103 End of the Age 3: Jesus talks about the signs of His return

Part 3 of a Bible study course on the End Times

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”Matthew 24:3.

They were first century Jewish men. They believed that the end of the age was close. They had been with Jesus for three years. They vacillated, but at least in their clearer moments, they realised that Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen One of God. They expected Him to come in glory at the end of the age. The full answer He gave takes up the rest of Matthew chapter 24 and the whole of Matthew chapter 25. It forms the most comprehensive and clear answer to their question in the Bible. We will go through His answer in detail in these studies.

We must be aware that His comments were directed to His followers at that time and very accurately predicted what would happen to them in particular. He said “….this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” We will look at some of the contemporary events as recorded in history and we will find indeed that the prophetic discourses in Matthew were remarkably fulfilled in many ways in Jesus’ own generation.    

But He wasn’t just speaking to his disciples at that time. He was speaking to His disciples of all times, and especially to us as some of the prophecies are being fulfilled in a way today that they could never have been in the past. This is a very common feature of Biblical prophecy. The prophet would speak about some situation in his own time. But the Holy Spirit would give revelation also about the future, sometimes the distant future. Jesus Himself was the same. As well as speaking to His disciples of that time, He gave us clues to alert us to watch for His coming, perhaps in our time. I don’t think anyone will read the prophecies and then precisely foretell each step and give us a kind of road map of what will happen next. This is not the purpose of prophecy. Rather, as events unfold, we will see the prophecies fulfilled and be thrilled as we see God bring his Word to pass. So, as we look at the prophetic discourse, we will also consider how the prophecy applies to our world today.

Widespread deception

Mat 25:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many

Historical fulfilment (shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection): As the early church grew, Rome declined in morality. This reached a new low point when Nero became emperor (date of reign: 54 -68 AD). During the time of Nero and after, worse and worse cults sprang up and the old virtues ceased to exert their moderating influence. He told the people he was a god, and was completely unrestrained in sin. He murdered his brother with the help of his mother, then murdered her, then his wife. He then “married” a young man who looked like his wife, and then murdered him. He organised the most depraved orgies, and started viciously persecuting Christians. In this environment all sorts of pagan cults thrived, and deception was widespread.

Modern-day fulfilment: one sign prior to the events leading to His return is deception – which abounds everywhere today. European countries which once had Christian culture at the root, are now “multi-religious”. Hindu gurus and Buddhist monks flood into the once-Christian West and attract adherents. Celebrities publicise new-age worldviews and few are even aware that the truths of the Bible, which once undergirded our society, are being turned upside-down.

 

Questions

 

1.      The disciples’ question actually contained three questions. What three things did they ask for?

2.      What is the main purpose of prophecy mentioned in this study?

3.      What is the first sign Jesus told them (and us) to watch for?

4.      What are some of the deceptions found in your community at the moment?

5.      What sort of deceptions do you think might have been around in the Roman Empire in the time of

6.      How do you feel about deceptions?

7.      Are you confident that you can see through them?

What will you do differently after doing this study? Discuss your answers with your group, or a group of friends if you are not in a discipleship group.