- Awareness of Christian views of heaven.
- Awareness of Christian views of hell.
- Understanding of Christian beliefs about eternal life.
- Consider what is wrong with the world, and what would make it perfect.
- Imagine what life would be like if John Lennon’s dreams came true.
- Discuss whether or not the world can ever be perfect.
- Analyse Christian belief about heaven, and compare it with Lennon’s vision of a perfect world.
- Synthesise a discussion between the Apostle John (writer of the book of Revelation) and John Lennon, presenting their respective views about heaven and perfection.
Divide the class into two halves. Ask the first half to suggest ways of completing the sentence: ‘In a perfect world . . .’, and ask the second half to suggest ways of completing the sentence: ‘The problem with the world is . . .’ Write the suggestions on opposite sides of the board.
Once you have generated a good number of suggestions on each side of the board (or once the group starts running out of good ideas, whichever happens first) ask the class what their idea of a perfect world would be. You could either conduct this as a whole class discussion, or break into pairs or small groups who report back to the whole class after a few minutes.
Explain that in this lesson you are going to be looking at what Christians believe about living in a perfect place, but first you are going to consider a well known outline of what one person thinks would be a perfect world.
Cher Lloyd was a contestant on the 2010 series of X Factor. On the show first broadcast on Saturday 20th November 2010, she performed John Lennon’s song Imagine. Her version of the song can be shown on youtube for you to play in the classroom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxWbaAx488A
Display a copy of the lyrics of Imagine, and as you play the song ask the students to try to picture what life would be like if Lennon’s ideas came true. This lesson will work just as well if you refer to Cher’s performance and then play the original version by John Lennon.
For a copy of the lyrics go to:
Now play the song to the class, reminding them to imagine what life would be like if Lennon’s vision came true. Allow a few of the students to reflect their views back to the whole class at the end of the song.
Divide the class into three groups and give each group one of the first three verses to analyse (ignore the ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’ part of the song, for this part of the lesson – you want the three verses beginning with the word ‘Imagine’). Ask them to consider the following questions:
- What would be the consequences if the ideas in this part of the song became reality?
- Are the last two lines of the verse (the ones beginning ‘Imagine all the people . . . ’) possible?
- What are some of the barriers to these things becoming more than a dream?
Allow five to ten minutes for discussion, then feedback.
John Lennon released this song in 1971, nearly 40 years before Cher Lloyd performed it. In introducing Cher’s performance, her mentor Cheryl Cole said that a new generation needed to discover the song. As a whole class discuss the following questions:
- Do you think mankind has moved closer to or further away from this ideal in the intervening years?
- Lennon says, “You may say I’m a dreamer…” Was he? What difference does this make to the ideas he puts forward in the song?
In small groups, ask the students to come up with three words which they think sum up Lennon’s view of utopia. After a few minutes, write up all the words on the board so that everyone can read them. Explain that you will come back to these later in the class.
Give the students a copy of Revelation 21:1-8 and Revelation 22:1-5. Ask them in pairs or small groups to go through the passage and contrast it with Imagine, noting down any similarities and differences they can see. (They may find it easiest to note down the reference for the verse from Revelation beside the appropriate line of the song.)
When they have had time to complete this, discuss each group’s observations.
The following notes and suggestions may help you to guide any pupils who find this task more difficult:
- Imagine there’s no heaven – rather than no heaven, the Bible suggests there will be a new earth (v1).
- No hell below us – on the contrary, hell is presented here as a reality and a place of judgement (v8).
- Imagine all the people living for today – in heaven it will always be today (22:5) because there will be no night-time. Christians believe that when the events described in Revelation 21 come to pass, it will mean the end of time, with God’s perfect rule over the new heavens and the new earth lasting for eternity.
- Imagine there’s no countries – ‘there was no longer any sea’ (21:1). Sea in the Bible is often used to symbolise division and separation – these things will no longer exist in the new heaven and new earth.
- Nothing to kill or die for – in heaven there will be no more death (21:4). In fact, all the signs of suffering in life (death, mourning, crying, pain) will be no more.
- And no religion too – certainly no man-made rules and regulations, but everything in heaven will be focused on God. There are no specific verses in the passages used here that directly talk about worshipping God (the closest is probably 22:4 ‘and his name will be on their foreheads’) but earlier chapters of the book (for example, chapter 4) make it clear that worshipping God is the main business of heaven.
- I hope some day you’ll join us – Lennon recognised a division of those who shared his dream and those who didn’t. Christians believe that some people will, by their actions, choose not to be part of God’s new heaven and earth (21:8).
- No need for greed or hunger – God provides the water of life (21:6) and the fruit of the tree of life (22:2). Elsewhere, Jesus said that whoever drinks the water he gives will never thirst again (John 4:14).
Compare the passages from Revelation with the list of words compiled earlier. While the details of how utopia can be achieved may differ, to what extent do Lennon and Revelation agree on what the characteristics of an ideal world should be?
Lennon paints his picture of what utopia might be like, but as Cher sings it, it doesn’t seem like much has changed since the words were penned. Make the point that the image of heaven portrayed in the Bible is something that Christians believe will one day be a reality.
SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:
The book of Revelation is believed to be written by the Apostle John, as a result of a vision that God revealed to him (Revelation 21 opens with the phrase, “Then I saw . . .’) Ask the students to imagine a conversation between the two Johns (the Apostle and Lennon) as they discuss heaven. They may find it helpful to refer to the lyrics and the Revelation passage for ideas.
YOU WILL NEED:
- A copy of Imagine by Cher Lloyd or by John Lennon and the means to play it.
- Copies of the lyrics.
- Bibles, or copies of the passage Revelation 21:1-8 and 22:1-5.