TEXT: Matthew 16:1-3; 24:3-28,32-34; 2 Timothy 3:1-5
The students will be able to explain that the events of our day are positive indicators that the return of Christ is imminent.
These prophecies deal with Israel in the period of the Tribulation just prior to the return of Christ to establish His earthly kingdom, although the end of the present age will be characterized by the general conditions mentioned in Matthew 24:4-8. A comparison of these five verses with Revelation 6 gives evidence that they have particular reference to the first half of the Tribulation period when Israel herself will dwell in relative safety because of the covenant made with the “prince that shall come”—the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Verses 9-26 of Matthew 24 describe the events of the last half of the Tribulation after the world leader (Antichrist) has broken his covenant with Israel and forces idolatrous worship of himself. This period will be characterized by great persecution, desolation of the Temple and worship there, unbelieving Israel being deceived by false prophets, and believing Israel witnessing to the good news of Messiah’s kingdom. The advent of Messiah will terminate these events.
Jesus endeavored to have those about Him “discern the signs of the times.” He explained to them that by looking at the changes in the sky they could forecast what the next day’s weather might be. We have the promise of the Lord’s return, but we cannot name the exact date this event may occur. Its nearness may be known by the happenings (signs) of our time.
- In Matthew 16:1-3, the people asked for a sign from Heaven, tempting Christ. However, He directed their attention to the signs of the times. What signs of the times mentioned in our text should we be watching for today?
Response: Referring to our text in Matthew 24, allow time for your students to give their answers. Discuss with them how we can see all of these in our world today, encouraging them to cite specific examples.
- In Matthew 24:3, Jesus’ disciples asked Him three questions. In answering them He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Look up the following Scriptures and write down ways one might be deceived:
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
2 John 7
Response: Matthew 24:5 — Following one who claims to be Christ.
Luke 21:34 — Surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life.
Romans 16:18 — Deceived by good words and fair speeches.
Ephesians 4:14 — Being tossed about by every doctrine.
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 — “Received not the love of the truth,” so were sent a strong delusion.
Titus 1:10 — Unruly and vain talkers.
2 John 7 — Those who confess not Jesus.
Allow time for your students to offer their responses. As the Scriptures are mentioned, discuss how the students can recognize and avoid these various types of deceit.
- In Matthew 24:6-7, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are mentioned as signs of Jesus’ coming. Have any of these things happened before? What then is different about their happening in our day?
Response: Lead a discussion as to how the events are more numerous and of greater intensity: two world wars so far in the 20th century, with smaller wars constantly taking place; the threat of nuclear holocaust at all times; famines causing the death of millions of people during the last decade and many people going to bed hungry throughout their whole lifetime; pestilences following widespread famine and earthquakes; numerous earthquakes shaking areas that have never been shaken before.
- Verse 11 brings out the fact that in the last days false prophets shall arise and many shall be deceived by them. How is this happening today?
Response: The students will no doubt mention well-known cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, followers of gurus, and even the New Age movement. Help them to realize that those who preach eternal security, humanity of Christ, and other false doctrines, or those who preach against holiness and the baptism of the Holy Ghost or other Biblical teachings, are also false prophets and should be avoided.
- Verse 12 implies that there is a danger even for those who love God. What is that danger? What are some ways Christians can strengthen their defenses against Satan in order to guard against this danger?
Response: The danger is that one’s love will grow cold, causing backsliding. Help your students to be aware of the fact that the increase of iniquity or sin in this world makes an ever greater pressure upon the Christian. In discussing the second part of the question, refer your students to 2 Peter 1:5-10. They may also suggest such things as: be faithful in the study and observance of God’s Word; be careful always to pray and commune with God; don’t neglect church services, as it is a place where we can encourage one another; choose friends who will help to spiritually strengthen and edify you.
- Read verse 14, then write your reasons why you feel this is a positive indicator of the return of Christ.
Response: Through worldwide efforts to distribute Bibles, through Gospel publications and literature, through missionary efforts, through radio and television programs, the Gospel is being preached and distributed in unprecedented volume. The Wycliffe Translators are reducing the remaining unwritten languages of the earth to written languages, using Scriptures in this work.
- Jesus often spoke in parables. In verses 32 and 33 of our text, He speaks of the blossoming of the fig tree and concludes with the statement, “It is near, even at the doors.” What did He mean by this statement? Refer to Matthew 24:3.
Response: The students should recognize that this was part of the answer to the questions asked in verse 3. Lead in the discussion of the various signs mentioned in this chapter having been fulfilled and that this should cause the believer to know the time of the end is very near.
- In the text in 2 Timothy, we read that the last days will be marked by perilous or dangerous times. How do the signs given in this text differ from the ones given in Matthew?
Response: As the class discusses how in the last days there will be perilous times, bring out that the signs mentioned in 2 Timothy speak of men or individuals who have characteristics that are against God and things proper, rather than the affairs of nations or physical phenomena. Discuss why these things could be perilous or dangerous.
Have each student draw an outline of a road sign. On the sign have him write one of the signs of the times, each student doing a different sign. Put the signs on the class bulletin board for everyone to see. Each student could also explain the meaning of what his sign says.
Take a kitchen timer to class, setting it for several minutes. Comment on how you can all watch the timer, seeing it come closer to the time when the buzzer or bell will ring, though you don’t know the exact second. Use this to parallel how we can all be watching the indicators God has established, seeing that the time of His returning is coming ever closer.
Use a pair of binoculars to discuss the role of a forest ranger. Emphasize how important it is that a forest ranger watch constantly for signs of fire, fire hazards, or of people in danger. Show the class that being a Christian can be like being a forest ranger. We are always watching out for any signs that will indicate the coming of the Lord. We have to be ready to meet the Lord at any time.
The following statements are signs we see all the time. Make a chart or discuss verbally the signs that are given and ask the students, “How can we be ready?” Emphasize number five concerning Christ’s coming.
1. Clouds thick and heavy above—looks like a possible snowstorm.
2. A couple of neighbors on your block have been burglarized— your home may be next!
3. Your very special friend from another part of the country writes that he is planning to visit you for a few days. He says to expect him any day next week!
4. Your teacher informs you that there will be a surprise test next week—in math!
5. You hear news reports of wars, earthquakes, and of famines—just like the Bible says will be the signs of Christ’s coming.