heavenly clouds October 10 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 4:26-34; Matthew 13:31-35; Luke13:18-21; Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:36-52

Heaven—What is it Like? Who Will be There?

What is heaven like? How do we think of it? Are there streets of gold, mansions, and angels? Do we picture being there with friends and loved ones who have passed on to the next life? Do we think of God when we think of heaven? Is it a place where everyone will go or just some? In today’s Bible reading Jesus answers questions about the Kingdom of God (or heaven) as a place made up of people. He does this by use of parables.

We may recall from yesterday’s Bible study that a parable is a short story or narrative of a known truth thrown alongside and compared to an unknown truth. Some define a parable as an earthly story (the known truth) with a heavenly meaning (an unknown or previously undisclosed truth). It is important in interpreting a parable not to search for some hidden meaning in every particular element of the story. Everything in a parable is not symbolic. Usually, unless interpreted differently by Jesus, each parable has a central point.

The Parable of the Sower and the Mustard Seed

The parables of the man who scattered seed (Mark 4:26-29) and the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-34) make similar points. Here in these parables the central point is fast, unexplainable growth. Since it is the Kingdom of God that is referenced, the fast growth of the plants is compared to the fast growth of new believers coming into the Kingdom of Heaven. When will this happen, or has it already happened? At this point in the narrative these events are yet to occur, but the book of Acts records a time of fast unexplainable growth of new believers into the Kingdom of Heaven. As we will see later, the Holy Spirit of God comes on the day of Pentecost, and within the first couple weeks more than 5,000 people become believers and are added to the church. Do we want explosive growth in our churches? It starts with the gospel being clearly preached, shared, or taught. When the seed is planted in the hearts of those who are listening, the Holy Spirit of God can bring life and unexplainable growth. Are we sharing the gospel of the Kingdom? Are we doing it outside of our church buildings as well as inside?

The Parable of the Weeds

This parable (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-52) has a different central point. Here Jesus explains to his disciples (and us) the meaning of it.

The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil (Matthew 13:37-39a, NIV).

As weeds grow, they may look like real plants but are not. They try to choke the life out of the actual plants and do injury to them. Sometimes, however (as gardeners know), it is impossible to remove weeds without harming the fruit-bearing plants. In this parable the fruitful plants represent those who have a relationship with God (believers). Jesus knows it is not always wise to remove the weeds (unbelievers), so he assigns the harvesters to weed them out at harvest time, i.e., the end of the age (verse 39). The end of the age is a probable reference to the end of the Tribulation period described in the last book of the Bible, the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the age, the wicked ones, i.e. all who are not sons of the Kingdom (meaning those who don't have a relationship with God), will be removed and burn in what is described in this Bible passage as a “fiery furnace.” [In this place] “there will be weeping and much gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42, NIV). Revelation 20:11-15 describes this place of torment as a lake of fire that will burn forever. “Nothing impure will enter heaven.” Only those who are written in the Lambs Book of Life may enter” (Revelation 21:27, NIV). On a happy note, Jesus tells us “The righteous ones will shine like the sun in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:43, NIV).

The Central Point of the Parable of the Weeds is that not all people will go to heaven—only those who have Jesus' seed within them—these are true believers. Non-believers will be cast into the Lake of Fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Many people jokingly think that hell will be one big party with their friends. They could not be more wrong. Hell is a place of eternal torment and misery where people pay for their sins because they reject or make no decision to respond to God's grace. Believers, however, will go to heaven and rejoice forever in his favor and presence.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Precious Pearl

These parables also illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven. The central point of these parables is that the Kingdom of Heaven is extremely valuable, and we should be willing to give up everything to go after it. Can we possibly secure anything more valuable than heaven? Are we willing to give up everything—our job, position in society, wealth, family, and safety —for heaven? It is a hidden treasure and a precious pearl we can have forever.

The Parable of the Fishnet

This parable makes the same point as the parable of the weeds. It is probably repeated because our eternal destiny is so important. At the end of the age all the people of earth will be caught. The good fish (true believers of Christ) will be separated from the bad fish (unbelievers). The bad fish will be thrown away, symbolizing the wicked being thrown into the fiery lake of fire, while the good fish will be gathered in baskets or saved. If we have not already done so, let’s make our choice for Jesus today. He is the way to be saved. When we have him we know we have a place in heaven. (more...)

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's rejoice, all of us who have a relationship with God—there is a place for us in heaven!
  • Grieve, all of you that do not know him. Turn to God from all your wrongdoings and find mercy, grace and forgiveness with Jesus. It is not too late. (more...)
  • As God gives us opportunity, let's share the good news of Jesus with our friends, loved ones and neighbors so they might not be cast into the Lake of Fire but go to heaven with us.

Focus Verses

1Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Here is a joyful song about heaven from Ivan Parker

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson we will look at several incidents in the life of Jesus that will help us in Overcoming our Fears. Please join us!

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