Matthew 24 group discussion questions


The Second Coming of Jesus: It’s gonna be big and you’d better be ready.

Context: Jesus had just pronounced woes on the religious leaders and lamented over Jerusalem.

From the Temple, Jesus and his followers walked to the Mount of Olives, about 1 ¼ miles away. As they left the city, the disciples admired the beauty of the Temple (Luke 21:5), which was significant both spiritually and nationally to the Jewish people.

This is the current view from the Mount looking toward Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock sits about where the Temple would have been, so Jesus could see clearly the massive building shimmering in marble and gold from where he sat.

In my mind, Jesus is sitting quietly, thinking about what is to come both in the next few days and in the distant future. The disciples were likely debating what Jesus meant about the temple’s stones being thrown down. Maybe some, like the zealots among them, claimed that Jesus was about to take his place as the messianic conqueror they were all expecting. Maybe the more introspective considered the stones as a metaphor for the Law. Maybe others tried to figure out the logistics of moving those massive stones. In all likelihood, none thought farther ahead than his own lifetime, much less a future a hundred or thousands of years away. They were obviously perplexed, so they approached him to ask three questions:

  • When will these things happen?
  • How will we know when you’re coming?
  • What are the signs of the end of the age?

Matthew 24 (with Mark 13 and Luke 21) begins what scholars call The Olivet Discourse. It is the last of the major teachings of Jesus before the crucifixion. 

Read Matthew 24:1-3

Group conversation questions:

Context: Jesus and the disciples were leaving the temple, a massive building with stones that weighed from a mere two tons to 570 tons. This picture of the woman shows just how massive the stones are. There is nothing holding the stones together but their sheer size and weight. The temple itself was 10 stories tall and the foundations went as deep as 65 feet.

  1. Why do you think Jesus told the disciples about the destruction of the Temple?
  2. What do you think the disciples expected to hear from Jesus? Keep in mind all we have learned about these men over the last months.

Read Matthew 24:4-8

  1. What are the first signs that Jesus will return? How long have these signs been part of our world?
  2. Read Hebrews 2:1-4. The literal translation from the Greek for verse 1 reads “For this reason ought more abundantly us to give heed to the things heard.” What should our response be to the signs we see today that seem to point to the imminent return of Jesus?

Read Matthew 24:9-28

Context: These passages are prophecies about things still in the future; for the disciples they were the very distant future. Still, the way Jesus phrased these words, it is easy to see how multiple generations might have believed they were approaching the end times. Christians still hold differing opinions on when Jesus will return. This chart is from 2009 and it’s clear that there wasn’t much agreement then. I suspect not much has changed, especially since the focus of the last 18 months or so has been on the here and now.   (

  1.  Can you think of some historical times when people thought for sure Jesus’ return was imminent?
  2. List the events from this section that must happen before Jesus returns.
  3. What does your list tell you about when “these things” (Matthew 24:3) will happen?

Read Matthew 24:29-35

Context: Jesus moved from the general (persecution, false teachers, lawlessness) to very specific prophecies tying the Old Testament to the future.

  1. Why was it important for Jesus to refer to prophecies of the ancient prophets?
  2. Make a list of all the things that will happen at Jesus’s return?
  3. From the ancient past to the distant future, what does Jesus indicate is the most important thing for his followers to know? (see also Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33)

Read Matthew 24:36-51

Context: Jesus again refers to an ancient story, that of Noah, to explain how, while the signs of God’s judgement are evident, the timing is unknowable.

  1. Read Genesis 6 and 7.  What is the same between what Noah knew about God’s coming judgement and what we currently know?
  2. What did Noah do that we should also do?
  3. What do you think is the most important thing believers can do to be ready for that day?

Resources for further study 

Taste and see: Part five

The Lord is good

John 15:1-8; Psalm 34:8; 1 John 4:7-17; Galatians 5:22-23

The late 1960s were tumultuous times in the US. Not unlike today, there were protests and riots over political statements, racism, sexuality, and the role of the Church in society. In that chaos, Peter Scholtes penned the words to “They’ll know we are Christians,” based on his reading of John 11:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Just in case you need a reminder of the lyrics:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord -  We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand - We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land.
We will work with each other; we will work side by side - We will work with each other; we will work side by side
And we'll guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride.
All praise to the Father from whom all things come and all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son
And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
And they'll know we are Christians by our love.

