* October 12 - 18
The Jesus Hope: Part 1
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matthew 24; John 14:14; Acts 1:1-11.
MEMORY TEXT: " 'This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven' " (Acts 1:11, NIV).
KEY THOUGHTS: The past two weeks looked at hope in the Old Testament; it showed that this hope was based not just upon God but upon the promises of the Messiah, the promises of His coming. The hope in the Hebrew Bible was the Advent hope, the hope clearly expressed in the New Testament.
AFTER THE ERA OF THE EARLY CHURCH, the clear Advent hope faded, eventually becoming relegated to the backwaters of belief. As the church gained official recognition, the hope seemed to be less relevant, replaced more and more with the belief that the soul ascended to heaven at death.
Over the years various movements arose to reclaim the biblical perspective of hope, but even these were flawed by political involvement or extremism. In reality, it has been only since the Advent awakening of the 1830s and 1840s that the Advent hope has come to be widely appreciated again. This week we will look more at just how crucial and important this hope is to our faith.
*Please study this weeks lesson to prepare for Sabbath, Oct. 19.
Sunday October 13
" 'This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven' " (Acts 1:11, NIV).
It may seem a little obvious, but sometimes we appear to forget that, at the Second Coming, it is Jesus Himself who will return. The most important point is that the Second Coming is not the return of someone we don't know; on the contrary, it's the return of our "Lord Jesus" (Acts 15:11), our "good shepherd" (John 10:11), "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2), and the One who called us His "friends" (John 15:15). He is the One who is coming back.
Look up the following verses and write down what they all have in common, even though they express the same point in different ways. Write down, too, who is making the promise in each case:
John 14:28 ____________________________________________________________
Col. 3:4 _______________________________________________________________
Heb. 9:28 _____________________________________________________________
2 Pet. 3:4, 10 __________________________________________________________
James 5:7 ____________________________________________________________
1 John 2:28 ___________________________________________________________
Rev. 22:20 ___________________________________________________________
The Word of God is so clear: Whether it is Jesus Himself speaking, or Paul or Peter or James or John, all testify to the same truth, which is that the Lord Jesus Himself will return.
|If it is Jesus Himself who returns, why is it so important that we know Him now personally? His coming in the clouds of heaven will, after all, be a very dramatic, earthshaking event that will cause many to flee, to run for their lives. Others, in contrast, will proclaim, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord" (Isa. 25:9). What makes the crucial difference?|
"I will come again" (John 14:3).
Many modem theologians have dismissed the Second Coming and the promise of Jesus that He will return in any visible, literal manner. His words have been reinterpreted in many ways to mean just about everything except precisely what He said: a literal, physical appearance from heaven that results in the end of this present world. Some claim that Jesus never said He would return; others that the disciples misunderstood His words. Others assert that even if He did say He would return, He was misguided or that He was referring to some invisible coming by the Spirit rather than any literal physical manifestation.
Look up these verses, where Jesus talked about His own return. Write down a few notes about what each one is saying. How clear and plain do they seem to you? Do you see anything in them that suggest anything other than a literal, visible, return? If so, write it out and share it with the class.
Matt. 24:27, 30 ____________________________________________________
Mark 13:26, 27 ____________________________________________________
Luke 9:26 _________________________________________________________
Jesus Himself certainly, and with unmistakable clarity, talked not only about His return but the manner in which He would return. Why, then, the skepticism, even among those who claim to believe in the Bible? Though many different reasons can be given, one of the main ones today is that we live in the age of rationalism, of science, of empirical verification. In other words, if it cannot be tested in a lab or with various scientific tools according to the strict rules of scientific methodology, many people just shrug it off as myth, even people who claim to be Christians. Besides, the argument goes, nothing like what Jesus talked about regarding His return ever happened before in the history of the world, so why should anyone believe it will happen in the future?
|None of us are immune to the influences around us. Look at your own faith and ask yourself, Have I, perhaps, been too heavily influenced by the assumptions and claims of science, even to the point where it has caused me to doubt aspects of God's Word?|
Of all the reasons Christians have to believe in and trust in the great hope of the Second Coming, none is better than what happened at the First Coming. The First guarantees the Second.
