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.
- Why do you think Jesus told the disciples about the destruction of the Temple?
- 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
- What are the first signs that Jesus will return? How long have these signs been part of our world?
- 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. (https://www.pewforum.org/2009/04/09/christians-views-on-the-return-of-christ/)
- Can you think of some historical times when people thought for sure Jesus’ return was imminent?
- List the events from this section that must happen before Jesus returns.
- 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.
- Why was it important for Jesus to refer to prophecies of the ancient prophets?
- Make a list of all the things that will happen at Jesus’s return?
- 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.
- Read Genesis 6 and 7. What is the same between what Noah knew about God’s coming judgement and what we currently know?
- What did Noah do that we should also do?
- What do you think is the most important thing believers can do to be ready for that day?
Resources for further study
- This is a great podcast about why we don’t hear about the Second Coming the way we did a few decades ago: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/end-times-apocalypse-2020-pandemic-podcast.html
- R.C. Sproul’s sermon on Mark 13 (the Olivet discourse): https://www.truthnetwork.com/show/renewing-your-mind-rc-sproul/26213/