For King and Country has a lovely arrangement here.

And it’s true, we should be known by our love for one another. Jesus was clear that all the Law and the Prophets rest on two things: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39.) Love is the foundation upon which we build community, minister to the needy, embrace the hurting, and seek after the lost. Love is the first result of our abiding in the True Vine.

Just as grapes are the basis for all the essential elements of wine, so too, love is the basis for all the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 lists the essential elements: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Yes, we are known by our love, but get to know us individually, and our love consists of multiple nuances of grace.


The first step in wine tasting is to really look at the wine from all angles. Hold it up to the light. Tilt the glass and look for evidence of boldness and age. Good wine should be clear and brilliant, allowing the light to pass through unhindered by sediment or chemical imbalances.

Spiritually speaking, people should see the ways in which we love one another by how we manifest joy and peace in trying times. How do we respond to others who may offend us: is it with patience and kindness? How do we demonstrate goodness and gentleness to the hurting among us? When non-believers look at us does the light of Jesus shine through?


Swirling the glass allows the wine to be agitated. A dense full-bodied wine will leave “legs” running the sides of the glass, whereas a light wine will not. Agitation reveals the believer’s depth as well. We grow more through trials than any other time when we rely on our faith. Jesus said that love is fully demonstrated when we are willing to lay down our lives for each other. He was clear that the world would hate believers because it hated Him (John 15:18). Suffering is part of living in a broken world, but Paul wrote to the Romans that this present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed when Jesus returns.


There are thousands of fragrance combinations in wine. Some, like mustiness or vinegar, indicate that the wine has gone bad. Other aromas indicate the flavors present in the wine and are often linked to terrain, temperature, and other elements of where the grapes were grown, how they were harvested, and how the wine was produced. Floral, herbaceous, and earthy notes recall the growing terroir, while fragrances of smoke, vanilla, chocolate, or coffee are likely from the barrels in which the wine was aged. Gregutt wrote, “The best wine aromas are complex but also balances, specific but also harmonious.”

While it’s never a good idea to go around sniffing other people, there is a pleasing aroma in the air when a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, Jesus follower is in the room. Christ in us spreads the fragrance of grace and the aroma of knowing Him personally everywhere we go (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).


In the wine-tasting world the sip is the final arbiter of whether a wine is good or spectacular or somewhere in between. An excellent wine is “balanced, harmonious, complex, evolved, and complete” (Gregutt, 2015). Balanced wine means sweetness and sourness work in tandem to create a pleasing flavor. No one flavor should dominate a harmonious wine, and the taste should change even before you swallow, revealing depth and complexity. A truly complete wine leaves the taster satisfied.

In the sermon that inspired this series, Rainey talked about the complex character of the believer: a burst of love, followed by notes of joy and kindness, ending with an essence of goodness. Each of us is made up of all the elements of the Fruit of the Spirit in different proportions, and how we present ourselves in and to the world can either draw people to Jesus or turn people away from His Church. When we abide in Jesus, the fruit we develop becomes our witness to the world as it holds us up to the light. When we let the Light shine through us, we express a desire for everyone to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Good, Gold, or Best in Show

The largest wine competition is the Decanter World Wine Awards. The 170 wine judges tasted more than 18,000 wines over a course of about two weeks. Only Gold metal winners move on to the next tasting, where they may move to platinum. Platinum wines then move up for a final tasting to determine Best in Show. Most wines don’t even make it to the competition, and many of those wines are pretty good. But good is not great. And great doesn’t mean golden. And only one is Best.

There are good people in the world who do pretty good things, but they are still lost. There are good people in the world who do great things, but without Jesus, they are still bound by sin. Doing good and even great things is not enough to meet the demands of a Law that requires perfection. Romans 3:23 is blunt, “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our attempts at home-made wine will never measure up to Best in Show, no matter how closely we follow the YouTube directions or how much money we spend on grapes. The only measure of Best in Show is Jesus, and we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24-25). Good people doing good or great things will still stand before the Holy One to make an account for their lives. Every flaw will be exposed. Every false flavor and impure aroma will be revealed. No one will be justified by works apart from faith.

