“Is the tsunami in South Asia a sign of the end of the world?” is a question I have heard repeatedly asked by believers and unbelievers alike. It’s an important question to ponder because Jesus told the people of His day, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3, NIV). Jesus wanted His disciples–and you and me–to know how to “tell time.”
Read Matthew 24
The Time Is Late
In Matthew 24:1-2, as Jesus looked over Jerusalem, He lamented that the city would be destroyed completely, a prophecy that was fulfilled in 70 A.D. The disciples then asked Him two questions: “When will this happen,” and “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NIV). It was the second question that Jesus answered by giving signs which would indicate the end of human history as we have known it. I have divided the signs into four categories.
Signs in the Spiritual (Religious) World
- What warning did Jesus give in Matthew 24:4? How many times does Jesus refer to this danger in Matthew 24? Give phrases and verse numbers for each.
- Give the phrase that repeats this warning in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
- Give some examples of how people today–especially religious people–are being deceived in regard to the end of the world and the coming of Christ.
- From Matthew 24:5-12, give at least five signs of the end of the age (in the religious realm) and a contemporary example of each.
Signs From the National World
- What are two signs Jesus gave regarding the world’s nations in Matthew 24:6-7a?
- What is another sign regarding the nations in Luke 21:25?
- Give examples of these signs being fulfilled today.
Signs in the Natural World
- Give signs from the world of nature in Matthew 24:7b, Luke 21:11 and Luke 21:25.
- List examples of these signs that have occurred in our world during the past year.
Signs in the Social World
- What happened in Noah’s day? See Genesis 6:5-14 and Genesis 7:11-12, 17-23 for your answer.
- Is there anything wrong with “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38, NIV)? What was the real problem with Noah’s generation?
- How does Peter use this same analogy in 2 Peter 3:5-6?
- What similarities do you see between Noah’s generation and ours?
- What are some other signs in the social world from James 5:3? From 2 Timothy 3:1-5? Give examples of each.
The Time Is Short
In Matthew 24:8, Jesus used “birth pains” to describe these signs. Birth pains occur at intervals of increasing frequency and with increasing intensity. While the signs Jesus gave always have been present in our world, when we see them increasing in frequency and intensity, the Scripture says, “lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, NIV).
- From Matthew 24:14, what is perhaps the most exciting sign of all?
- How is this sign uniquely being fulfilled in our generation?
- What are you doing to help bring this to pass?
The Time Is Now
- What do you think Jesus means by “keep watch” in Matthew 24:42?
- Why is this important, according to Matthew 24:42-44?
- What are some practical things you can do to “keep watch”?
- From Matthew 24:45-47, what does Jesus want to find you and me doing when He returns?
- If He returns in the next five minutes, what will He find you doing?
- Take a moment now to ask Him to give you a work assignment–something you can do that will make an eternal difference in the Kingdom of God.
- What does Jesus not want to find us doing, according to Matthew 24:48-51?
- What are several things we are to do, in light of the imminent return of Christ, from 1 Peter 4:7? From 2 Peter 3:11-12, 14, 17 and18? From 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12?
- How should the hope of the return of Christ make an impact on our lives according to 1 John 3:3? Can you give an example of this from your own life?
- From Ephesians 4:1-3, describe a walk that is pleasing to God. How does your walk compare?
- What are some practical things you can do to adjust your walk to keep pace with His?
With my busy schedule, knowing the accurate time is critical. Catching a plane, speaking in a pulpit, talking in front of a television camera–even cooking dinner–all of these activities require an awareness of time. Almost every room in my house has a clock, several of which are radio-controlled, so that the time is accurate to the second. And I would never travel without my radio-controlled alarm. Otherwise, I may be “deceived” into missing an appointment–or burning the pot roast.
Don’t be deceived as to what time it is in human history. Know the signs, read your newspaper and be ready. He is coming! Learn how to tell time!