It was dinner time at the Wallace home and little Ellie was in distress—qing cai again! Though I find this vitamin-rich Chinese vegetable a delectable treat, my daughter does not share my opinion! Her sister Kathryn gobbled down her requisite veggies waited anxiously for a promised trip downstairs to the bing qi lin (ice cream) shop to pick out a frozen treat. The angst on Ellie’s poor face was enough to break me of my commitment to leafy greens! No—Vegetables are a must, I determined. She must learn to eat nutritious and delicious foods alike—qing cai and bing qi lin too! This study is designed to be such a feast—vitamins and minerals for the heart, yet ones that delight your hungry soul.
During this study, we will seek to grow in Christ-likeness by focusing our attention on Christ Himself. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reveals a key passage for spiritual formation: “And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” According to this picture, we become like Christ by looking at Christ!
But it’s not just about spiritual growth for its own sake—like downing your veggies just for good health. It’s also about choosing the tastiest food for our famished souls. It’s about asking Him in our emptiness to condescend and show Himself to us, that we may feast on Him who is Life. It’s about being purposeful in seeking to fill our greatest hunger with the One meant to fill it.
Also, God has so designed that we do not grow best as individuals sitting at home with our Bibles alone. Rather, each individual in the Body of Christ adds vital gifts and perspectives which open our eyes to His wonders in ways we could not see on our own.
A beautiful thing happens as we delight in Him together—He is glorified! And so ultimately, it is about His worship.
I affirm with the saints of history that God exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures reveal that each person is fully God, each sharing all the attributes of deity. Yet, because Jesus was the One who walked among us on the earth, God is most clearly revealed by looking at Christ. Jesus tells Philip in John 14:9, “The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” He also affirms in this same discourse that the purpose of the Spirit is to glorify Christ and make clear the things He has taught His followers. In this sense, the Bible showcases Christ in a unique way. On the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ resurrection we read, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27 NET) Paul also affirms in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that “the light of the glorious knowledge of God is seen in the face of Christ.” As we look at the Son, we are drawn to deeper understanding and worship of the Triune God.
That’s a good question. The gospels are the most vivid pictures we have of Jesus. A Jesus-focused gospel study would also be fruitful. Certainly the pictures of Jesus from the epistles only expand on themes revealed in the Gospels. Yet in the epistles, the New Testament saints wrestled like we do today. In the Gospels, the disciples were privy to the very words and expressions of His bodily presence. He was physically with them! But in the writings recorded after Jesus’ ascension, these saints sought to persevere in the same way we must—a world where Jesus is no longer physically present. Like them, we look forward to His return. Like them, we “see in a mirror indirectly” but one day face to face! May we find comfort in their struggle as we find it is ours too.
If your group desires a rich, Christ-focused Bible study which involves mind, heart and culture, this work is for you! Beyond a profound search into the person and work of Christ, you will also discover valuable tools for digging deeply into the Scriptures and challenging questions aimed at life and cultural application. The 13 week format would work well for use by Bible study groups or Sunday school classes who wanted to organize the time according to school calendar, and a ‘suggested time line’ in each week’s lesson offers help toward this structure. In this format, you could expect to spend about 20-30 minutes of daily preparation to engage in weekly group discussion. Individuals would also benefit, yet we grow most when engaged in community!
This study is focused around key “Christ” passages in several of the New Testament letters. Rather than organizing weeks according to the order of the epistles, or according to when they were written, they are organized in a historical progression through Christ’s life. We’ll begin with Him as Lord from all eternity; then progress to passages that emphasize His earthly life; followed by sections that focus on His post-resurrection (now) and His ultimate rule (future). If you experience vertigo jumping back and forth through your New Testament, you will sense your bearing in the “timeline” of Christ’s life.
Because you’ll be studying a wide breadth of the New Testament, I will provide some basic context for each book and passage so you can focus on each week’s specific verses. Yet, if you have more time and want to dig deeper, you could easily spend the week reading the whole epistle and searching for related passages in the Gospels and other letters.
In the “Application” section, sometimes multiple angles are addressed within each question. Please feel the freedom not to answer every single question as a group, but guide your discussion toward the Christ-centered heart of your group’s needs.
1 All Scriptures are quoted from the NET translation
Colossians 1:15-201 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven. NET
I stared with confusion at the swinging ceiling lamp in my daughter’s bedroom. She rested there fast asleep when the phone rang. My husband asked, “Did you feel it? There was an earthquake. Our office building has been evacuated.” The coming hours and weeks revealed that an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck in China’s Sichuan province, crushing 70,000 people beneath collapsing buildings and leaving more than four million homeless. At the moment of impact, our buildings shook like leaves in the wind, over 1000 miles away. Was God reigning pre-eminent on this day in history? As the last twenty-four hours unfolded, full of human tragedy and suffering, was God aware? In control? Working for good? How we answer this question makes a difference. Are we standing on solid ground, or shaking in the wind like my apartment building?
Day 1: Read the whole book of Colossians, noting how 1:15-20 fits into the whole.
Day 2: Focus on Colossians 1:3-14 and Colossians 1:21-2:3 and meditate on Paul’s before and after context to our passage.
Day 3: Read Colossians 3 & 4 to see how Paul expects their beliefs to impact their living.
Day 4: Reread the whole book of Colossians, putting together the ‘truth’ and ‘practice’ sections2.
Day 5: Answer the “discussion” questions.
Day 6: Answer the “application” questions.
Day 7: Reflect on personal application for this week and spend time in worship!
Colossians is one of the ‘prison epistles’ thought to be written by Paul during his first captivity in Rome, likely around 58-60 AD. Paul writes to the church at Colossae, largely Gentile, which he has not personally visited but was likely evangelized by Epaphras. His main purpose is to address the ‘Colossian heresy’ reported to him by Epaphras. The church struggled with Jewish influences which sought to add or improve upon the gospel by encouraging the church to adhere to a legal system suggesting greater forms of spirituality. They emphasized circumcision, special seasons, asceticism, angel worship, and ‘mysterious truths’3.
This passage is one of the richest ‘Christ’ passages in the New Testament. It is part of a larger section where Paul reminds the church of their hope in the gospel and prays they will grow in the knowledge of God. You could say Paul is praying “I want you to grow to know God better. Now here is what He is like…” In the section that follows Paul shares that it is this supreme Christ who saved them. There are no secret truths or greater levels of spirituality. Christ Himself is the mystery revealed, this One in whom they hope. Like most of Paul’s letters, the rich ‘know/believe’ (Ch. 1&2) part of the book proceeds the practical ‘live it out’ (Ch. 3&4) section. The later portion details Paul’s application of truth towards the troubles the church faced at this time in history.
What is meant by “firstborn” over all creation (Colossians 1:15)? This word has been the source of major conflict throughout the history of the church. Does “first-born” imply that the Son was brought into existence by the Father? In modern times, it is still used by some to say that Christ was created, not existing before time. However, the source of the conflict dates back to one of the first major heresies of the church. The “Arian Controversy” was begun by Arius, a bishop of Alexandria, who stated that there was a time when the Son did not exist. He was condemned at one of the first major councils of the church, the Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD. Another Greek word specifies a child who is born first among siblings, yet the word in our passage conveys the Jewish cultural idea of the first born sons’ rights4.
Do you quote the Nicene Creed in your church? It was written in response to this heresy. “…We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…begotten of the Father…of the essence of the Father… begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…” We can take clues from history that problems arise when one single phrase or verse alone supports one’s beliefs. Many cults and heresies arise from isolated Biblical passages. We can be assured that our beliefs are doctrinally sound when the whole weight of the Scriptures supports them.
We praise you as the One who holds our world together by your great power. Yet, how desperately we want to walk by sight, and not by faith! We want to see your powerfully manifested now and still fear the world which does not submit to your rule. We fear the evil, sorrow, and tragedy of the walk-by-faith world. If our hearts are not resting in the reality of eternity, then your rule does not feel comforting. You must accomplish a supernatural work in our hearts to desire ultimate safety and hope rather than present security and comfort. Lord, please work this in us!
1 Verses 13 and 14 are also in the natural break for this passage, so include them in your study this week if you like. I did not include them because we will study His work on the cross in a later passage.
2 The first 2 chapters of Colossians are sometimes called “orthodoxy”, doctrine rich teaching which Paul wanted to impart. In Chapters 3 and 4, Paul outlines his “orthopraxy”, which explains how these doctrines about Christ should make a difference in their daily lives.
3“Epistle to the Colossians”, International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1996).
4Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 243-244.
5 “Men could not have done it (renewed the image of God in mankind), for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, for they are not the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, who could recreate man made after the image.” St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1944), 41.
6See similar words used in Ephesians 6:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 1:21.
7See also John 1:1; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2
8 For further study of the relationship between the Father and the Son, look up: Matthew 24:36; John 5:21-23; 8:28-29; 10:25-30; 14:9-12; 17:1-5; 20:21.
9 After adding your own, these are also helpful: Psalms 46:10; Ephesians 2:4; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:20; Titus 3:4-6; 1 John 1:9.
10 Historically, we can see the effects of ‘forced conformity’ to God’s standards: 1) The Crusades forced ‘disciples’ to convert, but history showed that decisions of the will do not make for transformations within the heart! 2) The Puritans who attempted to create a perfect society based on God’s standards faced a rude awakening one generation later when their unconverted children took the helm. We know that one day all men will see His ultimate rule. Yet it begs the question, What role do we play in helping others come to realize His pre-eminence in this life?
11Meditate on Paul’s circumstances as he is writing about Christ over all things! Also meditate on Christ’s responses to those who questioned His lack of displayed power: Matthew 26:53; John 19:8-11.
Philippians 2:5-11 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth -- and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. NET
I held back my daughter’s hair as her dinner resurfaced in the toilet. The night before we had enjoyed a local sampling of “street food” during the Zhong Qiu Jie (Autumn) Festival, and Kathryn was paying the price while her insides writhed in distress. If only I had followed my better judgment and voted against the back alley taste test… The thoughts swirled through my head as I soon found I was the one hugging the toilet. Did the King of Kings really face these human ailments, or did He just appear to be human? Did He enjoy local cuisine, only to have it turn sour inside? Or did He have super-human powers that identified food poisoning before He took a bite? Did He ever feel lonely? Cold? Exhausted? If Jesus really did experience all the physical and emotional responses of human existence, then it changes everything about the way we relate to Him today.
