January 30, 2022 – Matthew 24:1-31

Lesson Date: January 30, 2022

Focal Scripture Passage: Matthew 24:1-31

AIM: To lead students to discover that God has a definite plan for the time leading up to the bodily return of Jesus Christ, and to encourage any who are lost to accept Christ so they can avoid the terror of the Tribulation period.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Matthew 24:1-31 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Prepare the timeline labels described below.  Plan where you can post the labels, and have some blue painter’s tape on hand to post them.  (Be sure to remove the timeline labels right after class, so the wall will not be harmed.)

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Read the follow story to the class:

According to an old fable, a man made an unusual agreement with Death.  He told the grim reaper that he would willingly accompany him when it came time to die, but only on one condition – that Death would send a messenger well in advance to warn him.  The agreement was made.  Weeks winged away into months, and months into years.  Then one bitter winter evening, as the man sat alone thinking about all his material possessions, Death suddenly entered the room and tapped him on the shoulder.  The man was startled and cried out in despair, “You’re here so soon and without warning!  I thought we had an agreement.”  Death replied, “I’ve more than kept my part.  I’ve sent you many messengers.  Look at yourself in the mirror and you’ll see some of them.”  As the man complied, Death whispered, “Notice your hair!  Once it was full and black, now it is thin and white.  Look at the way you cock your head to listen to my voice because you can’t hear very well.  Observe how close you must get to the mirror in order to see yourself clearly.  Yes, I’ve sent many messengers through the years.  I’ve kept my part.  It’s too bad you didn’t keep yours.  I’m sorry you’re not ready for me, but the time has come to leave.”[i]

Tell the students that we have had many similar warnings that death is approaching, but like the man in the fable, we disregard them, too.  In today’s lesson from Matthew 24, we will see that God has a specific plan for the time leading up to the return of Jesus Christ.  Those who have never received Christ as Savior will also be encouraged to do so.  While there is still time, we should heed the loving voice of the Spirit of God who urges us to repent.  If we’ve never done so, we should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved; we should seek Him now before it is too late.  The title of today’s lesson is When Will Jesus Come Back?

