*June 15 - 21
The Climax of Apocalyptic Expectation: The Blessed Hope
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Isaiah 35; Matt. 24:30; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:10, 11; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; Rev. 21:1-7.
MEMORY TEXT: "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Revelation 22:20, 21, NIV).
ANCIENT GREEK DRAMATISTS often used in their plays a device called deus ex machina, meaning "a god from a machine." In the play, the characters are facing some seemingly unsolvable dilemma when suddenlylowered onto the stage via a machinea god appears out of the sky and saves the day.
However faintly, the idea of God coming out of the sky to "save the day" represents the ultimateand finalhope of all Christians everywhere, which is the second coming of Jesus.
The return of our Lord assures us that peace, justice, and love will prevail and that the disruptive presence of evilwhich has caused so much pain, so much fear, so much doubtwill come to a final and irreversible end. It is this glorious hope that inspired believers in the past to press on in the Christian pilgrimage, to keep on waiting "for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, NIV), and it is this same hope that should do no less for us today, who wait for that same promised return, as well.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 22.)
Sunday June 16
"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
The scripture makes it clear that the One who is coming back is Jesus Himself, not someone else. While Christ was ascending, the disciples had feelings of sadness and joy. To encourage them, two messengers came to reaffirm the certainty of Christ's return. Their words emphasized the continuity of the ascending Lord and the returning King. " 'This same Jesus [not a different one], who has been taken from you into heaven [the Same who ascended], [He] will come back [He Himself will return] in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11, NIV, emphasis supplied).
How did Paul reaffirm the certainty that the One who is coming is the Lord Himself? 1 Thess. 4:16. Why is it important that it be Jesus Himself who returns?
The fact that the Lord will descend from heaven means that the event is not under our control. It is impossible for us to mandate what happens in heaven. It also means that only at the present time is Christ hidden from the human eye. We now walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). It finally means that there is going to be a revelation, a revelation of Christ Himself to us. Now we are waiting "for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed" (1 Cor. 1:7).
Read Revelation 1:7 and Matthew 24:30. Do they teach that the second coming of Christ is going to be some secret, spiritual event understood and seen by only a select elite, or will it be a physical, concrete event that happens before all the world? What other verses can you find to buttress your answer?
The Greek word parousia is a technical term used in the New Testament to refer to the coming or presence of the Lord in glory. It refers to the presence or physical arrival of a person (1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6). Applied to the Second Coming, it expresses two ideas: the physical presence and the arrival of Jesus (1 Thess. 2:19; 4:15-17).
|How important is the Second Coming to our beliefs? In other words, try to imagine our faith without the Second Coming and all the promises it contains. Does our faith even make any sense without the promise of the Second Coming? If not, why not?|
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
What is the one word the following verses all use to describe Christ's return? Mark 8:38; Titus 2:13; 1 Pet. 4:13.
Glory is a word used sometimes in the Bible to designate the luminous and visible presence of God (Luke 2:9; Acts 7:55; 1 Tim. 6:16). It also designates God's character, the mystery of His person (John 1:14). Christ will return in the glory of His Father, the glory He had from the beginning (John 17:5). During His incarnation He hid it and humbled Himself by becoming "a man" (Phil. 2:5-9). At His return the glory of His divinity will irradiate through His humanity in an indescribable display of power. We will experience a divine epiphany: "The glorious appearing [epiphany] of the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, NIV).
Read 1 Kings 19:9-13 and Exodus 19:10, 11, two instances in which God appeared to individuals or to a group. What difference exists between His appearance then and what it will be like at the Second Coming?
