This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for May 22) is written by Melissa Wuske, an editor for F+W Media in Cincinnati, Ohio.
New Order of Things (Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27)
By Melissa Wuske
My grandpa recently died after a far-too-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. After decades as a faithful husband, father, and leader in the church, he spent the last decade or so of his life struggling to think or speak or remember. He spent the last few years unable to leave his bed on his own, unable to perform the basic daily functions that adults and even children perform without a second thought.
It didn’t make sense to me. This is not what he was created to be. A servant of God should be serving God, I thought. Instead he was trapped.
I don’t mean to diminish his life in the least, even those final few years. Caring for him changed our family for the good. Each of us had a role in helping him and supporting Grandma, and we watched in awe Grandma’s perseverance and determination. And who knows what communion his spirit had with God?
But still, while I was sad to lose him, I was eager for him to be free.
Longing to Be Free
As I reflected on his death, I realized something: We are just as fettered. Our lives don’t make much more sense than his did at the end. Our efforts are just as futile. We can’t create the meaning we desire. We can’t guarantee the relationships we want. We’re helpless to protect our loved ones. Though we’re constantly striving, we’re largely unfulfilled.
This isn’t news to us. We chafe against the limits and futility of life. There are days where everything about this life just feels wrong. Our jobs are unfulfilling. Our loved ones are sick. Our schedules are busy. Our friendships seem stifled by time and fear and ego.
So when we read Revelation 21, we long for Heaven. And we should. Our frustrations, fears, and failures point to one thing: We weren’t created for this world.
The true completion of our purpose—to know God and reflect him—still lies in the future. We begin the work now, but it won’t be finished in this life. Our jobs, possessions, and even our families and friends often have less to do with our ultimate purpose than we think.
When we look ahead to Heaven, it just feels right. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. . . . I am making everything new!’” (vv. 4, 5), we read with a sigh. God’s dwelling place is now among the people, we read, wishing for the closeness of these words. Our lives here are full of tension and stress and pain, and we long for days, for eternities, where that is no longer the case.
We look around and ache for God’s new order, but the flaws of this world are not the root of this longing.
We don’t find the true root of that longing until we look back—all the way back to creation. We were created to live in a perfect world and walk, sin-free, at God’s side. It’s a far cry from the spiritual frustrations and trivial emptiness of our day-to-day lives. Sin moved us from our natural habitat, and we’ve been suffering ever since.
Heaven is the place where we’re able to again live the way we were created to live: in a constant, close, worshipful relationship with God. In his presence we’re free from worldly distractions and limits. We’re awash in the permanence, finality, and assurance of salvation.
Looking Toward Heaven
Looking toward Heaven—remembering who we were created to be—changes the way we live today. This world isn’t simply a waiting room. Revelation 21 assures us that only the victorious will make it. Our job is to work toward Heaven, even in our hindered state.
- Remind yourself daily that you don’t belong here. Some days it’ll sound like a pep talk, some days it’ll sound like a wake-up call. No matter what, commit to remind yourself of the truth every day.
- Live out heavenly qualities. Purge distractions, seek peace, focus on Christlike sacrifice. It’ll never be perfect here, but we’ll be more fulfilled when we seek godliness.
- Look for tension points in your life and analyze them. How is your work life at odds with the spiritual life you were created for? How can pursuing the qualities of Heaven ease stress in your family? If you don’t feel much tension in your life, ask why. You may be more Heaven-focused than most of us (good for you!), or you may be too comfortable here. Your day-to-day life shouldn’t line up so closely with this world that you don’t feel a pull toward Heaven.
- Help others live victoriously. Only the victorious will experience Christ’s rest. Help nonbelievers, younger believers, and struggling peers fight through the limits of earthly life and pursue the freedom ahead.
The unhindered life we seek is coming. We can strive toward it now, knowing confidently that it’s coming in its fullness.
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|May 16: Isaiah 43:15-21|
|May 17: John 13:31-35|
|May 18: Luke 22:14-23|
|May 19: Ephesians 4:17-24|
|May 20: Revelation 21:9-14|
|May 21: Revelation 21:22-27|
|May 22: Revelation 21:1-8|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Melissa Wuske is an editor for F+W Media (Writer’s Digest Books) in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is also a freelance writer and editor.