Chapter OneWILL JESUS RETURN
At the turn of the millennium to the year 2000, the media went
wild with predictions of doom. Some said Y2K would ruin society,
others said massive warfare would erupt, and still others insisted
that Jesus would return.
Just as they do every year around the time of New Year's,
astrologers, psychics, and stockbrokers make predictions about the
coming year. They tell which Hollywood couples will get together,
where wars will erupt, what will be the direction of the economy,
and which businesses will boom.
Take a look at the predictions that were made on the Internet
for this year. Which of them seem to be happening?
Which didn't occur?
Every year someone predicts the end of the world. This was
particularly true in 2000, but such predictions seem to find their
way into every New Year's forecast. From looking at the headlines,
it's clear that media hype about the end of the world didn't end
with Y2K and the turning of the clock to the year 2000. Nor has it
ended with any year since then.
How-and when-do you think the world will end? Check
any that apply.
___ In nuclear or biochemical war
___With the return of Jesus someday
___ Through a kind of environmental disaster
___ Because of invasion by aliens
___ Due to asteroids crashing into Earth
___ I don't know, but it won't be for centuries. So why worry?
___ Other _______________________________
If you knew for sure the world would end in six months, what
would you do differently?
Read Matthew 24:1-14
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came
up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these
things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left
on another; every one will be thrown down."
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to
him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what
will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many
will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive
many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you
are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There
will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the
beginning of birth pains.
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death,
and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many
will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and
many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of
the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who
stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will
be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then
the end will come."
1. Why might Jesus' initial bombshell comment rattle the Jewish
men who were his followers?
2. Jesus' disciples ask him both about signs for the "end of the
age" and for some understanding of when that would be. So
Jesus lists a number of key things that must happen before he
returns. List each of those events as a group, and then discuss
whether you think any of them have come to pass in the past
two thousand years.
3. After reflecting on these events, do you think Jesus' return is
near or still far away-and why?
Read Matthew 24:15-36
"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that
causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel-let the
reader understand-then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out
of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How
dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning
of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. If those days
had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the
elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you,
'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false
Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles
to deceive even the elect-if that were possible. See, I have told
you ahead of time.
"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go
out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning
that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the
coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures
"Immediately after the distress of those days
"'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,
and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of
Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And
he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his
elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get
tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so,
when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the
door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away
until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will never pass away.
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
4. What will characterize the string of false prophets who come
before Jesus' return?
5. Which people (historical or living) fit Jesus' description of a
"false prophet"? Explain why you think so.
6. Throughout history, people have claimed to pinpoint the year-or
even the exact day-of Jesus' return. How might you
respond to such a claim after reading Jesus' teaching in the
book of Matthew?
7. How will you know for sure whether it's actually Jesus when
Which of the following statements most accurately reflects what
you think about Jesus' return, and why?
___ Jesus isn't coming back.
___ Jesus' return is going to take a long time.
___ Jesus' return will be in my lifetime, but not in the next few
___ Jesus is coming in the next year.
___ I have no idea, but hope he comes back before
___ I have no idea, but hope he waits until _________________.
Jesus makes some fairly audacious claims about his identity, his
life, and his "second coming"-his return to earth. How can you
determine whether to believe-or not-these claims?