Small Group Curriculum

The Return of Christ

05.31.15 | The Story of God


COACHING VIDEO


SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM  (Download PDF)

PREPARATION

Spend the week studying Revelation 21-22. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.

Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.

Focus on the Main Point. Ever since Genesis 3, God has been in the process of making all things new. There is coming a day and time when God will fully restore the Earth to the original paradise He created, where we will live with Him for eternity.

INTRODUCTION

What makes home improvement shows so exciting or interesting? What is the most dramatic transformation you have ever seen on a makeover show?

What would you like to see restored or made over in your own home if you could participate in one of those shows?

Looking through the channels on your TV, you are likely to come across at least a couple of reality shows about transformation—updating an outdated house, restoring a beautiful old car, helping an overweight person shed some weight, or buying a man or women stylish new clothes. We love these shows because there is a longing in our hearts for restoration; we were all made by a God who restores. God’s plan for all of history is to restore the paradise He created at the beginning of Genesis. And so, He ends with restoration in Revelation 21-22. Through Jesus, God has invited us to participate in His story, in which He is making all things new.

LEARN

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ REVELATION 21:1-8.

What kind of place is God preparing for us? How is it described? What are the new heaven and new earth like?

How does the metaphor of a waiting bride help us understand what God is doing in new creation?

How will our relationship with God change in this new place? What will stay the same?

What types of feelings and emotions will cease to exist in the new creation? What feelings will increase and abound? What does that tell us about the new heaven?

Eventually all believers will be in a new place with a restored purpose. We will live in unhindered fellowship with God where the curse of sin and death no longer exists. We were made for relationship with God, and the new heaven and new earth will allow us to experience that fellowship without the burden of sin. Every choice we make will be right. Every feeling and desire we have will honor God. There will be no more sin, sorrow, or frustration. The new creation is a place of God’s continual blessing.

Jesus says He is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean?

What does God promise for eternity to those who have loved Him—by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ?

Who does not inherit the kingdom of heaven? What will eternity be like for them?

Jesus was with God in the beginning and is the centerpiece of God’s new creation. Jesus is the first and the last. Those who have received Him in faith will continuously drink from the water of life and have no end of happiness and joy with the Father. Those who chose to continue in unbelief and unrepentant sin will be cast physically and spiritually where there is suffering forever in Hell. Our hope should motivate us to see as many people as possible saved from this place.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ REVELATION 22:6-21.

How many times does Jesus say “I am coming soon”? Why should this give us a sense of urgency to share the Gospel?

The angel told John that the words of this book are trustworthy and true. How is our own hope dependent on the faithfulness and authority of Scripture?

What will God do to those who alter the words of the Bible? Why does a full Gospel presentation always include the urgency of eternity?

Scripture is clear that Jesus will return soon. When He does, He will execute perfect and swift justice. Those who have trusted in Christ will be welcomed into their eternal reward. For some, the end of God’s story brings exceeding joy and comfort. Others do no have this hope. Christ’s return should always motivate us to live obedient and expectant lives in the present. Telling all of God’s story always includes the urgency of eternity—not as a means to make people afraid, but to offer them real hope and honestly confront them with the consequences of rejecting Christ. All who love Christ say together: “Come, Lord Jesus!”. 

LIVE

Does your heart cry out for God to return soon? What are you most excited to see God make new?

God offers all people paradise or punishment. Who do you know that is destined for punishment? Pray for opportunities to tell them about paradise.

 LEAD

Knowing that the Lord is returning, how should our lives be different? How can we make disciples with a sense of urgency and love?

Does it make you uncomfortable to talk to unbelievers about heaven and hell? Is there anyone in the small group that feels more comfortable doing so that you could learn from? What could you learn from their example?

PRAYER

Praise God for making all things new. Thank God for continually steering history to glorify Himself. Pray that you would rest in the promised future God has in store for you. Ask for God to stir up a longing for the new heavens and new earth in your heart that motivates you to sacrificial living, making Him known in your community and around the world as you do.

FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:

  • What promises can we offer someone who turns to trust in Christ?
  • What have you learned about God’s story over the last seven weeks? What did you not know before?
  • Memorize Revelation 21:5.

 


COMMENTARY

REVELATION 21:1-8.