Day 1: Read the background info and the whole book of Philippians
Day 2: Meditate on Philippians 1:27-2:4 and 2:12-18, noting the surrounding context
Day 3: Read Acts 16:12-40 of Paul’s visit to Philippi for clues about Paul’s audience
Day 4: Reread Philippians 2:12-4:20 to see Paul’s desired applications for them
Day 5: Answer the “discussion” questions
Day 6: Answer the “application” questions
Day 7: Spend a focused prayer time worshiping and reflecting on application
Philippians is written from prison by Paul to the saints at Philippi, mostly Gentiles. Paul came to know them during his 2nd missionary journey recorded in Acts 16:12-40. It is his most personal letter, one of heartfelt joy to the believers he loved. It is thought by many to be the last of his epistles during the end of his Roman imprisonment, around 63 or 64 AD1. Paul writes, in light of his own circumstances, to encourage them to find joy in the midst of their difficulties by seeking to know Christ and be like Him. (The word “joy” and its forms are found 18 times in 4 short chapters!)
Some consider this passage to be one of the most important revelations of Christ in the whole New Testament. Many also feel this passage is difficult to interpret. Beginning in Chapter 2, Paul exhorts the church to unity and selflessness as a body. Thus, 2:5-11 shows Christ as Paul’s ultimate example of the attitude he hopes they will demonstrate. Also, 2:12-18 flows naturally from this section as it expresses Paul’s hopes for their behavior in light of Christ’s example. This passage is thought by some to be an early Christian hymn.
Kenosis: This Greek term comes from this passage in the phrase “emptied Himself.” Kenosis is the word used to discuss what took place in Christ’s incarnation. We must seek to understand in what sense Christ laid aside His divine riches in becoming human. Historically, most in the ancient church taught that the Son laid aside only His divine appearances or rights, but fully retained all of His divine attributes. They argued that if He ceased to have some divine attributes, then He could not be fully God2. Some groups in the early church (as well as some today) argue that He not only laid aside appearances, but also divine attributes. Why does it matter what happened when Christ became a man? Let’s tackle this question!
1. Make a list of everything Philippians 2:5-11 reveals about Christ. (Which phrases describe Him before the incarnation, and which describe after?)
2. What is “the same attitude” that Christ had referred to in Philippians 2:5? How is humility defined in this passage?
3. Similar to last week’s Colossians passage, some mistake these verses to say Christ was created, or Christ was not fully human, or that Christ is not fully divine. The failure to hold both His humanity and His deity in tension has been the source of oodles of heresies and cults, historically and in the present. What does each phrase mean3?
4. Let’s put these phrases together now. How would you defend both the deity and the humanity of Christ from the Bible4? What is lost when one is emphasized over the other?
5. Take a stab: In your understanding, how would you explain the mystery of the incarnation (He “emptied himself”) to someone? Did He give up or lay aside any divine attributes, or the exercise of them? What if any clues does this passage or surrounding context give? What difference does it make?
6. Up for a challenge? Early church Christians wrestled with these questions long before us. These views were instrumental in helping the early church form sound beliefs about the deity and humanity of Christ. We not only gain insight from modern-day Christians who are different from us. We also have a lot to learn from the ways God’s Spirit revealed truth to the saints of history. Don’t be scared by these funky names!
7. In 451, rising from concerns over these heresies, the Chalcedonian Council was convened and wrote the Chalcedonian creed. Ever heard of it?
“We, then, following the holy Father, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; (A) truly God and truly man, of a reasonable/rational soul and body; consubstantial (having the same nature or substance) with the Father according to the Godhead, and (A) consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, (N) to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, (E/M) indivisibly, inseparably; (N) the distinction of the natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and (E/M) concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has been handed down to us.
Adapted from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 554-556.
8. What was the outcome of Christ’s humility? (2:9-11)
9. Read Isaiah 45:18-23 and give the biblical context for the phrase, “every knee will bow.” (In other words, what is the meaning of this phrase in the Isaiah passage? How might this inform Paul’s use of these words in Philippians?)
10. Whereas we cannot exhort one another to be sovereign, this passage has a distinct ‘be like Christ’ context. What are the phrases from the larger passage (2:1-18) that show Paul’s application for the Philippians? How do these strike you personally?
11. In what ways do (or will) we share in this pattern of Christ-like humility now leading to exaltation later? In contrast, in what sense does it belong to Christ alone? (See Colossians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:17.)
As we consider all it meant for you to become human, we stand in awe of your condescension. You hold the universe together by your power, yet you voluntarily gave up the glories of heaven. You forever infused dignity into our human existence that we only begin to understand. As we seek to defend our ‘rights’ we are taken back by your humility. Help us to seek to understand and consider the needs of one another ahead of ourselves, that it may cause you to look great! As we look at you, change us forever.
1Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Atlanta: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 413.
2 “Kenosis” New Unger’s Bibile Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). .
3 A great reference for looking up word meaning is found online at . Click on “study tools” and then “NeXt Bible Learning Environment.” Type in “Philippians 2:6” and each of these phrases are defined for you.
4 See Galatians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 15:21; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Titus 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:16.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 2:11 For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” 2:13 Again he says,“I will be confident in him,” and again, “Here I am, with the children God has given me.” 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 2:15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. 2:16 For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 2:18 For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. NET
Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. NET
Last week we looked at the humanity of Christ and the mystery of His incarnation. Today we look at a distinct aspect of His humanity: Temptation. As we see His temptations, we realize He is a truly unique savior who can identify with the afflicted.
Through our several international moves, I have come to consider one mark of a settled home—the ability to make chocolate chip cookies. Once our kitchen has all the appliances and requisite ingredients, baking cookies brings a much needed sense of family stability. After our move to Singapore, my daughter Kathryn was my assistant baker during this crucial batch. Now, I’m all for a good finger-licking during the batter making stage, but some limitations must be set for two year olds! I promised her a beater full of dough from the mixer if she could resist sticking her fingers in the batter. All seemed smooth with the teaching experiment, until Kathryn suddenly jumped up down from the stool, bolted to her room, and plopped down on her bed with her blankie. “It’s TOO HARD! I can’t do it, mommy!”, she lamented, as I tried to console her. My pep-talk remained unconvincing the face of such grave temptation.
There are many days I feel like Kathryn on the inside. Waves of anxiety or discouragement wash over me, tempting me to fear or lose hope. Can Jesus identify with me? Did He ever struggle against fear or failure? Was He ever tempted to doubt His Father’s goodness and care? Did he experience real temptations, or did He have some kind of super-resistant strength unavailable to the rest of us?
Day 1: Read the whole book of Hebrews (You can do it!)
Day 2: Read Hebrews 1:5-2:18 to grasp context of Christ’s superiority over angels
Day 3: Read Hebrews 3:12-14; 5:11-6:2; 10:26-36 to grasp the audience’s temptations
Day 4: Read the background info and answer the “discussion” questions
Day 5: Read passages detailing Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13);and in the garden (Matthew 26:36-46).
Day 6: Answer the “application” questions
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and worship
The book of Hebrews is perhaps the most unique ‘letter’ of the New Testament, as the date and author are unknown. Scholars disagree regarding the author, proposing Paul, Barnabas, Priscilla & Aquilla, or Apollos. The audience is assumed to be Jewish, because of the title, and the many Old Testament references. More Old Testament references are quoted in Hebrews than any other New Testament book. Hebrews encourages readers not to return to the Law, because the promises of Christ as far superior. The book outlines the supremacy of Christ over the angels, over Moses, and over the former priesthood. The book includes many warnings of increasing severity to encourage the believers toward maturity spurred on by Christ’s example1.
This section comes in the author’s larger discussion (1:5-2:18) of Christ’s superiority over the angels. He offers 3 proofs: 1) The Scriptures demonstrate it (1:5-14); 2) His sovereignty demonstrates it (2:5-9); and 3) His offer of salvation demonstrates it (2:10-18).
In these verses, the author discusses Christ’s superiority to the former priesthood. He argues that Christ is over Aaron because He has a better position than Aaron.
Hebrews is FULL of Old Testament quotes! Hebrews provides an excellent example that Christ is the point of all the Scriptures, but this is not unique to Hebrews. In John 5:39, Jesus tells the hard-hearted Pharisees, “You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me….” (At the time, the Scriptures were comprised of only the Old Testament.) We see this again in Luke 24:27 as Jesus was walking with the men of Emmaus after His resurrection. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.” Sometimes the Old Testament reference alone seems obscure, but when the New Testament reflects back upon it, it makes perfect sense. It requires a bit more work, but taking time to understand the Old Testament references will help unlock hidden imagery. A simple way to start is to ask yourself, Who was writing this Old Testament passage? What did it mean to his audience? It will make the passage rich with meaning!
1. In Hebrews 2:10, in what sense was Christ ‘perfected’2?
2. This same word ‘perfected’ is used in the following verses. What info does their context provide about the meaning of this word?
3. Why is Christ not ashamed to call us brothers? (or sisters? )
4. What is the context of the Old Testament quotes in vs. 12 & 13, reflected in Psalms 22:22, and Isaiah 8:17-18?
5. What reasons do Hebrews 2:14, 15, 17 give why Christ became flesh and blood?
6. In 2:16, why does the author refer to Abraham?
7. What does it mean, “He himself suffered when he was tempted”? In what way/sense was He tempted? (Ponder the scenes in Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:39-45; Matthew 26:36-56.)
8. What are other sources of temptation mentioned in the following verses? Which of these temptations do you tend to struggle with?
9. According to Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15, why is He able, and how does He aid the tempted?
We can only come to you because you stood fast in temptation. You are beautiful in your willingness to bear shame and injustice without retaliation. Please help us! We struggle and fight and surrender to you and know your help only by your merciful faithfulness. We have nothing within ourselves that can know victory apart from your intervention. Help us to look to You in every battle. We are floored by your unfathomable condescension—that that you are not ashamed to call us your siblings. You are a beautiful Savior!
1John D. Hannah, The Book of Hebrews, Class Notes (Fort Collins, CO: Institute of Biblical Studies, June 2005).
2 Sometimes when you don’t know what it means, it helps to ask, “What can’t it mean?” We know it can’t mean anything that contradicts the rest of Scripture. The word “perfected” comes from teleoo, which means “complete, accomplish, or consummate.” New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1994).
3 Sometimes we think that someone cannot identify with us unless they have experienced our exact circumstances. Sometimes we only tend to listen to those who share a similar past and struggles. Yet Christ never sinned like we do. Does Christ need to have sinned in order to identify with sinners? Dr. John Hannah once told a story about a woman who approached him after a lecture. He related how he formerly believed that Christ was incapable of sin. The woman asked, “If Christ did not truly struggle against sin, then how can He be a help to me?” After pondering her question, he changed his mind—now believing that it was possible for Christ to sin, yet He did not.
