Lesson 10

Millenial Expectations and the Second Coming

(Matthew 24, Daniel 2)
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Introduction: Prior to December 31, 1999, we heard all sorts of talk in the media about the end of the world coinciding with "the end" of the millennium. Speculation about "Y2K" problems that might cause a general break down of society was taken seriously by many in responsible positions. In my area, I was sobered when I learned the National Guard was called up to duty during the two weeks around the new year "just in case."

How should we react to predictions about the end of the world? Didn't we decide last week that we are part of the "big angel" and we should be warning of the final judgment? What about those who study the Bible to interpret prophecy to have a better "fix" on when the end will be? What about those who go further, and attack their fellow Christians now based on their prophetic understanding of the future? Let's dig in and see what the Bible teaches us!

  1. WHY PROPHECY?


    1. Should we have an interest in prophecy? Since the Bible contains prophecy, what do you think is its purpose?


    2. Read Matthew 24:1-2. Why do you think Jesus told His disciples this?


    3. Let's read on. Matthew 24:3 Did Jesus have the attention of the disciples?


      1. Why did they come to Jesus "privately?"


      2. What did the disciples want to know? (When will this happen and how will we know it.)


    4. Read on: Matthew 24:4-5. What is the problem with trying to understand the future? (There are many with a false message.)


    5. Read Matthew 24:6-10, 13. What do these verses suggest is Jesus' reason for telling His disciples about the future? It seems that several reasons are sprinkled into these verses. Let's list them. (Avoid alarm (v.6); encourage faithfulness and community among believers(v.10); stiffen the spine of the believers by reminding them of the Second Coming (v.13).)


  2. WHY NOT PROPHECY?


    1. Is there a danger to prophecy? Can prophecy be too detailed, too specific? Read Matthew 24:32-33, 36. This is a continuation of Jesus' discussion about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming. How specific is Jesus being in response to the disciples initial question (v.3) of "when?"


      1. Why do you think Jesus is being general as opposed to being specific?


    2. Let's read on in this chapter. Read Matthew 24:44-50. What does this suggest is a danger to prophecy, particularly a very specific interpretation of prophecy?


    3. Why does Jesus say in v. 44 that we will not expect Him when He comes again when He has just gone through the effort to tell His disciples "when?"


      1. Does an intense interest in prophecy discourage us from being ready at all times?


      2. Which is more important, being ready at all times, or understanding prophecy?


        1. Are these mutually exclusive -- understanding and trying to be ready at all times?


        2. When we looked at the reason that Jesus shared the future with His disciples, was it to give them a time line, or to encourage them in future difficult circumstances?


        3. Should a church focus on prophetic time lines or the types of problems (and relief) believers can expect in the future?


        4. Read 2 Peter 3:8-10. What does this text teach us about time lines? Can any be reliable?


  3. PROPHECY DIFFICULTIES


    1. Read Daniel 2:1-4. The King cannot sleep because of this dream. He calls in his experts for help.


      1. Do these sound like experts to you?


      2. Do we still have these kinds of "experts" around today?


    2. Read Daniel 2:5-7. Ah, the danger of being an expert. Why do you think the King required them to tell him his dream?


    3. The wise men told the King this was impossible. Read Daniel 2:12-13. Do you think Daniel and his friends among the "top" wise men? Did we turn a corner and go from sorcerers to all wise men?


      1. Why would they (Daniel and friends) get executed without even knowing about the problem?


      2. Read Daniel 2:16. What does this tell you about the relative importance of Daniel? (He must have had some influence for he was able to see the King. On the other hand, perhaps God intervened for him and got him in to see the King.)


    4. Read Daniel 2:31-35. How do you understand the King's dream?


      1. Let's go for the toes. Read Daniel 2:41-45a. What do you understand the composition of the toes to mean? What is the meaning of the big rock?(This is a prophecy of the state of the world before the Second Coming.)


      2. Does this tell us that no country will dominate the world when Jesus comes again?


    5. Read Revelation 13:11-14, 16-17. How do you understand this end-time prophecy?


      1. Doesn't this prophecy reveal a dominating world power before the Second Coming?


    6. Is the "toes" prophecy in conflict with the "two horned lamb" prophecy?


      1. If you say, "no," would you bet your life on it? If you say, "yes," would you bet your life on it?


      2. What should a believer conclude from these two prophecies? (I think absolute certainty about prophetic interpretation is dangerous arrogance. Certainty undermines the idea of constant readiness. What steels my opinion the most is the fact that God's people completely misread Jesus' first coming. Couple that with His repeated warning that His Second Coming will also be unexpected.)