The appearance of Christ at the Second Coming knows no limits. The world will be filled with the brightness and glory of His presence from one end to the other, making it possible, somehow, for every human eye to see Him. It will be impossible for anyone to avoid this encounter with Jesus. His coming will be of a global nature, because sin also is globally present. It was not a region of our planet that fell into sin but the whole planet. There will not be a place on this world where one could hide from the glorious presence of Jesus. He comes in the company of mighty angels and with the liberating music of heaven. He is not coming secretly or alone but with those who ministered on our behalf. What a magnificent saving show of sound and music that will be! (Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16).
|According to prophecy, at the return of Christ the wicked will flee, crying out for the mountains to fall on them rather than face the presence of our returning Lord. What more subtle ways do the wicked, even now, attempt to flee from the presence of God? In what ways do we, as professed followers of Christ, do the same thingthat is, try to flee from God, even now?|
Read these verses: Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. What do they all have in common?
At His first advent, Jesus arrived as a baby, a helpless infant who had to be skirted away by His parents because of the danger from an earthly king. Now He will return as King of kings, fully displaying glory and power. In fact, the purpose of His return is a positive one: He is coming "to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Heb. 9:28, NIV).
What happened at Christ's first coming that has made the promise of His second coming sure to be fulfilled?
The Second Coming is unlike anything the world has yet experienced. Here are a few things to expect:
Through His sacrifice He defeated Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14), and Christ is coming back to consummate His victory over death. His voice is so powerful that it accomplishes what no human voice can achieve; namely, it is heard by those who died in Him. It will wake them up from the sleep of death, and death itself will be "swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54; see also 1 Thess. 4:16).
When Jesus returns, He will destroy our sinful nature withoutin the processdestroying us. This would be impossible but for the Cross of Christ. The power of the sacrifice makes it possible for Christ to manifest the power that transforms our nature to a glorious one, free from the corrupting presence of sin. This will happen in a moment, "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye"! (1 Cor. 15:52, NIV).
At the moment of Christ's return, the coalition of evil power will be ready to exterminate God's people. But Christ is coming with power: "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kingsand with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers' " (Rev. 17:14, NIV). The angels who come accompanying Jesus" 'will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Matt. 24:31, NIV). For the redeemed ones, the presence of Christ will be permanent and eternal.
|What does the Second Comingspecifically the things that happen when it occursteach about humanity's helplessness and the utter inability to save ourselves from our own otherwise inevitable doom?|
Read these verses: 2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:19-21; 20:1-15. What do they say about the fate of the wicked?
Evil is temporal, a fleeting phenomenon. It has a beginning and, also, an end. It does not defeat or destroy itself; God has to intervene in order to end it. In His presence, the powers of evil recoil in terror and are consumed. Revelation 19:11-21 describes the Second Coming under the image of Christ as a warrior who fights those who gather together against Him.
While the people of God are being gathered by the angels, the beast, the false prophet, the kings of the earth, and all the people who supported them are destroyed by the presence of the Rider of the white horse (Rev. 19:11-21). The bodies of "kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people" are to be left on the field, dead (vs. 18, NIV; see also vs. 21).
What is the fate of the dragon? Rev. 20:1-3; 7-10.
The following events take place in conjunction with the Second Coming and during and after the millennium:
1. The righteous are resurrected, transformed, and taken to be with Christ. This is the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4, 5).
2. Satan is bound alive and circumscribed to this planet, reduced to a state of chaos. There is no one else alive whom he can deceive (vs. 3).
3. During the millennium, the righteous function as judges in the kingdom of Christ (1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Rev. 20:4, 6).
4. After 1,000 years the wicked are raised again and, united with Satan, they launch an attack against the Holy City, which had descended from heaven (vss. 7, 8; Rev. 21:2).
5. The battle is never fought, because at that moment Satan and his hordes are confronted by God, judged, and condemned to eternal destruction (Rev. 20:9-15).
|Sadie draws great comfort from her faith in Christ. It has given her hope, peace, and promise for a future much better than her sad lot now. One great sorrow, however, concerns her about her dead parents, who (at least as far as she knows) never accepted Christ but, in fact, openly rejected Him. Though grateful to know that the lost are not eternally burning in hell, she is still saddened by what she believes will be her parents' fate, as depicted in Revelation 20:9-15. What, if anything, can a person say to comfort her?|
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Rev. 21:1).