1 Peter 2:21-25 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 2:22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 2:23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. NET
Last week, we looked at Christ’s responses to temptation and how this aspect of His humanity is a practical help to us in our struggles against sin. This week we turn to another angle of His humanity: His suffering. First Peter is a packed book with much to teach us as we face human struggles.
Meet my Cambodian friend, Lydia1. The youngest of eight children, she was born two years before the Khmer Rouge came to power. During their reign of destruction and killing, five of her siblings died of starvation. Lydia survived as her mother slipped her extra food portions. Her parents and all her older-generation relatives were murdered before she was five. After the death of her parents, Lydia was ‘adopted’ by Khmer Rouge foster parents, a practice of the regime employed to re-educate the youngest children. She quickly learned to hide in the forest in the day time and live in the homes of the deceased at night. At age 22, Lydia became a Christian through a missionary family who came to serve God in her village. Because she spoke English, the missionaries soon asked for her help with translation materials, and provided Lydia with a foundational understanding of her faith. During her final year of seminary education in Singapore, Lydia turned down opportunities for better paying jobs and determined to return to Cambodia. She now serves God in a Christian ministry organization in her home country, convinced her fellow Cambodians are in great need of the hope she found through the gospel in the midst of her suffering.
Though I cannot begin to fathom the traumas of her childhood, Lydia exudes a contagious joy and confidence in Christ. How does she do it? How has she learned to draw strength from Christ’s sufferings? How can the injustices Christ faced in His lifetime and on the cross make a difference in our daily struggles?”
Day 1: Read the whole book of 1 Peter, noting all forms of “suffer”, “trial”, etc…
Day 2: Read 1 Peter 1:3-9, thinking about our living hope.
Day 3: Read 1 Peter 2:13-3:12 to see some of the injustices the readers were facing
Day 4: Read 1 Peter 4 & 5, noting Peter’s encouragement to them in light of Christ.
Day 5: Read other passages emphasizing Christ’s suffering (see below)
Day 6: Answer the “meaning” & “application” questions
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and praise!
First Peter is written by Peter to “those temporarily residing abroad” offering hope and encouragement in the midst of suffering. Suffering is the primary theme of First Peter. The letter uses the word suffering and its forms 14 times, as well as other words such as “trials”, “testings”, “fiery ordeal”, etc… It is thought to be written around 65AD during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Nero, who accused the Christians of burning Rome2. The culture of Peter’s day was an ‘honor-shame’ culture which esteemed people who adhered to societal values3. Believers were shunned as they rejected Roman values to follow Christ. (Look for the language of honor, shame, insult, glory, etc.. throughout the book.) It also feels Peter must have had the Lord’s directive to him in John 21 (“shepherd my sheep”) when he wrote this epistle, as this imagery is also strong in his writing.
This passage is sandwiched between two sections where Peter tells believers how to act when treated unjustly—(servants treated poorly by masters in 2:18-20; and wives treated poorly by husbands in 3:1-2.) In this context, Jesus stands as the supreme example of one who endured the suffering of injustice. In light of Christ’s example, 1 Peter 4 & 5 offers practical exhortation and hope to those facing suffering of many different kinds.
1. What are some injustices and trials the audience faced (1 Peter 2:13-3:12)?
2. We have been called for what purpose (1 Peter 2:21-23)? How did Jesus respond to injustice?
3. How does Isaiah 53:7-9 reflect on this passage?
4. Compare 1 Peter 2:23 and 1 Peter 4:19. What parallels are drawn there? Why do you think Peter refers to God as the one “who judges justly” and “faithful Creator” in these verses? (Helpful word: “entrust” in 4:19 means turning valuables over to a trusted friend for safe-keeping4.)
5. 1 Peter 2:24-25 shifts from Christ as ‘example to follow’ to Christ as ‘unique redeemer’. What reasons does Paul give for Christ bearing our sin? What relationship does this have to our suffering?
6. Unpack these phrases from vs. 25:
a. “cease from sinning”
b. “live for righteousness”—
c. “By his wounds you are healed”—Healed in what sense?
7. Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. Here, Peter ties the suffering of Christ together with the suffering of the original readers. What is the ‘fruit’ of suffering given in these verses?
8. What is the repeated pattern; the ‘fruit’ of suffering offered in these verses?
a. 1 Peter 1:7-8
b. 1 Peter 5:1
c. 1 Peter 5:4
d. 1 Peter 5:10
9. How does our patient endurance during suffering “proclaim (his) virtues” (2:9)? Why does our suffering make God look good to others?
10. If you have time, read through the whole book and list all of the ‘fruits’ of suffering and responses Peter encourages in those suffering. (Note 1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:13; 4:1-2; 4:12-19; 5:9-10.)
When we consider the severe injustices you faced, it is shocking that you did not sin in any way. Your beautiful example gives us strength to face our struggles with hope. Thank you for your unique suffering on the cross on our behalf. Because you faced the cross alone, we will always have a Shepherd to walk beside us in our trials. Help us by your grace to struggle well in our own difficulties, and offer words of true comfort to those in need.
1 Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
2 Thomas Constable, Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes: 1 Peter, at , accessed January 27, 2007.
3 Steve Bechtler, Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community and Christology in 1 Peter (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 182.
4 Robert Mounce, A Living Hope: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 34.
5 Like my friend Lydia, Christians from different backgrounds, especially those from countries which have faced severe persecution, can add a great deal of insight to our own limited perspective.
Hebrews 5:7-8 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. NET
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,1 we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 12:2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 12:3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.
We have already looked at an overview of Hebrews, but we will spend 2 more weeks studying passages in Hebrews because they are so full of Christ! This is the 4th focus week on Christ’s humanity. We have seen He humbled Himself, He faced temptation, He faced suffering, and this week—He persevered!
Having moved to the northern part of China last Fall, we were delighted to discover that mountains to the north provided fun and cheap winter skiing options. At age 4, Kathryn was determined to conquer the mountain on her first attempt. Her confidence quickly faltered after feeling the awkward boots and slick skis that would send her plummeting down the slope. Yet, we had already paid for her ski lesson, and we were not going to give up that easy. Though her instructor didn’t speak any English, he was kind and patient with her. The beginning was a bit sketchy, as my ever emotionally-aware Kathryn cried out, “Oh, mommy, my heart feels like quitting.” The language didn’t end up proving a great barrier, as Kathryn discovered a certain ‘International Ski Language’. It turns out that a sheer look of terror means “Oh no, I’m going to crash!” in every language! By the end of the lesson, she had braved a downhill slope on her own and bore the satisfaction of accomplishment. “I did it, mommy! I’m glad you didn’t let me quit.”
During that hour by her side of faltering and falling, I tried my best to encourage her to persevere and not give up. Yet most of life’s challenges do not last an hour on the ski slopes, but rather weeks, months and long years. Can Christ’s struggles to persevere provide encouragement for our own?
Day 1: Read Hebrews 4:14-5:10 and 11-12:13 to gather the context for our two texts
Day 2: Read Hebrews 5:1-10, considering why Christ is a more qualified priest than Aaron
Day 3: Read of Jesus’ struggle in the garden (Luke 22:39-46,) referred to in 5:7-8.
Day 4: Read Hebrews 11 of the saints referred to in Hebrews 12:1
Day 5: Answer the “discussion” questions
Day 6: Answer the “application” questions
Day 7: Praise Him for persevering on our behalf and ask His help to persevere.
This passage comes in the larger section where the author outlines why Christ’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s. Hebrews 5:1-10 shows His superiority over Aaron because He meets all of God’s priestly qualifications more completely. These two verses show how Christ fulfills the priestly role of identifying with the people.
Chapter 12 follows the great ‘Hall of Faith’ listing in Chapter 11. Chapter 12 begins with the exhortation towards walking faithfully as all those mentioned in Chapter 11 have done. Yet, above and beyond the faithful saints, Christ is our ultimate example and mentor. The remainder of this section in 12:5-11 relates God’s use of painful discipline in our lives to bring us to maturity.
Philippians 3:7-14; Romans 5:1-5; 15:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:10-15; Revelation 1:9
1. In Hebrews 5:7-8, what possible event(s) in Jesus’ life are referred to here? (Read Luke 22:39-46; Matthew 26:36-46; Matthew 27:45-50; Luke 23:34; John 20:301.)
2. In Hebrews 5:7, what was Christ asking for? In what way was He heard by the one able to save Him from death? (In light of the fact that He was not saved from death!) Why was He heard?
3. In Hebrews 5:8, what does it mean that Christ “learned obedience”? How was suffering a teacher to Him?
4. Christ is the culminating example on the heels of Chapter 11’s ‘Hall of Faith.’ Quickly read through Hebrews 11. Particularly take note of verses 11:9-10; 13-16; 26, 35. What motivated these saints to persevere?
5. In Hebrews 12:2, why are we supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus? What pattern does He give us to follow2?
6. Why do you think the author calls Christ both the “pioneer” and “perfecter3“ of our faith in this passage?
7. In Hebrews 12:2, what do these phrases mean?
8. How does considering Christ’s endurance in opposition cause us not to lose heart?
9. Pull them together: What is the combined picture painted by these two passages (5:7-8; 12:1-4) about how Christ persevered?
We are drawn to consider your life—not just in your final moments on earth, but your entire journey on the earth. You show us vulnerability, strength and triumph. We praise you for choosing to obey, especially when your Father did not deliver you from death. Because of your choice, we know you can truly identify with our struggles to persevere. Help us to fight with endurance against all that keeps us from following you. Help us to set your joy before us as we press on!
1 There is some lack of clarity about the scope of Jesus’ prayer. All agree His prayer at least includes His Gethsemane experience. John Piper says of this passage, “Some take verse 7 to refer only to the battle in Gethsemane when he sweat drops of blood and pleaded with God. I don’t think so…Not just a night or a day, but during all the “days of his humanity” he was wrestling and praying and begging and crying out and weeping. It was not brief. It was a lifetime of warfare against sin…Verse 7 says “he was heard.” I think that means God gave him what he asked for, and verse 8 describes the effect of that answered prayer: he learned obedience. Jesus was praying for obedience—for persevering purity.” John Piper, He is the Source of Eternal Salvation to All Who Obey Him, Sermon on September 22, 1996 at , accessed October 20, 2007.