    7. Today we see Christians ganging up with pagans to attack fellow believers over religious liberty issues. Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell are common targets. Part of the attack stems from a prophetic certainty that fellow believers (as opposed to pagans) will try to limit religious liberty by breaching the "wall of separation" between church and state. Let's turn to that next.


  4. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE


    1. When you hear the term "separation of church and state," what do you understand it to mean?


      1. Does it mean the government cannot give money to church schools?


      2. Does it mean the government cannot put the Ten Commandments, a manger scene or a cross on public property?


      3. Some say Christian parents who home school their children or send their children to religious schools should get a tax credit because they pay to support the local public schools, but do not use them. Would a tax credit violate the separation of church and state?


    2. Can you think of any Bible text that says it is wrong for the government to give support to religious institutions?


    3. Can you think of any Bible texts that support the idea that government should give support to religious institutions?


    4. Let's turn to Nehemiah 2:1-3. Do you know this story? What had God put in the heart of Nehemiah? (Read Nehemiah 2:4-5.)


      1. Was Nehemiah just asking to be sent to be able to rebuild Jerusalem and God's Temple? (Read Nehemiah 2:8 - he was asking for building materials.)


    5. Was the idea that the government should give God's people money to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple unprecedented? (No! Read Ezra 1:1-3.)


    6. If God put it in the heart of these governmental leaders to financially support His cause (even the rebuilding of His "church"), on what basis can we claim it is wrong for that to happen today?


      1. Can we claim the times have changed?


        1. If so, does this apply to other Biblical principles?


      2. Can we claim God changed His mind? He no longer wants government money?


    7. Our lesson (Thursday) has an interesting historical note about attempts to limit religious freedom in the United States in the late 1800's and efforts by church leaders to stop this problem.


      1. Should the church try to stop infringements on religious liberty?


      2. Should we be careful about the advice given to us by "religious liberty" leaders? How can we know what is good advice and what is not?


        1. Should all advice be tested by the Bible or (in the U.S.) the U.S. Constitution? (Consider a very interesting quote from a writer involved in the debate of that time period who took the position that government aid to religion should not be questioned: "The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give, for the advancement of His cause." E.G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 197-203)


    8. From where does the term "separation of church and state" come? (It is not in the U.S. Constitution. It comes from an exchange, in 1802, of letters between Thomas Jefferson and Nehh Dodge (among others) of the Danbury Baptist Association. Jefferson wrote that he thought the prohibition in the First Amendment against any "law respecting an establishment of religion" created a "wall of separation between church and state.")


      1. While it is far from clear (to any student of Jefferson) that Tom Jefferson would consider any of the items we previously discussed as church state separation problems, to whom should we look for our position- the Bible or Tom Jefferson?


      1. What do the disciples tell us we should do when we face a conflict between the words of man and the words of God? ( Acts 5:29)


    1. Our lesson (Wednesday) speaks of religious people having influence at all levels of government. Is it wrong to encourage our laws to reflect Biblical principles instead of pagan principles? (Our lesson seems to suggest this is bad.)


      1. Should, for example, we try to encourage our government promote the teaching of the Creation account as opposed to the evolutionary theory?


        1. Or would that have the government improperly promoting religion?


        2. Or are both explanations (Creation and evolution) of the origins of life "religious" in that they are a matter of faith (belief based on observation) rather than evidence?


        3. Are we promoting pagan religious doctrine by sitting idly by while Biblical teachings are swept from the public schools and the public square?


        4. Is it a violation of the separation of church and state to pattern the laws of a nation after Biblical principles? (Consider this counsel: "The laws of [earthly] governments shold be in harmony with the law of Jehovah, the standard by which all created beings are judged." E.G. White, Letter 187, 1903, p.5)


    2. Friend, God gave us prophecies about the future for our comfort during difficult times to come, not to make us arrogant about the future. Our best course is to constantly be prepared and alert for Jesus' Second Coming however events unfold. An important part of being prepared is to encourage prominent fellow Christians and not join with pagans in heaping scorn on them.


  1. Next week: The Certainty of the Second Coming.

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