It is for the sake of even those who do good or even golden things that we must continue to live out the Fruit of the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit, proclaiming peace by the blood of Christ, unified as one body with grace from above. When we who follow Jesus live out his command to love God and love others, we proclaim to the world:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:1-8


(2021, June 11). What am I tasting? Wine Spectator.

Gregutt, P. (2015) How to taste wine. Wine Enthusiast. (n.d.) Peter Scholtes.

Mason, O. (2021, June 25). Photo highlights: Decanter World Wine Awards 2021 judging weeks. Decanter.


Collage elements from Digidesign Resort and my own design library


For the next few days I will ponder the book of Galatians.

Paul opens this letter with his credentials. As a scholar, I understand the importance of leading with my resume. If people are going to pay attention to my scholarship, I have to demonstrate my expertise early. That demonstration is also tailored to the audience. For me, especially right now as I look for work closer to home, it’s a matter of tailoring my cover letters to the job postings at universities. (I love my work and colleagues at UNLV, but it’s a long commute from Atlanta.) For Paul, it was a matter of reminding the Galatians that his authority was not based on his scholarship or birthright, but through Jesus Christ Himself.

Once Paul identifies his credentials, he opens with the gospel: the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us (1:4). Paul grounds what is to come in the foundation of the gospel. Paul is not about to lay down his opinion, but the plain truth. The age is evil, Jesus delivers us from it, and God gets the glory. Grace and peace are only available through the truth.

Paul was astonished (v 8) at how quickly the Galatians adopted a distorted and cheapened gospel. He may have been astonished, but Jesus explained in Matthew 13 that there would be people who turned away from Him and those who would be confused by other teachings. It still happens. There are still people who want to use christianity (lower case intentional) for their own glory and prestige. The prosperity doctrine teachers are the most obvious in this age. They teach a false gospel the Jesus wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy (but never wise). That may sound good, but it’s not Biblical. Jesus was clear that believers would suffer and struggle and live in dark times. He said he would send the Holy Spirit as a guide and comforter, but never did he say that life would be comfortable (John 14:25-31). 

While the prosperity doctrine is fairly easy to recognize, I think that there are two more dangerous false teachings that find their ways into mainline and evangelical churches. I call them the gospels of extremes. On one side are the legalists who focus almost exclusively on laws, commandments, and admonitions found throughout the Bible. On the other end are the liberalists who teach only mercy and grace without dealing with the consequences of sin. Both extremes misrepresent the true gospel: all have sinned (Romans 3), sin leads to death (Romans 2), redemption is through Christ alone (Romans 3, 1 Corinthians 15, Colossians 1), and eternal reconciliation with God is established in Jesus (Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 2, 2 Corinthians 5). Focusing on the laws of the Bible diminishes the work of mercy and love. Focusing on the grace of God diminishes His holiness, righteousness, and justice. The gospel is both mercy and justice, perfectly integrated in the person of Jesus. The gospel is neither a feel-good story nor a condemnation of people.

When we talk to others we must remain grounded in the gospel
in all of its fullness and mystery. Before we speak of any spiritual thing, we ought to pray, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Then, we can speak as servants of Christ and God will be glorified.

Let justice roll

January 21, 2020

There are some days when I don’t have a solid plan for my Bible study. Having just finished Habakkuk, today was one of those days. Perhaps it was the recollection Dr. ML King’s work during yesterday’s holiday, but my eyes landed on Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” And I found my lesson there.

Whenever a passage begins with “but” I go back to see the what behind it. In this case, God declared that He was not the least bit interested in rote traditions or cultural religion. In fact, He said He hated, despised, and would not look at them. He would not listen to the music, nor would He accept the offerings that came out of routine.

So I started thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know.) What does cultural religion look like today? Why do we go to church? Is it to get out of the house? Social time (churchified as “fellowship”)? Securing a position or reputation? Because it makes us look good or feel good? To check off some imaginary box?

