Introduction: On Death, Dying, and the Future Hope
On Death and Dying: Our Future Hope
God created human beings to enjoy eternity in a loving relationship with Him and His creation. But this relationship was distorted by the mysterious appearance of sin within the heavenly courts (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-19, Revelation 12:7-12) and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-19, Romans 5:12). Tragically, death engulfed not only the human race but all life, as well. Expressions of death can be seen today in the leaves that fall from the trees, the flowers that fade in our vases, our innocent pets who die in agony, and our beloved ones who are taken from us so brutally. Our world is full of suffering and unwiped tears.
Longing for a better world, people have painted for themselves many “paradises” in which they would like to live. For example, in 1933 English novelist James Hilton released his book, Lost Horizon, which a few years later was turned into a film under the same title. The film captures the plight of an airplane that runs out of fuel, eventually crashing into the snow-covered Himalayan Mountains. The pilot dies in the crash, but the few who survive are pulled from the wreckage and escorted by a group of Tibetans to the paradisiac valley of Shangri-La. Isolated from the outside world, the inhabitants grow in love and wisdom, living an almost immortal life of enduring harmony and joy.
Of course, it’s only fiction.
As mortal human beings, we need assurance in the present and hope for the future. As well-stated by the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life. Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation, take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath; despair supervenes, spelling the paralysis of intellectual and spiritual powers by a feeling of the senselessness and purposelessness of existence. As the fate of the human organism is dependent on the supply of oxygen, so the fate of humanity is dependent on its supply of hope.” — Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope (London: Lutterworth Press, 1954), p. 7. Indeed, the biblical hope sustains us during the existential crises we face in our journey toward eternity.
In contrast to the fictional Shangri-La of the Lost Horizon, our hope of eternal life does “not follow cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16, NKJV). It is based on God’s trustworthy promise of a perfect world with no more tears, pain, or death (Revelation 21:1-5). This precious promise inspired the apostolic church and was held, and cherished, by many Christians throughout the centuries. Without ever losing its power, this same promise gives meaning and purpose to our present lives. It allows us to look with confidence into the future. It assures us that all our beloved ones who died in Christ will finally be raised from the dead to inherit eternal life.
The present Bible study guide deals with the subject of the great controversy between good and evil from the perspective of two major themes. One is the origin and ongoing existence of sin and death. The other theme is God’s enduring work to solve these problems and bring the world back to its original perfect condition. Special emphasis is given also to the mortal nature of human beings and how the resurrection is what leads to immortality. In reality, we should not fear death because Christ died for us and overcame the power of death. Actually, we are assured that He holds “the keys to death and to the place of the dead” (Revelation 1:18, NCV).
This quarter we will explore the painful subject of death, but through the lens of the hope offered us through Jesus.
Alberto R. Timm, PhD (Andrews University), is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. and a member of the Biblical Research Institute Committee (BRICOM) and the Geoscience Research Institute Committee (GRICOM). Previously he served as president of the multi-campus Latin-American Adventist Theological Seminary (LATS).
Hope for the future is something that is running a little low in society in general at present. While it appears the world may be emerging from pandemic, what it is emerging to? Suggestions of potential economic collapse and mortgage foreclosure. Suggestion of insufficient affordable energy for the upcoming winter. Food insecurity. Significant adverse weather events of increasing frequency and intensity to the point that insurance companies are no longer providing coverage for some events in some locations. Intensification of conflict with re-introduction of threat of nuclear weapons. Increasing rates of domestic abuse and neglect. Increasing physical and mental health problems. And what is the hope that the world is offering amid this emerging situation? Just like the toilet-paper shelves in my local supermarket, authentic hope appears to be continuously in short supply or out-of-stock.
Against this background, I am looking forward to revisiting scripture this quarter to look again at the rock-solid, reality-based hope that it offers. But I am not merely looking to find confirmation of what I already assume I know. I am looking to see if there is more to be understood that can be understood and is intended by God to be understood. And I am not doing this merely as an intellectual exercise. For what I believe to be truth is what my mind will use to craft my perceptions, thoughts, attitudes and actions - both of and towards God and of and towards my fellow humans.
As I look at the world and people around me at present, I can see that I will need to continue to be 'yoked' ever more closely and strongly with God via the Holy Spirit to grow in faith, reality-based hope, compassion and beneficence. That is what I see will be needed to journey through what lies ahead - and that is what I am seeking as I embark on this quarter's study.
What are you seeking for as you embark on this quarter?
There is no other way for the faithful to have life and live than to apply that which we heave heard and learned from Scripture depicting the life of Jesus Christ as revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Rev.12:11 - ”And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to death.”
Has not Jesus Christ lived the heavenly Hope for us? Has He not shown us that faith in the Word of God and His Righteousness, His Wisdom and timeliness in all things – His Love for His creation - gives us this Hope which sustains us in trying and difficult times?
“Enduring harmony and joy” is the Holy Spirit’s gift for a surrendered heart. Though we might not always ride the crest of its wave, we will always aspire to remain hopeful when living the Truth and Light our heavenly Father gives to those who love Him with all their heart and being, expressing our love for Him by loving our fellow man as He has loves us.
I have not seen the movie, but would think that ‘Shangri-La’ is the best version we can imagine people living together in harmony and without strife. The real New World governed by the Spirit of God will not come about until our Lord and Savior makes the new Earth and Heaven.
In the meantime, we who believe, live our life here on earth as if His kingdom was already established. We have chosen to entered and live in His spiritual kingdom and live in it by faith; actively applying its values and precepts which our heavenly Father revealed to our heart and mind.
The biblical version of a kingdom of love and peace is far different from "Shangri-La" in "Lost Horizons"!!!
Shangri-La seems more like a new age type of supposed utopia where there is no law and all things are lawful as long as they are done in "moderation" and humility, without strife and without greed for materialism. Example "moderate adultery" is OK?
It's good to read that the present Bible study guide deals with the subject of the great controversy between good and evil. Sin is the problem, and while God's law is all about real love, it also alerts us to sin, for sin (no matter how much it is rationalized or practiced in moderation) will never contribute to a kingdom of peace and harmony.
I think these bible study guides are really good and they deserve to retain our attention.
Hello please send me the lesson for this quarter in pdf
We do not send out the lessons. We are not the Sabbath School Dept of the church and have to work within the limits that we are allowed. You can download the pdf files from the Church's official Sabbath School site here: https://absg.adventist.org/