After all, what good is the First Coming if it does not lead to the Second? What good was Christ's death on the cross if it does not lead to the resurrection of the dead and to immortality? To be justified, to be redeemed, to be pardonedwhat are these apart from hope and promises we have been given regarding Christ's return?
Some have argued, however, that Jesus, by His life and death, left us a good example on how to live, nothing more. How would you respond to that position?
It is true that Christ left us a good example (1 John 2:6). But so did Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Mohandas Gandhi. We do not need just a good example. We need a Savior who died for us so that we can be justified and redeemed (Rom. 3:24-26; Titus 2:14). More than we need someone who can tell us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, or to love our enemies, we need Someone who can raise our dried and crusted bones from the dirt (Isa. 26:19), who can clothe our mortality with immortality (1 Cor. 15:53), and who can exchange our corruption with incorruption (vs. 54). Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Mohandas Gandhi cannot do any of that for us. Only Jesus can, and He will, at the Second Coming which is why all that we hope for becomes reality, and the final and ultimate promises made by God become fulfilled in our flesh.
Also, we like to say that Christ completed His work at the Cross. Maybe in one sense. But in another sense nothing is completed until all the redeemed are clothed with immortality in a world in which sin will never rise again. That is when everything, once and for all, is forever completed. That is our great hope, the hope that gives full meaning to everything we believe.
|What can grace, justification, salvation, and redemption mean without the return of Christ to clothe His saints with immortality? That is why Scripture does not always separate the First Coming and the Second Coming (see, for example, Isa. 11:1-6). They are two parts of a whole. The First Coming is the "ultimate," but only as consummated in the Second. Dwell on this Concept until it makes sense and gives you assurance about the certainty of the Second Coming.|
"Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Rom. 5:5, NIV).
We cannot be disappointed, because our hope is assured by God: "All things are assured to us in Christ, and only in him. Rom. 8:32. There is nothing in this world or in the world to come that we can have except through his cross. So the so-called hope for anything that is not to be found in him is sure to meet with disappointment; and the hope for everything that is in him, and that can be had with him, is as sure of fulfillment as that he lives."Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, June 24, 1902.
Dwell on what Ellen White wrote here. What does she mean when she says
that there is nothing, either in this world or the next, that we can have
except through the Cross? How do you understand that
Remember the times in your life you have been disappointed. People have let you down. Someone you trusted failed you. Such experiences are, unfortunately, all too common. But with God, your trust is well-placed, because God is totally trustworthy.
In fact, look at the words of Jesus Himself: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1, NIV).
Similarly, Paul points the church in Rome to the trustworthy God who is the Source of hope: "May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13, TEV).
|Life here is often so incomplete. Nothing lasts; we are often unable to achieve our desires, and lives all around us are cut short. But with the promise of hope in the resurrection, we need not be disappointed. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Whatever Niebuhr might have meant by that statement, how would you interpret it and apply the principle there to your own life and struggles as you await the fulfillment of the promise we have in Jesus?|
I n 1516, Sir Thomas More wrote about a nation with little crime and, absolutely, no poverty. In this wonderful land, everyone had enough work, the sick were adequately cared for, cities were perfectly planned and beautifully created, the people enjoyed complete religious freedom, and the greatest pleasure for those who lived there was derived from doing good to others.
The name of this land? Utopia, and it means, in the Greek, "No place."
Thomas More knew what he was doing; that is, naming his fantasy island "No Place," because there has never been (at least since the Fall) any place like Utopia, and until the Lord returns, there never will be.
Though it is certainly normal that people would hope for something better, nothing in Scripture promises anything remotely "utopian" for this world, at least nothing prior to the radical remaking of the heavens and the earth by God Himself (2 Pet. 3:13) after Christ returns. In fact, Jesus, in His famous discourse in Matthew 24, paints a picture of humanity that should dismiss any utopian fantasies as just that: fantasies.