God is not impressed with our church attendance, our offerings, our preferred musical styles, our mission trips, or our outreaches. He wants our hearts to be connected to His will. It is so easy to fall into the habit of church and forget the mission.

Habakkuk was able to choose joy because he knew God. When we stop pursuing God, church becomes a cultural habit. Unless we actively pursue God, we will not be able to choose joy in difficult days. We will always pursue something, and if not the Lord, then what? Satisfaction? Security? Self-worth? If we go to church pursuing these things, we will not find peace or rest. We will become increasingly discontent, which leads to increasing self-centeredness.

Pursuing God means knowing His character (something we should be learning at church) and focusing on His kingdom, which manifests by the ways in which we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). When we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength we can truly love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). THEN we can work for His Name to promote justice until it rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Joy is a choice

January 20

Habakkuk listened to the Lord’s plan for Judah in horror and confusion, but his knowledge of God’s character helped him work out his response. Chapter 3 is Habakkuk wrapping his brain around the juxtaposition of mercy and judgment in the circumstances of imminent catastrophe in order to save. He plead with God for mercy within wrath in verse 3, then described the Holiness and Glory of God before painting the picture of the ultimate destruction of evil. And then he recognized God’s purpose in the chaos: crushing the wicked and saving His people.

Habakkuk didn’t pretend to understand the hand of God. That’s good news for us. We don’t HAVE to understand. Habakkuk said, “I hear, and my body trembles” (3:16). He was not happy about what lay ahead. He knew it was going to be bad.

And yet. And yet. And yet, he made a choice to respond with joy in the salvation and strength of the Lord.

His circumstances didn’t change. History shows that Judah was captured by the Chaldeans who were then crushed by Babylon. It was a time of darkness and hardship and despair for the people, except for those who were faithfully committed to the Lord (like Daniel and his cohort). Habakkuk left his worry at the throne of the Lord, saying, ” Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength” (3:18-19). This is hard teaching. Does God want us to be happy? I have to say, not necessarily. He wants us to choose joy no matter what the circumstances, even when the circumstances do not make us happy. When we choose joy, we are looking beyond our current situation to God’s eternal plan, one of rich mercy, great love, and complete restoration in the fullness of time (Ephesians 2:4-9, Philippians 4:4-13; Titus 2:11-14).

Wait, what?

January 18, 2020

Wait, what? Habakkuk 1:12-2:20.

One of the things I love about the prophets is that they are just like most of us. God had just told Habakkuk that the Chaldeans were going to ransack Judah to deal with the evil people there. Habakkuk couldn’t make sense of it. He put what he knew about the character of God (everlasting, holy, pure, and righteous) next to the prophecy (righteous people swallowed by wicked, merciless conquest) and found nothing but cognitive dissonance.
While many people experiencing a similar cognitive dissonance become discouraged, despairing, or lose their faith altogether, Habakkuk chose to wait and watch for God’s explanation. He committed to standing at his watch post, standing at his tower, and looking out to see what God would say. How often do we give up on God when things are bad?

God DID answer Habakkuk. There’s no indication how long Habakkuk waited, but God’s answer came with both the ultimate fate of the Chaldeans AND the proper response of the faithful. The Chaldeans would eventually be conquered by Babylon. In the meantime, God told Habakkuk to wait for it (2:3), live by faith (2:4), be assured that the glory of the Lord will fill the earth (2:14), and that His character is unchanged (2:20). We, too, need to watch and wait for God’s long-term eternal plan to finally see true justice. It’s not easy. At all. We still ask, “how long will God stay silent while the wicked prosper?” I think part of the lesson of Habakkuk is that it’s okay to be confused. God doesn’t expect us to understand. And it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the questions, as long as we are committed to watching and waiting for the answers.

This is faith, living with insecurity while trusting God’s character. We are justified by that faith, which leads to peace even when life is hard and we can’t see how anything good can come out of our circumstances (Romans 5:1-5). Sometimes trusting God comes easily. Other times we hang on by the very tips of our fingers. We aren’t alone in questions and confusion, but when we are committed to waiting and watching, we will ultimately see God’s glory revealed (Habakkuk 2:14, Romans 8:18).

