Lesson 13

December 18 - 24

The Heavenly Family

Lesson graphic

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 24:29-44; 2 Cor. 5:1; Rom. 8:18-23; Rev. 21:1-5; 22:1-5; Isa. 65:17-25.

MEMORY TEXT:  "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20, NKJV).

KEY QUESTIONS:  What must the church do to prepare for Christ's second coming? What must we as individuals do? How will the anticipation of the Second Coming motivate our decisions and the way we live?

Sabbath Afternoon   December 18

"WE SHALL ALWAYS BE WITH THE LORD" (1 Thess. 4:17, NKJV). The first lesson of this quarter had to do with the family that God has on this earth. What a blessing to belong to this family and have a loving Father who cares for us and gives us "all His benefits"! (Ps. 103:2).

In this last lesson, we will consider the glorious condition of this family in heaven. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

The anticipation of such joyous and glorious union with the Redeemer and the redeemed should fill us with hope and courage in the present. It should fill us with gratitude that soon we will join our heavenly family and become citizens of God's country for eternity.

This is a unique time! What a privilege it is to live during this hour of history, to prepare for eternity.  

Sunday  December 19

CITIZENS OF A NEW COMMUNITY (Phil. 3:20, 21; 2 Cor. 5:1).

What does Paul say about our true citizenship? Phil. 3:20.  

This earth, contaminated with sin and wickedness, is not our true home. The Lord has promised us "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet. 3:13). Clearly, the present condition of this world shows us that we are near the end of all human sorrows. The day is coming when everything will become new forever. Even today we see many signs announcing that the "new earth" is near.

"The Christian needs a constant awareness of the fact that he is a citizen of heaven. Attachment to one's country leads him to be loyal to it. Wherever he may be living he will conduct himself in a way that will honor the good name of his country. Keeping in mind the kind of life we expect to live in heaven, serves to guide us in our life on earth. The purity, humility, gentleness, and love we anticipate experiencing in the life to come may be demonstrated here below. Our actions should disclose that we are citizens of heaven. Our association with others should make heaven attractive to them."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 172.

Why does Paul compare our earthly body to a tent and the body we will have in heaven to a "building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"?  2 Cor. 5:1 

Himself a tentmaker, Paul makes an accurate illustration of our earthly body. Just as a tent is made of earthly materials, so is the body. Just as a tent is a temporary dwelling, so is the body. And just as a tent can be easily destroyed, so can the body.

In John 1:14, we read that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (NKJV). The original word translated "dwelt" literally means "tented" among us.

Peter also compares our earthly body to a tent in 2 Peter 1:13, 14: "Yes, I think it is right as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me" (NKJV).

As our body grows older or becomes diseased, we become increasingly conscious of how wonderful it will be to have "a building from God, a house not made with hands... " (2 Cor. 5:1, NKJV).  What about this "building" from God will you be most grateful for?  

Monday  December 20

WAITING FOR THE ETERNAL DAY (Rom. 8:18-23; Heb. 10:35-37).

Why do we "groan within ourselves" (NKJV) in relation to the day of our salvation?  Rom. 8:18-23. What phrases in these verses highlight the deep longing Christians have to regain the original perfection of humankind and creation?  

Why do we "groan within ourselves" (NKJV) in relation to the day of our salvation? Rom. 8:18-23. What phrases in these verses highlight the deep longing Christians have to regain the original perfection of humankind and creation?

The Lord knows our needs and longings. For this reason He does not want to delay His coming. The promise says, "He will finish the work and cut it short, the Lord will make a short work upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28).

Earnest expectation (Rom. 8:19). The original word for this phrase means "awaiting with the head outstretched." The prefix of the original word means "away," and implies "a turning away from all else and a fixing of the eyes upon a single object. It suggests waiting with the head raised and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 569.

Groans (Rom. 8:19, 23). Just as an expectant mother groans with labor pains yet joyfully anticipates the delivery of her child, so Christians joyfully anticipate being delivered to heaven even as they groan with physical and spiritual pain inflicted upon them by sin,

What does God promise about the Second Coming of Christ? Heb. 10:35-38. Coupled with the subject of the Second Coming, what is the significance of verse 38?  

What assurance! We do not need to say, "My master is delaying his coming" (Matt. 24:48, NKJV). "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). We can be sure that Christ would like to come as soon as possible. The delay is not His. It is ours!

"For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modem Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years."—Last Day Events, p. 38.  

