This Good Friday, I had the opportunity to join with 63,000 Christians worldwide for a “secret church” service via simulcast. It was an incredible, humbling, life-changing, instructive, awesome, worshipful, overwhelming experience. I will be doing it again next year if at all possible!
WHO: David Platt (author of Radical) spoke passionately and urgently for almost 7 hours to 63,000+ Christians all around the world
WHAT: a 6-7 hour Bible study about heaven, hell, and the end of the world… yeah, it wasn’t frou-frou Christianity – this was deep stuff straight from Scripture!
WHEN: Good Friday from 6 pm until almost 1 am (central time) – so for us it was 7-2… and it was worth it for sure!
WHERE: Although it was taking place in Alabama, the simulcast was available everywhere; about 30 people from our church met to participate
WHY: to raise awareness of and support persecuted Christians around the world who have to meet in secret and are hungry for God’s Word (this teaching will soon be translated and available to persecuted Christians worldwide); we specifically learned about and prayed for a Chinese Muslim group called the Hui
- For some reason, I was thinking - "6 hours of teaching... it's probably going to be meditative and thoughtful... slow, pauses, lots of illustrations and stories and rabbit trails..." I couldn't have been more wrong. It was so evident that the Holy Spirit was speaking through David Platt - he was passionate, unwavering on the truth, and urgent. You could tell he was speaking so fast because there was just SO MUCH to share. And there was no namby-pamby – what turned out to be 7 hours of Bible study was straight from Scripture. He warned us at the beginning that it was going to be like "drinking from a fire hydrant." And it definitely was! It's going to take awhile for the truth to sink in, but right now I'm left to praise God for His character and love and power and holiness and plan and sovereignty and justice.
- Beforehand, I prayed that through this God would open my eyes and heart more fully to know His character (though I know that’s impossible – if we could know all there is to know about God, He wouldn’t be God), as well as how He sees me and other people (specifically the lost). It seems that He answered that prayer, hence the feeling of being overwhelmed. If I sit through this much truth without it making a difference in my life, then I don’t really believe it.
The Bible Study
I loved how so many Bible verses and passages were included all throughout the 200-page study guide. There were a few well-chosen quotes from Christians through the ages, but mostly it was Scripture. Here is an outline of what we talked about… obviously, I am way oversimplifying everything:
- The Fragility of Life & Finality of Death: basically the gospel message
- The Intermediate State: what Christians who have died are doing right now with Jesus in heaven as they wait for the "end of the world" – really interesting stuff!
- The Return of Christ: there's an urgency to live this life meaningfully, because Jesus IS coming back!
- The Resurrection of the Dead: Jesus came back from the dead, and we will too!
- The Final Judgment: for unbelievers and believers alike – all of our sins will be made evident, BUT God will publicly and completely forgive them if we have faith in Jesus' work on the cross
- The Horror of Hell: yeah, this was a tough one. But Jesus talked A LOT about hell, so we cannot ignore it! We approached it very humbly – we have no right to tell God our ways are better than His ways. Yet the Bible talks about Christians praising God for pouring out His wrath on unbelievers. If we don't have a hard time with this, then there's something wrong, but maybe by then we will know or understand something then that we can't comprehend now - God's sovereignty. The fact is, we are all deserving of God's wrath. If we truly wanted justice, then we would all be in hell too. But God has chosen people on which to pour out His mercy, and our only response can be gratitude. Also, it was interesting to see that people in hell will be continually rejecting God. It's not like they will be begging for mercy or wishing for another chance. They will continually make the choice to do things their way, rather than God's way.
- The Hope of Heaven: This was a glorious time in understanding what the Bible says about it, as well as enjoying some speculation and imagining what things could be like, based on what we read in Scripture. The focal point in heaven is GOD! (what a surprise) Everything is more fully what it was created to be - there is a restoration of the world, a regeneration of our physical bodies, a redemption what it means to be human. Heaven will be home, and it will be fascinating, not boring. There will be so many things to explore, and we will be more fully ourselves and able to enjoy God. Most importantly, we will be completely reconciled to God – we will actually see Him and worship Him and not even have the desire to sin!
- Three Controversial Questions in Revelation: Once we neared midnight, it was finally time to delve into the book of Revelation. We talked about all the controversial issues and disagreements (What does the book mean and why do we have it? What is the millennium and when will it happen? What is the tribulation and who will experience it?), but the focus was in the right place, because the Bible is not there just to answer all of our curiosities; it's there to point us to God and move us to action. There is something to learn from each view, and he did a great job of explaining them all while urging us to “put away your charts and lay down your life!”
- Seven Critical Conclusions from Revelation:
- God is sovereign.
- Satan is subordinate.
- Our God wins.
- We must see the world in all its deception.
- We must see Christ in all of His glory.
- We must see the church in all her beauty.
- We must see our lives in proper perspective.
A few of the MANY things I learned / was provoked to think more about:
1. the importance of body being reunited with soul in the resurrection
2. burial vs. cremation: burial is a picture of hope for resurrection
3. comparison of the "new earth" (heaven) to Eden
4. heaven is like living inside the holy of holies
5. importance of studying eschatology, though it's expected and OK that Christians disagree
This was also a wake-up call: people around us and around the world are going to hell, and we are sitting silently and letting them. We clearly have work to do in spreading the gospel!