(MATTHEW 24:1-14; DANIEL 12:1-9; EXODUS 3:15-17; NUMBERS 14)

Copr. 1999, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All scripture references are to the
New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International
Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used
by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found
within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or
some other visual aid. This lesson can be found at:

Introduction: We continue our study of the inspiration of the Bible and
the role of prophets this week. Have you ever considered whether a
prophet might not understand or might misinterpret God's message to
him?  Are prophecies "bigger" than the prophet? Is it possible that
prophecies are also "bigger" than a specific fact situation addressed by
the prophet so that a single prophecy can be fulfilled with more than
one fact situation?  Interesting questions!  Let's see what we can


        A.      Let's open our Bibles to Matthew 24:1-2. Read. What did the
disciples want Jesus to notice? (The temple building.)

                1.      Why?(I'll bet it was beautiful. Everything I read indicates that it

                2.      What is Jesus' response to the beauty of the temple building?

                3.      Is this a prophecy? (Yes!)

        B.      Let's stop and consider this for a minute.  We learned last week
that being a prophet involves revealing God to the people. Here we have
God (Jesus) revealing to His disciples what God knows will happen in the
future. Does this make the disciples prophets? (Yes. We want to study
this in some detail because it is a little example of how prophecy

        C.      Let's read on. Matthew 24:3. Why do you think the disciples came to
Jesus privately?

                1.      One of the principles for the direct examination of a witness is
that you cannot ask "leading questions" questions which suggest the
answer. Are the disciples' questions to Jesus in v.3 leading?

                        a.      If yes, in what way? (The question assumes that the destruction of
Jerusalem is the end of the world.)

                        b.      Let's stop right here. Have the prophets (the disciples)
understood the revelation from God? (No. Their question shows that they
have misunderstood the revelation. The end of the world did not come
when Jerusalem was destroyed.)

                        c.      What do they do to try to be sure to understand the revelation?
(Ask more questions of Jesus.)

                                (1)     Is there a parallel for you today? You read the Bible and
you do
not understand completely. What is your obligation? (Inquire further.
Study more.)

                                        (a)     Of whom do you inquire? (Psalms 119:105 tells us
that the Word
of God (the Bible) illuminates our walk. John 16:13 tells us that the
Holy Spirit guides us into truth.)

        D.      Let's read on: Matthew 24:4-14.  Do you think the prophets
(disciples) ever understood what Jesus said completely? Or were they
still laboring under a misconception? (They were still laboring under a
misconception. We know, we do not have to guess, that the temple in
Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans circa 70 A.D. The end of the world
did not come then.)

                1.      Is it possible that a prophet can give a prophecy that he does not

                2.      Or was this a false prophecy?  In which case does this show that
Jesus was not truly God?

                3.      Or is there another answer? Or series of other answers?

        E.      Let's first explore the prophet's knowledge and understanding of his
own prophecy. Turn with me to Daniel 12. In the preceding five chapters
Daniel, who with his people are captives of the Babylon and Persian
empires, has a series of visions. These deal with the length of their
captivity and the history of the world.

                1.      Read Daniel 12:1-4. What time frame are we looking at here? (End of
the world.)

                        a.      What does v.4 mean when it says "close up and seal the words of
the scroll until the time of the end?"

                2.      Let's read further: Daniel 12:7-9. Again we find this reference to
the words being "closed" and "sealed" until the end of time. What do you
think this means?

                        a.      Do you think that Daniel understands this vision? (I think this is
pretty clear. Daniel does not understand this vision. He is told that he
is not supposed to understand it because it is something that will only
be understood in the last days.  Verse 9 really says, "Run along Daniel,
this is not something that you need to worry about now.")

        F.      Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  Is this a prophecy?

                1.      Look at v.15. Does this clearly make this statement a revelation
from God?

                2.      Does Paul believe that he will be alive at the Second Coming of
Christ? (Yes.)

                        a.      Is this a false prophecy?

                        b.      Or is this a prophecy that is not completely understood by the

                        c.      Or is it possible that Christ could have come soon so that this
prophecy and the disciples understanding of the prophecy of Matthew 24
would have been correct?


        A.      We have learned so far that a prophet might well not understand the
prophecy that he is giving. Is it reasonable to believe that a prophet
might partially understand a prophecy? Is such an idea "OK" with your
thinking about prophets?

                1.      What about the prophecy that we started with in Matthew 24. Did the
disciples seem to understand part of it?

                2.      I asked earlier if the Matthew 24 prophecy showed that Jesus was
not God because the end of the world did not come at the time of the
second destruction of Jerusalem.  Was it "OK" for Jesus to mix two
prophecies: the end of the world and the destruction of Jerusalem?

                3.      Let's go beyond "OK." Is it normal for a prophecy to have two
possible interpretations?

        B.      Read Exodus 3:15-17, 20. Is this a prophecy? (No doubt.)

                1.      Since you have perfect knowledge here, put yourself in the place of
those who heard Moses give this prophecy.  What would you believe about
the future? (They would be released from Egypt and go live in Canaan.)

                2.      Did this happen to them? (No!)

                        a.      Could this have happened to them?

                        b.      Would it be fair to say that the prophecy failed?

                                (1)     What happened in Numbers 14? (See, especially, vv. 8-11.
prophecy did not fail, the people failed God.)

                                (2)     What did God do when the people refused to enter the
land? (He brought the next generation around again to see if they would
enter in.  This story teaches me that God's prophecies can have more
than one application.  If His people are unfaithful, the same prophecy
will apply to another group who is faithful!  Pray that we will be

                                (3)     Do you think that what we see in Numbers 14 explains
Matthew 24
and 1 Thessalonians 4?

                                        (a)     Jesus did not come then because the people were
not faithful?

                                        (b)     Do you think that you have a "say" in when Jesus
comes the
second time?  Do you have control over the timing of the Rapture (the
Second Coming of Christ)?

                                        (c)     Read Isaiah 60:1-3. Is this a mission statement
for us if we
want our Lord to return quickly? (Praise God, we can be light!)