Read Matthew 24 and focus in on one specific aspect of Jesus' discourse on the end time, and that is the state of the world prior to His coming. Look especially at verses 4-12, 21, 24, 36-39. Summarize, in your own words, the conditions He describes and then answer the questions, Is there any hope in this life in and of itself? Where must our ultimate and final hope rest?
"Faith in Jesus Christ without the expectation of His Parousia [Second Advent] is a voucher that is not redeemed, a promise that is not seriously meant. A Christian faith without expectation of the Parousia is like a ladder which leads nowhere but ends in the void."Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope (London: Lutterworth Press, 1954), pp. 138, 139.
What is Brunner saying? Why do you agree or disagree with his words? Make up some other analogies (like his ladder) that describe what the Christian faith would be without the hope of the Second Coming.
FURTHER STUDY: How the Hope Grew DimLessons From the Past. We know from the New Testament that the apostles and the early church really did look forward with an intense anticipation, expecting a very soon coming of the Savior. And the fact that Jesus had not been gone long made it easy, perhaps.
But soon that vivid desire, the blessed hope, had died away. By the middle of the second century, the hope of Christ's return had faded like a half-forgotten dream, and by the time of Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, it was an outmoded part of belief that failed to have any impact.
Two thought systems of the time caused major difficulties: Greek philosophy and Jewish expectations.
With Greek philosophy comes the belief in the immortal soul. Linked to Christian thought, this produced the idea of the soul flying away to heaven at death. Perhaps this comforted the martyrs, perhaps it made the eternal kingdom seem closer, perhaps it just matched contemporary ideas and expectations (to a Greek the idea of a resurrection was impossiblethe body was evil). Whatever the case, Christ's glorious return became the soul's flight to heaven.
Jewish expectations also play in the demise of the Advent hope. The hope of Messiah's earthly reign and Israel's supremacy is connected with the Christian hope to form what is known as millenarianismthe coming thousand-year reign of Christ on earth when all the faithful would have their desires fulfilled; a belief, like the Greek one, that is still held today.
SUMMARY: The Advent hope is centered on "this same Jesus." This fact gives us assurance, for however overawed we may be by the Second Advent, we can be assured that the Lord we love will be there to rescue and save us. Jesus is absolutely certain about fulfilling His promise; thus, we can be too.
As a teenager I was thrilled to hear mission stories. While talking to my Sabbath School teacher one day, she told me that I could be a missionary wherever I was.
Later, when I moved into my own apartment, I remembered this woman's challenge to be a missionary at home. I stood in front of the building and said to myself, This is my mission field. Jam going to get the Word of God to everyone in this building. Then I noticed a "No Soliciting" sign on the front door.
The following Sabbath when I went to church, I told the personal ministries leader my plan and asked for extra copies of Signs. She found enough copies for me, and I put them in the waiting area of the apartment complex. Each time I passed by, I glanced at the table and noticed that the pile was diminishing.
A few days after I put another batch of Signs on the table, I noticed that all the magazines were gone. When I found a small pamphlet from mother denomination under my door, I realized that I was competing for readers with a neighbor. I began putting the Signs under each door too. I did this for several months.
When my church planned a Revelation Seminar, I placed invitation brochures under each door. The church I attend is large, and I did not recognize any of the visitors as being from my apartment complex.
One day several months later, I answered a knock on my door. There stood a smiling woman holding a copy of Signs. "Are you an Adventist?" I asked."Yes," she replied. I learned that the woman lives in the same complex, that she had been a member of another denomination, but when she found the brochure inviting her to attend the Revelation Seminar, she went and was baptized.
"Praise the Lord," I stammered. I told her that I was the one who had placed the brochure under her door. During our conversation, she confessed that at first she had collected the Signs from the waiting area and had thrown them into the garbage!
My mission field has produced a convert and turned a competitor into an ally, without ever leaving home.
Margo Matthews is a freelance writer who lives in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.
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