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Theme: Atonement and Universal Harmony

Leading Question: What does the death of Jesus have to do with his promise of a restored world?

The work of salvation is not ended with the salvation of individuals.  God”s plan is not fully in place until the whole universe is restored to peace and wholeness. These key features of that restored world are noted below.  It might be productive for the Sabbath School group to share their own vision and hope for the future, indicating which of these are most important for them:

1. Universal cleansing (Dan 8:13-14; Heb 9:23). God”s people are the ultimate optimists, believing that one day God really will cleanse the universe of everything evil.

2. Restoration of God”s people (1 Cor 15:51-54; Rom 8:18-25; Heb 9:27-28). The restoration of God”s people involves two crucial aspects:

A. Salvation in the spiritual sense. The process of being “transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom 12:1-2) which begins in this life will be brought to completion in God”s new world.

B. Transformation of the physical. Paul reminds us that the whole creation has been haunted by sin. Christians live in hope of full restoration (Rom 8:18-25). The transformation of our human bodies is part of that story (1 Cor 15:51-54).

3. Judging of evil and the evil powers (Rev 20:1-4). The universe cannot be restored without final judgment on evil and evil powers. The lake of fire symbolizes the end of all God”s enemies, even the ones that cannot be literally destroyed by fire (e.g. death, the grave).  Does the all-encompassing nature of the lake of fire suggest that God could actually use a means other than fire?

4. Cosmic reconciliation (Isa 11:1-9; Rev 20:11-15, 22:3-6).  The vision of God”s vegetarian kingdom, announced in Isaiah 11 will be brought to fruition. “Nothing accursed will be found there” when God has completed the restoration (Rev 22:3). To what extent is that restored world likely to be different from the one that we imagine it to be?

5. Triumph of love (1 Cor 13:9-13). Paul”s great hymn of love is the goal of God”s plan of restoration. Within our Adventist heritage, that vision is unfolded in Ellen White”s “Conflict of the Ages” series.  And the final edition of that five-volume set is marked by three significant words that frame the story at the beginning and at the end. The first three words in the opening volume, Patriarchs and Prophets and the last three in the final volume, The Great Controversy are “God is love.” The final paragraph in the Conflict series provides a wonderful vision of the believer”s hope:

The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.  GC 678 [1911]

Our Challenge: As we wait for God”s new world, can we bend all our energies toward making this world as much like that new world as possible?  What plans can we lay to help make that happen?

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