was given a glimpse of how the church, known then as Israel, would be blessed by God, if they continued following Him with loving obedience.
The description Isaiah provides could easily be applied to the final reward of the New Testament Christian church. Since the gospel has gone out to both Jews and Gentiles (Matthew 28:18-20 and 1 Peter 2:9), we notice that Isaiah’s description sounds very similar to those given in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1-5.
Isaiah 65:17-25 and 66:22, 23
- What new conditions would exist in Israel, if they lived according to God’s word?
2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1-5
- What similarities are there in the blessings found in the new heaven and earth revealed in the New Testament?
Monday: In the Temple of God
Revelation tells us about the temple of God, His throne room, where heavenly angels come to worship, and where humanity’s salvation is administered. See Revelation 4:2-6, 7:9-15, and 15:5-8.
The focus of heavenly worship in this temple is on God and the Lamb (Revelation 5:13 and 7:10). Although worship was conducted there even before sin entered the universe, the current activity seems to include the High Priest’s duties of mediating for the saints of God, who are suffering for their loyalty to Him. This is where His judgment work begins, as the Lamb prepares for His grand rescue operation during what we know as His Second Coming.
The worshipers in this temple will then include those who “have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14 NIV). These witnesses, a great multitude (Revelation 7:9), will sing praises to God for all He has done for them.
Revelation 4:2-6, 7:9-15, and 15:5-8
- Why is God’s throne part of this heavenly temple? What part of the earthly sanctuary would be symbolic of God’s throne?
Revelation 5:13 and 7:10
- Why is worship given to both God and the Lamb?
Tuesday: In the Presence of God
God is said to live in an “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). This explains why “no one has ever seen God” (John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12), referring to fallen human beings, of course. Our present sinful state makes it impossible to remain alive in God’s presence.
But, this barrier to seeing God is only temporary. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.” Jesus reassures us that those who are pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). Someday our purity will make us able to “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2, 3).
This purifying work begins as soon as we accept Christ into our lives. It culminates at the last trump, when we shall all be changed incorruptible in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).
Obedience to God’s word, sincerely loving God and others through His Spirit, will purify us, and thus prepare us for the glorious event of His Second Coming (1 Peter 1:22). We will then have the supreme privilege of standing in God’s presence, joyfully worshiping Him with the whole universe.
1 Timothy 6:16, John 1:18, and 1 John 4:12
- Why has no one been able to see God face to face?
1 Corinthians 13:12, Matthew 5:8, and 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52
- When will we actually see God?
1 Peter 1:22
- Why is obedience necessary to make us pure?
Wednesday: No More Death and Tears
The promise of no more pain and suffering would not be possible if there was an ever-burning hell, where the unrighteous would be tortured forever with excruciating pain. It seems more likely that the wicked will be forever eradicated from our planet by a fire that consumes them totally and irreversibly. God’s justice will prevail; and His mercy will be felt, even with the unusual punishment for the wicked described in Revelation at the end of the millennium.
There is comfort for God’s people in knowing that our heavenly Father will one day wipe away all our tears. In the new heaven and earth, “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17 NIV). Just like grief we now experience over the loss of a loved one, the pain of our loss will fade away to such an extent that we can barely remember the painful parts of our experience. The enduring joy of living in the earth made new will override all our bad feelings about the past.
Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 7:17, and 21:4
- Why can’t God wipe away all our tears now?
1 Corinthians 15:54, 55 and Isaiah 65:17
- Why is death a cause for tears?
- To what extent and when will we forget our painful past?
Thursday: His Name on Their Foreheads
God’s merciful plan of salvation has been expressed several times during earth’s history. He presented it first to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned, then later to Moses and the children of Israel in the highly symbolic, figurative worship service of the earthly sanctuary, and finally through the ministry, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each time we have been given a fuller picture of how we are saved.
We may now have God’s name on our foreheads when we accept His plan of salvation, surrender our will to His, and claim the promises He has for us in His word. If we don’t turn away from Him and continue to rely totally on His merits, His name remains on our forehead in heaven. He is forever the Master of our thoughts and actions, because we have willingly made Him so.
Like Abraham, we are counted righteous by believing in God, by receiving justification only through Him (Romans 4:2-4).
Revelation 22:3-5 and Matthew 5:8
- What is the link between seeing God and having His name on our forehead?
- What difference, if any, might there be in being pure and being “pure in heart”?
Friday: Final Thoughts
A new heaven and earth are only mentioned in Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, and again in the New Testament, in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. It will be a time, described so beautifully here, when…
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” ~Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 678
When this time comes, we can truly declare, “O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). What a magnificent hope we have for the future.
Next Week: Part of God’s Family (new quarter titled “Managing for the Master Till He Comes”)
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