Living Word Weekly Bible Study (November 14-19, 2016) Monday: John 11:1-37 One of Jesus’ best friends had died, resulting in great confusion on the part of the disciples as to how and why this had happened. If Jesus healed and raised others, why did He allow Lazarus to die? This did not make sense and it set up a real faith crisis. Martha desperately ran out to meet Jesus as He came, while Mary stayed at home, grieved. Martha asked in accusatory tones, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died; but I trust You and know God will give whatever You ask.” In other words, “Shame on You for not coming sooner. Now DO something about this!” Jesus replied, “Do not worry; your brother will rise again.” Martha said that she knew he would, on the Resurrection Day. Then Jesus said one of the most powerful and important things He ever said: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me will always live, even when they are dead!” The question Jesus then asks Martha is a question we need to answer for ourselves. “Do you believe this?” At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees did not believe in any life after death---that was why they were Sad, you see? But the Pharisees and the great majority of the Jews did. WHEN Martha declared her belief in the orthodox Jewish belief in the life to come, Jesus suddenly said something which brought to that belief a new vividness and a new meaning. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” He said. “He who believes in me will live even if he has died; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” What exactly did He mean? One thing is clear—Jesus was not thinking in terms of physical life; for, speaking physically, it is not true that whoever believes in Christ will never die. The mortality rate for Christians, like all the rest of humanity still hovers right around 100%. Jesus was thinking of the life to come. He brought into life the certainty that death is not the end. We call this world the land of the living; but it would in fact be more correct to call it the land of the dying. Through Jesus Christ we know that we are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise. In the most real sense we are not on our way to death, but on our way to life. How does this happen? It happens when we believe in Jesus Christ. What does that mean? To believe in Jesus means to accept everything that Jesus said as absolutely true, and to stake our lives upon that in perfect trust. When we do that we enter into a new relationship with God. When we look at Jesus, how can we doubt for a minute how much God loves us? The fear of death vanishes, for death to the follower of Jesus means resurrection. When we accept Jesus’ way, when we take His commands as our laws, and when we realize that He is there to help us to live as He has commanded, life becomes a new thing. It becomes a real joy, a true strength and a contentment we can know no other way. • •
Since Jesus did have the power to heal, why do you think He allowed His friend Lazarus to die? Have you ever questioned “why?” When you are confused, do you still trust in Jesus? Can you give an example? What do you do when you doubt or are perplexed? Do you feel that sometimes Jesus comes late and seems to do nothing? How does this set you up with spiritual confusion or perhaps a crisis of faith? What gets you out of doubt and confusion? How does the statement, I am the resurrection and the Life, impact your life and faith? How does this show the proof and power of the Gospel? How and why as a Christian must you raise your character and Fruit of the Spirit so you are more joyful and productive?
Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 15:12-58 For the Greeks immortality lay precisely in getting rid of the body, so the resurrection of the body was unthinkable. Personal immortality did not really exist because that which gave life was absorbed again in God the source of all life. The Greeks believed that at death the immortal soul of the person sort of just floated put of the person, leaving the body behind. The heresy known as Gnosticism taught this, and sadly, many Christians today believe this heresy. The Bible’s view on resurrection is quite different than this. We do not believe that the soul floats out of the body at the body’s death---because that would make our bodies mortal, and our souls immortal. And of course that is not true---we are mortals. The Bible says: “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.” (verse 53) At death every part of us dies. If our souls were immortal, our souls would not need to be resurrected, and if we do not need to be resurrected, we would not need a Savior, would we? But we DO need a Savior, because our souls are not immortal, they, like our bodies and minds are mortal. The Christian belief is that after death our individual identity remains. In other words, in heaven you will still be you and I will still be me. To the Greek, and the Gnostics, the body is matter, and matter is the source of all evil. But to the Christian the body is not evil---in fact it is very good---it is holy. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Jesus, the Holy Son of God, has become incarnate, has become human---with a body like you and me. In the process of the incarnation, God made the human body holy. To the Christian, therefore real life involves the total person; body, mind and soul. Christians believe that the body, mind and soul all die at death---there is nothing to “float out” of the body at death---for the entire person is dead. And of course that means that when Jesus comes back, all of us who accept Him as Lord and Savior will be resurrected---and our total being will be resurrected: body, mind and soul. That is why in the Apostles Creed we confess: “We believe in the resurrection of the body…” In today’s lesson, Paul is teaching us that at resurrection, our bodies will be resurrected---NOT resuscitated. In other words, it is not our current body that lives forever, but our new bodies---our resurrected bodies will live forever. What Paul is teaching is that after death the individual remains. Everything of the body and mind and soul that is necessary to make us who we are will remain, but, at the same time, all things will be new, and body and spirit will alike be very different from earthly things, for they will be perfected. • • • •
What does it mean that Christians believe a person is made up of body, mind and soul and that every part dies, and every part is resurrected? What is the difference between resurrection and resuscitation? If our souls were immortal, why would we not need a Savior? At Easter, did Jesus’ soul float out of His body and go to heaven, or was every part of Him, body mind and soul resurrected?