How long?

January 17, 2020

“How long?” Habakkuk asked the question sometime around 600 b.c.e. but we’re still asking. Why don’t you do something? Why do the wicked people seem to thwart justice and ignore the law without penalty?(My paraphrase of Habakkuk 1:3-4.) I read an article on Medium this morning that started with the notion that people really are pretty rotten by nature. Certainly Solomon thought so as he wrote Ecclesiastes. Our current era of anger, division, injustice, and violence is one in a steady stream of normal human affairs.

So, why doesn’t God DO something about it? That was Habakukk’s question, too. God told him, “Pay attention. It’s about to get real” (another ‘Loomisism’) and then laid out the plan. It was not exactly what Habakkuk expected (Habakkuk 1:5-11). In a nutshell, God was about to let the Marduk- worshipping, witchcraft-practicing, violence-loving Chaldeans conquer Israel. This conquest led to a Babylonian captivity that lasted a generation. Wait, what?

That doesn’t make sense (which Habakkuk says in verses 12-17), but that’s because Habakkuk (like all of us) was limited to a finite and limited understanding of human history and future.

Sometimes, when things look dismal, God’s work in our lives doesn’t line up with our expectations. It is during those moments that we need to remember that God’s thoughts and ways are so much more than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9.) The will of God is to draw each person into relationship, which can only happen through repentance (Isaiah 55:6-7). And sometimes we don’t pay attention to God’s holiness and ultimate justice until something drastic happens. It’s still really hard to wrap my brain around, to be honest. But that’s where trust in God and faith in His character has to take precedence over our own limited understanding. (Romans 3:21-26).

Rooted and grounded

January 15

Good works are always to be part of the believer’s life (James 2:14-36). So what is the difference between people who try to do the right thing and believers who walk in the will of God through their work? I think it is a matter of motivation and resource.

The natural inclination of people is to do the things that benefit them personally. Good work may make them feel good about themselves or give them a sense of moral superiority over other people. Very little of what people do is actually truly selfless. The motive for most people is personal. Humans tend to be rooted in self, drawing nourishment from sources that support their world views.

Paul, however, wrote to the Ephesians that they were to be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). And the love of which he wrote was nothing like the best kind of human love. He tried to describe the love of God, but ultimately had to acknowledge that God’s love is wider and longer and higher and deeper than any kind of love the human mind can understand.

If we who are believers are rooted in that love, we are nourished by it, and as our roots grow deeper, our work produces better and healthier results. If we stay grounded in God’s love, we are less likely to do things to glorify ourselves (less likely because we are still human). Our motives turn to the things that create unity, promote peace, and glorify God forever.

But God

But God. Two words that change everything. Circumstances, heartbreak, discouragement, and anxiety about the future might destroy us — But God.
Rich in mercy
With great love
Through immeasurable grace
Saved us, made us alive, and situated us in the heavenly places with Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This gift changes our perspective on the hard times and alters our motives for continuing in our work while we journey through this life. Humans tend to work for things that they think will bring personal satisfaction: power, influence, success, renown, legacy, and good deeds. These things aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they cannot satisfy.

But God.

When we work within the gift of His grace, our motives aligned with His will, then we find an eternal purpose to the work we do. We have peace, joy, and hope that satisfies better than anything we do on our own (Romans 5:1-5).

The end of the matter

January 11, 2020

Ecclesiastes finishes with “the end of the matter”; life is short and hard, so live it well by fearing God and keeping his commandments.
Solomon offers some practical advice for making the most of our breath of a life on earth.

Be generous (11:2), be alert (11:4), be in awe of God and the mysteries only he can know (11:5), rejoice in your life no matter what the circumstances (11:8), don’t take yourself too seriously (11:10), commit your life to the Lord while you are still young and optimistic so that your faith will sustain you during the dark days (chapter 12). Solomon’s wisdom caused him distress because he was keenly aware of the difficulties in this life. He despaired because he couldn’t find a way around life’s troubles. In the end, Solomon taught that the only real satisfaction in life comes from the Giver of life Himself.