Tuesday  December 21

PERFECT HEALTH, PERFECT JOY (Isa. 35:5-10; Rev. 21:1-5).

Summarize how Isaiah 35:5-10 describes the wonders of the new earth in regards to humans, nature, and activities.

  humans  ______________________________________________________________

  nature  _______________________________________________________________

  activities  _____________________________________________________________  

"The eyes of the blind. This promise will be true both literally and figuratively. Men who are spiritually blind ... will have the eyes of their spiritual vision opened and the ears of their moral understanding unstopped. In the earth made new all physical infirmities will likewise be healed."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 232.

What did John see and hear in vision regarding the new earth? Rev. 21:1-5; 22:1-5.  

Can we even imagine a life so perfect and joyful? Even the best we have now is less than a pallid reflection of what we shall have then. But by far the best of all is that "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be" there. And we "shall see His face, and His name shall be on their [our] foreheads" (22:4). The very Savior who taught, healed, and preached in Palestine; the very Lamb of God who gave His life for our salvation will be with us. And we shall be with Him for eternity! In His holy hands we shall see the signs of His sacrifice on the cross. And we will shout, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" (Rev. 19:6, NKJV).

Read Revelation 21:1-5 and 22:1-5 again.  As you do, imagine that you are seeing what John saw.  What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and sense?  How does it all contrast to what you have on this earth?  By God's grace, determine that absolutely nothing will deprive you of this glorious inheritance.  

Wednesday  December 22

HOLY AMNESIA (Isa. 65:17-25).

How does Isaiah 65:17-25 describe other aspects of the new heaven and earth?  

In these verses, Isaiah describes what things would have been like on earth for Israel if they had obeyed the messages of the prophets and fulfilled the mission to which God had called them. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pp. 38, 332.) But because they failed, this description failed to occur. When viewed accordingly, certain verses in this passage cease to be a problem, and we can view it in light of its secondary application-a description of the new heaven and the new earth after Christ returns.

"We are homeward bound. He who loved us so much as to die for us hath builded for us a city. The New Jerusalem is our place of rest. There will be no sadness in the City of God. No wail of sorrow, no dirge of crushed hopes and buried affections, will evermore be heard. Soon the garments of heaviness will be changed for the wedding garment. Soon we shall witness the coronation of our King."—The Adventist Home, pp. 542, 543.

"Days of a tree. A tree is a symbol of fixity and permanence. Compare ch. 40:6 [Isa.].

"Work of their hands. Life in the new earth will not be an idle existence. Men will labor and they will enjoy the fruits of their labors. Work there will be a comfort and a source of endless delight. The saints will plan homes and gardens and they will have the time and the means to carry out their plans."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 334.

"All the perplexities of life's experience will then be made plain. Where to us have appeared only confusion and disappointment, broken purposes and thwarted plans, will be seen a grand, overruling, victorious purpose, a divine harmony. "—Education, p. 305.

Think about some of the perplexities you have faced and are facing now. Does it seem impossible now to view them as part of "a grand, overruling, victorious purpose"?  

How can you view from God's perspective the many perplexities and trials that beset you?  What difference does this make in your daily life? 

Thursday  December 23

CERTAINLY JESUS IS COMING (Matt. 24:29-44; 25:1-13; James 5:7, 8).

Explain what Jesus said about the signs of His coming and our preparation for that day. Matt. 24:29-44. What is the recurring theme of the chapter? Which one of these verses best summarizes that theme?  

Will be taken (v. 40). The teaching of the "secret rapture" is based on this verse. This teaching states that "the saints are to be secretly snatched away from this earth prior to the visible return of Christ.... But these verses teach no such thing. The "coming" of ch. 24 is always, without exception, the literal, visible appearance of Christ (see vs. 3, 27, 30, 39, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50).

"What Jesus meant by being 'taken' and by being 'left' is made clear by the context. Those who are left are the evil servants, who instead of continuing in their normal pursuits after a supposed secret rapture, are cut asunder and assigned their portion with the hypocrites (vs. 48-51)."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 504.

Jesus emphasized the recurring theme of chapter 24 with two parables. Read the second one in Matthew 25:1-13. What do the following elements of the parable symbolize? (a) the five wise virgins; (b) the five foolish virgins; (c) the bridegroom; (d) the lamps; (e) the oil; (f) the time of waiting; (g) the arrival of the bridegroom; (h) midnight; (i) the light from the oil.  