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review and Context.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Jesus rebuked the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders).
    • Ask if any volunteer would recite last week’s memory verse (Matt. 23:12).
    • Remind the students that after blasting the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus announced that their house (the Temple) was desolate (waste, desert, solitary, a wilderness; Matt. 23:38).
    • After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples (and the crowd) were expecting Him to establish His kingdom on earth, remove the Romans, and bring God’s blessings upon Israel once again. They expected this to happen immediately.
  2. The Disciples’ Questions.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 24:1-3.
    • Even though Jesus announced that the Temple was desolate, the disciples pointed out the beauty and magnificence of the buildings.
    • Ask: “What did Jesus say would happen to the Temple?” (it would be utterly destroyed).
    • Ask: “What did the disciples ask Jesus next?”
    • Tell the students the disciples asked Jesus three specific questions:
      • When will these things (the destruction of the Temple) be?
      • What will be the sign of your coming (to establish your kingdom)?
      • What will be the signs of the end of the world?
    • Explain the following:
      • Matthew did not record Jesus’ answer to the first question (it is found in Luke 21:20-24).
      • That prophecy was precisely fulfilled when the Romans utterly destroyed the Temple less than 40 years later, in A.D. 70.
      • Jesus answered the second and third questions in Matthew 24:4-31.
    • Summarize: Jesus made a startling announcement about the coming destruction of the Temple. The disciples asked for signs of His return and the end of the world.
  3. The First Half of the Tribulation.
    • Tell the class that Jesus began describing the signs and indicators of His return and the end of the world.
    • Explain the following:
      • Post the “Church Age timeline label on the far left of your board or focal wall.
      • We are currently living in the church age.
      • The next event on the “prophetic calendar” is the Rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:13-17), which could occur at any time.
      • All the events described in Matthew 24 will occur after the Rapture.
    • Read Matthew 24:4-14.
    • Explain the following:
      • The period Jesus described here is the first half of the Tribulation.
      • Jesus called it “the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8).
      • This phrase literally means the beginning of birth pains.
      • Post the “Birth Pains” timeline label to the right of the “Church Age” label.
      • Like labor pains, the events described in these verses will come after a long process of time, but will speed up and intensify until the end.
    • Tell the students there are six specific “pains” listed.
    • Briefly describe each one using the following information.
      • Deception by false christs (v. 24:4-5). See 2 Thess. 2:3, 7; Rev. 11:7; 13:1-10.
      • Disputes and warfare among the nations (v. 24:6-7a). See Dan. 11:40-45; Zech. 14:2-3; Rev. 6:1-4.
      • Devastation throughout the world (v. 24:7b-8). See Rev. 6:12-14; 8:7-12; 16:17-21.
      • Deliverance of believers to tribulation (v. 24:9). “Those will be people saved after the rapture of the church, having been converted to Christ during the Tribulation.”[ii]  See Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-14.
      • Defection of false believers (v. 24:10-13). Those who endure to the end are described in Rev. 7:14-17.
      • Declaration of the Gospel to the whole world (v. 24:14). See Rev. 14:6-7.
    • Ask: “What did Jesus say at the end of verse 14?” (“then shall the end come”).
    • Summarize: The world will endure 3½ years of hard “labor pains” during the first half of the Tribulation, but they are only “the beginning of sorrows.”
  4. The Mid-Point of the Tribulation.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 24:15-20.
    • Ask: “What is the second sign of Jesus’ return and the end of the world?” (the Abomination of Desolation).
    • Post the “Abomination of Desolation” timeline label to the right of the others.
    • Explain that the Abomination of Desolation is when the Antichrist sets himself up as god in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
    • Tell the students this will occur at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation period (see also Dan. 9:27; Dan. 11:31; Daniel 12:11; 2 Thess. 2:4).
    • Summarize: At the mid-point of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will declare himself to be god and demand that everyone on earth worship him.
  5. The Great Tribulation.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 24:21.
    • Tell the class the third sign of Jesus’ return and the end of the world is the Great Tribulation.
    • Post the “Great Tribulation” timeline label to the right of the others.
    • Read Matthew 24:22-28.
    • Explain the following:
      • The elect referred to in verse 22 are those who will be saved and survive the Tribulation to enter the Millennial Kingdom as mortal humans (Matt. 25:34).
      • As to the days being shortened, “God has predetermined that those days of calamity will stop short of total destruction[iii]
      • This time of Great Tribulation will be so severe that if it lasted longer than 3½ years no one would live through it.
      • Jesus’ ultimate return at the end of the Tribulation will be sudden, visible, and glorious (Acts 1:11; Rev. 19:11-16).
    • Summarize: The last half of the Tribulation will be so terrible that if God does not limit its length no one would survive.
  6. The Return of Jesus Christ.
    • Tell the students the last sign Jesus gave of His ultimate return will be spectacular cosmic events followed immediately by His visible arrival.
    • Post the “Return of Christ” timeline label to the right of the others.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 24:29-31.
    • Explain the following:
      • Jesus’ return will be preceded by the darkening of the sun and moon and the stars falling (see Rev. 6:12-14; 8:12).
      • Next, Jesus Himself will appear (see Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7; 6:16).
      • When He appears, the lost people on earth will mourn in sorrow and regret.
      • Jesus will send His angels to gather all the saved people who have survived the Tribulation to Jerusalem (see Matt. 13:41, 49; Rev. 19:11-21).
    • Summarize: At the end of the Tribulation Jesus will return in power and great glory, visible to everyone on earth. The lost people on earth will mourn at His coming.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Post the “Millennial Reign” timeline label to the right of the others.  Tell the students that throughout this lesson we have created a timeline of end-time events and discovered the answer to the question posed in our lesson title: When Will Jesus Come Back?

Tell the class people have wondered for centuries when Jesus will return.  Many have speculated and set dates, but they were all wrong.  Jesus clearly gave the answer in this chapter: He will return after all the events described in verses 4-29 take place.  Specifically, Jesus will return:

  • after His sign in the heavens is visible to the entire world and the lost people on earth mourn (v. 30), which will be
  • after the sun and moon go dark and the stars fall (v. 29), which will be
  • after the Great Tribulation (v. 21-28), which will be
  • after the Abomination of Desolation at the mid-point of the Tribulation (v. 15-20), which will be
  • after the first half of the Tribulation (v. 4-14), which will be marked by false christs, wars, famines, diseases, and widespread persecution of Christians.

Tell the students Jesus said there would be terrible calamities before His return to reign on the earth.  Ask: “Do you believe Jesus would tell you a lie?”  Stress the fact that none of us would want to live through the terrible Tribulation period.  The only way to be certain we will not experience the Tribulation, with all its pain, destruction, and death, is to turn to Jesus for salvation.  Say: “If you are not a Christian, and you are alive when the church is raptured and removed from the earth, then you are going to experience all of the terrible events described in this chapter.”

Tell the students if any of them wants to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior they should turn away from their sins (repent) and place their faith in Jesus.  Offer to talk with anyone who might have questions or concerns after class or after church.  Lead a closing prayer, giving anyone who wants to be saved the opportunity to do so.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Matthew 24:30.  Encourage them to tell someone this week about the certainty of Christ’s return and how they can be ready to meet Jesus.  Next week’s lesson is about how we should live until Christ returns.

 

[i] Bible Illustrator for Windows, Copyright © 1990-1994 by Parsons Technology, Inc.

[ii] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, page 23.

[iii] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, page 45.

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