Lesson 8

Such a Cloud of Witnesses and the Second Coming

(Titus 2, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 1, 1 Thessalonians 4)
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Introduction: If you are looking for a new car repair place, a new doctor, dentist or lawyer, what do you do? Right! You ask around to see if someone had a good experience with one of these service providers. How did things go? The word of a third party is much more important than the advertising of the service provider, right? Our lesson this week plunges us into the testimony of third parties about faith and the Second Coming. So let's enjoy the dive!

  1. Witnesses


    1. Read Hebrews 12:1-3. "Cloud of witnesses." Now that is a remarkable description. What comes to mind when you read "cloud of witnesses?" Why do you think the writer of Hebrews would describe witnesses that way? (It shows us there are a lot of witnesses and it creates a picture of them being in heaven.)


      1. What is the purpose of this group of witnesses? (They make our goal clear (fix our eyes on Jesus), they help us get going (run the race) and they keep us going (not grow weary and lose heart).)


        1. Sounds like motivational speakers, right?


        2. Who are these great motivational witnesses? ( Hebrews 12:1 starts out with "therefore." The first part of Hebrews 12 is the conclusion to Hebrews 11 - the famous "faith chapter" of the Bible. So let's go there next to find the witnesses that will get us focused and motivated!)


  2. NOAH


    1. Read Hebrews 11:7. What is "holy fear?" This text does not give us any details about the warning or what Noah did. Let's turn to Genesis 6:9-11 to get the details. Read.


      1. Compare what kind of man Noah was to the general population?


        1. When verse 9 says Noah was "blameless among the people of his time," is God saying, "by comparison, he was real good?"


          1. Is this more a comment about Noah, or the people of the time?


          2. Or is this a praise that Noah was blameless even though he was living in a corrupt society?


    2. Let's read on. Genesis 6:12-14. What reaction would you have if God came to you with this message?


      1. What reaction do you think Noah had to this message?


      2. What if God warned you that a nuclear bomb was going to destroy your neighborhood and your country, but God would provide you and your family with a bomb shelter. Would you like that? Is the shelter only the "lesser of two evils?"


      3. How does the book of Revelation compare to Genesis 6:13? (Read Matthew 24:38-39. The book of Revelation is a prophecy of events preceding the Second Coming which parallels the warning given to Noah.)


        1. Is God's word to Noah about the Flood, better or worse than His word to us about the Second Coming? Which word would you rather get: word of the Flood or the Second Coming? (The Second Coming is much better. If I were Noah, I would be depressed at first. Sure, the wicked would be gone, but life as I knew it would also be gone. No plays, no restaurants, no bakeries, no grocery stores, no libraries, no services, no nothing but a return to a primitive nature and an altered topography and climate! The Second Coming promises a wonderful new civilization and culture with God.)


      4. Today we face the philosophy that no opinion or set of opinions is superior. All opinions are simply different and equally acceptable. Does that square with our Noah story so far? (No! God makes distinctions with serious consequences that follow.)


      5. What do you think Noah was doing while he was building the ark? Was he keeping the purpose of the construction a mystery? ( 2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah a "preacher of righteousness." He must have been warning the people.)


        1. Is that one way in which Noah is a "witness?"


        2. Some witness! What success attended Noah's 120 years ( Genesis 6:3) of preaching? ( 1 Peter 3:20 tells us that a total of eight, including Noah, were convinced to enter the ark. On average, he converted one family member every 17 years!)


      6. How do you think the world reacted to Noah? (Hebrews 11:7 puts it succinctly, Noah "warned about things not yet seen." His warning was completely contrary to the evidence. The end result shows that no one (alive at the time of the Flood) believed him except his family.)


      7. Now, put yourself in Noah's place. You are about to enter a world where virtually everything you know will be gone, no one believes your warning, all of the "evidence" is against you, and your "conversion rate" is one family member every 17 years. How is life?