 "Three of the saddest sayings in the parables of Jesus are found here: (1) 'Our lamps are gone out'; (2) 'The door was shut'; and (3) 'I do not know you.' This is illustrative of God's judgment which is unequivocal and irreversible. We cannot know Christian assurance without the Spirit (illustrated by the oil), and we cannot succeed on borrowed religion."—Augsburger, The Communicator's Commentary, pp.278, 279.

To prevent accidents, captains of overseas ships will relinquish their stations to a harbor pilot as they approach their destination. Their ships also will fly a flag announcing, "Harbor pilot on board."

We are near the harbor of eternity. Are you submitted to Jesus? Do you have Him, the divine Harbor Pilot, on board to secure a safe arrival? How does your behavior tell others that Jesus is leading your trip to heaven? 

Friday  December 24

FURTHER STUDY:  Read Matthew 24:45-51. What does this parable teach us about how we should live while we are waiting for Christ to return?

Read any or all of the following: the last two chapters of The Adventist Home; the last two chapters of Last Day Events; the last two chapters (Desolation of the Earth, The Controversy Ended) of The Great Controversy; the last chapter (To Meet the Bridegroom) of Christ's Object Lessons.  

"Belief in the near coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven will not cause the true Christian to become neglectful and careless of the ordinary business of life. The waiting ones who look for the soon appearing of Christ will not be idle, but diligent in business. Their work will not be done carelessly and dishonestly, but with fidelity, promptness, and thoroughness. Those who flatter themselves that careless inattention to the things of this life is an evidence of their spirituality and of their separation from the world are under a great deception. Their veracity, faithfulness, and integrity are tested and proved in temporal things. If they are faithful in that which is least they will be faithful in much. "—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 309.

1. How does the "blessed hope" of the Second Coming motivate us to be more faithful to the Lord?   
2. How is the kingdom of grace working in your heart to make you a citizen of the kingdom of glory?   
3. How can we prepare ourselves for heaven? Think of at least five ways, and give scriptural references to support your idea. One is given here to get you started: Watching and praying so we do not enter into temptation (Matt. 24:42; 26:41).  
4. Contrast the great blessings that will be ours as citizens of heaven with the ending that belongs to sinners and nominal Christians who are not prepared to meet Jesus at His second coming.  

SUMMARY:  May the Lord keep us from the evil one, and help us to be holy. Then, in the day of His coming, we will not say, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!" (Jer. 8:20, NKJV). Instead, we will triumphantly shout, "This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).  

InSide Story

Below, the Crocodile; Above, the Tiger

Scott Griswold

A man was lost in the jungle when he heard the terrifying roar of a tiger. The man raced for his life, not daring to stop. Ahead, the pathway dropped into the river.

With the tiger nearly upon him, the man leaped for a vine hanging down from the trees overhead. He clung desperately to it while the tiger paced back and forth below him. With his heart still pounding, the man carefully inched down toward the river.

Suddenly he stopped. What was that noise a quiet swishing in the water below? He looked down, and to his horror he saw an immense crocodile staring hungrily at him. Hand over hand he pulled himself up the vine and away from the grasp of the crocodile's jaws, only to see the tiger still watching him. Below, the crocodile; above, the tiger!

His hands burned; he did not know how long he could hold on. Would the tiger or the crocodile ever go away? He wrapped the vine around his waist and prepared to wait. Surely they would not stay forever.

But in the quiet another sound struck horror in his heart. Two rats, one black and one white, were gnawing on the vine above his head. He shouted at the rats, but they did not go away. Now it was only a matter of time until he and the vine would crash into the water below.

So ends this Khmer folk tale that illustrates the inevitability of death. No one escapes; there is no hope for rescue.

Thank God that the story does not have to end there! Thank God that Jesus came from heaven to rescue us from the jaws of hopelessness and certain death through His own death. He did it "so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Heb. 2:14, 15, NIV).

Surely the time is short before Christ will return to take His children home. How many people have you told, through your words, your life, your gifts to mission, that they do not have to wait and wonder whether death will come from the crocodile below or the tiger above?

Scott and Julie Griswold are church planting among the Khmer people in Cambodia. They serve under the auspices of Adventist Frontier Missions.

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.

Editorial Office:  12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor:  Enrique Chaij
Editor:  Philip G. Samaan
Associate Editor:  Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Assistant:  Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design:  Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator:  Paul A. Hey

Copyright © 1999 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.  All Rights Reserved.

This page is Netscape friendly.
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.

Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team.
Last updated October 23, 1999.