2The word for “fix” word implies longing with great expectation. New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1994).
3This word “perfecter” is the same word we studied week 3 in Hebrews 2:10. See week 3, discussion questions 1&2.
4 “To see the true force of the expression here, it is necessary to divest ourselves of these ideas of glory which encircle the “cross”, and place ourselves in the times and lands in which the most infamous of mankind were stretched upon it…That infamy Jesus was willing to bear, and the strength of his confidence in God, his love for man, and the depth of his humiliation, was shown in the readiness and firmness with which he went forward to such a death.” Barnes Notes, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (Biblesoft, 1997).
5For an excellent discussion on this topic, see the following article by John Piper: Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly, at .
Hebrews 7:23-28 And the others who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. 25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness, but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever. NET
Hebrews 9:11-14 But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, 12 and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. NET
Hebrews 10:10-14 By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again – sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. NET
This week we look at the end of Christ’s first earthly journey through His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. We will explore three passages within the larger section of Hebrews (4:11-10:18) that capture some of the most significant aspects of His priesthood. Use the outline below to help you keep the passages rooted to the whole context as we try to gain an overall snapshot. Try to put yourself back into the shoes of the Jewish people who relied daily upon a physical sacrificial system—very foreign to us!
Living overseas away from our home culture, there are few things that evoke as much excitement as a package from Nana. One such day, the girls and I headed to the post office with a skip in our step anticipating all the fun treats inside. When we arrived with the slip in hand, we were met with dreaded words of disappointment.
“Your package is not here.”
“But this slip says it’s here…Well then where is it?”
“It’s at another very far away post office. You must go there. They will not deliver it.”
I could tell this was going to be a long day. Two hours later, we arrived at the very far away post office. After fumbling around for 20 minutes, I found the right window and presented them with my ID. I could see our package sitting across the counter. Again our goals were blocked.
“This permit is fake. It will not do.”
“No, it’s not fake. It’s the one the police gave us.”
“Well, it looks like a copy. This one could be forged. You’ll have to get another original.”
“But our package is right there. And you can see our names right here that match it. Please help me!”
“There’s no way.”
For two little girls who have been twice delayed in receiving their grandma’s package, this was too much to bear. In those moments, mommy had no words of hope or encouragement, as we all sat down and cried. There was an eternal divide at the package counter with no mediator to plead my case.
In the wake of this ‘minor’ trauma, I considered Jesus’ role as mediator from a fresh perspective. We sit helpless on the other side of the counter with an eternal divide between us and our salvation. Jesus stands as the perfect mediator who rescues us with an eternally valid ID, securing a package of infinite worth! How has He done this? What difference does it make in our lives today?
4:14-16 …He has a better position than Aaron
5:1-10 …He has better qualifications than Aaron (Grow to maturity 5:11-6:20)
7:1-28 …He comes from a better order; not a Levite, but that of Melchizedek
8:1-13 …He offers a better covenant
9:1-10 …He offers from a better sanctuary
9:11-10:18 …He offers a better sacrifice
Day 1: Read Hebrews 7:11-25; 9:11-22; 10:1-18 (our context for this study)
Day 2: Read Leviticus 16 which details the events of the Day of Atonement
Day 3: Read Psalms 110 referred to in Hebrews 7:17, 21 and 10:12-13.
Day 4: Read “Other passages speaking of Christ our Priest” below
Day 5: Complete chart and answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “application questions”
Day 7: Meditate on Christ our Priest; Christ our Sacrifice
Romans 3:25-26; 4:25; 5:1-2, 8-9; 8:32-34; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Galatians 1:4; 2:20; 3:13-14; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 2:8; 3:10-11; Colossians 1:13-14, 20, 22; 3:1-4; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; 1 John 2:2; 4:10
1. In Hebrews 7:23-25, what aspect of Christ’s priesthood is emphasized? In what way does His priesthood continue even now, although this sacrifice was made long ago?
2. In 7:25, what is meant by “save completely”? What is the relationship between “save completely” and Christ’s intercession for us? Several Scriptures speak to the finished work of Christ. From the cross, He cried, “It is completed!” In Hebrews 10:10 we read, “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Yet, if His work is finished, why does He continue to intercede3?
3. In 7:26-28, in what ways is Christ different from earthly priests? What is the “the word of solemn affirmation” (See Psalm 110.)
Here we begin a shift from the nature of the Priest to the nature of His sacrifice…
4. In 9:11, what are “the good things to come”? And what is the “greater and more perfect tent”?
5. In 9:12-14, what was accomplished through the blood of goats and calves? Comparatively, what is accomplished by the blood of Christ? (For more insight, read about the Day of Atonement referred to here in Leviticus 16.)
6. Hebrews 9:13 and 10:11 might seem possibly contradictory. How can you explain this?
7. In Hebrews 9:13 & 14, what is the difference between the cleansing of the flesh and the cleansing of the conscience from dead works? What is His ultimate purpose for Christ’s greater cleansing work?
8. Hebrews 10:12-13 is quoted in Psalm 110. What picture is painted in this Psalm? What is the significance of Christ who “sat down at the right hand of God”? What is the future event for which Christ is waiting? How does this future event relate to His past sacrifice?
9. Rewrite 10:14 in your own words, making clear what has already happened, what is happening now, and what is yet to come. (Reading this verse in a few different translations might be helpful.)
10. Write a short summary of what these three passages emphasize about Christ the Priest and His Sacrifice.
What was earth-shattering to the Jewish way of life sometimes becomes commonplace to us. Help us to more fully grasp the depth of your sacrifice on our behalf! We praise you for the beautiful mystery of our salvation—You have fully guaranteed our holiness, yet this very day we are being saved by your intercession for us. How we need you every day! Thank you also for reminding us that our salvation is not about us as an end, but unto your service and worship. May you be glorified as we praise you!
What is true of the former priesthood:
How Christ’s priesthood is different:
1 Hannah, Hebrews Class Notes.
2 Before you begin this section, I found it helpful to make a chart comparing the former priests with the priesthood of Christ. Complete this chart first (on the last page of this lesson) and use it as a reference as you answer the questions.
3 It is helpful to know that the word “salvation” in Hebrews refers to our future-fulfilled inheritance n Christ. In other words, the author of Hebrews uses this word to indicate the entire package of promises given to Christians, not complete until we are joined together in heaven with the saints in the presence of the Lord.
4“What this means, in essence, is that the entire worship life of the Old Testament has been radically refocused onto Jesus himself and has become a radically spiritual thing, as opposed to an external thing. The external is still important, but now the spiritual is so radically pervasive that virtually all of external life, not just church life, is the expression of worship.” John Piper, Our High Priest is the Son of God Perfect Forever, Sermon on December 8, 1996 at , accessed March 2, 2007.
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 15:21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. 15:22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 15:24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 15:26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death. 15:27 For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. 15:28 And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. NET
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – 15:52 in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 15:54 Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting” ? 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 15:58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. NET
April 24, 2007—the fifth anniversary of our first daughter’s birthday. Hannah Kathryn Wallace lived a short two weeks with an undiagnosed ‘minor’ problem turned major. Her sister Kathryn Elizabeth was born 13 months later. By the time Kathryn was 3, we had often discussed Hannah’s life and I wanted her to be a part of commemorating her sister’s birthday. Yet living in Singapore in an apartment without a garden or yard, I was unsure how to continue our yearly tradition of planting flowers on her birthday. As the afternoon progressed I was feeling like a horrible mom who forgot her daughter’s birthday. I decided to share my feelings with Kathryn just before afternoon snack. Suddenly Kathryn bolted out, “Mom, can we eat an apple right now?” “Sure”, I said curiously. Healthy snacks are not usually her first suggestion. “Why do want an apple?” “Because planting an apple tree would be the perfect present for her birthday!” I could think of nothing better. So we shared an apple, acquired 9 seeds, and impromptu took them to her ‘garden’ downstairs to plant them. No matter that apples don’t grow in Singapore. Never mind that she planted them in a shallow bit of dirt in an area designed for shrubs and flowers. Her enthusiastic idea was the perfect remedy for our day of remembering.
After our experiment, I realized that my desire to plant flowers (or now trees!) on Hannah’s birthday is wrapped up in the resurrection. Though she can’t articulate it, Kathryn senses this too. Beyond sentimental platitudes, flowers and plants remind me that life will win the day. If Christ has not been raised, then my apple tree, my hope, my daughter’s short life—seem meaningless. Does the resurrection really matter that much? If it does, why do I so seldomly feel the weight of its significance? What impact is the resurrection supposed to have on our daily lives?
Day 1: Read/Skim all of 1 Corinthians to get a feel for the breadth of topics covered in this book
Day 2: Read Acts 18:1-17 to read about the Corinthian environment
Day 3: Read 1 Corinthians 15 to see the context for these 2 sections of verses.
Day 4: Read Isaiah 25:6-12 and Hosea 13:1-14 to see the context for the “death” references
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “application questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and praise meditating on His resurrection
First Corinthians is written by Paul to the church of Corinth probably during his 3rd missionary journey around 56 or 57AD. Corinth was a major trading port, and the prosperity brought luxury and immorality. The “Corinthian life” came to be synonymous with a life of wealth and involvement in pagan prostitution1. Paul addresses many practical issues in this letter, including divisions, lawsuits, immorality, marriage, idol and public worship, the nature of love, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. Paul evangelized in this region and founded the church here, detailed in Acts 18.
This chapter is Paul’s defense of the resurrection. The concept of the resurrection was not accepted in Greek culture, where the ‘spiritual’ was exalted over the physical body. Also, prevalent teachings claimed there was no life after death. Chapter 15 is the last issue Paul addresses before the close of the book. The two smaller sections we will study this week come from chapter 15, yet are best understood in the context of the whole chapter.
Romans 1:4; 4:19-25; 6:5-11; 8:22-25; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Phil 3:8-12; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 3:21-22
1. The following passages also draw specific application for the Christian life from the truth of the resurrection. How do these Scriptures tell us to ‘apply’ the resurrection? Which of these most encourages you?
2. The first-fruits analogy from 1 Corinthians 15 is also pictured in Romans 8:22-25. How might the use of this analogy in these passages help you process thoughts and expectations of this life versus life after the resurrection?
3. We all look forward to our new bodies! What might we discern about our new resurrection bodies from the appearances of Christ in the gospels after His resurrection? (See Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:30, 39; John 20:20; Acts 10:41.)