21:1. While like the present creation in some ways, the new heaven and a new earth will be much different. For example, there will be no sea. However, some believe that “sea” is symbolic for the wickedness of the current created order.

21:2. The bride of the Lamb, introduced in 19:7-9, is now pictured as the Holy City, new Jerusalem (see note at vv. 9-11a). The expression “coming down out of heaven” is used in all three references to the new Jerusalem (see note at 3:12). This has been taken to imply that the new Jerusalem will be suspended in the air, slightly above the new earth. “Prepared... adorned” may mean that the bride will be just as beautiful— and will be for eternity—as she was during the wedding festivities (19:7-8).

21:3-4. God’s presence ( dwelling... with humanity) will do away with all death, grief, crying, and pain.

21:5-8. In the present creation, a Christian is a “new creation” spiritually (2 Cor. 5:17), but in the new heaven and new earth, the Lord will make everything new. The written Word of God is faithful and true (2 Tim. 3:16), and the living Word of God is also faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). On it is done, see note at 16:17-21. On the Alpha and the Omega, see note at 1:8. Living water (22:17) will always be available as a gift, and this pictures the word of grace, received through saving faith, that offers eternal life even in the present.

REVELATION 22:6-21.

22:6-7. The sixth beatitude of the book (blessed) repeats the emphases on the imminence of the events in Revelation and the need for application of its prophecies seen in the first beatitude in 1:3 (see note there), but here those elements are in reverse order.

22:8-9. John repeats his mistake of false worship of an angel (see 19:10 and note there). Apparently the reader is to understand that worship of angels (who are majestic) is an easy mistake to make, even for a mature Christian like John.

22:10-12. The book of Daniel was “sealed until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9) to conceal its contents. In clear contrast, and in light of the imminence of the events (the time is near) portrayed in Revelation, John was commanded not to seal the prophetic words of this book. Until the events of the book are fulfilled, people will continue to act in keeping with their fallen spiritual nature (unrighteous... filthy or righteous... holy), but when the Lord comes, He will render to each person according to his deeds (20:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). .

22:14-15, 17. The final beatitude (blessed) of the Apocalypse is an elegant presentation of the Gospel, using the imagery of the “new Eden” (“the tree of life”) and the eternal city (“enter the city by the gates”). “Wash their robes” means faith in the shed blood of Christ. The right to the tree of life is what Adam and Eve were cut off from by their sin. The gates of the city and access to the tree of life are made available to those who believe in Jesus, but all unbelievers, with their various sinful lifestyles, are excluded. With the repeated invitation to come and take the living water as a gift (i.e., free grace; see Eph. 2:8-9), Revelation ends with passionate evangelistic appeal. Though Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, in this case it more likely refers to false teachers, whatever their ethnicity, as in Php. 3:2.

22:16. Jesus is the Offspring of David in the sense of being a blood descendant of King David. This also serves as a messianic title (see Matt. 1:1 and the family tree in Luke 3:23-31). On the Bright Morning Star, see note at Rev. 2:28.

22:18-19. It is doubtful the wording here directly refers to closing the canon of the Bible (this book). The book (in Greek, biblion; “scroll”) that is not to be tampered with is the book of Revelation, but the wording does imply that all Scripture should be guarded as sacred, never tampered with. The immediate context in Revelation is of a “new Eden” (vv. 1-5). Also, in Genesis 3, Eve added to the Word of God (Gen 3:3) and the Serpent took away from what the Lord had said (Gen. 3:4). As a result, this “biblical bookends” effect of Rev.

22:18-19 and Gen. 3:3-4 infers that, just as Genesis is the first book in the Bible, Revelation is the last.

22:20. Jesus promised that He is coming quickly (see note at 1:1,3), but it has been well over 1,900 years since He uttered these words. John prayed for Jesus to come soon. God’s patience toward the unbelieving world is a cause of Jesus’ delay.

22:21. The book of Revelation, though made up largely of apocalyptic (1:1) and prophetic (1:3) literary forms, begins (1:4) and ends (with its concluding grace) like a letter. In spite of all the works of the Devil and the judgment and wrath of God detailed in between, the Apocalypse starts with grace and ends with grace, making a full circle from grace to grace. This is a fitting symmetry for a book that foretells the ultimate victory of “the God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10).