Picturing Paradise

March 19, 2023 

Message Big Idea

Even amongst those who agree that heaven awaits us after death, there exists disagreement and perhaps malaise at what is next for God’s people. Will we have to wait? Will it be exciting or boring? Well, Christ, as one who has actually been there, paints a compelling picture for the thief on the cross. Immediately after death, heaven is a place of perfect communion with Jesus, full life with God’s people, and unending paradisal joy.

Lean In

  • Discuss: What are you grateful for today? What are you struggling with today?
  • Take a moment to look at John Martin’s painting “The Plains of Heaven.” Reflect on what is being depicted. Describe the feelings that are evoked by this painting. What do you like? What don’t you like?

Look Down

  • Read Luke 23:26-49
  • Take a moment to briefly retell the passages in your own words.
  • What words or phrases “jumped off the page” and intrigued you the most? Why?

Look Out

  • Maybe you’ve heard the notion that “heaven is going to be boring” and “hell sounds like more fun”. How do you think this relates to humanity’s condition under the fall? (Leaders, reference Romans 8:7-8)
  • Consider how these prevalent secular attitudes regarding heaven might influence a Christian’s anticipation and hope for what lies beyond death?  Would it create a sense of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), as if what awaits us in heaven is less than desirable and fulfilling?

Look In

  • What if you were the apostle John and God gave you the experience of seeing into heaven. How do you think it would change you?
  • Recall the lyrics from Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Take a moment to actually imagine what you will do being physically in Christ’s presence. Share your vision with the group.

Live It Out

  • What is one thing God seems to be asking you to do in response to this passage? (i.e., “I will ….”)
  • Who can you tell about this “I will” statement in the next 48 hours?
  • Journal about your time in God’s Word this week. Stop to listen to what He might be telling you. Celebrate His presence through His Word!
  • Find some time this upcoming week finding places the inspire your imagination for heaven (perhaps outdoors if the weather is cooperative).  Perhaps incorporate different music styles or pieces (e.g., Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, 2nd movement).  In this, the goal is to stoke a sustained sense of hope and excitement at our future in heaven.  Lean into it, keep Christ at the center, and have fun!

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