4. What are your feelings about the limitations of your body? How does the resurrection of Christ as the “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” encourage your thoughts about your current body?
5. “Death is swallowed up in victory?…Where, O death, is your sting?” When have you most felt this sting of death? In light of this, what do you think it will be like to say with finality, “Death, where is your sting?” Journal your thoughts and emotions. As we have much to learn from others, take a moment to share with one another some of the deepest lessons He has taught you through your losses.
6. When I first pondered 15:58, I was surprised by Paul’s application for this passage. Rather than saying, “Therefore, be encouraged”, he says, “Therefore, work!” Why and how do you think Christ’s victory over death is to inspire our labor for His kingdom? How can you purpose to apply verses 15:57 & 58 as a unified set?
7. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
8. Christ, the victorious and resurrected One. What about this week’s study has made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you? Write a prayer expressing worship in view of your deepening understanding of His resurrection, as well as one application you will take away from this lesson.
We cannot live long before death blows a personal sting. How we long for the day we can say, “Death, where is thy victory”! We love the images of you painted in these verses, victoriously presenting yourself to the Father as a ‘down-payment’ of the abundant crop! Help us not to grow weary, but to persevere in laboring for your harvest as we wait for your glorious return! Draw our hearts to long for that day!
1 Nelson’s Book of Bible Maps and Charts, 386.
2 The New Living Translation reads, “so He will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.” The Revised Standard Version reads, “that God may be everything to everyone.”
3 John Piper states, “Swallowing—this means that death gets an apparent victory, just as with Jesus, but in the end, it is triumphed by (my words) a ‘bigger fish’. Sting—a sharp painful thrust against our soul when we die…like the absence of the lethal poison in a scorpion. It stings you and tries to kill you, and it can’t.” The Mighty “Therefore” of the Ultimate Victory God Gives Us in Christ, Sermon on January 8, 2006 at , accessed on July 21, 2007.
4 In the same sermon above, Piper says, “This punishment, this legal sentence of misery, has force…because the law of God tells us what to do and renders God’s curse if we rebel—which we all have done. So what makes death terrifying is our sin, and what gives that terror such force is that the entire law of God stands behind it.”
5Several words in this verse lead us back to the “firstfruits” analogy. The word for “firm” implies ‘rooted/grounded’. The word for “outstanding” is a picture of an abundant crop. The word for “in vain” is used in the parable of the servant who came to check on the vineyard. The slaves beat him and sent him away empty. Via the Old Testament concept of firstfruits, each of these words in 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that He will bring forth the entire harvest!
Romans 8:28-39 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 8:29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. 8:31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 8:32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 8:34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NET
This week we turn from the earthly life of Christ to the work of Christ post-resurrection. Here we focus on the same historical time frame as the New Testament epistles—the time in-between Christ’s 1st and 2nd comings. In this context we will ask, “What is Christ doing right now in the lives of His children?” Many passages highlight the current work of Christ in His Body of believers. Romans 8 carries many important themes, and we will add some other passages as well.
Shortly after the birth of our 3rd daughter, we moved to Singapore. A colicky and allergy-prone baby, it was after Ellie’s first birthday before I got my first full night sleep. That fall I found myself in a new country with a new baby and a toddler, and a husband whose job required frequent travel. Others may have met this challenge with more fortitude and finesse, but I was drowning. During a sleepy midnight feeding, I remember reading Psalm 46:10, referring to the Lord as an “ever present help in times of trouble.” I broke down in bitter tears. “What does this mean, Lord? I need someone to knock on my door in the middle of the night to take a feeding! Exactly what kind of help are you offering?” There have been many such moments of struggle where I am tempted to conclude that God’s promises only apply once we make it to heaven. Yet between now and then—what is God doing up there? When I don’t see fruit in my life, is He really working in me? What is He up to right now?
Some consider Romans the ‘mother’ of all epistles, Paul’s greatest theological contribution to the Church. It contains the most comprehensive and doctrine-rich presentation of the gospel we find in the Scriptures. It is thought to have been written from Corinth at the end of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey, around 57 AD1. It was written to the church in Rome, which had been well established by the time of this letter. A very simple outline is as follows: Chapters 1-8 offer the need for and revelation of God’s righteousness in Christ. Chapters 9-11 detail the particular role of Israel in God’s eternal plan. Chapters 12-16 present specific application in light of the main doctrinal section.
The end of Chapter 8 comes as a climax of Paul’s comprehensive gospel presentation. Chapters 4 & 5 demonstrate our just condemnation and justification in Christ, and Chapters 6-8—please forgive the simplicity of the summary!—discuss our growth in holiness. In this section, Paul culminates his doctrinal truths with a capstone of final victory and security in Christ.
Day 1: Read Romans 1-8
Day 2: Read Romans 12-16 to see Paul’s application points for chapters 1-8
Day 3: Read Acts 28:11-30 to see Paul’s interaction in Rome (after writing Romans)
Day 4: Focus on Chapter 8 noticing the context of 8:28-39 within the section
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer “application” questions
Day 7: Spend time in meditation and praise for His current work reflected here.
1. You are likely familiar with Romans 8:28. How do 8:29-30 reflect upon 8:28? What do 8:29-30 reveal about the meaning of “all things work together for good…”? What is His purpose for us and how does He bring it about?
2. What is the meaning of each of these words in 8:29-302?
3. What is the relationship between our being conformed to Christ’s likeness, and Christ being the firstborn of many brothers3?
4. What are the “all things” freely given us by the Father? (Pay attention to context of verses 29 & 30. See also Psalms 84:11, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 6:31-33.) What is Paul’s proof that God really is this generous?
5. What are the four events referred to in 8:34? What significance do they have in light of Paul’s purpose in these verses?
6. Write out the things Paul mentions that cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. Why do you think he chooses these things? In what sense might the audience have felt these things could separate them from His love?
7. What is Paul’s purpose for quoting Psalms 44:22 in Romans 8:36? What details the Psalm also apply to the Romans’ situation4?
8. What does Paul mean by stating, “in all these things we have complete victory” (8:37)? Conquer what? What is against us? Conquer with what result?
9. Romans 12 begins an application section of the book of Romans. How might Romans 8:28-39 and 12:1-2 be connected?
1. Paul emphasizes both our conformity to Christ’s image and the love of Christ together in this Romans passage. How do these two concepts fit together?
2. Like we discussed in our last Hebrews study, this section also mentions Christ’s intercession. Does this passage shed any new light on the purpose or content of His intercession?
3. Is the depth of Christ’s love a personal reality to you? Paul mentions many things he thought his audience might believe could separate them from God’s love. What might you add to this list, in your personal life or in your Christian community? What things tend to cause you to doubt His love? What steps might you take to grow in trust of His eternal, unchanging, abiding love for you?
4. Romans 8 highlights certain elements of Christ’s work in us now, but there are many others. What do these other passages bring to light? (Pay attention to present-tense verbs.) Which most encourage you?
5. Combined with the Romans 8 passage, the verses above can give us a glimpse of what Christ is doing up in heaven right now on behalf of His body. Take a few moments to combine these images and paint a verbal picture of this current work of Christ.
6. How many of these things (His works in us above) are subjectively discernable? In other words—sanctification, His eternal protection, His sustaining love, His preparing us for good works, His serving as our advocate, etc…—can you often feel these? Do you struggle with measuring your growth by what you can ‘feel’ Him doing in you? How can you take steps towards walking by faith and not by sight; trusting in His objective promises which you cannot always measure?
7. In this lesson we have focused on Christ’s activity now. Previous lessons have emphasized some of the things that are yet to come. We want to be careful to hold onto both—He is quite active now, but there is much more to come! How do you hold together this tension between what He is currently doing (asking and believing He hears and answers now,) and what He has yet to do (a healthy longing unfulfilled until we are in His presence)?
8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
9. Christ, actively working in the lives of His own. What about this week’s study has made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you? Write a prayer expressing worship in view of your deepening understanding of His current role in His body and one application you will take away from this lesson.
Thank you for reminding us of the great works you perform in the lives of your children. Sometimes we do not see or feel it and become discouraged. Help us to hold unswervingly to your promises! You are infinitely trustworthy, and we submit our growth to your process and timing. May our lives honor you as we seek to look more like you!
1Nelson’s Bible Maps and Charts, 380.
2 This would be another great time to consult as a resource. Click on “study tools”, then “NeXt Bible learning environment”, then “Study dictionary.” You will find definitions for each of these terms gathered from a wide variety of reliable sources.
3Piper helps us see this more clearly. “Christ died and rose from the dead as the firstborn of many siblings so that he would be seen and enjoyed by them and by others as preeminent, superior, gloriously great. In other words, our destiny to be like Christ is all about being prepared to see and savor his superiority. Without these final words in verse 29, O how easily we would slip into a man-centered view of sanctification that make us and our likeness to Christ the ultimate goal. It is a goal. But it is not the ultimate goal. The exaltation of Christ is the ultimate goal.” Glorification: Conformed to Christ for the Supremacy of Christ, Sermon on August 11, 2002 at , accessed March 14, 2007.
4 Martyrdom was, and has always been, the norm for Christianity. See , the website of International Christian Concern.
2 Corinthians 3:12-17 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, 3:13 and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective. 3:14 But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. 3:15 But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds, 3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. NET
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, 4:4 among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. 4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 4:6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. NET
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. 1:22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 1:23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 1:24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1:26 Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. 1:27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 1:29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 1:30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 1:31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” NET
In his book Scribbling in the Sand, Michael Card relates the story of traveling to China to perform, but at the last minute his concert was unexpectedly cancelled. He was able to pull together an informal gathering of students and began sharing some of his music with them. He sensed the students were more eager to share their stories, so he stopped to listen.
“A young, intelligent woman shared her testimony…and spoke of the spiritual struggle growing up in a place where official doctrine dictated against any belief in God. She told us, however, that since she was a little girl she had found her heart resonated with the beauty in nature. She described a series of epiphanies. First there was a sunset that caused a deep stirring in her soul that she could not put into words. Then there was a time when the simple beauty of the flowers in her mother’s garden spoke to her of a simplicity for which her heart yearned. Simply by observing the beauty in nature she had become convicted of the existence of not simply a benign god but a loving, caring Father. “Imagine the joy I experienced when I learned that he had a name, and that it was Jesus”, she said with tender, moist eyes and a brilliant smile. All at once almost everyone started chiming in with nearly identical stories...1“
As Christians, we are often reminded of our responsibility to be a light to non-believers around us in our lifestyle and words. Yet sometimes we seem to forget that God often lays silent building blocks of faith before we arrive. So what is God doing now in the lives of those who will believe? And what is our role in that process? How do our human efforts work together with God’s plans? If God doesn’t need us, then why does He want us to be involved at all?
