Monday, April 24, 2006

Beyond - Part 1 - Heaven: Paradise Restored

Steve's first week of the "Beyond" series was a great beginning to the four-week set.

Here is Steve's study guide for this week:

Monday: Genesis 2:4-25. Here we find the original paradise. Eden (v. 8) means pleasure or delight and can also mean fertility, signifying the garden’s abundant vegetation. The man and the woman possess a holy innocence; they are naked and unashamed (v. 25). In verse 9 we find the two significant trees, the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which Adam and Eve would eat (3:6), defying God’s command. Banished from the Garden, Adam and Eve are denied access to the tree of life (3:22-24).

Tuesday: Isaiah 11:1-9. Isaiah gives the people of Judah a picture of God’s ultimate vision. The shoot from the stump of Jesse (v.1) refers to a coming Messiah, a king like David (whose father was Jesse). The family tree will be cut down leaving only a stump, but a shoot will spring forth, a new branch. After describing this ruler, it illustrates the Messiah’s ultimate reign. In his kingdom there will be no more predator or prey, the animals symbolic of human behavior, but perhaps not just symbolic, recalling the Garden of Eden. That these animals are pictured being led by a child points to the values of Jesus; the least shall be the greatest.

Wednesday: Luke 23:32-43. Jesus is crucified between two criminals. One criminal, fearing God at his execution, reaches out to Jesus, who promises him that “today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). The word paradise is a transliteration from the Greek word “pa-RAHD-i-sos,” meaning a park or garden; here it refers to God’s garden. The word paradise is used in only two other places in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul talks (in the third person) about a vision of paradise. In Revelation 2:7 the church in Ephesus is encouraged to repent and return to the love they used to have. By doing so they are promised the right to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

Thursday: John 14:1-7. Jesus tells his disciples (v. 2) that in his Father’s house there are many rooms, which means that there is plenty of room for everyone. Jesus also promises (v. 3) that while he is absent from his followers, he will prepare a place for them and return, so they can be reunited with him. There is no map or secret route to get there. Jesus himself is the way (v. 6) to the Father’s house. By knowing Jesus, we know the Father (verse 7) and are assured of being with Jesus in that place he is preparing.

Friday: Revelation 21:1-27; 22:1-5. Here again we find “the tree of life” (22:2) from Genesis 2. The paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored. The new heaven and the new earth of chapter 21 are, in the opinion of your pastor, not completely new but the old heaven and earth made new, and our future afterlife is really a heaven on earth. The gates of pearl, jewel-adorned walls, and street of gold signify that it will be glorious and beautiful beyond our ability to imagine this side of death. That the city is a cube (equal in length, width and height) recalls the shape of the Most Holy Place of the Temple where God’s presence was focused before Christ. Here there is no need for a temple (21:22).


I've been to a few funerals the past several years and it's interesting that most of my knowledge of heaven comes from those know how it is, everyone hangs out at the viewing or wake and after the "oh, s/he looks so good," discussions it goes quickly (because no one really does look that good when they're dead) to what the newly deceased is "doing" in heaven.

What the "doers" are doing is either something they particularly enjoyed here on earth (yeah, even drinking or having an all-out party) or something they couldn't do here because of an injury/disability. There does seem to be a general agreement that heaven is pain-free and has unlimited happiness.

After listening to Steve Sunday and reading God's Word, the big screen theater in my mind has a better picture of heaven. One thing that really stuck with me was Steve's comment... "Because Christ is good enough." It's not about me earning my way in by being good. It's not about what I do or who I am, but who Christ is and what he did for me.

Next week -- Judgment: Day of Reckoning

Memory verse of the week: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13, TNIV).



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