Read Revelation 21:1-7 and write down some of the details given, concerning postmillennial life. How do you understand what they mean? For instance, what does it mean that God will wipe away all our tears?
How can we imagine or describe a world in which there is perfect harmony in essence and form when the only world we now know is fragmented, chaotic, and in disarray? Obviously, our experience in the new earth will be filled with the unimaginable and the inconceivable.
The Bible often describes the new world by telling us what it will not be like. That is to say, it takes what we know in a world of sin and excludes it from heaven. So, the new earth is a place where there will be no death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). There will not be separation, estrangement, or what the Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard called angst. All of these belong to the old order of sin, and sin will be no more.
What does Romans 8:18-22 add to our understanding of the future glory that awaits us?
Read also Isaiah 35. It describes the effects of the presence of God in a world of death and sickness. His presence transforms nature, returning it to its original fertility, and frees human nature from the deformities of sin. There is an explosion of life followed by an explosion of joy. The indescribable produces joy and gladness. But even this joy is of a somewhat different quality than what we experience now as joy. Today we experience only moments of joy among spans of sadness. But the prophet is describing a limitless joy that has become an intrinsic part of human nature and will last forever. That which will not bedeath, mourning, sorrow, suffering, and painis supplanted by joy in a multiplicity of dimensions and experiences that we could hardly anticipate.
|English writer Henry Fielding wrote that a man may go to heaven with half the pains that it cost him to purchase hell. How do you understand the meaning of these words?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read the following chapters in Ellen G. White's The Great Controversy, "God's People Delivered," pp. 635-652; "Desolation of the Earth," pp. 653-661; "The Controversy Ended," pp. 662-678.
Please note the following in conclusion to this week's study:
Studying in eternity. "There immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body. . . . And the years of eternity.. . as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 677, 678.
SUMMARY: The Christ who is coming is the same who ascended and promised to return. He comes displaying the glory of His divinity to save His people. Everyone will see Him. His people will be resurrected and transformed, and the wicked will die, leaving the planet in desolation. After 1,000 years the wicked will be resurrected and, together with Satan, will face God as Judge. Their destruction ends the cosmic conflict.
Awil Hasan fled his homeland of Somalia and was living as a refugee in Ethiopia. One day he received word that his brother, who lived in Canada, was coming to visit.
Awil welcomed his brother, who stayed for a week. During their visit, Awil learned that his brother had become a Christian. Awil knew virtually nothing about Christianity and listened with interest to his brother's testimony. Then his brother left to visit the rest of the family in Somalia. Unfortunately, while crossing the border, he was caught in crossfire and was killed.
Awil was devastated by his brother's death. One day while he was looking through his brother's things, he found a Bible. He began reading it in secret, for he knew that his friends would despise him if they knew he was reading the Christian Bible. But as he read, he became convinced of its truth and God's power. He thought of becoming a Christian but worried what would happen to him if he did. In Somalia one could be put to death for changing religions.
Awil moved to Uganda in search of a better life. There he heard a Somali-language radio program broadcast by Adventist World Radio. Awil was fascinated by the program and wrote to the AWR offices in Nairobi, Kenya. He received a letter in response, offering him encouragement. Soon letters, faxes, and sometimes even telephone calls flew between Awil and the AWR staff. Awil decided to visit the AWR studio in person.
As he visited with the radio-program producer, he learned that when Adventist World Radio began broadcasting in the Somali language, there were no Adventist Christians who could speak Somali. So the station invited a Christian who was not an Adventist to produce the program. He was the first convert to be baptized as a result of the Somali broadcasts.
Awil travels back and forth between Uganda and Nairobi to complete his Bible studies with the AWR staff. He has begun producing radio scripts for the Somali-language broadcasts and looks forward to being baptized.
Awil can hardly wait to see the surprise and joy on his brother's face when he learns that the Bible he left behind on his ill-fated trip to Somalia became the means by which God touched Awil's life.
Samuel Misiani is region director for Adventist World Radio in Nairobi, Kenya.
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