We are still in the “now” of Christ’s ‘eternity past to eternity future’ history. This lesson is about Christ’s position towards the unbeliever, but in a particular sense. Here it might help to clarify two types of unbelievers: One will come to faith in time, and one will not—only God knows the final outcome! Here, my mind stumbles trying to wrap my hands around what God knows from eternity and how that plays out in time. The New Testament does speak clearly of how Christ works in those coming from death to life in time. So, in this study, we’ll look at the question “What is Christ doing in the process of bringing someone to trust in Him?” These three passages paint a clear picture of this process. This will be the only time our study spans two books. Even though the 1 Corinthians passage comes first chronologically, I have flipped them because this order packs a greater theological punch. 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 answers more of the “how” question, and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 speaks to the “why” question.
Two weeks ago we studied a passage from First Corinthians. Between these two letters of Paul to the church at Corinth, false teachers had been stirring up the people to distrust Paul. They were accusing him of being proud, dishonest and unqualified. Paul had sent Titus to deal with these difficulties, and upon Titus’s return, heard of their change of heart. Thus, this second letter expresses thanks for their repentance and pleads with the remaining factions to accept his authority. This letter is believed to have been written from Macedonia about 6-18 months after First Corinthians. Many believe that there are possibly two letters to the Corinthians (one before First Corinthians, and one after) that have been lost. In this letter, Paul offers the most information about his own life and journey. Chapters 1-7 give a defense of his ministry philosophy; Chapters 8-9 discuss a collection for the saints; and in Chapters 10-13, Paul defends His apostleship2.
The two selected passages from 2 Corinthians highlight the ‘Christ-focused’ sections of Paul’s discussion about ministry. Both 3:12-18 and 4:3-6 fall into a larger portion explaining the boldness of a minister of the gospel in light of the superiority of Christian ministry to Mosaic ministry.
Day 1: Read all of 2 Corinthians. What differences do you notice from 1 Corinthians?
Day 2: Read 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, noting the context of this week’s passages.
Day 3: Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 asking, “how does Christ work in the unbeliever?”
Day 4: Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 asking, “why does God do it this way?”
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “application questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and write one application point for this lesson
2 Corinthians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; 2 Peter 3:8-9
1. Read Exodus 34:29-35 which details the incident referred to in 2 Corinthians 3:13. Why did Moses minister with a veil? What is the veil representing in this passage, and what is the veil covering? What picture is Paul painting here3?
2. Why is meant by “For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read”? What is the comparison being drawn between Moses and Christ? How is (the ministry of) Christ different than (the ministry of) Moses?
3. Why does 2 Corinthians 4:4 say the veil still remains4?
4. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, how is the veil taken away? Notice the parallels in 4:4 and 4:65. (See also 2 Corinthians 3:16-17. Why do you think the Holy Spirit is mentioned here?)
The light of the
glorious gospel of
Christ who is the image of God.
The light of the
glorious knowledge of
God, in the face of Christ
5. What is the means God often uses to bring light? (See 2 Corinthians 3:12; 4:5; also 2 Co 2:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Acts 26:17-18.)
6. Reread 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. What are the obstacles to faith given about the Greek and Jewish cultures mentioned here? How do these obstacles keep them from embracing the gospel?
7. In 1 Co. 1:27, what are the “foolish6“, “weak”, “low and despised” things, and “things that are not”?
8. What can we discern from Isaiah 29:13-16 and Jeremiah 9:23-24 about this passage?
9. What does this passage reveal about Christ’s role in the person coming to faith?
10. WHY does God do it this way? Why is God “pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21)?
A weak and crucified Messiah seems foolish to the world, and sometimes we miss the beauty of it too. Open our eyes to see the wonder of your unfathomable work and ways! Make us skilled in making you look beautiful to others, as you truly are! Use our words and lives to remove the veil and shine your light on those in need of your grace.
1 Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 27.
2 Nelson’s Bible Maps and Charts, 395-397.
3The word for “boldness” in 3:12 means ‘openly/publicly.’ You could say “barefaced”—in contrast to Moses’ veil. The same word is used in 1 John 2:28-29: “Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have great confidence and not shrink away…”
4 We see an interesting thread in the use “minds” throughout 2 Corinthians. Trace this path: 2 Co 2:11; 2 Co 3:14; 2 Co 4:4; 2 Co 10:5; 2 Co 11:3. Here we find a specific involvement of the mind as someone comes to Christ. Yet, in 2 Co 2:15, “heart” is used synonymously with mind. The veil lies over the heart…Satan has blinded the mind. These are two pieces of the same puzzle.
5For this insight, I am indebted to John Piper who gave a talk during our staff conference in Fort Collins in the summer of 2005.
6See the play on the word “foolishness” in these verses: 1 Co 1:18, 20, 21, 23; 2:14; 3:19.
7“The glory of Christ is the highest and best and final good that makes all the other good things promised in the gospel good. Justification is good news because it makes us stand accepted by the one whose glory we want to see and savor above all things. Forgiveness is good news because it cancels all the sins that keep me from seeing and enjoying the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Removal of wrath and salvation from hell are good news because now in my escape from eternal misery I find eternal pleasure beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ. Eternal life is good news because this is eternal life, Jesus said, that they know me and him who sent me. And freedom from pain and sickness and conflict are good news because, in my freedom from pain, I am no longer distracted from the fullest enjoyment of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” John Piper, What Makes the Good News Good?, Sermon on May 1, 2005 at , accessed March 17, 2007.
Revelation 19:11-21 So I threw myself down at his feet to worship him, buthe said, “Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. 19:12 His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. 19:13 He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. 19:14 The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. 19:15 From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. 19:16 He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” 19:17 Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying high in the sky: “Come, gather around for the great banquet of God, 19:18 to eat your fill of the flesh of kings, the flesh of generals, the flesh of powerful people, the flesh of horses and those who ride them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slave, and small and great!” 19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. 19:20 Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf – signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. 19:21 The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh. NET
In this sobering lesson we will explore the wrath of God. This uncomfortable teaching is often neglected in Christian venues today, yet we ignore it to our peril.
It was the Spring of my first year in China and I was out for a bike ride on our local campus on the afternoon of Good Friday. Eager to take in the signs of life in anticipation of Easter, I rode over to my favorite garden spot on the south end of campus. What I saw there shocked and appalled me. On the building across from the placid scene, someone had spray-painted “God is a homosexual” in prominent red letters. Who would dare do this? Did they even know what it meant? Should I alert the authorities of this flagrant vandalism? What can I do to erase the paint, and the shame towards His name? A righteous indignation welled up inside of me, a zealous jealousy over His defamed reputation.
As I contemplated my reaction that afternoon, I wondered if I experienced a tiny inkling of God’s feelings towards sin. Does He get angry towards those who act in brazen opposition, or even apathetic indifference to His name? If so, why doesn’t He seem to do anything about it now? If not now, when will He act, and what will that look like?
Day 1: Read or skim through Revelation, getting a feel for the chronology of the book
Day 2: Read Revelation 19 & 20 about His second coming and reign.
Day 3: Read Revelation 19:10-21 and those in discussion questions 2-4
Day 4: Read the additional passages referring to God’s wrath in appl. questions 2 and 3
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “meaning questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and meditation on your application
The next three weeks will cover sections from Revelation. It is almost impossible to summarize this complex book in one paragraph. Our purpose here is not to study or answer questions about the whole book, but give you a brief framework for understanding these passages. Revelation records the prophetic visions given to the apostle John late in his life while exiled on the island of Patmos. It is a book of consummation when the program of redemption is brought to completion. Some believe the book is organized by 1:19: “what you saw, what is, and what will be after these things.” Though the visions often seem very obscure to our modern minds, one remarks, “The whole book is saturated with illustrations from the Old Testament. It speaks not the language of Paul, but of Isaiah and Ezekiel and Daniel1.” We will focus on the timeless character of Christ revealed here, and leave the controversies of this highly mysterious book of prophesy to the experts!
This passage details the second coming of Christ and the final destruction of His enemies. Many place this event before a 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth, when He destroys all earthly enemies. (The final destruction of Satan and the lake of fire judgment comes at the end of Chapter 20.) Yet regardless of one’s view of the end times, this is the most graphic picture of the judgment of Christ we have in the Scriptures.
1. Reread the passage and write out a physical description of the person described here.
2. What is the meaning of each title ascribed to this person?
3. As Revelation is a highly symbolic book, let’s try to understand the imagery painted here. What do you think is the significance of the following images?
4. Verse 17 pictures an angel speaking to the birds in heaven. What does the angel say and what does it mean2? (See also Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20; Matthew 24:28; Luke17:37.)
5. In vs. 20, what happens to the beast and the false prophet? Who are these two figures3?
6. And in verse 21, what happens to the humans4?
7. Write a summary statement of how this passage presents Christ.
1. Contrast the first coming of Christ (at His incarnation) with His second one pictured here. How do these images hold together?
2. Sometimes we make the error of thinking that God the Father is one who exercises wrath, yet the Son is the merciful one. How does this passage correct our thinking?
3. Sometimes we tend to highlight the love of God to the exclusion of wrath, or think that God only extends mercy now, but wrath is for later. Is God’s wrath only a future characteristic? What light do these verses bring?
4. What gives us hope in the midst of wrath?
5. While we might feel no emotional tension highlighting God’s mercy by itself, we might feel equally uncomfortable when the wrath of God is emphasized over His compassion. In fact, as we see above, the two are often seen together in Scripture. Why is it important that we emphasize both? What is lost if we only hold up His mercy and not His wrath?
6. When we allow ourselves to ponder the weight of His wrath, His mercy becomes all the more comforting and glorious. As you meditate on the wrath of God this week, how does it affect you emotionally? Have you ever felt deserving of wrath? How does this deepen your understanding and thankfulness for what He has done for you in Christ?
7. Once we ponder the impending judgment of God towards those who do not believe, we surely feel burdened for those in our lives who do not know His mercy. Who are those people in your life? How does a refreshed remembrance of His wrath spur you to share the gospel with them? How might you communicate both His wrath and mercy in your presentation? Spend some time together praying for God’s mercy to fall on those most upon your heart.
8. In this lesson we see the fruit of His wrath—the end of all injustices experienced on earth, all the effects of sins ever committed by us or against us, all wickedness, evil and death; the martyred saints avenged; the enemy and accuser himself destroyed with finality. Spend some time pondering this and journal your thoughts.
9. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
10. Christ, the warrior who smites the nations, His robe bearing the blood of His enemies, destroying with finality all opposition to His glorious reign. What about this week’s lesson has made Him appear more beautiful or glorious to you this week? Write a prayer of response, as well as one application you will take away from this lesson.
We are not used to thinking of you in these ways. Your titles are shocking and these images are frightfully vivid. We tremble before your awesome power and judgment against sinners, which we once were. We rejoice in your mercies which we do not deserve! Help us tell the story of your gospel in ways that do not neglect your wrath, so that sinners may know the depth of your rich mercy. Grow us in knowing it more deeply too!
1 JB Lightfoot, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1996).
2 When Jews read this, they would quickly envision the shame of being eaten by birds and not given an honorable burial.
3“The false prophet is a religious leader of the end times who, along with the DRAGON (the devil) and the BEAST (the Antichrist), forms an unholy trinity in opposition to God (Rev 16:13; 20:10.) The Book of Revelation speaks of two beasts-The Antichrist (Rev 13:1-10), a political ruler who sets up an evil empire in opposition to the kingdom of God; and the false prophet, a religious leader inspired by Satan who deceives the world into worshiping the Antichrist (Rev 13:12.) But they will be overthrown by Christ and cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).” Nelson’s Electronic Illustrated Bible Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986).
4The sword coming out of His mouth images the words of God going forth. We can imagine His words in Genesis 1 speaking the worlds into existence, or His words to the soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane causing them to fall to the ground in John 18:6. Here the words of Christ go forth in judgment.
Revelation 5:1-14 Then I saw in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne a scroll written on the front and back and sealed with seven seals. 5:2 And I saw a powerful angel proclaiming in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” 5:3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it. 5:4 So I began weeping bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 5:6 Then I saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth 5:7 Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, 5:8 and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 5:9 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 5:10 You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 5:11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand – thousands times thousands – 5:12 all of whom were singing in a loud voice: “Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!”5:13 Then I heard every creature – in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them – singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!”5:14 And the four living creatures were saying “Amen,” and the elders threw themselves to the ground and worshiped. NET
Revelation 19:1-8 After these things I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a vast throng in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 19:2 because his judgments are true and just. For he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality, and has avenged the blood of his servants poured out by her own hands!” 19:3 Then a second time the crowd shouted, “Hallelujah!” The smoke rises from her forever and ever. 19:4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures threw themselves to the ground and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne, saying: “Amen! Hallelujah!”19:5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God all you his servants, and all you who fear Him, both the small and the great!” 19:6 Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the All-Powerful, reigns!19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen”(for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).
Last year during the week before Easter, the girls and I put on a Palm Sunday play. Now, I’m not usually the crafty blow-it-all-out kind of mom—especially in another country where there are no craft stores with ready made Jesus displays. Yet for this occasion we decorated praise shakers, cut out make-shift palm branches, made our own paper bag donkey (who barely survived the day), and colored a path to welcome Jesus as He rode. When my husband (our resident Jesus) arrived home from work, the long-awaited drama commenced. We allowed a bit of creative license, as Kathryn insisted upon serving soup as the only proper welcome for Jesus’ arrival. The event has impacted their hearts, as a year later the girls still rave about our efforts.
Easter season plays often depict Jesus’ festive welcome 2000+ year ago, but what about His praise in heaven? I was taken back when I noticed the saints who worshiped at Jesus’ throne in heaven carry palm branches too, reminiscent of that joyous parade long ago. This time, not on a lowly beast of burden, but as a victorious ruler upon His throne. Can you imagine the scene? How should these scenes in Revelation depicting God’s worship in heaven inform our worship of Him today?
Both of these passages detail scenes of Christ’s worship in heaven. Revelation 5 records John’s vision in heaven just before the Lamb opens the scroll containing the seven seals of judgment to be poured out upon the earth.
Revelation 19:1-6 comes after these judgments, before the return of Christ to the earth to wage war against His enemies (last week’s passage.) It opens with the praise of God for condemning the “great prostitute,” Babylon, which was seen in Revelation 18. Babylon historically is thought to be the empire of Rome. In the future Babylon is believed to be the world system in rebellion against God.
Day 1: Read Revelation 5; 19:1-8 and the context information paragraph
Day 2: Read Revelation 5 again, and the verses in discussion question 3b and appl. question 2.
Day 3: Read Revelation 18 (context for 19) and 19:1-8.
Day 4: Focus on Revelation 19:6-7 and look up the verses in application question 6.
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “application questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and meditation on your application
1. In 5:1-2, what is the scroll with 7 seals? Why is John weeping?
2. Who is found worthy to open it? Why doesn’t the Father open it? Why is Christ uniquely ‘qualified’ to open it? Why do you think Christ is called by this title—”the Lion of the Tribe of Judah1“?
3. How is the Lamb2 described in 5:6-7?
4. Why do you think the two titles (Lion and Lamb) are brought together here3?
5. What might be meant by the 7 horns and 7 eyes? (See how “horns” and “eyes” are portrayed in these verses: Deuteronomy 33:17; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 75:4-5; Psalms 132:17; Zechariah 4:10; 2 Chronicles 16:8-9; Psalms 11:4-5.)
6. What is the response of the following groups when He takes the scroll?
7. These verses in 5:1-14 also image another similar scene in Revelation7:9-144. Who are the ones mentioned in these verses and what are they saying?
8. Revelation 19:1-8 follows the “Fall of Babylon” in chapter 18. How are 18:20 and 19:1-3 related?
9. There are 3 praise utterances given in this section. What are they? What phrase begins each section?
10. In Revelation 19:5, what exhortation is given to the worshipers? How are the worshippers addressed7?
11. Who is the “great prostitute who was corrupting the earth with her sexual immorality” (19:2)? And what is meant by “The smoke rises from her forever and ever” (19:3)?
12. What is the contrast shown in 18:23, 19:2, and 19:7-8? (We will explore more of this marriage metaphor next week.)
13. Summarize what we learn about Christ and His praise in 5:1-14 and 19:1-8.
1. In the first section of 5:1-14, it might seem strange that Christ is both found worthy to open a scroll of judgment, yet His worth is due to the fact He shed His blood which saved men from judgment. How would you explain this? (See John 5:22; also Hebrews 10:29.)
2. These passages help develop the Lion/Lamb metaphor more fully. How do these contrasting images impact you as you picture Christ?
3. The sole ‘activity’ we observe of the saints, living creatures, and 24 elders in the presence of God is community worship. In Revelation 19:10, we see John spontaneously bowing down to worship the angel who showed him this vision. What do you picture it will be like to enter the presence of God? How do these images inform your impressions?
4. In 19:5, why do you think the worshipers are referred to as “His servants” and all those “who fear Him”? How might these titles inform the way we approach God even now? If a new Christian asked you how to approach God, how would you reply? What other Scriptures would you use to support your answer?
5. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the All-powerful, reigns…” Is God currently reigning, or is His reign a future promise? Chew on this question for a bit before looking up these verses which highlight “reign”, “rule” or “kingdom”, paying attention to the verb tenses. Is His reign present, future, or both?
6. “…Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory!” Is this verse a reality to you? Does your heart rejoice and experience gladness in worshipping Him because of His current and coming reign? Does this comfort you? Why or why not? How can you grow in setting your heart on these present and future realities?
7. We have seen some of what worship looks like in heaven. How do we see it expressed by His children on earth? Are there “right” and “wrong” ways to do this? What activities most draw your heart to worship? What might be some creative, out-of-the-box expressions of delight and joy in the person and ways of God8?
8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
9. The Lion from the tribe of Judah; the slain Lamb worthy to open the scroll of judgment; the judge of the wicked and the purifier of His bride. What about this week’s lesson has made Him appear more beautiful or glorious to you this week? Spend some time meditating on these images and write out your own words of worship to God, as well as one application you will take away from this lesson.
We love to see the beautiful diversity of your character—You are the fierce Lion and the gentle Lamb. Today in our hearts we join the scene in heaven as we bow humbly before your glorious throne. You are worthy to receive the praises of all saints throughout all of history! Help our hearts to rejoice even now as we anticipate that grand day.
1 There are only three biblical references where we find “Judah” and “Lion” mentioned together: Genesis 49:8-12; Hosea 5:14, and Revelation 5:5. (Of the 12 tribes of Israel, Judah was the chosen tribe for the line of the Messiah.)
2Look up these other references to Christ as “Lamb”: (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:36; John 21:15.) See also the “Root of David”: (Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Matthew 22:42-45; Romans 15:12.)
3It is very interesting to note that Revelation 5:6 is the only time Christ is called “lion” in Revelation. Yet the title of “lamb” is ascribed 31 times. It seems that His sacrificial work is the primary imagery by which we are encouraged to remember Him at the end of the Bible.
4 There are only 2 references in the Bible to palm branches. One is found in John’s gospel at the Triumphal Entry, and the second is here. Can you picture John (who wrote both the gospel of John & Revelation) remembering that joyful day as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, even as He tells of the consummation of Christ’s worship seen here in heaven?
5As we see the elders fall down in worship in vs. 4, we find the same words used of the wisemen who fell down and worshiped the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11.)
6Here is only time we hear we should “rejoice and be glad” in Revelation. We see the same wording in John 16:22 as Jesus comforts His disciples before His death. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John connects the two passages as if to relate that this specific Revelation scene is the time of rejoicing to which Jesus was referring!
7Other interesting references to saints as bondservants: 1) Mary’s response to the angel at his announcement of her impending pregnancy in Luke 1:38, “Behold, the bondservant of the Lord.” 2) Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 15:14-15, “I call you not bondservants…but I have called you friends.” As this passage makes clear that we truly are bondservants, what tremendous condescension that Jesus would call us friends!
8 “The principle that I am trying to illustrate and that makes Christ stand out as absolutely unique is this: beauty or excellence consists in the right proportion of diverse qualities. We admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility. We admire him for his transcendence, but even more because his transcendence is accompanied by condescension; We admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy; We admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness; We admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God’s equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God; We admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil; We admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission; We love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wisdom, and we love it even more because he could be simple enough to like children and spend time with them; We admire him because he could still the storm, but even more because he refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightning and he refused to use it to get himself down from the cross.” John Piper, Christ: The Lion and the Lamb, Sermon on March 23, 1986 at , accessed April 3, 2007.