Wednesday: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 From our perspective, the Second Coming has not happened YET, therefore the resurrection has not happened yet, therefore the dead are still asleep in Christ. But God of course is not bound by time and space. God stands outside of time and space, for God created time and space as part of creation. We are creatures of time and space, so we are limited by time and space. God is not part of creation, therefore God is not bound by time and space. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Therefore there is no such thing as past or future to God. Past or future only makes sense to those who are of time and space. This is hard for us to understand, because we have never known anything but time and space, but everything IS to God; there is nothing past, nothing future—all is; thus His name YHWH; which
means I AM; not I was, not I will be---but I AM. We can catch a glimpse of this in Jesus’ teachings. Once when He was teaching about Abraham, some leaders of the Jews got upset with Him because Abraham had lived 2000 years before Jesus, and yet Jesus was speaking as if He knew Abraham personally. In John’s Gospel we read Jesus saying: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” ‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to Him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (John 8:56-59) Do you see? Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was born, I was.” Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus was not bad at grammar! Jesus was pointing to a real truth; that He is not bound by time. I AM, not I WAS. There is no past to God, no future, but everything IS. So, in God’s perspective, there is no such thing as future---the Second Coming IS, not will be. Well, if the Second Coming is, then the resurrection is; and if the resurrection is, the dead have been raised. So it is OUR perspective, those of us still bound by time and space that has them asleep in death, not theirs. Being still bound by time and space, from our perspective the parousia has not yet happened, therefore those we love and have lost are still asleep in death. But being released by death from time and space, from our loved one’s perspective, they ARE in heaven with Jesus, they are not waiting---they are there now. But here’s the kicker, from their perspective, I am there with them, along with my sons, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, my great, great grandchildren, my great, great, great grandchildren, and so on! According to the Bible, we all go to heaven together! See if we went as soon as we die, we would be lonely in heaven, because those we love are still here. But there is no loneliness in heaven! Heaven is where we are altogether forevermore! • • •
How does it strike you that we will all go to heaven together? What implication is there to the fact that God declared His name to be YHWH---“I AM”? According to the Bible, will we know each other in heaven?
Thursday: Revelation 7:9-17 As St. John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, God shares with him a great revelation; and John gets a peek beyond the creation we live in, he sees things our senses cannot tell us. As John describes his vision, he sees a great multitude standing before the throne in front of the Lamb of God. These are the Christians who have died and been resurrected. This multitude is international, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual. The barriers that divide people on this earth have been torn down. We will worship side-by-side and hand-in hand with all believers of every age. Fear, distrust, and suspicion will have melted away, so that we can all embrace one another as brothers and sisters. This will be an experience of true community and baggage-free fellowship. The victorious, heartfelt worship of the multitudes indicates a closeness to God that goes beyond even our deepest experiences of God’s presence in this life. Later in the Book of Revelation, John assures us of this closeness even more clearly: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3) Yes, this is the culmination of all things…when we are restored to that right relationship we had before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Some argue that this is even better, because God showed His love to us in this way, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us to make this possible. I don’t know about you, but when I worship now, I am often distracted, or my responses are sometimes mechanical. I’m not always into it. John assures us that after we are raised from the dead, our worship will always be spontaneous and genuine. We will be fully engaged in our praise and devotion to God. The last verses from our lesson in Revelation Chapter 7 hold the most tender promises of all. These verses promise us healing of both body and soul. In the resurrection, our physical bodies will no longer be a burden. John expresses
this by saying that we will no longer hunger and thirst. Right now, our bodies are part of God’s good creation, but because of sin, our bodies are weak and needy. Our resurrected bodies will not be weak and needy. This redemption of the physical world will extend even to the realm of nature. The promise that the sun will not strike the multitude of the resurrected speaks of reconciliation between humanity and nature. • • • •
What do you think the Kingdom of God looks like? Do you think Living Word looks like the Kingdom of God? If not, what can we do to make it look more like the Kingdom? What does it mean that humanity and nature will be reconciled?