        1. What one thing did Noah have to hold on to? ( Hebrews 11:7 - his faith in God's word.)


        2. Does this "witness" to you? Does your world sometimes look like this? The future is depressing, the evidence is against you, and you are beginning to wonder whether God's word is true? (That is why Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us that Noah is one of the witnesses that will point us to Jesus and encourage us to run and not grow weary.)


  3. Abraham


    1. Read Hebrews 11:8-10. How many of you had the verse 8 problem at some time in your life -- you did not know where you were going?


      1. How does that feel?


    2. Let's read Genesis 12:1-3 to find the details. If you were Abram, what factors would be against doing what God directed? (Leaving everything he knew - his family, his "people" and his country.)


      1. I think this instruction to Abram is very much like the instruction to Noah. Which one would have been more difficult to follow? Why? (Noah got to keep his family. Abram, just his wife and a nephew (Genesis 12:5). Abram was going to a new "civilization," while Noah was going into a completely new world with no existing social structure. Abram seems to have avoided the ridicule that undoubtedly was heaped on Noah.)


      2. Other than simple obedience to God, what reasons did Abram have to do what God asked? (God was promising to make him a "great nation" (v. 2)


    3. Look again at Hebrews 11:9-10. Was Abram looking forward to heaven? Or, since he had been promised to be a "great nation," was he looking forward to a city and culture composed of his family and based on worshiping God?


    4. Read Genesis 22:1-3. Let's put the picture together here. Abraham has relied on God's promise to become a great nation, he has done his part by giving up his family, friends and culture, now God asks him to kill his (v.2) "only son." What would you be thinking if you were Abraham? Would you argue with God?


      1. Child sacrifice (a common practice in our country today)is directly contrary to God's will. He says it is "detestable" ( Jeremiah 32:35). How could Abraham have obeyed God's detestable order?


        1. Does this show that when we obey God we have to turn off our brains?


    5. Read Hebrews 11:17-19. What solution did Abram see? Would this solution have occurred to you?


      1. Why would God raise Isaac from the dead just after He had ordered him killed?


      1. Can you give me a "rule" or a "principle" for knowing what to do when God calls on us to do "wrong" things? (Abraham's brain was not turned off. It was working in a remarkable way. Instead of thinking "What God commands is nonsensical and impossible," we should say "Everything God says will be fulfilled if I obey." With that assumption, and without any limitations, we need to consider how this (what God promises and commands) can be done. Thinking "outside the box," Abraham decided that they only way all this could work out would be for God to raise his son from the dead. Remarkable faith!)


  1. FAITH


    1. If you were to summarize the lesson to be learned from the stories of Noah and Abraham, what would you say? (Faith is obedience to God when all of the "structure" of our life is ripped away. It is a willingness to move ahead in obedience when the only support is an absolute faith that God will do as He promised.)


    2. Read Hebrews 11:13-16. Did either Noah or Abraham see God's promises fulfilled? (In part. Noah seemed to see more fulfilled than Abraham.)


      1. Both Noah and Abraham were entering new country. Did they have yet more new country to enter? (Yes! These verses tell us that they looked forward to heaven, the "new country" where all of the promises will be fulfilled.)


      2. Is this true for you? Will you have to wait for heaven for God's promises to you to be fulfilled? (Read again Hebrews 12:2. This tells us that Jesus waited for "new country!" He endured the cross "for the joy set before Him." He was willing to suffer now for the reward to follow.)


      3. Are Noah and Abraham "new country" witnesses? That is, as you consider their experiences, does it help you to trust God when He calls you to a new country?


    3. Friend, Jesus' promise of the Second Coming is a promise of a better land, a better country. If you, on faith, accept His invitation, just as did Noah and Abraham, God will reward your faith with a new home. Your faith in that promise will keep you going when you face difficult times here.


  2. Next Week: The Witness of the Remnant and the Second Coming.

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