Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?

After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover over the next five weeks.

This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.


Are we living in the last days of earth?

Today around the globe, people everywhere are witnessing tragic events.  In light of what’s happening, many folks look at the Bible and wonder if we are living in the end times?

Although the events that are suppose to occur before Jesus returns seem to have already happened, previous generations believed the same thing.  We’ll get to what some of those events are in just a minute, but before we do so:

  • Do you think we are currently living in the end times, the last days before Jesus returns to Earth?

Here are a few of the events that are supposed to take place before Jesus comes back that have taken place within the relatively recent past.

The Jews are Regathered in Israel

Have volunteer read Jeremiah 16:14-15 and Isaiah 11:10-12.

These passages indicate that God will restore and regather the Jewish people to the land he had given their ancestors.  In 1900, only about 40,000 Jews lived in Israel.  Today there are over 6.3 million Jews who have come from places as widespread as Russia, Ethiopia, and America.


The Land of Israel is Reclaimed

Have a volunteer read Ezekiel 36:35

In 1900, the land of Israel had only 17,000 trees.  The Turks who had controlled the country taxed people based on the number of trees that they had… so people cut down their trees.  Today, there are over 450 million trees there.

100 years ago, the valley of Armageddon was a malaria infested marshland.  Today, it produces more food per square foot than nearly anywhere else in the world.

The Nation of Israel is Reborn

Have a volunteer read Matthew 24:32-34

After 70 A.D. the nation of Israel was considered dead when the Romans leveled Jerusalem and the Jewish people were scattered all over the world for the next 18 centuries.  On May 14, 1948, a handful of Jewish people suddenly declared in the land of Palestine that they were once again, a nation.

There are people who believe that the fig tree refers to the actual nation of Israel, and that Jesus is indicating that those who witness Israel’s return will witness His second coming.

  • What do you think about these three Biblical prophecies.  Do you think they have been fulfilled by the events that have transpired in Israel within the past 100 years?

  • Does this change your perspective on whether or not we are living in the end times?

Are we in the end times?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 24:36, 42-44

On the one hand, it seems that there are Biblical prophecies that have recently been fulfilled.  On the other hand, as we mentioned earlier, people have been thinking they’re living in the end times for generations.

Perhaps what is more important than whether we are living in the last days, we are living in our own last days.

Jesus teaches that some people will not be ready when He returns.  And some people are not ready when their time comes

We allow ourselves to become distracted by temporary pleasures: money, fame, sex, achievement, etc., and we lose focus on what is most important, the relationships that we and others have with God.

  • Have there been recent distractions or worries that have taken your attention away from God?

  • What do you need to do to be ready for the last days, whether they’re the world’s last days or just your own?


What is Heaven like?

The picture of Heaven that has developed in our culture is that it is a place where we sit around on clouds playing harps for eternity.  One pastor described the popular conception of Heaven as a never-ending church service, adding that an unending church service sounds more to him like Hell than Heaven.

  • What do you imagine heaven will be like?

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The Apostle Paul says here that no one has ever conceived of Heaven on their own, but that God has revealed it to us through the Holy Spirit.  Here is what we know about Heaven.

Heaven is a Place for Love and Relationships   

Have a volunteer read Matthew 17:1-8.

Have a volunteer read Revelation 7:9-12.

Heaven will be a place for closeness, community, and connection, and sometimes people wonder if they will recognize their loved ones in heaven.

In the first passage we read that Jesus’ disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though the two of them had died hundreds of years before the disciples were even born.  There’s no reason to think we won’t recognize those we love in heaven.

In the second passage we read that there will be countless people in heaven from every place on earth, which means that if relationships have always been a struggle for you—maybe the people closest to you have always brought you pain or you’ve been lonely for much of your life—you’ll have the opportunity to form new relationships, ones that are meaningful and safe.

  • Who are you looking to seeing and spending time with in heaven?

Heaven is a Place for Intellectual Growth and Discovery

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 2:5-7.

When Paul writes that God will “show the incomparable riches of His grace,” he is telling us that God will continue to reveal more and more to us while we are in Heaven.  This isn’t a one time, “Take a look… okay, nothing more to see here.” For all eternity, new things will be revealed to God’s people.  We will be shown of His power and love throughout the end of time with something new around every corner.

Everyone’s minds will be keen and intellects sharp.  God created us from the beginning to learn for eternity

  • What are one or two questions that you would ask God that have puzzled you so far on earth?

  • Is there anything that you would like to learn how to do in heaven that you have never learned before?  This could be anything from how to play an instrument to understanding the nuclear reaction that takes place in a star

Heaven is a Place for Exploration

Have a volunteer read John 14:2-4

Here Jesus tells us that Heaven is a big place.  There are lots of rooms or lots of mansions.  There’s a lot to explore and see.

This universe is a big place and it would be the height of arrogance to believe the that only place in the universe God is ever going to deal with is the one little planet near one little star that we call earth.  Science tells us that the universe is continuously expanding.  It would be a waste if none of it was meant to be explored or loved.

  • Is there anywhere that you would like to explore that you have never been?

Heaven is a Place for Accomplishment

In several places the Bible indicates that we will work in Heaven (Revelation 7, Revelation 22, 1 Corinthians 6:3).  Contrary to our cloud-sitting, margarita-sipping mental images, we will do important work in Heaven.  God actually created us to work.  Before the Fall, before Adam and Eve sinned, when the world was as God intended it to be, God told Adam to work.

Work isn’t punishment.  Work is part of what we were created for, but work in Heaven won’t be like it is here, difficult and trying.  The work we get to do in Heaven will be the work that leverages our God-given gifts and talents.  It will be work that energizes us and makes us feel alive.

  • If every job paid the same, and you could have any job you wanted, what would you do?  Perhaps that is what you will get to do in Heaven.

Heaven is a Place for Joy and Laughter

Have a volunteer read Matthew 25:23.

The Master wants us to share in his happiness.  In heaven, celebration, joy, and laughter are abundant.  Why would the God who created rainbows and giraffes and platypuses suddenly decide to be boring?  God created a good earth.  We messed it up.  In Heaven, everything will be as God intended, full of joy and life.

  • What are you most looking forward to about heaven?

Heaven Isn’t…

Have a volunteer read Revelation 21:3-4

Heaven is just as much about what isn’t there as about what is there. There will be no death, tears, mourning, or pain.  There will be no more cancer or terrorism, no more sickness, no more need for diet plans or knee braces or pain killers.  There will be no more racism, sexism, divorce, or murder.

All of the things that we struggle with and suffer from will be gone.

  • What can you see God freeing you from in heaven?


Application

This amazing place called Heaven is open to anyone and everyone who follows Jesus, but we all know people who for one reason or another aren’t following Jesus right now.

Make a list of three of those people and commit to praying that God would show himself to them every day for the next week.  Ask God also for opportunities to have conversations about faith with them.

Share with the group who your three people are, and spend a few minutes next week sharing what doors God may have opened for conversations.