Revelation 19:7-9 … “Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints)…19:9 Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.” NET
Revelation 21:1-7…9-11…21-26 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 21:2 And I saw the holy city – the new Jerusalem – descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist anymore – or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” 21:5 And the one seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new!” Then he said to me, “Write it down, because these words are reliable and true.” 21:6 He also said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who is thirsty I will give water free of charge from the spring of the water of life. 21:7 The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. …9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb!” 21:10 So he took me away in the Spirit to a huge, majestic mountainand showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 21:11 The city possesses the glory of God; its brilliance is like a precious jewel, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 21:21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls – each one of the gates is made from just one pearl! The main street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. 21:22 Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God – the All-Powerful – and the Lamb are its temple. 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. 21:24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. 21:25 Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). 21:26 They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it… NET
Revelation 22:1-5 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 22:2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 22:3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 22:4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 22:5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever. NET
This is our last study! We have taken a journey through the life of Christ from eternity past to eternity future: His sovereign reign before time, His incarnation, His temptation, His suffering, His perseverance, His resurrection, His current work in the lives of His people those coming from death to life, His wrath, His exaltation, and now we look at the day we will see Him face to face!
In the summer of my first year overseas, I had to make a trip to Hong Kong to have my passport re-issued. I had heard of the heightened security of the US embassy and I wasn’t looking forward to a day of long lines. Finding the location was my first arduous task as I was no more able to speak Cantonese than I could Mandarin. Yet when I arrived at the embassy, I sighed in disbelief. The queue was out the door as I braced myself for a frustrating wait. After about 20 minutes standing in line, I spied a curious sign to the right of the entrance. It read, “Entrance for US Citizens.” “Are they talking to me?”, I thought, as I made my way towards the glorious sign. An intimidating man standing at the door asked for my passport and I pulled it out for him to check. His serious face warmed into a friendly smile as he ushered me past the crowds. “Right this way, miss.” I felt I had flashed a VIP card as he led me to a room with free coffee and no lines. I walked right up the counter and handed the official my passport. “We can help you with this right away, ma’am.” That customs guy might as well have been my mother. Right there in front of the officer, I started to cry. To a weary traveler in a foreign land, there is nothing so marvelous as being welcomed by fellow citizens from the land of your home.
After my emotional moment with strange glances from the man, I thought about my reaction and reflected on a different kind of homecoming. This time not offered in an embassy, but in my true Home. This time words of comfort offered not from a stranger, but an intimate Holy Father. Can you picture the scene? Can you picture His smile as He wipes the tears away from your face? How can our longing for that day encourage us as we trudge along today?
Day 1: Read Revelation 19-22 paying attention to the context of this week’s passages
Day 2: Read the passages in discussion question 4 referring to images in Revelation.
Day 3: Read the comparison Genesis and Revelation verses in discussion question 6.
Day 4: Read the verses in application question 4 paying attention to the ‘therefores’
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “application questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and meditation on one application from this lesson.
In Revelation19:7-9, we return to the end of last week’s lesson to pick up on the ‘bride of Christ’ metaphor. Chapters 21 and 22 detail the final consummation of God with His people. Death and the devil have been destroyed and all the people of God are together with Him at last. There are many allusions to Isaiah 60 and 65, and Ezekiel 40-48 in these chapters.
“We can clarify the general time and place of the wedding supper of the Lamb by comparing it with marriage customs in the ANE (ancient near east.) There were 3 main events involved in marriage. First, the parents chose a bride for the groom. This takes place presently as the Holy Spirit calls the elect out of the world to be Christ’s bride through regeneration. Second, when the time for the marriage had come, the groom would leave his home with his friends, go to the home of the bride, and escort her from her home to his. The bride did not know when this would occur. This will take place when Christ will come to take His bride to heaven... Third, the groom provided a feast for his bride and his friends at his home that lasted several days. This will take place on earth either at the Millennium, throughout the Millennium, or beginning with the Millennium and continuing through eternity. The present verse (19:7) describes the wedding proper, stage 2, which had taken place in John’s vision. It also announces the bride is ready for the feast, stage 31.”
1. In 19:7-9, how is the bride of the Lamb described? What does the fine linen represent? What other images of the bride are seen in Ch. 21:2, 9 & 22:17? What is meant by these images?
2. When the Spirit and bride say, “Come” in 22:17, to whom are they speaking?
3. What is the “new heaven and new earth” that John is referring to in Revelation 21:1? What was the “first heaven and earth” that passed away? What is the significance of no more seas?
4. What is “the new Jerusalem” in 21:2? Why is it called by this name? Where is it coming down from, and where is it going to?
5. In 21:9-14, 22-26 how is the new city described? How do these earlier passages shed light on the Revelation images?
6. Having the glory of God- Exodus 40:34; Isaiah 60:1; Ezekiel 43:4-5
7. Brilliance like costly jasper- Revelation 4:3
8. In Revelation 21:1, 4, 23 and 22:3, 5 write a list of the things done away with.
9. Now contrast these differences with the original creation in Genesis. What does this bring to light as to the significance of their absence in the new heavens and earth? (Fill in chart below first.)
1. We see many ‘no more’s’ but in 21:5, we read “I am making all things new.” What things are made new? (What other passages might support your answer?)
2. In 21:3-7, and 22:3-5 how is God’s relationship with His people described?
3. Write a summary of what you have learned about Christ in these passages. (Look for the times you see “God and the Lamb.” What titles/names are spoken of God and what is their significance? Can you distinguish between the Father and the Son?)
1. In Revelation 19, the bride seems to be the purified saints. In Revelation 21, the bride is the city of Jerusalem. So what is the bride? A city? A people? Both? How do these relate and what is the significance2?
2. You are likely familiar with the imagery of the purified people of God as the bride of Christ. Below are several other Bible passages which refer to this metaphor. What do these verses bring to light? What particular aspects of the marriage relationship are drawn out in these verses? Why do you think God chose wedding imagery as a way to communicate Christ’s relationship with His Body in the final chapter of the Bible?
3. Last week we touched on a few ways that people responded when they saw visions of God’s presence on earth. What happened when the following people saw some vision of God? Contrast this with the new relationship we will have with God in heaven. Why will we get to enjoy a level of intimacy that they did not?
4. In discussion question 6, we saw the comparison of the ‘first creation’ with the ‘new creation’. How do the contrasts between Genesis and Revelation strike you? Have you ever heard it said that God is ‘restoring everything back to the original creation’? How would you respond to this?
5. Sometimes we hear the phrase, “They are so heavenly-minded, they are no earthly good?” Do you agree or disagree? What effect do you think meditation on our future home in the presence of God is supposed to have on our hearts? Does it have this effect for you? Why or why not?
6. The following passages speak of the ‘effect’ that thoughts about heaven should have on our hearts. What is the “therefore” of these heaven images? Which of these applications most hit your heart?
7. Of all the descriptions of the physical nature of heaven and our relationship with God there, which one is most meaningful to you?
8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
9. Christ, the bridegroom, the Lamb, the sun, lamp and temple of heaven. What about this week’s lesson has made Him appear more beautiful or glorious to you this week? Spend some time meditating on these images and write out your own words of worship to God, as well as one application you will take away from this lesson.
How we long for the beauty of the mysterious place described in these images. We cannot fathom its brilliance, yet the most tremendous truth is our presence there together with You! Many days the intimacy of your presence seems a far-off dream. Help us to soak our hearts in longing for the fulfillment of all your promises seen here. We rejoice as we wait for that day! How we long for you!
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come… The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
1 Edwin Yamauchi, “Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World” in Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes: Revelation at , accessed April 6, 2007.
2This is a tough one! Here’s one answer I found helpful: “In keeping with the language of the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:4-8; 60:15-16, 21; cf. 62:1-2), the “new Jerusalem” represents God’s faithful people, who are identified in Revelation21:2 and 9 as “the Bride of Christ” (that is, the church triumphant in heaven.) Paul speaks in the same way when in Galatians4:25-26 he contrasts the earthly city of Jerusalem of his day with “the new Jerusalem above,” which is the heavenly city that is free (by grace) and that is the “mother” of Christians, who are the true heirs of Abraham by means of the covenant fulfilled in Christ (cf. Hebrews 12:22.) Already in Revelation19:7-8 John had seen the church, the bride of the Lamb, adorned and made ready to be received by her Lord. Now, the Bride is pictured as the holy city of Jerusalem who will remain forever in God’s presence. Incidentally, even today it is common usage to refer to the people making up a city by the name of the city (as for example, “St. Louis [meaning the people of St. Louis] boasts of the arch on its riverfront....”) Hence, there is no difference between “New Jerusalem” and “the Bride of Christ,” the church.” Bride of Christ at , accessed November 2, 2007.
This study began with the thought that in order to be like Jesus, we have to look at Him. Each week we have gazed purposefully at one main aspect of Christ, yet “through a mirror indirectly.” We ended the study with a final view of our relationship with God in heaven—a day where there is no more walking by faith, but all is sight!
These final questions are designed to help you milk all you can out of this study as we conclude. Hopefully they will stir you to further thought and application beyond our weeks together. And hopefully they will be a catalyst to a wonderful time of worship and fellowship as we share how He has intersected these truths with the needs of our hearts and lives! I pray we will continue to grow as people who are habitually and purposefully gazing at Jesus, and bringing others to see Him too!
What are the 12 “beauties of Christ” that we covered? (Can you remember without looking them up?)
Spend some time reading back through each of your studies, and write out what one application or most significant thought you took away from each lesson.
How has the weekly practice of purposefully ‘looking at Jesus’ impacted you this season?
Of all the attributes of Christ that we have explored, which one or few has most impacted you during this study?
Where do you want to go from here? What is one key application you are taking away from this study?
What have been the greatest lessons you have learned from those in your community as you have studied together? Do you see the Body of Christ differently after studying His Word together? What do you want to purpose to say to each other as you conclude?
What do you want to say to Christ, our treasure, as you conclude this study?
Group prayer requests: What final request would you share for your growth in Christ as you conclude this study?
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Bechtler, Steve. Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community and Christology in 1Peter. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Mounce, Robert. A Living Hope: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. Atlanta: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
Barnes Notes. Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM]. Biblesoft, 1997.
International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia. Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM]. International Bible Translators, 1996.
Nelson’s Electronic Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM]. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM]. International Bible Translators, 1994.
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM]. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.
Hannah, John D. The Book of Hebrews. Class Notes. Fort Collins, CO: Institute of Biblical Studies, June 2005.