Friday: Revelation 21:1-8 God’s promise to make Israel His people and to be their God echoes throughout the Old Testament. “I will make my abode among you … and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:1112) In Jeremiah’s account of the new covenant the promise of God is: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) The promise to Ezekiel is: “My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:27) This fellowship with God in the golden age brings certain things. Tears and grief and crying and pain are gone. That, too, had been the dream of the prophets of the ancient days. “They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10) “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:19) Death, too, shall be gone. That, too, had been the dream of the ancient prophets. “He will swallow up death in victory and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:8) This is a promise for the future. But even in this present world those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted, and death is swallowed up in victory for those who know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His Resurrection (Matthew 5:4; Philippians 3:10). In verse 5 God Himself speaks; “Look, I am making everything new!” Again we are back among the dreams of the ancient prophets. Isaiah heard God say: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing.” (Isaiah 43:18-19) St. Paul wrote: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) In other words, if we are willing, God can create us and re-create us, and will someday create a new universe for the saints whose lives have been renewed. God says to John: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Again John is hearing the voice that the great prophets had heard, “I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6) Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega the last. John goes on to clarify this statement. God is the beginning and the end. The word for beginning is arche, and does not simply mean first in point of time but first in the sense of the source of all things. The word for end is telos, and does not simply mean end in point of time but the goal. John is saying that all life begins in God and is made to end in God. Paul expressed the same thing when he said perhaps a little more philosophically: “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36), and when he spoke of “one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in all” (Ephesians 4:6). God’s grace is universal---He offers it to all people; but salvation is not universal, for not everyone accepts God’s gift of grace; salvation is for the one who remains faithful when everything seeks to seduce him from his loyalty. To the ones who accept God’s grace, God makes the greatest promise of all: “I will be their God, and they will be my children.” This promise, or something very near to it, was made in the Old Testament to three different people. First, it was made to Abraham. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you,” God
said to Abraham, “… to be God to you and your descendants.” (Genesis 17:7) Second, it was made to the son who was to inherit David’s kingdom. “I will be his father,” said God, “and he shall be my son.” (2 Samuel 7:14) Third, it was made in a Psalm which the Jewish scholars always interpreted of the Messiah. “I will make Him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27) The promise of God to those who overcome is the same that was made to Abraham the founder of the nation, to David on behalf of Solomon his son, and to the Messiah Himself. There is no greater honor in all the universe than that which God gives to the one who remains true and faithful. • • • •
What does “covenant” mean? What does it mean to be in covenant with God? What does it mean that God is making all things (which of course includes you and me) new? What does it mean that grace is universal, and yet not all people will be saved?
Saturday: Romans 8:1-17 This is one of the most liberating and encouraging passages in the Bible, telling us Jesus Christ has given us new life! We have worth, satisfaction, enrichment, entitlement and purpose because of Christ. We have a reason to press on in life and service. We have no condemnation as His child. Because of this great comfort why would we desire to live away from His presence? When we keep our mind on Jesus, we attain a magnitude of peace and a glimpse of God’s glory that helps empower and give us confidence in all situations. God saved us for liberty, gives us holiness and gives us assurance. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, our sin no longer has dominion over us; we are no longer under its rule. Although sin still infuses and influences us, our purpose and hope for the now and future is in our identity in Christ. We have entered God’s presence through a new birth (John 3:5). We have our freedom, yet we owe God everything, because God is the one who has done everything needed for our salvation. We are God’s adopted children (Galatians 4:5) but not to be childlike in our activities and responsibilities, we are fully adults in God. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, we are no longer separated from God. Since our life has been transformed because of God’s gift there is nothing holding us back, nothing oppressing us. So we can cast off our fears and trepidations and embrace our Lord with passion, conviction and serve God in the same way (1 John 1). • • • • • •
Have you ever inherited anything? If so how did it feel to get something that you did not earn? What would you do and how would you react if you found out you were adopted (if you are, how did you react?)? Who governs your decisions? Really, be honest, who does? Who should? How are you (if you are) confident that you are in Christ? If you feel that you do not have confidence that you are Christ's 'joint heirs', what is in the way? What does it mean to you that as God's child you have no condemnation?
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