What is your greatest hope in this life, and perhaps the afterlife?
Throughout our struggles and challenges and life of pain or suffering, we long for hope that it is temporary. The lesson this week looks at some of the hope God’s people have experienced in the past. In a previous lesson, we looked at Hebrews 12 in more detail, so rather the look at the specific passages of the lesson, this study guide will examine the aspects of hope when things seem darkest.
The lesson begins with Habakkuk and God telling him that things will get worse before they get better. News like that can destroy a person experiencing suffering. When hope is dashed, how can a person endure?
The Seven Seals of Revelation 6 follow a similar trajectory to other parts of Revelation (such as the churches in chs. 2-3) where they start out good, but end badly. The 5th seal pictures souls of the faithful shown to be “under the altar” where the sacrificial blood was poured out, and they are crying out for judgement and avenging. God gives them bad news: 1) they must wait a while longer, and 2) there are more who will slaughtered before the end. Their experience mirrors Habakkuk’s story.
What would you say to someone with a terminal disease, suffering intense pain, who just received news that no amount of pain-killers will reduce their suffering, and things will get worse before they eventually die?
When Jesus’ disciples asked him about the signs accompanying His return as King, he noted that many disasters were to come on the earth. Then He told them that the end was not yet; that was only the beginning! A time of trouble was ahead, so grievous, that nothing in history could or would ever compare. Even then, more trouble and deception awaited Christ’s disciples.
Why would God even warn us that things will get worse before they ever improve?
How can we have any hope that our suffering will end?
Reasons for Hope
The return of Christ is called “the blessed Hope” (Paul to a young pastor in Titus 2:13). For Jesus’ disciples, having the presence of God in the person of His Son was their greatest comfort and encouragement. They learned to suffer with Him, to follow God’s leading, even when it resulted in their own deaths. Yet they believed in a future where righteousness and peace dwelled.
Consider the following and explain how each provides hope:
- Christ’s victory over the world, sin, and Satan
- God’s ongoing presence through his Spirit
- Christ’s literal return
- restoration to Christ’s image
- earth remade in perfection
- a time of no more mourning, death, or pain
Our hope should sustain us during our crucible moments. But we cannot rely on hope that is not firm and sure.